Mike still drank a lot of coffee, but I did not look so mad. I will get Todd's information and details up tomorrow. Have a good night.
Here is our first web show. Feel free to watch and comment. What did you like, what would you like to see, should Mike drink less coffee and could Garth look any more angry?
Garth and I recently allowed our students to collaborate in creating an online textbook. The differences in technology between our two classrooms created an interesting problem: How do we allow students to collaborate? This is how we solved that problem...
Garth's students create a GoogleDoc that was broken into all of the different "big idea" topics that were studied throughout the school year. These topics were based on the standards: Agricultural Revolution, Ancient Greece, Middle Ages, etc. Students in Garth's classes filled in this GoogleDoc with the most important key words, phrases, ideas that they could think of for each topic. At the same time, in my classes, I used butcher paper to create the same type of list. Then, I projected Garth's GoogleDoc on my front board. My students were able to watch, in real-time, as Garth's students added to their list. I had my students write information on index cards that Garth's students did not have on their list. Then, we Skyped Garth's students and told them we had been watching them work. My students would come up to the computer, one-at-a-time, and tell Garth's students concepts that we had thought of that they did not have on their list.
Our classes used these lists to help them decide what they wanted to research to add to the online textbook. As students were creating digital content in Garth's classroom, my students were in the computer lab doing the same thing. The result was that our students participated in a year-end review of our World History course together, via GoogleDocs and Skype, and were able to create web pages, PowerPoints, images, cartoons, podcasts, etc.
Friday some of Garth's students introduced the Renaissance and Reformation to my students via Skype. Garth's students created two short PowerPoint on Google Docs and walked my students through the "big picture" of these two moments in history. I was able to project the students' PowerPoint while projecting their images via Skype. All students enjoyed the experience AND they had the unique opportunity to teach each other, instead of listening to me. I digitally recorded the Skype session using a program called iShowU, and showed it to the rest of my classes throughout the day.
In a week, week and-a-half, my students will Skype back to Garth's students and discuss what they learned about specific parts of the Renaissance and Reformation. Students will work in small groups and explore unique topics; such as art & architecture, science & technology and early Protestant religions. Garth and I want to get to the point where we can let our students chat once week.
The biggest obstacle in all of this, our bell schedules do not line up. In the long run it will work out, because we figure students will only need ten or fifteen minutes to summarize things we have done in class throughout the week. My superintendent and communications director both came down to watch the Skype session and offer their full support of my technology endeavors. It was great, as a classroom teacher, to see my district leadership take a strong proactive role in something I am doing. The students are very excited by this new method of teaching/learning and were "glued" to the screen as Garth's students students presented what they knew.
The next step is to find other teachers and students that want to interact via Skype. The possibilities are endless. My students can teach lessons to younger students, high school students can go more in depth on subjects I do not have time to cover, college professors and museum curators can show my students artifacts or talk from dig sites all over the world. These are the voyages of a 21st century teacher, "to boldly go where no classroom has gone before!"
Last month, I began teaching feudalism and the Middle Ages of Europe. I purposely started this new unit of study the week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Going into the week of MLK Day, I gave a brief explanation of the feudal social classes. Students worked in an extended "Think/Pair/Share exercise where they were responsible for creating social classes in the school, their community and the country. Most students created groups based on popularity; as it was explained to me, "...popularity gives you power like money would have given you power in the Middle Ages". The week of MLK day I used the Civil Rights Movement and the 1950s/1960s to talk about social classes and who had the power in America during these times. As teachers often do, I assumed students had a good grasp on what life was like for African Americans during the 50s and 60s. I was wrong. We talked about the major events of the Civil Rights Movement and the beliefs of some of the key players. I also showed a movie from the Teaching Tolerance program. Like most lessons, the current day connections became more interesting and important than the historical connections.
Students had lots of questions about social inequality, enough so that I decided to spend more time talking about American history and doing history backwards (present to past). I used a great website created by the Library of Congress called Voices From The Days of Slavery. The site contains audio interviews of former slaves. I played several narratives for the students and had them fill out sound analysis worksheets available from the National Archives (I changed it to fit my needs). Students were captivated by these narratives. It was the first time they had "heard" history from the people that lived it.
The impact of listening to these narratives, compared to reading each narrative, was tremendous. Students became engaged in why any society feels the need to create social inequality. Several of my classes had great debates centered around the argument of whether social inequality is created by people, or naturally occurs because of human nature.
The point of all this...Students gained more depth of understanding of a topic in my class becuase of the use of technology. The video and the audio narratives engaged students in conversations, compelled them to investigate further information independently, and allowed them to use critical thinking (higher-level) skills to understand the past using the present. My students took time to think about the world and the enduring impact social classes and inequality has on the world around us.
Students are still making reference to the narratives and have even brought in articles from local newspapers with questions about the impact of social inequality on current events. I may have moved on in class, but students are continuing to discuss a topic that is over a month old.
Teachers need to be risk takers, they have to have the initiative and guts to try new ways of teaching and assessing students. To this end, I decided to give my students an online quiz on the enduring impacts of Rome. My goal is to make my quizzes and tests online and allow students to complete them at home by a certain date/time. I will discuss several things in this post: (1) mechanics behind implementing online quizzes and test; (2) the response of other teachers, administration and students; (3) pros and cons of online assessment. Click here to go look at the finished quiz that students completed.
To create my online quiz, I used Google Docs. I simply create a new spreadsheet. Using the editing toolbar on my wikispaces site, I embedded the quiz and students simply went to my website, answered the questions and then submitted their work. Using Google Docs you can create written response answers and multiple choice. Very simple formatting, as Google Docs automatically formats your information. Students do not need an account with Wiki or Google to complete this quiz. Google Docs automatically places students responses into a spreadsheet, so grading is extremely easy; just read straight down each column to check student work. Google Docs also creates pie charts (for multiple choice questions) that tell you the percentage of students that choose each answer. This makes for very quick self-reflection on each question, one click and you can see if 90% of your students missed number two. Students completed their quiz during class in the computer lab.
I have encountered several responses from other teachers and administrators. The first question from my principal was "how do you make sure students do not look at each others screens and cheat"? In the end, I think it is nearly impossible to eliminate cheating. BUT quizzes and tests do not occur often in my class, I use alternate forms of assessment. I use Tests and quizzes to monitor progress as we build a base of knowledge prior to completing projects or other forms of assessment. The majority of my students understand that while they receive points for tests and quizzes, in the end cheating only hurts themselves. Do I have students that cheat, of course, but you deal with that just like if they cheated on a paper test. Making questions that require a written response also helps eliminate cheating. As I walked around the computer lab, most students were so busy typing, they did not even bother to check on their neighbor. The idea of putting my tests online and allowing students to complete them at home means that I cannot control who they talk to and what they look at to answer questions, according to my administration. This is an issue of teaching philosophy. If my students go home and use each other, their notes, textbooks, and the internet to answer test questions; I think that is great. Not only are my students learning content, but they are learning problem solving and research skills. We are so connected that people "google" information and communicate with peers to find information all of the time. If two, three or ten students text each other with questions about why Roman roads are an enduring impact, then they are using technology to work together and solve a problem. That is more important than memorizing the name of emperor that built the road. My fellow teachers are split on the idea. Some do not trust their students to complete online assessment, other are all on board and I am doing an in-service next week to show them how to make their own online assessment. Students have began to leave feedback on my Wiki. All of it very positive. Many students have made comments about the trust I am showing in them, the fact that they feel like it is a college class and some simply like that they do not have to mess with paper.
As for positives and negatives? I think the positives are numerous. No printed paper tests, secure and digital copy of student work (Can't loose students' tests!) and students reaction is overwhelmingly positive. Colleges teach entire courses online and they have been doing that for several years. If my seventh graders are exposed to online learning, then I am doing my job of preparing them for their futures. The biggest surprise to me is the quality of students' written work. With paper tests, I had to practically pull teeth to get students to give me more than three sentences for short-answer questions. With this first online test, students are giving me full paragraph answers, using examples from class and supporting their facts and opinions. It is not perfect, students will inevitably cheat and some students do not have home access to the internet, but these negatives are manageable. We have built in team-time during our school day where students can access a computer lab and complete their online assessments if they do not have internet at home. Kid's will always cheat, so I try and work around that. I let them use notes and each other. I encourage them to research and communicate before answering questions. All-in-all it was a very successful experiment.