Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yeah, been a bit busy, but moving ahead

Okay, so I haven't posted in a while. Sorry to disappoint my legions of fans :-)

Call it an excuse, but I will note that I work all weekends in September and most of October at the Maryland Rennaissance Faire . My wife and I sing and play harp. We're listed as Esty's Harp and Voice under Entertainment - Musicians and Dancers. We enjoy doing the Renfaire, and it does pay a tuition payment or two for our daughters' colleges, but the result is that I work seven days a week from just about the beginning of school until the end of the first marking period, so some things just don't get done as quickly as they might.

On to school news! I've been going through the process of getting parental permission to set up monitored email accounts on epals, which is something they require for students under the age of 13. It took me about a week to send those permissions out and get them back, and I created the accounts today. So far, so good, but there is a technical detail or two still to work out. Right now, I'm hopeful that I can exchange my first emails next week. I also gave an overview of the project to my students and asked them to find Brittany (the area in France where our correspondents are) and Belarus on the wall map. I've sent a list of my students to our correspondents, and hope to get similar lists from them soon. Right now, I think the take-home lesson is that these projects just take a while to set up, and one needs to be patient. After all, we've got all year, and it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Permission to proceed

I got the word today that I now have the school's blessing to go ahead with a publically-viewable wiki and with establishing email accounts on epals. Both of these things have not been done at my school before. I'm excited: this means I can go ahead with my projects, which include an email exchange with classes in Belarus and France, classes which I contacted via epals, and a publically-viewable wiki that will help feature this project. Neither of these things are new in an overall sense...plenty of schools have done this and much more, but it will be interesting for me to see how I can get this all to work. I'm looking forward to this. More details to come!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Not exactly tech, but new for me

I had an "aha' moment in my classes today. Over the summer, I've read "Never Work Harder than Your Students" by Robyn R. Jackson. (yes, I know. It's a book. Very old-fashioned). I got the idea of, rather than telling my students what was important about the first two English colonies in America, I could ask a series of questions, and have my students look up the answers using the index of the textbook (and exposing them to a research skill in the process). Better, I divided the class into "Team Massachusetts" and "Team Virginia" and had them work in groups, to split up the questions among themselves and help each other with the answers. I had planned to introduce this a bit later, but I had to be away from my class today, so I sped up the introduction, so they could work while the sub was there. Not only were my students completely absorbed in the task, but they wanted to continue it after I came back halfway during class. And, when I did have to explain the difference between 'Separatists' (Pilgrims) and Puritans, it was in response to a student question, and I got everyone paying attention. I did the same with my afternoon class, and did some one-on-one coaching, and my students stayed on task for over an hour on a Friday afternoon before a three day weekend. Wow. Without a doubt, my most successful group project to date. Now the tech part comes in when I introduce wikis next week, and get them to post their information there.