09 February 2010

Snow Days... Why Stop Learning?

Snow days are not what they used to be, and technology makes that possible.  Living here in the Mid-Atlantic, we have been out of school all week and are likely to be out the rest of the week due to the record-breaking snowfall we have had here.  Now, in the past, this would mean a week of learning wasted, but not anymore.  The web and related have technologies mean that learning can continue for students and teachers while stuck at home.

This week I have been able to put this into practice in several ways.  For my World Civilization 2.0 course and my Modern World History course, the students have been continuing to work on their projects at home using the class Nings and Google Docs.  If we had done these projects in a more traditional manner in class the learning would have stopped, but thanks to the online learning environment, the learning continues. 

With my AP European History students I have been using several different methods to keep the learning on-track.  With the AP Exam looming a few months away, the students cannot afford to take a week off from class.  So, I am having them complete their practice essays using Google Docs in a shared folder with me so I can comment on them and they can edit them before final submission (also through Google Docs).  They are continuing to participate in discussions on our class blog and they are using the class wiki and Google Docs to prepare presentations they will give to the class when they return to school.

But, even with all of the student centered technologies, it can be hard not to have some direct "face-time" with the students.  So, I will also be using WiZiQ with the AP students to conduct an online class.  WiZiQ allows teachers to conduct a class with audio, video, presentations, a virtual whiteboard, and chat functions.  It is much like Elluminate, but it is completely free.  Also, WiZiQ is currently offering premium memberships to educators.

All in all, one does not want to lose the magic of having snow days (certainly this teacher likes the time off), but the web offers opportunities to keep that learning going (even on a relaxed level) which is especially important when time is of the essence.

02 February 2010

Debriefing Educon

Wow, what a weekend!  EduCon 2.2 in Philadelphia this past weekend was a fascinating experience.  Over the three days of the conference I think I crammed more information into my brain than I have in years and I am still trying to come to grips with everything I have learned.  Overall, the conference went very well, and hats off to Chris Lehmann and the Science Leadership Academy for a great conference.  The teachers and students all did a great job.  To all of the presenters, I was very impressed and pleased with our conversations and wished I could have attended more (I am looking forward in the coming weeks at looking at the recordings and information from the different sessions to get as much as I can from most of them.)  I met a lot of great new people with whom I hope to continue the conversation going on through my PLN (Twitter, through this blog, the various Nings of which I am a member).  I will be talking about more about the details relating to what I learned and who and learned it from at EduCon in the coming weeks.
But, as with any good metal exercise, I am left with more questions from the conference than anything else.  What to do with all of this new insight?  How to make the best of this information?  What does this mean for my teaching and the possibilities of teaching at my school?

In some ways, what I believe is the biggest question left me a little worried.  How are we going to bring the change to schools that we need?  Yes, there is a large and growing group of progressive educators in America (the conference was a shining example of that) but, they are still a small percentage of the overall system which is not changing the way we would hope.  There is hope, but a lot to be concerned for, and that should call us all to action.