Forging Toward A Flex Classroom

Today’s Contributor: Jack Jeansonne

Jack Jeansonne is in his 20th year as a teacher. He has taught PBL in an enriched curriculum for five years and holds a Master’s degree in Education Administration. He is involved with multiple school and community activities and one of his goals is to help empower students with austism.


I like to start each fifth-grade year with information that no one has shared with many of my students before: that they have a Google account, which consists of a Drive, an email account, and all kinds of useful apps, and it’s all set up for them already.

   “Whoa, that’s cool!” is the general response.

   “Does anyone know what a Google drive is?” I say.

   Of course they don’t.

   That begins a day of sharing with each student his or her own student number, getting them to recount their own birthdays in numbers (Q: “What month were you born?” A: “2006.” April is 04? October is 10? What does that mean?”), and explaining what could happen if they share their login information with anyone.

   I paint horrible pictures, mainly based on true stories, of what old acquaintances and exes have done to each other through account theft, some light hacking, and social media faux-pas. They are aghast. They’ll never share that info. It’s locked up tight. As they move to the next class, I find a sprinkling of fresh new login cards on the floor and in desks.

  Next day, half of them swear someone stole their cards.

   After the lengthy process of learning to log in, I explain what their AISD cloud is, and how to find things, especially their G Drive.

   Once located, creating simple docs becomes the lens through which my classes are taught. Sharing with me to earn a grade (I leave my email address up on the board all year- I guess it’s really hard to remember), sharing with team members, chatting incomprehensible gobbledegook is a waste of everyone’s time, etc., etc.

   My first lesson is for them to create a list of science tools in class and share it as a google doc.

Next, they learn to find items I shared with them in their shared folders, and follow the instructions, step-by-step. This is when I relearn that they are unable to follow steps in sequence.

   I teach them that font size, color, and other design elements are the Dessert, while the actual assignment is the main course, and that Dessert must wait until after you’ve finished the meal. And so on.

   This year, we started in BLEND. It was far less confusing for them than I expected. I explained that the Portal is the “front door” to your “mansion” of district software, and that the AISD cloud is the “living room” with access to lots of “hallways.” Your Google Drive is one “wing”, and BLEND is another “wing” of your mansion. Though their BLEND wing has many rooms, they don’t yet have the “keys” to those rooms. Their first key is to the assignment I’ve created. This odd metaphor has seemed to work as an explanation so far.

  So now, before I know it, by the end of week five, these fifth-graders are popping from tab to tab, from their drive to BLEND, reading instructions, and creating documents all at the same time. It’s been kind of amazing, actually, to see how quickly they’ve become fluent.

 Now it’s up to me to stay ahead of them, figure out how to attach to the gradebook, create interesting new additions, and forge toward a Flex classroom.

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