Rocketbook Beacons: Lighting Up Your Classroom! by Holly Werra
“Can I just take a picture of the board?” This is something that would never have been uttered in a classroom ten years ago. Many people outside of academics may be surprised it’s actually a common question in the classroom — both from students who don’t take very good notes, but also from students who DO take really nice notes and want to make sure they don’t miss anything. Five years ago, my response would have been, “Absolutely not. You learn by writing it down. You need to take your own notes.” I have now completely reversed my answer to this question, not only allowing it, BUT actually taking the picture myself and posting it on my class website.
Several things have changed my thinking on allowing students to take pictures of notes on the board. One was that I returned to school for my Masters in Applied Math. Lectures were recorded, so even if I missed something in the notes, I could rewind the video. However, I found that if I KNEW the professor was going to post the notes, I was much more engaged in the lesson. I wasn’t worried about missing anything. Even though I could rewind, I didn’t — I kept the momentum of the lesson going and if I thought I might have missed something, I just wrote myself a little note so I knew to doublecheck my notes with the professor’s notes later.
I also had my own realization in my classroom. If a student didn’t take good notes, for whatever reason, and then ASKED for better notes, what is the benefit of me saying no? Ideally, by saying no, they will change their behavior. But that doesn’t change the fact that they now have bad notes and when asked for the opportunity to learn from better notes, I wouldn’t allow it. Do I want to teach them a lesson on note-taking, or a lesson on math? Do I want to break down their barriers to learning or continue to let them struggle? The answers became clear. And I started allowing pictures.
I also found that often it wasn’t a case of bad note-taking, but more a case of mine just being so good (in my humble opinion). Often in math we draw diagrams. I have had a lot of practice drawing those diagrams. I can draw a conical tank better than your average Calculus student. You should see my volumes of revolution. A student will show me their sad diagram in their notebook and ask how they can make theirs more like mine. Practice. Years of practice. And we’re not going to spend time in class practicing it. So, why not give them mine to use?
Now that I was letting students take pictures, everybody wanted a picture. One phone came out and then a handful more came out. A dozen students lined up to take their own picture of the board. But what about the dozen who didn’t? Or the one or two students who aren’t really taking pictures, but just using the opportunity to have their phone out? It hardly seemed fair that half the class got a second version of the notes and half the class didn’t. It became clear that I needed an easy way to take a picture and distribute it to the whole class.
This is where Rocketbook Beacons came in, and made this process seamless. I keep my phone on me in the classroom and scan a board before I erase it. At the end of the class, I take my last scan, title the set of scans with the textbook section the notes were about, and send the scan to a Google Drive folder that is shared with all students. Students still take notes — they just don’t feel the pressure to get every last detail, and as a result, are more engaged in the lesson. Every student gets a copy of the notes, so there’s no worry about some kids having access and others not.
I also have my students submit homework online. They do the work in their Rocketbook, scan it, and submit it on PowerSchool. I started running into problems with students losing pens or running out of ink and then using regular paper and pencil for that night’s homework. They still have to submit the work online, but their pictures of their homework were awful. So, we now have a scanning station where students can scan work using the beacons for submittal.
Rocketbooks streamlined how my students do and submit homework. Now with Rocketbook Beacons, I have been able to streamline the notetaking process in my classroom. We have a seamless process and my students are now Rocketbook Rockstars!
Holly Werra is a Math teacher as well as the Assistant Cross Country Coach at New Berlin Eisenhower Middle and High School in New Berlin Wisconsin