Zotero

I am often the last person to hear about the cool tools, but I don’t think I’ve seen Zotero mentioned in any other education blogs.

Zotero is a Firefox extension that helps “you collect, manage, and cite your research sources” within your browser.  Screencast tutorials at the Zotero site help you visualize what that means for your research.  I think students could potentially save a lot of time with Zotero.  It would be great for research papers.  I don’t know if I will need to write any scholarly papers for my ITMA program, but if so, I can see this extension can potentially save me a lot of time.

Zotero Screenshot

Zotero Screenshot

Zotero works for Firefox 2.0 or 3.0, Netscape Navigator 9.0, or Flock 0.9.1 for Windows, Mac, or Linux.  It is free and open source, and lots of good plugins can extend its capabilities with other software, such as Open Office, Microsoft Office, and WordPress.

My worry in using it with my own students is that it would be a learning curve for them.  As I have stated before elsewhere, it has not been my experience that students today are as tech savvy as we give them credit for, and many of them are not patient with tech tools either.

Everything I learned about technology, I learned because I sat down and played with it until I figured out how it worked, but my students do not always approach learning how to use new tools the same way.  I do have a few students I might recommend it to.

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Busy!

I started my master’s degree on Monday, and I have been so busy!  I had a problem with direct deposit and my student loan, so I had to wait until today to get a new computer for school.  The nice Mac iBook that Betsy gave me months ago died.  It made me very sad.  Well, I probably needed to go ahead and get a new computer for school because of the type of degree I’m pursuing.  For those of you who joined me late or forgot, I’m working on an ITMA (Instructional Technology Master’s Degree) at Virginia Tech.  So far, I am enjoying the program, although I had trouble doing assignments at school because I was so frequently interrupted.  One of our first assignments (which is fairly common, I would imagine, among online programs) was to introduce ourselves to our classmates via a listserv.  It looks like I will be learning with some interesting folks.  Some of us have already found each other on Facebook. I already submitted a few assignments.  I think as I go further into the program, I will begin to learn more interesting things.  It looks like the introductory classes are designed to make sure everyone has the requisite skills, so they’re not too challenging, but as I’ve taken on a leadership role in my department at school, it’s good for me to start slow.

Speaking of which, I am enjoying my role as department chair.  My department is hard-working and professional, and just a real treat to work with.  I think at this point we’re all just about done with summer reading.  I am really enjoying my Hero with a Thousand Faces elective.  I set up a closed network for the class on Ning, and I really like it.

I mentioned I bought a new computer.  One of my students told me that a former student of mine works at the Apple store at the mall not far from our school.  I messaged him on Facebook with several questions, and he was so helpful.  I bought a computer from him today — it’s a new MacBook.  I am totally in love with it.  I was able to get a free iPod Touch (as part of a promotion for college students and eductators).  Well, it will be free once I get the rebate.  I wish I had been able to afford the printer today — it, too, would have been free, but I had to purchase it first and then obtain the rebate, and I couldn’t quite swing it.  However, I do feel ready for school now, and perhaps I’ll feel a little less frantic.  Also, I might actually be able to update this blog once in a while.

For those of you who haven’t heard the news, it looks like local school system Clayton County has indeed lost their accreditation.  It’s very sad for the students and the teachers that the board leadership so mishandled the system’s affairs that SACS felt they had no other choice.  I am warily allowing comments on this post regarding this sad news, but I remind new visitors that unless you abide by the posted comments policy, your comment will not appear.

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The Calm Before the Storm

Somehow it seems appropriate that the very outer bands of Tropical Storm Fay brought some sprinkles and a few gusts of wind today, as this weekend is my last before I begin working on my master’s degree, and it really does feel like the calm before the storm.  Classes start Monday.  I have been so busy this week, and I already feel behind.  I have had to start making to-do lists.  I know some people swear by them, but I haven’t really needed to use them often in the past.  It feels very good to cross items off that list.  I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew — I already feel busy without worrying about my own studies!

I have found blogging to be important for my own teaching practice.  This space helps me be reflective and connect, and after doing it for three years, I have discovered I need it.

I guess blogging needs to have an important position on my to-do list.

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Brave New World

My 11th grade British literature classes read three books as part of a summer reading assignment: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.

The way we typically assess summer reading is to have students complete a test, writing assignment, or project on two of the books without any discussion of the novel.  We discuss the third as the first unit of the year.  I actually like Dorian Gray the best of the three, but I think Brave New World has meatier discussion material, so I am starting the school year with that text.  I have already begun discussions with one class, and so far, I am really intrigued.  The way I figure it, I have one of the best jobs in the world because I get paid to discuss literature with smart kids.

I hate to recycle, but we just started back to school, and until I get my rhythm, posting will be light.  However, some of you might be interested in checking out the unit plan I wrote for Brave New World, including the final assessment.  I had fun with this assignment last year, and I had some students who produced some impressive work.

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My Classroom

I changed classrooms this year, and I’m still putting things away and decorating, but here’s a peek.

This image shows my desk in the corner.  You can see part of my SMART Board, my Macbeth on one page poster, my diploma, and a Harry Potter poster one of my students gave me last year.  The view out that window looks over our baseball field and the student parking lot.

In this view, you can see one of my doors (I have two), my SMART Board, many of my student desks, my Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer Night’s Dream on one page posters, my Madama Butterfly poster, and across the hall, my friend and co-English teacher Corinne’s open door.

Here is my desk.  I have my UbD unit plan for Brave New World ready as well as my teaching copies of that novel and The Bean Trees.

My room has a sort of odd shape due to its proximity to a stairwell, and I have a large space in the back with a small seminar setup and lots of bookshelves, but the pictures didn’t come out as well, so I’ll have to take others and post later.

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Classmates

Can someone tell me why Facebook doesn’t allow users to search using both graduation year and major as criteria?  Or am I missing something?  I wind up having to wade through hundreds of grads when I’m only looking for classmates, or I wind up wading through hundreds of English Education majors that didn’t even go to UGA.  It seems obvious to me that searches should be able to be narrowed by both major and graduation year.

Anyway, I’m looking for classmates who graduated from UGA with an English Education major in 1997 (Bachelor’s or Master’s), especially folks who were in Mark and Sally’s group.  If that’s you, I’d love to re-establish contact.

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Back to School

I’ve said this every year, but I’ll say it again: you sure can tell when school starts again around this blog.  Anyway, our students come back on Wednesday, and my own children went back today, so I feel like we’re all back in the saddle.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a few new visitors coming by looking for UbD information, and I thought I’d make it easier for you.  First, these are my “reading journals” for Understanding by Design in which I reflected on what I was reading and posted here:

Of course, I invite and encourage any interested teachers to join us at the UbD Educators wiki to share and obtain feedback on unit plans (or perhaps borrow those shared by others).

Meanwhile, once I get back in the swing of my schedule, I should have more time to write, although I start grad school on the 25th, which I imagine will make me busy again.

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My Fall Preview

Robert at Casting Out Nines just posted a Fall Preview.  It’s nice to know what our fellow bloggers are doing so we can pick their brains or follow along when they write about instruction.  This is what I have going on this semester:

  • A daughter starting high school (yikes!), a daughter starting second grade, and a son starting kindergarten.  The two younger children are on the autism spectrum (my daughter has Asperger’s and my son is currently diagnosed as developmentally delayed).
  • A new course entitled The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a senior elective in which students will analyze literature and a couple of films based on Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth.
  • 11th grade college prep British Literature and Composition (a chronological study of British literature)
  • 11th grade college prep 2 British Literature and Composition (also chronological, but at a different pace and depth and with some different reading selections, mainly the novels, but others will differ as well)
  • 9th grade college prep 2 Grammar, Composition, and Literature, which is our 9th grade English course, including The Odyssey and Romeo and Juliet.  Our focus is on grammar and writing.
  • Department Chair of our English department.
  • National Honor Society Adviser.
  • Returning to school to begin my masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an Instructional Technology focus.

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