Chuck Sandy

Technology in your classes – Chuck Sandy

Chuck Sandy

The Real Revolution

I teach in a classroom in 2012 that’s not all that different from the one my grandmother taught in almost 100 years ago.  She taught her lessons in a one-room schoolhouse equipped with slate boards, not quite enough chalk, and uncomfortable seating. The room I work in has chalkboards, not quite enough chalk, and uncomfortable seating. I do not have to fire up a wood stove in the morning the way she did, but my room is always either too hot or too cold.

My grandmother had a radio to sort of bring the world into the classroom. I have a TV monitor with a DVD player and a projector connected to a sound system. My grandmother told me that she only played the radio in class to provide atmosphere. I do the same thing with the songs I’ve stored on my Apple computer — only less effectively because at least the radio in my grandmother’s classroom provided an ever-changing mix of music punctuated by talk from somewhere far away. I have never played a DVD in class.  I do not have Internet access in my classroom — or if I do, it’s just too complicated to figure out how to connect to it. My grandmother did not need to think about such things.

In both of our rooms, almost 100 years apart, an amazing assortment of people with the usual assortment of issues, ideas, dreams, and goals have gathered to work their way into the future. There is nothing different really in the work she did then and the work I do now.  We are both teachers — which is to say the work she did and the work I do is a combination of dream weaving and storytelling mixed with community building and acts of pure magic.

My grandmother’s magic trick was to get the farm kids in her class to believe they could do anything. I do exactly the same thing with kids who are not that different. Her students in 1909 felt invisible and powerless. So do mine in 2012.  My grandmother did her trick with her heart alone. I use my heart as well, but I also have a few magical tools at my disposal to make it all seem dreamlike.

Though our classrooms and students are similar, my grandmother never got to teach a group of students who had the world in their pocket without even knowing it was there. Pearl Sandy, my grandmother, would love that and so in her honor, I help my students unpack and unleash that power.

Recently, we have been working on telling stories in my classroom, making use of the blackboards, some paper, a lot of ideas, and each other. One day, when the room got a little too hot, we headed outdoors and told our stories under a shady tree.


All of these activities so far are ones that I’m sure my grandmother did with her students. Here’s where things get very different. I gathered my students together and said “How many of you have a smart phone in your pocket?”  Eighteen out of twenty-four had one that could record video. Six out of eighteen had enough battery and memory left to record videos of their classmates telling stories.

We broke into six groups of four, with one filmmaker in each group. Then we videoed our stories and loaded them onto our private class Facebook page. Next week we’ll critique each other’s work before uploading our stories more publicly in a place where we can share widely and exchange stories with students around the world. That’s magic and it’s the real revolution.

The question is not should we or shouldn’t we use technology. That’s a silly question. The real question is: how can we use the magic available to us to give voice to everyone and get the world connected in real and wonderful ways.

The students in my grandmother’s class are now silent. My students never will be. My students are not isolated in a room in the middle of nowhere. Their voices carry and will be heard everywhere.

I know that Shiho won’t mind me sharing her story with you. It’s a dream. It’s coming true, and it’s getting better every day.

Grandma, this is for you:

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Chuck Sandy

Chuck is a teacher, teacher trainer, author & educational activist with 30 years of experience in the US, Japan and Brazil. His many publications include the Passages and Connect series from Cambridge University Press and the Active Skills For Communication series from Cengage Learning. He is a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops around the world. Chuck believes that positive change in education happens one student, one classroom, and one school at a time, and that it arises most readily out of dialogue and in collaboration with other educators. This is the reason he has built a Facebook group with over 9000 teachers from 24 countries that meet for ongoing educational discussions. It is also the reason he has worked to introduce Design For Change into Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, and Russia.

12 thoughts on “Technology in your classes – Chuck Sandy”

  1. Dearest Chuck – you’ve touched on a deep truth here – teachers have always done the same job, if they really are teachers. The bells, whistles and technology is icing on the cake – the cake made of care, and love, and time. When one uses that icing to enhance and enrich the cake it just is, truly, the cherry on top!

  2. …and I believe that by the time this post is 100 years old,most world schools will have closed and the majority of the world students will rely totally on technology for their learning;getting online courses,online degrees and online schools.

    I also believe that by the time this blog post is 100 years old,most classes will be hetrogenous;pupils will be studying with mates from tens of other nationalities and the real world will turn into the unreal while the virtual will be most people’s real life!

  3. Dear Sandy,
    I really enjoyed how greatly you elaborated on the issue of the use of technology by making a comparison between the past and the present. It was really delightful to learn that your grandmother was able to motivate her students with the heart when there was no technology whatsoever. She went the whole hog to enlighten her students and make them shine, and I think that like great teachers she is living in the hearts of those people who still remember her. And you did a great job by writing her story. Telling the story reminds me of the story of a boy who lived with his grandparents and spent most of the time with his grandfather. The grandfather gave him a blanket as a gift. He died and the boy decided that he should try to remember his grandfather by keeping the blanket. After some time, the blanket tore and the boy asked his mum to change the blanket into something useful. He made several things out of the blanket until it was no longer useful and had to be thrown away. By this time the boy had turned into an adult and was able to write. He decided to write the story of his grandfather’s blanket so that he would remember his grandfather forever. The grandfather is dead but his memory will live on.

  4. As usual, what a beautiful story. You’re such a fabulous storyteller, Chuck – it probably runs in the family! And you class will likely develop into great storytellers too! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Your Grandma was a Real teacher and the same soul is present into you. Such dedication, no doubt, is found in the people who take their tasks like Their’s and create possibilities out of impossible things. That’s the Real teaching, in fact.
    Your writing is again fabulous, Chuk.

  6. What a wonderful story! And I love the activity. I would love to know where you are thinking of putting the stories as I am running a similar workshop with my 17yr old Chilean students and would love to firstly provide them some examples and secondly the possibility of some collaboration!

  7. thank you and your books
    i’m an English teacher in Iran but there is no access to teacher’s of the ‘connect2’ here

  8. What a beautiful story!
    I recognised my own classroom in your description (chalkboard, chalks, only a CD player, seating arrangement that can’t be changed a lot…and a teacher trying hard to motivate, engage her students).
    I like what you did with the stories, I think I’ll try the same with my students (they also have smartphones and profiles on FB).

  9. Chuck,
    I am grateful for your vision that has come to a reality. I do something similar but will add Facebook to our classroom activity this year or Edmodo. I will have to see. The one thing that will happen in and outside the classroom is learning and sharing. We are a social people. I will use this truth to build upon this school year. Thanks.

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