Thursday, March 15, 2012

A mini project

Frosh are doing some web research about the life and times of Jesus. They put information on a Wikispaces project page that classmates will be able to view when they present tomorrow.

This is just a little in-class exercise, but it's also a chance to practice some useful skills, so I required paraphrasing rather than copying, links to sources, and both attribution and permission for photos.

Skills in searching and getting things uploaded to the wiki also got a bit of a workout. I made two Jing screencasts to give help for some of this, and students watched them as needed. It seemed to work well as an alternative to taking class time for demonstrations. In the future I may assign watching these very brief videos as homework.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Further reflection on Today's Meet

I paid attention to the comments and questions as students typed them and to student responses, and sometimes I would interject comments of my own. Since there was not time to attend to everything yesterday, we revisited the feed today. There were a few errors that appeared, not just about what was being read yesterday, but about concepts we had already studied. I found this to be useful a way of checking on understanding. It gave me the chance to clear up a couple of misconceptions that I might not otherwise have been aware of.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today's Meet again

I tried something else with Today's Meet today. The frosh have a quiz that I delayed until tomorrow, but I also wanted them to get some reading done in the chapter, and knew that preparing both things would be a bit of a burden. It is very rare to spend class time reading, but today that's what we did. At the same time, though, the class kept a running commentary on what they were reading: comments about what they found interesting, and questions about what they did not understand. After some beginning silliness, they got down to business and made some good observations and addressed each other's questions. I answered questions, too, when needed, and before class tomorrow I will go back to see what got missed that we need to discuss.

I asked at the end how many found the method helpful, and most of the class raised their hands. Two students voted that it was more distracting and not as helpful to read in this way.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The problem with Wikispaces

I wish I could have had a few more minutes to think this through. When I was talking about Wikispaces at the conference someone mentioned the problem of students sometimes deleting the work of others. One of my presenter partners mentioned that Google Docs was more effective in that regard, which I think is possibly true. My response was that it was good that at least all information can be recovered with earlier versions. I also mentioned that for in-class group work (where I think the problem is most likely to occur) someone can be designated the person to do the input.

I should have gone further with that. That solution will work if students are simply gathering together their own ideas. But if they are all doing research and trying to post links or upload photos or copy and paste, each student needs to have access to the page.

But here's the thing. It's one thing for a group of students to be sitting together but each doing her own thing, oblivious to what the rest of the group is doing. That's not collaboration, is it? The students need to be talking to each other. They need to be making decisions about who will find what, discussing results, commenting on each other's finds, shaping the page together. If they are talking to each other, it's not a big deal to take turns posting so as not to override others' work.Then, I think, Wikispaces will probably work okay.


Something about Voicethread captivated me when I first saw it, probably two or three years ago. But only recently have I tried to use it in the classroom. Freshmen were learning about the Trinity. I pulled a variety of images of the Trinity off the web (with links to the sources) and put them in a Voicethread slide show. Students chose an image and then recorded a comment in which they explained how the image connected to concepts they had learned in the unit.

It was a way for them to show understanding. I suppose it could have been done in a written form. But it was cool this way, and students seemed to enjoy the assignment. What I need to find out now is if anyone listened to what their classmates had recorded, since that was possible but not required.

I've got in my head another assignment, involving characters from Luke's gospel and a student choosing one and recording as though she is the character. But since there is some setup time involved and we're nearing the end of our time with Luke, that might have to wait until next year.

Friday, March 9, 2012


The first (and last, up to now) time that I attended MACUL was several years ago when our school was either about to enter or at the very beginning of our 1:1 program. The whole world of tech in education was new and the conference was overwhelming. I recall that many of us were impressed by a presenter who know oh, so much about Google! You can do that with Google? Who knew?!

In the intervening time I have done some exploring and experimenting on my own, but still found much to marvel at and to be overwhelmed by at the conference in the last two days. It's been a time to be newly motivated and to be re-energized in the teaching profession and the quest to help my students not only learn content, but learn as well the skills they will need for successful productive lives in our century.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Presenting at a conference

Just a couple of hours ago two colleagues and I presented some of our classroom activities at a conference of Michigan Association of Computer Users in learning. I'm grateful for the opportunity given to me by our associate principal (who is also one of our ed tech gurus) to take part in this adventure. Our slides can be found here. Because we are switching to iPads for the freshman class next year, I am attending sessions about apps for iPad, as well as using an iPad as my note-taking and Internet-checking device, in an attempt to get more comfortable with it. No laptop! I think that I'm getting a bit better at typing. This is officially my blog post pecked out on an iPad. In one session I was told that students are pretty good at this. I am almost ready to believe it! (But I did go back and correct a couple of typos.)