My Project

6 Nov

The Concept

After the third class for EC&I 831 I wrote a blog posting about the novelty of technology in the classroom and how students feel about teachers using the technology that they use for social interaction in their classrooms.

“I would like to talk about novelty. I have always allowed my students to use iPods at school, in fact, I encourage it. I like that they have a little computer at their fingertips to help them with spelling or give them the answer to a burning question or give them their own private space to work. At first, I was like, the coolest teacher ever, there were iPods all over the place. Now they all have them and they don’t use them as much. When I give them the option of using some kind of Web 2.0 tool they just want to do a poster or if they are really adventurous, use PowerPoint. When I tell them that they are not allowed to make posters and only posters, they act like I cut their arm off. So why is this? apathy? laziness? Boredom? All of the above? My instinct is that in my school it is leaning more towards laziness and the difficulty of breaking them out of their “old school” ideas. (And I mean old school literally) We have relied on novelty to motivate students for a while now and it have come to the point where the market has become saturated. What do we do now that the novelty is wearing off?”
“There is so much available out there for them to use that it is difficult to decide or learn to use many of the tools. They are familiar with Facebook and things like MovieMaker but when I ask them to use a new tool, they become confused and lost. The thing is, that most kids do not use Web 2.0 tools in their everyday lives. They use social networking tools and when you try to introduce social tools into the classroom, they act like we have walked into their bedrooms. It is hard for them to see that something that they use in their social lives can be used in the classroom and it is hard for them to let go of thinking that it is their’s. I think too that sometimes they find it uncomfortable that their teachers know and use the same networking tools that they do. It makes teachers human and gives them social lives, something that kids don’t think we have. Asking them to use Facebook at school and admitting that you know how to use it is now akin to seeing your teacher buying groceries (remember thinking “they eat food, weird?” I do.) I remember last year one of my students seeing me text after school one day exclaiming “whoa, Mrs. Stinson, you text?” So, social networking in schools is uncomfortable and web tools are unfamiliar, that leaves teachers with yet another task, making it comfortable and familiar. And if you are a teacher that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar, then you have a whole other situation on your hands.”

Following that posting, I was reminded of a story that was on CBC news about a Regina teacher who was being criticized for using Facebook in his classroom. I was intrigued by this story for two reasons; I went to University with the teacher and I have also used Facebook in my classroom. This made me think about how I communicate with my students. I alreadyhave two means of communication with my students. I have a classroom website that has downloadable documents as well as a homework listing and other features. This year I also started a Wiki for all of the grade 7/8 students in my school so that they can all access resources and class material as we are all working on the same projects and learning material this year. This got me thinking about how much my students use these resources that I put a lot of time and effort into and what they would use more often. I decided to survey my students (see results here) and ask them what they use and what they would like to use. This lead to the concept of my project, “S-cool Communication”. (You can view the results of the first survey on this site)

Senior Eagles Wiki

Facebook Page

The Project

To complete this project, I have asked student volunteers (and hopefully some parents) to use and give feedback on three different methods of communicating with them online. The first will be myclassroom website. This site is maintained by Regina Public Schools and has limited capabilities. I have been using this site at various schools for about 5 years. The second will be the Senior Eagles Wiki. This wiki is new to the students this year. The third will be a new school based Facebook account that will be maintained by me. I will be asking participants to give feedback on the usefulness and usability of each during the middle of the project and at the end. I will use this information to decide what method of communication will be most effective for my students and their parents. On this wiki I will record reflections, data, research and the results of my project.

My Project So Far

We have been engaged in this process for about three weeks now. I have eleven students and one parent contributing out of twenty five. I would have liked a larger sample to gather feedback from but I am very grateful that I have students that were willing to help me. One of the challenges to getting students to help me was that they were not allowed to use Facebook for various reasons. In my research section of this project, I will be addressing the issues that parents and educators have with Facebook.

I asked my students to access all three websites at least three times a week. I post “check ins” on Facebook (example: “like” this comment if you have seen it) as a method of keeping track of who is really helping me. I wish that I had a method of keeping track of whether or not they have been using the wiki or the classroom website at all because I really have no way of knowing.

Today I created and sent out the second survey for the project. This survey targets only the people that are helping me with the project. I have asked for feedback on what they are using, what they like and what they could suggest to make it better. My plans are to take the results of the survey an apply their suggestions to the three communication tools. They will then use the new and improved versions and answer a final survey at the end.

I have internally surveyed myself about what methods I prefer. All three tools offer unique options and are useful in their own separate ways. My challenge is to find out which one tool or combination of two tools is most useful and convenient to use for myself and my students. Here is what I have come up with:

Classroom Website: I do not like my classroom website. I find it’s capabilities limited and that has very little use except as a jumping off place to access the other methods of communication. The only thing is, it is the only option that I have that is fully supported technically by my school board. My plan after this project is to use the website as a place for students and parents to find links to the classroom wiki and my grade keeping site, Engrade.com. I would like to not have to update this page at all during the year unless I need to add further links. Having said that, the results of the survey that I sent out today could change that.

Senior Eagles Wiki: This has proven to be a very useful tool so far this year. It is a place where all 75 of our senior students have contributed in some form or another. I like that I can post their assignment instructions online. This became very useful last week when I had to call in sick. In my emailed sub plan, I just directed the sub and the kids to the wiki where they found their assignment and the links that they needed to finish it. I also really like that all three senior teachers post the students homework on one page. It allows the students to see that we are working together on the same Outcomes and really solidifies us as a team, not three separate classrooms. It is very useful for content materials, in school use and having access to what we have done in school at home (or anywhere else). Having said that, I think that it can not be used on it’s own. It does not have the real time notification capabilities that I also would like to have with my class.

Sub Plan Assignment

Facebook: I really an enjoying using Facebook with my students. I like knowing that when I post a reminder or a link they will most likely see it as they are usually on Facebook everyday. There has been a few times in the past few weeks that I have thought of something that I forgot to tell them, posted it on Facebook and wished that I had more than eleven students that would see it. I try to post links or videos about things that we have done in class or talked about, even if it was not “curriculum related” just because I thought they would be interested. I also post videos and links that I think will help them with their homework that night. Having said that, I think that an even better way to accomplish this would be via Twitter, where we would not have the complications of having private profiles that I would be privy to (right now on Facebook, I block their wall posts from my News Feed to avoid crossing that line into their private lives). I did not use Twitter for this project as very few of my students are using Twitter regularly but maybe it is something that I can think about discussing using with them in the future. Again, there are ethical issues with using Facebook and Twitter with my students but I will address those later on in my project.

My ideal usage of these three tools would be the classroom website as a place to find links only. This must be maintained because it is available on the school website and that is the first place that students and parents go to access information. I would then like to continue using the Senior Eagles Wiki for it’s school content and collaboration capabilities. I would like to be able to continue to send out short reminders and links via Facebook but would love to have more students accessing it. Maybe after the pressure of having to help me with a project is lifted, more will be so inclined. I am also tossing around the idea of just creating a Facebook Group or Page that they could join without having to Friend me. We will see where this takes me in the next few weeks!

Any feedback on my project so far would be very helpful!  See the full project on S-Cool Communication

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12 Responses to “My Project”

  1. courosa November 8, 2010 at 4:05 am #

    I’m finding this really interesting, as I think this really demonstrates the options available to teachers, and the decisions that have to be made. I love that you’ve built in feedback into this, and I’m looking forward to how this goes (and what you eventually end up doing long-term).

  2. Lyn Hilt November 8, 2010 at 4:18 am #

    This is a great project- right now my teachers use our school district website as their main form of communication online with families, but the options can be limiting. I know many of them are considering other avenues to supplement the info posted on their website and create more of a collaborative space.

    Wikis do have the capabilities to track traffic stats. Check out this article, perhaps it can help you get a better picture of who is visiting your wiki and when: http://blog.wikispaces.com/2010/10/tips-and-tricks-wiki-stats.html

    Your wiki users can also receive RSS and email updates to keep track of changes on your wiki. Not sure if your students have email accounts, but might be helpful for your parents accessing the site.

    Interested to see how this turns out for you! Kudos for reaching out to your students and their families in so many different ways!

  3. Jenny Ashby November 8, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    This is a very I interesting post. It’s a shame only 11students could participate. I was wondering if using the 3 different web2.0 tools at once could be hard to follow. What if you used one tool for a week or perhaps 2 and then change to another so everyone can then compare the different tools. Do you look up the history in the wiki? It’s a great way to keep a track of who is doing what.

    I did a little bit of work with messaging parents and it seemed to have very favorable outcomes. I think the fact that the info is delivered to them and they don’t gave to go looking for it made it viable. Cost could be an issue. I used smsexpress.com.au but I guess you would have something over there.
    Good luck with your project I’m very interested to see how it ends up.

    Cheers from Jenny Ashby (@jjash)

  4. Jabiz Raisdana (Intrepidteacher) November 8, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    I think this is a great idea for a project and I am curious to see your results. I too feel that we are sometimes like ethnographers surveying the digital landscape our students traverse. It is hard to know where they want us to be, and where we are intruding and making something that was cool, lame, simply by being there.

    I was just wondering though why we tend to focus on a few tools and seem to think there will be one place to connect with kids. I think ideally we make the ourselves available in as many places online as we can and try to connect ourselves that way.

    Why not have a FB page and a TWitter feed, and a blog? I know it can feel like diluting the our voice, but it is experimentation at it’s best. We may find that some students connected to the depth of a blog conversation, where others simply want to check in with a Tweet.

    Here are some of my latest thoughts on FB and communities that I hope prove helpful:

    http://www.jabizraisdana.com/blog/2010/11/the-facebook/

    • daniellestinson November 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

      I am looking for the best way to communicate with my students that also involves less work for me. If am having to update three or four things a day, that is time consuming. I want to find the best tools for my students and myself, otherwise I would use everything. I know that if it is too much work, I will not keep up with them all! I do know that your tweets can connect to your Facebook so that is something that I could keep in mind, i just need to explore that option further. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Peggy Lawson November 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Sounds like a very interesting project. Your blog post from your earlier course was very insightful. Your current project involves grade 7/8 students? A thought that quickly comes to mind is what types of activities are the students involved with on the website, wiki, and facebook? The type of activity might have a signifant effect on their respective uses.

    Good luck – it will be interesting to see how the results turn out.

    • daniellestinson November 8, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

      That is one of the things that makes this project a little more complicated, each tool has slightly different uses so I am not necessarily looking for the best single option but the best combination of options for each activities. Each option has it’s own individual uses an some overlap with other tools. The main thing that the kids are using these for is to check their homework so I just need to find the best way to post it while giving them access to the other things that I want them to have access to (links, articles, videos, assignments etc.) Thank you for responding!

  6. Lulu Kaliher November 9, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    You have multiple levels of connectivity in your project which I enjoy. It’s interesting to see how FB turns out to be the preferred method due to its simplicity and what i call “social norms”. Great job on it and continue on your path.

  7. byrnesa November 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    I like how you are involving your students and have attempted to include your parents. When all of the members of our team are working together, the results can be astounding! Good luck. I look forward to finding out your results.

  8. Lisa M Lane November 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    I heartily endorse your intentions for your class website. Many districts provide inadequate tools as the only “supported” options (at ours it is Blackboard) and the best thing to do is to use it as a jumping off point, since school resources will tend to point to it no matter what you do. Every semester, for example, I delete all the menu buttons and have Blackboard just point students to the correct place.

  9. dianna831 November 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    This sounds like a great project – and like everyone else, I am interested in how it turns out.

  10. P.Mo November 28, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Marvellous project! Im sure most teachers either struggle with this or are about to struggle with this. Please keep us informed. I have a few questions for you, but I think they will get sorted on their on in a matter of time. Keep up the great work.

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