Every year, students receive a daily planner before the start of school. Depending on the grade level, some teachers will spend a day showing students how to effectively plan their week. For most, this is a practical tool that has worked for many years. However, it is also a tool that many students lose. What if it was impossible to lose your planner? What if it was always with you?

We can improve this method by spending the time it takes to show our students how to use a daily planner and show them how to set up their own iGoogle page. An iGoogle page is a personal space that anyone can manipulate to reflect his or her personality, lifestyle and schedule. It short, it is the one page you can turn to each day and find out everything you want to know for that particular day.

Last year (Spring Semester 2008) I piloted a new project that flattened my classroom and provided a consistent forum for information. I set up a blog page that I controlled and my students could access directly through an RSS feed on their iGoogle page. The results were great! Here is how I set it up.

On the first day of class I walked in and had all the students take out their daily planners that were handed to them by administration as they walked into the doors for their first day. I then did my best Robin Williams impersonation from Dead Poets Society, and asked them to hold them up and drop them on to the floor.

Then I turned on the projector and showed them the future of daily planning. Here is how my presentation began.

***For best viewing, increase video to full screen. Click on screen in lower right hand corner of video***

The students can add the blog to their iGoogle page and receive assignments, reminders and updates. Students can also comment on the blog if they have a question or concern. This forum is also used to organize. I am not one for papers and folders; I loose them! The blog and iGoogle page is especially helpful when a student is absent.

In one particular instance, I finally yielded the results I have been looking for since I started this “flat classroom” project. I received an e-mail from a student who had been home sick all week. He was in class on Monday (the first day of our new spring semester) when I had all of my classes set up their iGoogle page and link to the blog. Here is the e-mail:

Hey Mr. Marcinek, I have had a real bad cold over the last few days, but I saw the doctor today and I should be back tomorrow. I saw the assignment on the blog and wrote a rough draft, so I thought you might want that. The rough draft is attached.”

Eureka! It worked! My students and their parents always had access to the classroom. Assignments could no longer get lost! They were now a constant in the lives of my students! (insert sinister teacher laugh).

Positive Outcomes

1. Students, special education teachers and parents always had access to assignments.

2. Students could access assignments if they missed extended time in class and never fall behind.

3. Students could keep pace with class discussion threads on the blog page if they missed a class.

4. Parents could review assignments and even participate in the learning process.

5. A universal hub for students to access class information, news and anything they enjoy.

6. They could not lose it!

Recommendations

1. Use this as an icebreaker on the first day of class. Have students design and setup their own iGoogle page and present it to the class. Have them explain why they selected a specific theme and why they chose to read The Guardian news feed over the New York Times.

2. Create a rubric for the iGoogle page. Do not give students free reign on this idea. Make sure there are parameters for content they display.

a. Must have a news feed

b. Must have class blog feed

c. Must have a homework list (to do list widget)

3. Invite and consult with administration, technology directors and parents before going forward.

NOTE: I plan on mentioning this recommendation every time I blog because it is so important to protect yourself, your students and your content before venturing out into the dense forest of the internet.

Tags: 2.0, Collaboration, blog, daily, education, iGoogle, k-12, planner, technology, web

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Replies to This Discussion

This sounds like a great idea. Thanks for sharing.
Wow! Very neat! I haven't used "iGoogle" but it sounds do-able. How about students without computers? Any issues there?
Clair
No worries Patrick! Check out my blog for more lessons and ideas!

http://iteach20.blogspot.com/
No worries! Check out my blog for more lessons and web2.0 ideas!

http://iteach20.blogspot.com/
Great idea! As an avid user of iGoogle I understand the power behind the tool. I might just try your suggestion out on the first day of school next year! However, in working with my high school students on digital projects (wikis, e-mail, blog posts), I have come to the realization that the so called "digital natives" aren't as tech savvy as they are given credit for being. I don't think that I could assign the creation of an iGoogle page simply because it would be a nightmare trying to explain to 100+ students how to add an RSS feed, widget, etc. A handful of student would catch on instantly, but the majority would need a lot of hand holding in order to get their page up and running and wouldn't be comfortable enough with the technology to use it on a regular basis. I sincerely hope that someday these skills will be standard to all, but it hasn't happened yet!
What grade level do you teach? In my experience I have found that some of my students are very tech savvy and can usually help other students set up their iGoogle, wiki or blog. As for adding the rss feed you can see by the video above that the teacher sets up the link and students can basically click on it and it will appear on the igoogle page. Another solution for this is to provide a digital or paper handout for students to follow step by step. If you would like one I would be glad to provide you with this information.

I really feel that most of our students are years beyond their teachers in technology adaptability. I don't see our students having to keep pace with our technology integration, but more so, teachers having to catch up to the level of our students.

Hope this helps!
I use iGoogle as my home page and it's a great way to incorporate a bit of everything I use on a daily basis. Have you tried using "Remember the Milk" widget? It's great for task reminders.

As for classroom application, I can see where this would work well in a moderately affluent school district. However, for those students who do not have computers at home (and they do exist!) this might be a drawback. Before you decided to implement this plan, what steps did you take to ensure that students would have access outside of school to their iGoogle?

I also agree with jrsowash that students may need some hand holding to get it started. However, with some scaffolding, it seems to me that it could be done in a large classroom/classes.
I am completely with you in the conceptual stage... However, too many of my students are either homeless or a few steps from being there. So how do you get around this as those without homes are not likely to have Internet access or computers available to them or the interest in looking at their next assignment if they are unsure where their next meal is coming from? Additionally, are there computers in your classroom (how many?), the lab (how many?) and the library (how many?) that can be accessed at any time?

This being said, a physical planner is easily lost when... ("fill in the blank" happens). Obviously, an iGoogle page is less likely to be lost so if the access issue can be addressed then I think the plan is a winner.
Peter, I completely agree with your points and have constructed some responses to your problems. The major downside of all technology infused classrooms is the universal access of all students. Unfortunately, many of our urban districts as well as suburban districts have not incorporated technology. Moreover, the access to such tools are missing from the home as well.

With every tech lesson I incorporate into my class, I always provide the alternatives. Even though I have implmented the use of blogs, wikis and iGoogle pages into my classroom, does not mean that I have scafodled down to only one announcement forum. I still write daily assignments on the board and some of my students still feel comfortable using their daily planners. Secondly, I still provide paper handouts to those who require them in their IEP or students who just need the security blanket of a piece of paper in his or her hand. If there is ever an assignment that requires computer usage, I will secure a computer lab in the library or use my in classroom COW. At my district we have been fortunate to receive a Classrooms For the Future grant. The ratio is about 1 to 1.

This will eventually take time and someday hopefully all schools will be wired and we will provide students with laptops like we do text books.
Andrew, thanks for addressing some of my concerns... As I indicated, I like the concept... however, implementation at our site would be difficult as the our ratio is about 30:1 on a good day (it may be even worse as I am factoring in laptops that will be obsolete within the year and the computer lab pcs that are already obsolete). I am hopeful that this will change in the near future but fear it will not as the expenditure of money has dried up... Ironically, my reading classes (which are being cut from four to two this coming year) will have the eight newest computers on campus housed in them.
We use Google Apps school wide (so we have stripped-down "StartPage" rather than the standard iGoogle interface).. but each teacher maintains a site where they post homework, resources, etc, - (in place of blogger we use google sites. Next year the 7th grade will "drop" their assignment books as well and go totally online - google calendar will replace the daily homework recording - each teacher will post the day's assignment on a shared calendar for their class, and each student will subscribe to the calendars for each class... these kids will each have their own laptop next year as we roll out a 1-2-1 program starting in this grade level.
what district are you in that is proving lap tops to all 7th graders? is it grant funded?

thanks

pat

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