Lawrence Lessig on Fresh Air

I was in the car the other day, returning home after Christmas shopping, and Terry Gross’s interview of Stanford law professor, founding board member of Creative Commons, former board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and geek Lawrence Lessig came on the radio.  I wasn’t able to finish listening to the interview, but it’s since been posted on NPR’s site (h/t Miguel Guhlin).  Check it out!

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Blogs, and Wikis, and Nings, and Things

This is liable to be a rambly post, and frankly, I’m not sure I like reading those myself, but sometimes they have to be written.

Those of you who are members of the UbD Educators wiki — are you interested in having a Ning, too?  It wouldn’t mean shutting down the wiki, but Nings seem to enable more different kinds of interaction, so I thought I’d float the question.  Jim Burke’s new Ning has become incredibly active and interesting, but he’s also Jim Burke.  Still, the success of Jim’s Ning made me wonder about UbD Educators.

Which leads me to something I have been mulling over for a while.  I think I’m stretched too thin.  I join too many online “clubs.”  And I probably just used unnecessary quotation marks.  I am currently a member of nine Nings (0nly about two or three of which I even look at, much less contribute to) and nine (or ten?) wikis, again most of which I don’t contribute to, or at least not regularly.  I have six (I think) blogs, and the one I update most is the one I do for my students.  This one comes in second, followed by my book blog.  My other blogs are fairly shamefully dormant.  When I look at the numbers, I freak out a little and feel bad.  I also wonder what to do about it, or whether what I’m currently doing is OK.

Long term career goal I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years: teacher education.  I think I want to work with English Education majors.  I’m not sure what I need to do to reach that goal, but the good news is that I am in touch with my own English Education professors, and I can ask them.  Meanwhile, if you do work with preservice English teachers, please share your advice or experiences.

I asked this question on Twitter, but got no response.  If I am a member of ISTE, is it still worthwhile to join AECT?  My ITMA program at VA Tech keeps talking about AECT, but all the tech folks in the Edublogosphere (should that be capitalized?) always mention ISTE.  Just wondering.

Finally, if you are headed to the Georgia Council of Teachers of English (GCTE) conference in February, I invite you to the session I’m presenting on Using Blogs and Wikis for Professional Development on Friday.  It’s the same session I presented at November’s GISA conference, so if you already came to that, you wouldn’t miss anything new if you skipped it.  Suggestions for the presentation are welcome.  If you were going to the session, what would you hope to learn or want to know?

OK, I have picked your brain enough today, Internet.

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English Companion Ning

I am so excited!  Some time ago, I mentioned that two English teachers I’d love to see blogging are Jim Burke and Carol Jago.  Jim Burke has created a Ning for English teachers, where, presumably, we can all look forward to regular posts in the form of blogs or forum posts from Jim!  And Carol is a member, too, so perhaps we can expect the same from her as well.  Some of you have already received an invitation from me to join the Ning, but if not, consider yourself invited and come on over.  Looks pretty active already.

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The Faculty Room Hiatus

You may have noticed that the Faculty Room has not been updated in some time.  We have been on hiatus since August, and though the last post said we would resume posting in September, it hasn’t happened, and I’m not sure why.  I contacted both Meg Fitzpatrick (who administers the blog) and Grant Wiggins, and neither responded to my query.  I hope the blog is not shut down for good.  I felt the conversations were valuable.  I have noticed that when I mouse over the title of the last post in the RSS feed in the sidebar to the right, I see a bunch of pharmaceutical spam.  Try mousing over the link that says “See you in September!” and you’ll see what I mean.  Not sure what happened there.  I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything about the Faculty Room.

Update: Grant has re-opened the Faculty Room, although it appears to be retooled as his personal blog.  The rest of the contributers are now listed under a column labeled “Past Bloggers.”

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Three Down

Of the four classes I am taking this semester (three one-hour classes and one three-hour class), I have finished the work in three.  That means I have just one more class to finish, and I will be done with the semester.  Hopefully I can tidy that up this weekend and finish early.

I expect to earn A’s on my grade report.  I have been able to keep up with my grades online through Blackboard and a separate interface the ITMA program uses for grade reporting and assignment submission (having three different interfaces to work with is clunky and is something I think the program needs to address).  Three of the A’s I expect to earn really don’t mean much to me.  I did a modest amount of work to earn them.  In the case of one class, the assignments were a waste of time.  I can’t say I learned a lot.  In one class, I worked quite hard and feel proud of the A because it was not easy to earn.  I also feel I learned a lot in that class.

You know, I really, really hate grades.  I have been thinking about writing a book about assessment and grades.  Grades are a subject that interest me a great deal.  I hate the fact that grades are what motivates some students to learn — that unless there’s a grade attached, it isn’t worthwhile to some students.  I hate it that I spend a long time on feedback and some students turn to the grade and ask why did I get this? instead of reading the feedback, which would make the grade clear.

I really like working with my students, and it’s so exciting when I can tell they’re truly interested in something, and they want to learn it for the sake of learning it.  I find it frustrating that no matter how engaging my lessons might be (not every day, probably, but I hope they are most of the time) that some students will never be motivated by anything other than a grade.

A colleague of mine once described grades as both the carrot and the stick, and truer words were never spoken.  We use grades to punish kids who don’t do the work, and to reward those who do, even if they are only doing it for the grade.  I wonder what school would look like without grades.  I know it’s possible.  I know schools have done it.

I don’t know what made me go off on that rant.  I suppose I feel frustrated by my own school experience.  I have four A’s.  I worked to earn one of those A’s.  I didn’t learn much.  The grade doesn’t feel like much of a reward.  I’d rather have learned a lot.  For what it’s worth, I hear the program gets better.  Here’s hoping.  I am taking Principles of Instructional Design, Instructional Media, and Digital Audio next semester.

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NCTE Recap

I have been recovering from not having a “true” weekend, and I have neglected posting my recap of Saturday and Sunday at NCTE.

Great sessions on Saturday!  I went to Karl Fisch and Anne Smith’s session first.  As Karl noted, the early hour meant it was more sparsely attended than it should have been.  Both were (of course) engaging and interesting speakers.  The second session I went to was on leading an English department.  The session was packed.  I sat on the floor.  It was during that session that I decided I would not hike to the Marriott River Center again unless the session looked really, really good.

I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to see and do.  I know I spent a good chunk of time on Saturday in the exhibits, but I know I went to at least one session in the afternoon, and I just can’t remember what it was.  I’m sure that doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t good — it means my brain is fried.  I went to a couple of sessions sponsored by the National Writing Project (one of which was on digital storytelling and the other of which was about creative writing projects), but I can’t remember when they were.  Both were good, although I really enjoyed the digital storytelling one.  That’s the next big thing I haven’t tried before that I plan to try as a result of the conference.

Sunday I went to a session on graphic novels because my professor from UGA, Mark Faust, was going to be there.  It was great to see him again!  The graphic novels presentations was really good, even though I didn’t necessarily anticipate getting much out of it.  I am not opposed to graphic novels.  I don’t read them, and perhaps I should, but because I don’t read them, maybe I don’t get their appeal.  I admit that if they get “reluctant readers” to read, I’m all for them.  Whatever works.

The last session I went to was led by a trio of engaging teachers from Amarillo, and it discussed writing.  Several tools for improving student writing at the sentence level especially were presented, but more than the materials, I enjoyed their presentation style.  They were fun, and it was a nice note on which to end the conference.

Everyone I bumped into was so friendly and helpful; while waiting for the shuttle van and in line at UPS, I discovered yet again that English teachers are so nice.  One big downer about the conference was the lack of free wifi.  I know it would have been expensive, but at a conference about shift and technology, it sent the wrong message to participants who wanted wifi not to provide it.  I spent well over $50 on wifi between the convention center and the hotel.  Not cool.  Another complaint I have is that I think the NCTE Ning was really publicized, and I felt presenters were encouraged to use it to upload materials.  So why did so few of them know about it?  I can’t figure out where these guys were because the Ning was mentioned so much, and it was all over the conference.  A tech station in the NCTE store even had a person on staff to help attendees sign up for the Ning.  I don’t get it.  At any rate, if you check out the Ning, you can perhaps get some good materials if you weren’t able to attend the conference, and I think it was a great idea for NCTE to establish the Ning.

Moment that made me raise my eyebrows: a woman in one of the sessions I attended had never heard of Wikipedia.  I showed it to her.  It was cool, but seriously?

The highlight of the convention: all my interactions with the Folger Shakespeare Library folks.  I went to one of their sessions — excellent, by the way — on Friday and learned about how I can use ideas from PostSecret and radio plays to create Shakespeare projects (I shared the Shakespeare wiki for that session already).  The Folgerians present all had dinner on Saturday night, and whenever the Folgerians get together, that means fun.  I had some great conversations, and I look forward to working closely with Folger in the future.  I was missing Joe Scotese and the participants in my own Teaching Shakespeare Institute from last June, but we had a good time.

I still haven’t seen Twilight, but I’m hoping that will happen this weekend.

Oh, and before I forget, someone owes Nikki Giovanni an apology.  I don’t think NCTE publicized her book signing enough, and at any rate, they ran out of books, but the excellent rep from SourceBooks gamely took a picture for me anyway, and here it is:

I got to tell her I’m a Virginia Tech student, albeit online, but I really wish I could take one of her classes.

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NCTE 2008: Friday

Today began with a general session keynoted by Marc Prensky.  Carla Beard has a nice summary of the talk he gave.

After that, I went to a session on Teaching Shakespeare to the Class of 2020.  Presenters were Mike LoMonico, Julia Perlowski, and Chris Shamburg, who it was nice to finally meet.  Of course, the Folger folks always do wonderful presentations, and this one was no exception.  Mike created a wiki that has lots of goodies he, Julia, and Chris shared in the presentation today.  I especially like the part when Chris demonstrated how easy it is to use Audacity to create a recording of a scene complete with Foley art.

Next, I was off to a session called Technology Toolkit Roadshow, a roundtable session with ideas presented by Carla Beard, Sara Kajder, Gretchen Lee, Nancy Patterson, and Bud Hunt.  I saw Jim Burke there.  Now if there is one teacher I’d like to see blogging, it’s Jim Burke.  And if there’s another, it’s Carol Jago.  However, I also understand they are both pretty busy and involved with NCTE… still if this wife, mother of three, full-time teacher, department chair, and half-time grad student can occasionally update a blog.  Just saying.

After that, I went to a session called Shifting Heroes: Teaching Traditional, Tragic, Promethean, Bryonic, Code and Anti Heroes Utilizing Popular Culture, Literature, Cinema, and Video Games.  It was interesting in that I hadn’t quite made some of the connections the presenters had made between Campbell and Jung’s ideas (among those of others) and modern heros of pop culture whether real or fictional.  I chatted on a site Bud Hunt set up for NCTE the whole time, and it worked well for me to engage in my learning.  Which brings me to a big beef I have with the convention.  No free wifi.  In a convention about Shift and Technology!  I realize it’s expensive, but it underscores an interesting and ironic point about access.  Wifi should be ubiquitous and free, in my opinion, but instead I’m spending more on wife at this conference between having to pay for access at my hotel (where it should also be free), and the conference.  And in my opinion, it is seriously not cheap.

I missed lunch because they didn’t really put enough time in the schedule for it, but I did finally get to meet Bud Hunt after reading his blog for about three years, and I met Laura Deisley, who is from my neck of the woods.

The afternoon sessions were a little iffier.  I don’t want to hurt feelings, but one was presented on an overhead projector, and it wasn’t terribly engaging, which is a shame because the ideas were pretty good — I know because I glanced at her book.  I couldn’t make up my mind about the last session.  I originally planned to go to one that addressed grammar, but changed my mind at the last minute and chose a different one.  This presentation was a PowerPoint with slides crammed with text, and we were not told until the end of the session that the presenters had prepared a wiki with all the materials and ideas they discussed.  That kind of bothered me because I had spent most of the time frantically trying take notes and feeling frustrated when they moved on before I could catch it all, only to find I could have been enjoying myself and listening to them more closely had I known about the wiki.  The presentation had some solid information, but I felt frustrated by the presentation skills.  Not that I am some great authority.  I have given terrible presentations before.  I actually think I’m terrified to present at NCTE, even though I’ve presented in other places before.

So that’s my recap for today.  I am looking forward to more learning tomorrow.  If you are looking for me, I’ll be wearing black slacks and a bluish-gray blouse.  I have gray hair.  I will most likely be fussing with my MacBook.

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