Saturday, August 28, 2010


There is nothing like beginning a new teaching year by taking a course.  My final year as a F/T school teacher is coinciding with my first semester as a grad student in ASU's new graduate certificate program in k-12 online learning and teaching.  My 1st (of 5) classes is called Principles and Issues in Online Education.  After a week of readings and active online forum discussions, I feel I can skip the next 6 weeks - this is perhaps one criticism of online classes. On the other hand, of the 22 adults in the class, only 5 have consistently and actively participated so far.  That is perhaps another criticism.  If you have ever taught a class of 8 or fewer students, you can appreciate my dread of repetitive conversations and personal grandstanding (read: I have to heard somehow).  I am concerned that I will sound the same to the class...

But, I am learning.  Good readers and writers, at all levels, use metacognitive thinking.  As I participate in this class, I think about the student participation experience.  If it is true, as many current articles state and defend with data, that the growth rate of k-12 online classwork is growing rapidly in this country (more rapidly in many other nations), then people like me need to be thinking as we learn.  Thinking critically.

We also need to be taking steps to implement some version of online learning, even a small step, in our classes - and then asking our students to metacognate on that experience. 

All of this works in very well with my slightly new vision of ELA 7.  The goal of both online learning and my instructional strategies is to improve the learning of individual students.  In fact, I have used online elements for years to improve learning and engage students.  Some of these learning events, like my "online grammar" independent learning unit, were so loved that they won the "best of the year" award from the kids.  I will be doing that again this year.  Other events, like our short story wiki, need to be redesigned.

As I puzzle through the design of the upcoming year, which begins on Tuesday, I have new thoughts in mind.  One of the new thoughts that I keep returning to is the 12 Principles for Brain-Based Learning.  You may have run across this NEA document, or the original study, already.  It is new to me, although most of the principles are not.  It is just that I have not taken the time to cognate upon them.  Funderstanding, by the way, has a very nice little summary of the principles and how they impact education.

Cutting to the chase, it means to me that the online experiences for learning and discussion must be authentic - This is super jargon, but what does it really mean?  How can I make it happen and also have a valid Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop and grammar workshop, etc. during our seat-time?

One idea:  expand learning beyond seat-time by really using our laptops to propel individual learning.
Another idea:  combine the Workshops to intensify and practice both experiences (duh - I figured that out long ago - now I just have to convince others that it is a valid approach)
Another idea:  leverage standards and test results so that each student buys into an individual-challenge program that I design and he/she works through.  It is problematic that I don't know any one of the 100 kids, but I figure I have 4 good class periods to gather information.  I may not be good with names, but I am great with faces, personalities, and emotions (very visual / emotional learner). 

Exactly how I adapt to yet another change - and maximize the tools I know work well (apps, texts, toys) - is going to be what I metacognate on here. 

Here is my 2nd great idea (my 1st great idea was to order a LEGO ERGO SUM book sack for every student, with matching lab coat for me - they look great!): 

I have ordered about 15 different styles of "funny glasses" from Amazon - I plan to use them when modeling reading strategies of prediction, inference and summary, connecting setting to character, etc.  Ok - here is one:  I realize this is very dark (Men in Black very dark glasses).  Another:  I realize this is very confusing (googly eyes).  You get it.  The Amazon store card rejected the last few purchases - it was quite a conversation to sell the nice person from the call center on my idea. 

Am I becoming goofy or just trying to engage students who have nailed the disengaged habit?  Does it matter?

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