As a teacher, how would you plan to start your second last Monday of the school year? A few brave Ontario teachers, along with two special guests agreed to join my class for a virtual #Shuttheboxchallenge this morning. It wasn’t your normal Monday morning!
The idea came together a few days ago when my students and I shared our ‘Shut the Box’ Game and a challenge via our ‘Playing Games’ blog post. A few teachers jumped on board right away. Doug Peterson shared our post on This Week in Ontario EduBlogs and on Stephen Hurley’s VoicED radio, so we invited them as well. A lot of leg work was done establishing a suitable time, collecting email addresses, insuring all classes understood the rules and had the necessary resources. I sent out the following email after returning from our son’s soccer tournament in Minneapolis late Sunday evening:
The stage was set for a great morning of some collaborative math learning!
I have to say the two espressos I had for breakfast hadn’t quite kicked in when I walked into my classroom only to find the back up projector (the bulb for my main project is blown) missing. Deep breath! A quick scramble about the school and a fast announcement turned it up. I still had time to hit the staffroom for my traditional (and coveted) last coffee of the day… a dark roast French Press always prepared by my beloved colleagues who arrive to school a bit earlier than myself. There was none! We had depleted our coffee and no more would be purchased due to a depleted coffee fund. We had arrived at the BYOC time of year. BIG sigh!
I returned to my classroom, quickly set up the spare projector, forwarded the email to a last minute class wanting to participate and was in the midst of creating the link for our Google Hangout when the bell rang at 9:05. GULP! Ten minutes to GO TIME! My kids came bounding into our room excited to share the many things they had done over the weekend and wanting to know about mine. Permission forms were being shoved on my stand up desk when I realized I hadn’t handed out our game sheets. I glanced at the clock, it was 9:12. My students were raring to go! I quickly reminded my students of the importance of fair play, courtesy and online etiquette, finished creating the link, had my kids take their places in the room, while Grace took her position at the computer as she would be reviewing the challenge on behalf our class and Justin, our dice roller, tested the digital dice. It was 9:18 as I hit the send button share our Google Hangout link. Although, I had done many Google Hangouts with my students prior to this one, they seemed extra excited today!
Our guests started to appear on the screen and Grace began her introduction and review of the rules, importance of fair play and having fun. We shared our screen so the other classes could see our digital dice, our dice roller, Justin took his place and the game began! I helped to commentate to insure the other classes were getting the jest of the game. A pair of threes were rolled. I stated that I saw that some of my students chose to cross off the 9 since the product of 3×3=9. Others crossed off the 6 because the sum of 3+3=6. However, I stated, you wouldn’t chose to pick the quotient because 3÷3=0. REALLY? Did I just say that? A quick recovery and the game continued. Around this time our secretary buzzed into my room reminding me to do the morning attendance. A quick scramble to my other computer, attendance completed and another fire put out. The game continued with us sharing our screen and commentary from Grace. At this point I realized I had forgotten to have the classes introduce themselves! YIKES! As the first game concluded I decided this would be an opportune time to do the introductions.
AND THEN IT HAPPENED…..
I went to stop sharing our screen and EVERYONE WAS GONE! BIG, BIG GULP. I went into a techno blitz trying to recover what I had lost. My kids were quiet and patient, they had experienced moments like this in my class before and I sensed their quiet confidence in me. After a few moments and an obvious impasse, my kids began making MANY suggestions. I entertained their good ideas but to no fruition. It was time for me to make a decision. I had to break it to my kids, and somehow to the rest of the classes and our guests, that the game would have to end. A few quick emails and a tweet or two resulted in a “Plan B”. Each class would continue with their own games and tweet or email their class averages.
It was now time to regroup my own class; not always an easy task at any particular time during the last two weeks of school! It wasn’t time for me to attempt to continue with the game right away. We sat and discussed what they had learned from the experience. They collected their thoughts and began to jot down their ideas…
After we regrouped and refocused we continued our game and were happy to see that the rest of our participants had done the same and had shared their results to our #Shuttheboxchallenge hashtag!
My students were hungry and needed a break. So did I. I walked into the staffroom and checked a recent message from my wife…
I had forgotten my lunch at home. It was clearly one of THOSE days!
I often wonder why I do what I do when it comes to teaching. Wouldn’t it just be easier to take the path of least resistance? Show up for school, teach my class, mark my papers, assign homework, take up and repeat?
Why do I blog, share on Twitter, maintain a website and seek ways to collaborate with teachers and classes throughout the world?
I believe once you start breaking down the walls of your classroom, there’s really no turning back. It becomes a way of thinking and teaching. It becomes a mindset. Our PLNs, combined with social media and the positive use of technology have become incredibly powerful resources for teachers. We are no longer teaching in the silos of our classrooms. We share for the benefit of all our students, not just the ones sitting in front of us, in our classrooms. We are better together, for our students, our future.
When students are part of “connected” classrooms, they see teachers working, learning and sharing together. Students witness their teachers using technology in powerfully productive ways. They see that their teachers care about them and will support one another to bring great ideas to their classrooms. Students also see their teachers collaborating, innovating and taking risks for a common good… for them. I’m confident that when we model this type of behaviour and mindset to our students it will pay off in great dividends…. even on the days when their teachers “fail” and have one of THOSE days!