Reflecting on the first third

Next week I’ll have my last classes of the first trimester.  It’s been quite a ride so far.  I would say that it’s been mostly successful; however, there are things I definitely want to change for the new trimester.

6th grade web design.  In this class, I had stepped through the process of creating the content from word processor to using Weebly for creating simple web sites.  We added everything to the word processing document and then moved it to the web.  Two snags really created problems for us.  One was that creating the charts and graphs proved more difficult than I thought.  Not only was making the chart/graph difficult, but converting it to a picture was hard, too.  In some cases, we actually took screenshots.  We made it through that part, though, and I want to keep it, just with some modifications.  The second big snag was the wiki.  I then wanted to put everything on a wiki, allowing everyone to edit each other’s work.  First, the kids got confused when their pictures didn’t copy over.  The pictures had to be reinserted, which caused everyone great consternation.  Second, no one really got around to editing each other’s work, so the whole point of the wiki was lost.  And then, when we moved to Weebly, we had to go through the whole process again, and so more consternation.   On the plus side, they love, love working with their websites.

Things I’m going to change:

  • Starting with the web, not word processing.  We’re actually going to start with html and css, so they know what’s behind their web sites.  I’m also going to review some basic concepts like url’s, searching, local vs. remote storage, etc.
  • No wikis, but I will do a website review (which I’m doing today in class) using a Google form.
  • More work with images.  I thought we’d get to more of this, but we didn’t, so I’m going to add in creating a header for their page and some other basic image editing techniques.

7th grade digital storytelling.  This class had both conceptual and technical issues.  While digitial storytelling is a great idea, I needed to put more parameters on what they used for their stories.  I have a lot of Glee remakes.  The technical issues are what really put a damper on this class. I decided to use Windows Live Movie Maker because I had easy access to it.  The tool was easy to use and I didn’t have to do a whole lot of instruction on it, but it doesn’t work if your footage is stored on a network drive, which is where the students needed to store their footage.  We ended up copying it over to the hard drive and working from there and then exporting the movie at the end of each day, but many students lost work or lost video because they weren’t careful about where they were saving things.  I have students who have no project as a result. 

Changes I’m making:

  • Having them draw on their English curriculum for stories.  I’m also giving them one or two other options.  They need a framework.
  • Using Jaycut for our video editing tool.  It’s online.  Students can access their work from anywhere, and hopefully, they won’t lose their work this way.
  • Not having a video shoot day.  I had handed out flip video cameras for the students to use and gave them a day to shoot video.  A) They didn’t shoot good video or enough video leading to b) another video shoot day, which result in a) again.  The cameras are available for check out from the library.  If they want to shoot video, they are responsible for doing it outside of class.

In 8th grade Scratch programming, I’m just rearranging the order of some things to take advantage of a game design contest for middle schoolers.  Otherwise the class has gone really well.

In all my classes, I need to have more discrete assignments that can be assessed at the end of every class.  8th grade has more of that than the other two.  I need to have a “By the end of class, you need to complete . . .” objectives.  The classes are pass/fail, so I intentionally made them more project-based, but I need to have the steps more clearly defined for the kids.  They are for me, but I think the kids lose track pretty easily.

I’ve developed my CS curriculum and will present it later this month for official approval.  I’m also looking for grant money to get the program off the ground with the right equipment and facilities.  That keeps me pretty busy outside of my classes.  And I’m also running two robotics clubs, which also keeps me busy.

I’m generally happy with what the students are getting in their technology/CS classes. I wish I had more time with them, but I try to pack in a lot in the time I do have.  I hope that will pay off for them in the long run.  I’m also doing a fair amount of work with teachers getting them to incorporate a variety of technology into their classes.  I feel like a student here will have a pretty good foundation in a variety of applications and computing concepts by the time they’ve completed 9th or 10th grade. I hope to keep building on that.

2 Replies to “Reflecting on the first third”

  1. The seventh graders aren’t all in the same English class, are they? It would be cool if you could have some sort of project that involved collaboration with the English teacher. But either way, I think drawing inspiration from the English curriculum is a great idea, as it might help them get a better understanding of what they’re doing in English class as well.

  2. Kaitlin–they all follow the same schedule, so they should mostly be at the same place. And the English teachers were pretty enthusiastic about the idea.

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