Friday, August 18, 2006

Two Weeks

With two weeks under my belt, the school year is zooming by.
I did an informal survey today, asking my students to tell me what they had learned in the first two weeks of my class. "What have you done that you haven't done before? Tried that you hadn't tried before? Learned or thought about that you hadn't before?"
More than once, a student raised his hand and said something to the effect of, "Last year, we visited the computer lab maybe three times in the entire year." Three times! I'm finding, not surprisingly, that my kids are not as tech literate as I'd like them to be. In one class, four kids raised their hands when I asked if anyone had ever created a PowerPoint presentation before. They know Myspace and they know the ins and outs of Windows Media Player, but the majority don't have anything past that. The vision is to move to a community of bloggers the way I read about Konrad Glogowski or Darren Kuropatwa's classes doing, but it's going to take time. The legs are still shakey. We'll get there.
Alan November's question of "who owns the learning" is in the driver's seat this year. Today, I did something I wasn't so sure about. I knew it would be uncomfortable for my students, but I also knew I had to stop spoon feeding them and let them gain confidence. I put up the assignment on the ActivBoard with three bullets:
  • Log in to Blackboard.
  • Read the announcement.
  • Complete and turn in the assignment.
In a Hansel and Gretel-type fashion, I had pebbles of instructions throughout the assignment for guidance, but I told them at the beginning that I would not be answering any questions, that they already knew how to do everything they needed to complete the assignment. It was uncomfortable. One student raised her hand and told me she couldn't get to the website. "Try typing in the address again," I said. "I've typed it three times already, I'm just not going to do it," was her reply as she sat back in her seat with her arms crossed. "Ok," I said, "That's your choice, but I'm sure the site's working and I know you don't want to fall behind. You can do this." I walked away, but continued to monitor. Sure enough, within minutes, she had found her typing error, fixed it and logged in. It was a step toward self-reliance.
In another class, students would try to get me to answer questions and I would almost answer, but I was cut off by a slew of students who said, "Can I help him, Mr. Chase?" They would get up, walk over and show the students how to complete the assignment. One girl announced, "All right, I'm not getting up after this, so who needs help now?" How many times have I thought that as a teacher. I was monitoring screens with my new Vision access to make sure things were on track. They were.
It felt fantastic. I was so proud. They were building a community.
One other things of note today. I'm not certain of the etiquette on this one. Checking my Bloglines account this morning in a faculty training on how to use the district's online print shop order form (not so helpful for the paperless classroom), I saw my name in David Warlick's blog 2 Cents Worth. I literally let out a little scream.
Now, I've been published online, in newspapers, magazines, etc., but none of it compared to the excitement of this. Why? A number of reasons. For one, it wasn't passive. I had written something that made someone else think. For another thing, it meant more people were going to be reading what I wrote. I called my mom. By the end of the day, I had messages from around the globe. I stopped and realized. This is why our students should be blogging, this feeling of connectedness, of authenticity. I shared the whole thing with my classes, explaining how the network operated, how David likely found my blog and so on. All but three of my students had never heard of a blog before, so I took it slowly. It was the first glimmer of realizing the potential in a first-hand manner. Awesome. I feel I'm such the nerd for saying so, but it truly was.
More later.


Andrew Pass Educational Services, LLC said...

Judging from this single blog entry, I'm also glad that David wrote about you. I enjoyed your post. Here's a question: What is the relationship between asking your students to collaborate with one another and wanting to stay a little bit outside of the learning, as you describe, and your excitement when David wrote about you. Here's an answer: You want to create the same type of learning community for your students that you take part in on the blogosphere. The idea is collaborative learning amongst peers. This type of learning promotes depth and insight. This might be one answer but what are some other answers?

Andrew Pass

Darren Kuropatwa said...

Hi Mr. Chase,

Congratulations on the success you're having with your L.A. class!

I remember the first time I saw a blogger write about me. It was Anne Davis and it made my jaw drop to the floor. Like you, it was at that moment that I said to myself "My kids need to feel this."

Will Richardson says we shouldn't ask our kids to "hand it in" anymore; instead tell them to "publish it." One of my goals for this year is to get my students to publish more of their individual work.

I enjoyed reading your post. It's exactly the sort of reflection that helps me grow in my own work with my students ... just added you to my blogroll. ;-)