While I have been furiously working away on the last fazes of the conference planning in the evenings and weekends, my classes have been busier than ever.
With just one or two exceptions, all my students have their individual blogs going. They have done their first posting about creativity. Their second posting is due tonight. Some of them were away for three days last week for an honors trip to Catalina. Those students are writing about that experience. The rest are responding to a choice of prompts about a recent book. The assignment also calls for inserting an image reflecting the post. I used that component as an opportunity to teach them about Creative Commons, how to find Creative Commons images at flickr.com, and how to create a link back to the flickr page to give credit to the creator. I'm looking forward to reading the posts. Only problem is that I don't even have the creativity posts graded yet! Grading is definitely the hardest part of this job.
Another change in the last month is that, due to budget shortfalls and less than expected enrollment at my school, one of my five language arts classes was eliminated and most of my students disbursed to my other four sections. I am now also teaching a sixth grade computer exploratory rotation in place of the fifth language arts class. While I hated seeing my fifth period class eliminated and my other class sizes grow, I am excited about the computer exploratory class. I had a curriculum all ready to go: CSLA's Middle School Learning 2.0 tutorial! I had tried promoting this "beta test" adaptation of CSLA's highly successful SSL 2.0 and Classroom Learning 2.0 tutorials last spring in the library. And, my friend Sheryl (see the October 5 posting) has been using it as the basis of the computer class she is teaching at my neighbor school with great results. I had my first round of students for just 3 1/2 weeks at the end of a rotation, so they only had time to get their feet wet with blogging. Nevertheless, they really enjoyed what they did. Here's my "cover" blog with links to their blogs. Last Monday I started a 10-week round with a new group of students, so we will have lots of time together to work on blogs, and I will also have a chance to incorporate lessons in various information literacy skills.
To introduce my students to the what they will be doing with their blogs, Sheryl and I had a "webinar" using Elluminate* and Skype* between the two classes. Several of her students, who are now a few weeks into their rotation, walked my students through their blogs and what they have most enjoyed working on. Both sets of classes loved it. :) My kids can't wait to be the demonstrators in December when Sheryl has new students starting her class.
* You can get a free Elluminate vRoom for up to three people through learncentral.org. That worked fine for us, since we were at just two sites. We used Elluminate to share our browser screens with each other. We could have also used Elluminate's built-in audio, but when we experimented in advance, we found that the quality of both the video and audio on our free Skype accounts was better. We want to learn more about Elluminate in order to take advantage of more of its features and may figure out how to tweak that. In the meantime, the Elluminte and Skype combo worked very well for us.