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.