Thursday, April 27, 2006

An Update

Arranging for my move to Singapore and keeping afloat at work are consuming every waking moment, which is why I've been posting so rarely. Here's an update.

For the past two weeks, when we weren't taking state tests, our time in the computer lab was spent writing DARE essays. For my communications class, I once again used Moodle to give students feedback. As before, it seemed to be an effective conferencing tool for my students and keep my from lugging piles of essays back and forth each night.

Starting next week, the NCLB testing will monopolize our computer lab completely, so this week we put a burst of energy into our blogs. On Monday I was out sick. I lifted my blogging lesson for the reserve teacher directly from Clarence Fisher's blog post on Supporting Discourse. As usual, a few kids were completely untouched and are showing no change in their commenting. However, a number of them are trying out the comment starters that Clarence found on Anne Davis' blog. For most of them, it still sounds a bit awkward. However, I am a firm believer in honoring approximations as students develop new skills. Hopefully they will soon own these new tools.

I've been streaking with the software side of things. The Superglu page I set up to make a one-stop link to our blogs is finally behaving. I quit making changes, so I assume it was technical difficulties with their servers. Now I'm struggling with Blogmeister. Some of the time, I receive email letters with comments to approve. When I click on the link to approve them, instead of a window popping open in my web browser that announces, "Comment Approved!", I get the message that no record exists. I'm getting a fairly high number of these. They never have a name with them, so I can't tell if it is one of our own students or one of our visitors. Luckily, the comment is visible in the email, so I show that to my students.

Final challenge at the moment is to find a painless way to track student blog posts through the writing process. In the past, I taught a number of courses at Hamline University. Participation in online forums via Blackboard was a mandatory part of the course. Since I found myself tracking those from home, school, and on campus, I set up a database in my PDA. Each student was a record. Each assignment was a field. The system worked well.

Since then, the software I used has gone out of business. I thought of using an Excel spreadsheet so I could mail merge it with a report card, but my Quickoffice never installed correctly and the company refused to help. I thought of using one of the nifty, free online web app creation tools, such as ZohoCreator. I still might go that route, especially if I can download the data in some friendly format. Or, I might use the free Mobile DB program on my PDA, even though it won't play nicely with anything on my desktop. One thing is for sure. I won't be toting a piece of paper as a checklist. With my impending move, there are already far too many of those little papers in my life.