This week, I used Skype and Google Docs to pull off a very exciting lesson. Jacob Francis, a student from Cleveland State University, who is observing in my classroom wrote a lengthy journal on the experience. I thought his observations and comments would be an outsiders perspective on this set of lessons. His introduction is below:
In an era of rapidly expanding technological interconnectedness, it is only logical that the use of technology and communication should be integrated into the educational experience. Beachwood Middle School has fully embraced this philosophy by fully integrating technology into everyday classroom use. This past week in Mr. Holman’s class, I have had the opportunity to witness a variety of uses of technology, all harnessed to provide students with experiences that are not just technology rich, but are also interactive and collaborative. Through these experiences, students were able to learn from an expert in Renaissance art, collaborate on group projects, and for some, develop an interactive lesson that will eventually be taught to students at another school. All of these experiences were the culmination of several weeks of lessons about the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation This week began with the students learning about Renaissance art from David Church, an art professor in Syracuse, NY. The students were taught by Mr. Church through Skype, a free Internet video conferencing program. During the Skype videoconference, the students followed along with a PowerPoint containing Renaissance art images, as well as provided feedback and questions to Mr. Church regarding the presentation through a Google Document. Through the combination of Skype and Google Documents, students can learn, ask questions, provide feedback, and receive responses to their questions in real time. This was not only an excellent way for these students to learn about Renaissance Art, but it was a way that everyone involved found enjoyable and highly informative. Additionally, the use of free programs (Skype and Google Documents) allowed for collaborative instruction with an expert who was hundreds of miles away at a bare minimum of expense.
The teleconference with Mr. Church was just the beginning of 2 different types of culminating projects that would be completed by students over the course of this week. The majority of Mr. Holman’s classes would be working on group projects involving finding images of Renaissance art, and then building a podcast or movie that would be sent to Mr. Church to show them what they had learned. In a more ambitious project, Mr. Holman’s 3rd period class (which consists of only 6 students) is collaborating on a presentation covering both the Renaissance and Protestant Reformation, which will eventually be presented via videoconference over Skype to the entire 7th grade class at Chardon Middle School. I will discuss these projects and my impressions in further detail below. While my explanation may be a bit longwinded, I do not feel that it does these experiences justice to simply gloss over them in a succinct manner. Read more from the PDF below.
I will comment more on this lesson at a later date.
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Last night Garth and I began talking about an idea that started three years ago. The idea of an online textbook, created, edited and ran by our students. While we created an online textbook three years ago, and each of us has created one this year, we want to take it to the next step. Our plan is to let both of our classes create one textbook. Lots of thought, years of reflection and trial/error have went into this new endeavor. But Garth and I have cleared the biggest hurdle...Finding someone who is willing to collaborate. Not just to accomplish a days worth of lessons, but a colleague willing to spend years planing and implementing something.
Several technologies are going to converge into this one piece of online text. We are planning on having our students Skype to each other on several occasions. Through Skype my students can collaborate with Garth's students. They can work in a real-time environment, problem-solve and discuss where their book is going. Our students are no longer just a small part of our individual schools, but truly members of a wall-less classroom. The book will be created using a Wikispaces site. It's free, simple to edit and can be accessed by anyone willing to add content. That means college professors, other schools, anybody with the internet. We will also use Google Docs, allowing students to edit and converse with eachother in a digital format, outside of the classroom. If I have a student who is interested in medieval armor, they can post their texbook page ideas on a Google Doc and Garth's students can help him edit, add to, focus their ideas. Our students can work on Google Docs form their cell phones if they choose. My 40 minute periods and the fact that Garth's bell schedule is different from my school will not impede our students ability to communicate and collaborate. We are going to create Wordle word clouds for each topic. This will be a great visual element to each page of the textbook. Students, collaborators and visitors to our students' site can see the important ideas, words and phrases that summarize different historical events.
As I said this is a huge undertaking, and will span the course of years, until we think of something else to have our students collaborate on. I encourage all teachers, new and old, to reach out and find people to collaborate with. We have to look beyond the day or the year and create meaningful learning experiences that enrich our students' lives, incorporates curriculum and 21st century skills, and follows them throughout their education.
I got an email today that reminded me of the importance of teacher leaders in a building. They move others toward the integration of technology into content areas. Rita sent the following:
I am emailing you about how I am trying to take what
you are teaching and implementing it into the classroom. After your
lesson on inspiration, I approached the language arts teacher that I
work with and told her how I thought it would benefit my special needs
students who are more kinesthetic learners. I found out we only had it
in the computer lab and asked the tech department if they could get it
in the library lab. Since I have such a wonderful tech lady!! She had
it on my lap top that day to put up on the projector to demonstrate as
well as in the library for the 32 computers in there- wow what you can
get if you just ask!!! (Garth again, yes we have to ask for things.)
I really just gave them the basics like you did and they (as you said
they would) took off with it. We began it with only the inclusion
class that I am in, but the general ed. teacher thought it so helpful
she implemented it in all her classes working on the research papers
as well. The majority of students really like it. We are also working
on more things in google docs-- all in good time.
I have also helped a couple of teachers set up delicious accounts. So
YES things are sinking in!! :)
Thanks so much for your help. Will continue to share!!!!
Not only share, but lead. That is what each building and district needs…teacher leaders to create a path for others to follow. Will you be that person?