Come on in, the water’s fine…

Photo by Arvind Balaraman, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of my goals for the summer was to learn about integrating technology into my instruction to further engage my students.  It’s always risky bringing something completely new into the classroom, especially on the first day.  Number one, you have established no personal credibility with your students yet, and number two, you have no idea how they will react to it no matter how excited you may be.

I approached the first week of school with enthusiasm, though, knowing I had a plan thanks to my PLN, and the support of some really great educators on Twitter. After the first week of school, I can proudly say that my students are actively viewing links, commenting, and have now begun to respond not just at my request or just to me, but voluntarily to one another on Edmodo. It’s pretty exciting to be able to participate in ongoing discussion of class topics after school hours and over the weekend.  They didn’t all jump right on the bus the first day, but I persisted in requesting that they join, post and respond.  I also posted some great related links and video to prompt their interaction.

My publications students have already embraced Wallwisher, and have used it to post some exciting ideas for our first issue of the school newspaper.  It’s been a great way for them to avoid coming in to class with duplicate ideas.  They can view each others’ ideas from home and post new or related ideas immediately.  It will save us time during class, and it allows me to observe and contribute.

I also found some great information about mind mapping over the summer.  I adapted the mind map method to give my students a medium for communicating their reflective thinking, and hopefully to connect past and present to future-oriented thinking.  The purpose of my students’ maps was to explore and illustrate the most influential forces and experiences in their lives.  It worked incredibly well for both my juniors and my seniors.  My junior class, American lit and composition, will be working through units connected to the theme of identity.  My senior class, English lit and advanced comp, is beginning the year by designing their Capstone Project, known in some other schools as a senior exit project.  The maps have been a great way for them to explore themselves as they investigate career interests and narrow down research and project topics.  I was not surprised to find that some students were able to begin their maps almost immediately, while others just needed a little prompting, and still others seemed to have never thought about who they are and how they arrived there. No matter where they began, though, I have been impressed with students’ progress and results.  I am anxious to hear them share their final maps on Monday and Tuesday.

All of these have been useful tools to get to know my new students, as well.  I feel like I have already “broken through” the early awkward stage and started to forge some great relationships and, consequently, to develop a terrific rapport with my students.    I am confident that week two will be one during which we will dive into and make progress with content.

During the next few weeks, I am hoping to layer student blogging into my instruction. I’ve been investigating different free blog hosts including Blogger and Edublogs as well as how to manage them using Google Reader.  I have plans very soon to use Glogster to help my yearbook staff market this year’s book, too.

If you have any tips or advice, I would gladly accept!  So far I have found this to be exciting and enriching, so come on in!  The water’s fine! 😛

Lake Michigan sunset, photo by C. Wilkeson

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About cwilkeson

I am an English teacher, passionate about engaging students in the art of expression with language.
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2 Responses to Come on in, the water’s fine…

  1. tkraz says:

    Glad to see that everything is going well so far. I think your continued urges to get some of the reluctant students to participate is one of the surprises for some of the teachers who incorporate technology to improve student engagement. We think that because it is technology they will be all over it but they don’t often use it for these types of educational purposes.

    Also, you seem to have done a great job of adding the right amount of new ideas initially without overwhelming yourself or your students. It is a great model for other teachers who may be interested in getting started but do not know where to begin. Good luck and continued success!

    • cwilkeson says:

      Thanks for your support! I think it helps that I am enjoying it, too. I knew I had to bring it in gradually, which took discipline since I tend to think big and change big. I think the kids were more at risk of being overwhelmed, but I didn’t want them to give up. Happy my pace has worked well so far. I did have to convince some kids, but projecting it on the screen in class to illustrate how we’ve been interacting has been a powerful tool in getting those reluctant kids on board. I was most excited when I started to see the conversation move from student-teacher to student-student. Love it!

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