Starting Over

So, the plan is to start over.  Yup, that’s the plan.

I have decided to focus my energies on my English class.  There are just too many obsticles to circumvent when it comes to the reading course.  The county has no idea what they want these courses to accomphish, and every admin wannabe that visits our campus has a different idea of what and how we should be teaching.

My school is planning on implementing student webbased portfolios.  I plan to take advantage of that.  My attempt at using the Read/Write Web will include online portfolios of student work samples.  I need to get on that committee.

I’ve fallen behind on my reading, so I’m going to take some time during winter break to catch up.  It will also give me a chance to blog about what I’ve learned.

Yup, start over.  That’s the plan.

December 16, 2006 at 7:34 pm 1 comment

All is not lost…

My journey into blogdom wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.  Too many obsticles to overcome all at once.  At this point, I’m reevaluating my approach to blogging.  I need to have a clear understanding of how my students will benefit from this experience.  I also need to have a better sense of the best way to manage blogs in the classroom, and ways to inspire students to want to engage in this activity.

I haven’t lost all hope.  This is salvageable.

For now, I’m simply going to practice being a blogger.

December 9, 2006 at 6:02 pm Leave a comment

I’ve taken the plunge

I took the plunge and so far haven’t drowned. I’m taking that as a good sign.

The start of school was a bit rocky, so my plan for introducing the idea of blogging was waylaid. At first, I thought I’d have to scrap the whole idea when I realized how technology poor my new school really was. Then the hand of fate came upon me and 15 computers rolled into my classroom.Hoorah !!! It took me a week to find the combination for the lab cabinet, but once I did the gods smiled on me a bit longer and granted me a visit from our newly hired tech person (you are tops in my book Ryan!). This lovely man got me the hardware I needed to get the computers up and running. We are officially a go.

I’ve had these kids chomping at the bit for nearly two weeks talking about blogs and the possibilities they could offer for our class. I had one young lady comment to me that she thought I was “full of it” in the beginning. Apparently, she’d had teachers who had made promises in the past, but never lived up to them. Now, she told me, she believes that I mean what I say. I over heard another young lady tell one of my visiting parents (we were attending open house night) that I was a teacher who never gave up no matter what. However, the coolest thing was watching the kids begin their research for their first blog entry. I had a 95% participation rate. Kids googling and reading and writing and talking and working, working, working. There are a few nonbelievers who haven’t caught the blog bug, but I’m determined to keep working on them until the join the fold.

Here’s how it’s gone down so far. I started by just talking to the kids about blogs and forums and other types of technological tools of communication. I asked how many of them would text message another student in the same classroom if I allowed it. Nearly every student raised his or her hand. Then we started talking about how we could fitblogging into a course where the bottom line was helping them to pass FCAT reading the first time. That got us to creating the concept of Think-Read-Think-Write (I think I stole that from someone, but I can’t remember who). Think about what you want to know or learn. Read about it. Think about what you’ve read. Write about it.

It was time to get serious, so over the course of the week I had the kids generate topics they might like to blog about. Then we categorized those topics (using concept webs) and came up with several interest areas. From there, we created blogging teams to cover each area. I then posed the question, “How do we make this work?” I explained to them that I couldcome up with the answer to this all on my own, but that I was relinquishing that responsibility and giving it to them. In their teams, the students discussed how they could meet all the requirements of the course (word study, reading strategies, higher level thinking, responding to text) as they created theirblogs . I compiled all of their suggestions and posted them on the wall. Every student was charged with the responsibility of reading our guidelines and signifying their agreement by planting their John Hancock on the poster. As a symbolic gesture of closure (moving from the traditional to the non-traditional classroom), we purged our work folders and wrapped up any unfinished work. To reinforce the concept of self-directed learning, I presented the students with a list of commitments I would make to them in order to support our success (first on the list was my commitment to trust in my students’ ability to be self-directed). I then asked the students to make their own commitments, which I will be posting on the wall of our classroom. The coupde grace was finally breaking out the computers, logging on, and starting our research.

We’ve got many laps to go before we’ve reached the end. To keep us focused on the “bottom line” I’ve decided to take a lesson from David Warlick and Will Richardson on assessing blog posts. Reflection must be a major part of the curriculum, and students will be required to answer the following questions as a qualifier (stuff ya gotta do before you can do something else) for posting theirblog.

  • What did you read in order to write this blog entry?
  • What was your process for reading?
  • What do you think is important about your blog entry?
  • What are both sides of your issue?
  • What do you want your readers to learn, know, believe, or do?
  • What have you learned from the process OR How will you find out more?

I’ve introduced these ideas to the kids, but I know that it will take a bit more work to get them to understand what I’m asking them to do. I also expect some resistance to the notion of thinking about why they did what they did.

Overall, for our first dip in the pool of blogging, we found the waters to be fine indeed.

August 25, 2006 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

So what have I learned….

I’ve learned that I really like Bloglines, but that I need to become more proficient at using it. I’m still struggling with finding and adding feeds. Not so much finding them, really, but adding them. I’ve gotten in the habit of looking for the RSS icon on news sites, but I haven’t mastered the steps for adding the feeds to myBloglines.

I’ve learned that I’m access too much information, and that I need to practice being more selective with the feeds I choose. Or, at least, I need to organize them in a more efficient way.

I’ve learned that I enjoy listening to podcasts. So far, I have four subscriptions. I could never find the time to read MacAddict, but MacGeek is turning out to be a great substitute. In addition, Stuck in the 80s is a hoot!

I’ve also learned that scientists have found a way to make plastics out of fructose, that microchips can now be made using light instead of super heated furnaces, and that, in the not too distant future, we will have a laser that can destroy satellites. Finally, I read that Bill Gates’ reasons for supporting secondary education are less that altrustic. That wasn’t a big surprise to me, though.

Mostly I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.

June 30, 2006 at 10:10 am 2 comments

Net Neutrality

Though I’ve had only enough time to scan the news of late, the issue of net neutrality has caught my eye. I’ve really just taken for granted that the access to the net I currently enjoy would continue indefinitely. The idea of giving an entity the right to sidetrack my journey through cyberspace is disconcerting to say the least. I won’t pretend I understand the full implications of how the encroachment of telecommunications into the realm of cyber communications will cause the death of net neutrality. The mere thought, however, that the freedom I’ve enjoyed for so long will be abridged to boost the bottom line of some mega corporation is enough to make me look for ways to keep it from happening.

June 24, 2006 at 12:13 pm 1 comment

I’m stuck in remodeling hell

So, I get this bright idea that instead of working this summer, as I usually do, that I’m going to stay home and do some remodeling. In the beginning, the plan was to redo the bath, upgrade the electrical wiring, and paint the exterior. Well, true to character, I can’t keep anything simple. If I do something, I gotta do it in a big way. So now, it looks like the first hurricane of the season has all ready descended upon my home. True to character, I’ve turned manageable projects into insuperable hurdles. Michael, who for some unknown reason continues to be my devoted and loving significant other, has suffered the lion’s share of trying to clean up this mess I’ve created. I’m surprised he has not tied me to a chair to keep me from starting another new project before the other dozen or so are even half completed. I admit it, I’m sick. I can’t focus on any one project for any length of time before I jump to something else. I wonder if the DSM IV recognizes manic multitasking disorder?

June 11, 2006 at 9:57 am 4 comments

A beginning….

I am about to take a journey. I’m a bit nervous. I always am when I explore new territory.

Why am I doing this? Well, because it is something I believe in. I have been wandering the World Wide Web for over a decade, and I realize what a powerful experience it is for learners to have so much information at their fingertips. I have all ready used many Internet tools in my classroom. None, however, have inspired in my students the level of engagement that hooks them in and makes them beg for more. I (and about a million other people) believe that blogs, wikis, and podcasts are just the thing to kick classroom instruction up a notch.

Therefore, I am making a commitment to myself to keep a log of my journey. At least once a week I will be here reflecting on what I’ve learned so far. I will try new things, and meet new people. This is my first step forward into a brave new world.

June 7, 2006 at 10:46 pm 6 comments