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:
- How has writing online changed your learning?
- Is writing online what you expected?
- What would be the effect of removing the technology?
- Describe the pros and cons of back channelling (Today’s Meet and Twitter)
- 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), Edmodo, Today’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.
Ms. J. Weir’s Blog