A Bridge to the Digital World

With the Digital Learning Day approaching, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about the intersection between the analog classroom and the digital classroom.  In my 8th grade English class, we spend a good portion of our time composing text digitally and collaborating on pieces that we are shaping. For the most part these are pieces that are born digital and remain digital as they progress through the stages of drafting and revision and eventually grow into mature final products. These can be easily shared and commented on and archived as a record of our learning together. 

But I often wonder about the work that we do that is born and raised in the real world. This is work that exists on paper and is brought to life with a pen, or even pencil. Recently, as we have all become more and more focused on documenting learning and sharing it with our peers, I have found myself spending more and more time documenting  this analog work and migrating it to the digital world.

Particularly good pieces of writing, notes written as part of a brainstorming  or pre writing session can now, more than ever, easily be captured and brought into the same world of 1s and 0s as their digitally born counterparts. Lately, my favorite tool for this job has been an iPhone app called Jotnot. Available for 1.99 in the Apple app store, this app lets you quickly capture a document or other paper based product and with a few pinches and zooms, and some iPhone voodoo, it quickly create a “scan” of the documents. Similarly to other apps in the app store, the developers of this app actually refer to it as a “document scanner”, suggesting that it could be used to replace an actual scanner. 

Being a bit skeptical at first about the possibilities of this app, I decided to put it through some tests. First, I started with an average photocopy from a student work book and “scanned” it with Jotnot. The app worked quickly enough and, with built in Google Docs and Dropbox access, I had the page scanned and reprinted from my desktop computer in less than one minute. Holding the two pages side by side and asking another member of the 8th grade team which was the original, he actually said there seemed to be little difference. In fact, his comment was that the one in my right hand, the iPhone scan, was actually a bit clearer. This seemed good enough for me. 

I’ve been using this app for a few weeks now to capture student work and post it as shared files on Google docs for students or to post to a class twitter feed as a model piece or work to reflect on. This small practice straddles line between reality and virtual reality, and with the paper and pen reality of testing and all the implications that go along with it, will probably be a good tool to help myself and students continue to live in between these two spaces. 

My next plan is to bring this tool to students and see the new perspectives and possibilities they bring to this digital crossroads. Over the next few weeks, as we arrive at the Digital Learning Day, my plan is to chronicle some of my tech classroom practices, and I’m excited to hear about everyone else’s triumphs and tribulations in both their analog and digital learning worlds.