Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Still Learning......

I began the year excited to try out some new technology tricks I learned at STI....from Weebly to Google Docs. My project was supposed to focus around a Current Events class. I thought that the class could develop our own Almanac. I was very much into student "choice and voice" following the new District Motto as we migrate to Student-Centered, Standards-Based education, with consultation provided by the ReInventing Schools Coalition (RISC), which some of you may have heard of. Needless to say, this evolution has consumed the school and class time has been greatly diminished. Maine Learning Results were "condensed" into Measurement Topics and Learning Targets, which I consider akin to units. Needless to say, I have about 20+ Learning Targets that I am responsible to teach for each class. Averaging 4 classes a unit. Of course I'm failing to meet this target as students are struggling to keep pace.

In any event, the Current Events class proved to be a mistake. Students had very different ideas of what a Current Events course is. Completing assignments has been a real struggle. Even deciding on a Web template was a struggle. I abandoned this as my project. All along however I've maintained a blog for my classes. A few I've done better at keeping up to date, others not so good. I did this to be transparent, however have been disenchanted with the notion as it is evident students, nor parents, refer to the blog outside of class. I have therefore shifted in my Psych and Civics course to drive classes through the blog...beginning every class there.

I have since shifted my project to include more Google Applications. I have found some frustrations with Google Documents. The formatting from Word Processor to Print Preview and then final Print are all different. Otherwise, I would do everything on there. I do however upload PDFs and will link to those PDFs through the blog. I also started teaching the students to make their own website for my Civics classes. I call this their "interactive" or "virtual" notebook. I'm still playing around with Google Forms. I've created a couple quizes and last week I had students "submit" their "virtual notebooks" using a Form. The "project" is still new and unrefined. I haven't yet commented on the notebooks, and most students didn't submit. As we progress and get more comfortable I would like to have a few students do the QuickTime video to demonstrate reverse teaching.

Overall, my struggles have centered around two things: 1) Motivating students to use Laptops for Education versus Entertainment. 2) Balancing my teaching (and self-learning goals) with district mandates and priorities.

Here are links to some of the student "virtual notebooks". The unit we were working on was Checks & Balances so you will have to navigate there once you click a link.


In light of those links not working, I'm posting some other links that I have permission control over:


  1. Okay....I just tested those links and of course they are not working. The school uses a closed Google Apps account for students, so I'm guessing that's why. I emailed Keith and am open to suggestions on how to make those websites viewable, w/o asking for permissions.

  2. You bring up a good point.... some of my success with the blogging/transparency and reverse teaching have come over a time period. My 8th graders having had me for 4 years no longer question use of Avatars, who can have pictures online, google access, sharing online and teacher/parent access to their information. It is a continuum NOT a static model. Every year it gets easier (and I add more difficulty) as you go.

    * I found a new "trick" this year with my 7th & 8th graders who have 1-1 laptop access. I give them the first part of start of class to do what they want (appropriate - we discuss what is or is not) for instance some play some games, listen to music, surf web. I find this makes them

    1. Rush to class for the little bit of free time

    2. Gives them time to do so when asked not to the know they had time

    3. Gives me the tool to teach how to stop playing and breakout of the game

    4. When they game they never whine about not being able to figure it out... they either ask a classmate, read directions or go online to find help so when they use the whine excuse when I am teaching a piece of software I explain how I am shocked that when they had free time the can figure it out, but can't for me?