Wednesday, November 28, 2012

As the semester ends, here's what I've learned.

Learner centered instruction and technology integration pair nicely, but I'm still learning about how to change over all of the steps of the process.  I love allowing the students to choose some of the pieces/topics they are interested in, but the evaluation process becomes more difficult.  Now I know that many of you would love to tell me about how those lovely projects including stop animation, go animate, and other lovelies will naturally evaluate the skills my kiddos need to know for their upcoming MSL and AP test, but I beg to differ.  Additionally, as far as trying to grade students' comprehension of pieces, I cannot always allow individual choice as I have yet to read everything that has ever been written in any given period.  Nothing but the actual act of writing and revising will improve my little lovelies' ability to write better responses to constructed response or teach my students to write three essays in two hours.  With this said, my students have used online peer reviews via Google, constructed responses via Kidblog, and created group responses via Prezi or a Tweet ticket out the door.
I like small groups, but I cannot allow a final evaluation of a unit to happen this way. I feel like it is more important for me to evaluate each individual's effort because that is how they are graded. I cannot even wrap my head around centers still.   Unfortunately, even with the fantastic opportunity of having nine total computers in my room, I feel overwhelmed trying create enough stations that are independent of one another to make centers work.
My students have gained 21st century skills in lessons about how to shape our online selves, how to evaluate sources, and how to funnel information to ourselves rather than having to look for everything.  I did a small lesson on Twitter and provided a list of hashtags that might help them with AP study materials and college admissions next year.  Additionally I showed them how to use Symbaloo and PearlTrees to organize and keep information.  I'm currently re-enforcing these topics with a college and career project.  My students are creating eProfiles as online resumes for college next year and utilizing online tools to complete research on a career of their choice.  This semester I also brought in a friend of mine, via Skype, to talk to my students about a book he is writing and how he uses writing in his everyday life as a lawyer.  It was an amazing experience and I'm working on bringing in another speaker in the medical field by student request.  Additionally, my students can earn extra credit on their college and career project by conducting an interview with someone in the field they are researching and some are choosing to interview by Skype or Google + hangouts.
Overall, I am exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling a bit inadequate.  I feel like we have done some great things in class, but that my time is limited and I cannot always create fantastic new projects to utilize my resources in the most creative ways.  Additionally, in a high school English class I feel the best use of technology would come from having a one to one ratio where students could type responses and share constantly.  I have not utilized the Gaston County student cloud this semester because I cannot ask my students to place their precious work someplace that will most likely disappear in January and that cannot be reliably backed up anywhere else.

Here are some things my students have done this semester:

1. Small Group Project using American and the presentation tool of their choice.
Patton SOAPSTone project 

2. Students did research on the Native American tribe of their choice, created a presentation about their tribe, and reflected on what they learned about the Native Americans and how the Natives' beliefs would have clashed with the European settlers' goals.
Student Presentation
Kidblog response #1
Kidblog response #2

3. Fallacies in Political Ads
Student Presentation (download to view; features do not work in Google presentation)

4. Skype with Mr. Jason Miller: I didn't record the Skype session, but Chris Goodson will confirm this was an awesome experience!  I'm attaching some Kidblog responses.
Student One
Student Two