Tuesday, February 5, 2008

EduCon Action Plan- Part 1

At the final session on the final day of EduCon 2.o a group of us came up with an action plan to get the word out about what we are doing in our schools that is unique and a part of school reform. Before I can get going to far into that plan, which involves media, politicians, school boards and other powers that be, I have a personal plan to put in place. Part 1 starts with my kids.

A little background...About 12 months ago I began reaching out of our course management system to try and broaden student collaboration. I wanted to find an engaging way to reach students where they spent their time and get them to talk to other students in my courses about ideas. My first attempt was in Facebook. I created a group for each course I teach, limited the members of the group and the action within the group to our school's students, and operated them on a volunteer basis. I had about 10% of my students join up and from there we spent the 2nd semester last year collaborating on a much deeper level than students replying on our CMS discussion board. The idea was to give students a voice and it worked, a little bit. Since then I've left Facebook for Ning and was happy with the results, but still want more. My courses utilize tons of Web 2.0 tools for our projects, but once again they are all optional. I need to find a way to build those into the content, seamlessly.

After seeing the amazing community between staff and students at Science Leadership Academy, I knew I had to figure out a way to foster that with even more impetus at my school. Thats where part one of my Educon Personal Action Plan comes into play. We have to foster community at our school in two forms. Since it is a hybrid school and students come once a week on campus, we have to figure out how to make that four hours of time community and relationship based. This will take some serious rehauling (will address in Part 2 of the plan), so will save for a little later. Secondly, I have to get kids more engaged, more driven, and more of a voice instantly. I can't wait any longer. The first step that I put into place was to implement a blog as a discussion tool for historical assignments in my history through film course. The next step is to enlarge our student network to include students from a variety of courses at our school. As well as a variety of teachers. Then, get them talking about how we can change our school. The third part is to revamp my courses so that a lot of the project based assignments are completed using read/write/web tools but teach them how to use the tools within the lesson rather than giving students an option with dozens of choices. As someone put it at Educon2, "we need to make the technology invisible." This is a start.

I know that technology is only a tool, but at an online school its the best one we have, and I need to make it even better. I'm open for some more suggestions on this topic and will start discussing changing things I can't control in Part 2 of the plan.

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