Bill Genereux has an interesting post about what he calls “The True Digital Divide.” He discusses in detail something I touched on in my presentation at GCTE. If we truly want students to engage with the technology and use the Web 2.0 tools available to them, we have to be leaders. We have to use the tools ourselves. If we want students to blog, we should be blogging. I think educators blogging could be a very positive form of transparency. In an age when people make a lot of assumptions about what is or is not happening in classrooms, often I think the teachers’ voices are missing, and blogging can be a positive platform to share what we are thinking and learning and doing. On the other hand, I think it has become for many teachers who blog a platform to complain. No doubt teaching is hard work, and sometimes it feels good to vent. I personally think blogging is a terrible platform for complaining. First, I don’t think most of us like to read it. Second, it’s just not wise; Regnef High School anyone? I am very interesting in posts and conversations that make me think. So yes, we need to be using the tools, for as Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach notes, “Technology will never replace teachers. However, teachers who know how to use technology effectively to help their students connect and collaborate together online will replace those who do not.“ And of course, Alfie Kohn reminds us that sticking techy labels on tired or misguided practices isn’t the answer either. Still, I think we’re moving into a positive direction when parents and students (as well as other teachers) can gain insight into what teachers are thinking and doing. I have actually noticed something interesting: students joke about Googling me and finding lots of links. I admit it’s true that I am in a lot of places online. But I encourage them to read it and tell me what they think. And when they do, they share their observations. It can be a good thing when students, parents, and colleagues get a glimpse into a teacher’s mind and like what they see. Transparency can foster reassurance.
Some of you may know I went to the annual GCTE (Georgia Council of Teachers of English) convention this weekend. It was great, but the numbers were down — probably the economy. I know lots of the schools systems have probably told teachers they would not pay to send them to conventions this year. For instance, my children’s system is not paying for field trips this year, so it may be they are also not paying for conventions. I presented a session on Using Blogs and Wikis for Professional Development. I was at first disappointed that it was somewhat sparsely attended, but I think that was the norm. Several sessions I attended were like that. I had six folks, which I think is just about what I had at GISA. It makes sense that the folks who attended the Folger TSI except for Mike LoMonico, who was awesome moral support, didn’t come as I had presented some of the technologies I shared with them over the summer. Lots of my fellow TSI participants were there, and it was good to see them again. I was also grateful that my friend and colleague Rebecca came to my session, even though she didn’t have to because she works with me, and I was thrilled to finally meet Clix after working with her online for a couple of years. She also came to my session even though she already knew everything I was sharing (thanks!). Aside from my three friends, I had three other attendees, and I hope they found it interesting and learned something they can use. I do think the presentation went well. I used Keynote instead of PowerPoint, and I basically wrote down everything I wanted to say in my notes and created the presentation from that so I could avoid crowding my slides. I’m learning! Keynote has such beautiful templates!
I went to Mike LoMonico’s Folger presentation, and it was good as always. Julie Rucker and I covered some of the same ground, but our focuses (foci, if you want to be a pedant) were different, and it was good to meet her as well. I also attended Buffy Hamilton’s presentation on multigenre research projects, and I am most excited to try one. Multigenre research projects are something I had heard about but didn’t know much about, so I saw Buffy’s presentation as a great opportunity to learn more. She created a fabulous wiki to share her presentation. I found it so inspiring; I think I’ll work some more on the wiki I created for mine.
Aside from the wonderful presentations, the best part of GCTE was seeing everyone again. Gerald Boyd, who is our state Language Arts Coordinator, used to be the Language Arts Coordinator for Houston County when I worked in that system, and we had crossed paths on several occasions. It was also good to see Peg Graham again, who was not my professor when I went to UGA, but whom I knew through my own professor. Of course, all the Folger folks were fun to see again. I also got to meet Jim Cope, with whom I have exchanged e-mails and who really saved my rear-end when he loaned me a cable I didn’t realize I had forgotten to pack.
I had a great time, and I hope Rebecca did, too. I feel excited and energized!
Last week, I had one of my classes present their scenes from Taming of the Shrew. I have some great comic actors in my classroom. This coming week, another class will present scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I am looking forward to seeing these scenes as well. My ninth graders will begin preparing to present scenes from Romeo and Juliet, too. I am so excited to have finally figured this out. I have used some Folger stuff for years, but I shied away from performance because I just wasn’t sure how well it would help students learn the play. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds. After actually going through the process of performance and presentation myself, I learned how much it truly does help foster close reading, critical thinking, and enjoyment of the plays, and the light bulb finally went off. I will never teach a Shakespeare play in the future without incorporating some elements of performance.
Here is my GCTE presentation for those who are interested:
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.
One of the features that I admired in Penny Kittle’s classroom as shown on the DVD accompanying Write Beside Them is a regular book talk in which Kittle shares good books with her class and has them write down titles that sound interesting in their writer’s notebooks. I tried it out, and realized my students weren’t getting the point.
I understand I was a very weird kid, but I liked book recommendations from my teachers. I got what we call in my family “a wild hair” [crazy idea] about getting ready for college by reading all the recommended books. I craved book lists. I wanted someone to tell me what to read so that I could be ready for college. I asked my eleventh grade teacher Mrs. Patsel for a reading list. Now that I’ve been teaching about 11 years, I totally understand her reaction. After she picked her jaw off the floor, she promised to bring me one the next day. When I asked for the list, I was presented instead with a box of discarded books that used to be used in the school’s classrooms. I didn’t know what to say. I just wanted reading suggestions, but she gave me the actual books. And you know, if a kid asked me for the same thing I asked Mrs. Patsel for, I’d probably do exactly what she did.
At any rate, my point, and I’m getting to it, is that I decided to create a podcast to share these books instead of using the class time. I don’t know if it’s a good idea or bad idea, but my thinking was that if you decided it didn’t suck, maybe you might want to use in your classroom, so I decided to publish the first podcast here, too. I will recommend that you subscribe to my podcast feed f you want the whole shebang I provide for my students, including links to Amazon so you can buy the books, links to information about the authors, and other interesting links, as well as a podcast transcript. Through the feed, you can also subscribe via iTunes or another podcatcher. I spent an hour or so trying to figure how to create a feed just for the podcasts. I feel accomplished, but I am also nervous it wasn’t worthwhile.
Here’s my first ever podcast, warts and all:
I probably won’t update this blog each time I post a podcast, so check out the feed if you decide you like it and might want to be notified when it’s updated. If you want to download the podcast, try clicking through to the feed to make it easier. I have downloading audio disabled here on this site.
Wired has a new, somewhat controversial article about blogging:
Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.
Author Paul Boutin makes some valid points:
- The blogosphere is dominated by online magazines, corporations, and paid bloggers.
- Insult comments and trolls wreck personal blogging.
- Text-based Web sites are sooo 2004; social networking and video/audio/image-heavy content is the thing.
It can be argued that it’s hard to compete with the likes of the Huffington Post, Engadget, Boing Boing, or the like. This blog — and most likely your blog — will not be in Technorati’s list of the top 100 blogs. But if that’s why you’re blogging, then no wonder it’s unsatisfying. The first person you should be blogging for is you, which is what I intend to argue in my presentation at the Georgia Independent School Association conference the week after next. If you are simply trying to get a big audience, I have to question why. Sure, it’s nice to have regular readers and commenters, but if your main concern is being the most popular, most read, then I, for one, wish you wouldn’t blog or wouldn’t start a blog because I think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
Insult comments suck. Trolls suck. They’re part of the Web, and they’re one reason why despite how much I love Web 2.0, I don’t have my students establish their own blogs. Maybe I will some day, but I know how furious it would make me if my student received a trollish comment I wasn’t able to delete first. There are always folks who feel it’s OK to be rude jerks, and for some reason, the anonymity possible with the Web brings out the worst behavior in people in that regard. However, what Boutin doesn’t mention is that all the blogging systems I can think of have comment moderation, and no one is beholden to publish comments at all. A comments policy should cover anyone interested in allowing comments.
Many changes made to blogging allow for all kinds of media to be incorporated into blogs, and indeed, a lot of the posts I see (and some of my own, at that) incorporate this media effectively. I don’t know why they should be considered mutually exclusive at all.
I have become a much more reflective person as a result of blogging, and I don’t think it’s an inherently bad idea to blog, provided one is doing so for the right reasons and has given some thought to direction, purpose, and policies with regard to blogging. I like Twitter, but 140 characters will never be able to replace what I do with my blogs, and I enjoy Facebook, but I don’t use it for the same purposes of self-expression that I do here. Maybe it’s because I don’t take many pictures, but even though I have a Flickr account, I am just not into it (aside from finding good Creative Commons licensed photos to use on my blog).
I guess my response to Boutin’s claims is that they’re legitimate, but that blogging doesn’t have to be defined in such narrow terms and for such narrow purposes as he proposes. What are your thoughts?
[via Roger Darlington]
I was a participant in the survey. Some of the slides moved by too quickly for me to read, but interesting fact for me — the number of English teachers blogging outstrips other subjects (and math comes in second). I imagine English teachers gravitate toward blogging because of the written expression aspect, and maybe that’s why, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
What surprised you most?
What podcasts do you listen to? Do you have any recommendations? I currently listen to Grammar Girl’s podcast, but I’m looking to expand my horizons now that I finally have an iPod (which I know is not required to listen to podcasts, but does make it easier). I am interested in recommendations on the following:
- Technology in education
- Writing instruction
- Literature instruction
I am not really interested in politics, NCLB rants, policy, administration, and the like. I want to know what I should be listening to that will help me learn more about English Education and integrating technology into my curriculum.
If you are in the Georgia Independent Schools Association, and you’re going to the annual conference this year, feel free to stop in my session, “Using Blogs and Wikis for Professional Development,” if that topic is of interest to you. Vicki is also presenting about her Flat Classroom projects. My colleague at Weber, Mike, is presenting about free tech tools for teachers. I think all of us are in the morning session.
Meanwhile, I have been thinking about my presentation, and if you were in a session about using blogs and wikis for professional development, what would you hope to get out of it? What sorts of examples would you like to see? What issues would you like to discuss?
- It’s open source.
- It will have a task manager so users can track memory usage.
- The default homepage is a “speed dial” type feature with thumbnails of the most frequently visited Web pages.
I’m not sure I like the idea of tabs on the top instead of under the address bar, but that’s just because I’m used to Firefox. And I love Firefox; I’m not sure I’d switch for these kinds of services, though Firefox can be a memory hog — it’s noticeable on the four-year-old desktop our family shares, but not on my new Mac or school computer. Then again, I really related to this cartoon from XKCD:
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 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.