The reason I created the Bully Binder is very simple—desperation. I had just moved out of the regular brick and mortar classroom--you know the kind with desks, whiteboards, pencils, and paper—into one of the most technologically advanced computer labs in Gwinnett County. I needed technology that was fluid and easy for me to learn and use, as well as engaging for 400+ students across the learning level spectrum. Most of all, I needed it 10 minutes ago!
I originally created the Bully Binder as a collection of safe and ‘bookmarked’ websites my students could repeatedly visit for a project I was assigning. Over time, I realized that not only did the students need the websites, they needed assignment directions as well. It continued to morph as parents accessed the binder from home, and they too, needed a clearer understanding of the assignment objectives. I discovered that my students were working much as many adults do today; by reorganizing their workload to fit personal learning styles and busy schedules. The virtual binder was accessible 24/7, but I was not. My Bully Binder was rapidly evolving into a virtual classroom.
As with all best laid plans, mistakes occurred. My first semester students (and parents) used the binder, and I was able to correct the mistakes and shortcomings on the fly. I consider this one of the most important features of LiveBinders. As I learned my students’ needs, I was able to insert (or change) information in the binder that accommodated them with just a few clicks of the keys. Everyone who used the binder needed something special — whether they specifically asked for or I observed it — poof! It was there!
The final, and undoubtedly the most useful addition to the binder, came during second semester. I began to display student work samples. This is not as simple as it sounds, not because of technology, but because of copyright. In order to make the binder public and to display student work, it needed to meet copyright criteria. If there is one thing I have learned this past year, it is that every single student knows how to copy and paste. They may not know how to open a WORD document, but once it is open—let the ‘c/p-ing’ begin! It rocked their world. The binder was no longer a virtual textbook; it became a virtual adventure.
This coming year will begin with a binder especially designed to teach middle schoolers about copyright laws (wish me luck and stay tuned). I also want my students to create their own binders. I toyed with this a bit last school year, but my class structure was not conducive to the students having individual binders. However, this coming year will be different, and I will absolutely have students create and maintain their own binders. Most exciting are the new collaboration features on the binders that will facilitate this endeavor. With over 200 students a semester, I need easy access to student binders, both on a mass and individual level. I am still working out the details (again—wish me luck), but the reason I am taking on such a monumental task is because of what a LiveBinder can do for the student. If LiveBinders can benefit my students as much as they have benefited me, the potential and possibilities are what teaching is all about.