Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Replacing the yearly planner with an iGoogle Page

Every year, students receive a daily planner before the start of school. Depending on the grade level, some teachers will spend a day showing students how to effectively plan their week. For most, this is a practical tool that has worked for many years. However, it is also a tool that many students lose. What if it was impossible to lose your planner? What if it was always with you?

We can improve this method by spending the time it takes to show our students how to use a daily planner and show them how to set up their own iGoogle page. An iGoogle page is a personal space that anyone can manipulate to reflect his or her personality, lifestyle and schedule. It short, it is the one page you can turn to each day and find out everything you want to know for that particular day.

Last year (Spring Semester 2008) I piloted a new project that flattened my classroom and provided a consistent forum for information. I set up a blog page that I controlled and my students could access directly through an RSS feed on their iGoogle page. The results were great! Here is how I set it up.

On the first day of class I walked in and had all the students take out their daily planners that were handed to them by administration as they walked into the doors for their first day. I then did my best Robin Williams impersonation from Dead Poets Society, and asked them to hold them up and drop them on to the floor.

Then I turned on the projector and showed them the future of daily planning. Here is how my presentation began.

***For best viewing, increase video to full screen. Click on screen in lower right hand corner of video***

The students can add the blog to their iGoogle page and receive assignments, reminders and updates. Students can also comment on the blog if they have a question or concern. This forum is also used to organize. I am not one for papers and folders; I loose them! The blog and iGoogle page is especially helpful when a student is absent.

In one particular instance, I finally yielded the results I have been looking for since I started this “flat classroom” project. I received an e-mail from a student who had been home sick all week. He was in class on Monday (the first day of our new spring semester) when I had all of my classes set up their iGoogle page and link to the blog. Here is the e-mail:

Hey Mr. Marcinek, I have had a real bad cold over the last few days, but I saw the doctor today and I should be back tomorrow. I saw the assignment on the blog and wrote a rough draft, so I thought you might want that. The rough draft is attached.”

Eureka! It worked! My students and their parents always had access to the classroom. Assignments could no longer get lost! They were now a constant in the lives of my students! (insert sinister teacher laugh).

Positive Outcomes

1. Students, special education teachers and parents always had access to assignments.

2. Students could access assignments if they missed extended time in class and never fall behind.

3. Students could keep pace with class discussion threads on the blog page if they missed a class.

4. Parents could review assignments and even participate in the learning process.

5. A universal hub for students to access class information, news and anything they enjoy.

6. They could not lose it!

Recommendations

1. Use this as an icebreaker on the first day of class. Have students design and setup their own iGoogle page and present it to the class. Have them explain why they selected a specific theme and why they chose to read The Guardian news feed over the New York Times.

2. Create a rubric for the iGoogle page. Do not give students free reign on this idea. Make sure there are parameters for content they display.

a. Must have a news feed

b. Must have class blog feed

c. Must have a homework list (to do list widget)

3. Invite and consult with administration, technology directors and parents before going forward.

NOTE: I plan on mentioning this recommendation every time I blog because it is so important to protect yourself, your students and your content before venturing out into the dense forest of the internet.

1 comment:

jrsowash said...

Your post inspired me to do a podcast on creating iGoogle pages for use as virtual planners. In the process, I discovered a new feature that allows the sharing of tabs. This enables teachers to create a template page which they can share with their class. A video tutorial is available on my blog: http://electriceducator.blogspot.com/2010/01/igoogle-as-virtual-planner.html