Yancey concludes that the way we teach writing needs to be more authentic. Students need to have a real audience for their writing, not just teachers. They have all kinds of authentic writing experiences outside the classroom, but when they know they can write a comment on youtube that the whole world can see, writing something that only the teacher sees seems inauthentic. It’s playing the game of school, rather than writing for a real purpose.
In Disrupting Class, Clayton M. Christensen and Michael B. Horn ask us to think of students as consumers. How do we get them to buy what we’re selling. Well what if we look at the things they buy and why they seem to like them Yancey doesn’t specifically discuss this aspect of writing but in terms of authentic writing experiences, students are used to being able to customize and personalize their communication experiences on the web. Social networking sites allow them to do this
We are becoming more and more used to being able to access information anytime anywhere. You can do your banking any time of day, you can PVR your favourite TV shows. Thanks not only to the internet but to mobile devices such as cell phones, and iPod touches we can interact and communicate anywhere any time. Why can’t school be like that? Students are learning all the time. If we want them to buy our product, we need to make it accessible for them. Some of my at risk students are not exactly model students when it comes to punctuality and attendance. Jessica’s story
Collaboration can be a really effective way to allow students to practice skills with more capable peers so that they will experience more success individually. This is the idea of the gradual release of responsibility. Web 2.0 technology provides lots of opportunities to students to collaborate on tasks. Google docs and wikis allow students to collaborate on written tasks and social networking sites allows students share and comment on each other’s ideas. I’ve found that while they expect to get feedback from the teacher, they place a lot more value on the feedback the get from their peers which can be really powerful. Perhaps more importantly, while can’t fully imagine the kind of future we’re preparing our students for, one of the 21st century skills that most people agree they’ll need is the ability to collaborate effectively.
When students have an authentic audience for communication, they’re able to personalize their experience, they’re able to collaborate with peers, and they can access their learning anywhere any time, they are more engaged. That’s how we can get them to buy in. We don’t just want them to be entertained so we don’t have classroom management issues, we want them to engaged in something that is meaningful.
I wanted to use a site like Facebook so my students could create profile pages for the characters in The Great Gatsby but I couldn’t use Facebook because it was often blocked by school internet filters. I also didn’t like the idea of students posting fake identities to a public site.
That led me to Ning,
One way we can model and practise responsible use of social networking sites is by creating an online environment that mimics facebook but gives us more control. Think of it as training wheels for Facebook. There are lots of options for this. I’m going to talk about the one I’m most familiar with using, but I’ll also talk about some other options
That’s what led me to Ning. Ning is an online platform that allows individuals to create social networks for any kind of group they want. These networks can either be public or private. I essentially asked students to imagine that Facebook was around during the time of The Great Gatsby, and then I had students imagine how the characters would interact on that site.
Students created status updates uploaded profile pictures and chose templates that suited their character. They also wrote on each other's walls, and created and joined groups that their character would join. Finally, I had them write a series of short blog posts to demonstrate their understanding of their character’s point of view.
Using social media made this project a lot more engaging for students because it more closely mirrored the types of communication they were used to doing outside the classroom. But when considering Bloom’s taxonomy, I realized that most of the thinking students were demonstrating was fairly low level. Still, through the discussions that had been happening on the students’ walls, I could see the potential for some higher order thinking.
We then moved on to using the network to expand our literature circles beyond the bricks and mortar of our school. At first, the site functioned more like a study guide where students shared links and uploaded content that would help them understand their novels. I used to do background lessons on our novels, but then I figured, when not let them construct the background lesson?
After each literature circle meeting, we would go to the computer lab and students would log in to our network and blog about their books. Then they would read and comment on what their classmates had written. By responding to their classmates’ comments they were able to see diversity of opinion and reconsider prior assumptions.
Students would tag their blog posts and then as they prepared for the essay--which is admittedly not my ideal culminating task, but I get overruled by my colleagues in this area--they used the tags to find related posts from their classmates. They used the ideas from the blog posts to develop their thesis statements.
In my media class last year, my students teamed up with a class in Listowel. This is where I really saw the potential for social networking open up. Students were able to participate in online conversations even though they lived in different cities. They read each other’s blog posts and wrote on each other’s walls. They shared different perspectives and found common ground.
What I realized however, was that my students were suspicious of using tools that they were not used to having academic success with, no matter how interesting or engaging the tool was. You have to make new experiences low risk, and allow time to play and experiment, and problem solve. They needed to feel free to make mistakes without being penalized.
Cyberbullying is a very big concern among parents and teachers. Students don’t bully each other because of technology. If we take the technology away, it won’t stop the behaviour. Instead we should educate students about why bullying is harmful and how to respond to online and face to face bullies. Also the partial anonymity of a site like Ning where students use their real names can lead to really positive and supportive interaction. Students feel freer to take positive risks like supporting a student they might not normally engage with.
But the biggest surprise was also the most positive one. My biggest concern when I stared using social networking sites was that I'd have issues of bullying. Conventional wisdom taught me that the perceived anonymity of the Internet led students to say things to each other online that they would never say face to face. Our site was not open to the public, so students weren’t completely anonymous.
But they did say things online that they wouldn't have said face to face. They were kind. And they were supportive. They moved beyond the cliques and social groups and supported each other in ways that really took me by surprise. I hope that by modelling positive and constructive use of technology, students will practice better digital citizenship.
When my students blogged, they were initially shy about sharing their writing with the rest of the class for fear of judgement. Everything I’d read taught me that students needed authentic writing opportunities in order to be engaged and writing for a teacher was not an authentic writing task. But I didn’t consider the fact that while inauthentic, writing for the teacher was “safe.”
As time passed, they gained confidence and couldn’t wait to check their blogs for comments. One of my favourite blog posts came from a student who had been painfully shy about her writing, but by the end of the semester she was able to reflect on how she’d grown and how she now viewed herself as a good writer thanks in part to the feedback from her peers.
Providing really clear instructions helps keep students on task. Monitors off. Using netsupport.
Discuss importance of audience and purpose. You’re not going to see perfect grammar and spelling on my sites. While I do deduct marks for improper spelling and grammar, this is informal writing so I don’t them to get so hung up on it that they don’t write. They know who they’re writing for and why.
Boundaries. Many teachers are concerned about engaging with students in online environment. Guidelines: keep interaction professional. CC messages to dept head or principal, tell students what you will and will not use email for and stick to it.OSSTF advises members to maintain exemplary professional conduct, keep copies of email. Maintain a professional tone. Use your work email, not personal email.
Our social networking sites allowed students to comment, question, and make connections extending their understanding of in such a way that I was no longer the keeper of all knowledge. And that can be a disconcerting place for a teacher to be.
Engaging minus movie
teaching and engaging students in the 21st century <ul><li>A Classroom Teacher’s Perspective </li></ul>
Feel free to join in the backchannel: http://todaysmeet.com/engaging
Media Literacy Resources <ul><li>Media Awareness Network </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t Buy It </li></ul><ul><li>Centre for Media Literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Association for Media Literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Critical Media Literacy </li></ul>
Blogs to Read <ul><li>Dangerously Irrelevant </li></ul><ul><li>Free Technology for Teachers </li></ul><ul><li>Moving at the Speed of Creativity </li></ul><ul><li>Cool Cat Teacher </li></ul><ul><li>The Spicy Learning Blog </li></ul><ul><li>Weblogg-Ed </li></ul>
New Teacher Resources <ul><li>Tools for the 21st Century Teacher </li></ul><ul><li>The Educator’s PLN Ning </li></ul>
Instant PLN? Follow these people on Twitter Twitter <ul><li>@thecleversheep </li></ul><ul><li>@royanlee </li></ul><ul><li>@courosa </li></ul><ul><li>@dougpete </li></ul><ul><li>@shareski </li></ul><ul><li>@wfryer </li></ul><ul><li>@ cyndiejacobs </li></ul><ul><li>@Grade1 </li></ul><ul><li>@ gsiemens </li></ul><ul><li>@teachingwithsoul </li></ul><ul><li>@colinjagoe </li></ul><ul><li>@alanacallan </li></ul>
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