Saturday, July 19, 2014

No More The Traditional Classroom Part 1

I have not used a chalk for more than a year now. The last one year has been tremendously fun for me as a teacher. It started off with a 10 year old projector which I plugged into an AppleTV. I was lucky to find an infrequently used media room in school. That was a year ago. And so I began to use it for my classes in July until now...

This is where I have my classes now. Just before the holidays in June, I went to speak to my Principal about a computer lab which had been unused for many years. It was in a far flung corner of the school and even many teachers were only vaguely aware of its existence. How I stumbled onto it? My Robotic Club boys wanted to find a room to work on their project for FLL and they brought me to this unused lab.

However, we didn't use it after we checked it out. The room was very dusty. There was a lingering stench from what was left of a dead rat which had decomposed. It had turned into a flattened heap of grey fur in the room. That was in April. I didn't think much about the matter as we were busy with the FLL competition that month.... we won an award for 'The Most Innovative Idea'.... 8)

Then it was exam time. I talked to my Principal about my intention to use the lab. And since the Chrome carts given by the MOE were also not being utilised, I asked for a cart to be used in the lab as well. He gave me the green light and told me I had his support.

And so, as soon as the exam ended, just before the hols started... I cleaned the lab. The first task was to clean the room. There were old desktops on the tables and I was told that they were not in working conditions. And so with my students and school workers, we dusted, swept, mopped and washed whatever that needed cleaning. The electrician and air-con technicians had to be called in to check the aircons and electrical sockets. We even had to call in a roofer as the roof was leaking. I asked for a new projector too as the old one was simply too old and on its last legs. My boss was very supportive. We got the room up and running in 4 days.

My students helped me carry and stack the old CPU(s) and monitors into the store room. We packed all the wires, cables, keyboards, etc neatly into boxes, just in case parts can be salvaged to build other stuff. I couldn't do anything about the furniture arrangement as they were too big. I brought in some stuff from home too... a pair of old Altec Lansing amplified speakers which still sound very good and a fan.

I started using the lab after the new projector arrived... in the mean time, I bought one of my own too, the EB-1776w. It has been an interesting one month plus since I moved all my classes to the lab... a month of experimenting, trying out new things and improving my teaching methods while incorporating new technology.

I was a little distracted for a fortnight during that time as I had to work on a video project for a 3R competition. That took a lot of my concentration and almost all my free time. Lots of ideas and work stuff went onto the backburner. This is a reminder how teachers should be allowed to stay focussed on their main job... that is to teach. After 2 weeks of distraction it was rather difficult to get back the rhythm as I was tired. Age is catching up with my body experiencing all kinds of muscular discomforts and pains from computer work related stress. Anyway... I recovered somewhat...though the aches linger still.

A project like this would not have taken off if not for firm support from the Head. Most school heads in Malaysian schools probably don't have a very good working knowledge of how technology can be used in class. Many have become administrators first then educators. I think it's not often teachers get a chance to do what I did. I am more fortunate. My head gave me all the support needed to get the lab up.

In the coming posts I will try to share how technology has helped change my class and how I teach. More importantly, I hope it will change the way how my students learn too...


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