Monday, April 16, 2012

Blogging about Blogging

I like to blog when I have something to say.

For those of you who don't know me well, I usually have something to say. My problem is that I rarely have anything to say that is educational-blog-appropriate.

A blog is like an online journal; a collection of shareable thoughts that other people can have access to. Sometimes your friends will read. Sometimes random people you don't really know will read. Sometimes, like in this class, your professor will read.

Isn't it amazing, the writer's block we suddenly get when we know that our professor will be our audience, reading our collections of thoughts? I can't think of how many times I've typed something and saved it to my drafts only to delete it and write about something menial.


Self censorship. Only for the brave of heart.

Elton John Multi Genre Project

I was looking around for examples of multigenre projects and I found this one. I thought it was very informational and extremely creative on the student's end.. One of the good things about multi genre projects is that we are able to view an abundance of information but we don't really feel like we're learning. Still we are able to take so much away from it. I think that is one of the many benefits of multi genre writing. For those who like to be visually stimulated by educational content, this is an area in which they could easily be interested and the possibilities are certainly numerous and rewarding.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Learning a Language

I'm trying to learn a language and I cannot help but wonder why I wasn't made to start sooner. It's seriously frustrating. Studies show that the best time to teach a child a second language is during the very young years of his or her life; preschool and, most importantly, prepuberty.

In that case, why do we start language learning at the high school level? Did any of you take a language before ninth grade? I'm not sure if this just happened in my high school, but I know that I was only required to take three years of Spanish to graduate.

What were your experiences with language learning like?

Three Rules

In high school, we did play one improv game I always really enjoyed. We would do it while we were reading a novel (The Hunger Games, for instance. I'll use that since it's popular). There would be a certain number of characters from the book chosen (this is determined by the teacher. So, let's pretend I'm the teacher and I chose three characters: Catniss, Cato, and Peeta).

The audience (the rest of the class) sets the scene (For example, they'll say "Let's pretend Catniss, Peeta, and Cato went fishing...") Then, students will volunteer to play one of the characters. After the three lucky students volunteered (or were chosen), they came to the front. The audience then made up three rules.

The rules were usually silly like "the person playing Catniss can only talk in questions" or "none of the actors can say words ending in 's.'" After the three rules were established, the scene began. The scenario had to be played out, with each character behaving as they would in the book, and all three of the rules had to be obeyed.

When an actor broke a rule, the class caught them by yelling "Off with his (or her) head!" and booed them until another actor jumped in and took over his or her place as the character in that scene.

To add some twists, the teacher made up new rules. Sometimes, she would pause and tell everyone to perform an action. It would quickly turn into a game of Simon Says or memory.

It was a good ten minutes of fun :) and educational, believe it or not. Just thought I'd share!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Since Everyone Else is Doing It... My Comments on the 20 Shot Film

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I loved, loved, loved the 20 shot film assignment. I had a huge internal debate in order to decide whether or not I would do this with a class of my own. I went back and forth for a few days and eventually weighed the pros and cons.

 I guess the pros have it. I do think I would complete this assignment with my future students.

When I finally saw the result of our storyboarding, collaboration, and filming, I was pleased, excited, and amused. I think that high school students generally will enjoy this assignment if given the appropriate instruction (just as we were given a 30 minute lecture about angles and shots). The process might be a little scary for future teachers. I would be worried about their film's appropriateness, the students' access to technology, and their availability to shoot. Many students are involved with extra curricular activities, so I'm sure that picking a meeting time outside of school wouldn't be ideal. Of course, they could use in class time to go shoot around the school building, but that poses other problems to consider.

 I have faith, however, that the kinks can (and should) be worked out.

Cardboard Village

This is a noneducational story, but I figured I'd share anyway.

Last night, I participated in the Cardboard Village. Basically, organizations (or people) sign up and build a cardboard house in the quad (the house can only be made with cardboard, tape, and tarp). The house has to be occupied at all times in a 24 hour time period by various members of the group. Participants are only allowed one blanket per person (no pillow, no cell phones, no space heaters). Additionally, there is no food allowed in the house. Basically, the "homeless experience" (or as close to the homeless experience I'll get as a non-homeless person) knocked on my door.

I answered.

As I was in my cardboard box, colder than I've ever been in my entire life despite the fact that I wore layers and layers of clothing, I felt weak, defeated, powerless, hungry, and uncomfortable. I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn't because I was shivering so badly. I tried to text (on my banned cellular device), but my hands were so stiff, even through two pairs of gloves. So... I sat there. For hours and hours. Miserable. And angrier than I've ever been.

I guess the moral of the story is that good things can come from anger. If something really, really, REALLY ticks you off, fight it. I know I am.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rice on Education: American Dream on Verge of Collapse

"Condoleezza Rice on Education: American Dream on Verge of Collapse: If America doesn't reform education, security and upward mobility will suffer, she warns"

 This article was posted on Google News a few hours ago and it's interesting. It's hard to imagine some of the immediate results of what could happen if American education does not reform (and really reform... not just pretend to "reform" like it has been doing in the past). Many educators and politicians are worried about the United States falling behind "educational powerhouses" like China and South Korea. I haven't looked enough into this myself to know how legitimate the opinions in this article are. Still, I think it's a frightening prospect and I thought I'd share.,0,3654983.story

Teach for America + the World = WorldTeach

When I was on my cruise, I met so many people in my age bracket from different countries. One of the things I brought up during our many conversations was education. Most of them were in general agreement; the state of education in their native countries was sub par (if not otherwise deplorable).

So, what did I do when I got home (besides recover from a week of tomfoolery)? I Googled it.

What do I have to do to be able to teach abroad? I'm already in the Ireland Student Teaching program, but this is just not enough. I think that there are tons of people in the world I would love to teach, even through a volunteer program, who, in return, could teach me as well. There are so many cultures, religions, languages, and experiences that I am eager to know about.

What I found was an organization called WorldTeach. They take certified teachers on yearly or semester-long volunteer trips to different areas in the world.I don't know very much about it, but it seems similar to Teach for America. Just internationally. And without pay.

But challenging and rewarding? Most definitely.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Storybird, Anyone?

I just fell in love with this thing called Storybird. It is an interactive digital storybook website. Basically, you write your own book online using text and images. You can flip through the final product, share it with friends, and read the Storybirds of others (because they are sometimes really cool).

The website itself is really safe. Storybird emphasizes "niceness" and they will terminate the accounts of people who use the site for political or religious expression, explicit content, or ideas that wouldn't be appropriate brought up around eight-year-olds. Although this is limiting in some ways, this is a really good idea for the classroom.

As a lesson, this assignment can fit all ranges of students. Very simple Storybirds can be created comfortably by struggling students and more advanced students can create Storybirds like the one under the link posted below. This can easily be a lesson that is differentiated, fun, and educational, should you choose to use. I invite you to read the Storybird below. I thought it was profound and poetic, and I'm sure that this can be incorporated in the classroom regularly.

Revisiting Tumblr

In our last class, Tumblr was presented as a digital tool to use in the classroom. And, frankly, I feel like it got the "shaft" (I love you girls). As a former Tumblr user (I just don't have time anymore), I can see plenty of ways that it can be used in the classroom educationally, and many other ways that it can be regulated for content and made safe for student use.

First, the idea that Tumblr is a "less organized version of Pinterest" (as it was presented) kind of has to be deconstructed. Every website has things in common; from the "liking" of Facebook, to the "thanking" of scoop, to the "hearting" of Storybird. Still, these websites endure because they have enough that is unique within themselves and users enjoy some particular aspects, which keeps the website flourishing.

When you "Pin," you capture and share "all the beautiful things you find on the web" (Pinterest's own words). When you Tumble (?), you share "all the beautiful things you create/write/record/produce/film on the web". You create original thought. For example, my Tumblr houses poetry and short stories I've written, anecdotes of personal experiences and ideas I decided to share with friends, pictures from vacations I've went on, videos I've put together for class projects, and even papers I've written for class. Tumblr is a blog site; a more visual, user friendly, highly social blog site at that. It can do many things that Pinterest cannot, and vice versa.

As far as safety goes, you see posts by people you follow. If the class, regulated by an educator, is only allowed to follow each other with the educational blogs they make, then I don't see content as a problem. Students (for the most part) won't post anything that they won't want their teacher reading. It's that simple.

Students can't find anything on Tumblr that they can't easily find in a Google Search (even though some schools block Google content, it is very easy for kids, who are way more tech savvy than administrators, to get around that). That is why it is up to the teacher to build an environment of respect and rapport with students. Let them know what you expect of them and consequences for publishing inappropriate content with Tumblr (as you would with any other digital tool you use in the classroom because students can just as easily pin an inappropriate picture on Pinterest, right?). That is the chance you take with all digital tools, not just Tumblr.

I think that Tumblr can be used in the classroom. In this class, we blog with Blogger, which is generated for an older audience. Tumblr is more visual and easier to navigate because it is generated with a younger audience in mind. If we can use Blogger in our college class and blog twice a week about whatever interests us, I think it could be a great assignment for secondary students also.

There is a lot more that can be done on Tumblr than I can explain in this blog. So, check it out!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Well, If a Five-Year-Old Can Do It...

I started my Podcasting project recently and, as a technological doofus, I must say that I suck at this. I want to incorporate pictures into the podcast because I don't want it to be boring. Most of the tools designed to do that simply require a Mac (which I don't have) or tons of extra free time to tinker with complex programs and downloads (and I don't have that either).

After several grunts of frustration, I found my savior. Kid Pix. Yes. KID PIX; a site designed for... well, kids.

You can record your voice in the background and add graphics simple graphics and text. Podcasting actually becomes fun. Since the website was built with five-year-olds in mind, there's no extra crap. The site itself is maneuverable and colorful, just the breath of fresh air I needed. If you're strapped for ideas on the Podcast assignment, check it out! Just Google "kid pix." It's worth it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Transcend the Classroom

Today, I participated in a Straight Talk. A Straight Talk is simply a panel of members of the LGBTQIA community who do exactly that; talk to you straight. No question is taken offensively and all answers provided by the panel are bluntly honest. The audience can be as politically incorrect as they chose because it is a learning experience. Members of the audience are encouraged to ask any question without hesitation. Some of the topics include politics, religion, gay marriage, and discrimination.

While I was up there speaking and listening, it was interesting to me how many "out" students had problems in middle and high school. Many of them talk about confiding in teachers (and an overwhelming majority of them were English teachers) but the students still felt hopeless. It was them against the world.

This will eventually impact a student's performance. She may feel unsafe and unwelcome in her classes. He may stop coming to school altogether. Sometimes events like these that transcend the classroom become something that we, as teachers, have to deal with. Below is the link to GLSEN's website (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network). They have tons of information for educators, students, and supporters.

Even if you don't use it yourself, it may be a future resource that you can give to a student in need. Dealing with a situation where a student is "out" can be a sticky situation as parents, other students, and the administration all get involved. You might experience a situation such as this when you are teaching, but you don't have to go through it alone. Check it out!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

From Chiseling on Stone to the Age of Digital Media

I was really intrigued by Chapter 4 of the Hicks text because it discusses what is actually meant by "crafting" writing with multimedia. Yes, the proposed activities we study in class are fun, but we, as teachers, are not just assigning "fun" activities.

We cannot lose sight of the educational content. There are many opportunities for students to learn and grow as writers and students. By exploring the craft of creating different types of multimedia, we can show digital writing in an exciting light.We can help our students become composers in the modern world.

As technology progresses, we have to grow with it. Some professors I have had in the past few semesters just refused to catch up to the times. I could imagine them saying "What is this email you speak of?" because they were so far removed from the digital era in which we grew up.

Let's not be those teachers, chiseling on stone when four-year-olds wield Ipads and six-year-olds Google themselves biweekly.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Six Word Savior

Recently, a student in our class presented a lesson plan on the six word story. This intrigued me because I have a tendency to complain about how concise writers are oftentimes overlooked. It took me a very long time to learn to be all flowery and verbose with my writing. I favored brevity in place of what I call that "show-tune" writing (which is loud and flashy with all the bells and whistles).

When I completed my field, I ran into many students with a very low ability in writing but a very high interest in the subject. This actually motivated them to want to TRY to write. They just lacked what it took to do so. I am always interested in lesson plans that can help students in this particular achievement group.

After the concept was proposed to me in class, I've tried to write a six word story daily. I keep them in a journal. It has been interesting to see how so many emotions can be conveyed in such short statements. I think it would be awesome to do this in class with students in the future. I think it's a very useful tool to see what students are thinking and how creative they can be with such limited text.

Here are some of my personal six word stories! I just thought they were interesting.

"Meanness wins. That's why I'm losing."
"Boozel sucks. I'm hungry. McDonald's, anyone?"
"Slippery Rock construction is the devil."
"I love him. This is bad."
"This world isn't ready for me."
 "Whispering sweet nothings to my Tequila."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Page Limit, Schmage Limit

When I write a paper, I hate being confined to a page limit. I mean, why write five pages on an issue when a concise writer can succinctly present that same issue in two? That just makes me want to fill my paper with fluff and unicorns, trashing an otherwise praiseworthy essay. Even worse, why assign me a topic that is so broad that I cannot be expected to cramp it all into three pages?


As future teachers, will it ever be possible to assign our students a paper with no page limit? What if I, in the prompt of an essay, I said to my students "write until you have proven your point?" Is that okay?

Well, I think it is. After all, fluff and unicorns do not a masterpiece make. They just make crap. Rainbow colored crap.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Webspiration: Take 2. Action!

After my botched attempt to show everyone in class how great Webspiration is, I was saddened to see that I couldn't open the program on the computer. When I tried today on my laptop, it worked just fine. *shrug*

Technology today. I just don't get it.

Anywho, at the bottom of this entry is the link that will lead you to my "collaborative story" (except, it's really not collaborative because I was the only contributor). The main idea of the lesson I presented was for one student to start a story as other students gradually built the storyline by adding "snippets" to the Webspiration program. They can invite each other to their personal Webspirations via email and the possibilities for creativity are (literally) endless.

I know my personal Wesbpiration isn't that great because I only tinkered around with it for an hour or so. I believe that, with some direction, the students will excel at this. Most of them will enjoy it and many will remember it.

This is just something to think about as you're teaching. When you pair writing with social interaction, the students will enjoy it more. Another benefit of this is that it is not interactive writing in the classroom where everyone is sitting in close proximity trying to talk at the same time. Can you imagine the headaches? Nevertheless, students need to collaborate and express themselves to one another. With Webspiration, they can do this on the go, from home, from their phones, in the library, etc.

If you hate this program and all else fails, Webspiration can still be used as a kick-butt graphic organizer.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Clothing in the Classroom

We all know that I love fashion-- bright scarves, red lipstick, dramatic eye make up, etc. Still, I'm sure that we also know that in order to excel in the job market, we have to dress like professionals. Clothing is taken very seriously. Potential employers will judge you on how you present yourself as a total package and what you wear during that judging is also taken into consideration. If you cannot present yourself professionally, there is a good possibly that you can count yourself out for that job.

Now, I ask myself a serious question. Do I personally think that the man over there in the three piece suit and tie can do his job better than the guy over yonder in the "Duff Beer" shirt and crocs? Absolutely not. In fact, Duff Beer guy may be a totally awesome teacher, even more awesome than Fancy McFancypants who only looks awesome but really isn't.

So what's the big deal?

I know personally that there is a time when my crazy clothes just can't be worn (for instance, I dressed very blandly during my field experience and while completing my observation hours). But why did I do that?

Honestly, it was because I wanted people to take me seriously.

Why is it that we judge character by a tie (or lack of it), a suit jacket, or a pair of dress shoes and not by their accomplishments, ideas, and abilities?

Imagine this. Do you think that you would look at your child's teacher differently (or think less of him or her) if he or she dressed more like a punk rocker and less like Carlton and Hilary Banks? I know I would.

Why have we been taught to do that? Feedback, please!

Monday, February 6, 2012

RSSing and All That Jazz

Hey guys! I started my fashion RSS feed today using a program called Google Reader (which was cool because I already had a google account. Therefore, I didn't have to memorize my 34843732732832nd password!!!). I must say that I am genuinely pleased.

Imagine your favorite websites all in one spot. Usually, you have to type in a URL, go to the website, look for today's posts, find out that the posts haven't been updated and that they are the same posts you read yesterday, curse because you wasted time (and we are all a product of that good old American impatience), and repeat. That process is eliminated with Google Reader.

Keeping up with your favorite websites is simple. You log in and, on your homepage, you can scroll down and see all recent activity from the people, corporations, and magazines (to name a few) that you follow. That way, you can chose to read more in depth if a title or picture on your homepage catches your eye. Browsing the web is no longer necessary. The browsing can now come to you.

This tool can be useful for entertainment as well as educationally helpful. If I need to keep up with LGBT politics for class, what better way than to add that topic to my RSS feed? I don't even have to search. Every morning, an updated list of news, articles, videos, and links are sent right to my homepage. It eliminates time, effort, and frustration.

Oh, yes. I like.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Food for Thought

After watching this hilarious video about differentiated instruction in action, I couldn't help but scroll down and read a few comments. It was there that I saw some idiot person post, in response to others, "Somehow you have all missed the point. [This video about] parts of speech is just an example being used to illustrate the absurdity of differentiating teaching instruction." *gags*

Although I would agree that this video is poking fun at the concept, I don't believe that there is anything absurd about differentiating instruction. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it is essentially the practice of providing students with different ways to acquire and comprehend knowledge.

I don't see anything absurd about that.

Any thoughts on the subject?

If the Shirt Fits...

I made a reference in class the other day to an article I read called "Books Like Clothes: Engaging Young Black Men with Reading." This article was featured in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy late last year. I think the article is interesting because of a comment one of my professors made this year. She told us a story about how she went into an inner city school where the children were "rough," "beat up a teacher," and were uninterested in learning. They came to class daily with snacks, put their feet up on their desks, and basically said to her "I dare you to teach me."

And what was her response?

"Pass the popcorn."

Now, I love this teacher very much and she is phenomenal (I'm sure that this story was a joke), but this is the message that many aspiring teachers get about inner city schools. They are deterred by the location of the school or the salary or the students themselves. Nevertheless, it is our responsibilities as teachers to engage learners of different socioeconomic statuses, learners of diverse races and ethnicities, and learners of an infinite number of backgrounds and experiences.

As the article states, one shirt does not fit every student properly. This is especially true with black male students. They have been, for many years, one of the lowest achieving groups in reading and writing. The boy in the article comments that Beowulf just doesn't fit him right.

Does this mean that you shouldn't teach Beowulf to black males? No. This just means you try harder. You wash that shirt a couple of times until it shrinks to fit him better. This means you take that shirt to the tailor and have it hemmed. This means that you patch it up, add some detail, or make a collar. Whatever you have to do to make that shirt fit better, you do it.

No, that shirt won't ever fit every student perfectly but what do you have to lose by trying? Pair the story with another, talk about it in a way that the students can relate to it personally, or even connect it to the news or television. Beowulf and the other classics have lasted because there is some universal message that we, as humans, can utilize. I believe that this message can trump all differences.

All we have to do is try :)

Here's the link to the article! Check it out.