Lessons Seven and Eight:
We had two classes in a row today.
Their first e-mail mini-project was to write an e-mail message to my sister in the United States. It's been fun sending and receiving messages within the classroom, but the impact of e-mail cannot fully register until the true, world-wide capabilities of e-mail is experienced firsthand. I contacted my sister a week ago to clear it with her first. The students were told on Friday (during their English conversation class, as we've no Internet class on Friday) that they'd be sending a message to my sister the following Monday (today). They were asked to consider what kinds of questions they could ask her. My sister will send her replies to the students.
After sending their message, they were told to check their mail for messages. (Some finished earlier than others.) I'd sent each one a message on Friday with the URL of an interesting site written in the message. As the reader is aware, Netscape mail will display any URL written with "http://" as clickable link. Now the students know that if they write a URL that way in their mail messages, recipients using Netscape can simply click it to access the site. (They will have to learn, though, that this only works in a browser mail program such as Netscape.) In later classes, we will send recommended URLs, as well as sending whole web pages to others; this mini-lesson was "seeding" for subsequent exposure and instruction.
The students have heard me saying e-mail addresses, and were told how to say them, so today's language focus was a review of a concept they'd already been exposed to. Mainly, the first page of the on-line lesson outlines how they say (or pronounce) their own e-mail addresses. The main points were that @ is "at" and the period is "dot".
The second part of today's on-line lesson may seem patronizing to some teachers. It focused quite deliberately on how to write the @ sign. This lesson was created in response to watching some write the @ sign in previous lessons, and it wasn't recognizable as an @ sign. It occured to me that they had no experience writing it. The on-line lesson had two goals. One was to show quite explicity how this symbol is written, and it is based on materials for children learning their native script (and those for students of the Japanese language learning Japanese script). The other goal was to recognize that there are individual preferences operating in our lessons, and that individual preferences were sanctioned and respected. It may seem like a minor way to do it, and the lesson is quite a subtle one, but this is how it was done: People generally write their printed "a" in one of two ways, loop first or down stroke first. (I'm unsure how many write it a third or fourth way, but my assumption is that a majority end up writing the loop from left to right.) Based on which of the two ways each individual writes her "a", she learns how to write the @ sign as an extension of that. By providing two prescriptive ways (rather than a single way), the subtle message is that differences are sanctioned. By making access to one of the two ways a result of a choice based on an individual's habitual way of doing a related task (e.g., printing an "a"), the subtle message is that the individual's choices and preferences are respected. In other words, we're not all the same, so here are two.
Afterwards, we went to chapter four, focusing on random links. This part of the lesson (at least in the very beginning) was lock-step. It had to be; the key to understanding the idea of random links is, I think, to see that other people will click the same links but get different pages. The activity which followed took the remaining time of the lesson. Afterwards, I printed out the comics the students had recommended, and we'll look at them more closely in our conversation class on Wednesday
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