Today was the day we introduced the project to students. I went to the class armed with my laptop, LCD projector, and video camera. The class is set up with all desks in a circle facing each other, with a desk for the teacher, Dr. Lynch, as well. I started with an explanation on what social media is, and told the students that Dr. Lynch was “going to bring Brit Lit into the 21st century.” I explained that they would not use notebooks to write their assignments in class, but would be doing everything online, in a social network that would be like “Facebook for Brit Lit.” The students seemed intrigued, probably in part because of the Facebook comment, and in part because they all know that Dr. Lynch “isn’t very good on the computer.” Dr. Lynch is known on campus for not allowing students to take their laptops out of their backpacks during class.
I explained to the students a little about social media, and about how we would be using a social network to create a community of learners in the school. This was also the perfect opportunity to give them a lesson on internet safety while I explained to them what they should and shouldn’t include on their profile or posts. Then the students joined the ning, me approving them one by one while Dr. Lynch began approving their membership to the “Brit Lit” group. I should note that I created the ning with the vision of the entire school eventually using it for various groups and classes, including a learning community for the teachers. I should also mention that we haven’t worked out all of the details about how the assignments will be completed. Tibbie and I had not found a solution to how students could post privately with the teacher still being able to access the post to grade it. We mentioned this to the first class and one student responded in a matter of fact way, “Why don’t we just send the assignment to Dr. Lynch’s inbox?” Problem solved.
Dr. Lynch was having a lot of trouble navigating the network. This issue was compounded because she was working on her new laptop that she wasn’t very familiar with. The trackpad was a big challenge for her. The computer was “acting crazy,” going to links she hadn’t clicked on, or returning to the previous page for apparently no reason. She is going to get a mouse. I was helping her throughout the day, and a couple of students came to the rescue also. Tibbie and I explained to the class from the beginning that this would be a learning experience for us too, and that we are challenging ourselves. Tibbie, with the technology integration, and me managing the ning and trying to bring the course and the technology together.
Tibby posted the first discussion topic by the end of the second class. By the end of the day there were several posts. We were both impressed with the caliber of the students’ comments, already above the level we know them to work at.