Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Semester Reflection Period 5

What changes have you seen this semester in regards to your education? What role did technology play in that change? What role did the constructivist philosophy play in that change? (constructivist-students becoming producers of information, students in charge of their own learning. What suggestions for improvement do you have for me next year? What are some of the things you would suggest I do again?

Make sure to include specific examples and expand on each other's ideas.

Your feedback- honest and reflective- is important!


katiez2012 said...

This semester I have changed a lot with my thoughts and strengths in not only English but school in general. High school is way different and my learning styles have changed a lot because of my classes. I am doing better than I was last year and I think it’s because of my teachers and the way they are teaching. Technology has played a very important role in that. Laptops, like the one that I’m using now, make it so much easier to take notes so therefore I do it more often even without having to be asked. I can then even put the notes on my usb to take home and study later to learn even more. Learning would be so much harder and not nearly as fun without technology like I have been introduced too this semester. The constructive philosophy plan worked only okay for me. I know I have to learn on my own but at school teachers are there to help and guide you. But this way, I think we were struggling to figure out what was right or wrong to be focusing on. I liked it, but I think that a few of the teachers should have stepped up and guided us a little more. I guess that’s just my preference though. I also think that when you assign papers or assignments, you should maybe be a little more specific with what you are looking for in an A paper. A lot of the students and even myself have been graded down because of details that weren’t included on the directions. Another idea for that would be giving out rubrics like you did for a lot of the projects. That helped me a lot too. For next year, I really think you should keep the partner quizzes up. I like those because you can put two brains together and talking about it makes it easier to understand and even sparks new ideas. You have been a pretty great teacher in the long run, and I really liked this class. We did fun stuff like the fishbowls and just talked about our thoughts which was really interesting and I learned a ton of techniques that will always help me in further class and life skills. Thanks Ms. Smith :)

kaelib2012 said...

This semester, I have seen major changes in the way I look at my education. I used to feel like I have to have all of the guidelines for an assignment or I would freak out and not know what to do. Now, I can basically do an assignment without very many guidelines and do just fine. Technology didn’t really play a role in this change, it was just a change of mind and the people I worked with, because they were better with no guidelines than I am. The constructivist philosophy played a huge role in that change, because it made me think for myself. I f I was going to produce information, I had to do it in my own ways, on my terms. Next year, I would say don’t jump right in to the whole learn by yourself kind of thinking, because it is a shock to the system for many people who have been told what to do their whole lives, give them a chance to get acclimated to high school in the first place, then begin making them do more and more of the thinking for themselves. I would say that the more interesting projects, like the banned book should be done again. They are something you can do on your own, and it gives you a chance to do something you enjoy, rather than something you are being forced to do and would rather not participate in. This class is a good class to switch up the routine of a boring day, you get a chance to learn and often times talk to your friends at the same time. I look forward to coming here again next semester.

jonathanp2012 said...

This semester, there have been many changes that have altered my perception of learning and education. Before I came into this class, I thought that you just came into class to listen to the teacher lecture then go to the next class and learn from a different teacher about a subject. But I learned that you can expand your knowledge outside of the classroom and make a difference in the way most of the world thinks about education. I now take in all the knowledge that any teacher gives to me because know I now know that this will lead me to a successful life later on. Technology played a huge role in this change because it gave me more of an idea of how the world is changing and how we are a part of that world. Taking charge of my own learning in this class also helped me believe more that I am capable of producing my own knowledge with the teacher guiding that path of learning. I really liked the fishbowls this semester because it gave a balance between the people who don’t like to talk and the people who don’t like to write. The things that I had trouble with this semester were the seminars and the fact that I had to talk for a grade but I think it will get better for me later on. Overall, it was a good semester with an enormous amount of learning.

bradyp2012 said...

This semester I have seen a few changes in my learning this semester. I have found that my learning seemed to be more hands on and more interactive than in previous years. I found that I am able to use technology faster and I know a lot more about programs on the computer. Technology helped me get into deeper discussions through the blog. I also found that the student lead discussions were very helpful to understanding content in the books we read this semester. Being in charge of my own learning gave me a different perspective about school and learning. I think being in charge made education more enjoyable. In area that you can improve I would suggest that you should be a little more specific on what the assignment is. Some of the projects you assigned were very vague and it was difficult to find a good place to start. I would suggest you keep up the fishbowls and keep letting the students lead the discussions because that was very helpful to my learning. I would also suggest keeping the technology part of the class. The computers are very helpful and were a big part of changing my view of learning.

carolineb2012 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
carolineb2012 said...

I’ve seen a lot of changes in myself this semester in regards to my education. I feel like I’ve learned a lot. My entire way of thinking about things, especially learning, has shifted. I came into the semester with a normal view on learning. Go to school, do the homework, learn, and then repeat every day. But now I view learning as something that can happen all the time. Even in school, there are different ways to learn things. Through the discussions that we had, I now think of learning and how to do differently. Technology helped in that change because my view on that has also changed. I used to view technology as a tool that could sometimes assist with a project, or use a paper. But with the use of technology in class almost every day, I really saw how it can help an education. Tools such as live blogging showed me how to have a discussion without actually speaking. Constructivist philosophy had an impact on me also. Even outside of this class that concept helped me. It made me take charge of my learning in other classes that I may not necessarily have taken charge of in. Going to see teachers, going in for extra help, and trying my best are just a few examples of how this helped me in others classes besides this. For next year, try to be a little specific on the requirements. I realize that this is not education as usual; however, maybe assigning a rubric as to what you are looking for would benefit students, especially the kind of “type A personality” people that need that kind of structure to their education. Also, maybe try not to make technology required in every part. For some people it is confusing and hard to understand. I know I’ve had trouble with more than one of the technological things that we’ve been required to do this year, especially the voice recording for the this I believe essays. I know that we will need to learn how to use these things and deal with problems that are and learn in our lives, but there are better ways to do that. I’m not sure the next time I’ll need to make a voice recording on the computer, but I guess it won’t hurt me to know how. I’d say just make things like that an option. I did like being able to do projects in groups, and peer grading though, I suggest you do those again in the future. Overall, this semester I really enjoyed this class, and I’m looking forward to next semester.

bridgetL said...

I think some of the biggest challenges this semester have been the quizzes. On both SAT vocab as well as reading quizzes I had to prepair really hard to do well. In previous years, as long as I read and studied the vocab I would do fine, but this year I have had to go to extra measures like re-reading. While I like being challenged in my thinking and reading, sometimes it felt as though some of the things we were asked to know did not matter very much. Certain questions on quizzes felt insignificant such as numbers or details that were simply details of the story, but had nothing to do with the big picture. I certainly did more reading this year than before. In previous English classes it had focused more on writing than on reading. I really enjoy reading and liked that aspect of the class. I also had to learn more about how to use the computers. I was not familiar with the 07 version of Word before this semester and it took some getting used to. Now, however, the laptops are one of my favorite parts of the class.
Technology did not play such a big part in those difficulties, but a huge role in my learning. I am a much better typer than hand writer and I felt that I was able to focus more on the words I was writing than on my handwriting itself. When taking notes or writing an essay or anything else for that matter, I could get so much more done on the computer. It also made it much easier to bring things home and work on them there. It also lightened my backpack load, which may sound insignificant but made a difference. It was great to have one less binder to lug around. I was able to get so much more out of everything we did because I was able to jot things down so much faster and with so much more ease on the laptops. The same goes for the blogging. It was easy and fast to type what I wanted to say, however I think that it was also very hard to follow the conversation. I had to concentrate so hard on what other people were typing that I think some of my thoughts were lost in the process, which is why I chose on the last fishbowl to be in the inner circle instead of blogging.
The constructivist philosophy had a big part in my learning. I really liked being able to take charge of my own learning at times. However, at other times I wish there had been more guidance.
As I said before, I think it would be great if next semester the quizzes concentrated less on details and more on the big picture. I think I didn’t do as well on quizzes as I could have not because I did not understand what I was reading but because I did not remember details like descriptions or numbers. I was also not a big fan of the peer grading. I like peer editing and I think that it is great so get feedback from my peers, but I would like the final grade to come from my teacher.
The way we were often allowed to go in any direction we wanted with a project was something I really liked. For many assignments we could complete it in any format we wanted, whether by power point of by a poster for example. I was certainly a fan of that freedom. I would love to continue to have discussions over what we read as well as continuing with the variety of new things we have done. I was especially a fan of the This I Believe Goes Global. I would love to share another writing project with the students in Qatar, or perhaps do some sort of book discussion with them.
I have learned a lot this semester. Not only in the curriculum, but also new ways of thinking and new skills on the computer. I loved typing and learned so much more about different programs on computer that I never knew of before. It has been a fun class. Thanks tons Ms. Smith.

bens2012 said...

Semester Reflection
This semester I have had noticeable changes in my education such as the use of technology (laptops, blogging, wikispaces, flash drives, and podcasts) or the freedom given to us by Mrs. Smith to take learning in to our own imagination. This change in education has led to an obvious transformation in the way I learn, I am now thinking more in-depth and I am creating a larger view of what education and learning are all about. I feel like my own words and thought are actually showing up, rather than a teacher’s ideas. The technology had an obvious effect on these new changes in the way I learn because it made things such as group presentations more accessible and mobile as well as allowing such things as fishbowls and blogging so that getting a new perspective on books or even life was easy. Another big role in the sculpting my new perspective of education was the philosophy that students can be in charge of their own learning as well as produce their unique information. For instance, Mrs. Smith allowed us to present and produce our own information that we gathered rather than handing us the information and telling us to create a powerpoint. Some suggestions that I have for Mrs. Smith are: It’s really hard to read to books at a time, especially when annotating is mandatory, also a little more help on the directions of a project or paper would be awesome, even though the free learning style is great. Thank You!

NickM2012 said...

Semester Reflection

This semester, I have learned that there is more than one way to learn, and more than one way to teach. You have to open your mind to others’ ideas and thoughts and to always be a critic to yourself. I have also learned that we can learn as a group, not just one person. Collaborating with others is a great way to learn because you can see what someone else thinks about the same thing.
Technology was a big help in this change because it opened a whole new world of possibility of learning with the internet and helpful tools like Word and Power Point.
The constructivist philosophy was a new way to look at education for me. I realized that I don’t have to do anything in this class, but if that’s the case, then I won’t get anything back out in return. Being in charge of my own learning was great, but sometimes I would take advantage of that and just take the easy way.
To improve I would definitely allow more movement in the classroom, or some way to increase the flow of communication throughout the classroom. That was a great help to me because it showed me other ways to think. I would also maybe have a more physical feel to our grades. This is like having papers to turn in so you can “Feel” your grade, instead of less physical objects that are being graded.
I would definitely suggest doing the This I Believe again. That was a really amazing experience to be able to talk to people half way around the world, and it was also cool to see that they faced the same problems as I do. I really like the fishbowls too. They were a lot of fun and opened the class for discussion and it usually ended up sparking great ideas. Thanks Mrs. Smith for a wonderful semester!

kristenm2012 said...

Semester Reflection
This semester I have seen an incredible change in the way I read books, I never really read deeper than the words on each page but now I can make great connections and really read deeply into the book. Technology played a great role in my learning because it really helped me incorporate different elements into my work. Not to mention the fact that having a computer at my fingertips every day made this class exceptionally exciting. Honestly I hated the way we got little instructions on projects. It was incredibly difficult to know what to do and I sometimes felt like points were taken off because I was unsure of what I was doing. Not to say that the student-in-charge point of view wasn’t new and exciting at times, but on other occasions it was kind of just a pain. Basically the only things I have to suggest for you to do is give slightly more directions and do WAY more fischbowls (the ones without presenters/discussers)! I would suggest that you continue to incorporate technology the way you already do and spend more time discussing the books we’re reading in class. Altogether I really had a great time in this class and discovering new ways of learning.

kinseym2012 said...

This semester I have noticed a big change in myself personally and academically. Academically,I went from being focused on the details to focusing on big main ideas in regards to my education. This is not just in this class; this is for all of my academic classes. For example, in history instead of studying dates and times like I used to, I now study how events affected the course of this country. In this class it is the same. Vocabulary and grammar have become less important to me. I now focus on making big connections, challenging the system, and changing the world. Personally I have grown because I try harder to understand and ask more questions. I also feel that I am taking more control of my life and my learning.

Technology played a huge roll in my learning. When we were reading Macbeth and had the online copy that we would annotate in word, it was very helpful. If I was studying for a quiz I could just read my annotations that I made in class from my house. Also technology made group projects easier if you could email or use wikispace to get everything completed quickly and efficiently. I loved the technology work we do in this class! It teaches me a lot and is beneficial to the real world.

The constructivist philosophy played a large role. It has helped me become more responsible for myself and for my education. I used to rely on teachers for everything, and now I am self sufficient. This philosophy is brilliant.

Next year I would suggest that you start of easier on the students while they are still learning the way around the school and then make them work hard. Oh and try and make the test easier to start. Also do more class bonding things, I feel that the class should get to know each other more.

Next year I think you should keep doing the fish bowls. Not only are they fun, but you get to hear everyones unique insight on the piece of literature we are studying. Half of the time I would come into a fishbowl and be confused and leave knowing more than I had expected to learn. Also group projects and test teach teamwork and cooperation that we don't find many other places.

Overall the semester was really fun. Thanks Smith. :)

kelseyc2012 said...

Semester Reflection
I now approach learning much more slowly than before. It is not that I am timid in my learning, just cautious. I have begun to analyze assignments further so that my interpretation of it may expand and therefore my thinking as well. I have noticed this especially in my visual presentations. My dad even told me that he finds himself when helping me being told what to do where as he used to have to contribute much more. He merely assists me with the execution of my ideas now. Hopefully soon not even that.
Technology has not so much been a part of this educational growth as I thought it would when entering this classroom. I thought it would be a big deal but sometimes I even find it distracting. Overall though it has become a helpful resource. I can do things in class instead of having to remember to do them at home where I have computer access.
In the beginning I found the constructivist philosophy approach to learning frustrating. In my other classes I would have defined boundaries and I would extend my thinking right to the edge of them. But now without those boundaries in place I found it frightening. That is so much unexplored thinking and I was timid to enter. I still find myself often looking for boundaries but I am setting those for myself. I see that and I aspire to eventually set no limitations on my thinking.
One thing that I found very difficult this year was that we were reading multiple books the majority of the time. I found it hard to reach a deeper meaning in one book when I would be confusing it with another. This was frustrating and it almost got to a point where I was producing quantity not quality. I don’t know if this is even something you could change because I know we have to get through our required reading, but if it is then I would highly recommend it.
I love live discussion and would recommend the repeating of that. Whether through fishbowls, just regular discussion, or any means really. It is just so fun. Especially being so self guided as it has been.

Megg2012 said...

I vividly remember the first time I stepped into this classroom. Honestly, I was very nervous when Smith talked about changing the world and “This is not education as usual.” I was very scared that this class would be stressful and worry-some. Smith had high expectations of me, and at first I was scared of that. Eventually, I realized that those high expectations helped me to achieve more than I ever knew I could. The high expectations made me reach even higher for my goals. Also, even though there was a lot of work, I finally felt like English wasn’t a stressful class, but rather a stress reliver. I looked forward to it during the long 55 minutes of Algebra two. English was a place to think my brains out, without feeling exhausted at all.
My perspective on English class has obviously changed throughout the semester. I used to be very scared to speak out in class, but I have learned that my thoughts will benefit others, just as other’s thoughts benefit my learning. I started to feel at ease while I was sharing, because people were actually paying attention. I also read books in a whole new way. I read books “actively,” not passively. Annotating has helped me read and understand books. I think that blogging has made this whole change possible. Once I was comfortable on blogging, I felt more confident to speak out in class.
I think that Smith’s policy of constructivist philosophy has benefited my learning. It has helped me step up to the plate and take control of my learning. It has helped me because I no longer blame anyone for mistakes in my learning, just myself.
I think that, although I understand Smith has to keep up with the curriculum, that she could possibly not have us read two books at the same time. It is a not a big deal to keep up, but rather to keep up with both, and understand both books, and that is what is hard. Also, I think that peers should not grade annotations. They do not get what is in our head, and also, at least I was graded unfairly. The person that graded mine said “You definitely deserved an A, but I decided to give you a B.” How lame is that? (No offense.)
Keep up the amazing work, Smith! I think that next year you should definitely keep fish bowling and blogging. They have helped me a lot in my learning this semester. Also, be sure to show that video at the beginning of the semester, it changed my perspective on what I put into my learning. (and tell them not to be “bumps on a log.”)
Final Comments? Well, aside from learning, I loved the “reality check days.” They helped me learn about myself in a way. I also like the This I believe essays, because it helped me figure out what I really believe. Thanks Smith!

lsadler2012 said...

Change can be something hard to look back and analyze because it all seems to run together and jumble into bits and pieces. To say that the way I have so far been educated in this class has been different, would be an understatement. In this class my education has been in my own hands and the responsibility to learn has been up to me. This is probably the greatest change in my learning, the realization that how I learn and how much is a personal choice. Technology in itself has not dramatically altered my education but more the idea that it’s ok to look outside the box and find resources around you that help you learn. I did however enjoy the laptops, not going to lie. The role of constructive philosophy, like I previously said, changed how much I see myself in regards to be an educator and a teacher to myself and even the students around me, and adds a little worth to waking up in the morning. The thought that I can be a teacher to the kid next to me had never crossed my mind until probably this English class. Suggesting to myself, I would have to say that I need to take more advantage of my limitless boundaries in regards to my school work. Another big alteration that I need to make is to get procrastination out of my learning. Procrastination will only limit the amount of effort, time and creativity I put into my work. I would suggest, Mrs. Smith, that you definitely take advantages of any more opportunities that involve students in different parts of the world, like the This I Believe essays. I think it’s good to see someone else’s education form an outside perspective. So thanks, Mrs. Smith for openning up a new way of learning, maybe you didn't come up with it per say, but you introduced it to us.

brookem2012 said...

This semester has been like no other semester in my life. The changes in education that I encountered had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t really know what to expect because, well, I just didn’t know how this year would work out for me. My learning changed because I think that I really wanted to do well in school this year so I tried very hard to pay attention in class and participate more in class discussions than I would normally. I also think that technology played a big role in this semester because almost every assignment that I had to do involved working on a computer or using other forms of technology. I also think that technology was important this semester because I think that it showed how in the “real world” now you are going to have to use technology almost every day to get the work that you need to get done, done. I think that the constructive philosophy also played a huge role this semester because I think that the class was very focused on creating your own ideas, thinking for yourself, and also not having the teacher be the only one in the class that could steer the conversation in one direction or in another, we were very much in control of their learning and what we wanted to talk about in regard to the main concept that we would be talking about.
To improve how this class functions for next year, I think that the students should still be in charge of the discussions, but maybe there should be more time for them to talk in smaller groups of four or five, as opposed to just doing a huge fishbowl where there are only two big groups. Fishbowls should still be done, but maybe in between them there could be the smaller discussion groups so that if anyone had any questions about the books that we read they could get them answered so they could really participate in the fishbowls. Next year I think that the students should also still be able to take the quizzes on the books in partners because they can be very difficult and if one person does not remember something, then their partner would probably help them figure out the answer, two heads are better than one after all.
Overall, I thought that this semester was a good experience for me and I think that I will be able to take some of the knowledge that I gained form this class and use it well in my life. I didn’t always like the books that we had to read, but I think that some of the core concepts that were demonstrated in the books will help me make connections to other books and to the real world.

Thanks, Smith!

treyjb2012 said...

I feel that because of this class my future will be a little different. Every other class and at home I am always told things like ‘too much screen time’ and ‘get off the computer’. In this class we actually are encouraged to use computers. My mind has been opened to new possibilities in learning such as the ability to use normal discouraged or ‘forbidden at school’ websites like MySpace and YouTube for learning purposes. Just the other day I posted a video about The Chosen to YouTube for the world to enjoy (I know, funny joke). I have struggled quite a bit in this class the first semester. It was a little hard to adapt to using technology all the time and not having an excuse for not having a paper because they are all online or on a flash drive. However I’m like the Japanese pine beetle and adapted quickly so I can leave my mark on the trees of the Internet. Technology has changed the way I look at the world. I now see that if a video about The Chosen I put on YouTube gets 10 hits on the first day I post it the possibilities are endless.
Another struggle I had in this class was with my grade. I was used of just scraping all As like I did all of last year (not because I can only do that but because I was sick of middle school). I sort of went into high school with that mentality and I quickly found out it would work in some classes but defiantly not in this one. I have worked extremely hard to try and get an A in this class. Right now I’m feeling really good about my grade assuming I do well on the final. I have to be honest, I hated The Chosen and Lord of the Flies. 451 was descent but not great. Macbeth I didn’t like so much either. This is not your fault at all but you said to be honest so I’m doing so. However I loved doing the fishbowls, even when they were about bad books. I love being in the inner circle and discussing with others. This is defiantly something you should and will do again. I also enjoyed the creative projects like the table of 451 elements. I enjoy doing creative projects that this is something we should do next semester too. That’s was a very fun semester of English.

justinp2012 said...

I have seen many changes in my view and approach of education in this class this semester. I used to take this opportunity for granted and looked at education as something that I loathed in the mornings. After I joined this honors class, I learned that a great fraction of the world’s children don’t have this opportunity that I have. After seeing this, I took my education more seriously and now try my best in every class, no matter how boring or seemingly useless. I learn faster it seems, and it is actually a joy to learn new things.
Technology played a vital role in this class. It dominated the way we learned and showed how useful it really is. It makes many things easier, even if it seems complicated and a waste of effort in the beginning. It made it more interesting and opened up new doors in education. It allowed things such as live blogging to share your ideas without saying it out loud. For those who enjoy sharing ideas orally, we had the inner circle in the Fisch Bowls.
The constructivist philosophy taught us that we can’t memorize other people’s lectures and ideas, but that we have to think of them ourselves and come up to a conclusion that you thought of yourself. The live blogging helped me in this and really showed that things make so much more sense when you come up with a conclusion using your own skills and not relying on other peoples.
Improvement wise, I think that you could set a time period in which the students have to read the entire book, and not assign certain chapters every night. For example, the students have to finish reading the book by a certain date. This allows the student to organize a reading plan themselves and if they don’t and cram everything in one night, it would teach them to be more organized.
I think that the Fisch Bowls were extremely useful and that it should be used again next year. It taught people and at the same time allowed the use of technology to make it easier. It was fun and had people mix their own personal beliefs with the books. It showed that there was a deeper meaning to the book than just a novel.
The only other thing you should know is that it was fun in your class and that I learned a great amount, while having fun. It was a great semester!I also agree with Kaeli. It really switched up the routine!

annas2012 said...

This year my education has become more open. Using laptops and blogging was a whole new experience for me and I think it has helped to further extend my learning. Learning this year has also changed. The slogan “ This is not education as usual” has really helped me to see beyond grades and more into actual learning.
Technology has helped me to understand things that we may be reading or look up new words that might puzzle me in class. The laptops allowed me to access information that I could never find outside of class. The Chosen had many references that I did not know and the internet helped me to research what the book meant.
The constructivist philosophy helped me to worry more about what I am learning than what my grade is. Being in charge of my own learning has helped me to become more mature and feel more like an adult. It also has opened my eyes to the bigger world outside of the classroom.
Some suggestions of improvement include; varying the types of writing we do. I loved doing all the fun projects for the SAT words. The projects were so creative; the wonder woman songs were fun to hear. I also liked writing the TIB essay because it caused the students to think deeper and it was a great experience to read other student’s essays. Blogging helped me to understand what other students were thinking . I felt more confident in class because everybody was open to new ideas. The fish bowl was fun but sometimes I felt the outside circle got off topic in the discussions. Compiling ideas with partners really made learning more fun because it caused people to work together and it is a tool that one needs to be successful in life.

PaulAB2012 said...

This year has definitely been different then most years I have experienced in education. For one this year you as the teacher were very interested in technology. We used computers for almost everything and were introduced to a brand new technological innovation called blogging. I really enjoyed blogging because it is a great way to basically have a huge think tank of ideas, thoughts and interpretations of a topic such as a novel. It allowed us to get to a whole new level of thought and understanding and allowed us to communicate with each other in real time. I really enjoyed this because it allowed many different conversations to go on at once which was really great and also allowed the conversation to continue anywhere. If you did not understand a text people could also help you to understand it which I found very helpful. In conjunction with that really liked the fishbowl because it provided great discussion time which was helped tremendously by the live blogging because as I have said many different things and people could talk at once. The other great thing about this class in regards to technology is that in general we were shown and taught how to use many new technologies that will help us not only in this class but throughout our lives. These were things such as blogging, recording, wikis…. I think this is really important because we really need to learn these skills. Attitude was also very important in this class and the fact that you take an approach to revolutionize education and think outside the box was a tremendous thing in and of itself….
Along those lines the constructivist approach played a tremendous role (as it would in any great English class where students are actually creating and thinking and not just memorizing minutia) because it was always about our own thoughts and just being creative. Whenever we blogged or discussed we were obviously creating new ideas. Similarly creativity and “out of the box” approaches were encouraged on all projects. You really had to stretch and I think we really developed some new creative abilities because of this. A lot of great stuff was also produced as a result.
One thing I strongly disliked about this class was how little direction you gave us. Now I understand this is part of your philosophy and that if students do not understand something they should clarify it with you but I think it would be helpful if you explained things a little more and did not leave them so open ended because there were a couple of situations where I thought I was doing a great job and I ended up not filling the requirements. I just think you could give more direction without being so open ended… Similarly I don’t think all the testing was necessary. For such a creative and different class, it still felt like the vast majority of our class was testing. I think we could find far better ways to communicate knowledge and understanding… Also I wish we could trash the vocabulary quizzes but that is probably not happening. Finally I think you should really look at some of your assignments and make sure they are meeting the goal you have for them. For example I never felt like we really connected with the kids in Qatar during this I Believe. Also I think you should look at the Macbeth project again because that was a pretty jolting way to start the year… Overall I guess I would just recommend more discussion and creative expression and less testing. Thanks and I look forward to next semester….

samis2012 said...

This semester of English has been unlike any English class I have ever experienced in all my years of schooling so far. I have seen drastic changes in my learning this semester, especially with the goal that this year, it would not be education as usual. I thought that this gave the others students and myself a chance to be creative and express ourselves in a way that most other classes would not allow. This class has also really taught me how to look beyond the obvious when reading a book. I found that annotations really helped me organize my thoughts and see the deeper meaning of the text I was reading.
This is not the first time the main focus of one of my classes was computers, but that was fourth grade and we were just learning how to navigate a computer. But I have never used a blog before now and I had never imagined using it for something like a book discussion. I also really enjoyed the fishbowls because the discussion was lead and directed by the students. With the fishbowls you did not feel obligated to stay on one topic until the teacher changed it. And if a person in the class did not like talking out loud, they still had a chance to express their opinions on the blog.
On the topic of suggestions for improvement, I think the only thing would be to keep examples of projects done by previous students to use, not as a guideline, but as a tool to give the students a very general idea of what to do for the assignment. Otherwise I think Smith should keep her class just the way it is for next semester and for the years to come.

SydneyR2012 said...

Having spent a whole semester now in Mrs. Smith’s class, I think that there have been many things that have opened my eyes to new perspectives. I have been able to relate English to so many other things, such as biology when we talked about the scopes trial and evolution, and how that tied into our education in every subject, not just English. I have noticed that I have begun putting myself into other people’s shoes and looking at the bigger picture much more than I would have if I had not been in this classroom this year. I came into this class thinking it would be the same old sit down at your desk, take out homework, go over lesson, and get new homework. Then gather my things and get up to leave when the bell rings. This class has been so much more than that to me. It has absolutely altered my perspective about education and the power of a mere freshman honors class. I have had to re-think my whole idea of education. I feel that it is now easier to communicate my thoughts and ideas with my peers. I have always had a fear of speaking in front of people, or rather the idea that if I do speak in front of my peers they would judge me. I have begun to realize that most of the time, everyone else has these same fears. The last semester of 8th grade, when I had to take the dreaded Speech class, was when I realized that there is nothing to fear. I think that this class helped to break down the last of that barrier, and I know now that I am able to accomplish more than I thought possible. I never thought I would be having a deep “fishbowl” conversation about a book such as The Chosen while having important people from colleges and universities sitting in and actually being impressed. Technology is something that I was very excited to be able to use in this class. I think it is about time teachers embrace the fact that Microsoft Word is the new composition notebook. I think I had subconsciously put a negative label on things like podcasts, wikispaces and blogs because I have never thought about using them to learn. I have realized that technology is not a dangerous thing if you know how you utilize it properly and safely. To be honest I was terrified that the whole world could see what I wrote about on the blog or wikispace. But that is all a part of creating your own information rather than consuming others. It has been brought to my attention that creating information is absolutely the best way to learn. Its like the saying that you should know it so well you could teach it to others. That is what helps me retain knowledge. I think the most challenging part of this class was the reading we had to do. Before this, I had never had to read so much, and most definitely had never finished a book for English in two weeks! It usually takes weeks and weeks to get to the point this class got to in a few days. As for improvements, I can honestly say that there isn’t really anything that I think was done incorrectly. Not that I didn’t enjoy some of the assignments, because there were a few I wanted to throw out the window and stomp on, but I still learned something from it, which is the reason for having it in the first place. I know that I absolutely hated SAT words, but I am grateful we had to do them, because the feeling I get when I know what a word means and no body else in the class does is priceless. It feels good. I also like the fact that we communicated with people halfway across the world. Both my parents were very excited and impressed about that, and my dad, having worked in Dubai on several occasions for business thought that it was a very neat experience for me. It is amazing the connections we can make when we take a few steps out of the “usual education” box. I have thoroughly enjoyed this year, and it has challenged me a lot.

TaylorG2012 said...

A semester in Smith’s English class has extremely impacted my life and education. The theme to challenge the system and the reiterated quote this is not education as usual truly changed the way I think about school and my attitude and effort towards it. Because I know now that the future success of my life depends on what effort I put into my student career it really makes me want to be the best student I can be and strive to work at my full potential. Also, throughout this semester I have made more connections with my thoughts and been able to express my thoughts easier through all of the fischbowls and conversations we had in class. Technology was very important in the change I mentioned because with the technology used it helped me almost think outside the box more and it made my work easier to accomplish. I am in charge of my learning, no one else is. There are people along the way that help me succeed, like Smith and my teachers and all my classmates, but in the end it is all me. This tells me that unless I take control of my education and learning then no one will and I won’t go as far in life as I could have gone. My suggestions for you Smith are too use the philosophy of the student being in charge of their learning, but slowly ease into it. Because either the kids will take it as a I don’t have to try as hard maybe or they will be scared out of their minds and not know really what to do. I think eventually they will get into the swing of it but just start out easy and make sure you use clear directions. And one more thing, it is kind of ironic, but it is weird how you are a 21st century teacher yet you don’t use your school website page as much. I liked the group SAT things because it was fun using the words like that even though it didn’t necessarily help us remember the words, but I think that it would have been more fun to spend more time on those because it never seemed like we had enough time. Also, I liked acting out Macbeth, and doing the banned book project, except reading two books at once I know is usual for high school but it was a little stressful and hard to comprehend the reading and really think about each book. I loved using the laptops they were so nice to have and much easier than taking notes with pen and paper.

brianf2012 said...

Semester Reflection
Throughout this year I have seen many changes in my reading and my understanding. My reading now is more in depth and I really understand what I am reading. My understanding of the world and myself has grown. Now, I really know that I can achieve what is asked and create original ideas. This year has been a big change from older more paper and pencil classes to newer technology. Blogging, for me, was a new experience and really helps me to express my opinion.
I think that technology has played a role in my learning, but was not one of the large reasons I have been learning. Technology was more of a tool I could use to help me learn, but I did not find it as an extremely useful tool. Technology has helped express my opinion because there is a protective screen over me when I am typing. I do not have to face immediate interaction and there is more honesty from responses when I do not have to face that person.
Constructivist Philosophy helped me to find my own learning style and what I really wanted to do not what the teacher required. Student powered learning let me do what I felt comfortable with not what the teacher felt I should be doing. The fact that a I could choose what I was doing helped me find my own techniques and unique styles.
I would suggest that as the year goes on you help the students less. In the beginning it is very difficult to switch learning styles completely. I think you should help a little more in the beginning.
I think you should keep the SAT activities and the group quizzes.

chelseac2012 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kailynw2012 said...

As a previously technology challenged (why is the computer not working?!? maybe because it is not on.) student this past semester I have become much more tech savvy and aware of the world around me. I have also grown in my confidence with my viewpoints, and with the sharing of those viewpoints to the world. I have realized that the world has a technology heartbeat to it, and that as I must “learn to live in a technical world;” I must learn to live in today, and can not wait for yesterdays teachers.
It is not every day that I sit in a classroom like this, a classroom which I have helped to create.
The idea of which, many could argue is an educational utopia, a nice thought that has no substance after thought.  An educational environment, with more than one student, that grows as the individuals do, goes at an individual pace and, allowing one to take out of the class what and as they wish; which is the environment we have sought to create.  Is that possible; must we have instruction and guidance, overall can we think for ourselves?  Over and above all I have taken from this class that my thoughts are my own.  And that it is this fact that I must fight hardest and longest for should it ever be challenged.  A simple idea that really is harder said than done.  Who am I that my thoughts and ideas matter?
I think that it is constructivist philosophy that plays the largest role in that change, for it is that, that I really got out of this class. Me, I am in charge, and I have the responsibility to take class where I would like to.  Ultimately realizing that class never really does end. (dun dun dun)
I believe that a universal trait that almost everyone can work on is communication. Even this year there were a few instances that led or had the potential of leading to a miscommunication. I think this is something that we can all work on in the future.
Personally I thrive in discussions, and get ideas of what everyone is thinking. Ms. Smith, if you do nothing else keep discussions.

Anonymous said...

Semester Reflection-
I feel fortunate to have been able to spend my first semester of high school in Ms. Smith’s English class. She has taught me to embrace technology and think critically. I have always been afraid and anxious to write, and thought that I was the only one with this problem. Since talking with her, she told me that it took her until college to be able to write well and let everything just flow out of her. She encouraged me to just relax, and said that if I need time to write “that’s fine, writing takes time.” Her positive and encouraging words have helped me to become a more confident English student.
Our use of technology has been a learning tool that I have never used before. I think that it gives students a sense of responsibility and importance when we have such expensive tools at our finger tips. The use of technology has enabled our class to share our thoughts and feelings through live blogging, and have good class discussions. We are also able to write, research, and discuss all at the same time because of our individual laptops. I think this makes our discussions more interesting because we can have multiple conversations going on at once and we can support our ideas by going online. We can also share our thoughts with the world through our class blog! Smith has told us that everything we put online can be shared with the world. This I think makes each student more aware of what we are writing.
In our class, I feel like the teacher to student relationships goes two ways. We are producers of information; we don’t just listen to Smith talk, we take an active role in our education. This helps us to become independent thinkers. For example, we have fish bowls that WE run. The students are the ones who are coming up with the ideas and sharing them. I think Smith does a great job of guiding, encouraging, and teaching. When I am in Smith’s class I feel like I am a part of a 21st century world education.
One of my favorite parts about Smith’s class is the fish bowls. People who like to talk can talk, and people who like to write and are quiet get their ideas out. The point is, everyone is heard.
I can’t think of any recommendations really. I feel like this was a really unique class and I have never experience anything like it.

Zivenc2012 said...

My learning and education has changed dramatically during this semester. I was expected for the first time to find out information on my own on a regular basis. In middle school the teachers hand fed me almost all of the information I needed but in high school I am expected to find out things out for my own. I have started to learn for myself instead of being taught everything by my teacher which has made me a more independent learner. Hopefully, this will help me adjust to higher level classes in high school and college courses.
Technology also, played a large role in shaping my change of learning. I was given my own laptop in my English class and was expected to make full use of it and all of the ways I could access information through it. This was a first for me and I found it to be very different and exciting compared to middle school. However, I think that having my own laptop and its many resources such as the internet, Microsoft Word, et cetera has given Mrs. Smith an excuse to expect more from me than I can produce and skip through areas which need more attention than others. It seems to me that Mrs. Smith acts like she does not need to teach but rather to give assignments and have her students figure it out for themselves using their technology resources.
Constructivist philosophy is the idea that students should become producers of information (i.e. teaching other students) and putting students in charge of their own learning (i.e. learning without the teacher). This philosophy is whole heartedly followed by Mrs. Smith in her class. This means that our class often does projects that involve teaching other students (such as the banned book fair) or the whole class (such as the Shakespeare background presentation) and we are expected to learn on our own without Mrs. Smith giving us notes. This change in learning doctrine has forced me to change my learning style, whether for good or for worse.
There are a couple of things that I think should be changed for next year’s class. I think it would be beneficial if Macbeth was taught somewhat later in the year. I, like probably a few other students, had never read Shakespeare before or studied it. This, as you can imagine was a very harsh way for me to start the first semester of high school. Also, it would be helpful if more notes were given in class. I think that if students had select material to study from they would achieve higher scores on tests.
One thing that definitely should be kept is fish bowling. I found fishbowls to be very interesting, and insightful, as well as polite. The differing ideas brought forth by students in fishbowls lead to interesting and exciting discussions but they never seemed to turn into full blown arguments. Also, many things that I looked at one way were seen differently by another student and it was refreshing to try to see it from another perspective. In addition, the level of politeness kept the class during discussions was exceptional. This led to discussions being smooth and flowing instead of heated and tense. I looked forward to fishbowls and the calm intellectual discussion they brought.

Overall, I think that this class has great unmet potential for learning and a slight change in teaching style would allow it to reach that potential.

jacobs2012 said...

This semester has been an eye opener for me. I realized that in high school, teachers expect a lot more in general. In honors, they even expect more than just the regular high school teachers. My sister, whom is in English 9, barely has any homework in English, and on average, I have about 45 minutes to an hour in English nightly. This semester, I have read five books: Macbeth, Lord of The Flies, Fahrenheit 451, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Chosen. Most of these books we read while reading another book. It is very hard for me to read two books at once. It confuses and overwhelms me. My education and learning has been discouraged by this and it has suffered and my grade reflects this.
Technology I believe have been somewhat of a distraction and in some ways a resource that is gainful to learning. I think that it doesn’t make sense to use your laptops during a fishbowl. I think it would just be better it the outer circle listened, wrote comments of what was said in the fishbowl (so they don’t forget) and then come into the inner circle and say something. This would make it so that the outer circle would have to interact more and create more outside thinking than just the dozen people in the inner circle. On the opposing side, laptops help it so that students can access school information without being in a computer lab or the media center. Additionally, laptops are very helpful when working on a project. I think that technology played a positive roll in my learning for the most part.
Constructivist thinking is good, but I think this class needs more structure. When students are told to do a project, it’s normally helpful to have a rubric and instructions on how to do it. Otherwise how are students supposed to know what they are being graded on? This overwhelms students and causes unnecessary stress. This is a key factor of what discouraged my education and learning. Having students in charge of their own learning but this class needs more leadership. You can’t expect a herd of sheep to lead themselves to water, right?
Next year, I would suggest that you have more structure in your curriculum. For Projects, I would suggest that you make an instruction and rubric sheet. If you don’t make this then it would be easier to write essays or whatever the project is if you made it worth less points because the project is more about creative writing and thinking out of the box at that point.