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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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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Should We All Stop Blogging?

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]

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Grouch Alert

I am becoming increasingly irritated with requests, nay offers, from people I don’t know to do guest posts on my blog.  Let me get this straight.  You are offering me the opportunity to loan you my blog to promote your [fill in the blank] in exchange for…. what?  Decreased control over the content on my site?  Decreased respectability among members of the education blogging community?  The opportunity to look like a shill?  Let me get this straight, you want to borrow my blog, which I have built up to a fairly decent size, respectability, and readership over three and half years, in order to promote yourself because you are too lazy to do the exact same thing?  And to top it off, you have the nerve to make the request without reading my site policies, which clearly state that I do not accept guest posts?  Clearly you aren’t familiar enough with my site to make such outrageous requests, or you would have seen this policy declaration, which is not hidden.  To prove how accessible it is, I won’t even link it, and I’ll just see if any readers have trouble finding it.  If you do, let me know, and I will make it even more obvious.

Can you believe the gall of some people?  I can’t be the only education blogger who gets these requests.  What do the rest of you do?  I said I would ignore them, but they make me so mad that I respond with a link to my policies.  Should I just ignore them, or call them out on their rudeness and obvious lack of knowledge of the site they’re requesting to grace with their presence?

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Practicing Teaching

My friend and fellow Folger Shakespeare Seminar participant Nicole has a new blog called Practicing Teaching.  Very reflective, and just the kind of thing I want to encourage people who participate in my GISA conference presentation to try for their own professional development.

I submitted a proposal to do the same presentation at the GCTE (Georgia Council of Teachers of English) conference in February.  I’ll let you know if it’s accepted.

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2008 Education Blogosphere Survey

Scott McLeod has shared the results of his 2008 Education Blogosphere Survey:

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?

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Presentation: Using Blogs and Wikis for Professional Development

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?

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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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