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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wikis and the Power of Internet peer review!



Wiki Work
The wiki continues to manage my classroom as the homepage is chock full of RSS feeds and hyperlinks to current assignments and projects.

Computer Science has completed Chapter 2 of their wiki book on the History of Computing. This was an individual project with each student assigned to present a PowerPoint to the class on their topic. They were required to have at least one embedded video which they located primarly on Google Video. I found that the founding of Apple had a lot of interesting information (although not enough hyperlinks.) I liked the formatting on the Colossus and the Integrated Circuit. I think we'll use screen capture software to let them video and narrate their presentations and post those in the future. The wiki didn't capture the depth of their knowledge on this PowerPoint project.

Their Chapter 1 on Computer Security continues to create a buzz and questions from the blogosphere for me. They did a good job!

Feedback from Canada
Here is one great thing for me: a progressive Canadian educator, Sharon Peters, had her class review and comment on the work that my students did on their Chapter 1 wiki. Mixed in their feedback were several important kernels of truth that I had been trying to get across to several of my teams about digital storytelling:
#1 It is about the content. Humor and everything comes second to content.

#2 It is OK to be funny, but be careful, sense of humor varies widely among people. If your humor distorts the message, limit the humor.

#3 Sound is essential! If a person can't hear you it hurts the message. Rerecord or redub things that you cannot hear clearly.


I had repeated these issues but they came through loud and clear in the feedback from Canada! (Funny, how the students finally listened when other students echoed my remarks.)

This brings up a valuable point to me:

Peer assessment through the Internet is a powerful tool in the hands of educators!

I believe this for several reasons:

1) The peer pressure issue is not as much a factor to the person giving the criticism.

The person critiquing the work cannot see who is on the receiving end of the constructive criticism so I think more valid feedback is given. When students are in the class or even at the same school, they tend to temper their remarks or color them by what they think of the person. The Internet removes the visual "I know you" factor and cliquishness of peer evaluation within the classroom. I think it has potential as a great tool!

2) The peer pressure is a factor to the person receiving the criticism.

Those being critiqued want to listen to their unknown peers and the thought of a global audience pushes students to do more and excel!

3) Combined with teacher feedback, it can elicit change.

I have seen it! I believe it! Students who were "fighting" me on the content for their current video changed midstream when receiving the feedback from Canada. All I can say is, Wow, thank you, Sharon Peters!

4) It gives students a variety of viewpoints.
When a teacher is in a classroom, students get one viewpoint of their work. In the real world. people have conflicting views of your work. (As any blogger knows!) What a great opportunity for students to see the convergence and divergence of the populace at large! If we can work out ways for such reviews to happen, it will help my students transition to the real world!

5) It gives comprehensive feedback.
These students from Canada wrote much more than I could have done or said. The feedback is good and very comprehensive. Sharon really did me a favor!

But I'm not the only one. Darren Kuropatwa has had his Math students evaluating one another's blog posts and commenting. Here is the third point of this assignment. He says:

When the other three groups have posted their solutions each student must leave one comment on each of the other group's published work. Your comment must say either that you agree with their solutions or not. If not, you must include what you think the correct answer is and why. This means that each published solution set will have a total of twelve comments.
You really need to see the power of this strategy! There is a lot of power in the commenting feature!

Blogs help my classroom.
This is just another way that my blog has brought great opportunity to my classroom. I think that blogging is sort of like collecting ink cartridges: sometimes you can really do a lot with the extra money that you raise and sometimes you can do a lot with those who stumble across your blog.


So, in light of David Warlick's and David (at the Strength of Weak Tie's blog) comments about whether one can be a good teacher and not use technology, I'd like to quote the latter blogger's post (It may have come from Dave Warlick's post but his site seems to be temperamental at the moment):

Frankly, I’m tired of technology as a second class educational citizen. It’s not OK not to use it.

Simply put, a good teacher must know when and how to use technology to help kids learn, and must demonstrate it conscientiously, creatively and continually.

It’s one of the most important steps in becoming a great teacher….

This conversation reminds me of one of my favorite old posts, "Why blaze lonely and unpopular trails that will become the highways of tomorrow?" It is about the amazing pioneer Paul Brand who transformed the disease of leprosy with his amazing treatments and insight. No one valued or helped him, he was alone. And he changed the world.

Keep the faith. Do not quit! Technology on the bleeding edge can be bloody but it is also rewarding! You will be the laureate of tomorrow.

Just savor the lack of appreciation today, for tomorrow, everyone will forget but you. You will know what it was like to walk against the torrent of society and emerge as a prophet and pioneer.

Your three choices

The way I see it, you have three choices: you can either give in and join the torrent take you in the wrong direction, you can get out of the river and quit, or you can persevere.

Those that persevere will have the greatest rewards. In ten years, we'll compare notes and find that those of us who took the third choice have greatly improved our lives and those of children. Those who quit will be sitting around saying "woulda, coulda, shoulda" along with those who gave into the current.

Do not quit! It is important to help children and our society begin to effectively live online.

The more educators who abandon fight against the current, the more victims, identity thefts, virus victims and problems will emerge.

The more who fight the current together, the easier it will become as we join together and create a dam to divert the torrent of society from the wrong Internet direction (or lack thereof) to the stream bed where it belongs: firmly implanted in every classroom.

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