25 February 2012

Glogster as E-portfolio

I talked my school into Glogster Premium accounts for everyone about a year ago, for the purposes of building our e-portfolio component. I do not regret it, but we are now ready to move on.

I had been so frustrated by the limited, list-like functions of ThinkQuest and what seemed to amount to a two-minute limit on videos, that Glogster seemed like a godsend to me. As a world language teacher, what is the point of an e-portfolio with such limited multimedia capabilities? I want to see videos, hear language production, and be able to read text without clicking and waiting on a file to download then waiting for it to open!

I had hoped that the ability to play with their e-portfolios would entice more students to spend time adding to and improving them. I had hoped the ability to create projects and apply grades directly to the assignment would entice teachers to actually create meaningful assignments out of the e-portfolio.

Perhaps we're technologied out. Perhaps Edmodo and Engrade have left no room in my colleagues' hearts for  a tool that, while pretty, is inherently slow and limited in its applications. Students do tinker with their glog walls and graphics and such (sometimes to the detriment of their time spent on the actual assignment), and maybe half of the teachers at our tiny school have at least halfheartedly latched on to the idea of assigning cool projects on the glogs. But I think I may be the only one who feels they need the multimedia aspect. Most, it seems, would just as soon go on with scanned images, uploaded documents, and maybe blogs, wikis, or forum posts, all of which can be done with Edmodo and Engrade, which also double as communication systems for students and parents alike.

Even if I did somehow manage to convince the other 8 teachers at my tiny school that we should all have a video, artwork, and music incorporated into every student's e-portfolio for every class every quarter, I still think teachers and students would prefer a platform that is less...isolated? Unlike Blogger, for example, commenting on glogs is highly restricted, and thus feedback from peers is a bit of an ordeal, and almost impossible for parents. And, heck, what is the point of a portfolio that future schools and employers can't find? True, one can tweet out a glog or like it on Facebook, etc., but in a pre- or post-interview Google search, how many of their glogs will turn up? And could the right people find what they needed to know about the students if they do find these e-portfolios?

I can envision a Glog as a table of contents of links to other glogs, with enticing preview photos and videos. I have tinkered with a glog for each unit and a glog that sums up a quarter. But our school's Glogster account expires today, and I think I like the idea of opening up the e-portfolio to any platform the kids want. To that end, I'm putting together an enrichment to experiment with different programs with some of our most creative kids, figuring out what they want to show and how they want to show it.

I think Glogster is still a good choice for assignments, and I especially like what it allows me to do for things like study guides in Spanish, giving students not only multiple media to which they can respond, but multiple ways in which they can respond. I'll miss being able to assign templates like that, but I do not think there is anything else that I am going to miss about our school account, and I am looking forward to seeing what kind of things students can come up with beyond a single style.

13 February 2012

Back to my other babies

I don't know how I survived midnight feedings without a smartphone and Twitter the first time. During my maternity leave, I have not been as connected to my students as I had envisioned (the Edmodo app was not as...convenient as Tweetdeck for one-handed midnight manipulation by phone), but I have spent plenty of time connecting to my PLN, let me tell you! Even though Thursday nights on #langchat haven't always worked out with newborn hours, I've got connections and ideas for two whole new units and perhaps the seeds for (yet another) instructional revolution.

I feel like I'm going to have to do some testing-of-the-waters on Monday and completely re-establish relationships, so I'm trying to brace myself for the worst. Semester's end was kind of rocky, and I pretty much relinquished control to my (AWESOME) sub after that. Engrade messages and texts from students petered off after that, and while I kind of needed the break, I'm worried about what it means I'll be coming back to. Like I said: bracing myself.

At the same time, this is an opportunity to redefine Spanish class and myself as a Spanish teacher. There were plenty of things not working when I left, and not entirely because I was not there. There are some realities I must take into account as I do try to make the most of this fresh-ish start:
  1. Most of them are technology addicts. Some have to tweet constantly, while others seem to think earbuds are natural outgrowths of their hearing organs. They could watch YouTube videos all day or shop for shoes or play random brainless games on any number of sites. Given access, they are moths to flame.

  2. Technology is also an excuse. They may not come out directly and say, "I didn't do that assignment because I don't have a computer at home" (never mind that each of them gets at least 3 hours of access to do work every week during school hours), but those who have the hardest time seem least likely to ever do assignments on Edmodo, Glogster, Voicethread, or Blogger. They might not say it's the technology's fault, but it seems to me less likely to get done if they have to access something other than Facebook online (which, I believe, is blocked at school once again, so don't bother suggesting it). Out of sight out of mind?
  3. I make assignments they find pointless. Some will put it in writing that they think we should never do a collage again (never mind that I was trying to get them to organize their ideas before writing), and others will blatantly ignore revisions I suggest for their assignments and act like nothing I said for the previous 3 weeks made any sense whatsoever. With my new-found perspective, I have to acknowledge that these are cases of my failure to appeal to their mindsets. The assignments sound really cool and meaningful to me, but by now, I know how to put on my Student Goggles ™ with assignments. I can't fool all of them all of the time, but I could probably do better getting in their heads before designing a project than I did first quarter.
  4. I'm going to feel adrift again. At almost exactly the same time as last year, I'm contemplating diving into waters where I cannot exactly see the bottom. Perhaps the greatest compliment of my teaching career came from a student who struggled in Honors English II but now works at his university writing center. He said his class's Honors English III teacher asked how all of them were such good writers, and they all groaned my name. I let them choose which writings to develop in "side projects" and made them write and re-write until I was satisfied. What was true in the English class, I'm finding increasingly, is also true in the second language class. I think I can achieve something like this with @amor8's awesome blogging strategies, and possibly some ideas I got from a new tweep @SrLaBoone, who, although claiming novicehood in Twitterlandia has some truly great ideas I hope to steal adapt to introduce Twitter as a Spanish class tool. And I have NO idea what all of this coolness will look like.
So I'm going to walk in tomorrow with very little clue what I'm doing or what to expect. I will have a Google doc to establish twitter handles, blog topics, and blog URL's for each Spanish class. We will talk about the comments on the class blog I tried to start (before discovering commenting on Blogger was blocked at school). Spanish III will keep going with their novel, Spanish II will have a poetry project I already had planned, and Spanish I will probably start geographical terms.However, I am anticipating that these will possibly all morph into something side-project-like, where weekly blog posts become potential fodder for bigger projects and less unity, possibly achieving the sheer and utter differentiation @MmeBrady described in last week's #langchat.

So here I go, stepping out of my little mommysphere where I've been holed up, hopefully into a new phase of my development as an educator and a chance to connect with my teenage babies, perhaps in a new and better way.