Echo Chamber?

When kids say stuff like this, almost three weeks after their last class, do you really think sharing it is being in an "echo chamber?"

thank-you for using my scribe post as an exemplar. I'm not sure where i will take this but the idea of blogging has given me an idea to maybe make a blog with friends. the blogging we actually did in math class actually helped. As you can see we have scribe posts for ever school day that we had math class. The blog, to me replaces notes, but your inclass notes are still important. The blog is like an assurance that every student understands concepts and and has fun understanding it =). At first bloggin was not fun and most thought that it would take time away from homework or after school life. about half way through the semester every1 had fun with the blog and spent more time to beat past emperors. well thats all i can say for the moment. thank you to all teachers for looking at the blogging concept. Maybe in the future the way students learn will improve through all this technology. lol, i wouldnt be surprised when im older i see children and maybe my own blogging, what they learned at school. =)

Mark C

The Next Movement

One of the more popular posts at A Difference is called How Will I Orchestrate It This Time? I compared my first and second semesters using blogs and other web 2.0 technologies in my daily classroom instruction. This post follows up on that one.

Reflecting on my instructional practices of this past semester, again I find a dramatic evolution in my instructional design. A comparative list:

Winter 2005 Fall 2005 Winter 2006
I post links to reviews, instructive animations and quizzes.

I post blogging prompts often using images from flickr.

Students post reflections on their learning.

I had students do a Muddiest Point exercise on the blog once.

I post links to reviews, instructive animations and quizzes.

I occasionally post blogging prompts. Not using images from flickr often enough.

Students post reflections on their learning.

We've done a few Muddiest Point exercises.

I've been more explicit about ethical blogging and internet use.

Students post links to reviews and other learning resources in the boxes.

Students (and occasionally me) interact in the chatboxes. They often help each other out with homework.

Students write a scribe post for each class every day — this has morphed into them essentially writing the textbook for the class in their own words.

My AP Calculus class is using blogs to write their own digital story.

Students have the option of writing an acrostic instead of a Blogging on Blogging reflective post.

Students have the option of editing the textbook instead of writing a reflective post — this is another way to get them to reflect on their learning. ;-)

I've used the blog to have the students communicate with a substitute teacher before a class I was away from.

I've also used the blog to give an online class when I was away.

I've got them learning problem solving by playing games I post to the blog each Sunday.

Just before the holiday break I added a Visitor Map to each blog.

Each class made a podcapsule at the end of the semester.

I post links to reviews, instructive animations and quizzes but not as much as I did before. I think this was a mistake. This was a busy semester and although I wanted to post regularly to the class blogs I turned them over almost entirely to the students vis a vis the scribe posts and pre-test reflections. Next time I have to get back to doing this as a regular feature of my teaching practice.

I posted blogging prompts even less frequently; another mistake. Again, not using images from flickr often enough.

Students post reflections on their learning. The Pre-Cal 40S students started calling these posts BOBs. I like that. The name is sticky. I've become more explicit about having the kids write their BOBs a few days before their unit tests: "If you do it the night before you'll get your one mark for doing it. But if you post your BOB a few nights before the test then I'll specifically address the issues you raise. You'll pick up a whole bunch of other marks that you otherwise would have missed because you didn't get the answers you needed to the questions that you have."

No Muddiest Points. Another type of post to be sure to include next semester.

I continue to be explicit about ethical blogging and internet use. About a week into the semester I went around the class and had each student vocalize their agreement to honour the guidelines I had posted on the blog and confirm that each individual had read them.

Students post links to reviews and other learning resources in the boxes.

Students (and occasionally me) interact in the chatboxes. They often help each other out with homework.

Students write a scribe post for each class every day (except test days). I have told the students the expectation is for them to collaboratively distribute the work involved in writing the textbook for the course.

My AP Calculus class finished their digital story: The Prince of Calculand. I'm anticipating a larger class next year and fully expect this assignment to grow into a more impressive learning tool. I'm still struggling with how to adapt this to my other classes. The main obstacle is time. The AP Calculus course runs all year. My other classes are only a semester long. Maybe it should be an optional project? But then what would the option be for kids who don't participate? Should it just be a bonus assignment? Still thinking about this ...

I continue to post interactive games to the blog each Sunday in an effort to help students learn problem solving. This tapered off as we approached the exam period.

Visitor Maps have become an essential feature of the class blogs vis a vis making the students aware of their global audience. I plan to be a little more Machiavellian about this for next year. I will create visitor maps and install the code for them on next year's class blogs this week. The links will be invisible. They will accumulate (random) hits over the summer holiday. I will reveal the links about the third week of class in September. Instant sense of audience. Although this may seem contrived I know that they will have a very real audience once they start blogging. As a matter of fact I hope to make their families a greater part of that audience. More on that another day.

I have also become more conscious of using this blog (A Difference) to invite people from around the world to leave my students comments when they're up to something impressive. Thank you to all of you who found the time to drop in on my classes and leave them an encouraging comment or two.

On February 21, 2006 all the class blogs went multilingual. I added the functionality of language translation tools. This sparked some interest amongst the parents although that was mostly to say that the Tagalog language translation was very bad. The kids really liked it though.

The quality of the student's scribe posts soared to such heights that Lani Ritter-Hall suggested in a comment to one of them that there should be a Scribe Post Hall Of Fame. I built a wiki to house it. This spurred the kids on to even greater heights. I included information in The Scribe Post Hall Of Fame for teachers who want to incorporate scribe posts into their own class blogs. (If you do, please contribute your students best work to The Scribe Post Hall Of Fame wiki. It will benefit your kids and mine.) Chris Harbeck was so taken with the idea of the Hall of Fame that he created one for his classes to house the best of their Growing Posts. Check out his Growing Post Hall Of Fame.

I've invited people to be mentors to my students via their class blogs. While a few people nibbled at the idea Lani Ritter-Hall jumped in with both feet and, as I've mentioned here before, she has been an outstanding mentor and an inspiration to me and my students. Lani, I can't thank you enough. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I'm wondering if there are any retired teachers who read this blog who might be interested in participating on my class blogs in this way next year. If you or anyone you know might be please let me know.

I've used the blog to post more pdf/jpg files. Some are homework assignments, some have been solutions to the homework assignments.

All my Applied Math 40S students were required to sign up for ThinkFree Office, and Writely accounts.

I installed a Feed Window on the AP Calculus blog (scroll down to bottom right-hand corner). The feed is from another AP Calculus class here in Winnipeg; Ms. German. (see below)

Thinking about wikis and watching how Ms. German had her students use their blog sparked my creation of wiki solution manuals for each of my classes. (see my upcoming post: My PLE - Wikis)

We created podcapsules again. This time I incorporated the use of Vaestro as an audio commenting tool. This was the first use of Vaestro on the class blogs. I expect it will weave its way into all the blogs in some form next year.

MIA This Semester ...
Acrostics. I plan to reintroduce these again next year. It was a mistake to leave them out. It gave the students a good conceptual structure to reflect on their learning and review relevant material and vocabulary before tests.

The Editor's Initiative. I think this was a good idea missing an essential ingredient; simplicity. The process is too complicated and I'm letting this one go by the wayside. I'm focusing more on getting students to edit their own work (scribe posts) for intrinsic reasons, or at least in order to make it into The Scribe Post Hall Of Fame. ;-)

As I said above, there were no Muddiest Point posts. They'll be back next year.

There were no online lessons this semester. I'd like to try this again in a different format next year. (see below)

Next Year ...
ThinkFree, Writely, irows, Google Spreadsheets, ...

Next year all students in all classes will be required to sign up for these free accounts. We had some trouble accessing the tools at ThinkFree from the school computers. It took too long to load and sometimes the browser crashed. I suspect the problems were due to a combination of our learning to use the tool and limitations of our school network. I'll be working to overcome those difficulties for next year. ThinkFree has the built-in functionality to post directly to a blog. I need to explore this further. The "one trick ponies" (Writely, irows and Google Spreadsheets) may be better workflow solutions but I really like the idea of being able to post directly to the blog. We'll see.

I hope to explore using Gliffy to have students collaboratively construct a mind map for each unit of study. Good review just before the test and a permanent, updateable study tool for exams.

In her recent workshop Anne points to Dragster. I want to think about and play with this one. There may be a place for it on next year's blogs. Perhaps as part of an online lesson?

More and more teachers are blogging every day. If you're a math teacher blogging with your classes please let me know. I'd like to see the Feed Windows network expand. I'd also like to encourage all teacher bloggers in all subject areas who have class scribes to expand the network of teachers in The Scribe Post Hall Of Fame. You can learn more about how to incorporate scribe posts into your classes at The Scribe Post Hall Of Fame.

I'm looking at changing the tool I use for the feed windows from Feedo Style to something else. The new, updated version of Feedo Style requires a fee in order to access the customization features that used to be free. If you've got any suggestions I'd love to hear them.

At this year's Higher Ed Blog Con there was a fantastic presentation on Short, to-the-point e-lectures. I think of them as screencast learning blasts. We'll have some PD time next year that we might be able to use to develop short, 5 to 10 minutes, screen casts or videos of teachers teaching a specific topic.

All in all an ambitious list. I wonder how it'll all play out. ;-)

Podcapsules for June 2006

On Tuesday my Pre-Cal 40S and Applied Math 40S classes recorded podcasts; we call them podcapsules. The idea behind a podcapsule is that students reflect on their learning experiences of the last semester and record advice for themselves to improve their learning in their future studies. Just as they begin the next phase of their education they can come back and listen to the advice they left for themselves. Of course there may be a lesson or two in there for anyone else who drops by to listen.

Click over to the Pre-Cal Podcapsule and the Applied Math Podcapsule. Give them a listen and leave the students a comment if you're so inclined -- and I really hope you're so inclined. ;-)

I've also started a new thread on my Vaestro channel specifically for the podcapsules. I'm hoping that the podcapsules take on a life of their own and continue to grow as people continue to add audio comments over time. This is the first time I'm using Vaestro on my class blogs. I'm curious to see how the students and people who drop by make use of it. I've not linked to that particular discussion here. You've got to head over the the podcapsule posts to hear it. ;-)

I Got It!

My wife got me a 4 Gig iPod nano for my birthday! I can listen to music, access iCal calendars, all my contacts, listen to music, keep notes, play games, tranfer files by using it as a portable hard drive, listen to podcasts on the bus, show off pictures of my family and listen to LOUD music. :-) A couple of improvement (predictions for future development?) suggestions:

  • » Bluetooth (wireless) earbuds.
  • » Infrared file sharing between iPods. (I know, it's a copyright thing. Hopefully that's a hurdle we'll eventually overcome ... when more people come to believe "The more you give, the more you get.")
  • » Move and delete files directly on the iPod without having to connect to my computer or iTunes.

This was the best birthday gift ever! I love my wife; for much more than just the nano. ;-)

BTW, does anyone know how to use an iPod to record audio?

I Can't Breathe

Kids are doing great work. It's getting better by the day. Participated via skype with teachers in Anne's workshop yesterday in Georgia (what a wiki!) and Miami today in Sheryl's workshop. Both were great fun. Exams start Tuesday. Professional Development for Dept. Heads on Wednesday, Provincial Exam marker training on Thursday for Applied Math 40S and Friday for Pre-Cal 40S. Got a great email from Chris Harbeck. Lead to posts on the Applied Math and Pre-Cal blogs. Can't wait to see what the kids write. Their first blush reactions in class were inspirational. Classes creating Pod Capsules next week. Six posts in draft form waiting to be finished. Mark Ahlness wrote this:

Everybody else seems to be in countdown mode, but I'm in this desperate "I've got so much more to show them and there isn't nearly enough time" mode.

Laughed out loud. That's exactly where I'm at. So busy I can't breathe ... in ... out ... in ... out ...