As I progress through my time at Beachwood High School, I am noticing more and more about my students and how they interact not just with each other and my cooperating teacher, but with technology.
I observe three classes: a senior English course, a junior-level AP English class, and a journalism class. All three of these classes interact with each other very differently.
My cooperating teacher and I have very different teaching philosophies, and I see that when he interacts with his students. He tends to take a more “hands off” approach to teaching, often letting the students work independently for most of the period with little-to-no intervention from him. This works fine with his AP and journalism classes, where the students choose to be there and work towards a product (college credit or a school newspaper), but this works poorly when it comes to the senior-level class. These students are only a couple of months away from graduation, and have little motivation to begin with. Couple this with a teacher who does not monitor his students or actively teach, and you get a classroom where the majority of the students spend most of class time online shopping or texting each other.
With the Senior-level class, this independent study usually translates to group work. This classroom is very racially diverse, and usually the groups are divided up this way. This intrigues me, because the students have no issues interacting when they are placed in groups or work as a whole, but when they choose the segregate themselves. What I am observing as far as group-learning goes is that the students tend to not learn too much when they are working together, unless they have a defined task at hand. If the teacher simply gives them a prompt and tells them to work on it an finish it for homework, the students are more likely to chat and play online than do the work. However, if the teacher tells them that what they are working on is for a grade and needs to be done by the end of the period or needs to be presented, they will work hard on it and effectively learn from each other.
As far as multi-modal literacy, I do not believe that the students are very well versed in it. They do a lot of work both in an actual textbook and online, but it is all reading-based. Since I began observing three times a week, there has not been a single video, audio track, or physical representation. They are only reading a writing, which makes me believe that a diverse set of learners are not being reached.