Monthly Archives: September 2004

Student blogs coming!

In a couple of weeks, I should have a student group going at the elementary school where I used to teach. Yay! This year I am working closely with the new instructional technology specialist. She just started her weblog last week, EduBlog Quest. I like the name she chose. It fits right in with the Principal’s Quest. Visit their blogs and welcome them!

I’ve been thinking about the student group. I will be starting the process, modeling it for Hillary (the ITS) and we’ll see where it leads. This year I’m going to attempt to have the students  writing about what they are learning in the classroom. I want to encourage writing as a meaning-making process and as a tool for learning and sharing. There’s more on this at The Write Weblog.


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Using LiveJournal for Authentic Communication in EFL Classes

Aaron has published another excellent article entitled “Using LiveJournal for Authentic Communication in EFL Classes.” He wrote it for the Internet TESL Journal and it describes how he used Livejournal in EFL classes. I like the way he provides a step-by-step guide of what he did. This is so helpful for others who are considering using blogs with their students. He breaks it down into the following manner:

  • Getting Started

  • Collecting Student URLs

  • Customizing Sites

  • Posting, Editing, and Commenting

  • Setting Interests

  • Finding Friends

  • Reading the Friends Page and Responding

  • Community Building

  • Assigning Homework

It is an excellent guide and could be used for all students. So get going! How could you miss with such a great guide?

Aaron points out the importance of the teacher making sure potentially interested readers commt to helping EFL learners. I responded to one group of his students. I am going to try to do more of that in the future. I know we all get swamped but if we all tried to do a little more in this area it could really make a difference. In fact, I need to go back to the student blogs and see if they are still blogging and pick back up on the conversation. That’s on my ‘to-do’ list.

Aaron also explains how using Bloglines to subscribe to student RSS feeds can save time and be very useful for the teacher.

Go read his entire article, get your students blogging and then write it up so we can all learn from each other.Thanks Aaron, for sharing your good work!


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Harnessing Technology to “Transform Education”

The fall issue of  Intel Innovator highlights CEO Craig Barrett’s keynote “Harnessing Technology to “Transform Education”. I am glad to see the article because even though I took notes during the session I was so busy clicking pictures of Will that I did not get everything down. You should read it.

Some great excerpts:

Innovation, collaboration, and replication are key strategies that will enable teachers to “feed your students’ passion for learning and let their creativity run wild,” Barrett said in the keynote address at the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC), held in New Orleans in June

To show what Twenty-First Century learning looks like, Barrett invited a few tech-savvy educators and their students to join him on stage. Will Richardson, a technology specialist from FlemingtonNew Jersey, described how he uses weblogs as a tool to motivate his young writers and expand a high school journalism classroom by connecting online with experts who join the discourse. Vanessa Jones, a Master Teacher from  Austin, Texas, explained how she has become more confident and competent about integrating technology into elementary classroom projects by participating in the Intel® Teach to the Future professional development program. Michael Hall from Warner Robins, Georgia described how access to technology for teachers willing to embrace innovation has transformed “a regular high school” into the school that has become an international showcase Twenty-First Century learning. (See related story: Top 20 U.S. Schools Honored for Excellence)

I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating. Will has done and continues to do some really great things with weblogs. In a recent post he linked to his school’s three year tech plan. I’ll bet his school just might be one of the only ones where weblogs are an integral part. Talk about heading toward Twenty-First Centruy learning……….Will is leading the way!

Here’s a couple of goals in the plan specifically related to weblogs:

  • Create and develop a classroom technologies Weblog to highlight best practices and offer online training on the technologies used for all interested audiences.

  • Provide each teacher with a Weblog/Website.

Wow! Then the plan makes note of  these two technology-related courses on weblogs:

 

·        Easy internet publishing with Weblogs

·        Weblogs in the classroom

 

Just in case you missed the excellent blogging video about Will’s school, you need to see it!  It is GREAT! And by the way, here are some of those pictures I took!

 

        

          


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Y5R

Jason Reagin is a teacher of ESL students in China.  He has an interesting blog, MBE (My Blogging Experiment). The tagline is ….Where China, ESL teaching & Technology come together…..

Now he has set up another ‘motime’ blog for his class. It is called Y5R. The students make comments on his entries. The students are just beginning English speakers and this is their first try at commenting on blogs. Great way to start with kids! Jason says, “This is just the first step in a long road that will hopefully lead to them running their own blog.”  Great start, Jason!

Here’s one of the student comments about what she liked at school.

Last year I did not like math.
But this year I like math.
Because this year math is so easy.
And I don’t like science.
Because science’s words is difficult.
So I don’t like science.
And last year I didn’t like draw.
Now I like draw very much.
I want go to korea
And I want buy puppy.
I want play computer.
But I could not play computer.
Because My father and Mother said
“You can’t play computer”
So I could not play computer.
But Now I can play computer.
Because now I am in school’s computer room. ^0^

Unlogged visitor (Jang sun ah): 07 September, 2004, 09:26

 

I love to see the writing by students. They’re off to a great start! Be sure to check it out!

A Weblog Writing Revolution!

Michael Arnzen post, Writing Skills Neglected, on Pedablogue points us to The National Commission on Writing’s study of the role of writing skills (and needs) in the American workplace: “Writing: A Ticket to Work…Or a Ticket Out, A Survey of Business Leaders”.  The entire PDF file is here. Michael also points us the the National Commission calling for a Writing Revolution.

Let’s get those blogging workshops going and start them off with this from the Executive Summary of the Neglected “R” in the report:

American education will never realize its potential as an engine of opportunity and economic growth until a writing revolution puts language and communication in their proper place in the classroom. Writing is how students connect the dots in their knowledge.

Some of the points made on the writing agenda for the nation were:

  • States and the federal government should provide the financial resources necessary for the additional time and personnel required to make writing a centerpiece in the curriculum.

  • The amount of time students spend writing (and the scale of financial resources devoted to writing) should be at least doubled.

  • More out-of-school time should also be used to encourage writing, and parents should review students’ writing with them.

    Enter weblogs – little or no cost!

The report goes on and on. Let’s get our students writing – and what better avenue than weblogs! Let’s hear it for a weblog writing revolution!

Edutopia Magazine

I was reading an article in Edutopia magazine this morning. The Letter from the Editor states:

Edutopia magazine strives to clear out the mental cobwebs and help create new methods of teaching and learning. It is not enough for today’s students simply to memorize prepackaged information in textbooks in order to answer the multiple-choice tests at the back of their books. Now schools must produce powerful young thinkers capable of solving complex, real-world problems. Unfortunately, fundamental changes has yet to occur in most schools. Public discourse about public education rarely reaches for the stars. Instead, it is mired in a mentality of bureaucracy, politics, jargon, and frustration.

One of the articles contained an interview with George Lucas. One of his quotes, “Education as simply a way of storing facts isn’t significant. Instead, we need to teach students how to tell a story.” is so true. Now this visionary filmmaker was approaching education arguing that students must learn a new language of image and sound in order to succeed. He argues that we must teach communication comprehensively, in all its forms. His concluding statements really stood out for me.

“The problem is that people don’t get the bigger picture. And the bigger picture is that a country survives on its educational system. Go beyond that: The human race survives on its educational system. That means that a country with the best educational system becomes the prominent county or society. The society that has a great educational system becomes the prominent society because that’s the way the human race survives.

People seem to forget this fact, and often these are the same people who are running the society. They would rather spend money on the military than on the educational system, unaware that the military system will bring them zippo. It’s not a great idea to want to take over the world if you don’t know what to do with it and how to run it. Nothing is accomplished through conquest. Everything is accomplished through education.”

You have to wonder if our society will ever REALLY focus on education. Why do so many in the educational world fear change? It’s way past time for us to move forward. Will referred to Barbara Ganley’s post (another excellent one, by the way) where she argues that “the world has changed; the classroom has not.”

We’ve got stories to be told in education. We’ve got to get more voices in this mix. George Lucas asked this question in his article. What are the kids learning, and why are they learning it? We’ve got to get our kids in on these conversations, especially at the high school level and above. I hope more educators will look for ways to use weblogs to get student voices heard.

Another good article in the magazine is entitled “Power to the People” and the principal from Fairview Elementary tells about a First Amendment School in action. There are now 16 First Amendment Schools located throughout the country and they share the following aims:

  • Create schools that serve as laboratories of democratic freedom

  • Develop in all members of the school community a commitment to inalienable rights and civic responsibility

  • Engage all stakeholders in a shared commitment to work together for the common good of the school community

  • Foster the knowledge, skills, and virtues necessary for thoughtful and effective participation in the democratic life of the school community and beyond

This principal shared how his fourth graders put these lessons to practical use when they petitioned school administrators to improve their lunch choices. They used surveys, drafted a petition, got signatures, and wrote persuasively. They were successful in making change. These kids and the principal need to be blogging!


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Evaluating Blogs

There’s a really interesting post on Kairosnews from Dennis Jerz. He talks about Guidelines for Evaluating Classroom Blogs.The categories he focuses on in evaluation are coverage, depth, interaction, discussion, xenoblogging and wildcard. He then provides a sample of the guildelines he uses in his “American Lit I” course.

I find his breakdown fascinating. I think it really helps all of us when we share how we’re thinking in terms of evaluating blogs because it is a lot more than just number of posts, etc. In coverage, he is making sure that students have blogged something substantial that shows they have been intellectually involved with the literary works they are studying in class. The depth part requires students to do online research and link to places that helped them formulate their ideas. The interaction brings in interaction with their peers. I like the way he focuses on this. He gives them clear guidelines for agreeing and disagreeing with peers. Really good stuff, here. Then the discussions part hones in on ways to demonstrate that student blogs spark conversations. He said he made up the term xenoblogging and this gives students credit for posting comments in peer blog entries.  He even has a quick taxonomy here which you need to definitely check out. The wildcard gives students credit for being creative and taking risks.

Read his entire post. He is doing some impressive work with blogs. Great food for thought! I am going to see if I can apply some of this to a small group of students we will be working with this year at my favorite elementary school.


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My Mother

On August 23, 2004, my mother, Vera B Price passed away after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. At first they told us that she would have 4-6 months but things changed quickly. She got the diagnosis in the hospital and after a few rounds of chemo-therapy the decision was made to take her home for her final days. I have a deep hole in my heart now that will never be filled but during this terribly hard time many blessings unfolded.

  • My mother got to say good-bye to her family and friends. She was surrounded by those who loved her dearly. We were able to keep her at home right up to the final moment. I am so thankful for that.

  • One night as I was sitting with her, I said to a friend, “I just wish there was something I could do to give her peace and my mother, with closed eyes, very strongly and empatically said, “You do give me peace!” What a comfort to remember those words now.

  • She roused herself up one day and said, “I have seen my dear sweet Jesus. It is so peaceful, so beautiful…… I could see and feel the peace within her. Again, what a comfort, what a joy, and she looked so beautiful as she was telling us about her experience.

  • As she talked about one of her grandchildren she began to sing a lullabye to her. I couldn’t stop crying, yet my memories of all the times she showed her love to my daughters and my sister’s daughters is ever with me.

  • She had such courage thoughout the pain and even had us laughing so hard at times, crying softly at others, and running a whole gamut of emotions that are hard to explain.

  • Her sense of humor remained to the end. John and I have two dear friends, Sam & Diane,  who my mother also loved. Sam came by one day and after talking a bit, my mother quietly said, “Good-bye, Sam.” Tears flowed once again and Sam had to really struggle to not cry. He gave her a kiss on her forehead and departed. Then later after Sam had left my mother said, “Sam gave me the sweetest kiss but don’t tell him because Sam will just brag, brag, brag, brag!  You’d have to know our good friend Sam to appreciate that but the laughter throughout the room was so good and helped us remain strong for her.

  • She talked a lot and there was an urgency to what she had to say. While not all of it was within our understanding she was teaching us and giving us wisdom in an incredibly wonderful way. I am still sifting through much of what she said. I want to learn more about death experiences because something was happening that was truely inspiring but beyond my grasp at the moment. I really sensed that she was between two worlds. This too is hard to explain but I feel peace. I know she felt it, too. She has sent me on a journey that I think will give me more understanding of how to be more in the moment with those I love. That is so important. Relationships are what are important. She has given me much to reflect upon.

My former principal, whom I love dearly, gave the eulogy for my mother here in Georgia. She told her story well. My mother’s blog was mentioned and I remember thinking at the time…. I wonder if a blog has ever been mentioned at a funeral service before? I thought of her very first post, Am I blogging now?  Good memories flooded me.

We then traveled to Texas to bury my mother next to my dad. This may sound strange but my mother made a grand exit and I am so proud of her. I hope when my turn comes, I can do half as well. 

I returned to work yesterday and I am slowly emerging back into the world. She’d want that…… I love you dearly mother.


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