Monday, January 25, 2010

Books on computer

Since our school has been phasing in our 1:1 program, there's been a push to utilize online texts to lighten the backpacks of the girls. I remember making calls to religion text publishers a couple of years ago asking about online texts or versions on CD-rom. Not much going on then. Resources available on publishers' websites but not actual texts in our discipline.

That's changed now. I know of two publishers who are either making books available in an electronic format or are at least thinking about it. Today I filled out a survey for one company about just that topic. Another sent me an e-mail offering a review copy of a text that could be delivered either through UPS or electronically.

The times they are a changin'.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Second Semester

Second semester: I plan to keep the same basic process for Catholic Theology, though I may change it for next year.

In Justice and Peace, I want to get students connected to what is happening outside the classroom. I think I would like to introduce them to RSS, and help them find relevant blogs or other feeds.

They will blog. One class blog, or individual? More research to be done.

Their final project will be done in pairs or groups, and will be presented through a wiki. Google Sites? Wikispaces? I have to explore more there to decide.

Oh, and I have to read the text and figure out how we will go about learning the content of the course, too.

I will be busy.

Some feedback

Today our discussion in Catholic Theology got a little off track, but I thought it to be important stuff. Since I have not delved into DyKnow much, I got some of their impressions of its use, and the discussion turned to the area of privacy. The fact that with the software teachers could be viewing students screens even when they are at home is bothersome to some students. But even in the classroom, some students feel that it is their business what they are doing during the class. "It's our grade" is what they had to say.

There were complaints about not being able to use OneNote, where they would prefer to take their notes, when a teacher blocks everything but DyKnow, and about how each day's work is a separate file when they would like to organize their notes differently. Another problem is when a teacher forgets to "release" students from their class, and applications they need for homework are blocked well beyond the school day.

A complaint that I heard before was that the method of presenting, at least as used by some teachers, allows for too much passivity on the part of students. If the notes are there and they don't have to write them, they are not as engaged with the material. I do know that some teachers don't put all the material on the slides, which encourages students to add their own notes.

It was a natural jump from there to the tools we have actually used in the classroom. There was Diigo, and some students had major problems with it. The main problem seemed to have to do with the way it interacted with the databases we have access to at school. I solved that problem (I think), but too late for these students, who could not get back to articles they had marked. And I think that next semester I just have to take more time to familiarize students with the tool, as some this semester just found it confusing.

I need to do the same with Google Docs. Some pairs did not really take advantage of the collaborative aspects, but put their paper together and then pasted to Docs. In some cases they just found it confusing. One girl said that those who had used it for another teacher previously found it easy.

Some students just wished they could have done stuff on paper. They don't like reading on screens; they like to flip through the assignments they get back to read comments, not scroll. So much for the idea that all young people are digital natives who take to computer applications like a duck to water.

Even with so many complaints, I wasn't totally discouraged. One girl actually said that she liked Diigo. My basic conclusion for improving next semester: teach more of the tech.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow days

For the record, today is not a snow day, though hopes were high at the end of the school day yesterday. The roads were bad in the thick of it yesterday, but deemed clear enough today for us to all make the trek to school.

But here we are, and learning continues. If we were at home, classes would have been interrupted until Monday. But it doesn't have to be that way when your school has access to Moodle, and some teachers use DyKnow as well. The DyKnow teachers could be conducting classes in real time. Moodle can be a simple access point for assignments, but also offers chat and discussion options. We could really maintain the same schedule, just doing all that learning in our pajamas.

Here's a blog post about a school where "snow day" does not equal "no school day." I think it would be something worth exploring in my building. We generally do not have to make up our lost days as a private school. But is our goal to follow state laws, or is it to offer the fullest education opportunities possible to our students?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The department pln plan.

Had a discussion today about the PLN, and ways to connect with other teachers through Twitter, etc. I mentioned how I was in the process of trying to find more people who teach what I teach -- that is, some high school religion teachers. Finding ones who do tech would be nice, but connecting is not all about how to teach tech.

Someone came up with the idea of trying to start a Ning for religion teachers in our archdiocese. We could connect with people doing what we are doing in our own locale, and with them we could share resources and ideas.

I like!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Class evaluations

In three of my five classes, I am doing the class evaluation online with Google Forms. Nice! Two classes did theirs today, and it's cool to see the results at a glance. Just not sure if there's a way to repeat the deal starting from scratch next semester without having to redo the whole thing. Or, to just clear the results to start again.