Sunday, March 2, 2014

And For Today's Tech Tool....Publisher?

This semester, I find myself in the unique position of having a classroom set of lap tops and a classroom set of iPads for students to use.  I know, it's an unusual situation and I feel extremely fortunate.  Students have been using lap tops in my classroom all year, but the iPads are a new addition.  Our high school students will be 1:1 with iPads next year, so this cart is an attempt to begin to sort out some "bumps in the road" before then.

So far, I have been surprised to find that quite a few of my students are resistant to using the iPads.  They don't like the lack of a keyboard, and I think many of them just aren't enthused about the challenge of learning how to use something new.  However, I've felt internal pressure to find ways to incorporate them into lessons since my room is supposed to be a test trial for everyone else.  

I decided the best way to approach this dilemma was to give my students options.  For the Biology classes' most current project, students are creating informational "products" for local daycares, workplaces, the clinic, a nursing home, and other local establishments to help people become more informed about bacterial and viral infections. I told the students they could make any "product" they wanted to convey the information required, as long as it fit within the project requirements and was appropriate to be shared with their audience.  I gave them some samples of infographics that could be made on the lap tops or iPads, as well as showing them Tellagami and Story Creator on the iPad.  From there, I let them decide what they would create.  

Many students were in awe of Tellagami and immediately drawn to the app.  I still have some Prezi and Google Slides hold-outs, and a few are experimenting with infographics.  So they are fairly evenly dividing themselved between iPad and lap top usage.  What I found most interesting of all was a conversation I had with a student who wanted to make something for an office.  It went something like this...

Student: I want to give the employees something they can read, like a paper.
Me: Do you think that's going to draw them in?  Would you want to read a whole paper about this virus?
Student: Probably not. I'd probably want some pictures and things.
Me: And do you want them to be able to take this information with them, out of the office?
Student: Yes.
Me: Have you ever thought of making a tri-fold brochure?
Student: I'm not sure what that is.
(I demonstrate a brochure for the student.)
Student: Oh yeah, I know what you mean.  Yeah, I think that would be good.
Me: Well, you can make one with Publisher.  Have you ever used that before?
Student: No, I haven't even heard of it.
(I open Publisher on a lap top and give him a quick overview of how it works.)
Student: I get it...I think this is what I want to do.

Now, when I envisioned this project, did my grand vision include students using Microsoft Publisher?  No way.  It's archaic.  It's PC based.  It has to be printed on a color printer for distribution.  Not what I had in mind at all.  But for this student, in this moment, it was perfect.  I suited his vision and filled his needs.  He is going to learn how to use a program he's never used before, and it was his choice.  More and more as I explore the possibilities of technology use in my classroom, I begin to understand how the principles behind good teaching need to be applied here as well.  Number one: Differentiation is key.  Students come to us with varying technical abilities and experiences.  We need to design the classroom in a way that acknowledges this.  Number two:  Allow opportunity for student choice when possible.  High school students seem to be especially engrained to take orders and follow instructions in the classroom.  We need to give them more choices in their education, and if choices in technology use help them to feel more autonomous, all the better.  We as teachers need to help guide those decisions so that students are challenging themselves and making progress toward their goals.  So, in this one instance, am I satisfied with a student learning how to use Microsoft Publisher?  You bet.


  1. Nice to see kids have some flexibility with technology. Question...with the introduction of the iPads, or any new IT devices, are students required to take a structured class to learn the devices? And who is answering the 30 second questions on the device and/or the 1 minute questions? Invariably, in my experience in IT, staff tend to get frustrated when answers aren't forthcoming quickly. I am a firm believer in training the end user and having an avenue for those quick IT related questions, such as an online help desk system. Keep up the good work!.

  2. Good question. We do have a "help desk" for teachers via Google Forms. Hopefully the teachers will be able to help students with some of those quick questions. There has also been discussion about having a student "tech team" to help respond, and a discussion thread on our LMS for questions.