This year I was fortunate enough to be able to engage two of my secondary school classes in open and participatory webpublishing (read and write web) more regularly and for a longer period. The students were given the opportunity of working in smaller modules (classes were split in two) for one hour in the computer room (we usually have three 50- minute classes a week).
We first participated in the ECML project, opening blogs on their platform and interacting with students from different classes in Europe. As the project was to end in June, we migrated here to WordPress, where we could retrieve our posts by using a special import file . We then opened accounts in other social tools like Flickr, Del.icio.us, 43Things and 43Places and Community Walk.
In Flickr, students were shown how to upload photos from their hard drive and by mail. Some have experimented with sending them from their mobiles, still an expensive option here. Students were asked to join two interest groups: Everyday Scenes and Holiday Scenes and photographed their school and holidays. They were also encouraged to apply for membership in groups according to their own interests. The Creative Commons License was introduced through the Get Creative film clip and examples tagged on Flickr.
Next year, I must remember to have all the accounts opened during the first two or three classes so they use the same username and password and keep a copy of their confirmation mails in a folder as many spend too much class time later during the year trying to recover them.
We opened Suprglu to aggregate all content from the different tools but with all the mash-ups , it is now possible to post directly from the other accounts into the main WordPress blog. WordPress has become our virtual homebase .
They have also learnt how to aggregate friends’ blogs and interesting sites through Bloglines to be able to read the posts directly from one page. While working on the ECML project, we were aggregating other students but once we moved to WordPress, they were busy finding out how to configure it and discovering the new tools so Bloglines was left behind. I know now that I will have them next year so there will be continuity in the work and instead of focusing on the technical part, we will start using the tools for bookmarking, collaboration and networking.
After showing how and why to use the different tools, the moments in the lab are now devoted to reading other blogs, commenting on them and publishing their own posts. Students choose the subject and the tool they are going to work with. If they have not managed to conclude what they have set out to do during that hour, they should polish it off at home.
At the end of each trimester, I check if they have accomplished the different tasks they have undertaken during the sessions and mark them symbolically for “participation” only because the system demands I do it for all work students engage in. I have put up a list of technical and language benchmarks.
Correction is usually done on the spot, when they ask me for it or later in class, to the whole group, when I notice recurring mistakes. They are encouraged to go back to their posts and rewrite them but I have found out few actually do it. They tend to forget about it once class is over. The same happens when they are working on a subject. Very few finish it at home as they expect to be given more time the following class to complete it, instead of starting something new. Many are permanently lagging behind. Then main reasons are: lack of discipline and distraction for some, not using time efficiently but listening to music and consulting other sites; sometimes slow connection or recurring absences. Some say they have no Internet connection at home, which is difficult to check. Many students tend to leave all their work for the last minute, right before the deadlines, so if something goes wrong, it is impossible for them to complete it.
I have asked them to post a more formal page containing the evaluation of this year’s work
- describe the different tools you have used this year (function and activities)
- advantages and disadvantages of using tem (comments and reactions)
- suggestions for classes that follow
Looking forward to the different perspectives.