I’m about to try some new and exciting things with my senior high school English students.
We have already been using a virtual classroom on edmodo.com to communicate with each other, post assignments and reminders, participate in quizzes and polls, and to turn in assignments. This has been a great success – a student can lose a piece of paper but they are never so keen to lose their connection to the internet.
This year, we are going to advance to some more creative uses of online spaces and tools.
Rather than making posters that they will throw away, we’re going to try some online collaborative space.
We will be using PC apps like Twiddla, Popplet and Wallwisher, or iPad apps such as Popplet, Mindmeister and Idea Sketch where students can collaborate and present their ideas visually.
Of course, this is not intended to replace writing – essays, creative pieces, opinions, and the like… but to help students crystallise and organise their ideas as part of the creative and analytical processes.
They will also be challenged to use blogs on WordPress, tumblr or Pinterest instead of hard copy scrapbooks. They will be encouraged to present their writing folios online, enabling others to read their work and be inspired by each others as authors, not just students submitting an assignment.
This isn’t just “going digital for the sake of going digital”. I’m hoping that it will engage and interest them, not only in what they are doing individually but also in what their classmates are doing, too. Wouldn’t it be great if they could inspire, encourage and help one another through collaboration and presentation?
We are not throwing conventional literacy out the window. Each student will be writing with pen and paper every week, developing their skills of creative and analytical thinking and writing, and responding to the ideas and challenges delivered by a range of texts. My aim is to complement the conventional literacy skills of my students with creative, considered and directed engagement in the digital world.
It’s an amazing world that we live in. I know some teachers have to be dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ into the world of online resources and publishing, but I’m keen. I believe that my students and I are going to love it.