Over the course of the last few months, I have been writing about the creation of a new class in our middle school called Connections which focuses on critical thinking and problem solving through multi-disciplinary writing. Last week our middle school opened and the Connections classes began. Below is the initial reaction from several of the teachers after that first day:
-I had a great day! The kids are very curious about the Connections class and the use of technology within the class. I was floored to see that I would say that about 90% of them said that they have cellphone. I think it’s going to be a great year!
-Things went well, students are highly interested in Connections, although not completely sure what it is yet. They enjoyed learning about the Web 2.0 applications we will be using and can’t wait to use Google Apps for Education. I am glad we prepared in the summer for the first 2 weeks, it is making the beginning of the year much easier.
-The kids seemed really interested in the course. The idea of podcasts and other multimedia projects definitely seemed to go over well. I think some of the students were a bit overwhelmed, but I’m hoping that a gradual transition into our first unit will ease their anxiety.
-I totally hooked them with the pollanywhere.com survey! When I asked them to explain what the Connections class was, they really got it! They said they’d be learning how to think, use what they already know, use technology to demonstrate their understanding and other stuff I can’t remember because my brain is fried.
-They were initially hooked by the “no homework/no tests” aspect. Once they heard a litttle more they still seemed eager to begin. There was a mixture of excitement and fear, which is exactly what I wanted/expected. I think they are ready for the freedom, challenge, and responsibility that Connections entails.
We are now a full week beyond these initial reactions and I have been popping into the rooms to see how things are going. Initial reaction? It’s difficult when you know in your gut that what you are doing is the right thing to do, but not too many people have tried it on such a large scale, so to see it in action was frightening for me. Here’s what I saw:
- The legs knocked out from under them: The students were confronted with a class that focuses on writing, yet does not grade for mechanics and spelling, only content, clear ideas, and connection to other subject areas. In one class, the teacher was using Socratic Questioning to continually force the students to challenge their own assumptions and habits. They were so uncomfortable! Their cognitive dissonance was palpable and then she made them write about it. Thinking through writing.
- Ubiquitous technology: We really tried to hide the technology behind the purposes of this class, and so far it is just that. They are using Moodle in spots, Google Apps in others, but all for the purposes of being connected to each other. As the year moves on, and I try to keep connecting the teachers to others of you out there doing great things, I am hoping that our students will see that too.
- Excitement: This feeling is shared by both the students and the teachers. Our schedule rotates so that the teachers teach 5 classes, but only see them 4 times in a week. On that drop day, we have students complaining that they miss what happened in Connections that day. I hope we keep this up.