Saving for a Laptop

I have begun saving for a new laptop, as I cannot find any teacher laptop initiatives at the current time.  Until I have saved enough money to purchase a laptop, you will see a link at the bottom of my posts.  If the spirit moves you, you can follow the link to help me save for a new laptop.  By no means should you feel obligated to help, even if you have downloaded one of my free handouts or used free lesson plans.  If I wanted to make this site a paid-content site or if I wanted to raise money through advertising, I would have done so by now.  I haven’t ruled out offering exclusive content for a small fee, but that is some time down the road.  A new link also appears in the sidebar to a page detailing the reasons why I am interested in buying a new laptop.

Thanks for reading.  I am always amazed by the feedback I receive from my readers, and I truly appreciate being part of the edublogger community.

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The Next Education President

I admit I am still a bit on the fence about who I plan to vote for in the presidential election. We still have plenty of time to decide. I will, however, be voting for the candidate who demonstrates he or she truly cares about education and is dedicated to improving education in America.

(hat tip to The Daily Grind)

As the parent of three children (two of whom are served by special education) in America’s public schools, I am concerned about the education my kids are receiving compared to the one I received.

I’ll share more in future posts.

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What I’m Reading

If you haven’t happened upon Nick Senger’s blog Teen Literacy Tips, you need to check it out. Nick provides valuable content in every post. I am subscribed to his RSS feed through Bloglines, and I invariably bookmark his new posts so I can return to them when I have time (what’s that?).

I recently finished Making Classroom Assessment Work by Anne Davies (read the first edition rather than the updated second, which I linked). I read it as part of Blackboard Online class I took through a local public school system. Frankly, not much new here to anyone who has read Understanding by Design. If I can be allowed to vent for a minute, the reason I took the course in the first place is that I need six more SDU’s (PLU’s or whatever you call them where you live). I submitted my transcripts and all the necessary information to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, but they would not accept anything I had done since about 2004. I suppose I can understand why they might not want to accept professional learning I have participated in at my own school, even if I thought it was a valuable experience; however, I do not understand why they wouldn’t accept Mel Levine’s Schools Attuned. I worked extremely hard to earn the 4.5 PLU’s I earned for that course. I didn’t work a tenth as hard to earn the 2 PLU’s I just earned for reading Anne Davies’ book. If I had known Georgia was not going to accept the credits, I wouldn’t have worked so hard to finish the course online last year. Lesson learned. I will simply take a two-credit course online each year to meet my recertification requirements. At least I should then be assured that my courses will count for something. I have a non-renewable certificate that is good until the end of June, by which time I will have earned those six credits.

My husband sent me an article about a Wisconsin teacher arrested for praising the Columbine shooters on a blog. First of all, I’m not sure what the teacher said constitutes a threat, but to be fair, we’ve punished students for the same type of behavior. Second, once more we have a reminder that sarcasm does not travel well on the Internet, and it would probably be best to avoid it in any situation when it can be interpreted with any ambiguity. Third, and most important, teachers who post anonymously are not really anonymous; you can and might be found, and when that happens, you might be in trouble for what you say. In my opinion, the smarter and safer route seems to be to post openly and don’t say anything that you wouldn’t print on a billboard on the local interstate highway. Aren’t we also trying to teach our students that lesson? Finally, does this incident violate freedom of speech? I contend it does. If the remark was intended to be sarcastic, it missed the mark. If it wasn’t, it was incredibly ignorant, mean-spirited, and disrespectful. But I thought we had a right to be ignorant, mean-spirited, and disrespectful out loud in America. The teacher has learned a valuable lesson: Cave quid dicis, quando, et cui. He won’t be charged with a crime, but the district where he has taught since 1994 has not yet decided what to do about his job.

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Time

I never have enough time to teach everything I want to teach — at least not the way I want to teach it.  I have found myself frustrated this year after writing some very good UbD units, only to find I have to cut out parts in order to finish the work in the amount of time I have available.  I have also had to contend with Jewish holidays, our peculiar school schedule, and shorter class periods.  When I taught public school, each class period was at least 50 minutes long.  My classes work out to be 45 minutes long each day (one day is a double period of 90 minutes, but we have class only four days of week, so the average is 45 minutes).  Five minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, but over the course of a week, that’s an average of nearly a half hour.  I just don’t feel as though I really do justice to some of the topics I teach as a result.

How do you cope with the time crunch?

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The Best Laid Plans

Some weeks ago, I shared exciting news that my students were collaborating with a girls’ school in Israel on a joint wiki writing project. Just as we got our wikis off the ground, a teachers’ strike in Israel put our plans on hold. The strike has now lasted more than a month. If it is not resolved before the winter break in about three weeks, the project will be on hold indefinitely as my students will be writing a research paper from January to March.

I know that the teachers I am working with are saddened about this turn of events, and I think we all agree that the timing of our collaboration was unfortunate in light of the strike. However, I think our situation poses an interesting lesson for all of us who are interested in embarking upon global collaboration in our classrooms.

What do we do when the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley?

And what does it say about the project that the kids are still chatting through the discussion area of the wiki and friending each other on Facebook even though the project is on hiatus?

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GISA Conference

I went to the annual Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) Annual Conference today.  I ate lunch with Megan; it’s cool to see connections I made through this blog become “real-life” connections as well.  Incidentally, Megan presented a session on using social bookmarking (such as del.icio.us).  The two sessions I went to were very interesting (which hasn’t always been the case at GISA — the session I presented last year included): Fantasy Literature (teaching The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter along with Campbell’s ideas about the journey of the hero) and Blogs and Wikis in the Classroom.  Frankly, I confess I went to the latter to see if a) it would be better than the session I presented last year (it was), b) what the presenters would say.  I did not expect to learn about anything new.  Of course, I did learn about some things that were new to me, at any rate.

One thing that interested me in particular about the Fantasy Literature session was that so many other schools already have this class as an elective.  A teacher from Pace Academy shared his successes teaching the course to 8th graders, and a teacher from Griffin Christian High School shared that he teaches The Lord of the Rings for the first semester of 9th grade, teaching all the literary terms, etc., through the context of that work.  I taught The Hobbit one year — when I was a student teacher, in fact — and I found that students in general didn’t like it much, but I think as part of an elective, it would be a different crowd.  Frankly, I could see myself really enjoying such a class.

The blogs and wikis session introduced me to Voice Thread, which Megan mentioned also at lunch.  I imagine if you hear about something twice in such a short span of time, someone’s trying to send a message.  For the uninitiated, Voice Thread is online software that allows users to create documentaries using images and creating narration to accompany the images.  Check out this sample of its use: Slavery in America (by Jeff Morrison’s middle school students at the Lovett School).  Jeff (one of the presenters) also introduced us to TrackStar, which somehow went under my radar, even though I’ve used 4Teachers‘ other service RubiStar to create rubrics.

I am thinking about ways I might integrate some of these resources with my current projects — The Canterbury Tales and The Odyssey.  You can view Jeff’s wiki, which has links to a bunch of sources he shared with us.

One of my favorite parts of Jeff’s presentation was a video he shared:

As Jeff said, that is what it is like to teach.  Especially middle school.

By the way, I am now receiving e-mails when comments are posted.  I kept my eyes on the WordPress Support forums’ thread related to my problem, and eventually, someone posted a solution that worked for me.  I uploaded a plugin created to work around the problem.

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Teaching Homer’s Odyssey

For those of you looking for a few good resources for teaching Homer’s Odyssey, you might want to check out the following:

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Flat Judaism?

Many of my students feel a strong connection to Israel and have visited Israel at least once.  Some of my students are Israeli.  When an opportunity for my students to work with students in Israel on a “flat classroom” type of project, I jumped at the chance.  I am pleased to introduce you to our project, which I am calling “Faces of Judaism.”  Together with the Neveh Channah Torah High School for Girls, my students at the Weber School are exploring their Jewish identity through writing.  Some questions guiding our exploration:

  • What does it mean to be Jewish in Israel?  In America?
  • What is my home really like from my point of view as compared with how others see it or portray it in the media?
  • Who am I, and how does my religion form that identity?

We are still very much in the nascent stages of our joint writing venture, and unfortunately, a teacher strike in Israel didn’t come at the most opportune time, but we are soldiering forward despite this setback.

You can check us out at the Weber Writers Wiki and Israel Faces Wiki.

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UbD Educators Wiki

Some months down the road after its creation, the UbD Educators wiki has fallen silent. I logged in today to find that neither changes nor discussions had taken place in the last 30 days. Yikes!

I take part of the blame upon myself. Having five preps leaves me, ironically, with not much time to plan, particularly now as National Honor Society business has take up much of my time.

Update, 4:45: I have a draft of the lesson for my Canterbury Tales unit up now.

Well, at any rate, I invite new folks to join in, quiet members to speak up, and previously active members (such as myself) to become active again. I think this kind of professional development, sadly, is much more valuable and important than much of what teachers normally get. I’m only sad I can’t get you PLU credits for it.

I’m going to start with a unit on The Canterbury Tales. Wish me luck, but give me time to finish it before you comment.

See you over there.

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Teacher Laptop Initiatives

I remember some time ago, the Teacher Laptop Foundation (site is now defunct, it appears) was attempting to match registered teachers with a company who would be willing to provide teachers with free laptops. I wonder why the Teacher Laptop Foundation folded (or appears to have folded)?

I should think it would be a great benefit for computer companies to provide teachers with free laptops. First of all, I think it displays a commitment to helping teachers and influencing positive change in technology education. I think teachers with laptops would be encouraged to learn more about technology, which could lead to more technology integration in schools. More technology integration in schools can only be a good thing for computer companies, as they stand to benefit from increased sales.

Some schools and districts provide their teachers with laptops. My children attend Fulton Co., Georgia schools, and I know this district provides teachers with laptops. The laptops, I would assume, remain the property of the district, and should the teacher leave the district, I imagine he or she must return the laptop, but while the teacher is employed at the district, I think it’s great to have a computer that can travel.

My own school does provide each teacher with a desktop for use at school, and a very nice one at that. I also have a SMART Board attached to it, which enables me to do some truly great things with technology in my classroom. Frankly, for most of the teachers on my faculty, I believe the desktop is sufficient. My own laptop would be useful to me, however, because I would be able to plan activities with SMART software without having to move anything over using my flash drive. It’s fine for now, but it would be really nice if I didn’t have to do that.

When I Google relevant search terms (such as free laptop teachers education), I feel somewhat discouraged by the results. I wonder why, in an age when we have an initiative to provide laptops for children in developing nations, that we don’t have an initiative to provide teachers with laptops.

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