Overview: In the coming year our school is changing the structure of its master schedule; we are moving to a schedule that will include different length periods spread across a seven-day rotation. Every cycle will contain one 65 minute period (20 minutes longer than what we have now). For my final project, I’m planning to rework the way I use my seventh grade class blog and my ninth grade class blog. I have also started a paper.li electronic newspaper called The Landing that I’m going to use to coordinate current event activities in all of my classes.
1. I started my seventh grade class blog last fall with the idea that it could be a place to share information with my students, beyond the daily details of homework and due dates, etc. (that they get regularly through the school website). To say that I used the blog sporadically would be generous (5 posts over the whole year, which sounds a bit pathetic, I know, especially after taking this class!). It would be totally fair to say that I didn’t use it as an interactive blog at all, except for the last post regarding final exam review, which started to approach an actual conversation/discussion. I’m happy about the potential of using it in new ways this year.
2. My goal for blogging with my ninth graders this year is to find more ways to facilitate online discussion/dialogue. My students will create their own blogs in the first few weeks of class, and my plan is for them to experiment with different web tools over the course of the year in order to share information, teach each other, and connect with other biology students (not unlike this class). (As far as tools go, Google Docs, screencasts, Flipbook, VoiceThread, and Slideshare come to mind, but I’m sure there will be others.) I did not require my students to comment on each others’ blogs last year because I was wary of trying to evaluate those comments, but I’m going to jump into that pool this year. Please let me know if you have a biology class that will also be blogging this year, and we’ll find a way to get our students to share.
3. Inspired by several teachers that have started to rework the discussion/coverage of current events in their classes (Marsha Ratzel, Will McDonough, and others), I set out to incorporate a number of Twitter and RSS blog feeds into a classroom daily paper, using paper.li. (See @brunsell’s article on the topic from Edutopia here.) The online newspaper that I’ve created is called The Landing (which refers the common space outside of our science labs, and I think it also suggests a nice place for meeting/sharing ideas). I began by starting a Twitter list so that I can manage the feeds/stories that students will be most interested in and will pertain to what we’re covering throughout the year. It’s a work in progress, as it’s only a few days old. I’ll continue to update this list as I find new sources, which will then get pulled into the daily feed. I have a general idea of how I’d like to use the feed, but since it’s brand new to me, I’m going to see how it goes and I’ll probably blog about it in the fall (which suddenly doesn’t feel so far away). *I should note that I’ve intentionally included sources/topics that apply to biology (9) and environmental science (7) so that I could use the same electronic paper for both of my classes. Some of the biology content won’t be relevent to my seventh graders, and vice-versa, and that’s okay with me.
Overall, I’m looking to provide some continuity throughout each 7 day cycle, tap into students’ creativity, and to take advantage of the extra time that we’ll have periodically (rather than doing the same thing we’ve been doing for an additional 20 minutes — as much as I like to talk, nobody wants to hear me talk for another 20…). By incorporating new web tools; giving students options in how they present material; and having them interact, collaborate, and share information online (using new tech in new ways); I think we will be able to teach more effectively and reach more students. I think what we’re really doing when we teach this way is just diversifying how we communicate with students, and how they communicate back to us (and to their peers). I’m confident that good things will happen.