Monday, March 16, 2009

Talking to Students

Just below this post is a comic I made for my students as a way to talk through a lot of the mumbo-jumbo of ed tech and Web 2.0.

Today we started each class with a brief discussion about what is working and what needs to be reconsidered in terms of tech in our courses. Almost unanimously the response was positive with regards to being paperless -- and this has been a stretch especially for my Seniors who aren't even part of the 1:1 program.

Things that came up through today's discussions:

1) Blogger is easy to use and well organized, but the occasional downtimes are frustrating. The one big negative was that a blog can get quickly filled up and ideas (and due dates) from old posts can get lost. To address this issue, each student now has a Google Cal fed directly through their blog. We've set them up so that students get reminders sent to their inbox a few days before assignments or long-term projects are due as well as the day before tests and quizzes.

2. Pixton is awesome. That's what all the kids are saying. It's super easy to use and the results are fantastic. We use it for reading checks as well as translating and vocab review. Because it's all online, the students can access it any time of day from where ever they are connected.

3. Google Docs is tough with more than two people on a doc at once. The students are used to IMs like those available on Facebook and have difficulty chatting with more than one person at a time. This makes live collaboration on Google Docs cumbersome. I'm going to look into getting each student set up with a Skype account. That way they'll be able to follow conference-call style IMing while working on the Google Doc seperately. I'll keep you all up to date on how this works. From a teacher's point-of-view, Google Docs is an excellent way to track group projects as well as give translation and short answer assessments; I can really watch in real-time as each student in class works on the assignment and I'm able to break in and help with problems as they arise rather than wait until after the assignment has been turned in to find errors.

It's really important to remember who we're working for here. It's the kids who are using this stuff on a daily basis in class and the kids who are using this stuff on a nightly basis for homework. Not to mention all of the other tech stuff they use in gaming and social networking. So, we need to listen to them. They are in a unique position to gauge the value of any particular piece of technology.


  1. You asked your students for feedback? Doesn't that break some sort of teacher law? I'd better stop reading now. Crazy talk. You should have just told the kids what is working and what isn't.

    New-fangled teaching. I haven't been this upset since New Math.

    (Grab a mop, there's a sarcasm spill in this comment.)

  2. Why not use Group Chats which are now built into Google's Chat which is embedded into their Gmail interface. I am not clear that you are using Gmail, but if so, I believe there are ways to do what you want without adding the extra appplication Skype into the loop. You need to be using IE7 for it to work.>

  3. Google docs work great with small groups-we rotate through activities with one stop being to type your group's thoughts/findings/questions into the doc. Once they get the hang of it they can manage the weirdness, and they love when I put the revision history up on the big screen and we look at the evolution of the conversation. We usually use this to create class docs together, like rubrics.


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