Monday, May 9, 2011
2010-2011 has been a year of new beginnings for me, personally and professionally. My family and I left the life we had known for almost 20 years--the only life my children have ever known---and began a new life in Central Iowa. And so I must pause, with just three weeks of this school year to go, and look at all that has been accomplished...and what yet needs to be done.
New technology #1: Wikis. I had not used Wikispaces before, but I decided that this was the perfect tool to address the independent reading requirement of my new employer's curriculum. In all honesty, I will say that the results are mixed. Most students failed to delve into the deep conversations about literature I had hoped. What I hoped would provide a real audience and purpose for their independent reading became close to the "same old--same old" as we encourage our students to read independently. I am so tired of posts like: "This is a great book. I can't wait to turn the next page." And responses in the discussion tab like, "This sounds like a good book. Great post." Ug! Generic as could be. Second semester I had more concrete assignments for the blog. For example, "Pick an important quote from the book and discuss why this line is so important and/or worth repeating." This did generate some very good thinking. And this was a wonderful outlet to those who already enjoy reading...they enjoyed having a place to talk about books. So if I had to grade this teaching exercise, I'd give it a B-/C+.
One Wikispace project that failed was our Boone Writes it Up--A place for students to post creative, personal writing. It had great initial energy but quickly fizzled. I still believe it is worthwhile, but I must find some way of keeping momentum and freshness to the page. We do have a Fine Arts night at Boone that celebrates the Arts--visual and musical. Perhaps we can have some tie in with this? A "Best of Show" award?? I'll keep thinking.
Technology #2: RWLD's using Blogger. OK, ok...I'll admit it. I flat-out stole this from my University of Northern Iowa graduate school professor, Dr. Leigh Zeitz. Here I created a variety of tasks for students complete: Read, Watch, Listen and Do (RWLD). I felt these became stronger and stronger learning tools/tasks as I wrote more of them. The final one, a study of Dante's Inferno, was pretty cool. Students often referred to it in class discussion: "Like they said in that video in that online activity." Another advantage to it is that the students had to investigate the topic on their own--no lecture needed. Overall, I'm giving this tool an A-. I was pleased with the thinking it evoked.
Technology #3: Google Sites. I am very happy with my Google websites, such as Boone High School 3B. It is a great resource, with the lesson plans, class handouts, class presentations...all aspects of the class. Now, the challenge is to get students and parents to utilize it. I spend hours updating each courses' websites (I have 3), and right now it's a waste of my time in proportion to how many students use it. However, I remain convinced that it is a valuable tool; I just need to develop a new culture of thinking where students turn to it automatically. I'm giving it a C, but it has great potential.
Technology #4: Google docs. I know; the last three are all the same technology in one way, they are all Google tools. However, they are serve different purposes. Now, Docs I had used in the past, along with Sites, but it was new to my students. I think that's why I included it, for my students really liked it. They were able to easily work on the same project at home and school with no hassle, AND they were able to collaborate with classmates. I noticed several of my students now add friends as editors right away and collaborate as they go. Whoo hoo! For me, education is all about collaboration, and I really was happy to see my students take that to heart. Grade: A.
There is a whole lot more to discuss, including the career-changing trip to Beijing, China, and participating in the Flat Classroom Conference, but I think I've taxed the reader enough for one blog. This entry will be continued...
I'd love to hear your thoughts, for we must share to grow. Must keep going!