Post-NCTE Reflections

Having had a little bit of time to reflect on my trip to the NCTE convention in Chicago, I wanted to talk about some of the highlights for me.

Personal highlights:

  • My presentation with Glenda Funk and Ami Szerencse. Loved working with you ladies, and especially loved celebrating your birthday Saturday night, Glenda. Also appreciated those of you who gave me the positive feedback after the presentation.
  • Meeting Joe Scotese. We’ve been friends for years, but we had never actually seen each other face-to-face.
  • Meeting and having great dinner and conversation with Meenoo Rami and her college friend and college friend’s co-worker (and Glenda!). Loved it! The pizza was excellent.
  • Going to the Art Institute of Chicago. It was right across the street from the Palmer House, and after my presentation I needed to decompress. There is absolutely nothing in the world like seeing those paintings up close.
  • Forging deeper connections with Georgia folks like Kirstie Knighton, Karen Mitcham, and Kathleen McKenzie (Kathleen, I’m looking forward to being more involved with GCTE).
  • As always, reconnecting with the Folger group. I loved working the booth with them on Sunday and meeting up at the Chicago Shakespeare on Friday night (Mike, you let me know when you are starting up that school).
  • Meeting Ryan Goble and Richard Beach in the same session. Ryan’s mom is the coolest.

“Smart” Things I Did:

  • Visiting the art museum. Sure, I missed a ton of good sessions that day, and I’m hoping to find at least some of them on the Connected Community or elsewhere, but really, it was so worth it to see those paintings.
  • Planning my conference in Evernote. I had a whole notebook with all the sessions I was interested in, all the places I wanted to go, transportation information, hotel and airline reservation information, and session notes. Had I not done this, there is no way, especially without wifi access, that I could have figured anything out. I also learned how to send emails into Evernote. I didn’t know how to do that before, and it proved extremely useful.
  • Buy a hat and gloves. Hey, it’s not as cold down here in the South. Still got windburn.
  • Go to the EC Ning meetup.
  • Save money and avoid the exhibits. Look, they are very cool, but truthfully, only the cheap/free paperbacks were worth my while. I didn’t want to carry home or have to mail a bunch of stuff like last year, so good job this year on saving space. Next time the convention comes to Atlanta, I’ll load up completely. Maybe.
  • Find time to write. Yes, it was mostly on the plane and at the airport, but as a result of finding time to write, I am only a little behind with NaNoWriMo. Last year, I gave up after NCTE because I saw no hope of catching up.

I came away from the conference wanting to be more active in the EC Ning, MC Pop Ning, and Twitter conversations (especially #engchat). Thanks for the wonderful time, everyone.

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Organization

I am really jealous of Jim Burke’s new organization scheme. I think he has come up with a system that is easy to use and will enable him to find and retain (and reuse) lesson and unit plans.

I keep most of my documents on my computer and several of my unit plans at the UbD Educators wiki. I am fundamentally disorganized, but I can usually find what I need when I need it, and if I can’t, I can print it again. I could really use a system like Jim’s. Why? This is what my desk looks like:

Desk 1

Here’s a shot of the other side:

Desk 2

And the kicker is that several folks have commented lately on how neat it looks. As in you can see parts of the actual desk.

The trouble is that organization takes a great deal of time to get going. Once you start, it saves you a lot of time. Unfortunately, with five preps, it’s hard to find time to get it started. I need an assistant!

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The English Companion Ning’s First Anniversary

On December 5, 2009, the English Companion Ning will turn one year old. Jim Burke, excited about the possibilities of Web. 2.0 technologies after last year’s NCTE Conference and its focus on technology and tools of the future, created the EC Ning, which would later be described as “the world’s largest English department.” If you’re not already a member, I encourage you to visit the Ning and join. It’s easy: just click on the link that says “Sign Up” in the right-hand sidebar, and follow the instructions on the screen. Be sure to look for me there. With grad school, I haven’t been as active as I’d like, but the Ning is a vibrant community, and I have truly enjoyed the conversations and ideas shared.

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Late Renaissance and Restoration Poetry

My students in British Literature and Composition have just begun a unit on late Renaissance/Restoration poetry.  We will read the following writers:

  • John Donne
  • Ben Jonson
  • Andrew Marvell
  • Robert Herrick
  • Sir John Suckling
  • John Milton

Afterward, students will explicate a poem, something I was not asked to do until I was a freshman and college.  When I told our AP Literature teacher (who also often teaches juniors and seniors), he seemed thrilled to learn I was going to try explication, and he gave some good things to peruse and think about.  Meanwhile, to get my students started, I am using Lisa Huff’s TPCASTT method for analyzing poetry, and the students have responded positively to the deep reading, even if they haven’t necessarily “liked” the poem.  It’s hard to get past “do you like this poem or not and why” with some students, and this graphic organizer really helps.  At any rate, I’m really encouraged by the positive comments the students are making about the material on the classroom blog.

Through the English Companion Ning, I became aware of an excellent podcast of a BBC program called In Our Time.  I listened to and shared the episode concerning the Metaphysical Poets with my students, and I’m crossing my fingers they will listen to it.  I think it will really help them understand especially John Donne, whom I find to be a challenging writer.

Speaking of the Ning, I have not contributed as much as I need to because I have not had time to keep up with the conversations going on.  I’m going to try Steve Shann’s suggestion of setting up Pageflakes to keep track of the Ning.  I am finding it a challenge to balance teaching with grad school and home life this semester.  This weekend in particular looks like one long, bleak work session to me (I am just on a short break, I promise), and it depresses me not to be able to read for pleasure, particularly after Matthew Pearl sent me a galley copy of The Last Dickens that I’m itching to start.

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Blogs, and Wikis, and Nings, and Things

This is liable to be a rambly post, and frankly, I’m not sure I like reading those myself, but sometimes they have to be written.

Those of you who are members of the UbD Educators wiki — are you interested in having a Ning, too?  It wouldn’t mean shutting down the wiki, but Nings seem to enable more different kinds of interaction, so I thought I’d float the question.  Jim Burke’s new Ning has become incredibly active and interesting, but he’s also Jim Burke.  Still, the success of Jim’s Ning made me wonder about UbD Educators.

Which leads me to something I have been mulling over for a while.  I think I’m stretched too thin.  I join too many online “clubs.”  And I probably just used unnecessary quotation marks.  I am currently a member of nine Nings (0nly about two or three of which I even look at, much less contribute to) and nine (or ten?) wikis, again most of which I don’t contribute to, or at least not regularly.  I have six (I think) blogs, and the one I update most is the one I do for my students.  This one comes in second, followed by my book blog.  My other blogs are fairly shamefully dormant.  When I look at the numbers, I freak out a little and feel bad.  I also wonder what to do about it, or whether what I’m currently doing is OK.

Long term career goal I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years: teacher education.  I think I want to work with English Education majors.  I’m not sure what I need to do to reach that goal, but the good news is that I am in touch with my own English Education professors, and I can ask them.  Meanwhile, if you do work with preservice English teachers, please share your advice or experiences.

I asked this question on Twitter, but got no response.  If I am a member of ISTE, is it still worthwhile to join AECT?  My ITMA program at VA Tech keeps talking about AECT, but all the tech folks in the Edublogosphere (should that be capitalized?) always mention ISTE.  Just wondering.

Finally, if you are headed to the Georgia Council of Teachers of English (GCTE) conference in February, I invite you to the session I’m presenting on Using Blogs and Wikis for Professional Development on Friday.  It’s the same session I presented at November’s GISA conference, so if you already came to that, you wouldn’t miss anything new if you skipped it.  Suggestions for the presentation are welcome.  If you were going to the session, what would you hope to learn or want to know?

OK, I have picked your brain enough today, Internet.

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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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