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


  1. I can definitely see how you would feel overwhelmed with implementing all the stations in high school. When I thought I was not going to be able to go back to elementary school, that was a big fear of mine as well. Even though you have had this concern, it seems as if you have done very well with implementing the technology as best as possible with your students. I agree about the writing being at risk for deletion in January. My favorite is that you used Skype to bring in a guest speaker! I did not even think about that! I definitely am going to have to remember that. I hope to eventually use Skype to have a book talk with another 2nd grade class across the county. Way to go!

  2. I appreciate you being so transparent about your feelings. I often feel overwhelmed and frustrated because what I wanted to accomplish on a particular day was hindered by impromptu occurences. But let me say, I really love how you are preparing high school students with some important technology products (i.e. resume) and organizational tools (i.e. pearltrees)to help them begin their own journey as they proceed to college or the workforce. These tools are at least equally important, if not more important for your students because of where they are in their academic career. Great job on implementing your instruction and technology tools!

  3. It makes me feel good to read your blog because I feel like I'm not alone! I imagine how stations would be difficult with your age group but I think you have done a wonderful job keeping your class student centered and I applaud you! Keep up the great work! Also I love how you promote the global awareness and community aspect with Skyping with kids from other places. Great idea!

  4. Sandy has summed up what I was thinking quite well. In your situation, it may not be "centers" per se. I think you will get some helpful ideas to incorporate second semester when we meet for Pinnacle on the 13th. Hang in there and thanks for teaching those students lifelong "technology" skills.

  5. I loved reading your student blogs and writings! It was inspiring for me to see such complex sentence structures! I have such a long way to go with my elementary ESL students, but one day, I hope they will be able to communicate as well as your students! In your comment about essay writing, I was reminded of one of my favorite teacher/author/presenters, Gretchen Barnabei. She has created a structure for an 11 minute essay. She is amazing, I hope you like it. At your end of the educational spectrum, it is such an opportunity to help students prepare a bridge to their next steps in life. You are doing an outstanding job. Kudos!
    Here's the link for the 11 minute essay (though I've never pasted a link within a comment box):

    1. Thank you for the resource! The link worked perfectly. :-)

  6. Leslie you are working it! Great job!
    I love all your technology integration. I am still working on my Tweets out the door also. Do you display the tweets? Or do students just write them and you keep them? I am looking for a way for students to write them on sentence strips, with markers, and then leave them up daily. Just wondering how you display them...if you do? Or have any suggestions? Good job :)

    1. I had them use their own paper and tape it as they went out. I'd love to have laminated sentence strips because they would be neater. :-)

  7. When I grow up, can I be you?
    You are doing great. If only my son was going to South Point, I could look forward to the wonderful experiences he might experience through your tutelage.
    I encounter many of the technical glitches and concerns you do as well. I also struggle with my overwhelming urge to micromanage sometimes. Because as you know, I am a vision person, and I often see how the end product might take shape, and therefor, want to shape the activities to point them towards what I see. But, at the same time, I know they will learn more by discovering the path for themselves. You offer your students a great deal of opportunities and experiences to learn from.

    1. The control freak in me wants to control the final product too. :-)

  8. You are doing a great job. Way to go using Skype. I may be able to get you someone in medical field and telecommunications field. I even have a friend in the Phillipines that may be willing to talk about cultural changes from America to 3rd World nation.

  9. First, I love your transparency. I feel the same way, but know, as your are, am giving 100% of my time and energy to help create the 21st century classroom! I love what you are doing in your classroom to prepare your students for the next step in their journey!