22 September 2010

BritLit Reading Journals: ePortfolios chapter 1

   I'll use any tool that works to get my kids writing and reflecting. Since I am committed to preparing them for this century, not the last, the right tool takes time. It does not always show up right away. And I also have to work within the parameters set by school.  Weeks of prep to implement my Year of Reading were finally tested today. The kids were fabulous: today we started our reading journals in BritLit. The entries are great! I have been trying to come up with a medium that will please me plus please my school. The school platform for tech work is Studywiz Spark, out of New Zealand.  Studywiz is comprehensive--I can do anything on styudywiz-blog, chat, online writing, collaborative writing, video uploads, posting projects, link lists, RSS feeds, stc. BUT it is a secure environment, so the kids miss the chance to learn to live on the internet safely. All the security slows down the process and adds many, many steps. Setting up a simple blog or in-class assignment is a multistep process sometimes complicated by things as simple as terminology (today we realized that to upload a photo from our desktop we needed the "repository" separate from the process to upload an image from the internet).  Last year, I used Studywiz voraciously, but got no sleep because of the inconvenience of trying to actually set up the projects and forums and then to assess the work. It was so tempting to use Blogger and Wikispaces exclusively, since there were so few steps to get stuff done in those platforms.
  Since  Studywiz allows students to perform many different functions in a secure environment, it cannot consider the mechanics on the teacher end. I needed something simple for them and something manageable for me (60 kids in my two junior classes). This year, Studywiz added an ePortfolio function, so today we started our portfolios, wrote personal profiles and then drafted our first of five journals for the quarter. 
   My juniors write five journals entries over the quarter and I grade their best two (they choose them). This year I am requiring three journal entries about class reading (so today I got a fair number on Beowulf) or the independent reading we do as part of SAT prep.  I wish I could show you their journals, but I can't, because Studywiz won't let me. So while this is a triumph for my classes, we still have a long way to go to join the 21st century community. Most importantly, many have come to my class without ever doing any blogging, online writing or wiki work. They have already learned to blog and enter their journals. The wiki is next!

1 comment:

Healigan said...

I have examined the first round of journals carefully, and it seems that out of 55 juniors, I have 15 good readers. This is a good number for the beginning of the year. The rest show some openness to reading, which I have to capitalize on. I am hanging a new poster next week with the heading "My Recommendations" that will be filled in by the students who have decided that the book they are reading might be of interest to others. I have in mind to ask two particular people to start the recommendations--one who read THE ROAD and the other who read HUNGER GAMES. They can assign stars and sign their name to the recommendation, so others can ask them. I'd like to start them on goodreads.com now, but they seem to respond to old school methods most easily. We'll save goodreads as a treat later in the year.