Monday, February 25, 2013

Ways to offer students choices was the theme of Session #4 of the Virtual Book Club! If you weren’t able to join us, listen to the recording here: Virtual Book Club Feb 18th/19th and please share your thoughts on this blog: Virtual Book Club. We have been reading and discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis  and our focus this time was Chapter Seven (Choice) and Chapter Eight (Creation).

We began with some great comments:
http://mrg.bz/Bo0JPI
  • @Durff shared that she tells students on 1st day that they are all intelligent (Gardner), it is her job to find out how to make them shine
  • Jim shared that he believes teachers should be helping students learn, not giving them the answers
  • Laurel mentioned that some students need content delivered directly from teachers before they are able to make choices in the classroom (and shared an interesting book: Why Students Don't Like School?)
  • Monica added that she likes to model how she learns so that students feel comfortable making mistakes in her classroom
We also struggled with considering how teachers can create choices in the classroom in a time of standardization and high-stakes testing (at least in the United States).
  • Paul shared that part of personalizing the classroom is establishing relationships with students - it isn't just about content, it is about connecting
  • Michelle talked about the need to let teachers have choice as well - when something is working, having the freedom to pursue it, not have to stay lock-step with a scripted program
  • Elena introduced the idea "of individual teachers being 'experts' with specific tools and working collaboratively with their peers is a more manageable and realistic approach for interdisciplinary teams."
https://saveourrhinos.wikispaces.com/
We also shared our own struggles and challenges with creating and maintaining electronic spaces for learning with choice in mind. We all agreed that monitoring electronic spaces are difficult to maintain and that we would love to have ongoing eportfolios that follow students through their years of learning in a school (Google Sites, KidBlog, Evernote, Weebly and even PhotoStory were shared as ideas). We debated a bit about how to choose new tools - what is trendy, and what is trendy with a purpose? Paul raised a great point about involving students in planning electronic spaces and many shared stories about ways they've done this.  As part of this, we also wondered how to make sure more students have access to technology beyond the classroom.

From there, we talked about how to structure learning experience that offer students ways to make meaning. Rocky shared the idea of students meeting with teachers to create useful materials for them and Robyn shared a bit about a project her students are doing to save rhinos! Interestingly, we found we have less experience offering students chances to invent or build. It would be fun to talk more about how we could build these concepts into our teaching more.

We ended by trying out the break-out room feature in Blackboard Collaborate. I guess I modeled the idea of the "teacher" not being perfect but willing to take risks since I had no idea how it would work! :) Thanks to everyone who was there for humoring me and experimenting along with me.  I think we'll try these small groups again next time with a focus question. Big virtual hugs to @Durff for telling me more about how to use this effectively at future sessions. And my apologies for those of you listening to the recording since there will be a long pause when you are listening (another important aspect of this tool for me to understand!).

Thank you again for everyone that participated. I'm reminded of the quote by C. S. Lewis cited on page 34 of this book:
The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.
Thank you for being in my circle and adding to my wisdom! And to Mara for agreeing to co-moderate. If anyone is interested in co-moderating next time, please leave a comment or send me an email, I'd love your help!

Our next meeting will be Monday, March 4th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, March 5th at 12:30am GMT). For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Nine and Ten - Celebrating, Designing, and Managing Global Collaborative Projects. Hope to “see” you there!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Students Use Phones to Record Lit Circles!

This is one of those ideas that is so good, I wish I had thought of it:

Have your students use their phones to record their Literature Circle Discussions!

The other day I walked into Ms. Z's room for a meeting on another topic but the first thing she shared was the idea above. She was so excited! Having spent years developing different routines and procedures for Literature Circles (or Book Club Meetings as she calls them), she had never been satisfied with how she was assessing student participation in discussion. She described past lessons where she made herself crazy trying to dip in and out of each group's meeting, manically scribbling student quotes, dashing down notes, and completing checklists. It was stressful and an incomplete pictures of how the book clubs were doing.

On this day, she told each group to take out a cell phone and record their meeting. At the end of class, each group was to email her the file of their discussion. Voila! A simple solution for holding each group accountable for their meeting ("Don't say that, this is getting recorded!") and for her to listen more deeply in class ("I could sit and really listen to the meeting.") and for her to follow up on individual contributions (Ms. Z could listen to the meetings later in the day and give specific feedback to students about their role in the group). What a difference.

What I love about this idea is that:
  • it is simple - record the meeting, email the teacher
  • it uses technology that students already have with them (even in our very economically diverse middle school, there was at least one cell phone per group)
  • it puts responsibility on the students (Ms. Z reports that students were even more on task than usual, knowing their discussion was being recorded)
  • it amplified the teacher's ability to give feedback to students (she could now be in more than one place at a time!) 
I'd love to hear from others what they think about this strategy. Have you already been doing this? What makes it work well? What challenges have you faced? How has administration responded? Students? Parents? Can you think of other times it's useful to have students use their cell phones to record? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Website of the Week #4

Have a SMART Notebook file that you need to open or edit, but don't have your work laptop handy? This site from SMART Technologies allows you to open, edit and create SMART Notebook files without having SMART Notebook installed on your computer. There is even a free download of SMART Notebook Express available. While it doesn't have all the functionality, it can be a great help.

http://express.smarttech.com/

Meeting #4 Virtual Book Club - Add Your Voice!

Looking forward to our fourth meeting of the Virtual Book Club discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis Monday, February 18th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, February 19th at 12:30am GMT). For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Seven and Eight.

Add your voice to our group! Use this link (https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2007066&password=M.065891D192F8072208BF5756999CE0) to log onto the live session or watch this space for a posting of the recording afterwards.

We have had some powerful conversations so far about digital citizenship (see The Making of Digital Citizens), building and maintaining a Personal Learning Network (see Launching into a River of Information), and starting and joining global project (see The Virtual Book Club Has Launched).

This is a community of teachers sharing with teachers: reflecting, listening, sharing, questioning. Join us!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Making of Digital Citizens

What a rich discussion we had last night during Session #3 of the Virtual Book Club! If you weren’t able to join us, listen to the recording here: Virtual Book Club Feb 4th/5th and please share your thoughts on this blog: Virtual Book Club. We have been reading and discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis  and our focus this time was Chapter Five (Digital Citizenship) and Chapter Six (Contributing and Collaborating).

We confessed, bragged, questioned, shared tips and traded resources on the topic of Digital Citizenship. It seems there is always more to consider from using images in our presentations to setting our privacy settings but we all agreed that we need to model strong digital citizenship for our students and explicitly teach them how to be a thoughtful contributor in the digital world.
  • Connie shared "Just as we model and teach ways to effectively present and collaborate in face to face groups, digital citizenship is just another layer."
  • Joseph agreed and asked, "Students need to understand that there are differences in communicating on facebook, twitter with friends versus using this type of media in school...but how to teach?"
  • Elena commented, "It[digital communications] also provides an opportunity to evaluate how we interact with each other face to face. Sometimes in the middle school environment, speaking to others with a certain tone or attitude can become the norm."
  • Amy agreed, "Not only do we need to relate to our students using technology but we need to teach them how to communicate in positive ways using technology"
Some of the great resources that were shared to help with teaching digital citizenship were:
Some tips given about getting students to care about digital citizenship:
  • Use real-life examples (read Chris' story here) and facts (thanks to Laurel for sharing that 70% of employers look at digital footprints)
  • Have students create Digital Citizenship materials (Digiteen and Digital ID are examples)
  • Provide an authentic audience (when students see that others are actually reading/listening/watching their work, they care more)
  • Make it easy for students - provide them with music and images that they can use
  • Model by adding the URL for photos within classroom presentations
  • Use your librarians! They often have lessons ready to go on this topic
  • Start with a private wiki or an Edmodo class where you can monitor and give feedback to students before collaborating with another classroom.
  • As Rocky has done, actually contact authors and artists to request permission to use their materials. (Read more about what Rocky has done here)
We wrapped up by sharing a bit of advice about getting started with global projects and we all got really excited about trying Mystery Skype. And, as usual, the time flew by. I never knew an hour could pass so quickly!

A huge thank you to Vicki Davis for joining us in between prom planning and Flat Certified teacher training. Your professional generosity is unending. Another thank you to Jim for picking up as co-moderator. It is so helpful to know someone else is listening, reading, typing and talking as fast as I am! And a thank you to all the busy educators who took time out to share, question, and connect.

I'm looking forward to our next meeting on Monday, February 18th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, February 19th at 3:30am GMT). For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Six (Choice) and Seven (Creation).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Session #3 - Virtual Book Club - Join the conversation!

Our next meeting of the Virtual Book Club, discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis, will be Monday, February 4th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, February 5th at 3:30am GMT). For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Five and Six.
Join the conversation! Use this link (https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2007066&password=M.065891D192F8072208BF5756999CE0) to log onto the live session or watch this space for a posting of the recording afterwards.