Good evening, readers!
I wanted to make an annotated list of the tools we are currently using in English class so that you:
1. are kept up-to-date with what’s going on in class
2. can explore these tools for yourself
3. can offer to help your student if/when a problem arises
Before I get into the list, I wanted to acknowledge a concern raised by a couple of different parents via email regarding my previous post. I encourage students to use the mobile apps for the tools listed below, but I don’t mean to imply that having a smartphone is required. All of these tools are web-based so all students can have access with an internet connection. I understand and respect that some families have decided against smartphones for their own reasons. I’m still an English teacher with full curricula for each of my courses. I am merely looking for ways to bring technology into our practice to help with efficiency, communication and collaboration.
That said, I’m really excited to report on our uses of the following web tools:
1. Edmodo This is our class social network. As a parent, you can get access to this by asking your student for his/her “parent access code.” Or you can just ask your kid to show you what it looks like. I post assignments, notes, and links that the whole class can view. I update grades so that each student can view his/her grades as they are entered. In Global class last Friday, we did a fishbowl discussion with 44 students. There were 10 or so students sitting at a table in the center of a large circle having a discussion about the rights and responsibilities that go along with citizenship. The 34 students on the outside circle used their smartphones to post their “notes” on the discussion. At the end of the discussion, we had a very good transcript of the discussion on edmodo so students are able to return to it and reference it for further study. This has a handy iPhone app that allows students to get notifications, communicate with me directly and see their grades.
2. Goodreads All of my students from all four of my classes have created accounts, added books, begun reading, and posted comments on their reading. My Juniors selected books on their own, so there’s a wide range of books being read. I did notice that in both junior classes, there were small groups of students who decided to read the same book. This is encouraging to me as it shows that (some) students like being able to talk about a book with others who are reading the same book. My sophomore global students were asked to select one or two books from a list of 8-10 books that Dr. Russell and I came up with. These books are thematically relevant to our first term study of the rights and responsibilities of global citizenship. This too has a decent app that allows students to make progress updates right from their phone after they finish reading.
3. Turnitin.com Newton Public Schools has purchased a subscription for all English classes at South to use this site. This site helps us teach students to maintain academic integrity, while also providing us with an efficient interface to grade and comment on student writing. So far my junior SAM class and my soph global classes have written and submitted papers here and my junior 1s will be doing so shortly. Even with this nifty tool, it still takes me on average about 20-30 minutes per paper to read, comment and grade.
4. Diigo This tool helps me share links to online readings with students. Students log on to the site and enter our group page, which is closed only to members of the class. Students can use a diigo toolbar to highlight, annotate, and engage in discussion with their classmates on the reading. When ever you return to that page, you see the notes of all your classmates, which will make studying for exams a little easier. Students also can return to see their highlighted quotations so that they can include them in papers and projects.
Diigo is a great way to save and organize bookmarks of all the reading you may do on the web. I have linked my Diigo account with my Twitter account. Whenever I favorite or retweet something that I read on Twitter, it gets saved and tagged automatically to my Diigo account. This is extremely helpful to those of us who use the web for professional purposes. I encourage students to use it to keep track of their research and annotated readings for all classes. If they start now, they will be able to use Diigo throughout college as a way to track everything they have read on the web!
So far that has been it. It hasn’t been easy getting everyone connected, but it has been a thrill seeing students run with these tools.
I’ve been communicating with parents on my school email: firstname.lastname@example.org as well as my gmail: email@example.com. I’ve added students and parents into separate “circles” on google+, but I still haven’t quite figure out what G+ is all about yet. If you use it and see the benefit, please comment and share!
For those of you who have been reading this blog steadily, thanks for your supportive comments!
And to those who might be here for the first time, I invite you to get in touch with me and keep me updated about how your student is getting along with these tools so far.
I can’t be an effective teacher without supportive and engaged parents, so thanks for all you are doing!