"To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life."
-John Coltrane on Uplifting Others

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moving Beyond Grades

I just finished reading a post on Microcosm, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. She describes a troublesome student who doesn't take the time to get tutor, but still insists on arguing grade points with her. As I read, I couldn't help but think on how I will react to this behavior. It is inevitable; there will be students who will argue the grade points without putting in the required work.
I feel the first step to move past this behavior is to help students and myself look past the grade. In a way, grading is arbitrary. I have been in enough English classes to know that each teacher expects something different in their essays. Some focus on cohesion, others on MLA citations, sentence structure, word count, the list goes on. I go to each new class with this knowledge, and come out of it modeling the paper's structure to that teacher's specific paradigm. I had to change my writing to that teacher's expectations, and it is in that process that learning happened. The grade is an outward expression of what teachers expect out of their students.
Seeing grades in this way, as an outward expression of cognitive growth, should become the focus of the classroom. To make this happen, I need to relate to my students my expectations with each assignments. I can demonstrates these core objectives through specific criteria. If there are issues, I need to meet with that student, and help him/her see what I'm looking for in the paper. In this way (and clearly this is theoretical), I can show students that the assignments work toward a learning goal, instead of an end grade.
What do you all think? What can teachers do to help students look past grades?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Final Reflections and a Few Comments Misplaced

As we wind down the semester, it's time to get nostalgic about what we learned. I believe the most important principle I took from this class is that students are learning differently. Just as there is a tremendous paradigm shift from chalkboards to interactive white boards, students are learning better in social environments than the traditional lecture. As a teacher, I have to adapt accordingly, and shift the classroom from "How can I teach this?" to "How did I learn this?" By acting more as a moderator instead of lecturer, I can guide students to learn the core principles, not just vomit them back onto a test.
I went and visited the achievements of my classmates, and was able to comment on the majority. All in all, I was impressed with what they were doing. A few people I wasn't able to comment (I believe comments are blocked on the blog) or find their final presentations, but I'll comment here. Sorry it wasn't on your blog, hence the misplacement. Madison's class website is impressive. She knows what she wants her students to achieve, and she relays that to them in an effective manner. Plus, it's a classy template. Melissa has a great looking blog, and I was impressed by her multimedia presentation, and what went into it. While I'm not a dancer, I can see using that technology in helping students streamline their writing process.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Crowning Achievement!

Well, maybe not the crowning achievement, but I do feel proud of this video I set up for the Multimedia Project. I hope you enjoy it, and give me some feedback! You may also like my podcast, which can be found on my website.

Wiki Assignment

I just finished editing my page on the class's Wikispaces Wiki, and I have to say that was easier than the google site I set up for my own class website. For future reference, I will use Wikispaces for my classroom websites. It seems more manageable, and the idea that students can edit portions of it intrigues me. It goes back to the idea of social learning which all these technologies bring to the surface. Helping students help each other is the sign of a great teacher, because a great teacher motivates his or her students, not lecture.
My contribution to the Wikispaces Wiki is Mike Lemon's Podcasts. You will find my lesson plan for my Personal Technology Project, as well as the soundtrack to my video. I learned while doing these podcasts that, if I use Audioboo for the RSS feed, the recording must be under five minutes. I incorporated the time constraints into the lesson plan. Since I am not taking classes during the summer, I might record some more podcasts, just to make sure I understand the technology.
For the second portion of this assignment, I am amazed at how my Personal Learning Network grew during the semester. Because of good blogs, I found other blogs where I found ideas for classroom activities, as well as free technology. On the Wikispaces, I added links to these two blogs: Classroom as Microcosm, and Free Technology for Teachers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Review for The Talmud and the Internet

Recently for my postmodern literature class, I read The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey between Worlds by Jonathan Rosen, and I found it fascinating. In it, Rosen discusses the similarities between the Talmud, a collection of rabbinical discourses expanding across centuries about the written word of God, and the Internet, a massive beast of information that spans the entire world. For Rosen, the two entities encompass the idea that truth does not necessarily have a physical center. For the Jews, the physical center -the temple -was destroyed, but they have the word, which has been passed on. The Talmud represents the transition from the people of the temple to the people of the word. Similarly, the Internet gives us an example of the great paradigm shift, from physical centers of information and knowledge (books, libraries, universities, etc.), to a democratized virtual centers of information (Wikipedia anyone?)
As I read the book, I couldn't help but think on this class, and what I have to do as a teacher. The question that pervades in my mind is "Where will I center my classes?" Kids learn in a different way than I did in school. Should I stick to my guns, and force them to research solely in libraries? Or should I allow them the liberty of using sources from the Internet?
I believe the best path here is in the middle. Kids should learn to find reliable sources off the Internet, from JSTOR to blogs (like this one, perhaps?), but also they should learn the value of libraries, and finding that book. But enough from me, what do you guys think of this?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Conversation with a Niece

In light of my recent searches about internet safety, I called my niece, who will remain nameless. While she is still in grade school, she has not escaped bullying, and I fear that, as she grows older, she may encounter more and more viral bullying. We have talked before about bullying, how it isn't ever right to say bad things about others, and when others are mean, we should pay them no mind. In our recent chat, I tried to show her the difference between what's real and what's fake. Things that are real are bruises, kicks, and such, and that she should avoid fighting, if possible. Fake things are words, gossip and mean faces, which only become real if we think about them too long. I told her that the fake can hurt, but if you pay them no mind, fake things can go away. I told her that there will always be people who love her, and that trumps anything someone can say.
Most importantly, we talked about being nice. She loves to draw, play, and take care of people. She also has a temper when provoked, so we talked about how being nice, whether in person or online, won't lead her down the wrong path. We talked about how she should never hit back or say mean things, even when the other person deserves it.
It was good to talk to her, and I feel that's something that all parents or responsible adults should do. Granted, I am being idealistic in this regard, but shouldn't we teach kids to treat each other with respect?

Internet Safety and Cyberbullying

As I watched the voicethread for last week, I remembered a case pending down in Florida that involved cyberbullying. Because the victim had posted some ugly remarks on her Myspace page, the defendants decided retribution was best served cold, and then posted on Youtube. It's disgusting to think that kids are capable of such violence, but there's an increase in violent movies being uploaded to Youtube. Don't believe me? Just type in girl fight at Youtube and see for yourself.
There is no denying that cyberbullying is a new beast that we, as teachers, need to address. Everything from gossip to social pressure to nude pics, cyberbullying is incredibly pervasive in the classrooms and the lives of students. It has led to countless acts of violence, as well as arrests for the sending of child pornography, in the case of sexting or sending nude pics. How then should teachers address this topic?
A website I found that could help younger teens, I would say fifth to eighth graders, is That's Not Cool. It has a section called two-sided story, where separate videos give both sides of the story, and teens can voice their opinions at the end. I found it a great tool for younger kids, who are increasingly being exposed to cyberbullying and social pressures. For older students, I found a couple of articles I read could help them see the importance of acting right online. If they can understand the gravity of Facebook posts in regards to getting a job, they might think twice about looking overaggressive in their status. While this may not help all students, it might deter a few from making stupid mistakes that could affect their future.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thoughts of the IIC Finalists and Social Learning

I just finished looking over the videos from those students brave enough to enter the Innovative Instructional Competition held by the McKay College of Education, and I have a few thoughts about them. First off, I am amazed by the different ideas proposed by my fellow students. I would have been put to shame if I had entered. Lewis and Alyssa's presentation interested me the most. I have used Google Docs before in collaborating ideas between students, but Google Wave makes more sense. The real time aspect in it is intriguing. I'm going to take a look into it.

The main theme I found throughout the videos is the idea of social learning. Returning back to my school days, I remember group projects as being few and far between. However, I consistently find that, if I work in a group, collectively the group learns more effectively. I understand the "con" of group learning: kids won't focus, more time spent talking than learning, blah blah blah. That is, to an extent, true but, in the course of the conversation, the students will bounce ideas off one another. Brainstorming (which I hated as a high school student) can be incorporated into this shift. Teachers can assign students 5 minutes to think out a topic on their own, and then 15-20 minutes in a group, considering ideas. At this time, the teacher can bring in Mindmeister or Google Wave, as a way for students to map out their ideas in a more cohesive manner than loose leaf paper.
The question becomes, at least in my mind, "How do I encourage social learning in the classroom?" I mentioned above brainstorming. Another way is peer editing. In this exercise, students come together to read their papers to one another; in lieu of printing off multiple copies of the paper, the teacher can create a Google Doc or Wave for each students paper. As the students read the paper together, they should be encouraged to comment -either vocally or within the Wave -about the paper. In all this, the teacher should have a specific rubric that the students follow in critiquing one another's papers, such as identifying the thesis, cohesive paragraphs, good citations, well argued point, etc.
My hopes with social learning is that students make the most of their education. I fear that sometimes teachers go on power trips, and attempt to prove their mental superiority to the kids. They forget the reason they became teachers: to help students become, through education, something more.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Now That My Video is Approved!

So, when I uploaded my video to TeacherTube, I was unaware that there was an approval time needed for it. I just checked on it, and I felt good about the final product. So far, it's been viewed 5o odd times, so cheers to me. Without further ado, here is "Theme for English B."