Friday, April 19, 2013

PLE Week 2 - Always learning

After another exciting week, I can say I've learned a lot more about how I want to run this class.  As the previous blog post had stated, I had just begun an adventure in personalized learning with a 7th grade Computer Applications course.  It could be completed entirely online with no intervention from me, or with a strong amount of one on one student work.  Essentially, this class format is a way to "shrink" the class size into manageable portions.  Since I believe I am once again using too many words to describe this, I should go on with the recap!

Biggest improvements this week:  My Big Campus Bundle, Mini-sessions.
1.  The My Big Campus Bundle.  This is something I have been looking to create for a while, and finally completed it in time for Friday.  If you haven't used My Big Campus before, it is an online Learning Management System for schools.  If you have used Edmodo, I find them very similar.  A bundle is a place that you can group a bunch of materials and text in one single location, easily organized and assembled.  Perhaps the greatest asset of a bundle is the ability to share it easily across the board.

So why was this bundle so important?  It allowed me to match up the resources I had available with the 50 - required standards that I want students to meet.  This serves two major purposes.  First - the students who are working mostly are their own have a much more streamlined process, instead of looking through folders and watching several videos trying to find the resources that match what they want to do. I understand that trial and error is a very real world skill when learning something, but I do have to understand they are in 7th grade and haven't experienced a class among the likes of this ever.  Secondly, I envision our Computer Apps class being completely integrated across the curriculum at some point. I would hope this means I'd be involved in team teaching, but if not, there is a computer apps "crash course" that students can take to get the knowledge.

2.  Mini-sessions.  With some advice from others, and some personal musings, I started doing mini-sessions this week.  Instead of planning full on instructional sessions like I have done in the past, I offer a short 5 minute mini session each day on some of the standards.  I will go through 1-50 over the next couple of weeks, leaving the last couple of weeks for student requested mini-sessions.  Basically, I just announce I will be doing a mini session, and on what.  Then, the students who are interested simply come on back to my station and I teach a small group.

Needs improvement:  Students lagging, lack of tech to support the framework.
1.  Students lagging is becoming a slight issue.  Thankfully, at this point, it appears that each student is finally grasping the concept after two weeks and are settling in to complete standards.  However, most started with the standards they already knew, and are struggling with the new ones.  They don't like the idea of having to watch a tutorial - they want it spoon fed.  Once again, it is such a departure from business as usual for a middle schooler, so it is understandable.  However, these are good students who are struggling with that.  Those that typically lag behind I believe are having a more difficult time in this setting.  Based on the openness, some students aren't utilizing their time as well as they should be. I know I need to be more forceful and interject assignments for them just to put them in a position to be successful.

2. Lack of tech is a surprising issue. I have a computer lab. We have unfiltered access to the tools on the computer we need.  However, a big component of this class was to make screencasts. I did not anticipate the amount of students who wanted to voice over their screencasts. My simple expectation is they could just use it as a show me. The above and beyond students want to make it awesome. However, I have access to only a three or four working microphones out of a class of 26. Even if all students wanted to go this route, they couldn't, because of what I lack. I do want to continue this format in the future, and possibly expand to other courses that I teach.  Therefore, I know I need to make an investment in this area.

Overall, I am really happy with the progress.  This weekend will be a busy one, as I need to grade 40 research papers, in addition to checking through the student online portfolios to update my master spreadsheet.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to drop them in the comments!  Thank you for reading!

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