Sunday, September 11, 2005

New Beginnings

The first week of school is always exciting. Meeting a new group of kids, with new challenges, and new ideas remind me of what I love about teaching. This year I have a number of new projects and ideas that I hope will engage the kids on a new level and create the kind of classroom Florence McGinn was describing.

Last Friday I set up two classes with weblogs and taught one group about RSS and news aggregators. Darrell (my American Studies teaching partner) and I kicked off the year long research project with an interest and background survey and some general guidelines for how the project will work. The kids seemed receptive although a few said they had a bad experience with weblogs last year.

We then took this group into a computer lab to get started on their weblogs and complete one new post. I have been thinking a lot about Florence’s strategies to get the kids to know themselves better as learners so they can take more responsibility and “leverage their strengths.” I hope that getting the kids to know themselves and opening up the planning process to them and their parents will allow them to become much more active in the learning process. As a first step towards this, we had them read about George Lucas and take an online multiple intelligence survey. This might not be a reliable instrument (and I know Howard Gardner doesn’t approve of these), but the purpose of doing this wasn’t necessarily to have the kids identify their strengths among the intelligences, but to reflect on themselves as learners, and to learn how to post and add a picture to the weblog. Unfortunately there was an unforeseen technical glitch. The website I sent them to graphs the results of the multiple intelligence assessment in a program called ActiveX which the school computers didn’t have loaded. Of course, one of the lessons everyone learns who uses technology in the classroom is to be flexible, so we had them do their first post on their initial thoughts on a topic for the research project instead.

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