Meeting of the Minds – Learning in the 21st Century

Roughly one month ago I was involved in the first of 4 face to face meetings with an extraordinary group of educators who are committed to meeting the needs of 21 Century Learners in our classrooms. With enthusiastic hosts like Justin and Garth, there is no question that the ripple of this group will be far reaching.

We were introduced to a variety of teaching tools such as www.understoodit.com which is an online polling tool to gauge student learning, twitter and how to use it effectively in the classroom, www.diigo.com which is a social bookmarking site that is geared toward sharing resources online as well as many others.

I tried all of these resources in a variety of French courses, and many were very successful. Understoodit.com was easy to use and the students bought in pretty readily. It’s quick to create, and to open or close the poll, and has a number of useful features. The only draw back is that you can’t save the data but it gives you a real time look at what your students are understanding!

I was so excited to use Twitter in my classroom and I thought the students were going to eat it up! They didn’t! The issue is that with our Acceptable Use Policy, Twitter is effectively blocked during class time and so I can’t really use it in class. They didn’t like the idea that they had to work outside of class time and needed support at times for which I had to log them on using my computer. I asked students to post things to Twitter in French and they did, and now it is a question of having them reply to each other and engage in rich discussion using only 140 characters! I am excited by the French Twitter fiction contest and my students will at least be reading some of the work, and some may even participate. I look forward to using it as a research tool in the weeks to come, although it’s not quite the overnight success I had envisioned.

Diigo is by far the most useful resource I am integrating in my classroom. I share articles with my AP students that are highlighted and I add sticky notes to scaffold the reading. It was very difficult in the beginning – especially with Diigo having gotten hacked and my students in a near revolt – however it is getting much better as they, and I, become more familiar with it. They have been helping to create my course with me, which has increased their engagement significantly.

And now blogging. I am new to professional blogging and I look forward to sharing what I know about education. I am currently exploring units following a constructivist approach to learning, learning continuums, and the Common European Framework with Languages, French to be exact. I am always looking for new ways to make French Language authentic without paying the huge sums to bring an entire class to Québec. All ideas and suggestions are welcome!

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