The adjacent possible revisited

Dan Waldhoff, Ibaraki University IEP Instructor


Last year, I wrote for this column (January/February 2012, Vol. 36, Number 1) describing some steps that I'd taken to make my classroom as paperless as possible. Concluding that article, I promised an update telling of changes that must surely come as I smoothed off rough edges and sharpened the experience. This article fulfills my promise.

Let me begin by qualifying that the systems I've put in place work for me, but more importantly they work for my students. They are the customers who must always be right. Today's check of <>page views gives a total of 9808. Since only my students have direct access to the page I've created and I have about 90 students, it seems that they are using the tool I've given them. The page has been up for just over a year and the traffic has prompted Google to advise me that I should monetize the site with ads. That is a confirmation of the success of my single, simple page on Blogger!

I've implemented changes to make the system even more user-friendly and efficient. Access to my home page is easier after I changed from the address to a private URL that I registered a few years ago. <> is much faster to input and remember. Registering a URL is a simple and inexpensive process. GoDaddy and Blogger work together nearly automatically to prevent what can otherwise be a tedious linking procedure.

Many of my students access the page from a smart phone or web-enabled keitai. To make this less visually complicated, I've changed to a template designed for clean and functional viewing on small screens. It isn't pretty on a computer monitor but so many students use their keitai to access and input work, like book reports, that the change had to be made.

Last year I handed my students a 17-page booklet that provided first day information prints and the syllabus. However, this time at the beginning of the term I gave each only a printed business card with my name, email and web access URL details. I showed a video on how to use the system and provided a link to that YouTube video on my website so students could review and confirm. I saved paper and making a formal introduction while presenting my meishi to each student made a strong impression.

Now, I review the syllabus at the beginning of each class using the classroom projector screen and my iPad. The students have a very clear picture of what they need to do and when it needs to be done without having to print a copy of the syllabus. The iPad also holds all the texts I use in all the places I teach: reference books, all the audio and video files associated with the various texts and dozens of supplemental videos as well. Checking the syllabus daily is very much like a meeting at the beginning of an office day and exactly what I want it to feel like. Students read from my projected text; their faces are not hidden, turned to their desktops.

I've adopted Google Drive as the repository of all the documents I share with students. These have been converted from MS Office to .pdf format. I keep student records in Google spreadsheets that I can access anywhere. Google Drive is secure, big, and free. 

The final change I made to the work submission pages (Google Forms) is the addition of a single text entry field to each submission form. Dear Dan invites students to comment, suggest, and share their thoughts. This might be the most important of the little changes because they do ask questions, make comments, suggest things I might like, and share their thoughts!

I've had the pleasure of presenting and writing on this topic twice now. With the time I've saved doing less of the busy work that had been so frustrating, I have the continuing pleasure of being able to give much more of myself to actual teaching. Still, I have to admit that many of my esteemed colleagues are daunted by the technology. My next project using the saved time should necessarily be a step-by-step tutorial to move those less confident along the path to technological enlightenment!

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