A Few Days of Teaching in the Cloud

download (5)By Nick McDaniels — This week I was asked to proctor a second installment of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test to most of my students.

Yes, this is the same MAP Test that teachers in Seattle rightfully boycotted. I didn’t boycott, however, because the test for my students, while potentially a complete waste of time, did not have nearly the high stakes attached to it that the students and teachers in Seattle were dealing with. But this post is not about the MAP at all really.

This post is about computers and the cloud.

The MAP has to be administered on computers, which presents all sorts of technical difficulties that make me glad I am of a generation that is not intimidated by technology and all its failures and functions. So what does this mean for me? I get a cart full of lap tops for three days. So after the kids were done the MAP… one class did an online scavenger hunt based on our court system, one class did research for a research project on a Supreme Court Justice of their choosing, and another class, one that did not have to take the MAP, at least not in my class, got to work with me in the cloud.

You see, this class had a district-mandated term paper due in less than two weeks and we had a group brainstorming session the day before. It makes sense that we would begin working on outlining the following day, but instead of modeling it as I usually do, we all got on the laptops and I took them to the cloud.

We used a Google Doc, but this is by no means an endorsement of a Google product, it was the simplest to use since many students already had Google email addresses. I shared with them a generic outline for the paper that I created, then they each created their own document on which to create their own outline and shared that with me. On their computer was my generic outline and one they were creating themselves, on my computer was about 16 different outlines they were creating.

As they worked, I made real time comments on their outlines. They asked me questions using the chat functions, and then we all eventually got in a group chat (which admittedly devolved into silliness quite quickly) on the generic outline. If they couldn’t get their formatting right, I could show them without having to leave my seat or them leave theirs. None of this is revolutionary in education. In fact, Google has been pitching such use of its products for about half a decade, but for my students, this experience was mind-blowing.

For some this was their first time using Google Docs. For all of them, this was their first time engaging with a teacher in this way. And then, as always, my students impressed me. They started sharing drafts themselves and began helping each other. What more could I ask for?

When class meets again, the laptops will be gone, onto another teacher and more MAP testing, and so too will the dynamic use of technology in my classroom, but for some students, the experience will carry on with them to collaborative work in college or in the world of work, and that’s a good work for a teacher, teaching them to fish, from the cloud, as it were.

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