Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?"

Can you really teach an old new tricks? We are fixing to find out in my classroom this school year. My name is Rose Ann Throckmorton. I teach fourth grade at Rural Hall School.  I will begin by saying that I am entering my sixteenth year at Rural Hall School. I've been teaching children for around twenty years.  The students and parents have basically the same outlooks on education as when I started teaching. However, the schools and curriculums have changed through the years. That is the reason you are reading this blog.

  I have been selected to complete a pilot for  the Winston Salem/Forsyth County School District. It is based on a grant to test the usage of different technology devices within the classroom. It is my job to find out what works and what doesn't work.

So, in the days ahead, you will begin to understand the reason for the title to this blog spot, "Can you teach an old dog new tricks?"

Let's start at the beginning...back in June. My principal e-mails the staff  about an opportunity for professional development  to pilot laptops or tablets in the classroom. It is a test to see which devices work in order to plan for the future when all students are allowed to bring their own personal devices to school.  It is another opportunity for my students to grow academically.

Rural Hall School is a themed-based school, our theme being technology.  Grant you, I have been at Rural Hall for several years, and I am still not what you would call your "tech savy teacher".  In fact, I struggle with it.  I've tried through the years  to learn and grow...and I have.(That credit goes to Linda McDermon, my teacher, mentor and friend. It has been through her careful, patient guidance that I have learned many things and have been given many opportunities. In some cases, we have made history together. Thanks, Linda! I am forever grateful!)

Times are changing and we are challenged to try new things...personally and professionally. We all , as humans, are challenged to grow. When reading about the pilot, I know that technology is here to stay. It is something that is not going away.

 Careers and jobs depend on the technology. I have several years left in this profession . I love my students, and I love my career. I realize that it is up to me to prepare my students, as well as myself, for the future. Technology is everywhere, in everything.

I have reflected on the things that I know that I can do with technology and have analyzed the things that I don't  know about technology. I have decided to try the pilot ...assuming that laptops are the tools to be used. I have plenty of experience with laptops and computers. I fill out the application and submit  it to the principal. I don't give it another thought. ( In other words, I have jumped in.)

From my Journal Entry:
June 19, 2012
dedicated to Mrs. Moore

This morning I got up and dressed as usual. I hopped in my car and headed over  to the school. I had made a committment to a friend that I would help her water the school campus because she was ill and couldn't do it herself. (That's what Bulldogs do!)

I'm driving down the road when my cell phone rings. (No, I do not text or talk when I drive.) I let it go to voice mail. I think to myself, I'll  get it when I get to school.

When I got to school, I listened to the voice message. It was a message from Mrs. Moore.  I walked on into the building, gathered my supplies and began to water the grounds. (I was puzzled about the message that was left on my phone. Don't ever put off valuable things...)

As I completed the watering,  the Rural Hall fire trucks rolled out to a call.  Another friend texted me to share with me some shocking news. Mrs. Moore had unexpectedly passed away. (Mrs. Moore, was not only a close friend, but also the parent of one of my students.) I can't tell you what was said in the voice message that morning. That will remain a mystery for the rest of you.  I'll just say  that it was a priceless call and returned conversation. You can just imagine what the next few days were like around Rural Hall School and our community.

In the mean time, my principal received an email  that I had been selected into the pilot program. I wasn't present to select the device I would be using, so he selected it for me. (Mr. Hall, we'll talk later!)
It wasn't until every thing settled down that I discovered the device I would implement was tablets.
How was this going to play out in my classroom?..Stay tuned for the next entries...

Journal Entry:
June 23, 2012
Things began to calm down later that week. I began to shift my thinking toward the tablet. It couldn't be that hard because I had recently purchased a Nook back in January to help one of my students in class with his reading. Both devices were similar in design and features. I was able to learn enough  technology to help this child for the rest of the school, so no big deal.  The application stated that we would be trained and could work on it during the summer. We all could grow.

Journal Entry:
June 27, 2012
Today I met with Mr.Creech and all of the other team members. It was our first day getting to know each other. I 'll have to say we all appeared to be nervous but  really excited about the opportunity that was set before us.
Today we were issued our devices. We learned the expectations of the program and some insights on how it was developed.  As an inquiry-based and problem-solving program, the lesson plans and skills were based on similar training that I had had in the past with CERTL. We talked about the grant and the purpose of the program. We were instructed to take the device and start planning and playing. I couldn't wait to get started. I was going to learn a lot of technology!

Journal Entry:
Early July, 2012
For the next two weeks, I spent time getting to know my device, as suggested, by the tech department. I tried applying everything that I knew about the desktop computer, my laptop and Nook to the new device. I spent many long hours in my classroom over the summer trying to understand how it worked. I tried to make the connections from one device to the new tablet and  found quickly that I only confused myself more and became frustrated.  After speaking to Mr. Creech, I pulled away from all the other devices and worked harder on the tablet and  started reading about apps for the device. (I had never looked at computer software, apps or any of that kind of stuff. I had always depended on my tech fi person at school to do those types of things.) I began to worry.

By the third week of July, I began to spend more and more time at school. What started out as a few hours grew to whole days. To complicate matters more, you must know, I did not and still do not have a computer in my home. I do not have internet access or wifi.   I began to travel after work hours to all types of places to learn this libraries, from bookstore to bookstore, from coffee shop to coffee shop. My best friend was eager to share her home at all  hours of the day and night.  Her children began to give me pointers on certain things to do with the device.I began to reflect on the programs and projects that I had worked on in the past...voicethread, storyboard, and digital media. I reflected on the successes with the Nook and that seemed to calm me down some. I was caught playing with the gadget at the pool. (Don't tell Mr. Anderson! He would pass out. That was before, I read up on wear and care of the device.) I went anywhere I could find a wifi hook up.The traveling didn't bother me. The lack of technology skills did! I wasn't grasping the technology fast enough.

Journal Entry:
July12, 2012
As I crossed the parking lot one morning, I met an indvidual who noticed the device. He probably had ten years on me. He quickly gave his opinion about the device and technology. I quote him, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". He was joking. He just added to my frustration even more.

  I entered the building to find that one of my close friends had just resigned her position. She was tired. She was frustrated. She had been pushed beyond her limits. She was getting out! I turned around and went right back out of the building. My stress levels were high and my morale was very low. The technology was still moving too slowly.  What was I going to do? Training had not come yet. I met with Mr.Creech to share my concerns. He told me to focus on the lesson plans and to continue to work on the tablet.

 However, I quickly discovered that the apps and programs did not work in the same format on a tablet, as they had with the laptop and desktop.

 I didn't have the technology skills to do this job. I had to wait and  see how training went.

Journal Entry:
Mid to Late July
 Frustration was piling up more and more. I began to stay up later and later into the night. The tablet became an obsession. At this point, I wanted to fling it out the window.

Suddenly, one night, I couldn't get the device to turn on. It would not power up. I guess I had torn the thing up trying to learn. What had I done?

I ended up having to return the tablet.

I went without a tablet for about a week and a half. Parts of me grew more intense with worry because I really needed to be working on that technology. However, the down time gave me time to plan and organize lessons.

I quickly shifted my focus from tablet to curriculum. I contacted various people that I knew about technology and problem-based learning. I gathered resources and compiled ideas. (Thank Wake Forest Baptist Hospital and CERTL Problem-based Learning!) I developed and planned my lessons. I wrote drafts of the year at a glance and sketched it out on paper. I began to organize materials and arrange the future in my classroom. I made charts.  I prepared my room and curriculum for the fast approaching school year.

Most importantly, I calmed down. The week or so from the tablet was just what I needed.

In the meantime, I continued to look for resources. (One of which was the manual for the tablet that I had struggled with so much. Thanks, Miguel!) I continued to complete my summer committments of workshops on other technology skills and leadership opportunities.

Journal Entry:
August 1, 2012

Another device was issued. Would I be able to do this?..
More updates will be coming...

The week had been an emotional one. The good news about the opportunity to pilot the tablet came at a good time. (You'll begin to understand the reason for my giving you this tidbit of info about Mrs. Moore later in future blogs.)


  1. Rose, you are not an "old dog" - watching you during our first days together was inspiring - Your introduction of tablets to your students was nothing short of brilliant! The adorable bags and the buildup - So creative and involving! A true consummate teacher using the engergizing "hook".
    -Looking forward to hearing more about your adventure!

  2. Hi
    It is really important that these well-loved creatures are taught to do helpful things and behave themselves.Thanks for your valuable information.