Saturday, November 8, 2008

Worst Class... Best Class

Friday was a crazy day for me. I have been very stressed about my workload this week and it all came to a head on Friday. My worst trait as a teacher is returning papers in a timely manner. I struggle with buckling down and pumping out the grades as opposed to giving time to each paper and enough constructive criticism to help each individual writer grow and improve, yet feel accomplished. It's hard to grade papers!

But, that's not the story today, just a background on my mood.

So, I was feeling pressured and overworked, but I always love losing myself in the class period and getting down to work with the activity/lesson for the day. The objective for the day with my British literature class was to review "The Nun's Priest's Tale" from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. We had fun classes earlier dramatizing "The Miller's Tale" and things seemed to be going pretty well with Chaucer.

As an opening activity I asked students to briefly talk with a partner and write down some important ideas and a quote from the story to share with the class. We began the "go around the room" with a quote from the end of the story. The fatal moment came when I asked a follow up question. Then, the boom fell. Silence. The student who had offered the quote tried to explain and figure something out to say, but couldn't find the words. I asked the rest of the class to help, but...nothing.

I literally threw my hands up in the air and ended the lesson. I asked students to reflect on their lack of participation and offer ideas for ways to improve in an email to me.

My best quality as a teacher is my desire and willingness to reflect. I spent the rest of the day reviewing their comments, taking to another grade level teacher, and agonizing over how I could help them to be more successful. To work together, share ideas, take risks and make guesses. How could I help them feel comfortable and risk failure in order to achieve a deeper understanding. I devised a lesson plan and practiced it with my later section.

My second class British literature class also has problems with participation during general class discussions. A couple of students will attempt answers only after awkward silences. But the majority of students won't speak, maybe if called on, but it's so painful for both them and me that I hate to do that and put someone on the spot.

I started class by asking if they wanted to go with "regularly scheduled programming" or try something radically different. I would give them a task and when they accomplished it they would be dismissed, even if that was in ten minutes. They were a little reluctant but then encouraged each other to give it a try. They encouraged each other to get energized about a challenge in English class.

I showed this Power Point.
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: education learning)

Then gave them the quote that the other class had struggled with. They quickly got to work, reorganized themselves into a circle in the back of the room and began discussing. In the course of their conversation they talked about the main points of the story, the final moral lesson presented by the Nun's priest, and how it related to one of the major themes of the Canterbury Tales. They made connections to their own prior knowledge and experiences. Everyone talked except for one student. Some students took charge at various moments, but others who had rarely shared ideas during class gave the most accurate and interesting comments. And, they praised each other, asked questions, organized themselves and almost forgot to use me at all as a resource.

When it was all said and done, they had reviewed the story, examined the text in close detail, and learned a little bit about themselves and their classmates. Now I have to figure out how to keep up this momentum. Or, maybe it's not that difficult. They accomplished so much with one quote (which I didn't even pick) and the freedom to examine it on their own terms with a clear mandate to include everyone.

One student wrote:

By the way Mrs. Clark Evans, I really really really liked this. You let us just figure it out and it forced us to talk. We heard from classmates who normally don't talk too! We should definitely do this again.
Now, back to grading papers!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why I use web 2.0 tools in my classroom

Tomorrow I will make a presentation with Susan Carter Morgan at the annual VAIS conference. Our presentation will focus on using online tools in the classroom. Instead of talking about WHY we will share HOW we use various online tools to enhance the learning opportunities in our English classes.
So, in a nutshell, this is the WHY for me.(Click each image for a larger view)

Effective learning of any concept involves three distinct stages. These can occur in any order, but in the traditional classroom tend to begin with information, then some manipulation of that information, but rarely are there opportunities to reflect on the learning experience. This reflection is crucial is determining if the concept or skill is mastered or worth further exploration. The process could go in the opposite direction. Starting with reflection: What do you want to know? or What do you already know about _____?
In my English classroom, these are the types of activities that I primarily used before web 2.0 tools:

Now, with free online tools, the variety and possibilities are greatly expanded in my classroom.

(Click for larger view)
The learning experience is not changed, it is enhanced through variety, authenticity, and many more opportunities for reflecting on one's own work as well as on the work and ideas of others.
I enjoy teaching with these new resources and have been very satisfied by the impact they have had on the effectiveness of my teaching practices.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elegos form

The Elegos team would like your feedback about improving our publication for you. Please answer the following questions for us. We really appreciate you input! Thanks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Learn something new

Found this idea on jennylu's blog, Lucacept-intercepting the Web. Use Google things to do to choose a wide variety of things to do on the web and discover. She suggests:
Imagine setting the task to find a new thing to learn and present back to their peers after a set period of time to demonstrate what they’ve learnt.
I imagine possibly using this with my juniors when we study the Transcendentalists who loved to learn independently and freely. It would be an interesting way to give them the freedom to go out and discover what they can learn when they set their minds to it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Catching up...

Been feeling guilty/stressed/unconnected so I sat down this morning on my favorite NING and this is where it led:
1-reviewed a couple of discussions on the English and FA groups
2-liked one of my responses so posted it to my blog
3-reminded of Twitter so posted a tweet about my blog post (nothing better than self advertising :)
4-went to email to clean it out a bit and found a message from my uncle about my blog post from Friday
5-liked my response to him so I posted that on my blog too
My learning process-discovering, reinvigorating, no particular order
I can help my students do that too.

A Call for Votes

This year I published some sophomore papers in a different way. Recently they studied "Beowulf" and wrote humorous papers in the style of the Beowulf poet. Then, I had them each record their stories. I published their own recordings of their papers on my school webpage (in the resources folder at the bottom of the page) and invited the students to listen to each others' work and vote on which one they liked best. They didn't have to listen to them all in order to vote, but I am going to recognize the "winner" at our school community meeting next week with a little prize. If you go to the website you'll see that I voiced my vote as well. This is just a one more way to give a wider audience to my writers and recognize the effective papers.

Please feel free to add your vote too!

A Call for Help

This year I am excited to be teaching a senior elective course titled World Cultures through Literature. Unfortunately it is only one semester, but I am trying to expose my students to a broad array of cultural experiences from around the world. Right now we are reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe from Nigeria. In a couple of weeks we will begin A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleed Husseini. We will also read some more short stories from Latin America and poetry from Asia.
Here's where you can help...I'm looking for outside "speakers" to share their personal experiences in any of these countries. I have had a couple of live speakers, but I thought that some guest bloggers or a Skype chat would be a great way to hear from the world out there. Any ideas or suggestions? Add a comment or email me. Thanks for your help!

A Summer Time Metaphor

How do we as full-time teachers find the time or mental capacity to keep up with all of this???
I'm going to return to my swimming pool metaphor to describe where I am with all of this right now. When I go to a swimming pool for the first time each summer, I hate to just slowly walk in and "get used to it gradually," I dive in and just force myself to adjust. When I first heard Will Richardson speak at the VAIS tech conference two years ago, I was devastated and thought that I was drowning because I had not heard of any of this (so how could I be a good teacher). I used my dog paddling skills and quickly recovered back to the surface. When I got back to school I found myself overly enthusiastic and jumping into every pool I could find: I created a personal blog, a wikispace, I published my students' writing on my wiki, etc, etc, etc. It was too much but I was riding the adrenaline. But then I reflected :) and realized that I was just using and not necessarily improving the learning in my classroom.
Now, I've learned :) to be more cautious, and I don't fear missing out on some great new technology because I know that what I am doing with my students is meaningful and enriching to them (well, not all the time). It's much more manageable to think of each of these applications as separate pools which I can dip my toes in at times or sit on the side and dangle my feet. There are some that I swim in more regularly (wikis and blogs), but one thing that I'm coming to enjoy most is that we are each developing specialty areas that enrich each other. Imagine what a diverse experience our students are getting when they come to my class and share group work on a wiki, or Katie's and create a personal blog, in Susanne's class they can use Google docs in such meaningful ways, or Susan's and use VoiceThread.
Is anyone else starting to miss summer ;)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stories of Excellence

I just found out that my submission to the "Stories of Excellence" contest on the NAIS ning was chosen for their publication. This is comforting recognition, which teacher's don't often get, especially in the middle of the first semester with grades due next week. This gives me the encouragement to keep my nose to the grindstone-trying new things, polishing the old, and starting fresh each day on my adventure as a teacher and learner.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Becoming Poor Richard

Try your hand at some of the lines made famous by Benjamin Franklin in his popular Almanac. Fill out the form below by completing each sentence with words that you think make sense. Try to be witty and precise in your word choice and you may wow your audience with your writing prowess.

If you'd like to see Franklin's versions you can access that here. (But don't go there until you give it a try yourself!) Happy writing :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Writing for Real Audiences

While we English teachers can't always make every writing assignment available to a real, outside audience (nor do we always want to), we can strive to offer a variety of writing assignments that introduce types of writings which are common in real jobs and academia. My juniors are writing proposals for an imaginary research grant to the Smithsonian. We discussed the wide variety of proposals including research grants in graduate school, building business opportunities and seeking new clients, and even my husband's sponsorship proposal for his road racing team. For my assignment, they are required to write a formal business cover letter and a proposal that is at least one page, including a concise proposal statement, details from their research and a bibliography.
One student has already talked with me about finally understanding why business letter format is so picky and precise, even though he wrote them all summer for his father's business.
Another student recently told me that she will have the opportunity to use her new skills in writing a grant for money and supplies needed to start up an art therapy program for refugee children that she has been working with.
As I was creating this project and working through stages of writing it with the class, there was a lot of push back. I even joked one day and suggested that they would just prefer writing another essay, but to my surprise several of them said "yes!" It's hard to try new things, sometimes they don't work and sometimes it's a rocky road trying to communicate and form expectations, but as I told my students that day, it's important to be flexible and work through the problems. "Come on you 21st century learners, show me what you've got." And they have. Now they have a deeper appreciation and understanding of picky editing requirements as well as the confidence to succeed in this real world type of writing.

Publishing Web 2.0 Style

One of the most interesting conversations that I have with my students each year is about the quality of sources they can/should use for their research papers. The most valuable part is when we discuss the differences between print and non-print sources. No longer can we say print vs. online sources, as many credible databases make both available online. So, how to explain the value of the print sources? I read this in a recent Tweet by bernardlunn
Shirky: "the filter for quality has moved from publisher to subscriber" 08:50 AM September 18, 2008 from TwitterBerry

As we educate our next generation, the emphasis should be on teaching them to become automatic evaluators of sources of information: educated and informed subscribers. I am fascinated by sites like Digg where subscribers validate and recommend news and can set up accounts which direct them to articles that others like themselves recommend.
I am most interested in considering how we ensure a variety in our sources of information and avoid developing sources that take us down one slanted path consistently. I suppose traditional news sources have always done this as newspapers and major TV networks certainly have their own agendas. I hope that now is a time when we can break down these hidden barriers and develop networks of information that offer a broader perspective.
I guess this means helping students understand the value of seeing issues from a variety of perspectives. And, we've been doing that for a long time in education. So, how do you help your students broaden their perspectives and what online resources help you do this?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

For Presentations

I'm going to share this with my students who will be making visual presentations in a couple of weeks. A different way of thinking about and using PPT.
Presenting with text
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: presentation design)

Videos in the classroom

I've enjoyed using YouTube videos this year as an introduction to the lesson as suggested by S. Nobles. We've watched Leonard Bernstein's "Let your garden grow" while discussing Candide. A trailer for the movie Beowulf and Grendel and compared it to the poem. I just found an interview with Khaled Housseini discussing A Thousand Splendid Suns. Great!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back to School Night

Tonight is Back to School night, and I am excited to share my class goals with parents. I hope to also be able to use a projector during my talk and show them our online work.

A New Kind of Wiki

I am trying out the wiki with my juniors this month during their class study of Black Ice by Lorene Cary. It is different than wikispaces in form and a little in function. For the most part, I like it. I can't leave a comment on a particular page unless I do so directly on the page itself, which takes away a bit of the ownership. That's my only criticism at this point.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Removing the Deadline

As I explore education in the 21st century I am frequently reminded that it is not about the tool but the methods. It's time that we rethink how we teach so that our students can learn to teach themselves as this is the most important lesson they can learn to prepare themselves for an unknown future.
So I threw the deadline out the window. I gave my senior level World Cultures a project intended to give them the opportunity to creatively explore the main theme of the novel and apply it to themselves. The initial two weeks of school for us were more than normally chaotic as my school has switched to a new type of schedule (a different order of classes each day) and we had an Upper School retreat at the end of last week. The day before the project was due I realized that I hadn't spent much class time reminding them to work on the project or asking about their out of class project. I made the executive decision to scrap the deadline when I realized that I would rather get a great final product than a rush job.
As I considered what to adjust the deadline to I realized that a more valuable lesson could be learned. The work that we are now doing in class is not contingent on them having completed the project so there really was no reason to have a deadline. When I initially announced my inclination to extend the deadline, I was a bit surprised that none of my students jumped on this. Not one of them asked for the extension. In talking more with them I found that this hesitation was not due to their prior organization and readiness to actually turn in the project on time. The hesitation was actually a fear. They wondered: Is this some kind of test? Is she trying to catch the ones who haven't even started yet?
Finally after a bit of a one-sided conversation on my part, my students began to warm up to the idea of this kind of freedom. When I said that they were so used to being told what to do and when to do it by teachers, several sighed and laughed a little. I was touching on some chord that these students had not encountered in their educations (remember: they're seniors). We realized that there was no need for a deadline on this project, and talked about why there was a deadline on the reading assignment. The only final deadline we could come up with is the end of the marking period because the grade will be on this term.
After all of this thought about the unimportance of an actual deadline it is interesting to consider if the assignment itself is worthwhile. I still think so and now more than ever. Now it's really about working for yourself and being completely responsible for yourself.
Today (the original deadline) we went around the room and each person explained their idea and how they were (or were going to) execute it. Yes, some still haven't started yet! I pointed out the blank wall in the back of my classroom where I am going to hang all of the projects as they are completed and I do have one all ready to hang. So we'll all know who and when these projects are completed.
I'll keep you posted. And I'll keep asking them to reflect on this and hopefully learn even more than the original intended lesson. I'm open to exploring new avenues.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Being a student

Today I participated in the PLP (Powerful Learning Practices) F2F at Fredericksburg Academy led by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. My school is the host school and I was released from classes today to participate in the conference. After the second break out session I left the classroom in a daze and came to face-to-face with some of my own students. As I slowly came to reality I realized that they were laughing and one had spoken to me. I felt like they sometimes look when they come into my classroom from a different class. Dazed, out of it, and not ready for any new information. They were forgiving and repeated what they had been trying to tell me.
"Our class had a good discussion too"
Today while I was away learning, I confidently left my students to learn on their own. Having set up a wiki and class norms for book discussions, my students decided that they could conduct the second discussion of Black Ice on their own. The sub's report: "They had a GREAT discussion on the book" and the other class' assessment of themselves reassure me that:
1. I am not the only expert in the room.
2. Students want to learn.
3. I work at a great school that allows me the freedom to explore these new tools to enhance the learning environment in my classroom.
I don't think that I ever felt so good about taking a day off and leaving sub plans.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

things to remember always

Here is a great letter to teachers to think about before the start of school and come back to throughout the year. I'm posting it here so that I can remember to do that.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

choice reading for Brit Lit

I'm working on a new assignment for my 10th grade British Literature class. I'd like them to read a choice novel and learn a bit about British history. My idea is to have them choose an historical fiction novel to read then research some of the historical details to compare them to the presentation in the book. Finally, they will write a review of the book. If anyone has any ideas of good book choices or collaboration ideas, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Here is a different kind of wiki. I like the annotation page on this wiki and the emphasis on citing sources. I will use this to update my 10th grade wiki assignment on Regeneration.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Dangerously Irrelevant
posted a Twitter-style contest. Here is my entry: The Time Traveller by H. G. Wells - Time Traveller uses technology to discover disturbing truth about our future: a seemingly beautiful utopia turned cannabalistic nightmare.

Think I'll use this with my students for their summer reading choice and required novels. It would be fun to see what they come up with and we'll create a great list of recommended reading for each other. I'll get working on my others soon!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Technology Autobiography

Sophomores read The Time Machine by HG Wells for summer reading and start the school year with a personal writing project, a technology autobiography, in which they write about their experiences using technology throughout their own life. Here is a video from about the beginnings of the computer age. Students can see how science has changed society, and how this change is happening exponentially all around them today. Wells examines this change through his writing and this is the starting off point for the course, which examines how the written word changes society by surveying British literary traditions and the pioneers who challenged and changed that tradition.

finding choice novels

Students read novels of their choice throughout the school year. Here are two sites that could help them pick out a book of interest or share with their friends: and

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Utopias aren't all what they seem to be

Interesting article about the New Atheists from a Muslim-American view. He discusses the warning signs that Americans are not thinking for themselves, or reading. This would be good to use with the seniors in World Literature as suggested by SNobles.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Using images

Two free sites for finding images to use in presentations: and
This one also give tips for creating an effective presentation with images.

Friday, May 16, 2008

student product

Our students work on a Senior Exhibit for a year and a half, which includes a learning activity, an application of their learning and a written document. Students work with a teacher mentor throughout the year, and I have encouraged my seniors to use technology when that can enhance their work. Besides recording their personal journals on a blog: lpappas, jdixon, mpscolyar, one of the seniors developed an online written document by developing her own webpage. She found this site and did this work on her own. I just gave a little nudge in the direction of expanding her ideas about using technology beyond gaming and social networks.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

new projects and some old ones

I guess I'm just reinvigorated after the technology conference. The juniors are finally posting their final research papers. I'm excited that the wiki allows the entire process of building their paper to still exist through the history tab. We have started using the class blog again as well. Students are reading their own choice novels, reflecting on them on their own blog page, and commenting on others' ideas too. Some of the students have the same novel, so their discussions should be particularly interesting.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

back to blogging

I'm starting a new reading assignment so thought that it was time to get back to using the class blog. I got a bit discouraged when my students were really only using it when I said so and because I said so. I didn't really see the independent learning that I thought I was encouraging them to do. After discussions with my school's tech guru and some time to process and give us all a break with it, I am diving right back in with a new and improved plan for introducing the class blog: back to blogging.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

beyond ppt

If we want students to present in alternate ways and not always rely on the dreaded PPT, then we as teachers need to model other ways of sharing visual information. I made a timeline on mnemograph and projected it during our class discussion. While it's not collaborative, I was able to create a url from the site and email it to my students. The timeline is interactive-they can zoom in on specific areas. It's very easy to use, and I certainly foresee using it with my classes again.

Monday, April 7, 2008

web 2.0 tools

Tools that I have used this year and examples.


Presented with Susan today about using web 2.0 for personal and student learning. My concept is that learning has not changed, but the means of engaging in the learning process is enhanced. By using web 2.0 tools for myself I have practiced and learned ways to use the tools effectively in my classroom. I mainly talked about using wikispaces and blogs. If we think of learning as a process and not a product, then the reasons for using online tools become more self evident. Learning hasn't changed, but the opportunities for varying lessons, collaborating, and reflecting are greatly enhanced. Using this tools makes the learning process more authentic, rewarding, and engaging. I enjoyed sharing my successes and challenges and meeting some new people with whom I can now collaborate. The most important thing that teachers of 21st century students can do is model 21st century learning themselves.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

notes from the conference

Here are my notes and thoughts on the keynote presentation about the flat classroom by David Warlick. I am considering, once again, of joining the Second Life world. There is a education island apparently.
David talked about three converging conditions:
1) preparing our kids for an unpredictable future-the walls of the classroom are disappearing and it is in our best interest to let them disintegrate instead of trying to fight it in order to maintain any traditional authority that we might have as teachers.
2) we have information savvy students-I see my students engage in this in my classroom when they jump online to goggle an idea that comes up during discussion. I have seen myself fight against this (and fail miserably) when I try to monitor their computers during class or come down too hard when they go online during class. It is obvious when they are not engaged as opposed to when they are gathering info that is relevant, though it is not in the room with us.
3) we have a new information landscape-I try to incorporate web 2.0 tools. I want to do a better job at "baking in" instead of "adding on" as described by Gardner Campbell.


I'm leaving today for the VAIS (Viriginia Association of Independent Schools) annual technology conference. Last year Will Richardson was the key note speaker. This year it's David Warlick, and I am co-presenting about using web 2.0 tools in the classroom. I'm excited.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

research wiki

Launched my research project wikispace this week.
This wikispace is a place for 11th grade American Literature students to record and collaborate on their individual research projects on topics of literary or historical interest to them. Please explore and leave a comment or question for them on their discussion boards.
Please visit it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

web work this week

Sophomores are making films of various scenes of Macbeth. I gave them the choice to perform live or film. Not sure if they were scared off by the memorizing or excited about using Movie Maker again.
Juniors are starting their research projects using wikis to organize their notes. We will also use a group Tumblr to share online sites and articles. Day one was rather slow as we were just talking about the whole project and my ideas. Then it took a while to sign everyone up. Tumblr was blocked so we have to wait to get that unblocked in order to proceed with that. One advantage of my school: we can request sites to be unblocked and they will be within 24 hours.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Six words

Hemingway in the news today:

"Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: 'For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.'"
Choosing words carefully and concisely can be powerful. What can you do in six words? Leave a comment.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


From Scott McLeod's blog who talked about the purpose of school as a place to create lifelong learners as opposed to productive members of an economy:

"What place does the world of work have for Hemingway for the average American? Is there a reason related to future employment to take kids to the Barter? What happens to Monet and Yo-Yo Ma in a school system that thinks primarily about your future job?

I’ll leave you with this thought: Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. The words belong to William Butler Yeats..."

My students' responses to Hemingway this year have been very invigorating to me. Their interest in his life and writing have sparked curiosities and ways of looking at literature and writing on a completely new level. They will not think about their own writing in the same way, and I'm sure that they won't read a book in the same way again either. More than anything I think that they are seeing the passion and dedication that he had in crafting and telling his story. If anything, I hope that they can discover some passion to dedicate themselves to in their own lives.

Learning passion and dedication are goals of education too.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

teachers retiring

Just read this on

"Record Number of Teachers Set to Retire, January 31, 2008 · Teachers are leaving their profession in record numbers, especially at the high-school level, according to study released Thursday.
Some 40 percent of the nation's classroom teachers are now 50 years or older and an unprecedented number of them will likely retire in the next five years, a study by the National Center for Education Information said Thursday.
The number of teachers expected to leave the field is double what it was 12 years ago. Losing so many classroom veterans spells trouble for schools trying to meet federal guidelines to hire only the most qualified teachers - especially in math, science and special education.
The researchers said the current pool of teachers is graying because so many of them switched from other careers in their 30s and 40s. That trend is likely to continue.
The study also said 80 percent of teachers surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs."

I find it interesting that this is especially affecting high school teachers and wonder if this is a break through time for new teachers and new ways of teaching. Also interesting that teachers are generally satisfied with their jobs. That number seems high, a pleasant surprise.

why we integrate technology

Susan has asked me to contribute ideas for a column for a school publication. As a 1:1 laptop school the answer to this question should be evident by now to the entire school population. It's quite frustrating that it is not.
She has specifically asked me to talk about why I chose to use certain programs and what it did for the students. Here are my examples:
  • an online collaborative wiki application on which students worked with a partner to gather research and present their findings to the class. Originally intended for an oral presentation with visual aides but also became a vehicle for students to access each other's work outside of class time. They used the discussion boards to ask for further information and comment on each other's work. The students were motivated by the opportunity to use Internet sources in their research and the activity afforded authentic discussions on the validity of using Wikipedia, cross checking sources, and citing sources (with links).
  • an online subscription service which serves a variety of purposes in preparing papers and conducting alternative class discussions. I primarily use this source for students to upload their papers, peer edit, and check for plaigiarism. The originality reports give students an objective way to see their words and judge whether they have cited or paraphrased correctly. Again, leads to authentic discussions on plaigiarism. The discussion boards give students who do not participate in oral discussions as easily an opportunity to "get a word in edgewise."
  • Inspiration: a brainstorming and outlining program. I have used this as a visual aid during class discussions and a tool to help students learn to outline their ideas effectively. Being able to manipulate their ideas in a more symbolic way is a great aid for some students who are more visual learners.

There are a lot more that I could talk about, but I'd probably say that I have used those 3 tools most effectively in helping a variety of students to learn.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

wiki for research

My 11th graders complete a research project this marking period. I am thinking of having them organize and collect all of their notes on their own wiki space. I can link all of the pages together so that I have access to their work for checks and feedback. It could also be an interesting way for them to organize and keep track of the progress of their research. In terms of teaching the research process, instead of notecards they would have separate pages for each source. I'm thinking that they would write the paper on a wiki page also. Using two screens (or more) to translate their research notes into their own text. I'm going to keep thinking about this and work out an example on my wiki.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

expanding, or inventing, my PLN

This week has been a new step for me as I am "meeting" new people around the world through video conferencing and Twitter. On Wednesday I tuned in to professional development in Utah and today participated in a session at Educon 20 in Pennsylvania. Besides listening to speakers there, and remotely from China and Qatar, I chatted, blogged, and "twittered"? Got to see Susan on Ustream :) Mostly, I made some new contacts that I am very excited about following and learning from.

EduCon 2.0

Links to follow the events from Dangerously Irrelevant:

Educon 2.0 begins today. Do I wish I was one of the attendees? Absolutely!
Follow along at the conference wiki, via RSS, via UStream, via Technorati, in Second Life, and/or at Flickr. Kudos to Chris Lehmann and everyone else who worked on putting together what looks like an amazing event. I can’t wait to see what shakes out over the next few days!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I am a teacher mentor at my school and have had difficulties knowing exactly what my job entails. I don't want to step on anyone's toes, but I am excited about sharing my experience and learning from different perspectives. I enjoyed reading Dana Huff's article on making a teacher.

sonnets recorded

My 10th graders recording themselves reading original sonnets. Hear them here.

Voz Me

My tech coordinator is always finding new tools in her explorations and passing them on to me. Many times I don't pursue the link but today I played with Voz Me and came up with an educational use in about ten minutes. I created this mp3 to remind my students to bring in their papers tomorrow. In case they didn't get the message from verbal instructions at the end of class, or from the post on my class webpage, here is an auditory reminder:
Is there any other way that I can reach them? :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

knowledge: a level field

On a chat at Ustream conference, Jeff in Shanghi talks about how the opportunity for knowledge is a field that is quizkly being leveled by the Internet and open source information. He says: "The ability to learn from anybody, anywhere, at any time." How can I help my students understand the competition that they will face in the global market that will exist by the time they enter the work force? Right now they feel very privileged to live in America, but are they also a little blind?

digital storytelling

There is so much to be done with digital storytelling. This is an area that I would like to pursue, but for now I'm just going to record the resources:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I just joined Technorati because I've read about it on other blogs. I don't fully understand what it is, but I'm willing to dive in and see what happens with that.
Today I tried using an online survey with my classes, but I think that I accidentally locked it so none of their responses could register. I reassured my classes that the real point was to just get them thinking about their responses, but we couldn't help but be disappointed. I have to find better ways to set up new uses of technology and check for loop holes before trying something new in class.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Christmas present for myself

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was high speed Internet at home. It really was crazy to try to move into the new world of teaching with technology without fast access at home. The fact that I had dial up for so long was helpful in keeping my sanity, however.
I am a teacher at Susan's school and we've been having some problems lately: see her recent post. By the end of last semester I had stopped blogging, neglected my wikispace, and even stopped trying to use web 2.0 technologies in the classroom. When I reflected on why my efforts had diminished so much, I realized that I was suffering from a feeling of not being appreciated.
Having a break was a good time to get my head straightened out and my enthusiasm reignited. It's an exciting time to be a teacher, but real effective change takes time. I sometimes get frustrated by the roadblocks, but I still have my eyes trained on the ultimate goal: a future of teaching and learning more effectively.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

new finds in 2008

People who love words are always trying to tighten up our language:

These comics are interesting to me in light of this blog and the Maus comic writing project that I have my juniors complete in the spring.

last year's comics