Diigo Links (weekly)

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Twitter Clients

Twitter Fail WhaleI am having trouble finding a Twitter client that does everything I want. I want my Twitter client to be able to help me navigate messages I’ve missed since I last logged in. Nambu makes that really easy. When I open Nambu, I see the last 200 messages in my stream, but my lists contain more messages, and I am better able to keep up. What makes this easy is that Nambu provides a little bubble with the number of tweets, and that number decreases as I read the tweets, so I know when I’ve seen everything.

However, Nambu discontinued multiple columns some time back and is seriously dragging its feet about implementing them again despite a support ticket that is now nearly a year old. A lot of people started using Nambu because of the multiple columns, myself included, and I really need them back if my Twitter client is going to help me do what I want it to do.

Which is why I tried out Seesmic. Seesmic is great, but I do have a hard time navigating tweets since my last visit. The only drawback I can see is that I still need to wade through my stream to see tweets I missed, and I am not confident I have caught them all. Other than that, I have no complaints about Seesmic. Tweetdeck is also good, but I despise the dark color scheme, and their light color scheme is worse. I could change the colors to whatever I want, but I’ve tried it, and it’s complicated to get right. Seesmic and Nambu are both aesthetically pleasing with a light color scheme that looks good out of the box. Added bonus for Seesmic over Nambu is that Seesmic makes it very easy to add people I follow to my lists.

However, I need something that will update in real-time for Monday’s #engchat. Seesmic doesn’t have a Mac version of their real-time client available yet, so it looks like I’ll be using Tweetdeck with an #engchat column. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up if I try to use Nambu, which has no real time version of their client at all. I have been trying out Tweetdeck, and I have to say it’s improved a lot under the hood since I last used it, but the color scheme is still the same.

Am I asking a lot for a Twitter client that

  • Has multiple columns
  • Enables me to easily keep track of unread tweets and go back and read them
  • Is aesthetically pleasing (and not so dark)
  • Updates in real time… ?

It would appear to be so. It’s a given that my Twitter client has to coordinate with URL shortening services, preferably Bit.ly. I don’t have a preference as far as image uploading services, but want to be able to have one. I also need a window to pop up so that I know a new tweet has come in when I’m multitasking (reading on the web, writing, etc.). Nambu, Seesmic, and Tweetdeck all offer these services, which is why I’ve not discussed the need for them.

For now I feel stuck opening Nambu to what I’ve missed since the last login, using Tweetdeck to follow chats, and using Seesmic for everything else.

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#EngChat

TwitterI wanted to let everyone know that I will be hosting a discussion about integrating technology into the English curriculum on #engchat this Monday, August 30, from 7:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EDT. For those of you who are unfamiliar with #engchat, it’s a regular forum on Twitter for English teachers to talk about various issues related to the teaching of English. For example, one past discussion centered around vocabulary instruction. Jim Burke has hosted a discussion on how we create community in the English classroom.

Honestly, I had to try Twitter myself before I could be convinced of its usefulness because it appears to be a giant, narcissistic time-suck from the outside; however, if you follow smart people talking about interesting things, it’s a great way to learn. If you haven’t tried Twitter before, following the discussion on #engchat might be a good introduction. Also, if you are interested in how we go about integrating technology in the English curriculum, I invite you to join us. English teachers sometimes get a bad rap as the dinosaurs who miss ditto machines and chalkboards. A commenter on a blog I used to contribute to once noted that English teachers are usually the most resistant to technology (actually, the problem was that my buddy Joe Scotese and I didn’t agree with what he said about it). Is that true? Is it fair? Why do people feel that way about us? English teachers are doing exciting things! I am so tired of hearing we teach like we just stepped out a time machine from the 1850′s.

In other news, I am more frustrated than I can express over the lack of time I seem to have to blog. Reflection here has become essential to my growth and well-being as an English teacher, and with school starting up, I’m exhausted every day. Between school and home duties yesterday, my day was 14 hours long. You know you’re tired when you can stop after the first chapter of The Hunger Games not because you’re not dying to see what happens next, but because even though you’re dying to see what happens, you’re too exhausted to read.

It’s about balance, and if I ever figure out how to do it, I will let you know my secret. Or else I will not let you know my secret unless you pay me. I’d make a mint.

Creative Commons License photo credit:  Mark Pannell

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Diigo Links (weekly)

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Back to School

Pencil on PaperTomorrow is the first day of the 2010-2011 school year. I think the year I don’t become nervous and excited about the first day of school is the year I should probably retire. I teach because I like to learn and I like to share, and I can’t imagine not getting excited about wanting to learn and share more and better each year.

I’m trying out BuddyPress and a wiki for my classes. Our school has Edline, but I found it too limiting for what I wanted to do. I’m looking forward to seeing what my students will be able to do with both.

This semester is my last semester of grad school. I should graduate in December if all goes well this semester. I’m very excited to be finishing. In case you were wondering, I did receive top marks on the project I spent my summer working on. If you haven’t seen the finished product, you can visit it here.

Other stuff I have on tap this year: my first ever presentation at NCTE. I’m both nervous and excited about that. It will be good to see some friends at NCTE, too.

Today I am working on my first week’s plans, which include introductions to British lit., American lit., and Joseph Campbell; teaching the lede and 5W-H questions in journalism; and beginning novel studies on A Farewell to Arms, Brave New World, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Chris Campbell

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Diigo Links (weekly)

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New Year’s Day

Flowers / 花(はな)It’s New Year’s Day for me—the first day of pre-planning. I am teaching two sections of British Literature and Comp., one section of American Literature and Comp., the Hero with a Thousand Faces elective, and Journalism/Newspaper. Newspaper is new for me. I have sponsored a newspaper before, but it has been a few years. I think it’s going to be a good year. Of course, a new year is always exciting for teachers, or at least it is for me.

In addition to the wiki I have created, I decided to use BuddyPress for forums, blogs, and class groups. Jeff Utecht discussed BuddyPress the other day, and though I’d seen it mentioned other places, I finally checked it out after reading Jeff’s tweet, and I have to say I think it’s going to be a really powerful extension of my classroom. Plus, I have my own domain, so why not?

I’m going to have trouble getting used to this back-to-school schedule. I am NOT looking forward to school-supply shopping. Poor Maggie has been bugging me to do it for weeks. She wants a new, more grown-up backpack. I’m just glad I don’t need to get anything for my own classroom—for a change. My own children don’t go back to school until the 23rd. Almost all the other school systems around here started today. I think their system just decided to shorten the year by starting later—systems all over the state are doing it to save money. Sad they have to.

More soon!

Creative Commons License photo credit: TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)

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Diigo Links (weekly)

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Summer Reading

This post started with a tweet from Gary Anderson about what his daughters were reading:

Gary Anderson tweet

Donalyn Miller shared how sad that tweet made her in a reply. I jumped in and later Paul Hankins, Karen LaBonte and Kim McCollum joined the conversation. A few others dipped in and out. The bottom line. What is the purpose of summer reading? How do we assess it? Should we even have required books or should we let students choose?

My school requires students read three books (four if you’re in AP). Of those three, one is a required book, one is a choice selected from a list of about ten books, and one is a faculty seminar book—students sign up the previous spring for the book they want to read. We have everything from The Eyre Affair to Hunger Games to Bringing Down the House. The students seem to like it, and there is sometimes a mad rush to sign up for first picks.

When students return, our first unit of study is the required book. I usually ask students to create a project for the choice book. The seminar discussion is the only assessment for the faculty book.

Basically, our conversation last night centered around whether we should assign summer reading. I admit I’m torn. I want students to read over the summer, and I want them to pick up books they want to read. I think we try to have some balance in the way we do it at Weber, but I admit some students still grumble. And what we are doing now is a big improvement over what we were doing when I started: three required books, some type of assessment over two of them without discussion (usually a test and an essay). The kids hated it.

I will go on record as saying the chapter summaries deal that a lot of schools do is just painful, and it kills books. My daughter has had to do that for summer reading, and I have watched it destroy any interest she had in the book. She had to do it with Speak, and not only did it frustrate her because she couldn’t tell what constituted a chapter in that book, but the directions given by the school were also no help. Once school started and the teachers recognized this, they backed off on the requirement, and my daughter, who had done a whole lot of work, just felt resentful. Last year, her teacher required these study guides for each book they read. It’s painful! And no choices at all!

I know we have some students who wouldn’t pick up a book all summer without a summer reading requirement. Truth be told, some of them don’t anyway. So what’s the solution? What do you think of summer reading? What should schools do?

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Digital Portfolios

Circled words, arrows, spiral notebookI am thinking of using digital portfolios this year. I have a wiki for my classes, and it would be easy for students to have a page on the wiki where they can collect their pieces and also pull in other items, like Glogs, images, videos, and audio. I really liked the idea of an interactive notebook, but I’m wondering if a digital portfolio wouldn’t be easier to grade.

Do you use digital portfolios? What tool do you use to create them? What suggestions would you have for implementation? Would it be better for students to create blogs? I don’t want to use too many different tools because I don’t want things to be confusing.

Creative Commons License photo credit: juliejordanscott

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