I closed the cover of my Asus eee, tucked it into my backpack, and headed off to English class. I didn’t eat much today. I wanted to see the MIT lecture on Mitosis and Miosis because we were going to be spending some time on this in Science class this afternoon. Lucky for me, Mrs. Woodruff’s class was just around the corner from the cafeteria where I had just finished lunch.Anyway, I wanted to get there early to ‘IM’ Jamie Milledge, who was helping me build out my “Fahrenheit 451” wiki.
Jamie would be up by now. I live on the East coast and she goes to school in Torrence, California. She is a major Ray Bradbury fan. We met up about a month ago when I found some of her science fiction writing on the Fan Fiction web page. Turns out she was the same age and studying “451” in her English class the same as me. We Face Book each other all the time now.
I get to class and whip open my computer.
Did you find the movie?
Yeah. Not easy to get.
What part do we want to use?
I love the RR tracks scene.
Where they all become their favorite books?
Yeah. So cool!
OK. I’ll upload it at lunch today.
You’re the best.
We chat until the class is ready to start.
Mrs. Woodruff is already leaning over a student helping them with whatever project they’re working on.
Last night I searched out some blogs that deal with “451” and have added them to the RSS feeds in my aggregator. They may come in handy as we go through the book.
“Okay class, you can get into your teams now.”
Mrs. Woodruff speaks over the discussions that have already begun. I don’t know why she feels she has to say this every day because we never wait for her. We’re already in our groups.
Our group project is to build out a vocabulary blog for “451” . We each take a few chapters, find the more difficult words, and look them up online. Usually, when we do this we create a team blog where we post the sentence from the book that contains the word, as well as the definitions of the words. We organize it all by chapter. Here’s the vocabulary blog we did on our last book, “The Outsiders”.
(Courtesy of JIm Coe and Tom Woodward of the Bionic Teaching Blog)
This time, in addition to what we usually do, we decide to add some online photos from Flickr, drag them in Comic Life, and write the words used in funny contexts. Michael, our team leader, is really good at coming up with the funny stuff.
(This example courtesy of Jim Coe and Tom Woodward of Bionic Teaching)
After a bit, Mrs. Woodruff asks us to close our computers and report out on how we are doing. One group has done research on all the books that have been banned over the years. Marcy plugs into the projector and shows the Censorship website they’ve created. They’ve worked with the school library media specialist, and a number of outside organizations who are very anti-censorship. I’m surprised at some of the titles on the list. I copy the URL. I want to check it out when I get to study hall later today.
Another group shows the product they are creating in response to the “451” WebQuest they were working on.
The other groups plug in to show their particular projects; but Terry’s group gets into trouble because they havn’t done much since the last time they presented. Terry says that they have been doing a lot of the work after school; but they havn’t had an online work session this week because a few of them had late sports practices. Terry’s team always has an excuse. The truth is they put in no effort. They do what they can during free time in school, but they almost never hold group work sessions at night. They’ve got to get themselves a better leader or they’re gonna get creamed at the end of the marking period.
I can’t wait to show the vocabulary site we created. Everyone laughs at Michael’s funny comments that are in the Comic Life bubbles. I also take a moment to show the “451” wiki site that Jamie from California and I have been working on. Believe it or not, Jamie has already uploaded a scene from the movie. I click on it and play a minute or so.
Mrs. Woodruff claps her hands, “Great job! guys. Now, let’s get to our writing projects.”
We all pull our desks back a few feet from the groups we were in so we can work on our own for awhile. I pull up the draft of the paper I have been writing from my virtual locker storage space. I’m working on an essay topic from an old Regents exam. I figure it’s good practice. We write in silence, saving frequently, as we have been taught to do. Mrs. Woodruff walks around giving some individual advice to different folks. I run my paper through the online Writing Evaluator. I like this because it picks up most of the simple mistakes I tend to make when I write. It saves Mrs. Woodruff some time, too.
“Class!” She says. We all look up. She walks to the SmartBoard in the front of the room and taps on it a few times. Up come the notes from last week. She enlarges the words THEME and PLOT.
“I see a number of you are getting theme and plot confused. What is the difference between the theme and plot?”
A few brave souls raise their hands.
“You know what? Rather than doing this verbally, I want you to e-mail me your explanations for homework tonight. Include the basic theme of “451” . I don’t need you to rehash the plot.”
Man, more homework.
Mrs. Woodruff continued, “We’re getting close to the bell, so just a reminder that I will be online for extra help on Thursday from 8:00pm till 9:00pm. Terry, I expect that at least one member of your team should be there. Your team needs lot’s of help.”
The bell rings. I sling my Asus into my backpack and dash out of the room. My science class is at the other end of the building; I’ve gotta hustle.
This is a daydream. I’m sure there are many more creative constructivist ideas out there. The Asus and other products used in this post are for illustrative purposes only and not an endorsement.
The technology is transparent. The Asus is one of a number of sub-$500, mobile, wireless computers. WIreless access from everywhere in the school. VIrtualized desktops with access to all school applications and files from anywhere, including the home. Appropriate software. Engaged and empowered students, learning both in school and outside of school, formally and informally, collaboratively and individually. Learning partners that extend outside the classroom.
Special thanks to Tom Woodward and Jim Coe, two groundbreaking educators from the Henrico schools who are making the daydream reality.