Last year I proudly shared some of the features of my tenth grade online course with my associate principal. He gave me the positive response I was hoping for and then exclaimed something like, "I bet you are really going to town with your AP course." Well, uh, no. This year and last, I've taught four courses, and even though my AP American Gov & Politics class is populated with curious, motivated seniors, I've integrated less technology than my other courses.
There is one good reason for this: The seniors don't have laptops like my other students. But I confess that I have also been concerned that straying too far from a traditional format may harm their scores on the AP exam.
But I made one major tech incursion, last year. I required each student to watch a documentary film of her choice, post a podcast review of the film to Gabcast, and then review two other podcasts. This year the reviews will be posted online.
This year, my most exciting use of tech has involved video. I began by loaning students my Flip Mino. They would go off and record a 3-4 minute vlog. After I uploaded their clip to an Apple me.com site, the other students would view it on their own time. Then we would all discuss it in class on a designated "blowback" day. This was fun, but our big breakthrough came three weeks ago
Inspired by my colleague Steve's successes with blogging, experiments with blogging, I suggested to the students that we blog about the vlogs. iCal and iWeb turned out to be the perfect tools for this. We have vlogging/blogging schedule on our an assignment calendar. Students know when the vlogs will be posted (weekly) and blog withing a prescribed time frame. Our site is attractive, password protected, and user friendly. Students access their links through Moodle.
Most importantly, the videos and compositions have been terrific. I loved the political analogy to our woeful local football team in the following excerpt:
'The significance of President’s Obama inauguration is unquestionable from a historical standpoint, although the public support displayed there will not necessarily stay with him throughout his Presidency. Allegra noted that Obama will have a dedicated following throughout his administration, and there is no doubt that such a following will exist. Even President Bush, who many consider one of the worst Presidents in our nation’s history, had such a following. These people are like Detroit Lions season-ticket holders—they will support the team even when it goes 0-16. However, most Americans are not like Lions fans; they want results, and they want action. Obama will need to act on his message of change in order to maintain the public support that was so apparent at his inauguration."
- Alessi, 1/25/09.
The vlogging and blogging have been a fun change of pace, but they have also provided an opportunity for deeper critical thinking on current events that we ordinarily discuss in a more off-hand manner. I intend to make this a regular staple of this class and would love to know how other teachers have used vlogs, particularly if the students have posted their own.
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