My first classroom website is up and running well. This is something that I always wanted, but never seemed to have time to set up. Now that I finally have my online act together, I am really seeing the beauties of having a wired (or even just marginally wired) classroom. Take a peek at a screenshot from my site below:
This is such an excellent resource, both for the students and for me. I currently use my website to post directions, reminders, and links associated with what we’ve done in class. This way, a student can access their homework descriptions from any internet access point, from public library to cell phone. If a student is absent, there’s no more scurrying to gather materials together–it’s all taken care of with, “check the website and come back to me with questions.” I am able to post links to other websites, images, or video if I’m teaching in the lab. I was even able to put together my first attempt at a webquest (a student-driven search for information on the web based around a specific topic), which you see pictured above. Students had a choice of questions and some links to start with, but then were freed to select an area of interest and use their inherent web browsing skills to learn in a self-motivated, investigative fashion. Eventually, I hope to have students using blogs and communicating with each other and me via that channel as well.
I am lucky to be teaching at a school with a very unique freshman CyberEnglish curriculum, so my students are comfortable with and interested in using technology hand in hand with learning. This is something that I know I need to explore further, because the earth is spinning pretty darn quickly when it comes to technological advancements, and if our job is to help students learn to communicate, we’re not doing them any favors by ignoring current meaning-making media! The thing about this breakneck speed is that, even though I use video clips, interactive writing displayed on the projector, Powerpoint, Prezi, webquests, and a classroom website, I still feel like I’m just barely scratching the surface of what I could be doing with technology…
Despite all that, I am reminded every day that no matter what a class is built around, even if it’s a good, old-fashioned, tattered novel with thirty names on the inside cover, the heart of a classroom comes from an impassioned teacher and students with open minds and a spirit of exploration. And even without anything that beeps, a lesson that comes from a place like that will work. As my oft-quoted teacher hero, Dewey Finn, once said: “I’m a teacher. All I need are minds for molding.” And truth be told, even with all the excitement of new technological resources to enhance my lessons, it almost makes clearer to me that, on some days, an empty room and a captivating question can be the greatest resources of all. Teaching is joy, work, and curiosity, and there’s no app for that. It needs to come from within.