As I wrote earlier, my class web site is now live and in use. The students, by and large, have taken immense interest in the goings on of our private site, hosted by Edmodo. By my estimate, about half of the class visited the site tonight, which means that nearly all students with internet access logged on after school.
There was a significant difference from Friday’s activity to tonight’s. On Friday, it became apparent that the students were totally enthralled with the possibilities of the site (ie. having a place to congregate with their friends outside of school). There were a lot of well thought out posts that said, “Hello,” and responses that read, “Hi.” Not exactly the stimulating dialogue I was hoping for, of course, so today, I informed the class what I truly expected to see on the site: discussion of books, discoveries they’ve made in news and the world, and conversation about what’s happening in school. Their abilities to do these things, of course, would be contingent on them understanding the layout and functions of the site. I joined with my colleague who suggested the idea to teach an impromptu lesson on how to utilize the site effectively.
The kids have responded. They are participating in polls I’ve established as well as handing in virtual assignments (which, wink wink, don’t tell anyone, are veiled test preparation questions). More importantly, they are creating dialogue amongst themselves.
Seizing on their interest in photography, Esperanza posted a photo she took of Mexico City from her grandfather’s balcony. The kids immediately offered comments and asked questions. I took the opportunity to ask the class to put up any pictures of a city in another country that they had taken and offered my own image of Jerusalem. In response to my photo, Capt. Potential wrote, “It’s intriguing because it’s a nice and talented pic.” Esperanza chimed in saying, “It’s superior to mine.” (Are you aware they both used Olympic words?)
Earlier, Bradley apparently was flipping through her calendar and noticed that every month except June has a holiday (never mind that she forgot Father’s Day). Anyway, it seems, according to her, there is such a thing as Peace Day. She shared the find with the group, and an hour or two later, Capt. Potential responded by saying, “When is it? I could use some peace and quiet.” I had to laugh at that. I was also impressed to find that Capt. Potential, for all his flakiness, was the only one who responded to my request for clarification on why we celebrate Flag Day.
Layla, drawing on the musical influences most obvious in my class (Michael Jackson, Peter, Paul and, Mary, and the Beatles) posted a question about which one is the best. And, perhaps most exciting, Compatible Felicia – she of the ever growing confidence and character – opened up the talk about which characters from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are better: Aslan or the beavers.
Compatible Felicia’s boldness in initiating a conversation, given how shy and quiet she is, gives me hope that is also buoyed by what happened during the co-taught lesson earlier today. Laura is my quietest girl, by far, but she happens to be extremely motivated. Her shyness is painful to see, sometimes, though. Last week, before she sat down to the site for the first time, I told her I hoped the site would be a way for her to express herself comfortably, without worrying about eyes and ears being focused on her. So today, when my colleague was talking about just that, how we both hoped shy students would use the site as a forum to speak, Laura looked toward me with a brilliant, genuine, excited smile that told me she understood the potential of the medium. I can’t wait for her to get on and show us what she’s got.
It looks like things are moving in the right direction. They did nicely with the site tonight, and I’m hoping they enjoy the surprise that’s coming. After dismissal today, I and the colleague I mentioned earlier recorded two read alouds each to post on the site. Our hope is they will stimulate discussion and provide students with a model of fluent reading to take home with them. The books I read are both ones they’ve heard already, but I am currently polling them to find out which one they’d like to hear next (all of which, I believe, are new to them). They don’t know that it’s going to be an internet special.
With that being said, to spare my colleague the use of her camcorder, I’ve created a Donor’s Choose proposal to purchase my own. I want to sustain the excitement of this site and unique experiences like virtual read alouds will help.
The web site is off to a very nice start, but it can surely improve. If you’ve got any suggestions about how to utilize this amazing tool to my students’ advantage, please chime in. I’d love your input and feedback.