Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Heather's 20% Project Part II

I decided to explore ways to use technology as a means to foster collaboration between students.  I chose this goal because as a teacher I had witnessed great value using technology to communicate with students.  I was curious about how these benefits might transfer to student-student relationships.  I focused on using Moodle , Google Forms and shared Google Docs both in the classroom and for collaborative homework assignments.  The students I work with are in 6th grade, and they made huge progress in collaboration via technology over the course of the semester.  While all students certainly don’t agree, I am comfortable stating that the majority of the students found great value – and added facility – in collaborating with students using shared tech platforms.  During the 4th quarter, students were able to complete a project start to finish without ever getting together outside of school.  The project included collaborating on a script, editing the script, illustrating, annotating, and recording.  I saw students writing notes, reminder and questions to each other in the shared doc, emailing reminders (they even copied their teacher on these, as I had asked that they “share” their document with me as well as their group members), and engaging in discussions and “chat” functions of Google Docs as they worked.  It was really great to avoid forgotten jump drives and frustrated emails stating that the after-school schedule doesn’t allow group work until after the (name your activity) season!  It was absolutely fantastic to see students communicating to each other about their ideas, work in general, and quality of French in particular.

It is clear I grew in many ways as I reflected on and tested ways for students to collaborate via technology.  I love the flexibility the shared documents offer my class, in particular how this format facilitates developing student-centered learning opportunities.  (Resource: shared template for students.) Once students had shared their group document with me, I could effortlessly provide feedback that was both specific and thought-provoking.  Instead of asking students to research one specific topic, or explore a common question, I was able to ask a question of the group that would result in discussion on their part in order to move forward.  This means the students themselves are making choices about how and what they are learning, but within the parameters I’ve set out.  I had periodic checkins with each group, during which we sat together and viewed the shared document together on one screen.  I used this opportunity to talk with students about the benefits of Google Docs, and how it can help them when doing group work.  It was very interesting to share the “revision history” with students.  I saw both looks of relief and also uncomfortable realization as this data-gathering tool was introduced! There were many opportunities to encourage groups to establish their next step(s) when it seemed the group was struggling or didn’t have a clear vision.  Thanks, Google Docs! Here are some photos of the various collaboration activities students engaged in during their time in my class.

We completed a project with a partner classroom during the last part of the school year.  It was a service-learning project, which means our fist task was finding out what our partner classroom’s authentic need was.  The teacher send us a letter asking for our help, so we knew the overall project was going to entail writing stories for 2nd grade immersion students.  (Click here for resources: unit plan and final projects from our first attempt.) Aside from that, we didn’t really know what to write, how to write, etc.  When I asked the students how we could find out what stories would interest 2nd graders, or what challenges they fact when learning to read in a foreign language, they immediately said “we need to ASK them!”   So, we wrote questions in small groups!  Then we revised our questions, in order to make sure they were written in a way that allowed 2nd graders to respond with good information (checklists and items to choose from instead of writing answers, for example).  We send the Google Form to two classrooms, and the very next day had results to analyze.  This information allowed groups to write stories that were interesting to 2nd grade students and were linked to the 2nd grade teacher’s needs as well.  This relatively simple activity allowed my students furthered their skills by focusing on question formation, writing for a purpose, and analyzing data.   It started our service-learning project off with a bang! Here's a link to one of our surveys, and the summary of the data.

The work we completed on a weekly basis for the tech cohort fit in nicely with my 20% project, so I didn’t need to do much searching on my own to find current research on digital tools and resources that support student learning.  I have added many resource sites that have been highlighted in this class to my Diigo list so I can easily find them in the future.  I have also added RSS feeds for several blog sites to my Google Reader.  As Will Richardson says, I am letting the computer do my research for me!  Reading focused postings on a tried and true tools, with no more effort than opening Google Reader, makes the huge quantities of information manageable.  

1 comment:

  1. Heather,
    Wonderful reflection! I sure hope you enjoy your sabbatical and come back to share your learning!