Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Push to online learning

I just got this on Twitter. I've been wondering, too, what would happen if my school closed, as we only have four weeks left. The last week is exams, so that doesn't count. It's the end of the year again, and again I am not where I would want to be in my curriculum. I have a bit of an excuse this year because we switched to a new schedule that makes little logical sense, but actually has many advantages. One of the biggest issues in shifting to the new schedule was that we would lose about two weeks of class time. There are blocks of unscheduled time for students to work at school with their classmates on group projects or with me conferencing about their writing, or just getting homework done earlier in the day. I have seen a tremendous decrease in the number of students posting blogs at midnight, and group projects completed outside of class but during school time have gone well this year. But, I'm still stressed at the end to "get it all done" on time without stressing my students out in return.
I have found, in the past couple of weeks, that I am turning more and more to online learning and discussing as opposed to directing it all from the classroom. To expedite our study of The Glass Menagerie my students created blog posts about characters in class, then revisited them for homework with the direction to 1) add new understanding in the original post and in comments on other characters' posts and 2) use that as the means to study for the upcoming quiz. Tonight students will use a Voice Thread to examine the meanings of symbols throughout the play.
One of the reasons that this works is that we have studied these concepts (character development and symbolism) all year. Now is the time for application, not introduction of ideas. I predict that this will also help as we are beginning to review for the final exam. My expectations of the students are that they will be more independent in their application of the concepts and their use of the online tools, ultimately really testing their understanding more authentically. Understanding does not, and should not, always be tested in a student's participation during class discussions or on quizzes. Using tools to replace some of these traditional real time class activities is beneficial and prevents monotony!

Analysis of Symbolism

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Friday was the final face to meeting of the PLP lead by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. It was a powerful :) day after a very hard week for me. The part that resonated the most with me was this quote that Will shared at the end from Howard Gardner:
...we may well have reached a set of tipping points: Going forward, learning may be far more individualized, far more in the hands (and the minds) of the learner, and far more interactive than ever before. This constitutes a paradox: As the digital era progresses, learning may be at once more individual (contoured to a person’s own style, proclivities, and interests) yet more social (involving networking, group work, the wisdom of crowds, etc.). How these seemingly contradictory directions are addressed impacts the future complexion of learning.
We have plenty of teachers at my school who are not re-envisioning education in terms of 21st Century learning for many reasons. We hope that our efforts to create a Ning for our school faculty will engage more in these conversations, as active participation in the conversation is a key element of 21st century learning. However, some aren't there and that is discouraging to me sometimes. It was particularly on Friday as I learned some in-house decisions that are being made which will affect my family members, and not positively in the direction described above. Sometimes its hard to keep the personal out of the professional when they so directly impact each other. I'm trying not to be too specific here. But, ultimately, how do we dream and work so hard for the future when our own children may not get to particpate in that kind of learning directly themselves?!?

Here's my solution for now. 1) model it transparently at my own school and 2) teach her myself-now I'm going to help my third grader set up her own blog!