As students get more used to using the Moodle on snow days (New England is giving us a lot of practice this year), here are some important observations:
photo © 2010 James Lee | more info (via: Wylio)
1. Students continue to need a way to reach the teacher. Some will use the forums, but when a kid has a problem, that kid wants a specific connection. How ironic that my students, who tell me they “never use email” then use email to reach me when they have a technical problem, or can’t figure out how to do something. For middle schoolers, I think the privacy of email has a real appeal – they don’t have to feel foolish in front of their peers, which is their most enormous and ever-present fear. With adults, one might suggest a student post their question in a forum, but this isn’t something I’d suggest with adolescents. This means, you need access to your school email and you need to check it regularly throughout the day.
2. Students start exploring beyond the original assignment, so it’s useful to have other materials ready. I found students working ahead on vocabulary work we aren’t even going to start for a week. I haven’t introduced it, we haven’t discussed it, I haven’t assigned it. But they’re doing the work anyway. Then I remember how I appreciate in my adult classes when the prof gives us ways to work ahead. But this also makes me think. Time on task. I really hope I have created such an appealing environment online that kids will stay there longer. The longer they are engaging with my content – time on task - the happier I am.
Snow day work is much less pressured. It leaves time to explore. We aren’t in the computer lab pressured by the 42 minute period; they aren’t soldiering through homework after a tiring day at school. It’s important that there are lots of resources already available for students to stumble on. I had found a great interactive that simulates arguments in a trial – perfect preparation for our mock trial. At least one student found it and wrote about it on the snow day forum I set up. Students also went back to an earlier conversation and extended it, including comments about what they were noticing. The moodle has always showed who was online before, but in the computer lab, nobody noticed that – now they can see who else is online, and they like that.
3. Another faculty member at my school has implemented snow day work using Edline (each class has a web page). He told kids about expectations in class, emailed parents – and got 100% homework completion. Kids were complaining their parents wouldn’t let them go out until they finished their work. This works!