When I was asked to pilot BrainHoney in my district I knew that I would have to adjust my beginning of the year plans. Most years I spend a day, possibly two, introducing the class expectations and guidelines. Since I plan to use ChromeBooks and BrainHoney on a daily basis I knew that it would be necessary for me to spend more time introducing my expectations, guidelines and familiarizing my students with the technology they will be using.
Most years I begin with a short writing activity requiring students to write 2-3 paragraphs about themselves. This serves two important purposes. Most importantly, I am able to learn about my students and what they like or don’t like doing in and outside of school. This really helps me connect with them throughout the year. This assignment also helps me get a first glance of the writing skills of my students. This year I wasn’t able to do this assignment the first day of school. Instead, we spent the first day getting familiar with how to login to Chrome and BrainHoney and what guidelines and expectations went along with using ChromeBooks on a daily basis.
This school year we spent the first four days of classes going over the necessary guidelines and expectations. This also included dealing with any logging-in issues. We were able to go through all of the class guidelines and expectations by using BrainHoney.
The most important guidelines fell under the statement, “Using this technology is a privilege, not a right.” I made it clear that all of our work this year can be done the “old-fashioned way” using paper and pencil. I am not naïve enough to believe students will never be surfing the web or using the ChromeBooks as another form of distraction, but I do believe most of the major possible issues can be avoided by my movements around the room while teaching. If I do catch my students using the technology inappropriately, the severity of the punishment can vary from a verbal warning to a “suspension” from using technology in my room.
Another thing that we covered during the first four days of introductory classes, was cyber safety and cyber citizenship. I stressed to my students that whatever they put on the Internet is there for good. Even if you delete a tweet or Facebook post you can never be certain that it still isn’t “out there” in cyberspace.
The introductory days were also used to get my students used to the different aspects of BrainHoney. I had them do several simple “checks.” These were done in the same format that many quizzes will be administered, but were not counted as quiz grades this time. I am hopeful that this practiced helped my students become familiar with how many quizzes will work on BrainHoney.
Finally, my students and I explored the resources I have uploaded to BrainHoney. These resources span everything from editable pdf graphic organizers to links to videos explaining MLA format. I am going to keep these resources visible for within BrainHoney for the duration of the year
Each day my students are becoming quicker when it comes to login times. I have also found a few students in each class who are more than willing to help any students who are having trouble logging in, finding the correct website or having any other technological issues. These students stepped into leadership roles on their own. I have yet to come up with a name for these helpers.
Up to this point using BrainHoney has been going very smoothly. I am sure we will run into some minor and, probably even, major hiccups as the year goes on, but that is something any educator using technology has to expect and prepare for.