Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Web 2.0/PLN class evolves, redefines "wait-time"

Two weeks into Web2.0/PLN class and the students and I have experienced some highs and some lulls. We haven't experienced a "low" but in the evolution of the class we've had moments were we've redefined the term "wait-time" and it is in that time where the "lulls" occur.

Traditionally the term "wait-time" has referred to those seconds separating a teacher's question and a student's response. I was molded traditional. Each second ticks like a minute when holding back the knowledge you want to bestow on students in a Q & A. If one of the smart kids didn't know, and I waited 30 seconds, I answered and performed a fantastic review of the concepts on the board. "There, they have it" I can think to myself and move on to the next question to engage the next concept.

Our new "wait-time" is the pause between defining the task and student-teacher interaction and/or student action. This "wait-time" cannot be defined and monitored, just tracked and it can be surprisingly minimal or lengthy. It's an open-ended proposition followed by a pause then action, discussion or both.

My first three classes were traditional, even though my intention was to have it be a blend of online resources, instruction with my guidance and facilitation. Day one was a flurry of group watched videos, Q & A, read and write, with registration into web 2.0 tools. Every step was coordinated and well placed, timed and tracked. I was a bevy of knowledge and had the 2-3 students who were engaged with me answering and feeding my passion.

At the end of the first day I had a moment of satisfaction, and old feeling from the days standing in front leading my Chemistry class through complex concepts. I sat down to write a reflection on my Google Doc and realized a couple things. First, I hadn't let go of the reigns at all during the day. I steamrolled through silence ignoring the majority by providing them the answers. Secondly, the performance high wore off and I crashed with a guilty dread pooling into my stomach. I had fallen into the same trap all traditional teachers - I grabbed control and were stimulated by the euphoria of executing a locked-in lesson. A lesson that was two weeks in the making and now I had to prepare for one in just a handful of days.

Over the last five days of class I've weaned myself of the majority of control. I dumped the first assignment and due date; I've introduced and re-introduced topics; I've given an open-ended assignment that will be ongoing and I've mixed in quick hitting videos with quick response activities. And we've talked, laughed and through all of it gained insight as to their skills and needs for the class. We've hit a scattered selection of objectives from the original course outline but I'm readying a cross-referenced curriculum guide to track what we'll hit cover and master. It's going to be like taking a connect the dots and erasing the numbers.

I've also been able to collaborate, watch and learn from Shannon Miller, who spent this past summer developing her course and helped get me started with mine. We brainstormed some ideas on a Google Doc and I have developed my own to help prepare and chronicle the development of my course at CAM High School. There are many differences that I can see right now, but the commonality is we are submerging students into web 2.0 tools and moving them towards the development of a personal learning network (PLN) of peers and adults. Her class is moving right along, and despite some changes in the original idea each class is experiencing the buffet of Web 2.0 tools and laying the ground work for PLNs. I have been able to follow Van Meter's progress through Shannon's Twitter and feel comfortable deviating from her course and letting our students progress in another direction.

Most likely our students, intentionally or unintentionally, will cross paths while establishing their PLNs. We could have forced the issue, staged the encounters and had a well coordinated meet and greet with traditional classroom control.

Instead we're going to take our time, and wait for it to occur naturally. And in that wait time my class and I will learn something and I will discover how to effectively start feeding my student's passion.