It's been awhile since I've posted, and there's certainly a lot to write about. The last couple weeks I've scudded past open house, Moodle meetings and collaboration, the first debate tournament of the year, the first grade reporting period, letters of recommendations for seniors, and planning for my own class. Feeling like a blog-slacker, I've reminded myself of what a colleague pointed out to my wife after she finished the 42-mile Molokai to Oahu outrigger canoe race last weekend: that no matter what, you're taking part in a world championship, like being in the draw at Wimbledon. So that's the analogy that's motivated me to get back to the blog this afternoon. Here's what been going on:
Visit The Global Cooling Collective
Project Global Cooling:
Here in Honolulu, we're starting a school club, which will be advised by me and led by a student who last year for the culminating project in my class, learned how to plan a concert for charity. So far, she's contacted local venues, met with our center for public service, and has started to make contact with others on the PGC Ning. I think both of us will join Clay's tutorial on setting up a website. In addition, students in my class have started to rally on our class Ning site and slowly move those conversations to the PGC Ning.
Ning Has Been The Thing:
In the last two or three weeks, I've helped four teachers at my school set up Ning communities for their classes for very different purposes. And I'm planning on presenting the ideas behind Ning (teaching using social networks) to this year's group of student teachers and mentors, and new-to-our-school teachers at the end of this week. So far, I'm using Ning as our class social network, for all the reasons one might join a social network, except it's an extension of our classroom community; a computer science teacher is using Ning for his students to share, test, and collaborate on their programs; another English teacher is using Ning as a course management tool; and in an English/Social Studies block course, the teachers are using Ning to run a simulation activity called Ada Valley in which three tribes have to successfully negotiate a government that fairly represents the interests of all groups (I'm planning a future post that will discuss this project more completely, including an interview with project creator, our own Dan Mindich).
Our school has been working through a "soft" pilot of Moodle for the last year or so. Now, we're starting to formalize, and Moodle is being used to bridge the gap between lower and upper grades, as well as being a solid course management system. My frustration so far is with Moodle's wiki. It overwrites and deletes work if students are working on a document simultaneously.
Random Thoughts On 1:1 And How Its Changed My Assessment Practices
I've been writing and thinking about the ways a 1:1 program changes the classroom experience, in terms of physical layout, and now, assessment. Today, I finished the first round of grade reporting, and I noticed a few things. It used to be that grades fell pretty much along a standard bell curve, a few outstanding students, most of the students in the "good" range, and a few strugglers. But planning with a 1:1 environment seems to have changed things a bit. I've really been trying to write lessons and assign homework that takes advantage of technology's ability to provide a more collaborative, flexible, and individualized learning environment. We work in forums a lot more, group work is much more transparent, the hard-to-assess quiet students' voices are being heard. Because of all this, the grades have spread out. They seem to me much more of an accurate report of what the student is learning and demonstrating. But there's a big problem with that: grades aren't perceived, especially in a competitive prep school, as a report; they're perceived as an evaluation of the "goodness" or academic worth of a student, or a statement of status and achievement. What should grades mean? Who are they for? And where do I, as the teacher, report authentic, individualized assessment, now that it's more authentic and individualized?