Google+ Update

So, after poking around a bit today, I came across a link to this article that breaks down Google+. It’s pretty in-depth and I really appreciate the screen shots. However, the problem is the same as I mentioned before…how would I use it and why would I use it?

I promise I’m not being THAT resistant, I just can’t visualize how I would use it. However, I do see how creating something within this realm might be neat to use with the classroom. And it means only one login and one password to use if you and your students are using other Google apps (i.e. gmail, calendar).

Writing for Everyone

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

– Cyril Connolly

In this case, I’m writing for what I believe in and what others believe in as well. I’m writing for everyone (even those who may not understand what cutting a program like NWP would do to educators and students all over the country now and for years to come). I’m writing because I cannot sit by and not say anything while an amazing program is cut…especially because I have seen how writing has opened up opportunities, imaginations, and futures.

An example of how the power of writing helped one of my students:

“Sara” was a quiet girl who sat in the back of my classroom. She was new to the school of a little over 1000 kids and was so shy she’d hardly speak to me. However, writing changed all of that — specifically, blogging. I created the space for her and her peers to voice their thoughts/opinions in a less threatening way of directly calling on them in class. To my surprise, Sara became one of the most vibrant voices in my classroom. Suddenly she was so engaged, challenging her classmates’ thoughts, and actively voicing her own — not only on the blog but during our in-class discussions, too. I told Sara how proud I was of how much she had grown in the course of the few weeks I had worked with her. She just smiled and said, “Yeah, it [writing/blogging] is pretty cool.”

Writing gave Sara the opportunity to find her voice. Writing gave Sara the space to use her imagination to engage deeply with the texts we were covering. Writing gave Sara the confidence she needed to have to understand that that her voice mattered. (And this last point is probably one of the most important things we can help our students realize, in my opinion at least.)

Sara is just one of the many examples of why writing matters. There are also tons of posts, articles, tweets, and research notes around us showing why the NWP matters.  You can read more of my thoughts here and here. Be sure to show your voice, too, and support #blog4nwp. (Again, Washington, here our voices!)

Footprints (& filters) everywhere

With more and more people jumping on the social media bandwagon, I’m constantly thinking about people’s digital footprints and how it travels around the world (literally, ha!). I truly believe that part of our responsibility as educators is to help our kids understand what their footprint says about them now and years from now.

But how do we teach kids how to use these resources carefully? How do we help them understand the consequences of taking one bad “step” in the digital world? Classes? Warnings? (Dare I say it, but “filters?”)

I think a large part of educating our students on technology comes from the parents’ side.  Parents need to be on board with what their kids are doing online. However, I wonder how much of an issue access plays into account when trying to educate all on digital practices???  And again, then there is that “f” word I mentioned above that comes into play here, too.

Speaking of filters, I do NOT think that is an answer to solving the problems of kids accessing and posting “bad” content. The bottom line is that when they leave our classrooms, they are going to find ways around those “filters” anyway. And what happens then? We’ve tried to protect them by blocking all of the “bad” stuff and then there they are, faced with it right in front of them not knowing the effects their interaction with that content can have (and yet we wonder why they don’t understand how their footprint affects them!).

I don’t think there is an easy fix here (or is there?), but for some reason this topic — footprints and filters — has been on my mind a lot lately. I really stress safety and common sense to my kids during all of our digital endeavors and also let them know why it matters (in and outside of school).

Curious: how do others handle footprints and filters in their classrooms?

Because Writing Matters…

…to me and it should to you, too. Being home has been a reminder of the importance of writing as I’ve dug through old postcards, books, notes, essays, [the list continues]. Plus, all of the #blog4nwp posts really have me thinking about writing in general. [Not to mention the Cs conference this week!]

So, why writing? What’s the big deal, anyway? My students ask this question a lot, too. Especially seniors as we plow through about an essay a week for the 2nd part of the year and include journals in our daily activities. This question also makes me think back to when I taught in the ECP at Virginia Tech and how many smart students questioned why they needed to be able to write well when they were going to be “engineers” not “authors.”

Writing is a way to allow one’s voice to shine through. To allow one to reflect. To allow one to grow. To allow one to connect. [Get the message yet?] It’s not about English class or being an author or writing essays. Writing is SO much more!

Why do people not like writing? Maybe people don’t like writing because it is hard. [Hey, it is!] Maybe people don’t like writing because they’re too focused on right vs. wrong. Maybe people don’t like writing because it’s personal. Maybe people don’t like writing because it’s a skill that has to be practiced. Maybe people don’t like writing because they do not realize all of the intricate ways it brings us together…no matter who we are or where we are from…writing always brings us together in one way or another.

Why should we support writing? Well, to me, the question is why shouldn’t we? We need to show people why writing matters. And programs like NWP support the foundation of one of the skills that we all need no matter what field we go into or where our future takes us. Writing matters, and I just hope Washington realizes how much it matters before they cut a program that works and supports so many Americans on so many different levels (both now and for years to come).

[And on a personal note, a colleague shared information about the various NWP summer institutes that I thought would be AMAZING to experience. I’d really like that chance one day, Washington. Please hear our voices.]

What the 2012 Campaign Means to Me

Today I saw a tweet from our President, @BarackObama, discussing what the 2012 campaign means to Americans around the country. With everything going on around the world, I am constantly reminded just how fortunate we are to live in a country where each individual can share his/her opinions/ideas on what he/she feels the campaign (rather the future of America) truly means. For this reason, I wanted to share a few of my own thoughts on what the 2012 campaign means to me.

Times are hard…for everyone. And yes, changes need to be and have been made. However, one of the most important areas our country does NOT need to cut corners with is EDUCATION. Education is the key to success and empowers people. That’s why when I hear about programs that work (and no, I’m not talking about ones that “supposedly” work surrounding more standardized testing that ultimately influence teachers’ pay scales) and the fact that they are being cut, I feel very concerned about the future of our country.

Our future is dependent on the generations to come. The generations to come are being taught by teachers every day all over this great country to prepare them for jobs that are not necessarily even present today. So why would we cut programs that help our educators? Educators that touch the lives of tons of kids a year? Why would we cut funds that directly impact our future?

Teaching is a profession many of us choose because we wanted to make a difference. Please help us do that by supporting, by valuing, how we grow professionally and how we help teach kids. Please help us continue to engage, challenge, inspire, and motivate the next generation of critical thinkers, consumers, and producers that will be running our country years from now.

So, in my opinion, the 2012 campaign is about protecting our future…and valuing what truly matters — EDUCATION. Focus on what WORKS! And support programs like the National Writing Project that make a difference in the lives of Americans all over.

Changes in Reading Habits

As if they read my mind…reports are now out that the iPad might just be changing many people’s reading habits. There is SO much potential here! I really am excited about the possibilities of its integration into the classroom and people who are finding success with it.

And speaking of changes in reading (and writing) habits, some of my kids are “tumbling” on-the-go through apps that allow them to access their Tumblr blog on their mobile phones. I think that’s so neat! Also, was asked if we could “tweet” somehow for class. A lot to think about as far as extending the classroom walls in many ways.

iPad + Books = A Bright Future

And I think my new best friend is going to change the way we look at text in many ways.

I’ve debated an e-reader for awhile. Was set on the Kindle until the iPad came out and then thought about how much more resourceful an iPad might be for me and what I need. However, I didn’t get one, still, for a very long time until this past Thanksgiving when I opened up my new best friend, an iPad, as a birthday/Christmas gift from my family. [note: best give ever! thank you all! :-)]

The iPad has a plethora of applications and uses that I still have yet to uncover. At times I still feel overwhelmed by all of the things I can do with it. I feel that I see a new tip every day. However, I’ve enjoyed figuring out the ins and outs of its many uses, both personally and within the classroom… Continue reading