Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Class Website

OK, so here is my thinking on our class website. We have named it Success Site for obvious reasons. This is the first year we are attempting to integrate it, and I know to those of you who are more proficient with technology the efforts may seem quite infantile...but you have to venture forth at some point. Here is the plan:

Writing Component: We are being asked to require more written expression across the curriculum. In fact, all classes (PE, art, whatever...) must include one written assignment per week to be graded for spelling and mechanics. Even on our block schedule, I find that we use every spare second in class on activities and instruction so the idea of cutting a portion of time a way for writing, especially when there is such variance in writing abilities and speed isn't something I was thrilled with. Additionally, we don't give a lot of math homework in our class because many of our students' parents are unable to help them with Algebra. So, our thinking was that we would outsource the writing part. So, we plan to assign a journaling type of question each Monday with the requirement that students complete it by Friday, but allow no class time. Assessment is a bit trickier. We included a "Writing About Mathematics" component in our SBG target skills. Then we took our state's Writing Rubric and whittled it down a bit. The idea is that during the first nine weeks, we would focus exclusively on assessing the Mechanics. Then we plan to add another criteria each nine weeks. We put access to this abridged rubric on the website. Now, I'm leery about actually reading and providing discrete feedback to each and every post. And I'm also terrified that I will log in and find that only one or two students complete the blog. I will just venture forth and see how it goes. I have considered allowing them to privately inbox me their blog post for those who feel uneasy about their writing being public, but I am hesitant because I'm eager for them to learn from one another's examples. We shall see.

Resource for Parents: Well, we are sending home a letter the first day to parents that discusses the site. We have posted that letter on the site itself because it also explains the grading process a bit. In addition, we have posted the Learning Targets list on the site and plan to use the Notes section on the page to list current units of study, upcoming assessment dates, major projects, etc. I think we probably need to link our Edline grading system to the site and vice versa but I need to run that by my partner first. I want students to be responsible for their own learning but I would like parents to be more aware and engaged in discussions with their children about what we are doing. I'm hoping this might help.

Resource for Students: In addition to everything mentioned above (Learning Targets list, Writing Rubric, etc.), we are linking to some websites that might provide additional assistance (Khan Academy, TutorVista, WolframAlpha, Virtual Manipulatives) and just general interest (TED, WorldoMeter, etc). Some of those we will be adding as we move through various units of study, simply to keep the site changing and interesting. We have links to a scientific calculator and a graphing calculator. I also wanted to try to make the site a bit adolescent-friendly so we've linked to some Facebook quizzes like "Which branch of Mathematics would you be?" and such which they can only access from home and if they have a Facebook account. We are planning to post videos up as we go through the lessons that serve as reteach options for those who need additional practice...stuff from Khan, or United Streaming. I'm not sure if they will use it, but at least the resources are available at their finger tips. Perhaps halfway through the year we will start pushing them to seek out resources of their own, even assigning them to find a video and discuss its strengths and weaknesses in their weekly journal or something. I avoided the chat feature because I'm a little leery of monitoring it at this point, but perhaps in the future.

I don't know. I have high hopes but I could be hitting this in all the wrong way. Do you guys have any thoughts, suggestions, ideas for improvement?

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