Friday, October 29, 2010

Private blogs

The question of the hour is how public to make classroom blogs and websites. Let's start with blogs. I've done just a little experimenting with them, only with my Justice and Peace classes. And only a few assignments have landed there; I have also been using Moodle and a wiki page. I know that some educators have said that students do better quality work when they are writing for more people than just the teacher. My students had only first name, last initial on the blog. Most entries showed thought and effort, though not all.

The blogs may as well have been private, because I didn't advertise them other than on Parent Night, but lately I got nervous about the whole thing and closed them off to students only. I was able to tell a concerned parent last night at conferences that her child's blog is open only to the class. She did not feel that "provisional thinking" should be on the internet for all to see. One could argue that putting that thinking out there (pretty much anonymously, by the way) gives a student a reason to think things through.

At least they still have their classmates as an audience.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Revised project

Justice and Peace students are at it again, working on projects to do some research, and hopefully to make a difference. I've revised the project to follow Apple's challenge based learning format, because it's the direction our school is heading in, and because I hope the results will be richer than last year's.

But this is all pretty new to me, so I know there'll be some bumps in the road. Today the teams started Google Docs to record their brainstorming. In this way I can "listen in" even if I couldn't be with every group the whole class. I just finished writing some comments. They'll be recording their progress throughout, and will be able to communicate with each other while working from home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's not always positive

Okay, so today I had a couple of freshmen ask why they couldn't just do a Word document instead of fooling around with Google Docs. The familiar vs. the unfamiliar. I talked about collaboration. In another class, a couple of upperclasswomen spoke of their distaste for our blog (though I have had positive feedback in a previous semester). I asked for reasons, expecting that perhaps they were worried about writing publicly. But they spoke entirely of things relating to the hassle or difficulty of it. Not that posting to the blog is hard, of course! The familiar vs. the unfamiliar.

All this makes me more determined to continue introducing these tools to students, so that the tools will become...familiar.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"That's so cool " was the reaction of a freshman watching the words that her her project partner was typing appear on her computer screen on a newly-created and shared Google Doc. I agree. I think Docs is cool in how it allows for easy collaboration among students who do not always live near each other or have a lot of shared free time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jing fling

What is a bit of "homework" that I don't mind doing even on a Sunday night when I'm almost ready for sleep? A Jing video! I actually enjoy making little tutorials for students about tech things. This one was about how to search for photos that are licensed by Creative Commons. Some things I might be able to find online, but it seems quicker (when I don't do a hundred "takes") to just show students myself in a format that they can refer to as often as they wish.

Skype in the works

The thought of having a Skype session with someone who cannot physically be in the classroom but who could add to students' understanding of a subject has been tucked away in my brain for a couple of years now. It came forward in a moment of madness when I e-mailed someone to make the request.

I have since worried about technical difficulties, but I'm not even there yet. Right now there are scheduling difficulties, but I hope they can be ironed out. I am balancing a desire to provide my students with an experience that I think will be beneficial with feelings of being loathe to impose on someone that I don't really even know.

More on this in weeks to come...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

First chat

I had to make a decision quickly when the Mass ran long and a short third hour was pared to ten minutes to review for a test the next day. Reschedule the class? Postpone the test? I decided to go over the most essential material in that time and to offer a review session that evening through chat on Moodle.

It's not a decision made lightly, although a couple of other teachers in our school have done this. I already have been questioned about whether I need to be as available to my students as I am through e-mail. But it seemed like special circumstances. I only had about three or four students take me up on the offer, but it's a good thing we straightened out confusion about the "blinding of Isaac!"

Monday, October 4, 2010

I don't know everything

I remember when the first students starting coming to class with computers. It was not yet required, but some families were pioneers of sorts, opting to buy laptops for their daughters. A couple of times a question would come up and girls would jump onto the internet and proudly raise their hands eager to share newly-found information. I had a glimmer of the potential of a 1:1 program.

But sometimes I forget. Today we discussed abortion and capital punishment, and I could not answer all of the questions. I don't know all of the current laws and they vary by state.I admitted that I didn't know all the answers, but I spoke of what I knew. Then I remembered a blog post I'd read recently, and I looked at a circle of students, a circle of twenty-five or so laptops connected to the knowledge of the world. "See what you can find out," I said, and off they went, bringing forth answers within seconds.