Thursday, August 30, 2007

Miles Ahead but Miles To Go

After spending a little less than two weeks with my new classes of sophomores and juniors, I'm impressed at how far ahead of the game they already are in terms of technological proficiency. Nearly all of my students already had working blogger account before coming to class this year, and I didn't have to spend much time reviewing blogging expectations because they already knew the rules. Although many of my students did not come from laptop classrooms, the ones who did are infinitely helpful with helping their classmates troubleshoot. It's exciting not to have to revisit so many issues that seemed to dominate class last year.

Of course, this means that it's time for the bar to be raised. My goal this year to have one unit in each class in which my students are using Blogger to communicate with people outside of class. I'd love to find another class, such as an A.P. class here or a class in a different school (or even a different state or country!) that would be willing to collaborate with one of my classes. I think my classes need to start communicating with people outside of the Littleton community when discussing current controversial issues. I'd also like to expand our peer editing so that students of different ages and backgrounds can offer each other feedback. Think about how much my Honors sophomores, for example, might benefit from A.P. Literature students editing their essays. I'd like to see my juniors communicating academically with college freshmen so that they know what their professors will expect of their critical thinking and writing skills.

Any takers?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Stretch, take the nets down, and blog

Taking a bunch of sweaty volleyball players into my clean laptop classroom at first seems to cross a boundary that is not necessarily meant to be crossed. However, as I face this week of volleyball tryouts thinking about what tools I can offer my team to give them an edge, I see blogging as a possibility.

Consider this: The strongest volleyball teams I’ve ever coached have had two things in common: (1) The players’ ability to communicate with each other, and

(2) their willingness to communicate with me. Blogging has significantly improved communication in all of my classes throughout the past two years—why not try it in the realm of coaching?

The fact that I coach a freshman team also makes blogging an interesting tool. Many of these girls have not found a group of friends or are watching their former middle school cliques deteriorate. Some of them are simply trying to cope with their new (and much harder) high school classes. Last year, I gave each girl on my team a little journal and had them write it in a few times; they could give it to me, and I would then write back. It was a great (though time-consuming) way for me to see what was going on in their heads, and since I would argue that volleyball is about 75% mind and 25% pure physical skill, and that the vast majority of volleyball practice is focused only on physical skill, these little journals became significant to me. I remember wishing on multiple occasions that I could show the girls each other’s journals and thinking that they could play together so much better if they could only get out of their heads and into each other’s. Anyone who has ever played or coached a team sport before knows that a player who puts herself before the rest of her team can be that team’s downfall.

I think that blogging could be a safe and inviting space for my team to talk not only about practice, games, team feeds, and other volleyball-related issues, but also how their first week of school went, how they’re balancing class with sports, and other topics that might help them build a more authentic camaraderie that will hopefully carry over to the court.

I’m thinking that I’ll only take them into the classroom just one time to get their blogs set up; the rest of the blogging will happen at home, perhaps a minimum of once a week. Any ideas or feedback? I don’t know if there are any other coaches out there who have tried this, or if I’m just overly blog-happy.