Digital Essays

I’ve been intrigued with the idea of a “digital essay” ever since Jim Burke posted an example of one awhile ago. When I asked him what his assignment sheet included, Burke said that he didn’t really have a “formal” one and just told the kids to create. I think the biggest reason I’m drawn to the idea of a “digital” essay and what that “format” might encompass (beside my love for rhetoric and comp!) is the fact that I see this format as one that would be more real-world applicable in many ways versus a traditional essay for English class.

When I tried it out with my students Continue reading

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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.

Just Keep Swimming

I feel like I have been going 90 miles/hour without stopping…even coming off of our winter break. (Speaking of winter break, SO thankful for the opportunity to do our remote school during all of the ice days so that we could still have it!) So tonight I’m reminding myself that it’s important to take time for me — and I need to do more reading/writing for ME! 🙂 (note: continuing Wuthering Heights on the iPad while on the elliptical has been taking care of some of these things! realized it’s a great way to keep up with training for my races and to enjoy some “down time” reading.)

Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of some of the upcoming BIG projects on the to-do list:

  • Blended class: Working on creating a face time/online class for next year for English which will ideally lead up to an American Studies course in a year or two (hopefully!). Really excited to have the opportunity to work with one of my colleagues and to utilize our school’s resources to create this online learning realm. (note: Any good examples of blended classes out there? Please let me know! So far, this is one of the great ones I’ve tracked down.)
  • TED Talks: I’m really looking forward to incorporating these talks into the classroom. I can think of so many ways to use these. Right now, as my Honors 10th graders are leading up to their research essay, they are responsible for one worldly current event each week. I’m thinking these talks might provide yet another way to get them thinking about worldly issues that they could ideally use as a topic for their research projects.
  • Curriculum makeover: My former dept head and I started discussing how we could revisit our curriculum last year and it’s something I am trying to piece together bit by bit. Looking for exemplar ideas out there that other schools have found success with. Our basic foundation will still include 9th – genre focus, 10th – world lit, 11th – American lit, and 12th British lit.
  • Articles/Packets/PD/Videos: only a “few” things I have on my plate to put together in the next few weeks as well.

This list definitely continues on, however, I’ve got to get on Wuthering Heights and marathon training right now! (Not to mention pack for tomorrow’s 3.5 hour bus ride for our soccer games tomorrow!) And even though there never seems to be enough hours in the day lately, I have to remember to “just keep swimming!” (After all, nothing feels better than marking more and more off that to-do list, right? 🙂 )

Remote School Days

Well, I’m sure most of you have followed along with the news reports to hear about the Atlanta area being on a stand still due to all of the ice and snow that hit our area this past week. It has been unbelievable! [And to think I moved south to get away from all of that “stuff!”] Many local streets are still covered in thick sheets of ice a week later, but we are all hoping for some relief this weekend as temperatures will hopefully raise enough to melt it all away.

Anyway, my school (along with most of the local schools) was closed the entire week. However, we implemented our remote school plan which allowed us to have school for the past three days. Three days that will count for school days and not require anything to be made up. Three days of instruction that could continue outside of the classroom. Three days of creative thinking to truly infuse the content through the technology integration to keep our kids learning.

Overall, I was really excited to see the kids jump right on board with everything. They were so enthusiastic about their work! And in fact, one of my students was quoted in one of the local news resources stating,

“At first I thought it was a crazy idea, trying to control students’ via computers and the Internet. But now, as I sit here and do my homework willingly, I realize that there is a characteristic that pushed me to do this. One that I, and plenty of other Lakeview students obtain, that is respect for our teachers and respect for our education.”

I think the last line really sums it up about the kids’ work ethic during this entire remote school experience. And, for us teachers, it allows us to not miss a beat and continue our instruction…just in different forms. So, what did my kids do? We blogged. We created visual analyses. We read articles. We wrote and recorded. We submitted assignments via Moodle. We took quizzes via Google Forms. We researched. We prepared for our units by watching videos (uploaded via Dropbox). The list continues…and needless to say this first experience of remote school has brought about many new ideas I am eager to try out in the future. (Or with integration into a blended classroom…which is something I am VERY interested in.)

So, here are a few things I’m interested to look into for down the road:

As you can see, just a few random ideas that have been bouncing around! Also, I would love to hear from anyone with experience with teaching in a blended classroom or with reverse instruction!

NCTE Day 4: Final Thoughts

I left for the NCTE National Convention looking forward to coming back refreshed, loaded with new ideas, and reaffirmed that many of my beliefs on teaching English today were shared by educators from all over.

I came back home with all three of these things accomplished.

The Convention has become a place where I have grown as an educator and had the opportunity to meet so many influential people to work with, learn from, and talk about everything related to teaching English with. And, needless to say, I’m looking forward to next year’s gathering, too!

Thanks, everyone! See you in Chicago!

NCTE Day 3: Teachers are learners, too!

And isn’t this the truth!

The day started off with one of the NCTE author strands with some of the big names in our field (Sara Kajder, Deborah Appleman, and Bob Fecho to name a few). I really suggest checking out this series as I’ve already checked out Kajder and Appleman’s books and know the rest will be great, too, if these are any indication. Another point that hit me when I listened to these authors talk is that researching and teaching DO go hand in hand (read my previous struggle/thoughts here). And I absolutely believe that they SHOULD.

The next talk I attended was another great one that dealt with Google. (However, I’d have to say that many people were still talking about the “tools” and not the “whys” and “implementation.” See previous note here about my thoughts on moving this mindset.) The presenters all praised the Google Teacher Academy as they participated in the program (note: I only wish it weren’t half way across the globe this year or I would absolutely LOVE to submit an application! just have no idea how I would EVER find the funds for that trip).

One of the biggest things I liked with this presentation was the idea of using Google Docs to have kids collaborate, publish, and share as link to others (note: I’m thinking it would sort of look like this example shared by Jim Burke here — which will lead me to another blog post in a bit on the idea of multimedia essays). In addition, I liked the idea of sharing lesson plans within a department using docs (and ties into my thoughts here on collaboration).

Posture!

POSTURE!!! Do any of you think about it? I do (but don’t). To be honest, and this may sound crazy, but since becoming a teacher I feel that my posture has gone downhill. I say this jokingly, but quite seriously. Maybe it’s because I find myself at the computer more? I’m not really sure. However, I think technology — for all of us — does play a factor in our posture today.

Even as I look around at my students, I notice many of them with postures that are not the greatest. I asked a few if they ever thought about how they were sitting while doing work (again, at computers) and all said it never really crossed their mind.

I know numerous studies are being done on the effects of technology use (many health related), and I’d be interested to see how a person’s posture ties into all of this. Though something as simple as sitting up straight may seem trivial to sum, a strong, healthy core is what supports each and everyone of us in ALL of our activities.

So, the question is this…what can we be doing — as individuals and as educators — to ensure that we are being “healthy” in our technology activities to promote good postures?