Monday, October 20, 2008

Irony in the 21st Century classroom

Here's another taste of an authentic 21st Century English classroom, sprinkled with a healthy dose of the latest and greatest technology, and finished off with a hint of irony to keep it real.

It started when I figured out a way to incorporate text messaging into the lesson - something I've been trying to attain for over a year. Anne posted about how she used Polleverywhere to set up an in-class poll that took text message votes. What I did was ask the kids which of the five stories we read in class they liked the best. Simple enough. Just five minutes at the beginning of class to try out the service, get a quick feel from the kids what they thought, and then use that to plan the next step.

It went smoothly, and I recommend Polleverywhere to everyone who's willing to experiment. It's free and easy to use. (Go ahead and respond via text to the one on this page and you'll see what I mean) What I did in class was project the live poll on the SmartBoard, and the kids got a kick watching it move with every vote.

Several of the kids were genuinely enthusiastic about whipping out their cell phones and sending a text. A few kids thought it was a joke, and I think they were legitimately amazed that a text message and a lesson could ever find common ground. That's great. One student even suggested that I do this again, but set it up so kids could text in a discussion question or idea as we walk into class. I plan to take him up on his idea at some time.

So the rest of the class is spent doing a "Take A Stand" activity to discuss upcoming themes in the novel A Separate Peace. To do so, I was using the SmartBoard, projecting a Google presentation of the discussion questions which was embedded in my classroom wiki. What's more 21st Century than that? After the discussion, which covered topics such as jealousy, friendship, and honesty, the kids spent the last 10 minutes of class writing about one of the ideas from the discussion they felt the strongest about.

So where's the irony? Well, during the writing portion of the lesson, I confiscated a kid's cell phone because he was texting during class.


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