A Wii remote taped to a ceiling projector. A teacher standing on desks. Twenty-five 11 year-olds offering enthusiastic technical support. This unlikely combination would become one of my greatest “aha” moments as an educator.
About three years ago, a friend told me I just had to see a Youtube video in which a guy made his own interactive whiteboard using a Wii remote. Enthralled with such an intriguing way to beat the budget, the next day, I asked my students if anyone could get parent permission to lend our class a remote. The response was terrific, and we quickly exceeded our one-remote quota.
For a couple weeks, I spent my afternoons rewatching the video, tinkering with the positions, calibrating the software, and emailing other YouTubers. When I thought I had things working, I would plan to incorporate the makeshift interactive whiteboard into a lesson, only to find more adjustments were necessary–which meant my entire class joined in the trial and error process with devoted fervor. Together, we cheered when it connected, groaned when we lost the resolution, held our breaths when we tested new angles, and sighed when theories failed. In the end, we managed partial and cumbersome functionality, and aside from the occasional game-show-like activity, the project became largely dormant.
Letting it Sink In
Although I never renewed my DIY interactive whiteboard efforts, the memory of the experience lingered. After a couple of years, I began to recognize just how much that particular venture meant to me and my class that year. I learned that what might be viewed as a waste of time to some was actually an inimitable learning experience for all involved, and I’ve listed a few of the effects here.
- Freely gave and listened to ideas toward a common goal
- Took ownership of the problem-solving process
- Developed resiliency in the face of failure
- Embraced a culture of risk-taking that continued for the rest of the year
- Modeled how to use YouTube as a source of innovation–not just entertainment
- Demonstrated genuine intrinsic passion for trying something new
- Demonstrated utterly uncontrived critical thinking and problem-solving
- Tried, failed, and learned right alongside my students, using their ideas as well as my own
In retrospect, I realized that that single experience defined us all, shaping the rest of our year together. They became more willing to raise their hands, to get creative, to give challenges a real chance. I became more willing to let go of my careful plans, to share my unpolished ambitions, and to embrace teaching moments how and whenever they come.
#Edtech has unlocked an exciting new era of teaching and learning, but we must authentically dive in in order to take part. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach put it beautifully in a recent blog post on the subject:
“The truth is none of us can give away what we do not own ourselves. Spilling out rhetoric you hear others say on Twitter or at your favorite tech conference will not change anything on the global scale needed in your district, school or classroom. Rather you have to own it, personally first.”
This was my first real technology ownership experience in the classroom. What was (will be) yours?