Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Learning happening at school

I’m pretty excited just lately about what’s happening in a few of my classes. It started with being inspired by my experiences at NECC which included meeting Lisa Parisi, and discussing with her and Christine Southard an interesting collaborative project between our students about time-zones. This will be on a wiki where students will create and upload media from their perspective. From there the ideas just kept flowing, ideas about technology and what it can enable. What is interesting are some of the responses of my students to the feast of possibilities now before them.

When Lisa and I got talking we mentioned that the different time-zones between our schools made it hard to collaborate online and synchronously. So being the problem solvers that teachers are so well known to be, we made the problem into an opportunity. We’d make a wiki that could be a resource for teacher planning, and at the same time respond asynchronously while we were working out the best time of day to work together. This would get students thinking about the implications of these differences (shades of Thomas Friedman and the flatteners that are operating in our world today and will increase in the future, thanks Vicki and Julie for the chance to learn about that while working with you on the Flat Classroom project).

So come September the students will meet each other virtually and start producing content which will help them get to know and understand each other a bit more. This will be with my year 7s, although the US students will be a bit younger I think it will still work. I imagine the wiki when it is finished will have a comparison of what the students in the different countries are doing at each hour GMT, so we can see when people are sleeping, at school, awake at other times, to establish the best local time for interacting. The different timeslots may have podcasts interviewing students about their leisure activities and interests, video of a classroom maybe showing how long lessons are in each school (75 minutes each in my school), where and how they eat lunch, role plays, TV viewing guides, etc. I imagine the night time hours may be a bit same-ish. But I have an idea for that.

And both my Year 10 English classes are blogging and collaborating on an online study guide for the novel The Secret Life of Bees. I have asked Pat Hensley aka loonyhiker to be out correspondent on the spot as she lives in South Carolina where the novel is set. She has kindly agreed and gone out of her way to make the study guide even more student friendly and informative. I have great hopes of this wiki. I would love to have more students to interact with my students as they also study the novel. Please email me if you are studying the book with your students and would like to collaborate. The student blogs are really interesting. I asked them to reflect on what they thought of a study created study guide. Here’s what a couple of them said:

This is Emily:
“I think that our school has too much technology in some areas and not enough in other areas. We have to much technology in everyday classes that don't need technology. We don't need technology in every class. We could use the technology in computer classes but not classes like English and Religion. As to not having enough technology in computer classes, the computers are very basic and we could use technology in Maths and Science. At our school we spend money on technology for all classes but I think it could be better spent for modern computers and science equipment. During classes like English I think we should spend more time with hand writing because during exams and tests you don't have a computer to check spelling, grammar, information and ideas. It would help our writing abilities if we spent more time hand writing instead of using computers for everything.”

And Tegan:
“Everybody in today's century is way too reliant on technology. I mean even now, we have to express our opinions online just to be heard properly, when we can easily say it during class, while saving electricity. Sure technology has its good side, it's entertaining and easy to use, but the old ways of teaching a class got you to be more social and friendly towards others and made you speak up and express your opinion strongly.”

Very interesting, especially in light of what we read about students loving technology used in their classes. What I like about it is that the students are not afraid to articulate an opinion contrary to the received wisdom about young people and technology. I would love some comments on this year 10 class or the other year 10 class if anyone reading this would like to leave an encouraging comment.

I am so looking forward to the continuing learning of my Year 7 class and my two year 10 classes, and the continuing global collaboration.

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  1. To some degree I think your students are correct. Why do they need to discuss things on-line in writing when they can discuss them live with people in the same room? Isn't face to face a better way to communicate? If it is the written word you are after, then you have to ask why paper and pen are not a good choice when examinations rely on that method. (Mind you, I think it is about time that exams used keyboards.) Kids are great adopters and users of technology, but perhaps they tend to use the social networking tools when they aren't physically with their social groups. Teachers, on the other hand are time poor. After getting through our teaching duties, marking, administration tasks, sports coaching, family commitments we have very little time left and few avenues to discuss with colleagues (staff meetings these days are more about giving information and less about discussing issues), it is no wonder that we jump at the technology of Web2 tools and use blogs as a way to communicate. For us, it is the only way that we can have a voice. Students still have time and a forum for live socialisation, we don't.
    However, I'm sure students get a buzz when someone from a different city or country replies to something that they have written on their blog. There is no doubt that their audience can be wider, and that they can learn and appreciate about communicating and collaborating in a global world.

  2. Hi Joy,
    Last year I did some skyping with Anne Mirtschin in Australia (I am in the same TZ as Lisa). What we ended up doing is setting up a "live-blog" and yack-pack on a wiki. My kids got on at night at their homes and Anne's class during their AM class. My kids on Thursday, her kids on Friday--still think that is so cool. I could not get all of my kids on at night, but hearing and seeing one another after doing other collaborations was priceless.

  3. Thanks for repeating some of your student comments here. I read all of them yesterday, and I was impressed with their responses. As I understood them, they all like technology, yet the see it as a tool. Technology should be used in a purposeful manner.

    One also noted that it would be much better if money for technology was targeted on better Science equipment and upgraded computers in sci/math. I thought that was a very practical idea from one who sees the value of technology.

    While I was concerned about these ideas, the student's explanations were very thoughtful and understandable.

    I love technology of all sorts and enjoy working on the edge of trends, but I agree that many of their points about the need to keep handwriting and other ideas were valid.

    I hope you will share with them that others read and enjoyed their thoughtful blogs.

  4. I hope our teacher who is teaching "secret Life..." shows up sooner than later. I'm dying to ask her about collaborating with you.

    I think technology should be ubiquitous because it will be in life unless some terrible global torment occurs.

    When we speak and write about lifelong learners, is it just lip service? Do we picture autodidacts alone in their tiny candlelit cells? I picture people sharing with each other across vast expanses using technology not yet created,and, perhaps, not even imagined.

  5. I have come across a good site offering a free Mathematics, physics and Chemistry software. That site is www.goldenkstar.com Helpful indeed.

  6. kerry8:52 pm

    You have a pretty interesting anecdotes about your expereince with the students. I am certainly coming back regularly to read more.

  7. I think that it is wonderful that you are including student comments in your blogs. It's great to hear another perspective.