Sunday, April 25, 2010

Positive feedback

Some of my "digital natives" come to class with not much knowledge beyond the land of Facebook and texting. Some of them are as resistant, because they miss the "feel of paper" or they are not ready to expend energy to acquire new skills. But at least some seem to recognize that it's worth the effort to learn some new things on the Web. Here is some unsolicited feedback about use of tech tools for an assignment. Students were to reflect on what they had learned, but it never occurred to me to ask them to include the Web aspects. I had in mind only the content of the research.

I think Diigo will be a great resource to have available through the rest of high school and college At first, I thought it would be a bit of a hassle, but I grew to like it. Once I began to learn how to use Diigo, I realized it has many more pros than cons. Another thing I am grateful for is that I am now a more proficient user of Google Docs. Again, I am sure this will be helpful in the future.

I read this, of course, in a Google document!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Students and e-mail

Last night I returned from helping to chaperon a student retreat away from the school. Since we were gone for three days, I had to make arrangements ahead of time for classes I would miss. Our school schedule allowed me to make up some of the classes ahead of time, and co-workers who support the retreat program by subbing watched over some of the others.

I purposely left my laptop at home because I didn't want to be distracted by it and I knew I wouldn't really have time anyway. But at least once each day I checked my e-mail on a computer at the retreat center or on a colleague's laptop. Since it was not really my retreat, but the girls', I had no qualms about maintaining a connection with the world.

"Mrs. Lusch," a student wrote, "I missed the movie..." She had been absent during a subbed class and I suggested that she could either find a religion teacher to help her get the video to view on her "off time," or she could wait for my return next week. I responded immediately so that she could choose the option that best fit her schedule.

Later, a colleague complained because a student who "knows I'm on this retreat" had e-mailed her. In pondering later, I wondered what the harm was in the student's attempt to connect. The teacher still had the choice to open or not open the e-mail, and to respond or not respond. And though the teacher was on a retreat, she was in fact checking her e-mail.

The discussion moved on to whether a student should bother a teacher in the evening through e-mail, since of course, she would not think of phoning after the end of the school day. No teacher expects it to be an 8 to 3 job, but settling in for the evening with a stack of papers to grade is not the same as interacting with students.

So, I've been thinking about this further, especially since the word "enabling" entered into the conversation. Am I enabling students when I respond to e-mails they send me outside of school hours? I would not want to get phone calls from students at night, but I don't see e-mail in the same way, because, again, I have the choice. If I'm not home or I'm tired or I just don't have time, I don't have to open the e-mail or answer it. But much of the time I am happy to answer a question while I am at my computer.

I send e-mail to the students occasionally, too. During the Easter break I was a bit excited about the wiki I set up for a final project, so I e-mailed the class about it rather than wait until we were back in school. Once in a while I might send out a reminder to a class, or ask a question about a missing assignment to an individual student.

Not that students always check their e-mail. I've lost track of the number of times I have responded quickly to a student's e-mail only to have her come to class the next day to ask me, "Did you get my e-mail?"

Some teachers like to offer online chats for review the night before a test, while others wouldn't dream of engaging students in the evening hours. If any teachers happen to read this, I would be interested to know your thoughts and your practice. Is your teaching restricted to school hours, or in the age of the Internet and "anywhere, anytime" learning, are you open to being consulted outside the school day?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cool stuff

This isn't going to do much for me. I teach religion, and when I tried to put in "Jacob's sons," I got a lot of information about how many people are named Jacob, and their average age (12), and such. Maybe biblical maps. It does geography as well as math and other things. But I think it's cool, anyway. Try putting in your birthdate.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Justice and Peace students will be presenting information they gather for their final project on the pages of a wiki that I have just created. I've just done the explanatory home page, and though I had some trouble with the photo files, I got it done at last. I made an 18-second video just to show students that video can be included, and I made a sample link as well.

The video is made with my web cam and seems not too sharply focused. I've been reading the blog of a colleague who complains about poor production quality in some of his students' videos. I won't be expecting more of my students than I do of myself. Well, neither does my colleague, but he's much more practiced and perhaps uses better equipment.

It's a learning process for us all.


The Catholic Theology research papers have been in for a while, and I am finally starting with grading. They take a while, because I check out sources and such, and make a fair number of comments.

But at least all this is fairly painless with Google Docs. The pairs have worked together on their 5-page plus paper, and I can check the revisions to see what form the collaboration has taken. I have editing privileges, so I can insert my comments while reading online. Right now I am using a template in Word for the actual grading, and I mail it to them when I am finished. But it is occurring to me now that perhaps that could be a Doc, too, shared for viewing but not editing.

I required a proper Works Cited section ("page" doesn't seem to work for this), because students still need practice with such things. URL's were not needed (supposedly MLA doesn't  require them anymore), but I did make hyperlinks a requirement for each citation. I love the way I have immediate access to the sites if needed. Of course, this only works for electronic sources, but our subscription to a database of published articles provided some good sources outside the Web.

There are probably tutorials online for some of the things I want students to know, such as making hyperlinks, but I have enjoyed doing a couple of quick and very specific-to-my-needs videos with Jing to reinforce what I show the girls in class, and those are always available to them on Moodle.

Here is another advantage to Docs. The teacher who used to assign this project would offer students the opportunity to revise their work after the first grading. After one try I decided against that policy. But at the same time, I was able to allow for a learning curve. When the papers were first in I didn't read them for content but I did look over them for things like format and following directions of the assignment. I wrote an e-mail to the class suggesting specific areas they might need to pay attention to.With the papers on Docs, students could easily go and revise before I actually got to the grading. For some of them, I will need to take off fewer points in the end, and they also had to go back and pay attention to (and learn) things like how the Works Cited is formatted. Win-win.