Friday, February 25, 2011

How I am Using Social Media in my Classroom

First a little history: Two years ago through the I “met” two English teachers, one from outside Philly and the other from southern California.  We started talking and decided to try using a ning to help our students discuss issues in The Great Gatsby.  For my class, I made it voluntary since it was my first attempt at such an assessments, I was new to the ECning and just learning about social networking and as a district we were in the infancy of our current technology plan.  Also, a number of parents were not comfortable with their children participating in this type of activity.  Some of the kids had Facebook pages but even they were leery of putting themselves out there.
Fast forward two years:  Last year I did not have Sophomores nor did I get the opportunity to explore this activity with a different work.  Plus, we were (and still are as it is a living experience) working on our technology plan and AUP. 
Currently I am reading The Great Gatsby with my two level one sophomore classes. Luckily for me I have small classes. I reached out to Ms. L Park at Episcopal HS outside of Philly and asked if she was interested in doing the same thing.  Fortunately she was about ready to start Gatsby and jumped at the opportunity.  She still had the ning set up from two years ago, she was still using it with her students.  (I am not going to give out the URL because in the permission slips I stated how controlled the environment is and that no one participating would be able to join.)
Even though we are not at the exact same place in the book we are able to engage in discussions about the many topics (themes, characters, symbols, style, etc) in the book.  For me one of the best outcomes has been the quality of the posts from my students.  I have students who struggle with writing and who, by their own admission, are not the most motivated. 
There is a section on the ning where students post a little biography about themselves.  I have learned so much about my quietest students that I am able to reach them in new ways.  It is truly amazing!  Additionally, the quality of their writing is better in their posts than what they usually turn it.  They care more because I’m not the only one reading what they write.  We spent some time and used class resources (The Little Brown Handbook) to talk about the “rules” for posting to online resources.  I told them that their grade would be based on the number and quality of their posts.
Aside from the writing quality that has impressed me and is important there is also a great cognitive value to what my students are doing.  My students are gaining an understanding of the novel that is greater than I alone can provide them because they are reading posts from other students and gaining a perspective that I am not “telling” them or forcing them to see.  While this is all anecdotal evidence I see student growth/progress in my classes and that is a good thing.

Next week, Twitter for Professional development

Friday, February 18, 2011

3 PM Friday 2.18.11

Friday 3 PM 2.18.11
So I have taken the next step in my social media experience and added blogger to my blogging.  I will post on the and  I am also on twitter @mikeBrawer.  I am new at this and interested in improving my abilities to write.  Hopefully this week is better than last and next week will be better still.  My goal is to do one a week.
I am trying to get some feedback from the twitter-verse regarding research done in a district.  The history is, as most histories are, a bit complex, so I will just say that we are working on aligning all of the research done in the 7-12 district.
 My committee, I call it the research initiative, had a great session yesterday and I am curious about what other districts do with regards to research.  Yesterday, like I said was very productive.  We finished our discussion of what we think a senior needs to be able to do by the time they graduate in terms of finding reliable sources, documenting sources, extracting and documenting information from those sources, organizing that information and producing a product.  Our ultimate determination is that by the time a child is a senior in HS they should be comfortable using digital and “analogue” methods for all of these procedures and they should be able to develop a system that works best for them.  It is our job as a district staring in 7th grade to cultivate their abilities to use a wide range of possibilities for them to practice with and perfect.
My next step is to thoroughly go over the notes from the last three meetings where this question was discussed and create a document that outlines our outcomes. 
Our last thoughts was that our students should be creating a digital portfolio at every level and when they are done they will have an trove of artifacts that they can look to and see their growth and accomplishments from 7th grade to 12th.  The initiative started talking about the digital footprint and that led to a discussion about twitter and a few of the ning teacher resources out there.  There was some real excitement and a few of them signed up.  If we have certain expectations of our students we need to be able to be real leaders for the teachers in our district.

I have to say I think this is better than last week’s blog.  Thanks for reading I value your feedback.  Look for #RsrchInit (The Research initiative) on twitter.