Friday, October 28, 2016

Saturday, Oct. 29: The Educational Blog: Firehose or Drinking Fountain?

So: blogs. I'm a long-time reader of various blogs, usually about knitting, cooking, or books. About ten years ago, when blogs exploded into being, I spent way, way, way too much time reading them, and I had to limit my time on them, so now my Friday evening routine involves coming home, settling in, and reading the six or so blogs that remain my favorites, limiting my time spent (wasted?) blog-browsing, while still providing me with knitting inspiration, cooking ideas, and far more books on my to-be-read pile than I will probably ever read.

As an English teacher, the bulk of my time is spent reading student writing, and I firmly believe that's the way it should be. I'm proud to say that I have many students who credit me with "teaching them to write" or "teaching them they could write," and that doesn't happen through me standing in front of the classroom diagramming sentences. When I am teaching my usual course load, I spend at least two hours each school day evening/early morning providing feedback, with at least two hours on Saturday or Sunday afternoon thrown in there for good measure as well. Factor in prep/planning, my role as learning area leader, and a life, even one bounded by "school nights" (thank heaven I married a teacher!), and I don't have much free time.

I've also been teaching a long time, and I've done a lot of experimenting and changing of curriculum in that time. I'm practical, but I'm also open to change, and I've team taught, done PBL, taught remedial, honors, AP and untracked classes. . . . so my practice tends to be a blend of a lot of different approaches. It works pretty well, but I'm always open to new ways of doing things. For example: David Rickert's blog caught me right off with its post on how to make students hate annotation less. My learning area looooooooooves annotation: double-entry journals are bread and butter for many of us, but they haven't really worked well for me. I liked his suggestions, and I find a lot of his posts are specific, sometimes funny, and very applicable to something I (and my colleagues) do. His information offers a tune up to something we already do.

Edutopia offers a look into the larger issues and research percolating in education today, so it's something I might check when I'm wearing my learning area leader or teacher/leader hat. It is definitely on the firehose side of the scale, however, since each article leads to several other connected topics, and the side bar alone provides enough articles to keep me reading and thinking for a professional degree's worth of study time. The post I commented on was clearly a  hot topic, and the comments were pretty fierce; I took a long time in making my comment, because I felt like I was in the big city and had better watch my step!

Wicked Decent Learning could fall into the same category of large-focus blogs, but as it's based in Maine, I have a sense that if I have a burning subject I'd like to raise, I could contact the owners and they would either open the topic or even allow me to write a guest post. This is great, as it stimulates my professional ideas (and my writing skills); it's also energizing and helpful to connected to other involved educators outside my school/district/county/region but still in my state. The post I commented on dealt with professional development, a general educational concern, and with the issue of diversity in Maine, a location-specific topic; these two areas provide a great example of why I like following a Maine-based education blog!

The next two blogs are ones that instantly make me feel like a slacker when I visit them. Cult of Pedagogy and Innovative Educator both remind me of the lifestyle blogs that beat up so many women's self esteem in the early. . . . well, that STILL beat up so many women's self-esteem. How can these women teach, post, do tech stuff, go to conferences, and apparently have lives? Are they Martha-Stewart-like sleepers who need only 4 hours of sleep a night? Do they have time-turners? They have good points, hints, and inspiration, but, in all honesty, everything I read from them is shaded by my sheer jealousy and irrational self-hatred which limits my ability to access good information from them! I feel the same about certain cooking blogs I follow (Two Peas in Their Pod and Joy the Baker, I'm looking at you), but those people aren't effortlessly rocking my profession. It's interesting how it took me a while to get to that understanding!

Anyway: I've learned a lot from my blog following, and I've found it a bit more accessible and less overwhelming than my Twitter experience (again, I hope to blog about that difference). As I go along, I plan to trim my blog roll a bit, and I hope I will end up with a list of tried, true, and helpful resources that I can consult when I need general inspiration/information or specific support.

Ms. Leamon, after blog surfing. . .  

Friday, Oct. 28: Poised for Action!

Hey, guess what? It's been busy around here lately! Go figure! That said, I am extremely delighted to be facing a weekend that features only the usual commitments: a run on Saturday, a swim and church on Sunday, food shopping, a phone call to my mama, laundry, bread baking, leisurely coffee on Saturday morning, taking out the trash. . . . AND my Module three work (halfway done Sat.: I'm on a roll!), some of which will show up here.** I am still trying to figure out a few things, like how a blog is different from a web page (a square is to a parallelogram as a blog is to a webpage, maybe?) and whether I have actually created an RSS feed on my blog or just a blog roll. However, I'm ready to move forward! At the moment, I have a purring cat wedged between my knees and the laptop (her choice, not mine):

and I am going to try to write my Mod. 3 Discussion!

Here is the screenshot of what I am currently considering my "RSS feed." As I mentioned above, some apps have different names for the same thing, and Google/Blogger didn't offer much by way of "how to use an RSS feed to follow other blogs"--it got unclear whether I was offering to update other followers when I posted, or vice versa. So: here's what I've got right now:

True confessions: I have been adding to the blog roll as I've been finding tweets or articles that interest me. At one point, it *was* five blogs long, but then I ran into David Rickert's English-flavored tech posts, and of course I am interested in Maine-based stuff, so Matt Drewette-Card's blog appeals. . . . I will probably pare some down, as I don't think, for example, that Becca Redman posts much. But: here's a start. 

Here are my comments: 

AND on effective PD; on the same blog as the first one, different post: 

**Of course, I just remembered my school tasks, which include writing three recommendations, finalizing grades for Tuesday when the quarter closes, planning our learning area's CAI (Curriculum and Instruction) meeting for Monday, starting to put together the budget which is due (whoops!) on Tuesday, and various other bits and pieces. Ah well. At least the trash is out and my bread looks gorgeous!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Saturday, Oct. 22: Mind Muddle

So: it's Saturday morning, and I have an hour or so before I need to get going on some "other life" issues like finding shoes for the wedding my beloved and I are attending this afternoon (though it's a wedding of two former students, one a current colleague, and the other the son of a past colleague, so is that still school-related? AHH!). . . .

I am reading blogs for my PBE class. Many have interesting ideas. Many offer links to other interesting ideas (the links on that link [sorry] weren't even the focus of the entry I was reading!). I also have read my chapters in Prensky's Teaching Digital Natives book, and he's got lots of ideas. I have a class of 10 extremely individualized students; I also act as a consultant to the teachers in my learning area and, specifically, some in the science department. All these ideas I bump into have connections to various students, classes, units, teachers, conversations, needs, and questions I've been mulling over in the past week, month, quarter, reform movement, and even my whole career. At the moment, I feel like one of those illustrated talks that ends up in a huge cartoon with arrows and exclamation points everywhere: it's all exciting, but it's also huge and overwhelming.

I think I need some exercise, a change in the weather, less coffee (!!), and a deep breath.

I'll be back in a bit. And I'm staying away from Twitter till the hysteria in my brain subsides a bit!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday, Oct. 21: Quick Morning Grumble. . .

Wow. Some of the people I have followed on Twitter seem to do nothing but post: it's like having a stand-up comedian in the family--constant suggestions, one-liners, demands for attention, memes, cute comments. Exhausting! I have the feeling that people who have a brand affiliated with them (Google, I'm looking at you) have more of a fire in their bellies as it's their job??? Maybe???

Also, I am finding Twitter to be the home of the "SUG" (sweeping, unsupported generality): Wed's Twitter chat devolved into a one-liner gripe fest about what extrinsic motivation was and how it was terrible and "good teachers never use" it. Frankly, I consider myself an effective, dedicated teacher, and I have used at least most of the "never use" techniques in my 30 years: sarcasm--some kids thrive on it!; threats--not all kids come to homework club because they want to!; even physical contact. . . . And there are all kinds of levels of extrinsic motivation and some of them, used with discretion, are highly effective, ethical, and even fun--but there's neither time nor characters to raise that point as we're swirling along, so the SUGs seem to rule the day.  I am not crazy about opening my Twitter account to find 57 new messages all lecturing, hectoring, and advertising (to) me.

Maybe I do need to follow more knitting posts!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Oct. 19, Wed: PSAT and Portfolio Make up Day

Enjoying the opportunity to work with students to catch up on their portfolio tasks; the class of 2017 is the last class who'll have this duty as we go standards-based after this! I will miss the chance to revisit senior students and the tasks they found too hard as ninth or tenth graders. Many times they say, "Why didn't I finish this then?" in tones of wonder as they crank through literary analysis or a personal narrative. Growth, my dears, growth. You aren't who you were then.

But also, I saw this blog post about "Unboxing videos"--they're a thing! People watch them! (This again makes me weep for the ridiculous ways we humans spend our short lives on this planet.) People make money from them! And/but. . . . could we make them into an option for a literary analysis task? Stacy Burt raises the question in her blog (linked above), and my students (as a break from their portfolio task revisions) helped shape the idea. We could have a book to "unbox," and the video could be a discussion of key aspects of the book in terms of its cover art, the blurb on the back, its length, even its font and heft. It could be a "before we read" unboxing as an intro, or a post-read summary/review. Another unboxing activity we thought of (this one my non-digital fan thought would be even more fun) would be to challenge students to create a book box that is inspired by the book, and features items that relate to the book in some way: for Of Mice and Men (anchor text/9th grade), a student might include a toy gun, some denim, some red cloth, a "work ticket," a stuffed mouse or dog. . . . ; another option might be to have students after an independent reading assignment make enticing unboxing videos that hint at the book's content, style, or topic as an advertisement. I am wondering if my students might be able to make some of these and post them on their blogs!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

10/12/16, Wednesday: Post First Twitter Chat; Updated Sat. 10/15/16!


It's hard to describe what my first education-based Twitter chat felt like: attending a conference in my own living room? A non-exhausting professional conversation? Meeting a bunch of smart, interested friends and colleagues and having a lively conversation but never saying a word?

I gained ideas, had some laughs, and enjoyed incredibly efficient professional development.

Whew. I need to go eat one of the toffee/chocolate/coconut bars I made on Monday and recover myself. What a blast!

Here are a few links I found to in my efforts to jump onto the Twitter train:

this one is interesting but has some false/outdated links.

This one is great, and led me to the #Edtechbridge chat that I participated in from 7 - 8 tonight.

I tried to find/join #currichat  as a chat, but all I found was a bunch of random posts. Ah well.

I will be back to Twitterland! This was a blast! Terrific PD--and a lot of rapidly-posted GIFs!

Sample shared below. . . .

Saturday, Oct. 15: To reflect a tad more. . . . and to fulfill Mod. 2, Communication Task #2!

1. Future participation: Yes, I think I will participate in Twitter chats again. As I said before, the edtechbridge chat was energizing and stimulating. I enjoyed the inspiration and hugely enjoyed the sense of being part of a community of educators, all with widely different experiences, educational settings, attitudes, etc. Even though our school has become more open and more of a PLN than in the "bad old days" of closed doors and "I teach X and I don't care what you do", we are isolated w/in our particular educational island. So: blasting the doors open via twitter was a huge rush of energy!

2. I can see using twitter chats as feedback for literary discussions based on individual responses or ideas (mostly around idea generation and/or viewpoint sharing; RL 1 or personal opinion); creating lists or records of favorites (songs, poems, stories, parts of a novel, characters, etc.). I don't see them as being so useful for thoughtful feedback or deep discussion of an issue that needs response and support. BECAUSE they are so rapid and multi-voiced, there is a loss (at least I felt there was one in my very humble experience in my very first chat!!!) of depth/grappling with key terms or ideas. For example, in #edtechbridge we were discussing the question of student portfolios as those those were a clearly defined "thing" like a standardized test or a multi-standard assessment. In fact, there is a huge variety of definitions of portfolios out there: they may be student chosen work, cumulative, designed to show student skills against a standard. . . . they could even be designed to show student growth over time for sentimental reasons! Though I posted my concern about that issue, because of the nature of the flow, we never came back and clarified exactly what we were talking about, so the sharing stayed, by default, hugely varied and general. I could follow up on individual questions w/ individual participants if I so chose, but the nature of the chat itself did not encourage or require that kind of deepening. So I would only use twitter in my classroom with general info collection/idea stimulation questions ("What's your favorite Hamlet quote? What's your favorite poem from this collection? What is one question you'd ask the author if. . . .") .

3. Questions I could answer:
Why do people use Twitter for pd? It is so much fun! It's so stimulating! I feel that I am beginning to define some contacts that I can use for resources (using the heart button helps pull out posts I want to return to) but also people that I could message and potentially set up deeper, more valuable connections with, like a pairing of classrooms when we start our blogs in CRW.
How do I get started? Easily! Once I found a twitter chat that was actually starting (lots of outdated info out there, which made it tricky at first) and worked up the nerve to join it, people were super friendly, funny, and engaging. I don't know as I'll ever be able to post gifs or links fast enough to add some of the glam that a lot of the participants did, but I think that's okay. It's also ridiculous to see how proud I felt when someone liked or retweeted one of my tweets. In the third Bridget Jones novel, she gets addicted to twitter, and now I can see why.

4. Questions I still have:
How does one deepen the interchange on Twitter?
How MIGHT I engage a class in a twitter chat, controlling the potential for misunderstanding and negative interactions? I have seen a few nasty exchanges sidebarred on people's twitter pages, and of course we've all seen the "How a Careless Tweet Ruined My Life" articles. That's something I'd really like to avoid!
I think that I might use Twitter with older students, maybe, for example, an AP English class. Hmmm.

So overall: I am feeling more positive about Twitter. At the same time, I do feel that it has a Pinterest-like potential to become a huge, distracting, alluring, stimulating time suck for me!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10/11/16 Tuesday: Back at It!

Whew. Re-entry was tough for all of us today, and not just because the Sox lost their third playoff game. Lovely fall day, however, and I fit in a good walk around Duck Brook in Acadia with a good friend.

Poised to have my Critical Reading and Writing kids start blogs on Monday. Had our tech guy come in today to help be sure that everyone could access their Mastery Connect data so they can track their standards progress: sometimes it takes a small village to get everyone on the same (literal) page!

Now: gotta find a Twitter chat I want to participate in, and I'd like to line up a small, mellow class somewhere far away that my students could share blogs with. Anyone?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

10/9/16, Sunday: Joys of a Three Day Weekend!

Magaña, S.& Marzano, R. (2014). Enhancing the art & science of teaching with technology. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.

Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin.

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2014).
Web 2.0 how-to for educators. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Well, entry #1 for my UMFEDU568 class, Communication Tools to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Proficiency-Based Education! The armload of books above have given me good food for thought (and my lucky husband much food for listening). Teaching Digital Natives gave me a kick in the pants, er. . .planning book, as it reminded me of a lot of work I'd tried and done earlier, before we got inundated by the challenges of changing to a PBE system. I did a whole flipped classroom initiative and had a class full of bloggers as well, and, in many ways, those risks were successful and a lot of fun. However, my colleagues and I have a joke about digital natives when that phrase is used to imply that students will be proficient at producing a professional product on line, or even be proficient at following directions. I was delighted to find that Prensky's points were about students' view of learning and information; he doesn't assume that students will automatically be able to follow instructions to post assignments with ease (or even find our google classroom page after six weeks, maybe?). 

I am less enamored of the Marzano book, Enhancing the Art & Science of Teaching with Technology. While Marzano's 41 classroom strategies provide a useful and extremely thorough framework, I've already found a few that don't seem particularly well-suited to technological enhancement, and I'd find the book much more useful if the authors simply admitted that fact right from the get-go.  Here's an excerpt: "Finally, ask students to share their learning goals with the class. Technology tools can be used to encourage every student to participate. Assign each student a number in your gradebook, and use a random number generator online or in your IWB [interactive white board] software to randomly select students to explain the learning goal. This tool allows you to select a range of numbers to match the number of students in your class (such as 1-30, if you  have thirty students) and push a button or spin a dial to randomly choose a student to restate the learning goals. Alternately, select students by name using a random name generator." (Marzano, 28).  I know this is a technology book, but that example screams to be prefaced with "While the old labeled-popsicle-stick technique still works well, it's possible to have some fun with technology and use random number generators. . . . ". The tech cart gets in a bit before the horse on a few occasions here. 

Last but not least, Web 2.0 How-to For Educators is clear, simple, and informative--not much philosophy yet.

So in a few moments I'll tweet this blog address and go live! I have more to say, more to share. . . . In closing, I'll share a favorite poem about most Sunday nights in a teacher's life to celebrate the fact that this is not a normal Sunday. Then I'll go read my current book (Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel, by CW Gortner)!

Homework--by Russell Hoban

Homework sits on top of Sunday, squashing Sunday flat.
Homework has the smell of Monday, homework's very fat.
Heavy books and piles of paper, answers I don't know.
Sunday evening's almost finished, now I'm going to go
Do my homework in the kitchen. Maybe just a snack,
Then I'll sit right down and start as soon as I run back
For some chocolate sandwich cookies. Then I'll really do
All that homework in a minute. First I'll see what new
Show they've got on television in the living room.
Everybody's laughing there, but misery and gloom
And a full refrigerator is where I am at.
I'll just have to have another sandwich. Homework's very fat.