I have taught in technology-based classrooms for most of my seven years of college teaching. I am of two minds about technology. I find the clicking while I'm lecturing to be distracting; I tend to key in on the sound when I'm saying nothing of worthy of posterity but hear fingers clicking furiously. It's hard to resist an IM or a favorite site when your attention wanders. Lord knows that I've been guilty of it myself at more than one interminable staff meeting.
However, I have almost always used blogging or guided students into a MOO. I have found that some of the most verbally reticient pupils express thoughtful, interesting observations when given a medium they feel comfortable using. It's been a delight to see people open up in unexpected ways.
Personally, when I have to remember something crucial, I best learn by the act of physically writing with pen and paper. There seems to be some tactile need for me, and only recently did I stop writing everything in longhand. But perhaps Ben Franklin grumbled about the loss of the quill, Moses the weighty feel of the chisel on stone.
This is so great! I have lots of goals with regard to incorporating more technology in my classroom...in fact, it's on my professional development goal sheet this year. I am with you, Jen...had NO IDEA what a MOO was/is. I am on my way to Wikipedia next to check out Jamie's reference. This is exciting, and I am looking forward to picking your brains.
Another online tool I've used is Criterion Online Writing Assessment. I think you can see a demo at http://criterion.ets.org.
It's an online writing assessment tool. Kids write essays and it gives them a holistic score. Obviously it can't grade for content, but it looks for organization, grammar, etc. It can even detect introductory material, etc. I used it a lot at my old school and we're supposed to be getting it at my new school.
I would assign topics and give the kids a couple of days to do it. Most kids did it at home. The program would give them suggestions, so they could keep revising and resubmitting their essays until they were happy with it.
It made my grading a lot quicker. I could type in comments and score it online from home. I usually gave them so many points for content that I determined and so many points for their holistic writing score from Criterion.
I use a class message board to have discussions about Literature. I find that high school kids need some time to think about things and sometimes they're not ready to discuss in class, so we discuss online. Last year I had to unexpectantly have my gall bladder removed right when my AP class was reading The Scarlet Letter. The knew nothing about the book, so I basically taught the book online from home through the message board. Kids did the reading during class and we discussed it online. It worked beautifully.
I have just started using Moodle, which is similar to Blackboard. I can post assignments and kids can submit them online. There's a lot more I can do with it, but I haven't tried it all out yet.
I also have my own personal website, but my new school for some reason doesn't want me to have my own site and it's blocked at school! So that's why I started using Moodle.
I also teach journalism and I have a lot of forms the kids have to turn in for interviews, ad contracts, etc, so I can post pdfs online and they can print them at home if they need one.
I don't know if this is the same thing, but as the EL/Title I Coordinators of our school I have had the unique opportunity to use those budgets as I see fit and I purchased Smart Boards for every classroom last year and they are wonderful! I can give a test on the board (multiple choice) and students key in their answers on their own keypads and the tests are graded right there. It's virtually impossible to cheat and I get a plethora of reports that I can run on groups of students and their progress. This has been especially helpful for me because I teach at a Continuation School and I have anywhere from 3-5 Preps, per period! I have EL 2's mixed in with General level 12th grade students so the Smart Boards are wonderful. My lessons have been so interactive because the students can come up and get involved or get involved from their seats. It's great because, like Jamie said, there is something about the physicality of the thing that helps the retention.
I haven't gone totally techno yet though, I still physically grade some things that are on paper, but I do love all the new educational gadgets that come out and I always try to get them. Our school is in a very rural area and about 90% of our students do not have computers at home so I'm trying to get them as much exposure as I can so that they can find more success in the working world.
MOOS are virtual reality "towns". They allow people to move about while being simultaneously connected. You can read a very good description of MOOs on Wikipedia (shhh! Don't tell the students!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOO
One of the most intriguing exercises I've done on the MOO is a game in which students postulate theories of the Kennedy Assassination. One group claims to be the CIA, one the Soviet Union, one the "Lone Gunman," etc. This game was created by Cynthia Hanes, co-creator of Lingua MOO, and one of my early mentors.
If you, or anyone else, is interested in exploring the possibility of MOOs, let me know and I'll be happy to try to guide you through it.
I have almost completely removed the use of anything hard copy in my classroom. All writing assignments that are completed I pull from the students' folders on our server rather than having them print anything out. I then grade them using the "track changes" feature on Word and hand them back by dropping them back into their server folders; no more piles of essays on my desk!
This year our school started testing out Active Boards in the classroom also. Although I did not have one in my room this year, if I am still in the classroom next year, I will be getting one. This will remove the need for any white board notes during lecture as well as handing out any quizzes or tests, as all of that can be done through individual student controls at their desks (as a bonus, the hardware grades the student's answers also!).
About the only thing that I would never try to replace with technology are the actual texts. Like every other English teacher, there is still something calming about the feel and smell of an actual book - can't replace that.
It is apparent that I desperately need this group...
What is a MOO???