Summer Reading Update

I’ve been quiet in my post Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows daze.  I promised myself I can re-read the entire series again once I finish my summer reading.  I have three books to go: The Return of the Native, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  I’ve read most of the last two, so in a pinch, I can skip up to the part I’ve not read if I have to.  I am working on the senior seminar class I’m teaching next week, and I am excited about the way it’s shaping up.  I’m likely to be quiet next week as I will be working hard on this course.  I don’t imagine I’ll be very active at the UbD wiki next week, either.

[tags]harry potter, summer reading[/tags]

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You Can’t Be Too Careful

Not that I’m paranoid or anything, but I am doing whatever I can not to have the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows spoiled for me.  As of this moment, I’m filtering e-mails.  I will go into Harry Potter hibernation at midnight tomorrow, and I don’t expect to catch up with online activities until some time mid-week next week.  Thanks for understanding if it takes me a while to get back to your e-mails or approve comments.  See you on the other side!

[tags]harry potter, harry potter and the deathly hallows[/tags]

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Brave New World

Brave New WorldI review just about every book I read on my personal blog, and Brave New World is no exception. I think I have pretty well decided that even though I haven’t read The Return of the Native, I will study the novel Brave New World with my classes prior to assessment. You may recall that each of my literature classes reads three summer reading books, and I am expected to assess them on two books without benefit of classroom discussion, while the third is discussed in class prior to assessment and therefore becomes our first unit. I imagine that the themes and storyline of Brave New World will create material for discussion, but more importantly, I think the students will have struggled with some aspects of the novel, and I’m not sure I feel right about them being assessed on it without benefit of classroom instruction first. Of course, I might read The Return of the Native and find it even more difficult (and I know Hardy has a reputation for description and vocabulary, but as I have never taught British literature before, I haven’t read him — Tess of the D’Urbervilles has been on my list, but it’s never been a priority). It isn’t that I think The Return of the Native or The Picture of Dorian Gray are not challenging books, but it seemed to me that Brave New World is somehow more immediate. As I read, I was trying approach the book as though I were one of my students, and I decided I probably would be fairly intrigued by the book, but also frustrated by references I didn’t understand. I would be very surprised if many of them thought much about the book’s date of publication. I think if you remember Huxley published the novel in 1932, it’s amazing how much he was able to predict about our society. I happen to have enjoyed Dorian Gray, and I don’t wish to cast aspersions on a book I’ve not yet read, but it seems to me that my students will probably identify Brave New World as the most relevant of their required reading selections.

With all of that said, I created a UbD unit for Brave New World over at the UbD Educators wiki. The wiki has been pretty quiet for about two weeks. I assume everyone is enjoying their summers instead of working, which is probably a good thing. At any rate, if you would like to check it out, please do. As always, we welcome new wiki members. It’s never too late to join.

[tags]brave new world, aldous huxley, literature, english, unit plan, lesson plan, wiki, ubd[/tags]

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Web 2.0

I’m kind of confused.

I thought I knew what Web 2.0 was, and frankly I was and am excited about some of the possibilities it holds for my students, particularly wikis.

But I’m going to admit after reading Clay’s post here, and Will’s post here, I’m not sure anymore.

What do we really want to accomplish with Web 2.0 technologies?  What do you think Clay and Will are saying?  (And I’d encourage you to continue the conversation on their blogs as well as mine, as I’m not sure they’ll see it here if you have something to address to them personally.)

[tags]web 2.0, wikis, education[/tags]

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Google Maps

I introduced my six-year-old daughter Maggie to Google Maps, and it has become one of her favorite websites. We sat down together a couple of weeks ago, and just for fun, I showed her our city, our house, her school, and a few other landmarks I knew she would recognize. I also showed her how to zoom out so she could see the whole world. She particularly likes to look at Japan. She mentioned that characters in a cartoon she watches live there. I tried to show her the Great Wall of China, but I had trouble seeing it. I did show her the Eiffel Tower, and if you haven’t checked it out, you should. I can’t post a screencap because I think it violates Google’s Terms of Use, but you can easily locate it simply by typing “Eiffel Tower, France” into the search bar.

I can hear Maggie talking to her father in the other room as I write this, and she just told him that Russia is the biggest country in the world. This, of course, is something she figured out by looking at Google Maps, and not something she learned in kindergarten. She is always sharing interesting facts about what she learns from Google Maps. For instance, when I came in the room where we keep the family computer this morning, I discovered she had figured out how to search for pizza restaurants in Japan. And there are a few by the way. And more than you’d think in Cairo, too. A little while ago, we looked at the Pyramids in Egypt. Maggie likes to switch to hybrid view so she can see both the satellite image and the place names and roads — it helps her navigate better.

She has mastered using the Firefox search bar to look for cat videos in YouTube, too, but this post is about Google Maps, isn’t it? What an interesting way for a six-year-old to discover her world. I remember I had an old Replogle globe. I used to spend a lot of time looking over the globe and imagining the far away places on my map. I never could have dreamed the extent to which we can go there with current technology. Not only that, but it has some amazing implications for teaching.

I’ll admit to being a novice in terms of teaching with Google Maps and Google Earth, but after seeing how much my daughter has learned, and — and this is important, too — how much fun she has, I admit I’m brainstorming ways to incorporate Google Maps into my own curriculum.

[tags]google maps, earth, globe[/tags]

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Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teachers

Inspired by Stephen Covey, Mr. McNamar created a list of Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teachers.

I know it no longer fits the nice number 7, but I have to add one:

Learn: You will be more excited about your subject matter and teaching if you seek opportunities to learn more about your subject matter, how to be better teacher, and how to design learning experiences that will inspire your students to learn.

The list is a great one, but if you could add anything, what would you add?

[tags]stephen covey, 7 habits of highly effective, teaching, education[/tags]

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K12 Online Conference

Participate in the free K12 Online ConferenceIf you weren’t able to attend EduBloggerCon or NECC, you might want to check out the K12 Online Conference this October.  According to the conference website,

The “K12 Online Conference” is for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice! The 2007 conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, October 15-19 and October 22-26 of 2007, and will include a preconference keynote during the week of October 8. The conference theme is “Playing with Boundaries.”

You can still view presentations from last year’s conference.  You might want to check out the Tools page to make sure you have the software you’ll need to participate.

[tags]k12onlineconference, web 2.0[/tags]

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Feedburner

I wanted to let you all know that I created a Feedburner feed for this blog. I had felt happy with the feeds that come with WordPress’s installation, so I used one of them for the Feedburner feed, but I like some of the statistics and other bells and whistles that come with a Feedburner feed, so if you do, too, you can now subscribe to huffenglish.com with a Feedburner feed.

Update: If you are interesting in knowing what I bookmark in del.icio.us, you can subscribe to this feed and receive my del.icio.us links, too.

[tags]feedburner, rss, feed, wordpress[/tags]

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Administrator 2.0

Scott McLeod challenged education bloggers to post today about effective school technology leadership.

In many schools in our nation, computers are not available for students. I have worked in four K-12 schools. The first had no computer lab and no access to computers even for faculty. Of course, that was 1997-1998, so I hope things have changed. The second and third had labs which were difficult to get into, often requiring sign-ups or a month or more in advance in order to secure time for my students to use the lab; therefore, I never took my own students because I couldn’t get in. My current school has an excellent computer lab which is staffed by two educational technologists. Space for two classes at a time generally exists, and the lab isn’t hard to get into. I can sign up the same day in some cases, and I have never had difficulty if I sign up a week in advance. Guess which environment has been most conducive to my students’ learning of technology as well as that of my own? The first thing administrators need to do at the school, district, and state level is to support initiatives to bring computers to the classroom. Ideally, I’d like to have a lab in my own classroom, but barring that, my current situation of an accessible lab is critical. One-to-one laptop initiatives are interesting, but bottom-line, it’s more important to me to have access to a lab when I need it. Administrators who do not do what they can to bring computers to school are basically saying that educating our children for the 21st century is not important.

A second thing teachers need from administrators is support for their efforts at technological education. I think one reason administrators sometimes do not support these efforts is fear and misunderstanding. It is imperative that administrators receive professional development in technology. As Scott McLeod noted,

Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Most of them didn’t grow up with these technologies. Many are not using digital tools on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.

My administration, and especially the Board of Trustees (specifically our board president) have been incredibly supportive of my efforts at using technology in my classroom. Without their support, I would not have been able to successfully use wikis or blogs in my classroom. Since I have plans to utilize Web 2.0 technology to an even greater extent next year, their continued support will be critical for enhancing the learning activities of our students. If I try to visualize doing some of the work I’ve done over the last two years in the setting of one of my former schools, I have to admit I don’t think I would have been able to even try using blogs or wikis.

As administrators begin to feel more comfortable with technology, I’d like to see more administrators blogging. I know this is fraught with problems as well, as this involves giving people more access to those administrators, which could result in blogging administrators becoming whipping boys for all the problems with education in their schools and districts. I think, however, there is more to be gained than lost by being more transparent in education. “The ‘net rewards the transparent,” and over time, as more blogs like this one pop up, it will punish those who do not reach out themselves.

I would also like to see efforts at creating Web 2.0 learning experiences made easier for teachers. Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay said at EduBloggerCon that in order to have their Flat Classroom Project approved by each of their schools, they had to use different rubrics. As their students were doing the same tasks, it would have been easier to evaluate their work using the same rubric.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that it is critical that administrators support best practices in using technology. I think many administrators don’t see the need for certain uses of technology not only because they haven’t used them and don’t use them now, but because they felt they got on all right, thank you very much, without them, so why should others need them? I’m sure the same has been said in the past of running water, electricity, a dependable mail service, automobiles, and any number of services and technologies we rely on today. I don’t know yet if we will necessarily rely on Web 2.0 technology, but the 21st century is already dependent on certain technologies, and not teaching our students how to use them is to cripple them as they move on to college and the work force.

[tags]administration, education, web 2.o, technology, schooltechleadership[/tags]

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A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before DyingOur students at each grade and level read three books over the summer. You can check out our summer reading brochure here (pdf) to see our requirements and recommendations. We have latitude regarding assessment of summer reading, but we are encouraged to evaluate students’ understanding of one book through an objective test and to evaluate a second through an essay. The third book is discussed and studied in class prior to assessment.

My 9th grade students will have to read A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. This coming year will be the fourth year I have taught 9th grade at my school (I had previously taught ninth grade for four years in other schools with no summer reading requirement). We changed our selections this year. Last year, incoming freshmen read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway rather than the Gaines and Twain novels. As The Bean Trees was the book I liked best among those three, I have taught that novel prior to discussion the past three years, and indeed, had planned to do the same this year. However, after reading A Lesson Before Dying, I decided this book has some real meat for discussion and might appeal more to both boys and girls (girls tend to favor The Bean Trees, while boys tend not to). You can read my review of the book at my personal blog.

I created a UbD unit plan for A Lesson Before Dying today, and I’d appreciate feedback. I had quite a bit of trouble with Stage 1 (the standards were easy; figuring out what I wanted students to understand and how to frame essential questions was hard).

In my searching today, I found a UbD plan for The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible (pdf). This year will be the first in my high school teaching career that I haven’t taught American literature, but one of you all American literature teachers may want to check it out and see if it is something you are interested in trying.

[tags]ubd, ernest gaines, a lesson before dying, literature, english, education, assessment[/tags]

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