24 August 2010

Home Changers

Following up on "five classroom changers" - here are five solutions which might change the relationship your students have with school when they are home:

(1) Google Calendar with Text-Messaging: “We were texted reminders of when assignments were due and when exams were and if the lecturer couldn’t make it. It’s always good to be reminded if assignments are due or if we have a test, just in case you forget." Don't make organization difficult, build it in. Create Google Accounts for you and your students (or use Google Apps for Education) and share a classroom calendar. I know that I wouldn't be anywhere on time if my calendar did not text message me reminders both the night before, and with enough time to actually get to the meeting or whatever (I live 90 minutes from campus). And you are expecting a kid to do better?

So share the calendar. Remind kids of where they need to be, what they need to do, what they should bring. Set the reminders. Tie it to their phones if at all possible in your school. You will lower stress, and help kids keep themselves on track.

(2) Google Docs: Ever look in a student's backpack? Ever see that pile of papers crunched in there? Ever have kids lose stuff? Ever see a kid stress out late at night or before school because he/she can't find what they need? Ever hear mom or dad or teacher yell about forgotten papers?

Just stop it. Use Google Docs instead of paper, or Google Docs combined with Email. Using Google Docs, preferably linked to a Google Site you build for your class (or for each of your classes) you can communicate with home, show off work, make sure assignments, forms, etc are always available. Using Google Docs for student work, allows you make sure nothing gets lost, while allowing you - the teacher - to see the work in progress, and while allowing kids to collaborate freely.

Paper is a bad choice for kids in school. It gets lost, it is hard to make corrections and changes with it. It must be physically moved. William Alcott knew this in 1842 when he advocated using slates instead. Now we have better technology. Lets use it.

"The only reason Token was able to do all this is because his parents are rich" - Cartman
(3) A homework free time period: If you have to give homework - and yes, in general, I am firmly against homework, it measures nothing other than student socio-economic status and belittles the real-life learning that students should be engaged in when not in school - at least allow students to choose when not to do it.

For many kids, for example, the school day is stunningly stressful. If it is, say for ADHD kids, kids struggling with behaviours, kids just uncomfortable in school, the last thing they need is "more school right after school." For these kids, a three-way contract - parents, kid, teacher(s) - should block all "school related activities" until after dinner. If, on the other hand, kids have certain passions - be it a TV show, game-playing, sports, etc - then explicitly contract "no homework" time when they will be doing that. (Adults do this all the time with any work they bring home - at least healthy, reasonably adjusted adults do).

We talk a lot about school being "the work kids do." Well, if so, make sure they have a healthy "work-life balance."

(4) Text-Conversion: Again, if you have to give homework, make sure things sent home are accessible. Using WordTalk (free, Windows Only) or the web-based vozme.com (free) you can convert any text into an mp3 file kids can take home on any mp3 player(some are incredibly cheap), or on their phones.

You can also make sure you are in touch with non-English speaking parents, or ELL students, by using the fabulous translate function in Google Docs and then using vozme.com or the slightly harder-to-use but more robust YakiToMe.com to then convert that translated text into an mp3.

And remember, as Karen Janowski suggests, you can also record important class day lessons using either Garage Band on Macs or the free Audacity on any computer, and send that home as an mp3 as well.

(5) Mobile Study: Want a fun kind of way to remind kids of what you've looked at in school? Try MobileStudy.  MobileStudy allows you create "text-message quizzes" which let kids, on the privacy of their own phones, see if they recall, and which remind them with "after the question" comprehensive answers. You don't score them, this is kids only stuff.

Best way to use it? Let kids build their own "quizzes" for themselves or their teams.

- Ira Socol


MsShelved said...

Great suggestions! One problem is that many districts' internet policies block access to these tools. MsShelved

Unknown said...

Great ideas. One thing I have been toying with doing, and am going to try this year, is making mp3's of my quizzes & tests.

I got the idea a few years ago when I co-taught with a special education teacher, and we would offer to the whole class the option of having quizzes read aloud. He would take those kids to the media center. Budgets have changed, so this is no longer an option for me.

With the # of students who have IEPs requiring this accomodation & general ed students with low reading levels, I was going to read the quizzes, record them in audacity, and then try adding song/chapter breaks after each question (for ease of repeated listening).

I haven't tried vozme or WordTalk, but I am thinking they may save me the reading of the quiz, and now I will only have to edit in the breaks.

What do you all think? Do-able?