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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Internet as text...

To be honest, I am struggling with how to respond to this prompt. The Internet is the typical text in my classroom and it has been for several years now. This is my second year with 1:1 chromebooks, and prior to that I had a classroom set of iPods (4th generation touch). The internet has been my primary text essentially since 2011.

This is not to suggest that I am always using it as effectively as possible, and there is certainly always room for improvement. For now, allow me to explain what it is I do:

After a difficult start to a true 1:1 experience in 2013/2014 - I did some major revisions to my class over the summer. This year I attempted to have three different themes running concurrently in each of my four classes. Essentially, I embraced the idea that not everyone had to be doing the same thing at the same time - which is entirely possible when you are 1:1. If you need more proof - just look at what we (you and I) and doing right now. I'm just finishing Module 1, and most of you are on Module 2. At any rate, have a look at my syllabus and the related sites (Identity, War, Modernization)

The jury is still out on how well this worked (we have several more weeks left of the school year) - but I am leaning towards the idea that this was revolutionary for me as a teacher. This format meant there would be zero lecture time. I would launch class, the kids would work, and I would circulate and spend roughly 10 - 12 minutes with each small group engaging in discussions and clarifying misinformation. The class was socially structured, so that kids were encouraged to discuss the ideas they were working on with their group. It got loud, and to the untrained ear it might have seemed chaotic - but if you listened closely, the discussions were on point. Kids were negotiating a shared understanding and building context together. Each week they were required to submit a blog post focusing in on a particular aspect of that week's content that struck a chord with them (a link to that rubric is embedded in my syllabus above).

The most difficult part for me was simultaneously the most rewarding. At times it felt like kids were not as focused as I'd like them to be. I often wondered if they were truly getting the ideas I was hoping they'd get. I missed being the expert. I missed hearing myself talk. I missed feeling smart. Then I stepped back and stopped thinking about myself. I began to really listen to kids and to probe their understanding - and I found that most of the time they were creating their own understanding. I realized how much more powerful this is. Instead of remembering what I told them, they were making the connections on their own. These would be connections not soon forgotten because it came from them. It was theirs. They owned it, and it was this format - via the internet - that made it possible.

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