Thursday, December 03, 2009

Frustrations come and go

Since Thanksgiving I’ve been giving many thanks to the computer specialist at The Shlenker School for helping me straighten most of the problems we had with the function of the MP3 recorders/players. We are using these for two main functions:
1. The students record themselves instead of writing things down: answers to assessment questions, making sentences with new vocabulary words, telling short stories… I then retrieve the recordings by listening to the MP3 on a media playing software on my computer, check answers or type their recorded work for them if appropriate.
2. The teacher record items ahead of time: instructions for assignments, comprehension questions, prayers or the story we work on for auditory learners to use as a study supplement… the students listen with headphones and do the activities.
However, until now only the recording function of the MP3 worked as intended. Replaying recording on the MP3 produced inconsistent results, and was too unreliable for use in class. Ms. Williams investigated and reset the system, and now it is possible to play back a recording and listen to it on an MP3 as well as on a computer. During the time Ms. Williams had the MP3 devices in her posession the students felt keenly the temporary loss and kept asking when they can use them again, which showed me how much the technology became part of the class routine.
But with one technological frustration solved, another surfaces… I’m using my tablet pc to help record authentic assessment of language in the class: I carry it around during class and grade students’ sentences using a simple chart. The tablet is relatively lightweight and portable, but when it is taken off its base to be carried around it is separated from my favorite rodent: the computer mouse. Instead it comes with a stylus, which I find a very poor replacement. Here’s an example how this can hinder the assessment process:
Today 3rd grade were ready to start using the new Chanukah vocabulary words in conversation. Charged with Chanukah spirit they sat in groups around two tables, vocabulary cards on the word-chart on the board to prompt them. My laptop was set ahead of time with the grading chart displayed on the screen, and then disaster struck: by mistake the stylus (of course it wasn’t me!) clicked on the X at the top right of the page and the worksheet closed. Now I had to reopen it quickly. I started clicking the stylus all over the screen, but things didn’t go right. In the background I could hear wonderful Hebrew flowing and Chanukah themed sentences in the air, and I was missing it all! I ended up taking the tablet back to its base and using the mouse to reopen the worksheet. I was back in time for a few more minutes, but it demonstrated to me how an advanced technology can become ineffective because of one small detail. I wonder if anyone else has experience using a tablet pc or similar laptop with a stylus and can give me tips how to improve my control over it.
We are getting ready for some Chanukah "writing" projects in which the MP3 will take a starring role. Perhaps I'll write about it next time.

1 comment:

Judy said...

This reminds me of something I say over and over to the staff at our school: technology should make your life simpler, not more difficult! I haven't used a tablet myself but I have used a slate made by SMARTBoard and it takes a lot of getting used to.