Student Voice: A visit to MsJWeir’s Classroom

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Ms. J. Weir’s classroom at WRDSB’s  Southwood S. S. to meet her students and gather some feedback about their online writing project. I was immediately struck by the calm and trusting atmosphere in the classroom. It was obvious that the students were very comfortable in this learning environment — a wonderful tribute to the teacher! The dialogue flowed freely and students were at ease contributing to the conversation.

I posed the following guiding questions to the students to facilitate our discussion regarding the project:

  1. How has writing online changed your learning?
  2. Is writing online what you expected?
  3. What would be the effect of removing the technology?
  4. Describe the pros and cons of back channelling (Today’s Meet and Twitter)
  5. What were the challenges?

The actual discussion happened in a rather free flow manner. I have grouped the responses to follow the question sequence outlined above.

Many students commented about the ability to ‘organize on the fly’ and being ‘in the moment’ when they write online because the process feels more natural.  Capturing ideas and shaping them is much easier electronically. The students also made that point that they felt more ownership for their work.

When asked question 3, the responses were unanimous: removing the technology would be a step backwards, poorer organization, less motivation and anticipated drop in achievement.

In terms of back channelling and online forums, many students commented that the variety of options to contribute to class discussions (Face to Face (F2F), EdmodoToday’s Meet and Twitter) enriched the discussion, drew more students into the conversation(s) and created a much stronger sense of community within the class.  The students all indicated that having the comfort level to participate was a key ingredient to their learning.

In the area of challenges, a few things were identified.  Access to resources is dependent on a wifi connection. We talked about the importance of wifi reliability and high levels of up-time.  I was impressed by the fact that the iPads used for this particular project were set up with a small number of key apps that were aligned with class needs and learning goals.  This was a welcome observation on my part as people often become app focused rather than learning focused. Well done! Students also talked candidly about the need for a level of self discipline. Having wifi enabled devices in the classroom certainly support student learning, and a more personalized component to the learning. Yet, the potential for distraction is still there — it must be managed.

I found this to be an excellent classroom visit. I appreciated the candid conversation with  Ms. J. Weir’s class. The approach to learning in this classroom needs to be shared and replicated.

Related Resources

Ms. J. Weir’s Blog

~Mark

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OASBO Workshop: Apps for iPad

At last week’s Ontario Association of School Board Officials  (OASBO) conference, I had the pleasure of presenting a demonstration of iPad apps with Mary Hingley and  Wayne Toms.  As promised to our workshop attendees,  I am posting the list, and links to, the apps that were demonstrated on behalf of the presentation team.

Personalized Magazines

Note Taking and Storage Tools

OSAPAC

Phone Alternative

Related Resources

iPad writing tools

~Mark

Skinny Down Your Technology

The other day I was reviewing some draft system communications with @maryhingley and she commented that we should “skinny this down” to a cleaner more streamlined document.  While the comment regarding the document  we were reviewing was bang on,  it also made a connection for me to an earlier conversation that day about the constant evolution of technology tools. The context of the technology tools dialogue was around the challenge of building capacity in teaching when the tools evolve so quickly.

Fact:  We are all on a continuous  learning curve, new technology,  new apps, new potential to improve improve learning. There is certainly plenty of discussion around the notion of welcoming teachers with this new ‘technology enabled learning’ world – online, web 2.0, anytime, anywhere, digital, shared documents, authentic audience (etc.).

As we become more thoughtful about professional learning, determining the best point(s) of entry and consider learning continuums for staff, there is a greater realization that it is too easy to overwhelm.  People need safe and doable entry points with high success rates.  The fact is, people do not need 100’s of tools to start on their journey.

Challenge:  a call to experienced teachers using web 2.0 and social media tools – skinny down your tool list

Categorize the software, apps and web 2.0 tools you use into the following categories:

a) must have, use daily, addresses some important need

b) use regularly (a few times a week but not daily)

c) once in a while (a few times per month)

d) tried it, don’t use it regularly at all

Skinny down your list and share your suite of must have tools in this google doc.  Include your name, twitter ID, blog/web site and must have list.

Thanks in advance for sharing.

Related Resources:

I just can’t imagine teaching without ….

Cross posted to VoicEd.ca

~Mark