As part of my study of a 1:1 laptop school, I shadowed Diane, a Las Montanas high school ninth grader, from class to class for one day. Diane had been issued a laptop by the school that she could use in class and at home. In the previous post, I described her first period biology class. This post describes two other academic classes that I attended.
- English. Ms. Demeter sits at her desk in the front of the room as the 27 students file in before the tardy buzzer sounds. Desks are arranged in clusters of three facing the teacher and whiteboards.
Ms. Demeter’s laptop sits next to the LCD projector. According to media center records, she often brings her class there to work on projects with their laptops or 25-plus iMacs in the center.
After the buzzer sounds, Ms. Demeter settles students down. I count 19 laptops on desks. She asks the class to begin fifteen minutes of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) and to write a reflection on what they have read. Students take out their reading materials. After about ten minutes, some students begin typing away in the laptops. Chimes sound to end SSR and student close the lids of their laptops.
Teacher reviews the week’s assignments listed on the whiteboard. She then turns to the structure of the haiku that they began yesterday. She goes over the 17-syllable haiku by pointing to the one on the whiteboard that she wrote:
“Ms D’s wild class room (5)
stares at the computer screen (7)
eyes going glassy” (5)
She then asks each student to create two haikus in the next 15 minutes. Because desks are clustered in trios, there is a great deal of talk among students both on- and off-task.
Ms Demeter walks to each cluster of desks to check on student-written haikus, to quiet students, and to answer questions. She asks three students to put away their make-up kits. Some students who have finished are walking around talking with other students. She asks two students to write their haikus on white board. As the noise rises, Ms. D cautions them with “Ladies and gentlemen, pleaseeeeee.” Noise lessens.
After 20 minutes and review of student-written haikus on whiteboard, teacher says: “Let’s turn to p. 422, and iambic pentameter in poems.”
Ms. Demeter diagrams iambic pentameter on the whiteboard. She uses a line from a Robert Frost poem on p.422. She then stamps her foot to beat out the rhythm of the line. Many students stamp along with her. They try another line together and practice the rhythm.
It is about four minutes before the period ends and some students have put their laptops and textbooks in their backpack as they get ready for the buzzer. Noise level rises until buzzer sounds.
Modern World History. Mr. Meister’s room has rows of desks arranged in a horseshoe with him in the center. His laptop rests next to the LCD projector. The 28 students are in the middle of a week-long simulation on fascism, communism, and authoritarian regimes that places each student in the role of an aristocrat, worker, peasant. Today is a break from the simulation.
Periodically, Mr. Meister asks students to bring their laptops to class for specific tasks. Today is not one of those days.
Immediately after the buzzer, the teacher launches into the topic of Nazi propaganda in Germany under Hitler. Using a PowerPoint presentation, he tells students to take out their notebooks and copy the bullet points on each slide. As he lectures, he constantly moves among students at their desks.
In illustrating propaganda, he asks students to believe only what he says and to forget what other history teachers or textbooks have said. He then explores with them the concept of believing only him—with Hitler in mind. They begin to ask questions. To illustrate how Hitler and the Nazi party took over the economy, he uses examples of the U.S. owning “Blockbusters” and “Wendys.”
Mr. Meister lectures right up to the buzzer that ends the period. Students are still taking notes.
What to make of these three academic classes that I watched in shadowing Diane?
Can I make generalizations about how teachers teach at Las Montanas? Can I determine to what degree Las Montanas teachers use laptops in lessons from these three teachers?
While there may be clues suggesting answers in these descriptions—remember I am the one selecting from the mass of notes I have taken to create these vignettes—the answer to each question is “no.”
For the answer to go from “no” to “yes,” I need to analyze the data I have collected from teacher interviews with over half of the Las Montanas teachers, notes taken in other classroom observations of nearly two-thirds of the teachers, administrator observations of classrooms, surveys of the entire faculty, surveys of 80 percent of students, and data in the media center of teacher use of mobile carts and iMacs. In sifting through that mountain of data, I look for patterns to emerge in teaching and technology use. If patterns do become visible, I return to these three teachers and see whether and how they fit into these patterns. If they don’t, then I reanalyze the data to look for other patterns or reexamine my assumptions about teaching and technology use. I have a lot of work ahead of me.