Thursday, September 24, 2009

What Inspires Students?

I witnessed a totally unexpected, but welcome, spark in my classroom this morning. Last night I resumed working on my blog even after attending our 21clc meeting and working afterwards in my room until late. Yes, this is addictive, even though many newbies may not think so at this time. I had the same feelings. Until now. As it was getting late, I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? This is cosmetic. Not really important.” My answer, “It is cool, and I like it.” It was a simple task, really. I was linking a list of new book arrivals on my classroom blog to the author’s website. What I did not realize, was this would be the link to motivating my lethargic seniors to participate in reading, writing, and creating. As I demonstrated a student’s blog post of a recent book she read and linked to her author, I casually clicked over on the class list of new arrivals and arrived at Laurie H. Anderson’s website, “That IS cool. I want a dot com! I do too. Why can’t we create our own dot com? She has got it goin on! Yeah, my girlfriend is reading Wintergirls.” I saw sparks from this group I did not know could exist. What could I say? Look guys, I am willing to do this, however, we will be learning together. Are the little things we do as we learn and create with Web 2.0 important? Obviously, the time I spent last night paid off. Anderson’s link within Web 2.0 inspired students in my small literacy classroom in Batesville, Arkansas. This endeavor is way outside the box, and I need assistance. Any recommendations anyone out there might have, are extremely welcome.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blogging: It's About Connecting People and Ideas

Connecting, reading, and sharing in 21clc. As Mr. Meyer shared his feelings of disgrace about not assigning homework, I so connected to this feeling as recently as today! In my effort to instill responsible behavior in my high school students, I actually alienated them from my class. What is more important, getting potential drop-outs to enjoy attending class or assigning them homework I know they are not going to return? One might remind me of the value of responsibility, however, I know one of these young men works full time at a local factory and realizes the importance of attendance, timeliness, and arriving with appropriate attire. The difference he says, “Money”! As students are always asking why do something, adults ask the same question. Reading this blog gave me a reason to respond and a place to substantiate my feelings about the subject.
Creating Life Long Learners was very informative; however, I noticed a lack of substantiation because there were no comments. I realized that the comments of others helped verify information we bravely put out on the World Wide Web. There were helpful links available on this blog which is more easily accessible on the web than in print.
Patrick’s Update presents very realistic stories of encouragement connecting one young boy to the world. He is no longer alone. Web 2.0 helps each of us connect regardless of age on a very personal basis as well as professionally.
Will Richardson, a well know professional, affords a look into his more personal life by sharing his concerns about his children beginning a new school. Blogging enables individuals to share real life stories, linking to others who have similar experiences.
Pair a Dime blogger indicates even our early learners realize the value of copy and paste of busy work and the lack of importance of rote memorization. Web 2.0 enables us to share examples, graphics, and knowledge. Blogging and sharing enables us to share information, think together, and open our minds. Our children realize the world is at their fingertips.
Blog reading and writing facilitates many different opinions and freedom to express them. Ideas grow out of comments, opinions changed; those unsure make decisions and the reading continues. Reading printed material provides less access and access is not as timely. The same is true of writing, comments may occur, but not as timely, enabling instant gratification, questions, and further growth. The writing is factual, realistic, and reflective. Blog reading allows more skimming for information and relevant ideas. It is easier to move on and search for information relevant to you. Just like with the homework, once I had a feel for the comments, I was able to skim through for the more positive comments, leaving the negative except for those with constructive comments or ideas. Blog reading and writing provides a limitless source and audience.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lit Lab Model

Knowledge, a valuable tool within itself, becomes quite useless when buried unused beneath layers and layers of more knowledge. Ken Stamatis modeled Literacy Lab within one of our own 10th grade English classrooms on Thursday, driving home this very point. As he opened the class with a ten to fifteen minute brainstorm of the derivative, spect, within that same time period, all students were engaged and exposed to a whiteboard covered with vocabulary words and a discussion of their meaning. He also managed to shut down the only possible behavior problem, drawing in this same young man by asking him for assistance in handing out papers. Next, sharing a read aloud, Stamatis modeled the use of retrospect and exposed the students to a young adult novel. There were multi-purposes for all of his activities. Each involved reading and writing, exposing the students to writing strategies and young adult novels. With a quick four word assessment he instantly knew who understood what he was modeling and who did not, using small group tier 2 to address the later while others read their individual books. None of the above is new to those of us who attended Ken Stamatis’ classes or Lit Lab at Harding University, however, knowledge becomes like an encyclopedia if not used, something to look up and read about. Every now and then we need refreshers to revive the knowledge buried within, enabling us to put to practice what obviously works for the students. Thank you Ken Stamatis and our 21C team leaders for making this happen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Out of Lurking!

If you find yourself drowning in Web 2.0 I highly recommend a visit to Steve Hargadon's website. After reading "Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education, I was elated to discover there was hope for me in Web 2.0. I actually visualized myself in his seven step plan. Immersed with colleagues this summer in Web 2.0 who were already quite proficient with blogs and wikis, I realized I have been lurking, ( not procrastinating like I thought), and lurking fit into his plan. Strangely enough, his article gave me the confidence I needed to now "get my feet wet' by taking the next step, participate. "Be brave," he says. However, this is not the motivating step that really gave me the initiative to begin. His third step, "Digest This Thought: The Answer to Information Overload Is to Produce More Information" encompassed every feeling I have had all summer and well into fall. Only by jumping in can I learn to swim. As my students and I delve into our 21st Century learning, I see a gleam in their eyes as they realize, they are not the only learners in the room; we are learning together, and that matters.

Web 2.0

Classroom mini computers, projector, document camera, and large display screens have already changed my professional practice and student participation this fall. With less need for the copy machine, I find more need for jump drives, classroom websites, and student knowledge for sending attachments. Students who once attempted to sleep in class are now actively engaged until the bell rings for the next class. Having just scrapped the tip of Web 2.0 tools, I can only imagine student enthusiasm as we integrate podcasts, blogs, wikis, etc. into our classroom learning environment.
Many of my students come from low socio-economic backgrounds and have learning disabilities which have adversely affected their school lives for years. Having little access to technology on a personal level, bringing Web 2.0 to my classroom provides them with a leveling device for success as a human being in this 21st Century. Suddenly they can participate, create, and collaborate. As my students become more engaged in their own learning, many for the first time in their lives, I hope they can leave high school with as much knowledge of the Web 2.0 tools as we can gain together, an on-line resume for a future job or school, and the confidence to face their digital future. Why would I want to do anything less?