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.