Usually by the time I get on the computer at night, any news of the day has already been spread through twitter. But the page I just read said it was posted 6 minutes ago…so maybe I can be the first to tell you about Google’s newest product. Google Underpants. Ok, so maybe they are not available yet, supposedly they will be beta testing by the end of 2014. As with any new google product, there will be a limited number available to some special people, and then eventually it will roll out to the rest of us. And of course as with any google product, teachers will be lined up to try it because it will revolutionize the way we teach. Before any teacher places their hands on them there are bound to be blog posts with titles like “5 Ways Google Underpants Will Change Teaching,” or “Ten Ways to Use Google Underpants In Your Classroom.” They do sound pretty cool. They have some kind of ultraviolet composting technology with an evaporator. It has two settings for heavy and light, and eventually the Underpants will be able to be shared across users so schools won’t have to be 1:1 underpants. The micro usb port will allow for some new apps to be installed, has room for extra memory, but will have difficulty accepting larger hard drives. You cannot use flash memory which stinks. Beyond being able to save money on field trips because you can get buses without bathrooms for longer trips cheaper than coach buses, and there no longer being a need for lav breaks, I am not sure what else the cutting edge education bloggers will be able to write about. But you can be sure…they will revolutionize education. The first model will be able to only handle web 1.0 applications, but you will be able to use the second model to do web 1.0 or 2.0 applications. You will be amazed at the price!
The old me of 8-10 years ago would have jumped right into Google Underpants. Back then I tried EVERYTHING. If it was a new app, website, 2.0 tool that could even remotely be used with kids, I tried it….and tried it first. My kids made voicethreads when there was only one single page of voicethreads on the site. We used Prezi when if we had a question it was the guy who created it answering our questions, We had the most used wiki in the world, were probably the first content class to have each kid have an individual blog and use it for an entire year, and we were the first class to use Bing to do a research project 🙂 There were also all of the tools and sites we used that simply don’t exist anymore. My point is, I was a technology sucker. I was presenting at conferences on all the new tools, how to incorporate technology into classes, and I am sure if you dig back into this blog there are plenty of posts about using more technology in class, and making people feel like losers if they were not. I was in a phase in which I believed technology would revolutionize education.
But then I flipped. My heavy use of technology and belief that it would revolutionize my classroom was a phase. It was a phase just like every other phase that I had in my career. Approximately every five years I get hooked into something else that is going to revolutionize my class. Right now as I look out across the internet and attend conferences, i see teachers at so many phases…at least I hope they are phases. The biggest mistake teachers can make is to find something new and think that it is the answer. Everything you do, should be part of a phase. Flipping the class is a phase. I am a huge proponent of the flipped classroom, not for what it is, but for where I think it will bring classrooms as long as it is seen a one step in a phase, because it is not the answer.
During my flips one thing I realized is that as I learned about each new “thing,” I found myself increasingly being bombarded with things that separated me from how kids naturally learn. I have been amazed at how “teaching” has become the focus instead of “learning.” The farther we can be separated from how kids learn naturally, and the more we can made to believe that we as teachers are necessary, the worse things will become. You are not necessary. Kids can and will learn without you, they will learn in spite of you, and they will learn to spite you. Teachers have been slowly convinced that “learning” is very complicated. And if learning is complicated, then it is very easy to convince teachers that they need lots of tools to for these very complicated learning machines. We need apps, and chromebooks, and new websites, and common core, and new evaluations and on and on. One of my key thoughts that brought me from my last phase, to where I am now, is that learning becomes complicated when you try to make kids learn something that they feel is unnecessary. When kids do not see the need for something, then teachers have to resort to teaching it. If they see the need for it, they will learn it without you, or inspite of you.
Yesterday I placed the final touches on my class “commercial.” It is a video I will use to intro my class at a social studies class meeting for parents, and to the kids during the first week of school. Normally it is short, but I went crazy and mashed and changed past videos, and added a new section with projects from this year. Making a video each year always has me reflect on my current “phase.” One thing I realized is that practically each thing the kids did I could have done 20 years ago, now we just have better tools to share what we do. Sure some projects were fancier that they would have been in the past, but no app, tech tool, or website made any of the activities more meaningful, the kids were not more creative, there was not more innovation. The tech just made it easier to share.
Right now a lot of schools are in a tech fueled haze. But to what end… I just recently tried to watch a google hangout in which top teachers from across the country were sharing how Chromebooks changed the way they taught. They were in a 1:1 environment and they shared how they can now collect papers on line, leave comments on students docs, how kids could work on the same doc from home, and a bunch of apps that made running their class easier. I hope they are just in a phase, and that they don’t see what they are doing as the answer.
I know whenever I can claim to have the answer to how to improve classrooms, I am dead in the middle of a phase, and whenever I cannot identify an answer, I know that I am in transition.
I have no answers right now. I am actually excited about that. Whenever I don’t have the answers to what should be happening, I always have my best years. Somehow fewer expectations always translates into more learning, more creativity, and more innovation. Go figure…
I don’t know what phase will be next for me, but I do know that more teaching will not be the answer, I know that more technology will not be the answer, and I definitely will not need Google Underpants.
Here is the commercial I made for class that sparked this post…enjoy 🙂
Edit 8/14/13 Someone just tweeted out calling making videos like this a fad. Hmmm….the history behind the video is here.