Through the previous five weeks, we discussed how to integrate technology in our classrooms. Everyone of us suggested one or two technology-inspired changes that c an work with 21st century students. I liked very much Deborah’s way to lead us to such change step by step. In this post, I’m going to remind myself and my colleagues with the three steps we have done to make our project appear to light: describing my students and setting of classroom, describing an issue that needs to technology-inspired change and finally describing such change.
Project Task 1: Describe a class
In this task, I described my students, setting of classroom and technology tools available to be ready for describing some issues that technology might help with.
For my students:
I teach both the 7th and 8th grades, but I’m going to make change with my 7th graders. The number of students in my class is between 40-45. It is a large class I think. They are between 13 to 14 years old. All of them are boys as I work at a school for boys. They are of different academic levels. Most of them have intermediate level. The rest of them are between high and low levels. Most of my students are good at using computers and some of them have an internet access at home.
For the class setting & Computer Lab:
If you look at the design of this class, you will find it just desks in 3 rows. Every row consists of 5 desks. Students work in groups of three. I mean 3 students sit on each desk. In front of these desks, you will find a blackboard. It is a little bit traditional. As I’m going to use technology, using computer lab will be beneficial. It involves 25 computers with internet access. Unfortunately, we haven't wireless or DSL access, just the phone line access. You know it is very slow. But, we expect a DSL access in the next school year. Also, we have a Resources Room from which we can borrow anything we need. This room includes: 3 laptops, 3 computers with internet access, TV., whiteboard, 3 datashows, a printer, photocopying machine, and a scanner.
Project Task 2: Describe some issues
In this task, I described some issues and problems that I face when teaching. Here, I’m going to focus on one of them that technology might help with.
One of the main problems that students face in their academic study is how to express their ideas, thoughts and feelings easily and freely without apprehension or fear. When I ask my students to write a paragraph (Two types of writing are required – descriptive and narrative), I find them at a loss. Yes, writing is not an easy job not just for them, but for us as teachers. Its difficulty results from the various processes it requires. Among these processes are these strategies needed for planning, monitoring, evaluating, and revising; skills needed for producing text, e.g., handwriting, spelling, and sentence construction; and knowledge about specific genres, writing conventions, and so forth.
Thus, using paper and pencil method to teaching writing is not suitable for 21st century students. We also need more authentic audience to hear students' words, to share information, to comment and suggest new ideas for them. Moreover, students want to deal with the written task as fun not a burden. I can't forget my students' faces when they are asked to write. You find them very busy writing, rewriting, revising and editing. Also, I can't forget their words "Writing again ... It is enough to write it once ....". The question is “How can I make the written task more interesting for students?”
Project Task 3: Describe a change
In this task, I tried to answer the question I asked in the previous task. Through reading a lot about web 2.0 tools that provide many opportunities for students to be heard all over the world, I found a very good tool that can improve my students’ writing skills and change their negative attitudes towards the writing experience. It is blogging.
Can Blogs Be A Solution For Students’ Writing Difficulties?
Blogs allow students to write for authentic audience. They also help students to edit their work many times before and even after publishing. Moreover, one of the most important features of blogs is "giving instant feedback" through commenting. Commenting on students' work either by teacher or their peers will increase their writing quality.
According to Campbell (2003), there are three types of blogs. I’m going to use all of them. First, I’ll create a "Tutor's Blog" in which students can find many stories as I’ll focus on writing stories. They will also find some information about the story elements, setting, characters, plot, solutions, … etc. Then, I will ask students to work in pairs to create a "Learner Blog". They will use it to write stories. Every lesson, I’m going to focus on a certain element of stories, then I let them to write their own piece. Also as Campbell (2003) pointed out "Class Blogs could be used as a virtual space for an international classroom language exchange”. I will create a Class Blog to collect all stories of students, then they can share other schools or even countries with their stories. By doing this, the entire exchange would be transparent to all readers and could be followed and commented on by other learners, tutors, parents and friends.
Project Task 4: More Details
As a step towards implementing blogs to teach writing stories, I’ve created a rubric for writing stories by http://rubistar.4teachers.org/. Here is the link: http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php?screen=ShowRubric&rubric_id=1929565. It is a rough draft. I will modify it to suit my students’ level. Also. I searched for some rubrics deal with creating and using blogs. I’ve found many rubrics. Here are the links: http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=1282, http://www.evenfromhere.org/?p=1282, https://docs.google.com/View?docid=df8b89sj_324h7b58tgq, http://www.personal.psu.edu/cpl2/blogs/cplportfolio/Blogging%20Scoring%20Rubric.pdf, http://www.frenchteachers.org/technology/Grading.Rubric.pdf,%20BloggingEvaluationRubric.pdf, BloggingEvaluationRubric.pdf, & mame.pbworks.com/f/Class+Blog+Rubric.doc. Again, I’ll read them carefully and selected one suitable rubric for students or select suitable dimensions from these rubrics and create my own.
I’m still thinking about this technology-inspired change. May be I can discuss it with my partners that I hope to find sooner. This will provide me an excellent opportunity to know other experiences and ideas about the same interest. Also, I want to know how this change works in different settings with different students.
Campbell, A., P. (2003). Weblogs for use with ESL classes. The Internet Journal, 9 (2). Available on line at: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Campbell-Weblogs.html.Retrieved on May 4, 2010.