And Now, To Challenge Myself

The time at spent at the BIT15 conference has had me reflecting and writing and just trying to sort out all the ideas in my head. I already decided upon two entries I was willing to publish, but I also put two in the draft column, because I can’t quite get my thoughts coherent enough to publish.

I got to thinking about how I can earn my ticket to the conference. I want to put into practice some knowledge I gained, or at least use the ideas created a flicker in my mind that I had previously not known. I figure if I write it down, make it public, (even if no one reads this) I will be more likely to follow through, knowing it’s “out there”.

My challenge to myself – try at least one new thing. I mean I actually put that in my own presentation, so I must follow through and do it myself, no? I have to try to sift through the things I saw, figure out what might be manageable to try and how to actually use it in my classroom. I have to admit that some things may be just beyond my scope at this point, but must determine what is feasible for me to try.

I was thinking about my classes. Each day, I start with either a news item, current event, or interesting story to share and discuss with my class. It is part of my agenda to have my students be aware of the world around them, discuss or debate opposite points of view, make applications to their real life, and just be interested in things outside the class/curriculum.

I have had a number of students actually ask me to continue this when I have strayed from the agenda. A few seemed to actually miss this time, stating they talked about it at home with their parents, and they don’t always talk about “school stuff”. This made me beam with happiness.

The problem I was encountering with “news” time, was that I asked students to write a journal about their thoughts. I guess I wanted to prove to myself that they were listening and that my tangent off the “actual lesson”  was worthwhile. This was when the magic ended. While some enjoyed sharing their thoughts, most didn’t.

It is likely a combination of many difficulties. Some may have problems knowing how to actually express what they are thinking. Some may have the physical limitations of writing, while some just avoid writing at all costs because of spelling, grammar, and organization problems. Despite my encouragement, journals were dwindling rather quickly.

So, now I have to challenge myself. I need to re-vamp journals. I need to try to incorporate some learning I had this week into my journal process. I want to ask myself the questions and find some answers to solve my problems:

Can I revisit all my topics and create a google form to gather answers/data?  Can I make the “news” response into a google form? Can I get my students to use voice activated software and just have them speak their answers? Can I find a way to send back an auto-reply when they submit a journal, so they can get the immediate satisfaction they correctly submitted an assignment?

These are just my starting points, but still present a challenge to both me and my students. It will benefit me as I can just dip my toe in the water and see if I can successfully utilize forms and voice-to-text software. It will benefit my students as it allows them a class feature they enjoy and become more adept using technology. For both of us, it improves our skills, it becomes a daily habit, but not a daily encumbrance, as it’s just a small portion of class. A win-win.

The hard part now is for me to figure out how this will work. I need to be aware of my daily topics, which clearly can change in an instant as we discuss current events. I need to make sure I have available computers or ipads daily to allow this to happen. I also need time to set this up, make sure it works, then teach the students how to use the features as well. Clearly, my success is not happening tomorrow.

Perhaps I can brainstorm with my department, and we can each take on an element. Maybe we can prepare an interesting discussion topic that isn’t necessarily “hot off the presses”. We can easily supply and article and create the google form we want to include. This can be shared and used by a number of people in the department. Then, as we get better, we can compare results and use the information.

It’s a start. I promised myself a challenge. Here it is. I must create at least one google form related to my news feature and I must create one assignment that every student uses voice-to-text software to complete. In some way, this makes me feel that I have taken a step in the right direction : trying new things and benefitting from the knowledge and sharing of other teaching professionals.

Here we go. Wish me luck.

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