The Issue: There are a number of requests by his teachers and parents that make Ryan sigh:

  • Get his notebook out to write down an assignment;
  • Take time to organize his folder with section dividers;
  • Look something up in his textbook;
  • Find anything in his backpack;
  • Pack his backpack the night before school with all his textbooks, folders, and notebooks.

For runners, one of the most difficult things to do is get out of bed for an early morning run.  The thought of everything you have to get together before beginning the run can be overwhelming: shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, iPod, headphones, heart-rate monitor, water bottles, GU packets, and sunglasses.  In the cooler months, as you can imagine, the situation is even worse.

One way to make getting out of bed to run a little less onerous is to remove the major organizational obstacle between lying in bed and beginning the run by laying all your clothes and equipment out the night before.  In the morning, you fall out of bed, put on the clothes, pick up the paraphernalia, and you are out the door before your brain is awake enough to realize what is happening.

How can we similarly remove obstacles for our students and make getting down to learning less onerous for them?

The twenty-first century classroom provides solutions to many common educational problems related to student organization.  One of the most useful services it can provide is the opportunity to remove the obstacle of students having to use precious brain energy to keep track of the physical location of the learning materials (books, calendars, worksheets, notes, assignments).  In doing so, the responsibility students need to take for completing the work is enhanced: where there are no obstacles to accessing the materials, the metaphorical ball is permanently in the students’ court.

As a more specific example, when reading a challenging text, we want our students to interact with the text: look up words they do not know, explore the meaning of a passage, and reflect upon larger issues.  Clearly, there can be several obstacles here in a traditional environment: the students need to consult a dictionary, refer to class notes, or find the teacher’s study guide.  However, the mouseover script provides one solution to removing such obstacles.  Using this script, teachers can create interactive text that provides a pop-up text box when students hover their mouse over highlighted text.  The pop-up box can contain definitions, questions, or links.  For example, on a webpage of Act 1 Scene 2 of Macbeth there could a link to a YouTube video of this scene as well as the original text, definitions of unusual vocabulary, study questions, short assignments, and a link to a video all in one place.  In preparing this page, I have attempted to remove all obstacles for the students by providing everything in one place.

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Beyond the Paperless Classroom by David Doherty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.