So much of school can—and often is—hard, but what should be easy, should be made easy. Finding, creating, and submitting assignments should be easy. Receiving timely assessments and grade updates should be an expectation of every student and a practice of every teacher. I have spent the last 12 years working and trying to make my curriculum a paperless stream that is simple and effective, but for it to work, you must be willing to swim in that stream. The school is embarking on a noble effort (Using My Fenn and Finalsite) to help facilitate how we assign, grade, and manage our respective classes. For the most part, and if used wisely, it is a pretty good system. For my part, I will post all of your assignments on Finalsite and allow you to see your assignments and view your grades in a fluid and ongoing way throughout the year. It is important that you check your grades regularly to be sure that I have not made any mistakes when entering your grades. It does happen sometimes, and I am more than willing (even eager) to fix what is wrong. We also take the idea of a digital workflow a bit further than is possible with Finalsite, so it is important that you embrace and utilise the following resources.
The Crafted Word: Fitz’s Reading & Writing Website
The 8th Grade pag e and Freshman pageon my website (and the website as a whole) will always give you quick and easy access to the whole spectrum of what we are doing in class. Additionally, it allows me to share my own blog, view and download my resources and rubrics (of which I have many!) and it serves as a central hub to read my essays on writing and reading, to study my punctuation and grammar rules, to learn and practice essential vocabulary, engage in class forums, and access our class writing community. In short, it contains everything I know and have created over the years to help anyone become a better reader and writer. It is also easily accessed anytime by any device connected to the internet. Bookmark the page and you will always be “one click” away from knowing what to do.
Blogging: Creating and Maintaining a Personal Blog
- Required Apps: Weebly (free download from the app store),
- Day One: a private journaling platform (paid app $3.95)
As a long time writer in my own right, I have always kept a journal, which later in life evolved into an online blog where I share my words—songs, poetry, essays, journal entries, videos, podcasts and photo galleries with whomever is interested or willing to read, to watch or to listen. I create blogs using Weebly for each of you to do the same, which we share as a class writing community. It has always been an energising and powerful way for my students to live and act like a true writer—and that is what you will be: a true writer; moreover, we will comment on each other’s work and strive to help each other create a compelling and intellectually rich digital portfolio. Since you may not want to share everything you write, we also use Day One, which is without peer the best and easiest to use journaling app I have ever used. ( I am using it right now to create a draft of this post!)
iTunes U: Accessing, Creating, Submitting & Grading Assignments
- Required App: iTunes U (free download from the app store)
Since we are an iPad school, I feel it is important that we learn to use our iPads as effectively and dynamically as possible. iTunes U allows me to post assignments, documents, videos, and literature that you can upload and complete with relative ease. It also allows me to grade, edit, comment on your work, and return our work to you in an uncluttered and easy to use interface. It also allows for private discussion on individual assignments. Perhaps its greatest feature is that it works with almost every iPad app out there, so frustration levels are kept pretty low.
Pages: Document Creation
- Required App: Pages (free download from the app store)
Pages is a feature rich, easy to use program for creating documents that simply works better on an iPad than any other program I have used on an iPad. Finished documents can be uploaded to iTunes U quickly and easily, and it allows work to be saved as pdf’s, word documents and epubs (which can be saved to your iTunes libraries as iBooks).
Other Required Apps:
- Garageband: we use Garageband to create podcasts and voiceovers for video essays.
- iMovie: we use iMovie to create really cool videos throughout the year.
- Keynote: we use Keynote for creating presentations.
- Adobe Voice: we use Adobe Voice for creating a quick and beautiful visual and audio presentations.
- Book Creator: we use Book Creator to create and share individual portfolios for distinct units of work.
- Notability: we use Notability for notetaking, uploading and annotating selections of literature, revising and peer editing–and many other handy things.
I hope this does not look daunting to you, and it should not be. I will spend time in class this week to get you all up and running. I am surely not reinventing the wheel because I have tried it and it works, and I am confident that it will help us all have a rewarding and productive year in 8th grade English. In practice, it will help us create and sustain a workflow that will simply become an organic part of your life and a practice. As always, contact me if you have a question or problem that needs fixing.