Friday, November 16, 2007

My Transcendental Journal

November 15, 2007

The Transcendental fieldtrip. The wettest one yet. As we were driving to school this morning, and Bill offered visions of potential disasters-limbs from trees overweighed by rain falling on some unsuspecting junior, I actually thought that we may have to postpone the trip, though I had told my classes that we'd go no matter what unless the weather closed school. But when the temperature dropped ten degrees on our way to school, I realized that there could be other restrictions. Luckily, by 10:00 am the winds had died down, and though it's been raining lightly on us for an hour, there's no reason not to be here. In fact, I've realized that this is the best time of year for this fieldtrip: "To the attentive eye, every season has it's own beauty" (Emerson).

I'm sitting on a folded beach towel, hunkered under my purple umbrella, and balancing this journal on my knee. Uncomfortable-yes.

I brought some coffee in a thermos which I'm afraid to drink because I've already found that the bathrooms are locked. Inconvenient-yes.

I hiked around the perimeter of the park with the stream on my right hand side for an hour encouraging Transcendentalism. Annoying-yes.

I forgot my camera at the picnic area. (It's the first time I even remembered to bring it!) Oh no!


How many times have I written this journal? How many times have I rediscovered this feeling? When will I learn to change like the leaves do every year? This year, the fall has been so wet and gray, but today I see how beautiful the leaves are. So orange and yellow and read and spottled. Their beauty persists.

In modern times our new worries-carpel tunnel's, back and neck problems, am I more machine because I rely too much-the more things stay the same. Emerson and Thoreau are worth knowing because they try to respond to the same fears. Will we lose our touch with nature? Will we totally destroy nature? Maybe we can; maybe we can't, but we can miss the point.

Thoreau believed that reform must start with the individual.

Every year I stress about this trip. In years past, Bill has even suggested that it is too risky; Can I ensure the safety of my students? There are dangerous things here in the world, outside of the classroom.

But my greater fear is actually that they won't "get it." This trip only amplifies and reminds me of a core dilemma in my chosen profession: My duty is to teach effectively-to reach them where they are and lead them, guide them, carry or cajole them further in their understandings.


I cannot make them have an experience.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Transcendental resources on the Internet

My AmLit students are studying Transcendentalism and planning their own fieldtrip "to the woods." Here are some resources that I will be using in class.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

external validation

Wow. I feel so special. Someone* recognized my wikispace on their presentation wiki at Once the hectic day-to-day routines of teaching began this fall, I lost some of my momentum in developing and using Internet sources to reflect on and record our class work. I haven't written many blog posts, I stopped reading the posts on my RSS reader, and I didn't add too many resources to my wikispace. Now that someone else has discovered and recognized my work I feel reinvigorated. I think that this is another useful application of world wide information posting: someone outside of my circle of collegues can inspire and encourage my work.
*Dr. Scott McLeod, Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

teaching to the test

I'm so glad that I teach at a private school which is not constrained by mandatory state tests.

Recently posted on 2 Cents Worth:
"Then I run across a comment that I was mostly impressed with. But the author, a network filter administrator, said,
'When I go through the process of adding a new Universal Resource Locator (URL) to the filter database I actually personally evaluate the site to see which of the state standards can be illustrated or in any way taught by the content of the site. If I find that none can it is immediately blocked. '
Interpreted literally, this reminds me of a comment made by a keynote speaker I recently saw at a state school boards association conference. It was a great keynote, funny, and thought provoking — in a good way. But the speaker said something that I, personally, do not agree with.
'If your second grade teacher teaches a fantastic unit on dinosaurs, but dinosaurs are not on the test, then that teacher is doing harm to your children. Anything that’s taught that’s not on the test, is doing harm to your children.'
Are the standards of instruction intended to be the extent of the instruction? The answer to that question may well be, “Yes.” But should the state define the limit of instruction? I don’t think so. Safety, I would suggest, should be the only limit to learning in our schools."

The students at my school do take standardized tests and we compare then on local and national levels to other types of schools, but our primary goal as educators is to educate, not take a test.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Time Machine revisited

Rachel wrote:

Today I was browsing Yahoo and noticed this article as the headline for the homepage:
"the human race will eventually split into two"

I read it and noticed that it talks alot about what we discussed in class when we read The Time Machine. And, it makes a brief reference to the book as well.

My initial excitement that H.G. Wells's predictions are still newsworthy was tempered by the first comment at the bottom of the page: "This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
So, I did a little more investigation.

"The alarming prediction comes from evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics..."
Part of Curry's theory reminds us of our class discussions on Wells's novel The Time Machine, "While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is the possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other."
My students came to this same conclusion in our discussions of the novel! So how much more reliable is this coming from Oliver Curry? He's not a geneticist or a physical scientist at all. He received his doctorate from the London School of Economics and currently teaches at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science in the London School of Economics, according to Wikipedia and his own website, He seems to spend his days pondering human evolution in terms of morality and political theory.
So the jury's out on the physical evolution of the human race, but it's certainly worth thinking about the ramifications on our bodies of the wide spread use of computer technologies. See these related articles:


I think that one of the most powerful tools of the teacher is the act of reflection. Trying something, noting results, and evaluating possible reasons takes time, but for the successful teacher, happens all the time: after each class period, each unit, each year.
I started this blog as a place of reflection, especially in my attempts to use of technology effectively. As with every diary or journal I've ever started, somewhere along the way life got in the way, and I took a little hiatus from the frequent posts. Of course, once you're out of habit it's even harder to start up again.
I haven't been using as much innovative technologies lately because I began to get feedback from my students that it was getting a little overwhelming. The curriculum at my school is academically rigourous, students are expected to spend about three hours at home each night to prepare for the next day's assignments, in addition to after school commitments like sports teams. Adding new technologies to learn was beginning to add to my curriculum. I don't want to sacrifice the core subject matter, so it's important to remember that even though this new generation of learners may learn technologies faster they still need time to learn, experiment, and discover the value of different technologies. It takes extra time to become efficient on any new activity, and they get frustrated (maybe more quickly) when there are roadblocks like slow Internet access or down websites.
Of course, I'll keep learning and using new technologies and imagining ways to use current programs and applications to help my students learn more effectively.
On a recent paper assignment I gave my sophomores the option of using, Inspiration, or Word to write an outline for their paper. I reminded them that ultimately they are in charge of learning how they learn best; I'm just here to help them figure that out. And, of course we reviewed the pros and cons of good old fashioned paper and pencil-also an option. I think that they appreciated the choice and the reminder of why we do what we do. Students got to work pretty quickly and most used Inspiration, a program that they have used many times last school year. Many chose Word and a few chose most recent application that they have learned.
I found their choices to be interesting, but most importantly, it was a very productive class period.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I like these

From Will Richardson:
"Sage Students: Darren coined the term “scribe” to describe the student whose responsibility it was to summarize and extend the days events from class on the blog. But now KB Foglia has come up with a different, and I think even more interesting moniker for students working her AP Bio blog: “sherpa.” “Each day a student in class will be assigned to be the class sherpa — our guide who will show us the clear path up the mountain of knowledge.” Nice."
I'd like to try this. My husband does a similar task with his fourth graders.

"Quote O’ the Day: “They expect to be part of the discussion, part of the living thing that text itself is becoming. This is how we get kids excited about language, about writing, about thinking: by giving them the power to be part of the conversation. When we lock our machines down, filter their internet service and not allow them to be contributors we take away the involvement, the intensity, the power. Remember doing grammar worksheets in school? I don’t. But I do remember art class, the time I got to take part in making a radio play and another teacher that let us act in class. They involved me, they challenged me, they forced me to think, to play with language, to defend my opinions. Language fairly pulses and thrives across cyberspace. Let kids in to the conversation.” Clarence Fisher"
I recently had a conversation with a student via email. His enthusiasm for getting extra help (outside of class on grammar) would never have been expressed in person-too many social consequences. But it's evident to me that using new ways to communicate and examine language can be more effective sometimes than face-to-face interactions. At first this seems scary-we'll all become trolls never interacting in person and missing body language cues-but when viewed as just another way for humans to interact, it's revolutionary.

use blogs to enhance educational experiences

Here are some thoughts that I recently shared with my 11th grade bloggers who use our class blog to post reading response homework:
  1. Review your blogs and read some others when studying for your test. Check out these excellent ones: elzig, cwick27, cdesilets.
  2. Read and comment on other people's blogs before class: you'll have more ideas percolating in your brain and widen your perspective of the reading. Think of this as getting a head start before the class discussion.
  3. Add to your own blog entries later when you understanding is more solid. Think of this as a work in progress-your ideas and understanding that is! Don't think of this as a homework check grade, but as a place to build and solidify your ideas.
  4. Practice good writing: Write good blogs and follow the rules of grammar and punctuation. Practice makes perfect. Don't reserve your skills for the big paper (game) only!
  5. Got other ideas about ways to use this blog? Email me anytime.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

cutting edge classroom

Today my school's tech coordinator helped me enhance a lesson plan with Google's new presentation document. For years, I have juniors review their Age of Reason writers by making a short PPT in a small group, then presenting each author for review for the whole class. This year, we all signed onto Google and groups made their presentations online. While working in class, they were able (mostly) to "chat" with each other in the chat room of the application. They could plan or review the presentation by communicating in that way, which mostly worked though some students had trouble accessing the chat portion. The best aspect of the application is that students can work simulataneously, the update frequency is very quick. The are working practically in real time. Also, I can track not only their "chat" but also the revisions. Like a wikispace, I can see who is contributing which ideas. This technology helps me to ensure that the workers are rewarded and the slackers feel a bit more self-conscious, and hopefully motivated to get to work.
Of course, the down side is the possiblity of tech problems. My students were very excited (and impressed) that we were using such a "new" technology, but they were quick to moan and groan when we encountered any difficulties. Thankfully, I was not alone in the room and with Susan's help I was able to model appropriate and productive reactions to tech problems. By the end of class we were able to get everyone on the site and working, and we had a good understanding of the chat room problem so that we could fix that later.
Overall, I found that working with a Google document was easy and an effective enhancement to my lesson goals.
Thanks a million to Susan for introducing it to me and supporting me through the minor bumps in the road.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

tools for teaching

Interim grades are due this week. Hard to believe it's that time already. My school uses a Veracross database for grades and coordinating student information. It took a couple of years to get everyone used to it, but it has lots of useful functions.
When grading papers on my Lenovo tablet, I have students submit their papers via email. I then complete a grading rubric and mark their paper on the tablet. I can return the images to them via email as pictures, they do not have tablets. When I return the paper, I can then conference with them individually. Now, we both have a copy of the original and the draft that I marked. If students want to resubmit the paper for extra credit, I can compare the revised draft to the original submitted.

implications of technology

My sophomores have just finished a technology autobiography. In the planning stages they made some obvious and some unexpected discoveries, including the following statements:
  • I have become addicted to technology.
  • It really affects my joints because I sit hunched all of the time.
  • I am adapting to it.
  • Kids can get into more trouble.
  • We won’t be social anymore.
  • It can distract me.
  • I have to force myself to put it away.
  • It always came natural to me.
  • Information is easily accessible.
  • It’s not always completely reliable

After discussing the implications of these statements, students came to realize that some of these problems have always existed (getting into trouble, being easily distracted) while others are becoming unique challenges for their generation.

Finally, it was amusing to me to see them realize and criticize what they perceived to be adult fears and fumblings with technology. One student laughed with bewildered disbelief when he described to us how his father still struggles with email. Another student came to this conclusion:

Why is it that ... so many other adults are unable to grasp the use of technology? Is it because it’s harder to learn for older people or they just don’t want to? I personally believe it’s because they don’t want to. They learned there system and they don’t want to change it because if they stepped into new technology it would be stepping into uncertain waters. That would mean they’d have to learn all over again and I think that a lot of them are scared. Because there 7 year old grandchild knows how to use a computer better then them. They don’t want to show that a small child can outsmart them at something that seems so simple.

This seems to be the new generation gap, and it's just getting broader every day. The old cry: "They just don't understand me," is true in a new way now. And, our efforts to bridge the gap are more important than ever. If we don't try, the opportunity will pass us by even more quickly than for past generations.

coming up next

Well, I tried with my students, and it was pretty much of a failure. We couldn't work on the site at the same time. This seems like a good tool for an individual or a group that doesn't work simultaneously. It seems that Inspiration is much better for an individual to use and make a web. I love that you can turn the web map into an outline and vice versa.
This week I'll try Google's presentation function in Google Documents. I have a template presentation set up with directions: My students will then work in small groups to make their own presentations. There is an im part that I haven't experiemented with, but I think that my students will love. I'll love that you can view a transcript of their conversation and track changes, like wikispaces. I think that this kind of work in a classroom will really encourage quieter students to be more active participants in the planning and execution of the task.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

a tech survey

I recently surveyed my juniors on their impressions of the integration of technology tools, especially Web 2.0 tools, into their American Literature class. Here are the results.
In response to questions about using a class blog (21publish) to complete nightly reading logs, students report:
  • 93% that they completed their homework on time
  • 96% that they completed their homework in the suggested order (read on their own, write their impressions, then read others' blogs if desired)
  • 60% that they read classmates' blogs outside of class time

This class blog program allows students to create their own blog page and have access to the work of their classmates.

My online resources:

  • 86% have accessed my blog
  • 73% have accessed my wikispace
  • 33% used librarything outside of class time

In terms of using librarything as a source of information or entertainment:

  • 20% report that it was enriching
  • 66% report that it was fun
  • 3% report that it was cumbersome

General comments about using the class blog to complete homework assignments or using technology in the classroom in general:

  • a sampling of adjectives students used to describe their use of technology in the classroom: cool, fun, easy, useful, interesting, convenient, refreshing
  • "very good idea. Good educational twist on an Internet pastime."
  • "I like it...[this] is actually one of the few classes this year I even bring a laptop too."
  • "I definitely think the class blog helped with understanding the material. It was a good way to express your thoughts but then be able to see what other people thought and how your opinions differed."
  • "I think it's easier to complete homework online because it takes place in a teenager's natural environment: the Internet."
  • "I find that technology facilitates work and turning in assignments."
  • "...whether or not teachers realize it, computers do help a lot."
  • "life without the laptop would be weird."

Here are all of the negative comments I received about the use of technology from my 30 students:

  • "I think it's a little overboard, but I guess that's the future."
  • "Having information on three different websites...makes it kind of annoying to have to remember which is on which and keep track of it all."
  • "Difficult to get a hold of but after that, good."
  • "It took a little while to get used to, but I really like it and think it helps."

My predictions of their use and my intentions for their use match what they have reported themselves. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or ideas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a day to remember

It's appropriate, though not planned, that I didn't sit down to write this until today. Over the weekend I participated in the sixth annual 9/11 5K race in Arlington, Virginia. It was my second year doing it, and though I didn't have a running partner, I had another exceptional experience. There were an estimated 4000 people running that day, and I finished in 1810th place. I got a medal and a cool T-shirt, but it's the actual event that I'll always remember.

As I was running, and struggling against the limitations of my own body and lack of training, I kept reminding myself to "run my own race." It's easy for me to get caught up in the competitive nature of sports and push myself way over the limit. I was determined to finish (in less than the 45 minutes my husband had realistically predicted). I developed a mantra that seemed to fit the moment and the meaning of the race: we're all running our own race, but we're all in the together. This seems an appropriate summary of my experience as an American. We take pride in our independence, yet rely on each other in times of need. It was a very patriotic event, the start finish line was made by putting two fire engines back to back and hanging an American flag down the middle. I couldn't help but feel proud of being there among so many others who cared to remember.

So, my conclusion was that it's important to take action to remember important events in your life. For me, as for millions, this day changed everything. It's easy to think about, remember, and just as easy to move on in our daily lives. Take action to remember. Do something that physically marks the significant moments in your life-for yourself. So that day, I didn't learn about technology or literature, but an important lesson about myself.

Friday, September 7, 2007

up next

Next week the juniors will use to create a class vocabulary list online. This is an easy to use tool that can help my students not just collect information, but find new ways to share it with others. Ultimately, it's not important how they share it in our classroom (we could just pass around a piece of paper and add to it). It's important that they become flexible enough to learn a new application, quickly, and learn to share it with say someone in Japan.
Sophomores and juniors will use to check for original ideas in their first drafts and to peer review each other's papers.
The sophomores will also use an online graphic organizer to collect ideas for their first drafts.
Check out new "best work" from my students on

know your sources

In the wikipedia entry on the Geneva Bible, my students and I discovered this:

"It has been stated by some that the Geneva Bible was the Bible present at the signing of the U. S. Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution, due to the fact that it was the Bible that the Puritans brought with them to America. However, the U. S. Library of Congress and the Independence National Historical Park both state that they do not know what version/translation of the Bible was present at these signings (Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania being the location of both of the signings)."
Seemingly harmless, but worth mentioning the subtleties underlying this text.
First, who "stated"? This is classic use of passive voice to mask the actor or generalize.
Secondly, why does it matter? The U. S. Library of Congress and the Independence National Historical Park certainly clarify that it may not matter, just in case anyone may be offended by the idea that this may be true.
Finally, this was a perfect opportunity to remind my students that information is manipulated for the writer's purpose. As growing writers, it's essential that they consider this in their own writing. As researchers and gatherers of information, it's essential to consider the writer's MOTIVE and ARGUMENT.
Once again, the classroom uses for Wikipedia are endless. This is a tool well worth using, and like any other-must be used with care and caution.

Monday, September 3, 2007

great first week

The tenth graders are off and running with great first week discussions of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine. We have been considering Wells's view of human nature and came to some solid conclusions. He obviously sees both positive and negative aspects in humankind. The Morlocks's preying on the Eloi and the Eloi's lack of curiosity and care for others are clear criticisms. Finding the positive characteristics of humanity became a little tougher. We had to look more closely at the Time Traveller himself and his peers. What did they value? How did he judge the future humans?
Now, it's time to consider the "machine" aspect of the story. Wells's commentary uses a fictional technology to project future problems in the development or de-evolution of humanity. As we have seen in our previous discussions, Wells is criticizing his post-Industrial Revolution society. Changes in manufacturing technologies changed the social order and the relationship between classes. Wells predicts how these changes and divisions could lead to two separate species of human, and neither enviable.
How do our current technologies influence who we are and who we are becoming? Are the changes in our society creating a new social order? What are the benefits and the disadvantages. This week we will begin to examine ourselves and our individual relationships with current technologies to see how we can affect the future of our human race in positive ways.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Pecha Kucha

I discovered this from David Warlick's "2 Cents Worth" blog. The concept is to limit presentation to 20 slides, each shown 20 seconds. Questions for the presenter are saved for the end of the presentation. I'd like to find a time to use this technique with my students to help them organize their presentations and time their comments to fit with their images. I see a reverse benefit in having the presentation pre-timed-they can't go too quickly. They have to speak for 20 seconds on each slide. I think also limiting or banning words from the actual slides would also be useful in teaching them to talk about what they know, as opposed to read the slide to the class. Of course, they probably wouldn't need 20 slides so I'd lower that number. I'll write more when I use this and how it went with the students.

Friday, August 31, 2007

some examples of student comments

"After this insightful reading into the types of dialogues, I think that I for one have been using speech that I thought was "formal" but actually isn't. I also learned a lot about how there are different ways to express certain types of speech when writing." MT

"After reading this informative article on appropriate words, I realized that some things that I say on a regular basis or when I am writing, people make take personal offense to." LG

"There is such a thing as sexism, but a lot of these examples are really pushing it. Stereotypes are a good thing to avoid, I agree, but I guarantee that 90% of the people reading this packet said "But that's true!" to at least one of the examples. I think that stereotypes have their place, but I agree they should be kept very far from formal writing. But take my comments with a grain of salt, I have never been described as an advocate for political correctness." NH

"This really informed me on different words that I am not supposed to use. Before i read this i used probably 1/3 of the things it says not to use. So from now on my writing will be better and won't offend anyone with the words that i use." JS

"This was quite a fascinating read, I don’t think I have ever thought about words themselves so much! Words and sentence meaning can have large implications..." JR

Blogging gives everyone a chance to form and express their opinion before presenting it in a face-to-face classroom discussion, where a student will also be thinking about how others, including the teacher, will react to his or her views. I have found it to be a very effective way to start the conversation. And, I don't know if I have ever encountered a student who would admit that a reading about grammar was at all "fascinating"!

best class ever

Yesterday I gave class time for my students to use and explore our class blog where I would like them to post all of their reading reactions for our first unit. The blog,, presented some challenges in terms of logging in. I think that this was also being blocked, on some computers, by our school filtering system. By giving class time to work on the blog, I learned several things. First, I could see which students were having trouble and start to help them figure it out. Secondly and more importantly, I gave them a chance to problem solve together. I learned more about the blog from them. As a teacher, I do not need to know a technology to the level of expertise in order to introduce it and use it effectively in my classroom. I can, and did, rely on my students' different levels and areas of expertise to help us all acheive a higher level of efficiency.
Here's how the use of technology really paid off. The day's lesson was a review of word choice decisions that writers consider including sexist language, colloquialisms, and dialects. Not exactly the most exciting topic of conversation for a group of teenagers-read this excerpt from our grammar handbook and be prepared to discuss it tomorrow in class. My class' homework was not only to read and think about the information, but then to write a blog entry. Besides some technical problems, the majority of the students had the reading and response completed by class time. During class I gave them all time to read each other's ideas and leave comments. Then, we closed the computers and had the class discussion. I have never seen or heard such an impassioned or diverse discussion about this topic. Everyone contributed to the blog and to the class discussion. Regardless of personal opinions about the issues examined, we came to a class consensus about how a good writer considers to feelings and perceptions of the reader because ultimately the goal is to communicate your ideas, not advocate for or against "politically correct" language.
The last ten minutes of class were spent back on I pointed out some more areas of the website were they could get or contribute information.
Overall, my students were engaged, participating, and learning about grammar and using technology efficiently and productively. It certainly was one of my best classes ever.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

using in the classroom

Well, school has started, and I have tried hard to set the tone and expectations in my class right from the beginning. On day one I had my eleventh graders joining and posting their summer reading essays to I created a group (Mrs. Clark Evans Am Lit Readers) for them to join, and I graded their papers online from their libraries. I was most surprised that they didn't explore this much on their own. They created accounts and pretty much figured out how to post their reviews without much guidance, but they didn't seem to be spending any time looking around on the site at all that it has to offer. Of course, this is hard to assess, but since no one even left a reply to my initial group topic, I decided that they weren't being very exploratory. I was also surprised that they didn't upload more books into their libraries other than the required one.
I did give them time in class to "play around" on the site, and they had fun exploring the areas that I pointed out to them, like the comment feature, how to look at their classmates' work, and the Zeitgeist. I hope that as they see more of the site, and with reminders from me, they will feel less overwhelmed by all of the features and try to use it on their own.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

american literature

I am so excited to start a new year of American Literature. I have particular plans for increasing my use of technology with my Am Lit classes. My students will begin the year by posting their summer reading essays on I love this social network as a place to not only record the books that I have read recently, but also to leave reviews and reflections to share with others. I particularly enjoy skimming the statistics on the Zeitgeist. I hope that my students will browse and find book recommendations throughout their busy year, but I know that we will find it particulary useful at the end of the year for the contemporary literature selections. My students will post their reviews in the Mrs. Clark Evans Am Lit Readers group. I hope that you check it out and leave us some comments.

british literature

I am so excited to begin the new year with my new British Literature class. It's been a while since I have taught an entire year of Brit Lit, but I am looking forward to the fresh ideas and perspectives that we will all bring to our readings. Many of my students are not new to me; in fact, I taught them in their Introduction to Genres class last year. I hope to continue to help them grow and learn through my particular interest in the subject, and also through new uses of technology.
We'll start the year with an examination of our experiences with technology in the first paper of the year, the technology autobiography. Inspired by H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, we'll look at how technology has shaped our lives, who we are and what we expect out of life. How has it shaped our society and our future? A recent article in Science predicts that science fiction itself is outdated and can't possibly keep up with the enhancements in technology occuring daily. Technology doesn't just change our daily procedures or how we do our jobs, but it is also changing our literature. How will this rapid rate of change affect our futures and our human nature? What do you think? Leave me a comment.

boys and girls

I am currently reading Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax. It's been very interesting to me to learn about new brain research related to the differences between boys and girls. I grew up through the time when gender neutrality was advocated and the reigning idea was that girls and boys are different because they are raised differently. Working with children for over ten years has taught me that there are clear advantages to understanding subtleties between the genders. Recently at a faculty meeting, several student leaders were asked to present their ideas about the discipline procedures in our Upper School. When asked how a student should be approaced who has violoated a rule the young man on the panel said definitively that the student should be reprimanded in front of his friends because no one wants to be laughed at by his friends. It was the involvement of the friends that would deter him from breaking the rule again. The young woman on the panel said that she would think that students should be approached before or after class, away from their classmates, so as not to be embarassed. The girls, in general, are more focused on the teacher's opinion of her and would be motivated to follow the rules in the future for the sake of improving her relationship with the teacher.
So, what does all of this have to do with technology? Being even more aware of gender differences, I hope to consciously seek opportunities to appeal to the boys' need for visual stimulation, perhaps to offset hearing differences, and the boys' interest in discussing literature in objective ways. The girls will be more interested, and have more ease, in relating to characters and seeking ways to succeed without competing or risking looking bad in front of others. The boys will do better with group activities and the girls will be more successful working individually. Some of the technologies that I am interested in using more in my classes have the potential of appealing to both and the flexibility to serve the interests and the abilities of all.
Finally, while the generalities may seem even more obvious, I will particularly strive to serve and appreciate the individual personalities that each of my student's brings.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

thoughts on Prensky

After reading "How to teach with technology: keeping both teachers and students comfortable in an era of exponential change" by Marc Prensky, my ideas about teaching with technology are further solidified and some of my fears about using it are abated. What really challenges teachers today is the paradigm shift that we are experiencing in how kids learn (and how they should learn). To give up the "control" in a classroom and shift from an autocratic to a more democratic learning environment is probably the most difficult thing for adults to do. Prensky advocates getting the students involved in the process of using technology as much as possible even to the point that it doesn't matter if the teacher fully understands or can manipulate the technology him or herself. This is risky as I, the teacher, am no longer the "expert" in the room. It's important that I keep in mind what I am the expert in: the ability to manipulate the information on a higher thinking level and the ability to teach others how to do so. The second challenge is to acknowledge that my students are experts in using the technologies that can help facilitate learning how to manipulate teh subject matter. In fact, not necessarily experts in using the technology, but certainly highly proficient in learning to use the new technologies much more quickly than I can. Prensky also suggets that students should have a role in the assessment of their own use of the technologies. That's interesting and certainly requires me to give up some of my "control" as the teacher. Ultimately, no matter the subject matter, I need to focus on the core reasons why we should be using these technologies. For the technologies haven't changed my subject, but they do make accessing the information and even manipulating, digesting, and analyzing much easier. So, I need to facilitate not only the learning of my subject, but also the learning of how to use the new technologies proficiently. Helping students find "quality, meaning, value, relevance" as Prensky states.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Senior Exhibit

The Senior Exhibit is a year and a half long independent study during which students learn, apply, and prepare a written document on a topic of their own choosing, then present it to a panel of teachers at the end of their senior year. This begins in their junior year when they pick a faculty member to mentor them. As part of the requirements, students have to keep a reflective journal throughout the process.
Though they started their journals in the spring, I'd like to see my seniors start a blog about their experience. Though the journal is personal and records the ups and downs, especially the downs, I see a blog as beneficial on several levels. First, it could be a more fun way of keeping up with the journal assignment, something a little more public could keep them on their toes with deadlines. Also, they could potentially read each other's blogs which could be encouraging to them as they see each other going through similar frustrations and struggles with time management, organization, and planning for the final application. Finally, they could include links to external research or resources in the blog in an easier format than in a written journal.
I think I'll have my three seniors write a blog but keep it private between the four of us. Then maybe in the spring it can become public for the final benefit-to help the juniors get an idea of what it's all about.

my class syllabus

I shared the Technology Guidelines that I give to my students on the first day of classes. This can be viewed on The Teacher's Edition (on the left side navigation bar), as well as an example of my course syllabus. I have found that giving an overview of what students will learn and do, as well as what I expect of them starts us all off on the right foot.

Friday, August 17, 2007

quotes I love

Will Richardson's wikispace is great and starts with these two quotes:

"It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change" – Charles Darwin
"The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." -- Alvin Toffler

I love these quotes because they speak to the changing times of teaching. After the VAIS conference my attitude about using technology in the classroom changed and my enthusiasm grew. I have come to realize that the most important aspect for one to embrace is flexibility. Whether it is my own flexibility and willingness to try new teaching techniques or teaching my students to be flexible in the ways they use their computers and the technologies that they try.

tech presentation

Today I will share my blog and several applications of wikispaces with new teachers at FA.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I'm reading David Warlick's blog about a conference he gave for first year teachers for whom he predicts "a renaissance during their career. The profession that they retire from will have almost nothing in common with that which they are beginning — and teaching will be the most exciting job on the planet." Even though these beginning teachers didn't get adequate training in using the web in their classroom he is confident that it's OK "as long as doing it, taking part in this conversation, becomes part of teaching." This is conforting to me as a seasoned teacher trying to piece together my own self education. I have most enjoyed taking part in this online conversation-reading, joining SNs like classroom20.ning, and writing my own blog. I was overwhelmed at first but the plethora of information "got there", but am feeling much more comfortable now that I have started to interact with the ideas and use them for myself.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

new skills

In my fiddling around over the past couple of weeks I have learned a few new tricks. I added a widget to my blog-the library thing in the side bar-by changing the html code. Then, I figured out how to add links in the sidebar as well. I feel that I have stepped to a new level now that I can change the code. I feel very accomplished.


I read an article from eSchool News. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)-gotta love all the achronyms-is a national coalition of business and education leaders. The group is trying to define the skills needed for success in the 21st Century. "It's essential, say coalition members, that students have a strong grasp of these skills for the United States to remain competitive in the 21st-century economy." It names the skills "Learning and Innovation Skills." The skills "focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, as well as mastery of information, media, and technology skills--all of which are 'essential for preparing students for the future,'" Finally, I like this conclusion: "To be effective in the 21st century, today's students must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical-thinking skills related to information, media, and technology."
"Other skills stressed in the new framework are what P21 calls "Life and Career Skills," such as flexibility, accountability, innovation, self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, leadership, and responsibility. According to P21, these are skills that many U.S. employers say are increasingly hard to find among prospective employees."
Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

getting ahead of myself

I have been working online and fiddling with different sites for the past several days, and I realize that I may be trying to bite off more than I can chew at one time. I tend to discover several new applications at once and try to think of ways to use them. Instead of "mastering" one, I am juggling several at once. I need to focus more, but it's fun.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

new wikispace

I used wikis for the first time last spring in a variety of ways with my students. The juniors created a collaborative grammar guide, the sophomores explored a variety of self picked topics throughout their reading of Pat Barker's Regeneration, and the freshman published their original urban legends. I like this resource for its flexibility and ease of use.
I have decided to start a wiki, "The Teacher's Edition," which gives an overview of my classes, 10th grade British Literature and 11th grade American Literature. Here I will lay out the general course objectives and provide additional resources and information on the various topics. This will be a resource for parents, students, and teachers. I am excited to get it organized.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

a look at the past

Having worked in a 1:1 laptop program for six years now, I have used a variety of Microsoft applications to enhance learning in my classroom. My students frequently take notes in Word and Inspiration. I particularly like this program for its flexibility and ease of transfer from web to outline views. I have also taught my students to keep track of their grades with Excel. I have found a number of ways to use Power Point beyond the traditional presentation method. The view slide sorter function opens a number of possibilities for students in manipulating information. See my lesson on the four types of sentences which we then apply to the work of Langston Hughes. This year I am going to use PPT to quiz my students as well.

In December I began using a tablet (Lenovo X41) and was given the task of assessing whether this would be a useful tool for teaching and learning. Trying to incoporate use of a new medium in the middle of the school year was challenging, and so far I have found that the use of the tablet has not significantly increased my effectiveness as a teacher.

Off and running

Last fall I went to a VAIS technology conference which changed the way I think about the Internet and my own teaching. Since then I have tried to learn about and incorporate a number of web 2.0 applications into my curriculum. From wikis to flickr, my students and I have found interesting ways to publish and work online. In this blog, I will record my experiences and the work that my students have done throughout the year.