Monthly Archives: August 2006

Are we aware?

Next generation web – the future’s closer than you think… or is it? by Sali Earls is an article in It’s an interesting read but this paragraph caught my eye:

Whatever your business, be aware that amongst today’s users of MySpace, Flickr and YouTube are the consumers and developers of tomorrow, who will come to expect an evolving and dynamic web experience. If you can’t offer that to them they will find someone who can.

This article had a focus on business. Our business is the school. Are we aware? Are we providing an evolving and dynamic educational web experience? Will our Senators let us?

I’m still busy emailing Senators. Sigh….

Senator responds

I got a response from Senator Johnny Isakson in reference to the letter I had sent about DOPA. While I appreciate that he did respond (I only got an automated response so far from my other Senator, Saxby Chambliss), I wish he had responded to some of my concerns. The gist of his letter:

I am pleased that this bill has passed the House of Representatives and look forward to supporting it on the Senate floor. 

Depressing…. So I am once again back at the drawing board. I plan to write many more Senators. I hope you will do the same. Contact Senators by Sept. 5th. Check out YALSA president Judy Nelson ‘s reminder of what we can continue to do to help let Senators “get educated” about the troublings parts of DOPA.

Thinkpiece #3 – Writing to learn

Barbara Ganley continues to inspire me. Her post, Responding to & Evaluationg Writing is so timely. I’ve had “writing on my mind” for one of my thinkpieces for some time.  She is headed to a Faculty Writing Retreat where she will be leading a discussion on how they respond to student writing across the curriculum including evaluating the work. She will then follow this post with one outlining how and when she responds to writing in her classes and how she evaluates writing. I can’t wait! Her post yesterday though raised questions for her group. She wants to see how they respond.

This post made me think about the discussions I’ve had about writing with my elementary students. I use the Six Traits of Writing and build the blogging experiences around that framework. I did this with The Write Weblog and that worked well. They culminated all they had learned in their final PowerPoint presentation called The Blooming Bloggers Show. They did a superb job. I’m thinking though that this year I need to build in questions similar to Barbara’s early in the year. Get the kids thinking about this process. Here’s how I may adapt some of her questions to apply to the writing the kids will be doing on their blogs. Also, the great links she provided gave me a springboard for questions I’d like to ask.  Here goes!

  • Think of a time when a teacher responding to your writing that made you really put forth effort to improve it. Can you give details so that we understand better what it was that motivated you? On the other hand, can you remember a time when you wished the teacher had stepped back and resisted giving you feedback. Try to explain why it would have been better if the teacher had waited to help.
  • Who do you like to comment on your writing? Why did you make these choices?
  • What specific types of comments would be helpful for you in regard to your writing?
  • If you were going to comment on one of your peer’s posts what would you say to help the writer develop skill and confidence? You might want to address your comment around one of the six traits.
  • How does writing help you learn? What kinds of writing would you enjoy using to help you learn?
  • Think about times when teachers have given you a writing prompt in class. Is this helpful? Why or why not? Would it be helpful for students to create writing prompts for each other?

Elementary students don’t get much time to reflect on these types of questions. At first it is quite hard for them but I am convinced we need to promote those conversations. We can do it through the curriculum they are studying each day.
The last question above made me think about writing prompts that may help them with curriculum and assignments in class. I think the first step is to get them to write about what they were expected to learn from an assignment. Then maybe have them get in small groups and check to see if they are all on the same page. Just clarifying this in their minds really seems to help. Then extend this. Why learn this? What do they already know? What do they want to know?
A follow-up could be to talk/write about the steps they took to work on the assignment, any problems they had, how they tried to overcome the problem, what worked well and what strategies helped them the most. Then see if they have any feedback they want or would like to give.

I plan to continue thinking about “good questions” for mini writing activities that may help us understand what’s going on inside our students’ heads as they write. Blogs are good spaces to get kids writing to learn!

Points to ponder read here and there on Barbara’s links (mostly on the Middlebury’s Teaching Resources page): (which is a great resource you need to explore)

  • Recognition of growth as a writer and thinker is facilitated by documentation. 
  • To become better writers we must all read our own work critically.  We will comment on each other’s writing to achieve this goal.
  • Has the writer made the subject worth reading about?
  • Have you learned something about writing so far? What do you consider most beneficial? Least?
  • Use informal writing techniques (freewrites, responses, field notes, postings): writing to learn.
  • Publish good writing. It’s infectious.
  • Share the pleasure. 

A special welcome to EDLA 7550 Class Members

I want to welcome you to the world of educational blogging. You are about to enter a journey that will take your learning to new heights. I am so impressed with your professor’s blog, Bridging Literacies. The objectives she has listed on her welcome post are excellent. I have to admit though that this one filled me with delight:

To model to our students meaningful, respectful, and thought-provoking collaborative learning with modern technology tools;

Now I know that you are on the path to becoming a teacher and may not have given a lot of thought to the importance of modeling for your students but you have a wonderful opportunity here to create a vibrant example of learning for your future students and your future colleagues. You can create a community of learning unlike any you have had before. It is in your hands. I know you will rise to the occasion! It is an opportunity that not many students at the university level get.

I can’t wait to show your blogs to my elementary students. They will be most anxious to comment on your blogs. They are always most interested in what “teachers” and “teachers-to-be” are learning and thinking. I can’t tell you what it means to them to see their learning talked about in respectful and insightful ways by other students who could even one day be their own teacher!

Course educational blogs have distinct purposes. Educational blogging is positive, transformational technology that should not be confused with social sites like Myspace. They serve different purposes. The best educational blogs are rich in ideas and set the stage for active exchanges and critiques.

Your professor has put a great deal of thought into the development of the criteria for your assignment with blogs. This is so commendable and exciting to me. You will be using the power of technology to enable deeper learning. Educational blogs should set an example of learning for others to follow. Your professor is entering new territory herself with her willingness to explore the pedagogical promise in blogging. Join her in making the journey one to celebrate!

You will be writing your thoughts about what you are learning. You will be contributing your ideas. You may provide links that add to the conversations. In turn, your colleagues will be doing the same. You get to reflect about your own thoughts as you pass them through the light of your class members’ postings. Then all of this is open to a much larger community and other readers will join the conversations. Making your thoughts explicit moves the discussion beyond the literal. Blogging leaves a record of the conversations and learners can return to posts to reconsider and improve their own understandings. Blogging can be a powerful tool for discovering and developing meaning. Enjoy the journey!

Thinkpiece # 2 – Classroom dynamics for building a blogging learning community

I have a strong belief in the abilities of children. They are so much smarter than people give them credit. They love challenges and so often rise to the occasion and add their own understandings to the pool of knowledge. In the process they give us much to think about and learn. The best lessons come from the children themselves. We need to really listen to what they have to say. I am going to really focus on doing a better job here. I’m thinking along the line of maybe creating “Quotes from Children” and publishing them on my blog. It could come from their conversations, their blogs or their comments. I like this idea. My listening “ears” are on!

Children need to feel valued and safe to take risks in their thinking and writing. We need to honor their ideas. Their learning needs to be celebrated daily. We have to build a classroom climate that fosters this. The climate we build around the use of blogs in our classrooms is the cornerstone for a successful blogging learning experience.

An atmosphere that promotes and give-and-take between student and teacher, student and student, and also a give-and-take between the student, teacher, and those responding outside the classroom. Students need to feel free to write what they are really thinking but it is the teacher’s responsibility to guide them in responsible writing. We have to enter the process and counsel students on how to blog responsibly while maintaining their unique voice. Standards that you wish to follow as a group should be addressed. We talk about blogging in public spaces and how you need to use appropriate language, respectful dialogue, supportive comments, and how to be constructive without hurting someone’s feelings.

I use my class blog to be a springboard for classroom discussions prior to the students’ actual getting down to working on their blogs.

Here are a few samples of blog posts that I wrote. One of the strategies that has worked for me when blogging in the elementary schools is to share my post with students at the beginning of each session. I try to briefly summarize our previous session and enthusiastically point them to further heights. I try to model that type of blogging for them. I want to continue this.

Dare to Be Different

Boys and girls, you are something else! I like our brief discussion time before we head to the lab. It gives us a chance to talk and make connections to our learning. You are improving so much on your communication skills. REMEMBER, it is OK to be LOUD! You will not hear that from too many teachers so take advantage! Speak clearly, speak distinctly and SPEAK with conviction! It’s OK if your opinion is different. Dare to be different! That’s what keeps us engaged and learning. Toss those ideas out and we will have great discussions. All this will help us when we write on our weblogs.

Comment quality is going up!

I was really proud of all of you at Thursday’s session. You have really “bumped up” the quality of your comments and are truly helping each other. Editing is hard work but you just rolled up your sleeves and went right to work. Having to really think about another person’s writing other than your own is helpful for your own writing. It gets you thinking about lots of ways you can improve. That’s what we are striving to accomplish. So, congrats on the quality of your comments – much more important than quantity. Yeah, I know you like quantity, too. I hear you! We’ll work on getting a good mix of both.

I post these excerpts because I want to do more of this with my upcoming project. This thinkpiece will be my reminder.

I also refer to their blogs a lot in the class blog like my reference here to Ashley’s post.

Spill the Beans!!!!!!!!

beansAshley posted about Spill the Beans and she has gotten lots of comments about her writing. Why she is the first one to hear from author Pat Street. Wow! I’m going to have Ashley read Pat Street’s comment so everyone can enjoy it.

Now we all know that the meaning of spill the beans is to give away a secret to someone who is not supposed to know it. Pat Street shared the origin of “letting the cat out of the bag” but was not sure of the origin of “spill the beans”.

I checked in our favorite dictionary, the Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms by Marvin Terban. Here it is straight from the book:

A popular theory about the origin of this idiom goes back to the ancient Greeks and their secret societies. People voted you into these clubs by putting a white bean or a black bean into a jar (white = yes; black = no). The beans were supposed to be counted in secret, but if somebody accidentally (or purposefully) knocked over the jar and spilled the beans, the secret vote would be revealed. Another theory holds that this is an example of American slang from the early 1900s that combined two old words, “spill” (meaning “talk,” from the 1500s) and “beans” (meaning “information,” from the 1200s), into a new phrase.

See how much we learn by blogging!

This year I am going to try to build in more time fostering this aspect. I am going to continue this but work at building in time to have the students comment more on each other’s posts and make connections to them. Classroom dynamics are crucial cornerstones for building a blogging learning community!

A Request for Creators of Social Networking Sites

I can’t believe that Miguel and I have the same idea popping around in our heads but glory be, it is so! His post, “”, made me soar! It’s funny because I was talking to Lani earlier this week about this very same thing. I was bemoaning the fact that publishers were not thinking of students and the use of the great social networking tools in our classrooms. I told her how I wished I had the know-how or connection to create some of these tools. Of course I don’t but it is possible and just thinking about it makes me soar!

If we educators spend time blogging about the fact that we need help and elaborate on what a difference it could make in our schools, that could be the first step! So let’s have at it!

There’s much to think about. I think if Flickr appealed to their users to consider sharing some images with educator tags we would have access to some wonderful pictures. Perhaps even a special license could be created simply for educational use. Maybe we could have tags that started with a capital E and the Flickr folks could set it up so only those tags could be used for searches. We would not want it to be so controlled that it lost its effectiveness. We just would want the inappropriate pictures NOT available. How to do this? What could make it happen? Would it still be free? As I said, lots to think about!

I don’t think we need a poll. We need posts – blog it! Let’s hear it for the kids! Let’s try to get their attention! I just have to believe that some of these smart software publishers will rise to the occasion!

Another best practice

I got a call from Patrick McCloskey, a reporter for Teacher Magazine who is writing an article about Will. He was asking me questions about the Georgia-NJ Collaboration. It’s really funny how things work out sometimes because last evening I had been going through some boxes from my recent move. I came across files I had saved from that collaboration. The conversations between those students were exceptional. Even though this is from the 2002-2003 school year I thought it would be great to post as a best practice. Kristine was a high school students from Will’s journalism class who was mentoring Lucy (my fifth grader). She took a “Free Speech” article from Time for Kids and used the article to show the different elements and parts of the story. Not only did she explain what each part does but also what it should include. It was color coded and Kristine’s thoughts were put in “bold”. It was outstanding. It is worthy of being reposted:

Note:  The colors show up much better on the pdf file link which is at the bottom of this post. Copy and paste on a different template brings less than desirable results! 

March 19, 2003

Free Speech From Time For Kids

Using this article we have broken down the different elements and parts of the story and explained what each does, and what it should include.

*My comments are in bold

Stephen Downs, 61, and his 31-year-old son, Roger, went shopping at a mall in Guilderland, New York, last Monday. They got a lot more than they bargained for.

The two had T-shirts printed. Roger’s said, “No War with Iraq.” His dad’s said, “Peace on Earth.” They put on the shirts over their other clothes. The antiwar messages caught the attention of a security guard, who asked the men to take off the shirts. They refused. The guard came back with a police officer, who asked them to remove the shirts or leave. Roger took his off, but his dad still said no.

“I said, ‘All right then, arrest me if you have to,'” Stephen Downs recalls. “So they did. They put the handcuffs on and took me away.” Two days later, about 100 protesters marched in the mall to support Downs. A trespassing charge was dropped, but both men were upset.

“I think he’d like an apology,” Roger said of his father.

-The lead of the article ends here and this lead does a good job of setting up the article so the reader knows what its going to be about. At the same time it tries to grab the reader’s attention by describing the situation and including an arrest and police involvement. It does its job because everyone wants to know what happened to these people after they got arrested and what exactly they got in trouble for.

Americans treasure free speech and expression. Our right to share our ideas–by writing them in books, shouting them at a rally or ironing them onto T-shirts–is protected by the First Amendment. The amendment is one of 10 in the Bill of Rights, added to the Constitution in 1791. Lawmakers of the day passed the Bill of Rights because they believed that some key freedoms, including speech protection, should be part of the Constitution.

-This is what is called a nutgraph. It’s purpose is to clarify what the story is about, and explain it in further detail then the lead did. It clears up any unanswered questions that the lead might have created.

But First Amendment experts say that the right to speak freely comes with an unwritten requirement to act responsibly. “Many Americans have an overdeveloped sense of rights and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility,” says Sam Chaltain, coordinator of the First Amendment Schools project. “Our rights are spelled out in the First Amendment. But the amendment will work only if we guard the rights of those with whom we disagree.”

-The first sentence in this paragraph is the set-up of the quote that follows it. It prepares the reader for what point the quote will be proving. This particular quote works well because it further explains what the writer is trying to convey to the reader. Immediately following the quote you name the source who said the quote.

With a possible war in Iraq looming, emotions across the country are running high. Last Wednesday, tens of thousands of high school and college students all over America left their classrooms and staged large antiwar demonstrations. Other Americans feel just as strongly about expressing support for our leaders’ decisions. Those groups also held rallies and spoke out. When the two points of view clash, trouble can follow.

Take Toni Smith, a basketball player for Manhattanville College in New York. Because she objects to certain U.S. policies, she does not salute the flag as the national anthem is played before her games. (this paragraph gives examples. lets the reader know that there are other things that relate to this story that have happened in the past)

Some opposing teams’ fans began to boo Smith. They wore American flag pins and waved the flag to taunt her. On February 23, a Vietnam War veteran came onto the court and held a flag in front of her. He was thrown out of the arena–not for expressing his view but for disrupting the game.

“Toni Smith was being patriotic by doing what she felt she must,” Chaltain told TFK. “Every person who chose to stand and put a hand over his heart during the anthem was exercising the same freedom.” (A good quote backs up the statement)

The First Amendment is often amended itself. Court decisions have limited its freedoms to protect individuals’ privacy or national security, among other goals. But speaking out, whether in favor of the government’s policies or against them, is among the fundamental rights–and responsibilities–of every American. It is, in fact, at the very heart of our democracy.

-The final paragraph of the article should sum up all of the points made within it. No new information should be added Free Speech From Time For Kids

Lucy shared it with all my kids and we had the opportunity to really share ideas, thoughts, and new learnings. What was really terrific was discovering later that Will did not even know that Kristine had done this until after I told him about Lucy’s blog. Kristine had the initiative to do this on her own, and on her own time. Will’s day was made (good teacher that he is) and boy, mine was too. I still get charged each time I read it!
There are other examples like this throughout the project. The learning and colloboration was personalized. Here’s the original link

Here is a link(LucyJNJ.pdf )to the pdf file where I had transferred the blog posts. I think when I get a few moments I will add all of these GA/NJ files to my weblog projects page, in case any of you are interested in reading more. The possibilities that blogging bring about are limitless!

First draft to request to use Flickr

Following up on my previous post, here is my first rough draft for justifying Flickr. I’m moving on to Furl but wanted to post this for any reactions. I am so thankful for Derek Baird’s article on “The Promise of Social Networks.” I borrowed many, many of his well-written ideas. Thank-you Derek!

Flickr is an easy to use site that supports constructivist-based learning. It gives students the ability to access photographs of extraordinary quality. We plan to create photosets (albums) for class use. Notes can be placed directly on photos. This lends itself to a myriad of curriculum objectives that can be taught and reinforced. Tagging can be used and students ‘tag’ each photo with a label or keyword, thus learning a relevant skill that is so important in today’s world. Students learn organizing and categorizing skills, as well as more efficient and time-saving ways to search for information. Slide shows can be created. All of these subsets can be designated as public or private. Students can clearly learn copyright issues and it will be more relevant to them as the learning will be first-hand and applicable to them. It gives us a way to share our classroom work with parents and others. Projects can be worked on that simultaneously develop writing, technology and most importantly collaborative learning skills.

Another key feature is the integration of Flickr with most of the major Weblog services. As you know we have been exploring the use of weblogs with students for the past four years. Students have been recognized in national magazines and articles. Students and instructors would be able upload photographs into their Weblog with a click of the “Blog This” button. Flickr also provides RSS feeds so that students and teachers alike can syndicate their photos into their course Web logs,. RSS feeds also allow the teachers to have the student’s projects delivered directly to their aggregator, saving the teacher the time-consuming task of having to enter each student’s URL in order to view his/her work.

A request

I am knee-deep in writing several ongoing papers to try to put a new blogging project on the road. It is exciting!

One of the things I need to do is follow up on a request from a teacher in a school. She needs a list of all the sites we need to have unblocked with an explanation of how we will use them with our students. Now I can do this but I’m really thinking about the best approach to educate, as well as get the message out in a professional way. This could be a great resource for all of us. So I was wondering if any of you have done this or have some quick one liners for justifications. If you could share your approach or point me to examples I would most appreciate it. I know Flickr and Furl are two sites that have been blocked. I’m not sure what others. I’ll add them as I find out.

A best practice

If you haven’t read Ewan’s post, Does blogging affect attainment? Yes!, and its comments, you need to! Take special note of Ewan’s reply to the comments.

Stephen’s right that we need more examples – although I read examples every week in my RSS feeds of where social software have improved the learner experience. I do have a question though, which might need to be a blog post: how can you link attainment to social software? I don’t think you can, because there are so many other factors at play, including the quality of the teacher.

Researchers tend to have a disrespect for anecdotal evidence yet, when it comes from experienced teachers, it’s worth far more than stats from someone who doesn’t really know where those students have come from.

Like Ewan, I frequently read examples in my RSS feeds and on my blog comments where social software has improved the learner experience. Note this most recent comment from Brandi.

I felt like that was the richest discourse we had ever had.

These kind of comments are heard over and over. I’ve got to get back to this and will but what I wanted to point out was a best practice that I observed as I followed the links on Ewan’s post. Progress Report is a blog that is written by a student who talks about her tutoring experiences. Her tutor is Chistine McIntosh, none other than Ewan’s mum! The comments Chris has made to the student on her blog are one of the best examples of “best practice” that I have seen. Check out all the great comments Chris has given “the teens”. What a great model for other edubloggers to see! Her blog, blethers, is a great read, too. Check it out!