I’m sitting in the digital sandbox at VSTE, our state conference, thinking about the sessions I’ve seen so far. Most presenters I have watched have made some big assumptions about classes, teachers and learning that are mostly good- not using devices for skill and drill, assuming kids have access to technology and looking at ways to use the technology to remix, create, and share. That’s pretty cool. I’m really enjoying the people watching, as that’s one reason I come to face to face conferences and don’t do everything virtually.
However, I’m also thinking about the limitations of virtual kidwatching. You see, my 3rd grade literacy kids are staying in their homerooms while I am away, and I left plans– kind of loose ones, in case the teacher had more pressing needs, but plans nonetheless. Basically, the kids were to read their chosen book and then respond on their blog to my pretty open prompts. Worked great last Thursday while I was in Williamsburg at VASCD. I almost forgot about checking kiobiog so I could approve posts so they’d show up for the kids, but I remembered just in time. I could check out the kids writing as they were doing it and I even called back to school to alert a teacher to a kid who was not writing, but goofing off on the blog site.
Friday was another story. The kids had nothing drafted when the time period was 3/4 over. I wrote the teachers an email, asking if something had happened that the kids didn’t get on the computer, thinking perhaps we’d had a fire drill, or something that had interrupted the planned work. Turns out the kids were just later getting to the blogging, and two of the three teachers responded to say they were just later starting. I was just too impatient!
But I had one kid who obviously didn’t understand the Wednesday prompt, and so I tried to help by sending him a private message. It didn’t work. So, I wrote his teacher, asking her to listen to the post and give him feedback. That didn’t work, either, so over the weekend, I wrote his Mom (also a teacher) and she was able to read the prompt, other kids’ responses, and help him understand the prompt. He rewrote, at that point, an amazing post!
But I learned a lot doing this.
1. Leave clear expectations for everyone and make sure you follow through. (my plans said kids were to be on their blogs from noon to 12:30. I’ll put a reminder alert on my phone next time so I’ll be there when I told the kids I would.)
2. Leave clear expectations for everyone and make sure the kids AND teachers know what you plan to do so they can follow through. (I told the teachers I would approve the posts, but didn’t explain what that meant- that I would be online expecting to be able to see their writing at a specific time. The classroom teachers were dealing with an unexpected surge of kids back into their classrooms, which, I’m sure impacted their timing. That Friday I didn’t take that into account at all!)
3. Make sure approving posts instantaneously is needed. (I had to approve posts at the lunch table Thursday and missed part of a keynote speaker Friday to do this. and since kids were just finishing up at the end of class, they had no time to respond to each other anyway. I could have done my part in the evening.)
4. Make sure the kids understand you can see what they’re doing. I was surprised at a couple of kids who decided to play with random typing when I wasn’t there.
Most of all, though, make sure the rules you ask other people to enforce don’t squelch the kids’ excitement about blogging!