Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Things to Do on a Snowday: Part 1

So, we've gotten hit by two blizzards in five days here on the East Coast.

We seem to never be ready for this kind of weather (not counting the kids who keep plastic toboggans at the ready, just in case). And so, inevitably, we wind up with snowdays.

This year, our administration asked teachers to try and prepare for situations where we could lead our classes even if school were shut down for a spell. The thinking at the time had to do with Swine Flu.

I was actually quite excited about the prospect of teaching online. Last summer, I used Elluminate to give a presentation on Twitter in the Classroom in the 'Unplugged' sessions at NECC; I'd also used Wiziq to demo online teaching strategies to my grad students at JHU.

Now, the snow had given me my first chance to try out online teaching in a real way with high school students.

And I had a blast.

We chose Wiziq as our interface, and, over the course of a bit more than a half-hour, the students in my West Civ class had brainstormed, debated, and put together a fantastic set of questions for further investigation.

I ran myself via video feed and each of them had access to speak, share on the communal desktop, and chat in the backchannel. Excellent results.

If you and your students have access, there's no reason why this sort of platform couldn't replace the role of traditional homework (think a fifteen-minute review and extension quick-lesson each eve after dinner).

In addition, these tools can just as well be used live in the classroom. In fact I'm looking forward to getting back to school (looks like we're off 'til next Tuesday) to investigate bringing aspects of the online classroom into the f2f classroom. I see so many possibilities to use online learning styles merged with face-to-face communication and real live group dynamics.

Experiments forthcoming.

Until then, don't fret about snowdays being days when learning and classroom camaraderie have to cease; rather use connectivity to your advantage.

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