Friday 23 August 2013

Running out of time?

I admit I am starting to feel nervous now. Most of my colleagues on Google + and Twitter are currently thinking of new ways to make their teaching and learning better for the new year, whereas here in NZ we are heading (too rapidly) towards the end of the year.
What this means is that my seniors (especially my L2 biology class) do not have a lot of year left to get all of that content into their heads prior to their external exams. There are now 5 weeks left of term 3 and term 4 will be ridiculously short from their point of view, as they are out on study leave early on and their actual exam is 22nd November. At which point, I just have to let go. Scary. Never gets easier, and I have done it quite a few times now.
My Level 1 science students won't be taking exams for me, however some of them have nothing much handed in yet this year and that worries me too. What can I do to get more engagement? I make myself available for most of the day through face to face time, email, Google + and Edmodo, and still movement seems to be at the slower end of things.
Thankfully, as my course notes and work is all online, students can access this at any time and in any place with internet access. This means not spending too much time talking to the whole class, but moving among the students and really working on a more personalised level. Another positive note is that my senior classes have within the last week or so really started to consider the lack of remaining time and are now beginning to shift towards getting work done AND handed in.
The funny thing is, this happens every year. How can we shift the students from the beginning of the year, rather than leaving it until just before the last minute? I don't think there is one easy panacea to the problem, but certainly moving towards far more individualised time in class for students (and outside via Google +) right from the start in 2014 might help. This means continuing building all of my courses entirely on the site- maybe even "flipping" a few lessons as a way of generating discussion.
One thing I do know, I am going to be busy over the next few weeks, and the summer holidays as well!

Friday 16 August 2013

MITA term 3 reflections

It is week 3 (end of!), term 3. We have had our third MITA academy day today with planning for the Manaiakalani hui which is on 23rd August at Tamaki College. This got me thinking ( as it was supposed to do) about what had happened with my research so far and the next steps I need to take.
Initially my research was going to be looking at the social media platform that worked best for communicating with students, but it has become more refined since the beginning.
Originally I was unsure which social media platform to use for communication with my class and considered the possibilities including Facebook, Twitter etc. I have narrowed my choices somewhat since term 1 and now feel that Google + has enormous potential as a medium to communicate with my students in and out of school time. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have created closed communities which my students can post comfortably in, without outside comment or interference. I have encouraged students to actually make public posts explaining their learning and this is something I feel could be worth expanding on. Images of roller coaster models that my students have been creating for their forces PBL lessons drew comments from people outside of the school community which was quite interesting for the students involved!
We have always encouraged students to Learn, Create and Share as part of our Manaiakalani ethos, and many of our kids have had experience with blogging in the past. I think of Google + as another way to share their learning and show people what cool things they are learning and what they are doing in class.
The problem seems to be that I have not been the best role model as I rarely update my blog, and have been a bit remiss with Google + of late, although I am going to blame a 3 week trip back to England (via Tokyo and Shanghai) for this lapse.
I need to make sure I can be seen by my classes to keep posting on Google + and my blog, perhaps this could become a class activity? Something for me to ponder...
And Edmodo? Well, I sent a message about an hour ago (via Google + as well as Edmodo!) to my classes to see if anyone still logs in and checks this account. I have had responses from 2 students already, so something is going right here. I have almost abandoned Edmodo, but now think there may be room for both media platforms within the classroom setting. Surely, the more places for students to communicate with me and vice versa, the better.
Maybe it is good to cover more bases and give the kids the option about how they communicate; maybe some of them just don't WANT to communicate with me in any way, shape or form!