Goals and Results
Prior to the school year starting, and as it went along I had a number of goals. I'll discuss them below with a review of how they worked out.
'Malinconia. L'ultima partitella (the last match of+the+summer)'
- Get more face-to-face time with my students (I work at a distributed learning school--students work at home on the curriculum that we provide): In the 07/08 school year my colleague, Jodie, ran a humanities class for her grade 8-10 students and I could see the benefits of this weekly face-to-face time; it allowed for discussions, one-on-one tutoring, and an opportunity to speak to students about their progress. So for this past school year Jodie and I offered a general high school class for 2 hours on Thursday mornings. Students were encouraged to attend, but for many students it was optional. For other students at risk for failure the class was mandatory. The benefit to this structure was that we had weekly face-to-face time with the students who needed it most. The drawback was that with the large number of students present, all at different levels and at different points in their programs, it became difficult to conduct effective lessons. I think that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks though. In my experience one of the key factors for a student to succeed in a distributed learning program at the high school level is good communication with the teacher. These face-to-face classes facilitated this.
- Improve communication with students: I've written about the communication aspect before in this post. This year many of the courses I was responsible for were paper based which meant that my kids were not in a Learning Management System (LMS) with built in e-mail. I wouldn't have thought this would be a problem, but a surprising number of students do not have their own e-mail accounts that they use regularly--I guess they rely more on IM and sites like Facebook to communicate. Partly to address this, Jodie and I (ok, it was mostly Jodie) set up a 'Student Lounge' in WebCT. Most of our students take at least one course in the WebCT LMS; enrolling all of them in the 'Student Lounge' meant that it was easy to send out batch e-mails and it was easy for them to e-mail us. We had other plans to showcase student work along with some general discussions. Those didn't materialize, but I definitely had more students contacting me with questions than prior to the 'Lounge', so I'm pretty happy with the results.
- Provide opportunities for students to conduct labs at our school with support: There are some virtual labs that my students do, but there are also a good number of traditional labs the students are expected to do. To do a lab at home on your own can be frustrating. Let's face it, even in a typical classroom kids get frustrated because they don't get the 'right' results, or they are unsure what to do. This year my goal was to have time during some of the weekly high school class (see #1 above) to help students with labs. This was not a big success. I was able to do a couple of labs with the kids, but because the students start at different times and end up in different places in the course, it was difficult to choose a lab that all students were ready for.
- Improve my weekly Elluminate sessions: In the 07/08 school year I started doing weekly Elluminate sessions. One week was for science and the next was for math. We met for 30 minutes for each grade. I gave a mini-lesson reviewing old concepts and introducing new ones. Then there was time for questions from the students. I started out this way again in 08/09. As usual the problem is that very quickly the students get spread out in their courses, so preparing a mini-lesson becomes difficult. Over the course of the year the sessions shifted more to being a straight tutorial. I find Elluminate to be very useful to help students with their math. It is difficult to answer math questions over the phone or via e-mail, but using the whiteboard feature in Elluminate allows you to write out the math symbols easily and have the student help to answer the question. For next year I think I will spend more time recording mini-lessons so that I can build up an archive that students can access as needed and use the Elluminate times as straight tutorials. I have to work on attendance too. The sessions are not mandatory and attendance is not always great. I'll have to look at ways to improve this.
Those are the main goals I pursued this year. If you have any thoughts on how I can improve on these areas, I would love to hear it. I plan on posting again soon with my goals for next year. I hope to make this an annual event: posting goals prior to the new school year and reviewing them once the year is over. If you already do this, do you find it useful? If you don't, would you consider it to be helpful. As always, thanks for reading this!