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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Home from NCTE

I’m back from NCTE, and I’m too tired to post about it tonight, but soon I will post my recap and talk about my sessions from Saturday and Sunday and the Folger meet-up Saturday night.  Lots of people I was glad to finally meet; some others I missed.  I had a GREAT time.

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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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NCTE 2008: Thursday

After breakfast and a quick chat with my husband and my mom, I went to the Alamo.  The tour interested me a great deal, and if you go, it’s worth it to rent the mp3 player for the audio tour.  The guy running the booth for the audio tour also said nice things about my hair, which is always a nice way to start the day.

I went to a preconference session on teaching tone, and it was very interesting and encouraging.  Carol Jago and John Golden presented.  Carol had some really snazzy boots, but aside from that, she is a warm and engaging speaker, and she shared some solid ideas about teaching tone.  John Golden is very funny.  I’m not sure I would have thought of using some of his techniques for teaching tone, which include use of images and creating multimedia projects, but they were really good ideas.

After that session, I went to the Secondary Level Get-Together.  I met Penny Kittle (who is very tall and very nice), and I saw Mike LoMonico again (who is always lovely to see).  The featured speaker was Francine Prose.  I had read her article “I Know Why the Caged Bird Can’t Read” not too long ago (Nancy sent it to me), and it challenged my thinking, but I also disagreed with parts of it.  Prose spoke about that article and some of the backlash it has received and mentioned that over time, she has come to change some of the views she expressed in that article.  She felt that many teachers saw the article as an attack, and she explained that she values what English teachers do and did not mean for anyone to take her criticism about how she saw some works of literature being taught as an indictment of teachers.  When I met her to get my books signed (we received copies of Reading Like a Writer and Goldengrove), I told her about how the article had challenged my thinking, but also that I found her comments about revisiting her views interesting in light of the fact that we readers tend to see writers’ viewpoints as fixed and unchanging because the print is always there.  It’s something I haven’t given much thought to, considering I’m an English teacher.  What Prose said in response really struck me, and I’ll paraphrase it here because I didn’t write her words down immediately after.  She said that if you really want to know what you think about something, try publishing it and revisiting it through the feedback you get from others.  That sounds like blogging to me, although I’m sure she wasn’t thinking of blogging when she said it.  I know blogging has certainly made me think more about everything I teach and read and think, and the feedback from others, whether agreeing with me or challenging me, has made me think about it even more.

I wish it were possible for me to attend this conference every year.  It’s got to be the most valuable interaction I can have with my peers outside of blogging (which has a smaller audience and can sometimes feel like an echo chamber).

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NCTE Bound

Tomorrow evening I’ll be flying to San Antonio to the NCTE Annual Conference.  I haven’t been to an NCTE conference since 1998, which took place in Nashville.  I went then because Atlanta is within easy driving distance of Nashville.  While this is not true of San Antonio, I really wanted to go this year because the focus is on 21st century learning and technology.

I’ll be blogging from the conference, and possibly the hotel, but I think it’s a crime I will have to pay for wifi at the hotel.  Hope it’s free at the convention center.  At any rate, if you read this blog, feel free to say “hi.”  I’m meeting up with some Folger folks on Saturday night, and if you want to go see Twilight Friday night, let me know.

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Overdue Update

I knew at some point during the semester, I would be too overwhelmed to blog much, and that point came at the junction of creating the English department budget for next year and keeping up with grad school.

Some things I’m thinking about: assessment and professional development, planning a curriculum map/scope and sequence for my department, and NCTE.  Will I see any of you at the conference?  I’m looking forward to going.

I am plugging away in my grad school program, but I’m immensely frustrated by one of my classes to the point that I feel I should warn anyone interested in the program about the class.  It’s required, and it’s a complete waste of time.  It’s outdated, it’s boring busy work, and it’s mostly irrelevant.  It’s also the one that I was most looking forward to when I registered.  It’s a course on using the Web in education.  We have learned nothing, and I mean nothing, about Web 2.0 tools.  Several of the assignments have been redundant collections of links on various subjects.  When I finally thought I’d learned something in the class — fair use — I quickly learned from my blog commenters that even that lesson was outdated.  I was encouraged by one classmate to look at the class as a means to an end, but I admit it bothers me that I paid tuition for it.  And I plan to share this information on my course evaluation, too.  They MUST get this class, and in some respects, the rest of the program into the 21st century.  Why am I reading a book about how we are entering an information age and we need to change how we teach kids that was written in 1993?  Nothing more recent has been written on a similar subject that we can use instead?  I don’t believe it.

On the plus side, I was able to get a student discount for Adobe Studio 8, which was later replaced by Creative Suite.  It comes with Dreamweaver 8, Flash Professional 8, Fireworks 8, Contribute 3, and Flashpaper 2.  I haven’t worked with all of the programs, but I loved Dreamweaver and Fireworks.  I know Dreamweaver throws in a lot of code that isn’t necessary when you use it to create Web sites, but it’s so much easier than coding with HTML.  I used it to build the shell of the Web site that will be my ITMA portfolio.  Most of the pages are placeholders right now except for the home page and résumé, but feel free to watch it for developments!  A permanent link is in the sidebar to the left.

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Megan Golding is a Class Act!

I hope I don’t embarrass Megan by announcing here that she was the recipient of the Class Act award.  Class Act is given by 11Alive (WXIA), a local NBC affiliate, based on a nomination by a student, parent, or colleague.  11Alive has not updated their Class Act blog to reflect Megan’s award, but that’s probably because the story just appeared on the news this morning.

If you get a chance, visit Megan’s blog and offer her congratulations.

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Copyright and Fair Use

I just completed an assignment which required me to research copyright and fair use (first useful assignment in that course, sadly), and I thought I would share some of what I learned here in case it’s helpful to you:

  • Your students in grades K-6 may not necessarily be expected to understand how much material they can use before they infringe copyright, but if your students are older, be sure to educate them about portion limitations.
  • Even for educational use, fair use has time limitations.  Make sure you are aware how long you can use materials without infringing copyright.
  • Fair use is defined in a nebulous fashion: err on the side of caution and either 1) obtain proper permissions, 2) follow the letter of fair use guidelines with regards to all restrictions and limitations, or 3) don’t use the material.

I found these sites helpful with regards to learning more about fair use:

Remember: You can find music, images, video, and other materials licensed under a Creative Commons License (which often just requires attribution in the case of non-commercial use, but check the license for the individual work you want to use).  Make sure your students know about this valuable resource.

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