Believe it or not, the first nine weeks of the school year has come to a close. It's one of the fastest I have experienced, but, it has also taught me a few lessons along the way. First of all, it is a very real possibility to offer coursework in a different, real world way using technology. Secondly, it is also a possibility to teach a class with technology and do so effectively. Finally, it is possible to flip back to the old way when things aren't going right the new way.
I spent several days collaborating with my students this nine weeks, generating ideas, potential assessment solutions and getting kids excited about doing things differently. For the first time in years, I set my students up with epals. They ask daily if we have received mail. They are excited to talk to kids in France and are I am excited because they are taking their language skills and making them stronger through collaboration and interaction. They are expected to write in French and their new friends in English. The cultural differences alone are making kids realize students abroad have as much trouble learning a foreign language as they do.
I also spent time talking to kids about ways to learn better. I found through that discussion that providing a standard written assessment isn't going to always be the best way to see what they know. Guess what! I changed my ways. Yes, the kids still took a short vocabulary test but, I used a Voicethread for their unit test and asked them different things to discuss and handle. My older kids actually took what they know and created a story which they read aloud. I hit so many standards with these lessons, it was amazing!
I also discovered something I already knew- teaching a class with technology CAN be done. I stopped using paper last year, and I am again on the same track. I use web 2.0 tools to help my kids get better. We do quizlet reviews, epals, simple meet meetings and are looking into doing some mini oral collaborations through some different sites I have used for audio recordings. (I am thinking they are mashups.) I can ask the questions, kids do the answers. I use a simple rubric to grade them. I have no longer used paper for tests, I started using google docs for the short vocab quizzes. Flubaroo grades it all. I don't spend hours grading papers anymore. I do it fast now. Kids get results the same day.
Finally, the jump back to old ways. I hate to even talk about this, but, the old way sometimes works just as well, especially when the technology isn't cooperating. It's OK sometimes to grab a textbook and pull speaking and vocabulary review from them. I have to remind myself that being a 21st century teacher and learner, I have to be able to think about what is best for the kids. Sometimes, it may be spending a day looking at a book or using the book's listening and workbook activities is OK. Sometimes kids need that skill.
All in all, the fastest nine weeks on history has been a learning experience for me as much as for my kids.