This week marked the kickoff of my Media 21 project that will essentially last an entire semester. I already have other teachers on staff who are interested in implementing this model of learning and research, so hopefully, my vision of creating connected students all over our campus in multiple subject areas will become a reality!
On Monday, Susan Lester (who is a Teach 21 teacher), my co-teacher in this project, did some first day activities with our two pilot courses, 5th and 7th period 10th Honors World Literature/Composition. I came in during the second half of each class and provided a general overview of our learning goals. I had presence of mind during 7th period to bring my bubbles to help illustrate our goal of producing bubbles of learning; the kids seemed to enjoy having the chance to blow bubbles and of course, my bubble machine-wand! Susan and I wanted to be sure to frame me as a co-teacher for this course, so being part of the first day was important.
To see my general outline of this week’s lesson, please visit http://theunquietlibrarian.wikispaces.com/august3-7-2009 .
On Thursday, I introduced our first mini-lesson on wikis. Not only was the lesson a fun hands-on introduction to the concept of wikis, but I integrated a light introduction to Twitter with the wiki visualization activity. We also looked at our wiki and reviewed some of the features; we also looked at Michael Wesch’s wiki as our “role model” for what we hope to do with our class wiki.
At the end of the period, I asked students to take out their cell phone and check their reception status—the students look rather surprised and puzzled, but they did so. I then announced that their homework was to charge up their cell phones and to bring them to class on Friday. My favorite moment of the day was when a 7th period student exclaimed, “What kind of teacher are you?” Priceless! I was also happy that the student thought of me as a teacher, not just a media specialist!
On Friday, we began class by watching the video “Gmail Theatre” to help lay the foundation of why we are choosing to use Gmail as our “official” accounts for communication in our course (also makes it easier to introduce other Google apps we will be using). After we watched the video, I reviewed the benefits of Gmail, and we set up accounts for those who did not have one. This went pretty smoothly for the most part in 5th period, but we had a registration “fail” in 7th as it seemed Gmail had died—we kept getting registration failures. I’m not sure if this was a problem on our end or on Google’s end, but the 7th period students were going to do their registration at home over the weekend, which was a little frustrating.
Interestingly, almost every student in 5th period already had a Gmail account (which may be a result of a lesson we did last year with 9th grad Honors Geography/Current Events); however, hardly anyone had a Gmail account in 7th period.
We then moved on to our poll voting activity; this week’s “question of the week” was “Which social media do you use most often?” Students could vote online (the poll was integrated into our wikis pathfinder page), or they could vote with their cell phones! They seemed to enjoy the opportunity to text in the middle of class!
In both classes, the overwhelming response was Facebook. Based on these results, I am wondering we should start a Facebook for each class period as another tool for communication. Since WordPress won’t take the embed code for the results, you’ll have to surf over the 1.0 way and visit the results:
The results seemed to confirm danah boyd’s research (you can read or watch here on YouTube) about social class and social networks, specifically MySpace and YouTube. Our classes are primarily white middle class to upper class students, and very few indicated MySpace as their most frequently used form of social media. I’m thinking about doing some kind of query with them into as why they may prefer Facebook over MySpace–stay tuned for that.
We ended by having them register for the wiki, or so we had planned. Even though Wetpaint wiki is a tool taught in the Teach 21/Media 21 courses, students were BLOCKED when they tried to complete registration. I cannot tell you how frustrated and agitated I was by this event; I will be sharing that concern with those coordinating the program. It seems if the tool is going to be promoted in a course, then we should not have any issues accessing any aspects of that tool. However, the students were really cool about the hiccups and just rolled with it!
I showed them the discussion thread for the weekend, which is a response to The Connected Student Video. We will use these discussion threads as a springboard for class discussion; I plan to give them some time on Monday to respond to each other’s comments before we do a pair share and then group share.
Overall, I felt the students seemed positive and open-minded on both days. Susan and I are truly, truly excited about the possibilities, and it was exciting to start using these tools with our students. I do have moments of fear when I think about how much we are opening up these tools to our students because we are venturing into unknown territory, but my excitement over the positive potential that is out there and the vision of learning we have for our students overrides any momentary waves of panic we may have. I truly believe that our students are going to RUN with this project and make significant strides as learners by the end of December.
Please check back each week as I blog our journey of learning (and this includes me and Susan as well as the kids!).