For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over. Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year. This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year. Today’s post is about offering more opportunities to my students using online tools.
I am so excited about a pilot project that we are doing in my school district this year. A group of us (elementary gifted and talented teachers) got together, and decided to offer some online classes to our students for the summer. The classes are FREE, and anyone in our 3rd-5th gifted classes throughout our district was allowed to sign up for one. We had 320 students sign up for this first summer. We would have had more if we had not cut off the registration date or if we had opened it up to more grade levels. This tells me that there is a thirst for knowledge that motivates our students to learn even when they are not in school.
You can visit a sample of our course catalog here. I removed the links and the teacher names to ensure privacy, but I want to give a huge shout-out to all of the teachers involved, as they are doing this on a completely voluntary basis during their summer.
We are using Edmodo as the vehicle for delivering our courses, and I am just in the process of realizing the potential of this web application (also available as an app). As I mentioned in yesterday’s Genius Hour post, there are so many students out there who want to learn more than what is being offered in their regular classrooms. Edmodo gives us the opportunity to give them more options, allowing us to schedule assignments and posts that they can access on their own time. There are certainly other online class sites out there, but this is what our district happens to be using at the moment, and it serves our purposes very well.
Thrilled as I am about our summer program, I would like to see it expand. I would also like to implement a similar program throughout the school year. So, my goal for this following school year is to try offering some courses for my own students that can be done on their own time – or, if a classroom teacher agrees, in place of work that they have already mastered in the regular classroom.
Please understand that I am not envisioning these courses to be MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Course), or to replace the physical teaching environment. I want to keep the courses small and personalized. I want the courses to enhance what my students are already learning, and to fuel their desire for finding out more on topics that interest them.
I plan to write a reflection about our summer experience in a couple of months (most of the classes began yesterday), after I get feedback from the students and teachers. In the meantime, if you think you might like to try something like this, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.