Step Away: Getting Away from Technology through Trees

Sometimes, you just need to step away from technology.

Hi, I’m Tory and I’m a tech-o-holic.

Addiction is defined by Psychology today as “a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.”  And most of us have found that type of behavior with our technology. For instance, you pick up your phone to just check one message that just showed up, a notification that popped up on your screen, a Tweet or a Facebook message that peaks our interest.  We think “Oh, that’s OK, I’ll just check this one thing really quickly and then get back to whatever I was doing before.”

And that’s when it happens.  First, you check what you came for, and then maybe look at a little red notification dot and wonder what that is about, and then you find yourself clicking around on several different apps, or deep diving into another one.  What those apps are designed to do – especially social media apps – is give us a little reward of dopamine that makes us feel happy or spikes a little brain boost.

The problem is you can often find that when you are flipping around on your phone that, despite the little clock up in the corner of your phone, time will just simply fly by and you don’t realize that you have spent hours on your phone.

We have all seen the addiction in our classrooms, at the coffee shops, and sometimes even at our own dinner tables. The world is full of cell phones and technology.  But sometimes, we just need a break.

If you own an iPhone, Apple has recently tried to combat some of this addiction with their ScreenTime setting, where you can see how much time you spend on your phone and what you spend time doing.  You can also use this setting to limit the time you spend on certain apps, or even entire categories of apps such as Social Media. Once you meet your limit, the phone will block your access to those apps and websites that you are trying to avoid. Of course, if you know the passcode to get by that, it is often easy to bypass.  (I admit, giving myself more “time” when I don’t deserve it).

Forest app iconOne app that I have found particularly helpful, which brings joy to my little tree-hugger heart is called Forest, and it’s available in the AppStore or on Google Play.

Forest is an app where you plant a tree anywhere from ten to 120 minutes – and then you put down your phone.  If you move away from that app during any time that you have set that timer for, your tree will die! It forces you to step away from your phone and enjoy the life away from technology.  Through the app, you earn coins that help you buy other, cuter trees or, if you collect 2500 coins, you have earned a real tree that the app developers will donate through their partnership with Trees for the Future.

It might be a bit counter intuitive to use technology to avoid technology.  It is, after all, another app that we put on our phone and another thing that we click and swipe and press on.  However, I’ve used this app for a few months now. I set it in the morning for 30 minutes and I use that time to write. Knowing that I can’t pick up my phone to “quickly look up something” keeps me in the flow of writing, and has increased my productivity in writing, grading, lesson planning (and maybe catching up on Lucifer).  It is amazing to put down my phone and really just live life.

So, plant a tree and get things done… away from technology.  

 

Using TeacherVue to make attendance a breeze!

IMG_1356As an App, TeacherVue has saved me so much time.  You can find the app in the AppStore on an iPhone and in Google Play for Android.

At Stagg High School, one of our established “norms” is that teachers are required to greet students at the door.  This is an established norm for a number of reasons, but most importantly it helps students to feel welcomed into the classroom of the teacher, and establishes a positive learning environment. The problem, I’ve always found, is that I often will stand at the door, and then once I get in to my classroom, I find a classroom full of teenagers who have not yet transitioned to the classroom environment, despite knowing that there is a warm up on the board waiting for them to answer.  Often I have to get in to class to remind students to remind them to get Chromebooks, take out paper, and then I also have to take the time to take roll once they have settled in as well as make any announcements. However, with the TeacherVue App on my phone, I have found that at least one transition goes smoothly, and I don’t have to wait until my students have settled in to take attendance.

IMG_1333When you first download TeacherVue, you will look for the icon above, making sure that you put it somewhere on your phone.  Opening the app, you will find a login screen, which uses the same credentials that you use to log in to the Synergy program on the computers.  However, before you can fully log in, you have to set up the app. The gear in the left hand bottom corner of the login screen will bring you to the settings for the app.

unnamedThe settings for the app are very simple.  It is merely looking for the district URL to connect the app to our school district.  The correct URL for Stockton Unified Synergy is https://synergy.stocktonusd.net.  Make sure to hit the “test” button, and an alert will pop up that will show you that you have correctly entered the district URL.

IMG_1335Once you have established this connection, you can log in using your credentials  

unnamed (1)You will see a screen that has a list if your classes. For that semester, including where the class meets, the days that the class meets and how many students are enrolled in each class period.  

Each morning, I log into the app, check my students, and station myself outside my classroom door.  Then, I click on the class that I am taking attendance for.

 

IMG_1344What you will see on this screen is a list of your students enrolled in your class along with their ID number, grade and gender as well as a picture (just in case you’re just as bad as remembering names as I am!)

Your first step is to touch the TeacherVue icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen, which will send you to the classroom menu.

 

IMG_1343From this menu, you can easily access three options.  If you choose the “settings” option, it will let you choose how students are formatted in your class (I prefer First Last), and if you would like to see the student’s birthday, gender, grade, any notifications for the student (including notes that other teachers may have left) and student photos (again, helpful if you are bad with names!

Select your preferences and save them. The second button will let you select “take attendance”, which is the one that we are most interested in.  When you choose this button, you will be able to take roll with just the tap of your finger.

In my classes, I prefer to take attendance by first marking every student absent, and then as they pass by me and say good morning, I will remove their absence with two pushes of the red square that indicates that they are absent. (It will cycle through several different attendance marks, including UNV- Unverified, TDY- tardy, and 30T- 30 minutes tardy). Once the bell rings, and the attendance is taken, I will start my lesson, introduction, announcements, reminders, getting students settled and working towards the task at hand, and I don’t have to worry about sitting myself down at any point in order to take attendance, attendance is saved as soon as I hit the “save” button on my phone.  Attendance is done!

Once I have them settled and working, I will open up my phone, review attendance, check for any students who may have come in tardy (you would be surprised at how silently some students can just slip in), and then save the attendance again.

I have found that taking attendance in this way helps me to stay organized for the day, and makes sure that I have my attendance done in a timely manner in my classroom.