I have been plagued with a question over the last few days. When students ask me questions about computers (mostly software, how-to type questions), I most often take the easy path and show or tell them. But they don’t remember how to do it later. So the question that’s been on my mind is how much should I let my students flounder around and try to figure things out? I mean, that’s how I learned my way around a computer. I poked and tried until I got it to do what I wanted to. Sometimes it took hours. But later on, I was able to do it on my own. I value that learning in myself, but I don’t think I am fostering it in my students. If they ask me answers to problems or issues that come up with their reading or writing, I don’t always show or tell. Sometimes I throw the questions back or tell them to think through it a little harder. So why don’t I do that with computers? Should I do that with computers?
To that end, I began a new feature in my classroom blog called Tech Tips. Each week, I will explain how to do something. I have already subscribed all my students to the blog, so ostensibly, they should have access to the tips and can make of them what they will. One of my frustrations as a teacher is how little my students appear to use the classroom blog. I haven’t yet become so frustrated I felt I should just quit, but I have come close. Which brings to mind another frustration I have. Students are willing to learn how to use Facebook or IM, but it frustrates me that they won’t poke around my site and learn to use it as well as they do other tools.
I do think it’s valuable to flounder around and even fail for a while before you get it. So how do I put that into practice without feeling like I’m being unhelpful?
photo credit: macluke170
Dawn Hogue has a great post on blocking access to Web sites.
When schools block web applications, especially the newer Web 2.0 tools, the opportunity to use and teach how to use these tools is blocked as well. What would be better than simply blocking everything would be to acknowledge that there are some risks associated with accessing information on the Internet and in creating an online presence and teach students how to be responsible Web content generators.
I checked out her resources page and imagine it will take me some time to sift through all the great stuff.
At my school, I am often sought out for technology ideas. For instance, my school is really good about publicizing the things I do with blogs and wikis. When The Atlanta Jewish Times called the school looking to speak with educators about their use of technology, my colleagues made sure the reporter, Suzi Brozman, talked to me. They are really supportive of what I do with technology, and they seem really interested in the applications available. My colleagues, in short, see me as a leader in integrating technology into the classroom. But I’m not nearly doing enough. So much more could be done! A cursory glance at the things Lisa Huff (no relation — I don’t think!) is doing with her students was enough to tell me that. I was quite humbled by what I saw — saving and sharing her posts in Google Reader left and right. Here is what I want to do next year:
- More wikis. Some ideas: wikis for portfolios, wikis for collaborative learning, wikis for teaching.
- Blogging. I would like my students to have individual blogs for reflective writing. I think having a student blog where I publish their work is not really accomplishing all that I want to accomplish.
- Podcasting. You really should hear my students talk. I tried to talk them into letting me record their Socratic seminar on the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, but they knew I’d post it here, and they weren’t ready for that. It’s a shame because it was a great discussion. They debated the issue for well over an hour! I like what Lisa Huff is doing with VoiceThread, a tool I was introduced to at a conference in November and still haven’t experimented with.
I find myself feeling so excited about these potential ideas that I want to sit down and plan it all out, which is crazy because I’m not really sure what I’ll be teaching yet (for one thing), and I still have seven weeks this year. I know what you’re thinking. Go ahead and try some things. Better late than never, right? Well, I just might. My ninth graders will be studying poetry and short stories soon (May), and I see some potential there. I think the student blogs will need to wait for next year, but perhaps I can do a poetry project using wikis and VoiceThread and/or SlideShare.
It didn’t occur to me until I saw Lisa discussing it in her blog that the fact that students could display their finished work through these types of online portfolios might be the “something extra” that makes them attractive to colleges and employers — a pretty persuasive argument for, as we say down here, getting off the stick and making it happen.