Thursday, October 4, 2012

Webinar Watching

Topics for Today
1. Welcome back
2. Grammar Webinar

I last time we had to blog, was almost 2 months ago.  I was looking forward to a mini vacation then, and I am wishing for one now.  That said, I am loving this adventure so far.  I am in a classroom that I love, but I am still trying to balance the many strands of my life.  I hope my fellow bloggers are finding fun and excitement in their classrooms and university classes.  Welcome back!

For todays blog, I watched the Webinar entitled "Got Good Grammar? — Using to help students improve their grammar/writing skills while saving red ink!" I like that our classes  use past MACers' work to show us what is possible.  Jeff Scheur created a Webinar, where he discussed how his manual and website helped his students learn how to use grammar.  This is relevant to me as a future English teacher, but also immediately because my mentor teacher asked me if I had any ideas about teaching better grammar to our AP students.  

Mr. Scheur suggested creating a Grammar Manual and then instead of writing feedback on a student's paper, he just wrote a number that correlated to a section in the Grammar Manual.  I think this idea would be helpful for the motivated students that want to really learn and understand the grammar.  On the other hand, I wonder if the less motivated students would still see red ink and still be discouraged.  A written manual would be a cool classroom tool, and maybe the students could help create it as an assignment. I think this would be considered an authentic task and a useful one as well.

The second and main portion of this Webinar was about the website This is a really cool website that inputs "relevant" names and activities into grammar practice.  The student logs into the website and chooses which categories he or she is interested in, and then practices grammar while seeing names of people he or she knows.  The categories cover sports, music, tv, celebrities. cartoons, and presidents.  The other way students can practice grammar is by connecting this website with Facebook and then the student practices grammar using his or her Facebook friends. I think this is again, a great tool for motivated students that want their work to be relevant and engaging, but I still wonder if the mere mention of a celebrity really engages them. I would definitely be willing to try this and provide this website as a resource for my students.  I agree that students should be engaged if we want them to learn grammar, but I am not sure this "Mad-Lib" style of practice is the way to go.  My first conflict is the fact that the scenarios don't seem to make sense. One practice problem had something to do with Kanye West buying a donkey in Egypt.  This may sound silly to the student and keep him or her engaged for a moment, but it doesn't seem authentic.  My other conflict is that while it seems individualized because the student chooses the category and practice, it is ultimately a website, not a real person.  I know that it would be many hours of work if a teacher were to create these type of "relevant" practice problems, but if it is used for extra help or as a differentiation tool, meaning not used for everyone, then I think it could be done.  I love the idea of using examples that the kids might be excited about, but as we have talked about in our Education Psych class, engagement from a hook is not always the best engagement.  If the student reads the Kanye West example and then starts daydreaming about Mr. West, grammar is still not be learned.

I don't mean to disregard this tool because I think it is great for certain uses. I already bookmarked, diigo'd, and evernoted the web page (I have a problem), but I have reservations.  It is often hard for me to evaluate tools like these because I have not really been doing the heavy lifting of grading, but I appreciate that this works for many teachers and while it might not fit my personality, I can see some merit. And I do like that it is free!

Has anyone investigated the website or watched the Webinar? I would like to hear what my fellow MACers have to say. English teachers are you sold on this website? 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day 5 Reflection

Topics for Today
1. Last class of the summer
2. Past MACers
3. A look ahead

It is odd that it was the 5th day of class and also the last class of the summer term, but that is how it was.  Class was interesting on Friday, we were separated by cohort again.  It would have been cool to hear all the past MACers, but it was more personal with less people in each room.  Then we moved to the School of Information that had a pretty cool interior, but the room we ended up in was not the most conducive to our class.  We shared our panel discussions, and then discussed some of the other technologies we might see in our years of teaching.  When class was over, it didn't really feel like the summer term was over, but as I write this, I look forward to possibly sleeping passed 10 o' clock in the morning tomorrow.

It was awesome to meet and listen to past MACers, not only because it gave me encouragement and hope for what I can accomplish, but also because some of their stories were amazing.  We met a math teacher, a history teacher, and an English teacher, but they were more different than just their disciplines.  The English teacher was from a school for pregnant and parenting moms.  They have an urban farm, early education providers, and a project based curriculum that helps prepare those girls for adult life.  How amazing does that sound? Answer: Super amazing.  Then it was interesting to hear about the vastly different technological resources available to the other two teachers. One worked in a one-to-one computer school and the other worked in a school where his classroom/teacher computer stopped working shortly into his placement.  I am interested to see how technology class will be conducted when we are all in our placements and in very different circumstances relative of one another.

As much as I am grateful that we have August off (for the most part) I am really excited for the coming year. I have waited what seems like a long time to reach this point in my life and I can't wait to keep working and achieve a long-awaited goal.  I know it is going to be a lot of work, but I keep reminding myself that this is what I signed up for.

Fellow MACers, enjoy August and I look forward to seeing/working and learning with everyone in September.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Topics for Today:
1. EduBlogs
2. Using Tech

I dove into the EduBlog world last week.  I learned so many things just by peeking at them.  This week we had to go a little deeper, meaning commenting on and blogging about what we read.  I scanned the lists of EduBloggers to look for blogs about English. I found a couple I enjoyed, like this one and this one. I think it is a good idea to find teachers blogging about my content area, but I also find value in blogs about other content areas too.  Then I started looking at the general teaching strategies blogs.  I found I liked her writing style and the way she still seemed idealistic.  As I started thinking more, I like the general EduBlogs better or at least equal to the content area blogs because the advice is more applicable. Even within the content area of English, there are so many different genres and grade levels.  Sometimes the material is not relevant to what an English teacher could be teaching.  Teachers At Risk is a great blog that shares insights, resources, and practical classroom strategies.  

I liked this blog so much that I added it into my Google Reader. I was proud of myself for utilizing this resource. This only lasted a moment. When I logged into my Google Reader I had 135 unread posts.  Apparently I am good at finding cool stuff on the Internet, but not very good at actually reading it.  I hope this realization spurs me to go back and read those posts, but I'm not sure when.  I'm using the technology, I just have to be more efficient and more thoughtful with how I am using it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 4 Reflection

Topics for Today:
2. This I Believe

Today's class went by fast.  It was nice to explore and learn about a few different organizational tools.  I have mentioned before that I like to save bookmarks, and two of the tools allow me to do that across computers.  My tool was Skype, which was a good tool to explain because my group members already knew so much about it. We had more time to focus on how Skype could be used in different classrooms.  I liked Evernote better than Diigo, and I liked Dropbox the least, but then I used Dropbox to back up a few of my files and I realized I might use it more than I thought.  I liked the idea of having handouts for our group members, but my group found that the time to "teach" each other was too long for our teaching purposes.

Next week is the last week of our summer term here in the MAC program. The program is flying by, and final assignments are almost behind us.  The "This I Believe" podcast is the final project for our technology class, but I am not quite sure what I believe yet.  I know I want to incorporate technology into my future classroom somehow, but I am not sure what my school will have resource wise, and I am not sure what technology will be appropriate for my future classes.   I have some thinking to do on this subject.  Does anyone have any initial thoughts? My initial thoughts are to start with a general belief that technology is useful and ubiquitous in our society. I am thinking about teaching with technology as a necessary skill we should be helping students acquire.  I am not sure what this thinking will lead to, but I have a couple days.  Good luck on our last week, fellow MACers!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 3 Reflection

Topics for Today:
1. Games (again)
2. Weebly

Before class we watched a cool Ted Talk and read about how games might have some interesting components useful in education.  Then in class we found out that one teacher (a past MACer) was using Angry Birds to teach his students about Parametric Equations.  Angry Birds is not going to lead to solving our world's problems, but it did seem like a cool way to reward students and maybe keep some of them interested in math.  I would have enjoyed talking about how kids respond to educational games, but it was exciting to see a teacher using video games in an educational way.  It was also cool to see a teacher trying something new without having to face obstacles from administration or students, but I think it has a lot to do with the kind of school our guest worked at.
We also played a kind of game where we had to decode a story about an airplane.  I really liked the discussion that happened after this activity. I think by dividing the class into the cohorts was a good idea because it gives more people a chance to participate.  The decoding also helped to understand how some struggling readers try to comprehend a selection of reading I might give as an English teacher.
The second part of class was devoted to creating a website portfolio.  It was interesting to build a website from a template, but until I have a more concrete understanding of what my end portfolio is supposed to look like I can't go further with my website.  Weebly, the website builder we used, was user friendly and free which was great.
I am enjoying learning about all the different technological resources, and even though I don't see uses for all of the resources yet, I am still filing them away for later.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gaming for Change

Topics for Today

I'm a gamer. I play Boggle, Monopoly, Bar Trivia, Capture the Flag, softball and many other kinds of games with my friends and family.  These are not the kinds of games that are being talked about in our readings for Technology class. Video games and online games, like World of Warcraft are the kind of games that Jane McGonigal talks about in her Ted Talk.  One reason I love Ted Talks, is that there is a seemingly infinite amount of topics that are covered.  Jane comes on the stage and starts talking about how we as a society need to play video games more. This goes against what I thought and what I have heard other teachers say. However, I was almost convinced after that 20 minute talk.  Not just because she mentions "The Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, but also because she told a fascinating story about Lydians and how dice games saved their civilization.  While I am still skeptical, I do think we can learn a lot from games.  Towards the end of the Ted Talk I started to disagree with her theories, but I would like to learn more.

When I started thinking about how games could change the world I thought of competition.  I don't think we use competition effectively.  We compete in sports and I think it drives people to practice more.  Couldn't we compete for social justice? Couldn't we compete to see who could build the most schools?  I think the answer in "no" we don't value those things or they don't make for "good TV".  And I think that when I have seen attempts at "social just competitions" it always looks forced or not well thought out.  We are a society of baggage, our history has blemishes (understatement) that can't (in my opinion) be fixed with games.  On an individual level, healthy competition is awesome.  I want to be better than I was or I want to be as good as _______.  Maybe we can change the framework of competition overtime. Maybe in our classrooms we can use language like "practice" and "fundamentals" to talk about kindness, or being a global citizen, or striving for social justice.  These are areas of our life that need fundamentals and practice to be successful. Maybe the games that Jane talks about will be useful to the children of today because they would be life long learners of social change. For me, I think about her games like I think about fire drills, the sense of urgency isn't there, but it is useful practice.

I think games have given me lots of skills. I like competition, I don't mind losing, but I always play to win.  I learned about teamwork, quick thinking, critical thinking, and strategy.  All of these things have helped me and will continue to help me in the future.  There are definite skills that come from video games too, and I am optimistic about the evolution of games, maybe they will change the world.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 2 Reflection

Topics for Today
1. Visitors
2. Consumption vs. Creation
3. Podcasts

There were many visitors in class today. The students that we only saw for a few minutes and the librarians that helped us create a lesson plan. One of the best things about this program is the connections we have the opportunity to make.  Not only do we have the opportunity to connect with our focal students (and others), our fellow cohorts, and professors, but we also get to meet special guests.  Today's special guests were Michigan librarians that opened my eyes to the many resources available. The Michigan, and are all bookmarked on my computer waiting to be used. My list of bookmarks show that I enjoy finding and saving interesting/useful websites, but one woman can only find so much.  I love finding out what people read online.  The Internet is so big, sometimes I feel like I am missing valuable information because I am not on the right sites.

Collaborating on a lesson plan was a fun experience, but it was hard to make sure everyone was on the same page.  Technology helped us with that problem though, we created a Google Document making everyone literally on the same page.  It was exciting to create a lesson plan using backward design, but it made me realize how far I still have to go.

One of things I took away from class was the idea of consumption vs. creation.  We all consume and create very differently and I think technology is unique in its ability to widen our nets.  Podcasts can be used to record directions and procedures and then played to a student that would benefit from the ability to pause and rewind directions.  Before podcasts were CD and tape players. I would bet that some teachers took the time to record directions and procedures for their students if they needed it, but before that? I know there are other skeptics in the house that aren't sure where technology fits within their teaching, but I think I just found one way it can be very useful for me.  Creating is the highest cognitive dimension in the revised Bloom's Taxonomy and based on its place of importance, I don't think using technology is the only way to create.  However, using technology to create goes back to our first class.  We talked about the excitement technology can cause and the ownership that students might feel.
I certainly saw the excitement when we created our podcasts today.  There were questions and concerns about creating practice podcasts, but once we started I saw a flurry of movement and smiles on the faces of my cohorts.  I haven't had a chance to listen to them all, but the some of the names are intriguing.  The Aviary interface was user friendly and suppressed some of my fears about the "This I Believe" podcast we have to create at the end of the summer (which is rapidly approaching).  This has been my experience with technology so far in this program.  First I freak out because technology is overwhelming, but then I find it manageable because I am a capable woman.  We are all capable and I hope my fellow cohort members feel capable even when tasks seem daunting!