Saturday, April 13, 2013

First Week in a Personalized Learning Environment.

Whew!  Made it to the weekend, and finally getting an opportunity to put my thoughts together on just what transpired this week in my classroom.

If you read my previous blog post, I wrote about my re-branding of 7th Grade Computer Applications into a more personalized learning environment, using a slew of tutorials and a hefty amount of student choice in the process.  The only real requirement is that they master at least 50 different skills I have identified, and they need to provide evidence of this on a Google Site they created for an eportfolio.  If you can to check it out, all of the portfolios can be found here at this Symbaloo page: (EDIT:  Sites aren't set to be shared outside of our domain currently.  Will repost when they are available!)

So how did the week go?  Well, we spent the first three days mainly setting things up.  I needed to make sure they understood the class concept, knew how to do screencasts and screenshots, and were able to set up their eportfolios.  The most awesome thing happened during this - students asked a lot of great questions. It was not my intention to be vague. If anything, I thought I was being as clear as possible. But in my efforts for clarity, I had somehow activated their inquiry, and had an unbelievable discussion where the students questioned guided the entire conversation, and really led to a better understanding of just exactly what I wanted them to accomplish this term.

Thursday and Friday...hectic.  The only word that can really describe the experience.  Running around the classroom, attending to the needs of 26 different students working on potentially different products in 26 different ways.  Technical issues, students off task, and a student who missed the last two days of class and was several words past lost.  Needless to say, hectic is a good word to sum it all up.  We set up a system where, if students were stuck with a question and I was involved with another, they would write the question on the board under the "need to know" heading.

After the first week, some students have knocked out several standards, well others have, well, "misused" their time.  My goal is to keep encouraging them along the way and hopefully they'll come along for the ride before it is too late.   The assessment side of this will also be quite crazy as it relates to these standards.  My focus is mastery.  You either can do it or you can't.  So I need to regularly be perusing all 26 of these portfolios and be giving feedback on which standards I don't think they mastered yet.  I expect some gnashing of teeth when this occurs, but ultimately its a free redo with no recourse in the way of lost points. What a deal!

This is quite an undertaking I am finding, but I believe it is the way we need to go.  Now, schools that typically do this have a computer program to guide the students.  For this, the students have my materials, resources, instruction, support, and assessment.  If I were to do this with all my classes, I might go crazy. However, seeing the students getting into the material, excited to share and try new things, for a class like computer applications that can get very repetitive is awesome.  I am happy I took the plunge and the risk to make this happen.  Will they retain the material better? I would normally say I hope say, but according to the very famous cone of learning by Edgar Dale, students remember 90% of what they teach. And right now, that is what they are all doing.  Look back next week for more reflection on this!  Any feedback or comments would be greatly appreciated!

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