Thursday, October 30, 2014

10 Weeks of #NerdySpaces

It has been 10 weeks since I started my #NerdySpaces and I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on how things have been going for me. 

Adventures in No Desk World

The biggest concern for me when I was thinking about changing my room around, was wondering if I could function without a desk. The standard teacher desk has been a part of professional career since I started. I wanted to make more space for my students and getting rid of my desk was one of the ways to do it. I have to say that I do not miss it. It is crazy how much we think we need things until we are forced to be without them. I made the changes and adjusted certain workflows and I do not think twice about it. I have everything I need on a mobile podium. I can move around the room and keep all of my devices and books with me. 

I was always a mover when I taught, but I am more mobile than ever. Since I was able to get rid of the desks, I was able to create larger tables for the student desks which opened up the entire center of my classroom. I can now freely move around from table to table and connect with students. I'm no longer awkwardly maneuvering around students and bumping into them with my hips or butt as I go from student to student. It was weird for everyone, but something that could not be avoided when you have a class jammed with 33 students. 

The best feedback I received about this change of teacher desk and then the student desks came from former students. Students from previous years always stop by to say hello and talk for a bit. When they saw the new class design, they were impressed and a bit jealous. They loved the larger tables and recognized that the extra room would be helpful. Current students like the layout as well. One student said it felt more open and connected, like a community. That made me smile because that is what I was going for in the long run. 

Two Screens Are Better Than One

This is just a huge bonus for me and I know that it is not possible for many teachers, but it is something I wanted to try. I was very lucky to receive a new Smart Board. It is an interactive flat panel that is awesome! The 6065 is a beautiful screen that makes every image crystal clear. It connects to my Mac and my Chromebook. It is HD, so my Chromecast and/or Apple TV are also in play for the device. It only has one HDMI input, so I bought an HDMI splitter so I could connect more than one device and just flip between them when needed. It is on a stand so I can wheel it around the stage front and back if I need it. I use it every day!

The 6065 is awesome to write on and I do not experience any lag. It really is the software that makes the board so awesome. Notebook has been in our district for many years and I many of my lessons saved there. Going over essay writing with my students is much easier when notes can be carried over from class to class and when students can get up and interact with the text on the screen. Annotating has never been easier for my kids. I can't wait to try out amp from Smart. That is going to take collaboration to the next level. 

One of the issues I had with the new desk/table alignment in my classroom was that some students were not facing the front of the room where the original Smart Board was installed. I had students half turned and craning their neck to see the notes. I also did not want a "front of the room" in my classroom. I wanted to create an environment where it didn't matter where students were looking. What I was able to do was connect my laptop to the 6065 and then mirror that to the computer at the front of the room. Now, the students could see what was going on no matter where they looked. From my mobile podium, I would use my wireless mouse and keyboard to add notes from anywhere in the room, or I could go up to the board and take notes on the screen. 

Another great use has been for showing the class backchannel. I used this with my Freshmen and it worked very well. I liked having the running stream of the thoughts from students and using that to enhance the discussion. This idea could work just as well in a single screen classroom. The second screen provided me a spot to collect the ideas shared in Smart Notebook. TodaysMeet has been perfect for my classroom for creating a backchannel. Here is a shot of the 6065 and TodaysMeet. This was before class. I forgot to take a picture of it during class because discussion was going so well. It's a good problem to have. 

I'm sorry that his sounds like and ad for Smart and Today'sMeet, but those are the tools that have helped me make my #NerdySpaces possible. These things can be done without them, but I want to spotlight the tools that have made the first 10 weeks of this crazy experiment possible. The thing I hope that people take away from this is that it is worth taking risks in the classroom. It doesn't always have to be lesson based. Changing the class environment can be huge and I have seen it in the first part of the school year. I look forward to trying new things with different tools to see if I can get the most out of my space and my students. 

If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below. 

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