Category Archives: Personal

Research frustrations, joys, and further thoughts

iBreadCrumbs is a free online tool that helps users record and share research. What is really cool is that this tool was developed by two college graduates, Reuben Fine and Rey Marques. They had become frustrated by the inefficiency and redundancy of gathering research. See Campus Technology for further reading about this intriguing tool. It is interesting tool that I will be following. I’ll be curious to see how professors and others conducting research will use this tool. If anybody knows of similar tools, please let me know.

Reading about this tool prompted me to think about how much I am learning this past year. It is ever frustrating to not immediately share my “inconclusive” thoughts. The problem is that these “inconclusive” thoughts need to be reflected upon and studied from different perspectives. You examine different areas comprehensively and then have to step back and mull it over. Most times, this type of reflection points you to a totally different pat or way of needing to take a closer look at what is happening. You begin again.

There are many frustrations that surface for me daily. I still don’t know just what I can share and what I can’t as I learn. One corner of this community urges me to just get it out there, another says no, finish studying what happened so there will be accuracy and validity in the findings. Results are inconclusive at this stage. Basically I agree with that but I find myself in an arena where I am constantly unsure of the rules. I don’t want to be a risk taker at this point. Too much is at stake. Yet being silent is so hard! I know I don’t have enough knowledge or experience in this area to judge. Yet I do judge but I am quiet for now with that judging. I have to keep learning so my conclusions on my view of research will “feel right” for me to follow. I d rail at the amount of time research takes, the closed aspects of the research process, the way it ends up not being readily available to every interested party, and it even appears that you lose ownership (I’m talking about ownership to share verbatim) as far as just sharing it “word-for-word” after it is published!

Then the publishing aspect itself is quite a time consumer as you submit articles, wait a month or two, get accepted or rejected, revise, head off to another publisher, work on several pieces at once, etc.

Now those are some of my frustrations but I have much, much joy being involved with this research. I know it is going to be something I will be proud to have a part in contributing to our community. I don’t think I have ever examined anything in more depth. I wish teachers could have opportunities to participate in this kind of learning but realize how impossible this would be for them currently, mainly because of time constraints and few opportunities during the work day to truly invest in their own learning. This could send me off on another rant about treating teachers as professionals but I’ll get to that on another post.

Digging deeply into the accumulated data has given me a new lens with which to view the learning that occurs through blogging. It is inspiring. It has forged a path full of twists and turns that lead to further learning, further examining, and further questions. It is exciting and so very worthwhile. It leads you down a trail of focused thinking on what matters. I think that’s the joy of doing research – making those discoveries and having your thinking pushed in incredible ways.

Meanwhile I have read some of the most fascinating and interesting research around, and that I can share so I will do that in future posts.

This is the kind of learning in which I’d like to see our students have more opportunities. They need to be able to do a little research on their own learning and feel that their choices on learning and their strengths are being honored. We need to guide and encourage that. We spend too much time in our classrooms telling students what they need to learn. We direct and we supervise. We need to empower them by getting them involved in making choices and decisions for some of their own personal learning in schools. They need time to learn what matters to them and go off on a journey where they construct the knowledge and have joy in the journey. Meaningful learning will occur as a result of their making those choices and decisions. Meaningful learning will not occur just by following directions on what to learn being decided totally by others.

Reflection: Time Out to Think

 

Kim Douillard shares her National Writing Project “Reflective Friday: Time Out to Think.”

Kim is a codirector of the San Diego area writing project. She sums the lesson up with the following:


My students have pushed me to “go past done” when it comes to thinking
about their learning. Rather than depending solely on educational research or
learning theories to tell me what they are able and not able to do, I turn to
them for answers. They have shown me that in a multiage class such as ours,
they can benefit from reflective activities during the school day. They have
shown me that reflection is not just for adults, not just for university students,
or pre-service teachers. Reflection helps us to remember, to make connections,
and to make thoughtful, informed decisions. Reflection is a process for living.

Kim was prompted to action when she heard a teacher-researcher from Alaska talking about the volume of information that teachers are supposed to impart to students and about the lack of time in the school schedule for thinking. Kim developed a schedule for Fridays that really incorporated time to think and reflect. You can see the detailed schedule for the day in her document but it includes brainstorming, activity time when students let their subconscious minds reflect while their bodies are moving, recess, writing, free read time followed by sharing with questions and discusssion, portfolio work and goal setting, thinking time, dialogue journal, recess again (Yea!), writing time and silent reading, read aloud. Now this sounds terrific! Think how well it would fit in with our blogging.

Kim gives great examples and charts the types of thinking and how they change. There is much to absorb and think about in this and it reminds me once again how important it is that we blog about it and take time to comment/talk/share with the students. This is one of the best articles I have read about really giving more ownership of their learning to the students. Kim reiterates that:


Students who set goals and evaluate their progress have more ownership of their
learning. Through realistic, short-term goal setting and evaluation, students
recognize their successes, become aware that they are responsible for their
own progress, and are more motivated to work toward the goals they set.

I have plenty to reflect on from this article. Thanks Kim, for sharing! If you have not browsed through all the terrific resources from The National Writing Project you are missing out!

Photo Credit: Flickr Photo from BaSak’s photostream

Coming full circle

fullcircle.jpgNow Tuesday is going to be another great day! Here’s why. Today I get to see Nicole. She is a former fifth grade student of mine and this is going to be her first year at Georgia State University. Is that what they call coming full circle? If so, coming full circle gives me a warm feeling inside. She’s coming by the ITC today so we can connect and catch up. I can’t wait. Hmmmm, wonder if I can get her up and blogging. Maybe I’ll present it as an opportunity to circle the globe! Nicole’s roommate is Holly. She was another one of my fifth graders. I hope to see her too today!

Flickr photo credit: Everything comes back full circle by pupski

8 Random Things

Clarence Fisher says “I’m not usually a meme kind of guy.” and I thought I feel exactly the same way. I am not a meme kind of girl. He said, “I usually duck and cover if I can to get out of posting something like this.” I usually just ignore and move on to other things. Then he finished his opening by saying that he had enjoyed reading all of the other posts and I have too so since Clarence is a good role model in this as well as many other areas I decided to follow his lead. I’ve been tagged a few times and by bloggers I really respect so here are my 8 random things:

  1. My creative spirit must lurk in my car because my best teaching ideas pop in my head on my morning drive to school. I get so excited and cannot wait to implement them!
  2. During my college years I worked as a waitress over the summers at Ocean City, N.J. and have lots of warm memories of those summers at the shore. In my opinion southern beaches just don’t compare.
  3. I have a to do list that has three categories – to do now, to do soon, and hope to do. I like doing the last one the best.
  4. I once led a recall movement to remove current local school board members from office. It was not successful. We had enough signatures but it was ousted on a technicality.
  5. That recall got me involved in the next election as a campaign manager for a new school board member. She and I went to UGA to take a workshop on how to get people elected. A local well-known Georgia pollster told us we couldn’t make it happen. He laughed at us and just shook his head. We were then highly motivated and I’m happy to say she did get elected and did a terrific job.
  6. I love listening to ‘Books on Tape’ on my drive home from work. I belong to the Audible.com. I’m currently listening to “I’m Not Scared” by Niccolo Ammaniti. Chris pointed to it on a post of hers entitled Brilliant Book. I had to read it. 
  7. I am much more of a one-on-one person than a one-to-many. I’m more of an introvert. I can get passionately engaged and turned on by conversations but I am not much of a socializer.
  8. I miss being a night owl. That is my nature but teaching hours have forced me to change my habits.

Now I did the meme but I can’t follow the rules. This meme ends here.

The Dunoon/Georgia Connection in San Francisco

I love this blogging world. Where else can moments like this seem to keep happening? I keep getting blown away by such moments. A couple of weeks ago I found out that since NECC was in Atlanta this year my travel budget was letting me attend another conference. Several searches later I found a conference in San Francisco that fit the bill with what I wanted to learn. I only had a week to make it happen and the fares were out of sight. Yikes! I have some travel funds but they weren’t going to stretch to cover expenses with fares topping out at 5 or 600 dollars. I tried Hotwire for the first time and found an incredible fare through some special offer. You have to book it before you know the schedule but they guaranteed no more than one stop and that you will arrive on the same day. I went for it and lucked out with a non stop out and one stop returning with a fantastic fare of $269 round trip. I took that as an omen that I was meant to go and little did I know what was going to unfold. The conference has been absolutely awesome. I’ll be blogging about it for a while because my schedule has been jammed packed with some of the best sessions I have ever attended. I haven’t had many moments to stop and blog but the blogging will follow over the next few days. I want to share.

Then to top of a spectacular few days this comment arrived on my blog from Ewan McIntosh, one of my most favorite Scottish edubloggers.

My mum’s in SF, too! If you want to hook up send me/her an email . In the meantime I’ll find out where she’s staying and when. I’m sure she’d find it cool to meet up if you’re both around long enough.

Another comment followed:

She’s there from Friday well into next week. Drop a line if you want to meet her up for a drink or a meal – she’s up for it!

Wow! I was up for such an encounter! Ewan’s mum Chris and I have struck up a cyber friendship through our mutual love of teaching and learning. She is my kind of blogger. I love her spirit and think she has a voice that needs to be heard. She connects with my students and really makes a difference through her excellent comments on their blogs.

So Chris and I connected through numerous emails and had a smashing good time last night eating at a great restaurant, the Palomino, right close to the Golden Gate Bridge. (The website doesn’t do this restaurant justice so try it out if you are in San Francisco.

AnneChris.jpg

John320.jpg

I also got to meet Ewan’s dad John. He’s pretty special too. AnneChris1320.jpgChris and I described ourselves to each other and met in the lobby of the Hyatt. You can tell from the pictures how much fun we had. You would have thought we had all known each other for years. We had great conversations ranging from family, to W, to stateside driving, to blogging, to learning, to education, and oh I could go on and on. It was non stop and so much fun. I find it incredible that our paths crossed in San Francisco and that we had the chance to meet up. Chris and John came back to my room so Chris could blog and write some emails. It was sad to part but I can’t help but think that we’ll meet up once again. Meanwhile we’ll keep connecting through the blogging. We took time out for Chris to record a podcast for my kids so I’ll be able to take this special connection back to share with the kids. How cool is that? Take a sneak preview here:Chris.MP3 The kids will hear it on Tuesday. They will love it! Where else but in cyberspace and how else but through blogging could such encounters occur? Good on you Ewan. Now how are you going to top this? Chris coined it as one of these strange flukes of fate that seem to accompany Ewan’s activities, I say bring on some more of those moments Ewan. It was grand!

I miss blogging!

I am consumed with keeping all the pieces of this research on blogging into a manageable form that will be useful as we start this summer digging into all that has transpired and what it means. I have had much to learn about the research process and one side aspect of this project is that I have been unable to blog in the manner that I am accustomed to. I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize the results. The problem is that I don’t know what areas those are so mostly I have been quiet about everything. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve started but then not finished. I’m also knee deep in transcribing sessions. I’ve been using Dragon software – my less than “affectionate” name for the software is Cruella. Transcribing is a tedious and time-consuming process.

At this point I have so many thoughts in my head. So many truly interesting things have been going on and the conversations with students tell us so much. Now bear in mind that I have no idea at this point what the results will be but the difficult part for me is that there are so many areas that I want to blog about with this community and I have felt great frustration in being silent. I miss being able to blog about whatever crosses my mind. I will be able to do that at some point and I know that but boy do I wish I could have the conversations now. Those conversations are how I as the teacher get feedback that in turn gets me rethinking and considering other aspects that I may not have noticed. I think the research is more important than the blogging at this point but I also think some aspects of research need revising. I have enough sense to know though that I have much to learn in this area so I’m trying to be patient and keep learning. Let my understandings unfold and keep on working at learning to have patience!
I had an interesting conversation with Rena Shifflet this past weekend. She told me about a book that said research was a lonely process. The book was Particularities by George Noblit. I need to read it. I met Rena at a workshop at NECC in Seattle. She had created some really great blogging projects. I look forward to following her blog and know she will add much to our conversations. She gets the possibilities that blogging and other web tools offer.

Donald Murray will be missed

I was sad to hear that Donald Murray, writer and educator died at age 82, apparently of heart failure. This article from the Boston Globe quotes from his column “Now and Then”: 

“Each time I sit down to write I don’t know if I can do it,” he wrote. “The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the computer on and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I can.”

Here are some recent “Now and Then” columns. Globe readers are posting their memories here.

Leonard Witt of PJNet Today tells how Donald Murray changed his life. Be sure to read his wonderful tribute to Murray that ends with this quote:

His students are everywhere and they worship the him, as well they should, because he was a great man who helped others find their way.

I know there are many of us who have learned so much from Donald Murray. His books are our guiding lights as we strive to teach writing as process not product. He shares the process behind his column for The Boston Globe here.

He said:

After I write a draft, I read it, hearing what I have said so I can dance to the music of the draft.

 Let’s all strive to teach our students to dance to the music of the draft. Donald Murray will be missed.

Embarking on a new blogging project!

I have not been blogging a lot lately. I have a reason for that. I am embarking on a new blogging project with elementary students. I am so excited because I have the opportunity to be part of a year long research project that involves blogging. I have been working, literally night and day on this project.I couldn’t be more thrilled. However, I find myself in a totally new arena and it’s an arena that has parameters and issues that I have not previously had to consider. My dilemma has been what can I say, what can’t I say? Not being sure, I just said nothing but I have missed the blogging. I have so many thoughts but have been totally unable to share and get input back from our “great” edublogging community. To make this project authentic I have to blog about it. That’s a big part of what makes blogging work for us and the kids. The blogging keeps me going, keeps me learning and is part of the process I need to do a good job. This give and take helps the students. Some things I will be able to post about, some things will have to wait until later. I am in a learning mode and ask for your understanding as I proceed.
I can point you to the class blog. It’s called Blogical Minds. Student blogs will be up in a couple of weeks. They are on the class blog now but not active yet as we are laying some groundwork first. The blogicians will be entering our wonderful community. Psedonyms will be used by the students and the teachers. The school will not be named. Part of making the project truly authentic is for me to be myself and proceed with the discussions so that those of you who wish to comment can do so, both on the class blogs and the student blogs. I hope many of you will comment to the students and have your students enter the discussions.I need your help in one very important area and that is in the privacy part. If you comment and or refer to the students or me about anything on the blogs please refer to me as Teacher C. Do not use my name. Some things I will be able to blog freely about, others I need to wait and at this point I am not really sure just what those things will be.
What is really of interest here is how things are changing and how we have to change as a result. This covers many more areas than just our classrooms. I’ll post more about that later. I just wanted to invite your participation. Please remember not to use my real name on those blogs and know I will be looking forward to your input. Feel free to email me if you are unsure about anything that would involve your participation. (adavis(AT)gsu(dot)com)

Another “Dear Senator”

I read the following via Doug’s Borderland blog.

Send your message in opposition to DOPA by going to the US Senate website Find Your Senators dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the page. and locate your senator with the Find Your Senators dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the page.
This is my letter to Lisa Murkowski. Feel free to model yours after this one. I used Vicki Davis’ blog post and Chistopher Harris’ wiki page as information resources.

Good idea! This prompted me to share my letter to my Senator:

I am a teacher. I currently work at Georgia State University in Atlanta. I am an Information Systems Technology Specialist in the Instructional Technology Center in the College of Education. I have worked in the public school system for over 20 years. Part of my job is to go out to the public schools and model effective use of technology to make sure it is safe and pedagogically sound for our students. My weblog, EduBlog Insights is a co-winner of the Best Teacher Blog in the second international Edublog Awards, a web based event that recognizes the many diverse and imaginative ways in which weblogs are being used within education. I am a founding contributor to the Ed Tech Insider weblog for eSchool News. I present at local, state, and national conferences on blogging and other technologies used in education. I am a former teacher of the year for my school and I have spent the last four years exploring possibilities for using blogs and other social networking tools in our classrooms. I provide this background to let you know that I have done my homework and found that these online tools are an incredible resource that we must have available to use in our classrooms. Why my students have even spotlighted their learning from blogging at the Annual Georgia State Legislative Appreciation night. Many of you acknowledged what good thinkers and writers these 4th and 5th grade bloggers were. You also expressed that you had much to learn about these new tools. Please take a look at my projects at this url, http://anne.teachesme.com/my-weblog-projects/ Take a look at the presentation created by one group of students who share what they learned over the year on the link Blooming Bloggers Show: End of Year Presentation to Celebrate Learning. It is listed under The Write Weblog project. Please browse through the links to see responsible use by students who have been blogging.

As I stated above, I have done my homework. Now I ask that you please do the same. If you do, you would certainly vote no on H.R. 5319, the “Deleting Online Predators Act.”

The bill states that it is designed to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms. I cannot believe that this bill is even on the table. It would take away our responsibility to teach our students how they can stay safe and learn responsible internet use with all the amazing social networking tools that are now available. You don’t educate by banning, you educate by teaching and there are some outstanding uses made of this technology already currently on the web. Many of the sites that you would ban with this bill are just tools that provide many incredible educational possibilities for our students. Students can share what they are learning with others and receive feedback. Learning communities can be built that let us open the doors of our classrooms to a global audience where engaging conversations can take place. Our students can have the opportunity to communicate with peers from all over the world, experts, authors, etc. This develops social and cultural competence. Since students can have ownership over tools such as blogs it can become an authentic, relevant way to use and improve reading, writing and thinking skills. It can give our students a voice that is empowering and they gain a sense of personal identity and value. Social networking technologies create a sense of community unlike others we educators have had available in the past. Students need to be taught how to be safe and how to recognize danger on the Internet in the same way that they have been educated in the schools to “Just say no”, “run the other way if a stranger approaches”, etc. Without pedagogical models of how to create with these tools, we are essentially leaving students on their own without any help or guidelines for effective, responsible and safe use. The possibilities for their learning are without limit and we need to be guiding that learning, not just leaving them on their own. Some positive uses of social networking in classrooms, schools and libraries are listed on YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association which is a division of the American Library Association (ALA) (http://www.leonline.com/yalsa/dopa_teens_social_networking.pdf)

As an educator and a parent and a grandparent, safety for children is a top priority of mine. I do feel very strongly that our children should be protected from predators of every type. However, a vote on this bill prevents students from getting the education that they desperately need to protect themselves. Education is the answer, not a bill that prevents them from receiving that education! We have not banned access to malls, playgrounds, churches, movie theaters and other areas where predators have been. Why would we ban access to sites on the Internet? Predators look for places that are unsupervised. Schools are not unsupervised.

This bill would ban an entire class of online tools – the very tools that we need to prepare our students for the world of tomorrow. Inappropriate uses of specific tools can be handled at a local level, on a case-by-case basis. Are we going to restrict access to TVs, CD-ROMs, DVDs, or VCRs because they could be used inappropriately? The behavior is what may need to be addressed, not the tool. That world will consist of continued use of interactive web applications. Our students must be ready for a world that will increasingly become more web-based. The Internet is changing how we live, learn, work, and communicate with one another. The importance of online interaction and collaboration and the development of essential information literacy skills are crucial. As the Web becomes more and more the way we communicate and socialize, why would we not be centered on educating our students in the most effect and safe way to use these technologies? We must educate our students to understand the risks of their actions on the Internet and let them be able to come to us if something goes amiss so we can help them.

I find it incredible that you think the school is the place to ban sites when it is exactly the place where we need to teach our students responsible use. One Representative was quoted as saying parents could not protect their children once they went to school I do not think that the majority of irresponsible activity is happening in schools but in homes or other places where internet access is available.. What is needed is education and lots of it. Let us teach our children. Let us teach you. What better place than schools to provide this? I find it inconceivable that you would vote for a bill that takes this out of educators’ hands. I think you would be playing right into the hands of the predators that you seek to protect our children from Please take a look at this video (http://www.staysafe.org/teens/videos/predator.html) on internet safety made by a principal and a student. This site (staysafe.org) is created for teens and teaches many of the safety tips that we want to teach. Let us teach ethical, responsible use of the social networking software that will promote responsible citizens who will become life-long learners who can indeed make a difference in our world. We need to collaborate online and involve our students in learning how to be smart when it comes to the Internet. Educating our students is our hope and our responsibility.

The broad technological controls that would be required under DOPA will prevent access to beneficial sites, put us back in the dark ages, and will only further widen the digital divide.

I would appreciate a response from you on this matter. Thank you.

Anne Davis

Feel free to use any parts of this letter that might work for you. I have read so much on this over the past few days and I know I will miss some but I need to give credit to the following who provided links or just helped me with my thinking about this issue.

YALSA