Saturday, December 7, 2013

EDUC 7718 Final Reflection - Elizabeth Ferry

The final project for EDUC 7718 was definitely a learning process for not only myself, but also for my students.  When I decided to use the selected unit on scatter plots and trend lines, I thought I would have time during the first marking period to implement the unit to all of my classes.  Unfortunately the curriculum and other requirements at school did not allow me enough time to teach what I had to teach and complete this unit.  I had to be creative and find a way to have students complete the unit for this course.
This spring a dozen of my students will be traveling to Quebec with the world language club.  Since the normal time frame for the scatter plot unit is right around the time the trip is being held, I decided to do a practice run of the unit with the dozen students who are attending the trip.  The students understood that they would have work to complete when they were away on the trip.  I told them if they did this unit during lunch time that it would cover their math work they were going to miss.  My students were very accommodating and were more than willing to complete the assignment.
Since the lunch periods are shorter than normal classes, students came up for ten lunch periods to complete the unit instead of the six days that I had initially scheduled for the unit.  This allowed the students to complete the homework for the unit during lunch instead of taking it home with them.  Completing this practice run of the unit helped me see changes that I needed to make before I roll it out with the entire eighth grade.
 Overall the unit went very well.  Although the focus of the unit was scatter plots and trend lines, I paid more attention to the objectives of the students using appropriate strategies to conduct online research.  In addition, I conducted informal surveys with the students and found that not only did they understand the math concepts, but their feedback was focused mainly on the online strategies they learned and how they could use them in other classes.
Unfortunately the class blog was not up and running at the time of the unit implementation.  Students had to use their class journals to produce their blog entries.  It was not what I had initially planned, but I think it will work out better in the spring when all of the students have had time to practice blogging for other classes and the class blog is up and running for an extended period of time.  It was also beneficial for the students to practice what they would write online by using their journals.  Although the initial focus of the lesson was to teach the students effective strategies to use when researching information online, I found that online content creation could also be a learning objective for the lesson.
The students’ responses in their journals helped me see the differences in their language uses.  I know that when I type something online I rely on the spell check function to help me check for accuracy of my typing.  Since the journals do not have spell or grammar check, it gave me insight on the languages they use when they do not have technology to assist them with their responses.  Some students used a good amount of social language with their responses.  When I provided them with their rubrics and they saw that points were taken off for using the social language they were a little bit upset.  I explained that with an academic assignment the terms ‘da bomb diggity’  or ‘aggy’ were not terms that should be used in an academic setting.  These terms were used when the students commented on each others’ journal entries for a homework assignment.  Most of the students stated that since they were responding to their peers they thought they could use that language because it is how they speak to one another on a daily basis.
The discussion of the use of language reminded me of what James Gee spoke of in his book.  As teachers we must model and demonstrate the language that we would like our students to use in an academic setting.  It is important for our students to understand the differences between social cultures and school cultures and the languages which are used in both settings.  (Gee, 110)  If we want our students to be successful with producing academic text, especially online text, we want to make sure they are aware of the language they use when producing academic information.
One of the other areas that I found interesting during the unit was the desire for some of my students to go to the library and use the books there to find the information.  There was a group of students who wanted to go grab an encyclopedia to find the information they needed.  I asked them to try the Internet first and if they still had trouble finding information then they could go to the library.  It took a matter of seconds for the students to tell me that they were able to find the information on the Internet without much effort.  They actually said the part that took the most effort was when I asked them to determine if the site they were using was reliable and finding multiple sites that validated their information.
Technology seemed to help the students complete the unit more effectively and efficiently.  The students were able to use a variety of resources for their information.  In addition, the students were able to utilize strategies that led to successful online research and the completion of the project.
Medium Selection:
I decided to use Google documents for my final reflection because I was able to continually make updates and changes throughout the unit.  As my students were completing the unit, I would take notes in this Google document about their progress.  When it was time to write my reflection, I was able to take my notes and organize them in a way that was presentable for my final product. After I completed the reflection in Google documents, I created a blog entry to allow others to view my reflection as well.

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