In the normal classroom discussion the other day I was interested to find that everyone in the class (16 of them) have joined a Facebook group that one of them set up as a Literature study group. They’re all there, I asked and checked, and are discussing and asking questions and supporting each other (I hope) and pushing each other in the right directions (I hope)
I hope because I’m not sure. And I’m not sure because I’m not there. I’m not allowed to ‘friend’ students or be connected to them in social networks according to our school policy; a policy that I had a hand in developing. But, you’ve got to wonder. Here am I out here, trying to utilise our own online tools including a pretty decent wiki and blog setup, to get student collaboration and participation going and, here are they in there, doing it themselves, in their space, where they live, with the whole class.
I know you could argue that I shouldn’t be there, that it would change the dynamics if I was, and that they should have a space where they can test and re-test their ideas in their own way. True. And I don’t want to take over. But I could contribute, could support, could help shape that discussion and use that discussion to shape the classroom interactions and the things we do next. Could. Can’t.
What do you do first lesson of the year? What do you do first in that lesson? With that group for the first time. Remember, this is the first class of the year after the long summer break, and after the long induction and prequel and all that thinking about how you’re going to do it better this year; how you’re going to do it different this year.
What do you do that first lesson?: talk about the summer break? roll out the PowerPoint about the course again (in case they missed it last year when you had that orientation session)?, ask them to talk about their reading over the summer? share some stories of first impressions of the text (Mrs Dalloway), mark the roll or get straight in to the book?
I must admit that, even after all these years of teaching, I still get slightly edgy about that first lesson of the year. I want to get it right. I want it to be a start, and not a talk-fest from me but an idea about how this class will be, and who we will be in this class together.
So I did all of the above, maybe not as purposefully and mindfully as I should have, and we made a start. I spent a little time getting OneNote organised (because it’s got to be from day 1 and organising it isn’t super-easy) and I asked a student to read from a passage (the skywriter scene) and we talked about that for a while. I told them how much I enjoyed reading Woolf again after a few years without having read her, and I got some nods, but also one or two half-looks of ‘I didn’t’. I should have followed up that look I think; what was troubling about Woolf? And what was difficult? And, I couldn’t help but think that a couple of students hadn’t quite finished it and didn’t want to talk about the text in too much detail, and didn’t want that conversation yet.
Afterwards, I felt vaguely disappointed that I hadn’t really grabbed them somehow. Not sure why, but it was that anti-climactic feeling that I could have done better. So, I emailed them all and clarified the lesson’s objectives, what I hoped they’d got out of it, and what the homework was, and a mindmap I’d done on the iPad and put into OneNote.
And, so we’ve started.
You don’t have to dig too far down the blogroll links to see how immersed I’ve become in the digital world: blogs, wikis, nings (x3), websites, twitter …
So, it was with some deep thought that I got involved in yet another blog, but I did! This idea came about on a bike ride a couple of weeks ago, chatting to another English teacher named David Baxter about some of the ideas he’d been using in the classroom and talking also about what I was doing. He’s the teacher I blogged about a little while ago in m provocative 😐 Tale of Two Teachers post (it was the best of times, it was the worst of times)
Anyway, we thought it might be good to collaborate on a blog aimed at English teachers looking to use technology in the classroom, a blog that would be more practical and tips based than the meandering theorising that mostly goes on here, but looking at things that work, and some that don’t. Hence English Teaching is IT was born. It’s on WordPress, its up and running, and I hope it’s useful for English teachers and others too. I hope you’ll take a look and maybe even subscribe. While I expect there’ll be some cross-over with what I’m writing about here, the focus of the new blog is on the classroom, and tools that work for English teaching and beyond.
English Teaching is IT