Thursday, March 15, 2012

Warning ... Teaching may be addictive

You know you are in the right vocation when you can't wait to get back to work.
That happened again today as part of our composer research project.

Wednesday was our 2nd day in the computer lab as we research composers and create websites using Edmodo and Google Apps for Education.  When the students came in, they logged into Edmodo and found a new screencast I created about rules and etiquette for posting.  Basically, I asked the students to keep two things in mind:
#1 - All posts and replies should help us grow as musicians and learn about our composers
#2 - As the teacher, I see everything the students post.

Today's tasks were relatively simple - the students were to send a post to the entire class finishing this sentence: "An amazing fact about my composer is ..." and then reply to at least one other post in a way that helps us grow as musicians and learn about our composers.

I had no idea what would happen.
And I had no idea how successful it would be.

Slowly, the posts started coming.  Then more posts.  Then the replies.  Faster and faster.
I would be helping students and look down at my iPad and see "20 new posts".
Then I would read the posts and see amazing facts and replies in which students were making connections to their own lives.  This is the feeling that makes teaching addictive - giving students the skills, materials, and etiquette and letting them bloom on their own.  All I asked for was an amazing fact shared in a responsible way.

In past years, the 2nd day of the project would have looked like this:
Students using file folders of legally photocopied biographies to work with a single partner finding 25 vocabulary-type words that could be put into an online wordsearch creator.  Now, students are doing more rigorous work, making more connections to their own lives, and collaborating more with other students (= learning more).

There was one interesting moment.  In the midst of all this work, all of a sudden a student tells me someone has posted a personal note.  I look down at my iPad - sure enough.  Another student tells me the same thing.  Chatter spreads throughout the computer lab.  Aha - a teachable moment!

This student had simply sent the message "Hi Joe" (names changed) to the entire group.
I zoomed my Airplay connected iPad to the message so the class could see it together.
Me:  Look at the screen in front of the room.  What did your screencast say?
Class:  No personal messages.
Me:  Let's compare Joe's posts to Susie's right above it.  Susie's post says "Brahms became known as one of the three B's of composers - Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms."  The other post says "Hi Joe".  Which post helps us grow as musicians and learners?  Thank you for giving us an example to learn from.

The point is that students were ready to report seemingly inappropriate posting etiquette before I even could catch it.  No hard feelings - just a teachable moment.  And a learning community that will hold each other accountable.

The most amazing part of the day happened after school.  A few students were logging into their Edmodo account in the evening from home, reading more biographies, posting, and replying from home.  Learning is addictive, too.

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