Friday, November 30, 2007

A Different Approach to Research

I tried something a little different with a small research essay my AP English students write. I made a point of presenting the assignment as fully INQUIRY. I gave them a process where they were to think of something in our thematic study that interested them and just find something to read more about it. They then did an article summary for me to show that the understood the overall points of the article, and only then did they work to integrate this reading with our in-class studies to formulate an essential question to answer in their essays.

I have read half of the essays so far, and they are GREAT. They really seem to have a deep grasp on their chosen subjects, and I would like to think that was because of the process of inquiry and summary before even getting started. But I will not count all of my chickens before they hatch! I am going to have them give me some feedback when I hand back the essays, so time will tell if they felt any different about this research than other research they have done.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Google Docs

Yesterday I had my students use Google docs again. I have made one of my goals for this year to use each technology integration at least twice so that students can get past the initial learning curve for a new application and see how it really works and enhances their work. So, having had them work on a Google doc I uploaded a few weeks ago, my plan was to have them create their own to map in groups Siddhartha's journey through the novel. I was pushing this to a new level -- they had to use the whole system themselves.

5th period came. The students got into groups, and one person set out to create the doc and invite the others. One group was successful with this, but the other three were not. They kept creating documents and inviting their group, but no one, not even the creator, could find them. Almost 10 minutes later, someone found them in their "trash" -- a mystery I still have not solved. Anyone know what we were doing wrong to have them sent to trash unknowingly?

But we were then able to move ahead, albeit with much less time for them to actually work on the assignment. That really is the hardest hurdle for using new technology -- it chews up precious minutes of class time working out the kinks no matter how in advance you prepare. This is another reason I have vowed to use everything at least twice -- I want to get some of that time back the next time I use the technology!

But then 7th period came ... and the Internet went down ... again ... No Google docs for that class, just plain old Word. But this is what was interesting. A student responded to this news with, "Oh, but that takes all the fun out of it!" I was really surprised actually and to be honest relieved. I learned in that moment that even with the hiccups technology brings, the students have enjoyed what we have done. Amazing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

At a Tech Conference

I am at the NCTE/ACE technology workshop as I type this. We have reviewed making blogs and using Google Reader. I am feeling confident because these are not unfamiliar things for me, and I have even started this blog as a result! What has been most interesting so far is to watch the others around me and their knowledge level. This is actually something I did throughout the NCTE conference. The world is changing, and FA IS changing with it. Our choice to become a laptop school 6 (?) years ago was prescient. We spend a great deal of time at school thinking about are we using the laptops well in classrooms, are we up-to-date on technology knowledge, are they a help or hindrance ... My few days here at NCTE have shown me that, as much as we should continue to refine and grow our own laptop program, we are also doing great things already.

Our students' lives will be focused around technology in both their home and work lives, and we have made a school that reflects that. As a teacher at FA, I am on the leading edge of conferences such as this -- I understand what the presenters are talking about and can work right along with them. This is not to brag about me -- instead it is evidence of what I have learned as a teacher at a laptop school. I am evidence of what we are doing at FA, just as our students are evidence of what we are doing.

Well, the workshop is moving along to a new topic, so I need to "go 45" with my laptop and listen!