cc licensed flickr photo by istargazer:
cc licensed flickr photo by istargazer:

Last week, Ms. Lester and I asked students to take some time to reflect on their learning experience of the first six weeks of the semester.    I have spent the evening compiling a master list of student reflections that were submitted by the deadline of 3:30 PM on Friday, September 18 (we worked on them in class on Wednesday and Friday) and reading the reflections.  Here are my own reflections/observations based on the student feedback/comments I read.

What They Loved

  • Nearly every student of the 39 responses I had received indicated that they loved the ease and organizational features (as well as chat) of Gmail.
  • This love extended to Google Docs—many stated they liked it better than Word and loved how easy it was to use.  They also cited it as an organizational tool, and they love not having to depend on email or a flash drive for moving work.
  • Most also are feeling the love for Google Sites for hosting and creating professional looking work.
  • Most also love and are proud of the fact that they can blog!
  • Most indicated they enjoyed our group activities:  the book tasting we did last week as well as the “speed dating” article interviews were deemed as positive learning experiences.
  • Learning new Google search techniques.
  • Learning how social media can be used for research and educational uses, not just personal networking.

Love/Hate Relationship

  • The class Wetpaint Wiki:  some indicated they really like this tool, but many indicated the structure was confusing.  I’m wondering if I should move the class wikis to Wikispaces—the structure is already in place.  I find Wetpaint pretty easy to navigate, but then again, I’m a more experienced user!  Perhaps it is too overwhelming for new users?  I will have them vote next week via PollDaddy.
  • The Schaeffer Method Shaping Sheet Writing organizer:  some love it, some feel they don’t need it; however, may indicated they found it confusing and felt as though they were repeating themselves.   I will need to brainstorm with Ms. Lester if it is possible to modify this school required template to perhaps give students a comparable but different option that is the same content wise but perhaps visually more appealing?  While we want to scaffold their writing and know some are still learning the school required Schaeffer writing method, perhaps we need to share with them the goal is to ween them off it as we move forward.  Maybe some are ready now?

Muddy Points

  • Some are confused by the multiple web tools we are using.  I need to stress to them to memorize one, and they should be able to navigate their way to the other pages with ease
  • Most indicated they still feel confused about citing sources—depending on who they had, some of these students had more time intensive help/experience with NoodleTools last year than others.  I am hoping to make NoodleTools easier to use for them and to help them feel more confident citing their sources

Possible Topics for Triage

  • The Shaping Sheet—many are still confused
  • Grammar:  Sentence Structure
  • General Organizational Skills for some—many felt the Google tools helped in this area, but others are still struggling
  • Clarify purpose of the class wiki—I think this will become more apparent as we use it more for our literature circles activities
  • Writing Mini-Lessons:  word choice (diction), organization

Notable Quotes

When I blog I feel like I have a voice and that people are listening. Even if my blog doesn’t have a high rating I still know it is mine and my words. To think of my self a a resource is an awesome idea. Blogging can be a bit challenging, but I think that is what makes it fun. If there is not a challenge then it takes the fun out of learning. Also, I think it helps my only study and research skills. I can use a personal blog to put together a study guide or outline for a test. No matter what, I always find a new way to use my blog.

Jennifer S.

I have learned from the blogs, because I have to type the information and think about it rather then mindlessly transferring information from paper to paper as I have done in every other class. I enjoy the blogs because they are quick and easy to review, edit, or read. The wikis are helpful and easy to post to, and it is helpful to see everybody’s input on a subject matter. Google Docs and Sites are a major advancement because I don’t have to keep up with a flash-drive, or worry about converting a Word document for e-mailing. All of these new learning tools are relieving a lot of stress in school, and making it significantly easier to learn. I am looking forward to putting them to further more in depth use as we move on this year.

Nolan W.

You would never think that posting a blog, or updating your profile would help you get organized, but it has. When i am looking for something that I complete several weeks ago I look back to my blog post and back to my Google Sites, and there it is. The Google Docs really has help me also. I use that instead of Microsoft Word, and it helps me keep everything right there on my e mail. It also saves by itself so you never have to worry about all your work being gone.

Cori D.

I have improved so much on the information I can collect in the time allotted, writing blog responses, staying on task, and keeping caught up with all the work that needs to be done. The thing I am most proud of is how much my writing has improved just by writing one persuasive essay and many blogs posts and responses. Not only can I tell that my writing has had great progress in my English course, but also in my other classes too. My performance in writing, comprehending, and socializing has been greatly influenced by learning the many tools these past 2 months.

Lindy S.

I have learned about the usefulness of wikis and how they can be used to share information as a group. It helped me understand how Wikipedia and other wikis actually work and function as learning tools. The introduction of learning through blogging on the site WordPress, was also a new experience to me. I was interested to find that some blogs actually contain credible information and not just opinion based articles.

Loren T.

3 thoughts on “Media 21 Student and Media Specialist MidSemester (Almost) Reflections

  1. Just curious–did you seek parent perm for the creation of the Google accounts, or are you using the Google for Educators point of access? Just leery of the TOS, and I REALLY want to use iGoogle and Google Reader with a small group of 15 here at Dorman. It only seems natural to consider introducing and having the use the whole kit and kaboodle.


  2. Hi Cathy!

    At this time, our district is not providing the Google Apps (education edition) for our students, nor are they providing email addresses or a service for high school students. There is nothing in board policy to my knowledge or the AU policy stating we must seek parent permission to have students create an email account (although common sense seems to say if they are under 13, you might strongly consider that). However, I DO tell students that if they or their parents are not comfortable with signing up for Gmail, then they do not have to do so, and we try to work around respecting those wishes. I chose Gmail because it works so seamlessly with the other Google applications, is free, and has been positively touted by other educators.

    Most web based services (including Twitter) establish 13 to 14 as the legal age for using those services, such as email. As you have shared, while Google does not specify a specific age for use of ANY of their services, the verbiage about being of legal age to enter into a binding contract with Google is somewhat murky. In this March 2008 article from CNET News at, it seems Google is providing multiple answers about the age issue.

    However, in this post from Google, it says they must be at least 13 to use Gmail: . This help forum also identifies 13 as the minimum age: .

    I think the wording of the terms of agreement leaves some room for interpretation. If we read it strictly, this would forbid them from using ANYTHING Google: Google Search, Google News, Google Reader, etc. However, it seems to me that if they state you must be 13 to use Gmail, it would be reasonable to expect 13 is the minimum age for other Google services. However, I am not an attorney, so I cannot speak with any kind of legal insight or authority.

    I do understand the need for educators and school districts to be mindful of terms of use and to protect students—that is absolutely more than reasonable. At the same time, it also seems reasonable to help students learn how to use these services properly; the reality is that many of them are using these and similar services already. In addition, students (and teachers) have been really positive about the use of tools such as iGoogle, Google Docs, and Gmail—should districts take those tools away from students and teachers out of fear of litigation? This seems to go back to the issue of web filtering—denying access to something that could be beneficial to students for fear of lawsuits.

    Looking back, perhaps I was wrong to assume it was OK to use these tools; however, because so many educators have written about using these with high school age students and showcasing the benefits of the use of these tools (and not the Google Education edition in every case, either, I might add, I honestly didn’t foresee a problem with the terms of service.

    Perhaps districts should create and consider sending home an informational letter about the use of these services and an “opt out” form. In addition, through the use of our websites and pathfinders, we can create transparency by showing all stakeholders in our community exactly what we are doing and hope to accomplish with the use of these tools. Perhaps hosting a parent night to show these tools might be helpful and enlightening as well!

    Based on the Google documents I have cited here, I would like to continue to using these tools with my students. There is really nothing else comparable to Google in terms of the seamless integration, and because my co-teacher and I are being very open about how and what we are using while encouraging our students to practice good principles of digital citizenship and Internet safety, I feel we are practicing ethical behavior. While I tend to err on the side of caution, it seems such a shame to deny students access to these tools that clearly have had positive benefits and are tools many will use soon as college students.

    I appreciate your bringing up the TOS issue earlier this week—it is a great example of fine and ambiguous print! I contacted Google earlier this week with these questions, and hopefully, we can get clarification. Stay tuned! 🙂



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