Thing 7b: Google Reader Gem

First, I must admit, that I am down to the wire this week in staying current with K12 Learning AND doing the HW for my TWO doctoral classes – even my cats know that “something is up”! So, not having recently glanced at my Google Reader (okay, okay, I will start tomorrow – just with five minutes per day!) I told myself that I would gather learning, wisdom, and affirmation from the first article/blog/etc. that jumped at me – and I found all three in Henry Thiele’s Essential Classroom Technologies.  Prior to reading, I assumed that I might be “behind the curve” or not at all savvy, but to my delight, I learned that Henry thinks we as teachers need just three things in order to open the world to our students: a computing device, a projection device, and a good set of speakers – the rest is up to us – and I could not agree more with his caveat – and I quote ” I am only limited by my creativity, which is limited by my time.”  Raise your hands if you agree!  Gotta go do my other HW (homework). Best, Susanne G.

Thing #14: Sold on Quizlet and WallWisher

I  love this course! I have just signed up for Quizlet and WallWisher – two tools I know I will use. In fact, I made a wall in Wall Wisher to gather my student responses to Whirligig by Paul Fleischman,  one of our two required summer reading novels. I will do the same for The Hound of the Baskervilles. Who doesn’t love post-it sticky notes?  My students will be all over this and pulling the wall up on our classroom smart board will create even more discussion. I became so enthralled with both sites and insisted my husband come and see what I was learning that I failed to pay attention to all of Shelley’s prompts, but I can tell you that Quizlet is incredibly adaptable to student learning and interaction – and puts the student in charge of his own study and review – in terms of design and rehearsal approaches. This is great for that passive student who feels that he or she doesn’t know the “how” of study.  I also see that as a teacher I need not reinvent the wheel as there are a number of “quizzes” ready for review – the selections just for poetry terms was quite impressive.

Wall Wisher is simple but powerful – a way for students to post responses to reading, writing, viewing, almost anything!   I am still mulling over the myriad possibilities of this tool and feel that I could create wall after wall after wall!

I am thrilled will all I am learning and feel that a whole new world has unfolded for me. I have taken the Web 2.0 plunge! My only question – how will I keep up with all of this? I need more time!  Best to all my k12learning2.0 colleagues, Susanne G.

Thing 13: K12 Online Conference Session

Okay! I am using purple text to emphasize my passion about this kind of professional learningAnd while I did some perusing of the main page of K12 Online Conference, I think I hit on a session that is “just right” for what I attempt to do with my own students when it comes to reading and comprehension. I chose a 2009 session entitled Keeping Literacy in 21st Century Literacy by Wesley Fryer and presented by Drew Schrader, a high school English teacher in Bloomington, IL.  My attention remained glued for the entire session, and I even took three pages of notes – proof that note-taking is such an important skill for our students. Drew opened the session by sharing some assumptions that he had about his viewers – and I liked this because his assumptions further convinced me that the session was perfect for my viewing, listening and learning. Drew assumed that a viewer was fairly new to Web 2.0 technologies, but interested in learning about them. His second assumption was that his viewer cared about student engagement – or else we wouldn’t be watching such an online session. Finally, Drew assumed that his viewer was busy because of our choice to visit an online session to LEARN.  So, I decided that I liked the person “inside-my-computer-who-was-talking-to-me-that-I-of-course-could-not-see”!   Drew drew on (no pun intended)  concepts from teaching theory, literacy pedagogy, and tech integration to talk about issues surrounding reading and writing fluency and then provided strategies and respective 2.0 tools to achieve the solution.

ISSUE #1: Many of our students are not able to metacognate about their own reading. I agree with this observation – and this is one of my first questions and interactions I have with my own students as we set out to do the “Business” of English class: read!  I ask my students: Just what goes on in our minds as we read? as an entree to metacognition. I insist they learn the word, what it means, write it down, and then bring it up at the dinner table that night as polite conversation!

Drew’s STRATEGY to this issue is to do Think Alouds with the 2.0 TOOL ScreenToaster – a creative way to gather discussion about a particular literary piece and capture it. Important Note: I return to this blog to bring you an important update: Screentoaster will no longer be available after July 31, 2010. The site is shutting down.

A second ISSUE, again related to comprehension, is that students struggle to make use of text conventions. A STRATEGY to support this is to annotate texts as a guide. And the Web 2.0 TOOL  Drew demonstrated is Diigo, a social bookmarking site which allows a user (students and teacher) to highlight text and add sticky notes – very neat and very useful.

A third and final ISSUE  Drew presented has to do with students’ need to organize their ideas. A useful STRATEGY that many of us employ has to do with mindmapping, but the next time I have my students do a presentation, we will skip past Powerpoint and use Drew’s suggested Web 2.o TOOL: Prezi. I like this much more than power point and am going to close this rather lengthy blog so I can go check out all three of these tools. I am going to push myself to do all my presentations using Prezi – one big screen that holds everything, but the creator can move around in and in and out of. Far out!

I found this “couch conference” absolutely wonderful – informative, useful, educational, and worthwhile. I am eager to go right now to explore the three TOOLS that I just learned about. This a new kind of professional learning that I will use often, and that I am eager to share with my colleagues.  Hope I don’t “turn off” potential participant bloggers from reading and responding to this post – I know it is lengthy.

Thing #11: Slideshow

Okeedoekee!  I am moving forward and typing a new post but still have a slide show that is somewhat “under construction.”  But allow me to tell you why and all about it! I have always been drawn to sunflowers – I know, as have some famous artists – so I  gathered five various photographs of sunflowers using Flickr and Creative Commons. As Shelley directed us, I also linked them to my wiki – and then proceeded to write this fabulous story about how sunflowers reflect mathematics – notably, the Fibonacci Sequence. Okay, so picture this. I used VoiceThread to load my photographs in the slide show and then pressed the record button – but alas, I have no microphone. I have a way around this and will travel to school to “borrow” one and then I will return to this post and link to my slide show. How does that sound. Meanwhile, I am going to mix up some corn salad so that my husband and I can go enjoy some of July 4th with our daughter.

Thing 10: My visit to OER Commons

Well, I could really get lost in the world of OER Commons. I realize that I have done a version of this approach in my numerous searches on the internet for various teaching ideas and lesson plans. But now, I have an incredible go to place and a simple way of saving lessons to return to. Wow! Once again, I feel that another world has opened, and I look forward to returning to Creative Commons to just explore – this weekend! I did do a search on writing (a very general search) and came across a beautifully prepared lesson on sentence combining using author writing style. I could  easily adapt this to most of the literature I share with my own students and turn around and share that adaptation with my new OER colleagues. This is great stuff, and immersing myself in this wonderful k12 Web 2.0 online class has been absolutely wonderful. Shelley, I cannot thank you enough. Can I take it again in the future? Will I be able to save the wonderful wiki as a reference tool to refresh my own learning? A million thanks.

Thing #10: Creative Commons and my Life

Once again, I am enthralled – this time, with the world of Creative Commons!  While I have not noticed the CC logo before, I was exposed to CC videos last summer in a doctoral class on Web 2.0 technologies. I recall watching one on setting up a wiki and when did I see it again? This past week for this class while working on wikis.  I am impressed with the content and presentation in the videos: they are clear, concise, and articulate, and leave a viewer feeling as if “I can do that!”  Yes, I do think that CC will impact the way students learn and create projects. I am ready to set up a wiki for each of my 8th grade English classes and will be sharing the Temple University Code of Best Practices for Fair Use with my students. I am eager to go (right now) to peruse what is available from other educators and also ready to share some of my own ideas. I have always been a big believer in collaboration and the sharing of best practice and have never even considered ownership of what I create for my students. After all, this is the field of education (For ALL) that we are a part of! I think that CC will be a great resource for my students as I guide them to a variety of places for their own learning and creativity. I do use digital images, and audio and video clips from the web in my teaching practice. But I must be straight-up honest and say that while I have photo galleries on my laptop (I am an avid photographer), my husband has taken care of transferring all of them from my digital camera to my laptop.As I am a year-round student myself, extra  time is an  issue with me, so I take advantage of his skill – and tell him so! I have not shared content on the web before, but now look forward to doing so…I suppose another digital niche I am behindhand in! As far as who owns my teaching materials, I suppose they can be claimed by the publishing company, but then I suppose they got their materials from others, like, uh, Shakespeare, Poe, Harper Lee,  to name a few! At the moment of my blogging, I don’t think that I am savvy enough with CC to ascertain the potential negatives, but wonder if there are some types out there who may take a “come whatever” attitude and not abide by the CC guidelines of sharing and using within the domain.   I will return to this blog to complete the STRETCH activity but for right now it is onto class for me. Week 5 is already a wonderful discovery and learning experience for me. So glad that I go started today, Monday!

Thing #8: Stretch Exercise: Wikipedia visit

I have probably read Jane Eyre ten times – I know, that is strange, but it is the one novel that I think every female should read. I can, even today, just pick it up by my bedside and read just a page. Everyone at one time or another has that “full immersion” experience with a novel or story – somehow one’s engrossed reading carries him or her right into the story! Anywho, I happen to like Wikipedia and read up on what is there regarding Charlotte Bronte. And while I found it all interesting – and was aware of much of it from earlier research, I had never explored the history or discussion tabs, and found all that very interesting – but even, more so that there are other nuts like me who also adore this novel. There were just some minor corrections in the discussion – such as the fact that sister Maria was older than another sister, but that these two sisters died of tuberculosis in the same month and year – ages 10 and 11 or thereabouts. I did not spend too much time on the history, but there was a ton of it.

Thing 8: Wikis: Thoughts and Observations

Wow! I am definitely sold on wikis, and I must confess that part of my being in “with both feet” is that I have a familiarity with how to set up a wiki – BECAUSE, get ready, I have about 5 (FIVE) wikis already. However, I have not used a wiki as a platform for teaching, collaborating, sharing, or learning, and after reading Vicki Davis’s blog post ‘Wiki Wiki Teaching’ I am feeling as if I am back to Teaching 101 – Vicki Davis has been quite an inspiration to me! I enjoyed exploring ‘Discovery Utopias’ where middle school students answer “all of the great questions” of society. This site provides a number of effective learning and collaborating opportunities for students and a wealth of information to the teacher about students’ responses, writing, and characteristics. Upon exploring, I especially appreciated the ‘Discovery Blogging Rules” and plan to use some of the same ones with my students when I arrange a wiki for each of my classes! Which is, by the way, something I plan to do right away.  I found this wiki to be simply arranged and easy to explore. However, I felt that the list of rules was rather long, but then decided that it is vitally important to teach “Digital Citizenship” as well as have one’s (a teacher’s) bases covered. Code Blue was another blog I took a look at and found it quite extensive in terms of what students had provided in terms of  pages and further links about the human body.  A wiki is truly the best platform to provide student inquiry and true student learning as I recently read “the only real learning arrives by teaching oneself” – I know somewhat  true for me. I particulary enjoyed the wiki FHS Wolves Den, a “site to support 11th grade English and U.S. History classes…a hub for class lectures, essays, novels, projects, units, learning apps, and discussions…”  Through our Marist website, each teacher can set up his or her own webpage – a practice that is encouraged.  I have done this for years now and post assignments, essays, models of essays, interesting links, etc.  And while there is an email feature,  it is not set up as an interactive site – more of a bulletin board for students to access for information.  FHS Wolves Den – Jennifer Barnett’s wiki for her English and History students is one that I will refer to again when I set up my English class wikis. I see now that Jennifer is working for Alababm Best Practices Center to support educators in the state with Web 2.0 use in the classroom. What a great idea! Does Georgia have a Best Practices Center?  I am going to close this post and continue with Week 4 and wikis. I am kicking myself that it is Saturday and Week 5 begins Monday and I am just bringing up the rear here with wikis – something that I want to return to and spend more time with. I have been keeping a notebook with handwritten notes about blogs and wikis and teachers – all sites and people that I want to return to and learn from as I move ahead with my own 2.0 use with my students.

Cherry Trees in Shanghai, China, March 2009

Cherry Trees in Shanghai, China, March 2009

thing #5: Response to RSS Feed site

Okeedoekee! I think I might be close to getting the hang of RSS Feeds – I think!  I just finished reading “S’mores” on Successful Teaching and like the thoughts and considerations offered here in light of the fact as Garrison Keillor points out every Saturday night at 6 P.M. that most of us, like the youth of Lake Woebegon are “above average”!  (Reruns on Sunday mornings!) Anywho! I am onto the wonderful world of wikis!

Thing #4: Response to Questions about Blogs

With regards to the genre of blog writing, I notice that it is informal and informative – but it can also be persuasive and expository and narrative. For example, Mr. Meyer’s “Why I Don’t Assign Homework” is a blog I found to be quite persuasive, and I found Vicki Davis’s “Spies Like Us” to be quite informative – and a little scary! I left Vicki’s blog thinking that I might need to round up cell phones at the beginning of every class!  In further consideration of the writing associated with blogs, I notice that minor things like spelling are not suspect, especially when the reader considers the writer, as in Laura Stockman’s “Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference”.  Blog reading differs somewhat from other types of reading in that the reader is prepared for what he or she is about to read – and reads to learn of another’s opinion, feelings, reactions, and responses to something. Blog writing is different from other writing in that it is not as structured as  technical or text book writing and certainly not plot driven as in a novel. It is informative at its foundation – but can also describe, persuade, and explain. Commenting contributes to the meaning making of any given blog because it provides a platform for response that may affirm or refute or even ask the writer to consider other perspectives.

I am convinced that blogging can facilitate learning because it allows for authentic responses and interaction. Blogging asks students to read carefully and student responses might possibly be more well-developed and thought out as “somewhere out there”  are several peers “reading in” and responding.