This is the fifth of seven posts written by Dr. Tibby Lynch. This post was written in May 2010. I have included it as part of my 21st century pygmalion series of posts.
Christmastime came and went, as did Lent, Semana Santa, college acceptances and rejections, and AP anxiety. This file was left behind to brood, unopened, wherever in cyberspace such files reside. I never tried another prezi, although I spent some time playing around with assessment rubrics in case I did. I suppose it could be said that I opted for more cowardly technological applications, continuing to follow and contribute to the rather wonderful threads of my students’ NING entries and tracing those of three other teachers who had joined the fray. But the truth of the matter is that by the time Semester II was well under way, the “laptop” feature of this course had become second nature to me. Every class began with a request to three students whose postings seemed worthy of attention to read out loud and begin the discussion. Students who had not done the homework were put on “dictionary duty” and required to look up words and other necessary background information on the internet. One (frequently non-homework-ready) student, an accomplished musician and aficionado of musical internet links, provided us with examples of Baroque music for Gulliver’s Travels, Romantic music for our unit on Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Byron, French Revolutionary martial tunes and folk music (the Carmagnole of The Reign of Terror) for A Tale of Two Cities, and WW I music for our final unit on War Poetry. Others contributed contemporary paintings, photographs, and current events relevant to the themes and time periods of the literature we were considering.
As the year progressed, I got better at handling “screen stare”- that inclination to look at the screen rather than the human beings in the room during a discussion. I never found a better solution than Steve’s original “45 your screen” advice. Leaving the screens up and available at all times is deadly, not to mention uncivilized. Indeed, an unforeseen benefit of having to deal with screen stare has been the opportunity to discuss techno-etiquette with the students in a non-threatening environment. After all, this course is encouraging the use of technology, not carping about it. As a group, we were able to consider the best ways to interact with our fellow creatures while devising some best practice techno-rules. After a few weeks, the kids were 45ing their screens automatically when appropriate, and even asking me: “do you mind if I look up something relevant to the discussion?” While I am sure that there were, from time to time, students who sneaked a peek at email and games, there was no more of this kind of inattention than in a non-techno classroom, and in some instances, less. After all, it is hard to fall asleep draped over an up and running laptop.