Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rationalism Project Update

As we're closing in on the first official deadline (tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m.), we are running into a few speed bumps with our collaborative project between Farmington HS and Pleasant Plains HS.  Some students have not received invitations to a Google Doc from their partner.  This may be a result of mistyping email addresses into the invitation screen of Google Docs.  Students also appear to be rushing into the process without much communication with their parters.  While both issues are cause for frustration, I also see that some "real world" issues are surfacing here.  People in the business world experience similar communication problems as well.

I also have noticed that some students are having difficulty grasping the concept that Google Docs saves to the internet.  They are apparently too used to creating a document and emailing that document - if edits are required, they then make a new document and re-email it.  The great thing about Google Docs - the part that seems to be escaping them - is that the document is still out there.  It can be edited any time, and once the Save button is clicked, those who Share the document are able to see the updates.  Likewise, those who share the document as collaborators are able to edit that same document and those updates are saved to the internet for the owner of the document to view/edit as well.  I am slowly making headway with the concept.  Sometimes the technology aspect seems so easy to me that I have to backtrack and think about the steps from multiple angles so I can explain it better to the students.  Those that have figured it out have had the "gotcha" moment, and all is good with them.

One of the things that Lee and I discussed today that may make a project like this run more smoothly is to put more time between the biographical sketches due date and the first project deadline - probably a week.  That will give us more time to make sure the students are all set up with one Google Doc per group, and it will eliminate the issue of not having the correct email addresses.  Then, when the actual project is initiated, the groundwork is set, and the students can focus on the project itself.

I think everything will fall into place tomorrow, and we'll be back on track.  I've been fielding emails this evening and have been seeing progress within the groups.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two former students were guest speakers in English class today via Skype video chat. The grads spoke about the importance of learning MLA citations before getting to college. They stated that while the college they attend had a research class their freshman year, MLA format was briefly covered, but students were expected to know and use the format properly. One of the grads added that he had a psychology class that required APA format. Both grads said that if a student did not do citations or did not do them correctly, then that student would go before an academic review board and face a possible academic probation or expulsion. The chat session was well received by the junior English class.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Google Docs Galore

I have been playing with Google Docs in my classroom a lot this week.

The speech class used Google Docs at the end of last week to discuss "beautiful people" and how they may appear as if they have it all, but have their own issues.  The speech students partnered up and each team created a Google Doc consisting of a couple of paragraphs about their celebrity of choice.  They then shared the doc with me.  When time was called on the discussion, I projected each doc on the the screen with ease while each team spoke about their paragraph.

The accelerated junior English class used Google Docs for their review study guide for the Puritan Test.  I had planned on using Google Docs, but not quite the way that it turned out.  In the A5 class, we had a student who was talkative, so we dared the student to stay quiet for a certain period of time.  The "dare" quickly became the "Quiet Game," and we did our review through Google Docs.  I started the document and shared it with all of the students.  I then typed in topics of discussion for the review.  Each student then added information to the document as he/she saw fit.  At first, there was some goofing around with silly phrases, font size, and color changes, but after a bit, that settled down and the document became a valid study guide for the exam.

The B1 class (the larger class) was set up in a similar fashion.  Since we found out that if too many people are working on the same part of the document at the same time, Google Docs freaks out a bit, I paired the students up into 11 groups and assigned specific topics for each group to focus upon in the Google Doc.  The initiation of the doc was much the same as the other class - a little goofing around with the tools, but soon everyone got into the study guide.

I feel like the playing around that was going on at first was beneficial to the process.  Even though some students started to get frustrated at those who were playing with the tools, the students who were playing around were also learning the toolbar and the functions of Google Docs.

The English and Speech students also learned about Google Chat.  I explained that Google Chat was a nice tool to use to communicate during a lesson if the discussion was based on the lesson.  I let them know that if they used it to discuss info based on classroom discussion, then most teachers would approve of the use of Google Chat.  However, I did warn that the students need to ask the teachers for permission before using it because some teachers are not comfortable with that practice yet.

The English classes are all set - they have the Google Docs background that they need to start working with Farmington High students next week.  That end is in place, and the only thing left is that Josh and I finalize the student Rationalism Project handout.  We should be able to finalize the document by Thursday.  We have been "walking the walk" by planning the project using Google Docs and Skype video chats.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Collaborative Project between PPHS and FHS

Met with Jenni Durbin, Lee Scropos, and Josh Piper (Josh was present via video chat) about the collaborative project between Pleasant Plains High School and Farmington High School American Literature students.  Krystal Oh and Jamie Naylor were also present and offered advice on the project.  We decided the project will be based on Benjamin Franklin's 13 virtues.  The basics of the project are as follows:
  • students will research Benjamin Franklin's 13 virtues and journal about what his virtues were and his process for attaining the virtues
  • students will then work in partner groups using Google Docs to collaboratively brainstorm lists of their virtues and the rationale for each
  • student partner groups will attempt to attain their virtues for seven days as Ben Franklin did.  Each student will keep a journal log of his/her daily progress on the virtues.
  • student partner groups will collaborate on a summary of their experiences.
We then created a generic rubric for each stage of the process.  The best part was that we worked in Google Docs with Josh so we could simultaneously see/edit the document throughout our meeting.  As the process is coming together, I am becoming more relaxed about the planning stages.  It is starting to feel like a typical interdepartmental collaboration that I've done with the history teachers in the past.  At the same time, I am getting excited that students from both schools are going to work on this project together.

We have a few things to work out in the next week to ensure that the project is going to work.  Josh is checking in with the FHS tech coordinator to make sure his students will have access to gmail and Google Docs.  All of my students and Jenni's students have Google accounts - Lee needs to make sure that his students finish creating Google accounts.

A little tweaking of the rubric and an outline of the project and our expectations is all that is left to prepare.  The rest will be up to the students.  I think I will try to arrange video chat introductions of the students sometime next week.  I will also begin work on pairing up students.  We will have some groups of three since there are more PPHS students that will be involved in the project than FHS students.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Collaborative Projects

I have been thinking about what literary period to start a collaborative project between PPHS students and Farmington High School students.  I think I will propose a small-scale project over Franklin and his virtues to start us off.  Jenni and I are meeting next Wednesday to figure out our plans . . . maybe we can video chat with Josh, and the three of us can work it out.  If we decide to begin with Franklin, we could pair PPHS students up with FHS students and have them work on Google Docs to write a collaborative report and create a presentation with Google Presenter that can be presented to another group.  The project could be based on Franklin's virtues and the system he put into place to track his success/failures in following the virtues.  I then envision a more involved project for the Romanticism period.

Josh and I have also both created online journaling venues for our classes.  He used a a wiki format with PBWorks.  It is amazing that we both came up with pretty much the same idea without really discussing it.  I think we both may have mentioned online journaling in passing, but did not say anything more than that.  I did make my class blogs public whereas the FHS wiki is private (may be entered by invitation only).  My personal view is that the students will give more attention to the quality of their work in a public format, but I understand the concept of keeping work on a private level as well.  As I read through some of Josh's students' entries, I could see how tentative they were with the process.  There is a different mindset between regular and accelerated students - I may have had to do something different last year with the regular junior English class (i.e. ease them into the process)..