Thanks to the helpful technology professional development day at SLHS on January 4th, I decided to set up a Schoology account for my students in Creative Writing and 9th hour Advisory.
Schoology is a free way to communicate with students in an online classroom of sorts, but it is more than that. Teachers control everything from who enters the class--there is a code to give to the students--to the questions and discussions online which students respond to, so the site is monitored. It's part school because it is a way for students to individually take online quizzes, submit assignments, have discussions, etc. . . but it is also part social with a place for sending messages, updating personal biographies, and sharing pictures with their peers. If I post a question like "What were you assigned in each of your classes today?" Students can answer, and build a community of learners online. Since I'm a novice, I've only used online quizzes, assignments, inbox messages and discussions, but I look forward to learning how to use links, uploading, and more collaborative commenting features.
What I like so far is keeping in touch with my advisory group. I teach some of these students in Accelerated English, but most of them I do not, so if I don't get a chance to conference in-person with them about their grades, homework, and questions they have, Schoology allows another avenue for me to do so. Of course there are bugs to work out, like what to post where, how to share comments, and keeping the students on task, but for the most part this site helps me challenge and communicate with the students and more importantly for the students to voice their opinions, questions, knowledge and goals.