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!


Susanne Nobles said...

Your point about being able to release the students to this independent learning really resonates with me. I think this is something we can work hard to be more intentional about as we try to "fit everything in." What skills are key first semester to allow them such independent success later? Food for future dept or PLP meetings!

(Great way to tackle the symbolism by the way.)

J. Clark Evans said...

Here are some stats: 20/30 students used the voice thread. Many left several comments instead of just the one about the symbol that they had chosen. Most crucially, this was the area to study for their quiz. I'll post those grades later. They are working intensely on them right now!

Character Education said...

I am totally agree with J. Clark Evans opinion.