Yesterday I gave class time for my students to use and explore our class blog where I would like them to post all of their reading reactions for our first unit. The blog, http://www.21publish.com/, presented some challenges in terms of logging in. I think that this was also being blocked, on some computers, by our school filtering system. By giving class time to work on the blog, I learned several things. First, I could see which students were having trouble and start to help them figure it out. Secondly and more importantly, I gave them a chance to problem solve together. I learned more about the blog from them. As a teacher, I do not need to know a technology to the level of expertise in order to introduce it and use it effectively in my classroom. I can, and did, rely on my students' different levels and areas of expertise to help us all acheive a higher level of efficiency.
Here's how the use of technology really paid off. The day's lesson was a review of word choice decisions that writers consider including sexist language, colloquialisms, and dialects. Not exactly the most exciting topic of conversation for a group of teenagers-read this excerpt from our grammar handbook and be prepared to discuss it tomorrow in class. My class' homework was not only to read and think about the information, but then to write a blog entry. Besides some technical problems, the majority of the students had the reading and response completed by class time. During class I gave them all time to read each other's ideas and leave comments. Then, we closed the computers and had the class discussion. I have never seen or heard such an impassioned or diverse discussion about this topic. Everyone contributed to the blog and to the class discussion. Regardless of personal opinions about the issues examined, we came to a class consensus about how a good writer considers to feelings and perceptions of the reader because ultimately the goal is to communicate your ideas, not advocate for or against "politically correct" language.
The last ten minutes of class were spent back on http://www.librarything.com/. I pointed out some more areas of the website were they could get or contribute information.
Overall, my students were engaged, participating, and learning about grammar and using technology efficiently and productively. It certainly was one of my best classes ever.