Students keeping organized with online tools

Google-Docs-Online-Training-Made-Easy1Let me rant once again about teachers using different tools for learning and their impact on kids (such as our own): It is frustrating and, worse, detrimental in their attempts to keep organized. You might remember this post from two years ago, in which I argued that having consistent processes in classes across a school building – such as the way teachers post homework on their whiteboards – just might aid the organizational horror show that is a middle schooler. Well, I’m back at this idea, and this time it’s about the use of different learning online platforms or tools.

Why is it that some teachers (a minority in our school) are using Google Docs and other Google Classroom tools, while others continue to rely on posting Word docs to the online portal that kids log into? Why is that one teacher uses a system completely different from this online portal? Even the way teachers deal with creating and posting docs at the portal can cause issues at home: My son and I tried to download a doc from one teacher and paste it into a Google Doc but could not, since what had been created was not text but an image. Google Docs could not read the image. Heaven help any student trying to use a Chromebook to do his or her work, given teachers’ continued reliance on Microsoft products.

Middle school students are so organizationally challenged that any middle school needs to have a single and consistent approach to its teachers’ use of digital tools. I can no longer buy the “easing in” of certain tools that happens in school buildings, as some teachers get used to new things while others do not even need to bother with them. Whole swaths of disorganized kids suffer as technologies are “eased in.”

I asked some of my peeps to chime in, to make sure I was not a raving lunatic, and here’s what teacher/librarian/media specialist Emily Auerswald had to say:

Middle schoolers have so much going on (and often school is the least of it!) that trying to figure out which teacher is posting what, where, and in which format can be overwhelming. Who wouldn’t be tempted to throw in the towel when you can’t get the attachment to open because you’re on a different platform? Schools: Please pick one plan and stick to it. Remind your teachers that the challenge in the assignment shouldn’t be getting the assignment.

And from Steve Isaacs, a middle school teacher from New Jersey:

In our school we use something somewhat uniform called the homework portal, which is linked from the teacher lesson planning site. So, if a teacher enters his or her homework…in the lesson plan, it automatically shows up in the homework portal. In class, I have seen a variety of approaches. Our students do all get an assignment book which, if they use, should provide a fairly consistent structure. In addition, teachers have their own website (essentially a requirement). I believe most teachers are pretty good about posting resources and such on their site, and so students become accustomed to look there. I’m not sure how consistent it is, and I agree with your point about the organizational challenges.

Thanks, Emily and Steve, for your thoughts. Let’s hope that more and more schools and school systems see that online platform consistency can help kids keep organized – or at least not further impede the organizational challenges that can come at certain grade levels. Let’s not make platform juggling a problem that kids have to solve before they even get to their assignments.

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