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.