Wednesday, June 2, 2010

End of the year

Year three of my teaching career has flown by. I can't believe how fast the year has gone. I hate saying that because it seems that everyone says that. But I have learned that everyone says that because it is true. Time flies by especially in education. I think it has something to do with the fact that there is a beginning of the year and an end whereas other jobs just continue without any real end.

The second half of this year has been interesting. At the beginning of the semester, I was given 30 netbooks to be used in the classroom. I was of course excited, but I was also nervous. At the beginning, I almost felt guilty when we didn't use them, but I had to remember that there are so many important aspects of English that I am trying to teach.

One major part of this experience that I found rewarding was being forced to think about lessons and lesson planning. I had to go back and think about "why." I know that I should think more about this question while I am teaching/planning, but sometimes time seems to take over. It was a rich experience thinking and reworking lessons, but I found the times of collaboration to be more powerful. I enjoyed working with Cary along with the other teachers who are entrenched in technology. But the most powerful and rewarding experience was collaborating with the students. They have fresh and interesting ideas about technology and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the students in this quest for knowledge.

As I look back at the year, I find it interesting to look at how and why we have used the netbooks. I know that there are stronger ways in which I can use the netbooks and technology. I am looking forward to researching ways in which I can use them.

For the past couple of years, I have used a portfolio as a way to assess the students learning at the end of the year. Many students went back to the way in which we used, glogster, edmodo, and blogger and discussed their learning through these mediums. I would have to say that I got the strongest feedback from our use of edmodo. Numerous students talked about how edmodo allowed them to learn from each other and to voicce their opinions. The students enjoyed using the netbooks, but more importantly it enhanced their educational experience.

Finally, I am now working summer school. I did not realize how much having the netbooks in my classroom has changed me as a teacher. I walked into the classroom on the first day of summer school and said to myself, "What do I do? I don't have the netbooks." I guess the netbooks changed me as much as I hope are changing my students.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Online Discussions

Over the past week I spent a lot of time on with my students. In Humor and Satire, the students listened to Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech. After listening to the speech, we used edmodo to have a discussion about the speech. I asked questions like:
-Why is this considered a great speech?
-How does King's speech build up toward the end
-I asked them to discuss certain metaphors and figurative language.
In British Literature, we read a couple of different poems and discussed them on the edmodo. We used edmodo for two different discussions and two different poems.

The use of edmodo added a lot of different voices into the discussion. I asked a question and immediately I had feedback from at least 50% of the students. (That number might have been closer to 70%) I would like to say all of the students, but some were slower in responding and a couple of students slacked. The percentage of student involvement greatly increased through the use of the technology. I love the idea of allowing students a voice. Comparing edmodo to a class discussion, I find edmodo gave all of the students an opportunity at the same time whereas a class discussion only has one voice at a time.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Week...Another Observation

Two weeks ago, I drove to Turpin High School in order to observe and talk with Tricia Buck. We had an interesting discussion about the use of technology in the classroom. Tricia and I had a lot in common, but this week was different. I was going to observe Rose Arnell and I really didn't know what to expect when I drove to Nagel Middle School and walked among the 7th and 8th graders. What I didn't realize before my trip to Nagel was that I had met Rose before. My first year at Anderson was her daughter, Iris', last year at Anderson. Iris was in my homeroom my first year. Also, last year, her son, Shane, was on my freshmen baseball team. So when I walked into the classroom I recognized her as the woman cheering for her son.

Rose does some fascinating things in her classroom. She teaches students with high IQs, but what is interesting is the variety that she has in her classroom. She has students who are more articulate than my 11th graders, but in the same room she has students with aspergers who struggle with social situations.

Her classroom is set up with the capability for the students to work one-on-one. The students at this time are working on a project in which they are making documentaries. I'm not sure how long Rose was going to give the students for the project, but it I would have to think that they would need at least two weeks. The students were early on in their project. Currently they were watching and picking choosing clips from hours of footage.

I spent a couple of hours with Rose. I spent the first class observing the students, talking with the students, and discussing their assignments. The second hour we spent talking about technology. It seems that we both have the same difficulties with the students. Students rush through their assignments. I hate the fact that students complete an assignment, but they don't put enough effort into it. Rose said something interesting, "I'm more interested in the process." I find this to be crucial and difficult. The problem with being interested in the process is that the students do not care about the process; they just want the final product. We finished the observation with sharing some of the successful tools that she has used in the classroom.

Rose is doing a lot of good with her use of technology in the classroom. I walked away from her classroom with a since of where technology can take the students.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Yesterday I had a chance to experience life as a Turpin least for a couple of hours. It started with that strange feeling of walking into a strange, sometimes hostile place. I walked through the front doors of Turpin and luckily found a former Anderson teacher who pointed me in the correct direction. I walked through the double doors and found the end of my journey...B304. I have no idea what the B means. At first glance, I wasn't sure if it was a classroom or a magical fairy land. There were butterflies as far as the eye could see. And what??? COOL AIR??? Where was I? Finally I came to my senses and walked through the door. After adjusting to the butterflies over my head and the cool air racing across my face, I was introduced to Tricia Buck. Buck is an English teacher who teaches World Literature and British Literature. After finding my seat and taking my computer out, the final bell rang and class began.

Over the past few months, I have heard a lot about Tricia Buck, but I don't believe I had ever actually met her. I was interested to see what her classroom was like and was interested in picking her brain. She has been incorporating technology into her class for the past 8 years or so. I don't know how accurate the 8 years part is, but I know that it has been a while.

Here is what happened...
1. Class started with her recapping her trip to the Underground Railroad Museum.
2. She read 3 poems from Langston Hughes (I don't teach American Literature, but if I did I could spend a week reading his poems. Powerful stuff.)
3. The students used the netbooks to listen to three selections from NPR. One was a poet who is in jail for her poetry. The second, I forgot. The third was a collaboration of Snoop Dogg and an Indian woman. (Again the Indian woman may not be exactly right, but that doesn't change the posting.)
4. The students spent time posting a response onto the class ning.

We also talked about some things that I do in class as well as what she does in class. There was a lot of overlapping, but there was also differences as well. I found a couple of things that she said to be interesting. 1. She tries different things in her classroom. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. 2. Not everything that she does uses technology.

My thoughts
Her lesson did engage the students. I liked the way that she used the netbooks for this particular lesson. First, the students were able to hear the words from the author. This is always powerful. I enjoy listening to books on CDs, but it is always more powerful when the author himself/herself reads the text. Second, the netbooks gave the students choice. They were able to choose which one they were going to listen to first. This may not seem like a big deal, but students love choice. Were all of the students engaged? I don't know. It is difficult to know how well they were engaged without looking at their postings. But I do think that the likelihood of the students being more engaged was higher due to the netbooks rather than listening to them as a whole.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Flip Video

My Humor and Satire course is really two courses in one. The first half of the course is based on literature that falls into the genre of humor and satire. The second half of the course is all about public speaking. This is a nightmare for many of my students. Last semester was my first time doing the course and I must say that I like the way this semester is going more. Last semester I started with public speaking and then moved into the literature. This semester I started with the literature and am now moving into public speaking. The students are more comfortable with each other, which is making for stronger speeches.

This semester I am also utilizing the flip video cameras for the speeches. The student's first speech was the Brown Bag Speech. In this speech students bring in three meaningful items. It is a fun speech to watch because they are short and I learn more about the student's lives. The videos have made an impact on the students. A lot of the students thought their speeches went well before they viewed themselves on camera. After they viewed themselves, they realized all of the problems that they had in their speech making. I asked the students to critique their speeches and to write a blog about them. I heard from many of the students and the overwhelming response was, "I didn't realize I look like that" or "I didn't realize that I did that" when making their speeches.

I'm looking forward to seeing their second round of speeches. I think the video cameras will help the students improve at a more rapid pace.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Options for the Blog

The students created blogs at the beginning of the semester. I love the opportunities that blogs give students as well as myself. I love the fact that they can write, post, create, and find items to post on their blogs. There are a lot of positives that I have found from the use of blogs.

Students have not taken personal ownership in their blogs. I don't want to assign too much to the blogs that it just becomes a chore. I want them to want to get on them and post their feelings and thoughts on assignments. This as not been as successful as it could. I'm starting to think that I have not assigned enough to them. I just want to avoid them becoming busy work. Because if I'm just assigning busy work then what is the point.

My humor and satire course has changed. The first nine weeks we spent looking at literature that was in the humor and satire genre. The final nine weeks of school will be spent on public speaking. One idea that I have is to video tape the speeches with the flip cameras, post them on their blogs and then have the students reflect on their speaking. I think this will be a rich learning experience for the students, but I'm very worried about the logistics. This always seems to the be the problem with the cameras and the computers, but I'm going to try to not let that deter me from what I want to do.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Project

For the past two weeks, my students in Humor and Satire have been reading The Taming of the Shrew. The play is an interesting play because of the issues that it brings up and the ability to use humor while diving into these issues. I posed the question as to whether they thought the play was sexist or not and if so then why would he write it. I wanted to give the students some options as to how they wanted to answer the question. Some of the groups did newspapers, comparison glogs, television shows, and a soundtrack.

The students liked the freedom. They liked choosing their assignment. They liked working together in groups. They liked using the netbooks.

I didn't like the amount of time the assignment took. I didn't like that one group did a lot of the work outside of class, so I didn't see the process that they went through, even though their final project was pretty good. I didn't like the lack of depth that the students took on the question. I didn't like that all of the groups took the easy answer, "Yes it is sexist." I didn't like the difficulty of making sure they were on task.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Netbooks have arrived

The netbooks have arrived and are now in my classroom. They are so cute. Monday will be an interesting day. I'm looking forward to trying them out on Monday. I want to give the students an opportunity to use them, and I want to get my warnings out of the way. Cary keeps saying, "Don't look for tools, but rather start with what you want to teach them." This is a tough statement to follow. It is hard not to get caught up in the gadgets part of it.

British Literature: They are about to start reading Canterbury Tales on Monday. I'm thinking about giving them some time on Monday to research Thomas a Becket. I wonder if I keep it less formal if it will produce more geniune learning.

Humor and Satire: The students will finish reading Taming of the Shrew on Monday and I'm trying to think of a culminating assignment for them. They will have a take home test based on three essay questions that will force them to delve into the material and hopefully have a deeper understanding of the play. I want the in-class assignment to be based around the question, "Is this a sexist play?" Again I want them to think critically, collaborate, and enjoy Shakespeare. I just haven't come up with the assignment yet.

Monday opens up so many opportunities in my classroom. I feel like so many restrictions that hold teachers down have been lifted off of my classroom.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Crazy Days

The past couple of weeks feel like a blur. I have been busy watching kids, painting kitchen cabinets, and grading papers. In an age of so much technology, is there a way to get out of grading papers? I would be all about that. How many times have I written, "vague," "show don't tell," or "this is not a thesis statement"? A lot...And this is only my third year of teaching.

It has been an interesting day. The students were given their papers back yesterday and now have a chance to do rewrites. Typically, students whine about their grades, but today was a little different. I had a student come in after school to talk about her paper. We had an interesting discussion about her paper, but it left me thinking. What and how is the best way to help the students in their writing skills. How can I explain to the students that, "I don't want crap." I feel like I have tried so many different ways of teaching writing. Over the past couple of days we have been looking at examples of writings that need work. I think this is a powerful tool. Students are always amazed by the mistakes they see on screen. But I keep coming back to this question, "What is the best way?"

A few ideas have been floating around my nogan. 1. The netbooks will allow more in-class writing. 2. Using programs in which students can collaborate together on their writing. 3. Introducing websites that can actually help them with grammar, structure, etc.

The problem: How much of this comes down to the effort a student decides to put into their paper.

I know this is raw...but I'm kinda a raw person.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This week was an interesting week in my journey in teaching with technology. Even though I have not received the netbooks, I have seen The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Here is a run down of what my students were doing this week. The British Literature courses created comic books based on the epic poem Beowulf. My Humor and Satire courses were creating short 3 minute skits from the hilarious sitcom Seinfeld. (I feel like I must defend this assignment. Last semester a common phrase from my students was, "That's not funny." We started this semester talking about where humor comes from. We are discovering that humor comes from the interpretation and not the words. So they are using an episode of Seinfeld to show this.) Thanks Hutch for the help on this.

The Good...The amount of students on task in British Literature has been 100%. The students have spent three class periods creating their comic books on Thanks D-Rage for the sweet website. Some of them have come up with some very creative and interesting comic strips. The Humor and Satire students have been working together, problem solving and figuring out how to use those cute little flip cameras. Overall, the students have enjoyed the assignments and have worked hard.

The Bad...Even though the students have worked hard, some of the comic strips are still ARGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH. After looking at two of them on Thursday, I was ready to scream. I thought because they would have to post these onto their blogs, that I would see more attention to grammar and to the details. That was not the case. The humor students did not "go over the top." I wanted them to really get into them. I wanted more and I am not getting that "more."

The Ugly...No real ugly with the comic strips, except that I wanted the website to do more, and it has limits. For the Humor students, there has been some ugly. I thought I had figured out the problems we were having with editing their scenes on the student accounts. I was wrong. It has been a mess. It has been irritating and discouraging. But at the same, we worked through and finally found a solution. The most irritating part...the wasted time. My wasted time and the students.

The Next Step...Keep trying new ways of doing old assignments. The good outweighs the bad, and I look forward to finding new ways of connecting literature with the student's lives.


Monday, January 25, 2010

A Phone Call

We don't say, "good job" enough in this world. I know that I am supposed to affirm my students when they succeed and I do at times, but I rarely think about how great it feels. It feels great when we hear these words. As children we want to hear these words from our parents, and as adults it is nice to hear.

Last Saturday, a fellow teacher called me. Not to reveal his identity, I will call him Mr. Slice. We have a long standing golf competition. He rarely wins. So Mr. Slice was a teacher in Cincinnati before moving to Michigan due to a promotion taken by his wife. We taught together at Glen Este for a year, and I always thought he was an outstanding teacher.

I'll get to the point now. He came across my British Literature and Humor and Satire blogs. He was impressed with what the students were creating. We spent the next ten minutes discussing and brainstorming ideas. It was fantastic to hear someone say affirm the work I am doing with my students.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1st day

Today was the first day of the second semester. Today I had five new classes. Today I was giddy thinking about using the netbooks with these students. Today we talked about them and I noticed the glimmer of interest in the student's eyes. Not all of them, but some. On Friday we are heading to the Media Center to create student blogs. Should be exciting.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sea of Technology

One month ago I was told by my school district that I would be receiving 30 netbooks for my classroom and for my students. I wrote a proposal for them, but never did I think I would ever receive them. I did. After a celebratory minute I started thinking about the task I had just taken on. Crap...what do I do now. This is only my third year of teaching and this is the first year that I'm starting to feel like I know what I'm doing. It is such a trial by fire job. I remember Chet Laine, an amazing professor at the University of Cincinnati, said it took three years of teaching before he felt like he was even thinking about his students. In the three years that I have been teaching I have been given some compliments, but that doesn't change the feeling of uncertainty.

In this blog, I am going to try to focus on my journey through the use of technology in the classroom. For the past couple of hours, I have twitted, blogged, ninged, and even rode a google wave. It truly is a sea of technology. There seems to be no beginning and no end.

I love teaching "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell because of the line "Time is like a winged chariot." Truer words have never been written. Time is always coming. There never seems to be enough of it. It is the most valuable commodity that I have.

Yesterday I met with Cary Harod. Something that she said really stuck with me. This is a loose quotation. "Don't think about how you will use technology, but think about the content goals first and then find ways in which technology can enhance it." Or something like that. I don't want the use of technology in my classroom to be just for the sake of it. I want real collaboration to take place. I want real creativity to take place. I want real thinking to take place. I want real learning to take place.

The tone of this blog may sound drab or down, but that is not the intention. I'm excited about using the netbooks with the students and I'm excited about what they will share, produce, and invent.