As I finally sit down to start writing my wrap-up blog post about my Action Plan, I can’t believe it is nearing the end of the school year. This year has been so ridiculously busy, it has flown by. There have been times when I have felt overwhelmed with all the new and exciting technology and ideas – how do I fit it all in? How do I have time to read all the articles posted to Diigo and Twitter? I quickly realized that I don’t have time to do it all. It isn’t physically possible, and I don’t think that trying every new technology in a classroom is all that great either, as much as kids these days are digital sponges, they need time to absorb and learn to use the programs and apps they are exposed to, as much as we do. They can’t keep switching to the latest and greatest thing either. The trick as an educator – in life, and in the classroom – is finding a balance that works for you and your students. When I decided to redefine an assignment as my Action Plan, I knew I needed to allow the students to become comfortable with the technology before I had them complete their major research assignment. To do this, I added a video element to an existing assignment and asked the students to use Voicethread. It is through this experience, that I realized that you can’t assume the students know tech, we need to take the time to figure out the programs we are asking them to use, and to provide instruction. Due to a few different factors, I did not have the chance to show my class how to use Voicethread, I was optimistic they would just figure it out. Unfortunately, this didn’t pan out, but as resourceful as they are, most of my students just picked a video program they knew how to use for their unit assignment. Lesson learned. Knowing that time would constrain me to really learn Voicethread, I decided to ditch it, and allow the students to use any program they liked for their major research assignment. Once the students got to work, the research assignment went very much the same as the previous version of the assignment (where the students wrote a 6-page essay). I still needed to teach research skills, documentation skills and basic thesis and essay writing skills. My goal was to enrich the final product while still allowing the students to think critically about an event or person in Canadian history. Overall, I am very pleased with the results. The students seemed more apt to take the time to plan out their work than in past years, and many had very detailed storyboards. The final products were (for the most part) very well done. They included primary sources, music and the student’s voice over. When I asked my class, they overwhelmingly said they would much rather do the digital essay than a written essay. The main reason they stated was that they didn’t have to worry as much about the French grammar, which isn’t exactly what a French teacher wants to hear, but in the end, they all communicated their research and their thoughts clearly. I still have a few kinks to work out to improve this assignment for next year:
- Extending the video timeline – I had said 3-5 minutes, and the feedback from the students was that this was actually too short to get in all they wanted!
- Citations and bibliography – because they didn’t put the bibliography directly into the video, the structure of their citations was not very formal. I need to figure out a way to have students properly cite all their work, and the images they use in their video.
- Thesis – Although I conferenced with the students to check over their thesis statements and outlines, in the future, I think I will have them submit this as part of their final work, this way I won’t be struggling to listen for it, as some are not always clear!
Ever since I started teaching the Canadian History course in French, I have wanted to modify the research essay. Thanks to the opportunity I had to be a part of Cohort 21, the redefinition of the assignment was made possible. It gave me the ideas, motivation and inspiration to create a new task using technology. Now that the Action Plan is wrapping up, and our final Face 2 Face meeting is upon us, I look forward to maintaining the connections I’ve made with the Cohort 21 community as well as the educators I’ve connected with through Twitter. It has been amazing to have different tools and ideas pop up or be presented through Cohort 21 as well as through my school PD. I have had the opportunity to have conversations and share ideas with my school colleagues that I wouldn’t have had before. Cohort 21 helped me to begin building my PLN, I am looking forward to continuing to grow my it through the BLC2014 conference in Boston this July.
Check out my powtoon final presentation here.
Thank you again Garth and Justin for your guidance and leadership. Your feedback was always meaningful and helpful!