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October 6, 2007 / Ben Chun

Six-Week Reflection

Here are some things I learned in the first six weeks of teaching technology classes in computer labs:

1. Do not assume that you will be able to tell what your students names are from their email addresses or from emails they send you. Take the time to set up each student as a contact in your GMail, and create groups for each class so you can email them all at once.

2. Be very clear about how you want everything formatted and set up: Titles of documents, filenames, email subjects, student names, labels, class periods, etc. This mean you have to know in advance how you want to keep these things organized! The more consistent you can be from day one, the better, so students get trained on how you want things done. If you’re all over the place, their stuff will end up all over the place.

3. Google Docs is great, and yet still requires some really specific conventions in order to make it practical to track and file hundred of documents. The biggest problem I face is that there are no options to control how other users (sharing documents with you) are identified in the document list and folders. It’s always their email username that appears, which, as we learned in the first item today, might be anything. Even after adding the student as a contact, you still have no control over their displayed name in Docs. This is my number one issue right now with Docs. I’m forced to JWZ this: Dear Lazyweb, can we get a Greasemonkey script that does the right thing? One workaround is to require the subject to always be: Last name, First name, Project title. Be ready to teach the mechanism for setting the title a few times.

4. Have your procedures and locations for recording grades and attendance set up in advance. Switching between Google Spreadsheets and Easy Grade Pro a couple weeks into it can be painful. Expect a million student schedule changes in the first few weeks, and have a system that can handle this gracefully.

5. Know your student population. Assigning a big writing project to freshmen in the first weeks of school will remind you that they haven’t had much training yet in how to write effectively.

6. Find ways to learn names. It’s been a challenge, still, to match every single name to a face. I got some suggestions to try using digital photos, which I still might do.

7. Make a plan and stick to it. Since there’s no state standards, no STAR test, and no pacing guides or mandated curriculum for these classes, I really need a year-long overview of what I want to teach and when. Right now, I just have some outlines of ideas and themes.

With a three-day weekend to catch up on grading and make some plans, I’m hoping to get a better handle on some of these.

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