Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Field Placement Reflections

emmagulley's picture

I observe two middle school technology classes at an all-girl's private school on the Main Line.  I've had three or four placements there so far, and I've been continually impressed by the teacher's patience as well as the inter-personal relationships between the girls themselves.  (From what I've seen, there aren't any "queen bees" or "mean girls"--they really all do act very sweetly with eachother, which has been so heartwarming to experience.)

While the students at my school are lucky enough to have a new, well-equipped technology suite, there are still a number of overarching questions to contend with.  For example, however beautiful their new machines are, it seems like every class begins with 50% of the girls not being able to log onto their accounts, the teacher calling the IT department, and the girls spinning around on the chairs as they wait for the IT department to log them in.  Furthermore, there are always little technology hiccups and confusions that interrupt the class, and the teacher has to spend her time dealing with little maintinace issues (i.e. email passwords, log-on issues, etc) rather than teaching to the "entire" class.  To top this all off, the students apparently aren't allowed to get homework for their computer class since the rest of their classes are so demanding.

I'm of two minds about this.  My knee-jerk reaction is to isolate the parts of class that seem to "waste time" and think they could be made into homework assignments.   (I'm not suggesting that the girls be required to download the Scratch software onto their home computers; I'm thinking more along the lines of emailing their final paragraphs and assignments to their teacher during a free period.)   Seeing the girls get sidetracked definitely makes me want to jump up and say, "focus focus focus!"  However, as I think more cohesively about the situation, I've also learned to look at their "goofing off" with a new lens.  These girls are in the 6th and 8th grades: they still need downtime.  They still need time to giggle with friends and, yes, spin around on computer chairs.  Developmentally speaking, it must be good that they go into that classroom with the expectation of having fun with eachother, no?

Basically, what I'm trying to say is:  it's a tricky balance.  Classes should be productive... right?  It's bad to waste time... right?  But growing girls also need "fun" time... right?  We can't load developing girls with extra homework and remove this point of stress relief from their lives... right?  I wonder what it feels like from the perspective of the teacher.  She has ambitious plans for the class and surely wants to teach the girls as much as possible, but how can that be done with no homework and with constant little technology issues?  What must it feel like to spend the trimester--or even your entire career?--teaching a class where the students don't take it as "seriously" as a core subject?



MGuerrero's picture

Delays due to technology are

Delays due to technology are always annoying, yet in my high school that would never mean downtime. My teachers always made it the case to give us work to either begin or finish while we waited. They would prompt us with questions about what we were waiting to work on. 

asweeney's picture

Yes, I agree that 6th and 8th

Yes, I agree that 6th and 8th graders need downtime, and that schools should not present themselves in ways that prohibit such downtime. Still, does that fact that other classes give more demanding homework and perhaps limit downtime make them somehow more valuable than the technology class in the eyes of parents, teachers, and students? The girls might love coming into a classroom where they can spin on chairs and relax a bit, but I wonder if this might contribute to assumptions that technology is less valuable than other topics? We talk about negative perceptions of things like gaming. Could it be possible that the isolation of things like computer games into purposefully more relaxed time periods might help perpetuate these perceptions of technology as a "waste" of time or a playful game for "lazy" gamers? 

Or maybe not:-) Thoughts?

alesnick's picture

"accountable time" and how to spot it

In ed research these days, some people study "accountable talk" -- asking when and how often teachers really engage in talking with individual students in order to foster learning (not just give directions, cheerlead, or scold, but really talk ideas or skills or assessments specifically, particularly).  This interesting strand of our forum is making me think about a parallel idea of accountable time.  In the old days, ed researchers looked at "time on task" -- but this proved to be, while useful to a point, a bit limited, since the task is not always educative, remembered, or meaningful.  

So: in this class, how could you "see" whether the bits of down time/chair twirling, and the lack of homework, erode accountability/impact of the course?  

I think it's important to find ways to perceive what the course IS to the students, before we worry about what it could or should be.  

Their behaviors and those of their teachers make sense within the cultural context they co-create.  Seeing different instances of activity is part of a broader whole.  Does this help?