Lately I have been attending a lot of conferences. I am an extrovert so being around people really energizes me, but by the end of a 3 day event I can really be dragging. Right now I am sitting in a very interesting presentation on Mobile Edugames, but if you looked at my face you might think I was bored to tears. It’s not personal, I’m just maxed out on my learning and interactions.
This gets me to thinking how students in the last period of the day feel. Your class may be the 5th or 6th class they have had that day and even the extroverts have spent their mental energy. I am picking up little nuggets of things I want to know about, but since I am tired I am not getting the finer detail. Students who are trying to pay attention, but are mentally spent are probably in the same boat. So what do we do? Do we punish them for not paying attention? Force them to sit up straight? Accept that the students in the later periods of the day will receive a lower grade?
One thing I value is creating a classroom website. Personally, I like to use Google Sites due to the ability to create multiple “blog” style pages for each subject I teach. I advocate for putting everything that goes on in the classroom onto the website. When a student misses a direction, for whatever reason, that the student can easily locate the information.
Teaching from the Webpage
I like to do my lesson planning directly into the class website. I create an agenda that both myself and the students can follow along with. Since the website is MY source of information for the lesson that day I can ensure the students are able to access all the elements to the lesson and activities.
Clearly there is a benefit to students who are absent, but there is also an advantage to the students who are in class who are no longer dependent upon you for information. If they are tired and the students mind inadvertently wanders for 10 minutes they do not have to draw attention to themselves and risk the dreaded “weren’t you listening?!” from the teacher. Student is able to find the information they need on the website and get on task, or catch up after they get home and have had a chance to relax their brain.
Making your classroom website the center of your classroom universe aids in allowing the teacher to taking the focus off of themselves. In 2010 when I had my baby my lesson plans were “alicekeeler.net.” To say the least my sub was freaking out, but the students were so use to coming into class, going directly to my website and getting started in the learning process it turned out to work perfectly.
Outlining an agenda on the page, specific tasks and outcomes listed, clear and easy access to resources all help the students to be on task and be independent learners.
By structuring the agenda for the class on the website, the teacher can spend less time explaining, directing, and reiterating. By taking the time to ensure that the website has all of the information the student will need for the day the teacher can be empowered to be less helpful. Wanting to encourage students to be self sufficient problems solvers, I try to avoid answering any questions that the student can likely discover for themselves. Students quickly learn to reference the website to find any information they need or may have missed.
If students are use to accessing the website for information it makes it much easier to disseminate information and get students on the same page. Rather than asking students to go to this website or that website and waste time with students accidentally typing ww instead of www or misspelling the site, students always go to the classroom website as the starting point and link out from there to other web resources we might be using.
This doesn’t mean the classroom suddenly becomes independent study, but allows the teacher to be freed up from giving directions and being the sole source of information. The teacher can now spend time working with students, having critical thinking discussions, assisting with projects and any other teacher tasks that need to be done.
Most of us have been in the situation where we are listening to a speaker but for some reason missed one piece of information the speaker said, or they went onto the next slide too quickly. Rather than having students ask you to repeat the information, which some students would not do, or asking you to back up so they can finish copying down the information, students are able to access the slides themselves either during or after. If the teacher is using the class website as the launch point for the resources they need, the students can be assured that the resources are also available for them.
By using the website as my lesson planning guide I not only ensured that all information was available to the students, I found that it made the flow of my class go more smoothly. I use Google Docs, any presentation or document I was going to use with the students is embedded or linked to within the site. Along with the students, I also start class by going to the website. Any information, links or presentations that I need access to are organized into the agenda.
Not all resources a teacher needs access to should be accessible to the student. When students fill out a Google Form, the collected information in the resulting spreadsheet may not be appropriate for all students to have access to. By using Google Docs, the teacher only resources are not made public. Linking to the documents with a disclaimer “For Instructor Use Only: ” allows the teacher to click on the link and immediately review the information they need. When students click on that same link, they would simply receive an error message indicating they do not have permissions to view the doc.
This approach also makes it easier to collaborate and work with other teachers. Google Sites can be shared with multiple editors. I recommend making any collaborators “Is Owner” in the site sharing settings if the collaborator is trusted. Unlike Google Docs, Google Sites can have multiple “Is Owner” status. With multiple editors each teacher in the grade level is able to contribute lesson activities and resources to the agenda. The day of the lesson all teachers and their students are able to access the same website and have all necessary presentations, directions and resources quick at hand.