I, yaaaa, I’m still alive….

In my “blog” workshop (blogging as a reflective writing tool), I advise participants to keep the habit up, to write regularly, because just like going to the gym, once you start skipping a day, then you skip a week, then a month.  Then you avoid going to the gym at all costs because you feel guilty…

I’m back.  Other projects, other ideas, and a lot of other writing going on.  But there is much to fill you in on.

Summer School – The Sequel

This blog was born over a year ago as a way for me to record my foray into blended learning.  I was given a class, and an LMS, a pat on the back, a few words of encouragement, and bam!  Off I went.  how naieve I was…  My first blended learning class was mostly spent showing the learners how to use a computer.  The blended part rarely happened as it was supposed to (i.e. at home, hence, the “blend” of school and home).  Learners would come to class to do the assignments that the should have done, or at least looked at, on their own.

I only completed a small fraction of what I wanted to.

That was last year.  Let me tell you about this year.

First of all, the learner with the least amount of computer know-how still knows how to use a keyboard, knows how to type, and how to access the LMS from home.  AND, she does access the LMS at home, and do extra assignments to help with her learning.  Her WPM is about 16-20 depending on the
typing test.

Compare her to my students of last year and it is night and day.  The learner with the least amount of computer know-how really needed the extra support.  Her first WPM test, she scored a “2” (she ended up getting to a 10 and was ecstatic, as was I).  Half the class last year needed basic support re: internet usage, attaching files, logging into the LMS, even the use of a mouse.

This year the majority have the basic skills needed in order to be successful in a LMS.  Also, they frequently help each other and share their expertise.  They attend every single face-to-face class and they do their online work (not always on the day it’s assigned, but at least an attempt is made to get it done prior to the classroom).

NEW STUFF

Wikis – I have added a number of wikis to the roster.  These have worked especially well in the group assignments.  The class is a specialised class (Canadian Business Culture) and I have divided the learners into two groups.  They have each started a “company”.  One is an upscale gourmet coffee shop, and the other is an organic fusion bakery (the fusion part being a blend of international baking styles).  They’ve used the WIKI to record a basic business plan (very basic – we just got back from a seminar at the Small Business Centre and wow, we’d have a lot more work to do!).

GROUPS – I have two classes simultaneously using the LMS at the moment, and have figured out how to separate the two so that they don’t get each others’ calendar events or news items.  Useful.

Also, I’ve created “pages” where I added the pictures of our field trips.   I tried the “chat” once, and it worked fine.  I want to spend some more time using this function.  It makes them think quicker because the learners need to respond immediately.  I did this once in the classroom session by sending the whole group a message, with instructions on how to access the live group chat.  I did not say anything, and sent out the messages.  One by one, they realized they had a new message from me, they accessed the link, and eventually everyone joined the chat without my having to stand at the front of the room and make an announcement.  I used the chat to discuss an assignment that the learners had done the day before, to debrief and to answer questions.

OLD STUFF

I am still using file uploads, uploading links to URLs, quizzes, etc. I use discussions from time to time, but have backed off the blogging on the LMS.  Knowing that the blogs don’t stay in the immediate classroom, and knowing how rapidly edulinc.org is growing, I thought twice about using the blogs.  I know that there is a way to make blogs private and to allow only the teacher to see it, but I haven’t tried this yet.

Nanogongs – let me say this about nanogongs.  I am unhappy with their general performance.  Or, as my second grade teacher said to me, I am disappointed, you can do better.  Well, at least she knew I could do better…  Same thing about the nanogongs.  I have updated Java and restarted the computers to no avail.  Students can record, but cannot submit.  They can even hear what they’ve recorded, but no options exist to submit.  

So I worked around it and opened an assignment.  Learners recorded their information in OneNotes, saved recording as .wma and then uploaded the assignment the same way they would a document.

This has been way easier, and actually more efficient.  I had told them to practice their recording in OneNote and then record their good copy in the nanogong.  Now they can just transfer directly from OneNote to the assignment.  I think this will work as long as the recordings are short.

Oh yeah, and I’ve been using OneNote.  I am very happy with it – except that I don’t have the right version at home so I can only work on my own OneNotes notebook here.  Can’t cut and paste the image of my OneNotes book right now – lovely Windows7 has been going non-responsive on me lately for even mundane tasks like “search”.

(Yes, possible a connection between the computer’s age and my ability to properly run nanogong.)

Also, discovered a kickass website on using tech in education by a Canadian elementary teacher named Iram at http://www.canteach.ca.  Go see it.  Be inspired.

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