In my previous life (you know, before I became a teacher and didn’t have one anymore…) I was a software consultant. Many times since then, when working with school leaders on software implementations, I have posed the question: “What problem are you actually trying to solve with this technology? If you are fixing something that isn’t broken, you can’t expect the staff to be on board.”
My background, and my experience of botched implementations, means it is imperative to me that technology be authentic to my needs as a teacher. I don’t want bells and whistles just to entertain the students, I want systems and processes that make my time with them more effective and have an impact on their understanding, tools that push them to higher-level thinking about concepts, or ideas that make our topics relevant to their lives.
Yesterday I was able to share two new ideas with my department members, bringing some authentic solutions from our recent Cohort21 workshop back and putting them straight into use at my school.
The first is diigo. After our initial introduction, I was using diigo for myself but hadn’t seen the power of using it as a group (or perhaps I hadn’t had the time to investigate the option… ) On Saturday I created a diigo group for my department and invited the members. Then in our department meeting, we looked at it, everyone logged in, and we talked about how to tag and share resources. We have talked before about the need for a “bulletin board” for websites and related resources, and now we have one. Thanks, C21.
The second idea I presented to the department is using audio commentary while annotating a document, essentially making a video of feedback for students’ written work. Listening to the many language teachers discuss the use of audio commentary for marking essays, I realized how powerful it can be for student learning. I was keen to find a way to do something similar in math, and have decided to try it out for giving feedback on their upcoming Internal Assessment projects in grade 12. Unfortunately, many of the bells-and-whistles tools out there don’t support the equation formatting that appears in math projects. However, we can have the students submit Word documents to a google folder, then download and markup (up-mark?) their work on video, uploading the video to the google folder at completion. It seems more cumbersome than I would like, but I think it is worthwhile to investigate the option and gauge its effects on student understanding and performance. Certainly more math-friendly tools will come along soon (I hope!)
Thanks C21 members for the ideas and insights this weekend. More to follow soon with my action plan!