Thursday, October 18, 2007

PLN's Again

My freshmen are now on week five of their Personal Learning Networks and I see a huge improvement-not just on their writing, but their thinking. I will say this process has been weighty for me to grade; it takes me about three-four hours to read, grade and give feedback. Each week, I give the students feedback about what they do well and what needs to improve. Students are really seeing the buy-in and I love watching them develop and see their selves in relation to the world. I think they appreciate that they are allowed to view the world through their own eyes, taking it in, and showing WHAT MATTERS (here are those two words once again). It's fascinating to see their conceptions about the world. Each week, they are furthering their thoughts and elaborating more. They pose intriguing questions and there are so many skills they are acquiring by doing this. I want to share a few of the student blogs, so you can see for yourself. I can't wait to continue to further this process and dive even deeper. I can't think of a greater gift to give them than that of opening themselves up to the world around them.

Hannah G.'s Blog posts

Jeremi G.'s Blog Posts

Aaron H.'s Blog Posts

Brett R.'s Blog Posts

Dillon G.'s Blog Posts

Kelsey C.'s Blog Posts

We have a long way to go and hopefully we will be able to start commenting on each other's blogs and on the original posts. I also wanted to comment on the formal presentations. We do these every Friday about 5-6 students per week, twice a semester. I have asked students, as an audience, to do two things: 1) give positive feedback to the speaker and 2) ask questions of the speaker, start a discussion about what they are seeing or agree/disagree with and what they think about the speaker's topic. I have had some extremely poignant and striking conversations. The great thing is is that the student's focus determines the direction of the conversation. There have been times where we don't get to the last two speakers because the discussion has taken off; the students want to speak and let their voices be heard. They feed off each other; they ask questions of the presenter and they are extremely knowledgeable and articulate. I know public speaking is a fear and a challenge for some of these students, but they are challenging themselves and seeing that their voices DO MATTER and they ALL have something to say. The only thing I would like to see is the students start the conversation without me kind of leading them first. I see them starting to take initiative, but sometimes I have to model my thought processes and show them what's going through my mind when a speaker is presenting their blogs and how I can throw that out to them for discussion purposes. I LOVE IT! I look forward to Friday's and I feel a great passion for it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Personal Learning Networks: How Sweet It Is!

During the past two weeks, I have also ventured out into the great wide open, implementing Personal Learning Networks with my freshmen classes along with fellow teachers, Anne Smith and Michele Davis. I believe that this may transform my student’s thinking about the world around them. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when we first started. However, they seemed to take to it quite easily. I feel that I have had to give purpose numerous times so that they understand the relevancy and importance of what they are about to dive into. To make one open to the world and to inquire and connect with it can be difficult, especially for freshmen, who sometimes lack in critical thinking skills.

I set the bar high. I expect a great deal from them. Each week, the students are to use Google Reader, a feed site, to search, read, and reflect upon various news/blogs regarding education, the world, and local happenings. I then have them post a thoughtful response on their own personal blogs. Again, we always come back to the What Matters? piece where they really show me what THEY THINK about the text. They are to also connect the pieces to their own lives, the world around them, question, show what intrigues them, and write a formal response. The skills they are acquiring and practicing with these blogs are so rich: reading strategies, critical thinking, personal reflection, summary-response, writing techniques, editing/proofreading, strong diction and fluency, the art of questioning-all of these skills have merit in what we are doing.

I was giddy, for the most part, upon reading their first two blog responses. Students really showed a discerning voice through their writing, and more importantly, allowed these articles and blogs to influence their thinking. Although there is much improvement to be made, I am looking forward to more. I told the students that writing was a work in progress-they have to work at it. They have to be passionate about the world around them and look to find their place in it. I also wrote my own example.

Here are some other great examples from my classes- the only thing we didn’t do this time around was link the original blog or article-that is something standard from here on.

Hannah G. posted on K. Fisch’s blog (The Fischbowl) entitled “Thought for the Day”
I came across an article entitled, 'Thought For The Day 7-12-07'. This article contained an exerpt by Daniel C. Dennett from the book, 'What Is Your Dangerous Idea?', from The Ficshbowl posted by Karl Ficsh. This article asks a thought-churning question of, "What will happen to common knowledge in the future?". As of today, our common knowledge is constantly expanding. Our technology is one major example of our increasing apprehension. We interact with technology everywhere, whether we're at home checking our e-mail, listening to our i-pods, or even going to Kings Soopers and using the self-checkout. I believe that in the future the idea of common knowledge will still be what it is, a basic understanding of things, but it will have grown just as our knowledge has. I agree with the article that our ancestors may have had it easy, and that there wasn't that much to know, but two things cross my mind as I began to think about this statement. Of course our ancestors did not know what we know today, but was there that much to know? This is a difficult question, and I understand that it could have several different interpretations. But as I read this, the first thing I said to myself was, "Well of course there was a lot for our ancestors to know. Look at us today, look how far we've come since then". But I can kind of understand the meaning of what the writer was trying to get at. There is only so much one generation can know. These people are from the same age in time and don't know more than what they know. That's an odd way of saying it, but what I mean to say is that people have certain customs and know certain ways of doing certain things, until one day theres the beginning of a new generation. New people, new minds, therefore, new ideas.
Another part of me began to compare our past to the present. Is there more for us to know? I could answer this question for myself. As unbelieveable to me as it is to say this, looking at our world and seeing our progression through time, I do think the world still has much, much more to learn about itself and everything around it. I almost can't believe the heights technology has reached and how it has impacted my daily life. Just going to school and looking up to the projector for a power point that the teacher has prepared, or using the laptops for research. The world is so dependable on what it has created, that without it, nothing would be the same. So from that, I suspect the world will only progress as time goes on. And as time goes on, our knowledge will expand, and once again, the world will have out-done itself.

Dillon G. wrote about Dave Warlick’s blog, 2 cents Worth entitled “Classrooms of the Future”
In my article "Classrooms for the Future" by Dave in 2 cents worth, a high school in Pennslyvania is getting a taste of future technology in classrooms. Each core (math, english, social studies, and science) classroom will receive one laptop per student, infrastructure, a scanner/printer, webcam, projector and much more.This gift in technology they are receiving will hopefully open up new ideas and paths for learning not only for these students but for the U.S. and world. It may provide so much information that textbooks, learning strategies, and other methods will become obsolete."It may start up some school/district wide recycling programs," a. woody delauder posted, which is a very possible idea.I know I can relate somewhat to this because our school classrooms have some of this technology such as projectors and technical support. This also relates to the world because if it were to get its hands on this, the world would be a much more efficient, imaginative, and successful learning evironment. I hope someday schools around the world will posses this technology to make learning a whole new experience.
Kelsey C wrote about an essay in The Fischbowl
"The only question is how long one can postpone the inevitable." Mr. Karl Fisch asks a simple yet thought provoking question: "In the case of some countries, life spans can be very long, so it is worth asking whether the United States is in adolescence, middle age, or old age. Do science and technology accelerate or offset the demise? And finally, how many stars will be in the U.S. flag in fifty years?" To begin, I do think that the United States will add more states but only about two such as Puerto Rico and Cuba. Since both have already come into consideration in becoming states, I believe they eventually might. I think the United States is adolescence because of all the new technological advances that are being invented everyday. This question is important and matters to everyone, because if we add more states, that adds more population and new ideas, and even raw materials. Having new states could add and bring great things to our country but it could also bring disease, crime and much more. This question connects to our class, because our general question is "what matters" and this is a question that people should worry about and why it matters. Finally, this is important to our world but mostly our country because we would be adding to what we already have, bringing in new land, people, ideas, and the way society may be run. Obviously, this question poses many opinions and no right or wrong answer, but is a question everyone should take into consideration.
Sami M. wrote about the Fischbowl as well
I read "GOAL: Change how kids learn." by Karl Fisch. I think this is a strong piece because it shows that people are out there working and changing the way kids learn. People all over the world are sending money to help and something is getting done. These kids look greatful to be able to have their very own lap top. They are going step by step to making their education the best. They want these kids to be curious with these computers and explore the different things these computers can do. They are planning to send another 100 million this year. I kind of dont like that they are giving each kid their very own lap top because there are also kids in that same area that haven't eaten in days. Yes, it is a great way to start bringing up their intelligence and show them different ways to explore things but should this really be the top of people's priorities. It may not be but it seems to me it is. I love the way they are helping underprivaleged kids but the ones that arn't eating should be taken care of before they get a lap top. Even though I argued against the logic of the lap tops I really do like the idea of them being able to expand their minds through their very own laptops.This is going to make so many kids happy and will be one more step closer to having a higher test score or higher intelligence level in that area.The U.S. has everything it needs and more. I think we should become more active with helping the people that are less fortunate then our own. We have strong educations and are able to go to a stable and dominate school each day. Most take it for granted. We shouldn't, we should all realize that not to far away kids younger than us are working to feed their family. The U.S. helps and sends help, money, and food but not everyone is aware of the disadvantages other places have. Education is the main key of being successful. WIthout education I wouldnt't get anywhere and netiher would anyone else I know. The U.S. should get going and start helping more and more eachday. We might already be helping alot, but I dont see it. People are more concerned about buying the designer clothes or that expensive car, etc. We all take education for advantage. We dont even notice how big of an aspect it is in our lives.

Jeremi G. wrote about Dave Warlick’s 2 cents worth blog
I just read an article entitled “Shhh! I’m Googling My Facts…” from the blog site 2 cents worth by Dave. The article is about a large issue that goes on today with teenagers all over the world, including me. Internet resources found through the “trustworthy” search engine Google. The writer said that teachers used to teach from text books, encyclopedias and other sources printed on books. Wake up people! It is the 21st century, and the online resources are so multiple and easily available, that people are using them much more than books. From a kid’s point of view, it is easy and extremely simple to do. A kid can get his research done in a few minutes online. But teachers look at it with not so positive a view. They prefer their textbooks and maps.When I read this article, I decided to blog about it because it intrigued me and I could relate to it. I use Google all the time for researching papers and tons of other things. It is my home page on my computer. From Google I can go to any website. But, I should apply some techniques that I have learned in my English 9 class (woo-hoo Mrs. Komp!): questioning what I find. When I click on a website with information concerning the topic I typed in up top in the search bar, I automatically assume it’s true. It’s taken for granted that the information searched and the websites that appear on Google are, well, valid. But I need to learn to question what I read, and research it and back it up more thoroughly. When you search something, and the list of websites that come up, they are not arranged from true to incorrect, they are arranged randomly. Anybody can write anything on any website and have it appear on Google. A student researching his paper, or an inquirer just searching for the answer to a question, should either check more than just the first website on the list, to back up the information, or should go to a trusted website. Another website that is largely popular is Wikipedia. Everyone trusts Wikipedia, but it is not always true. The articles can be edited and therefore anything can be changed or put into that article. The validity of resourceful websites, such as Google and Wikipedia, should be challenged and questioned. Don’t always trust the first thing you read on the World Wide Web (www). Always be inquiring and questioning and validating everything you read and see…
To conclude: Friday was the first day for four students from each class to present their blogs to their classmates through formal speaking. I did not do podcasts; I’m not there yet. I did do something a little different. I told the students from the get-go that they must be attentive and respectful to the people speaking, as they will be nervous and possibly scared to stand up in front of their peers and put themselves out there. This went off without a hitch-no problems. I also asked students to watch the person speaking and provide them with feedback as to what went well in their presentation. At the end of each presentation I asked five people to comment on what went well. I was amazed how honest and positive the students were. It also opened my eyes to what they catch on to when watching a person speak. I began to think to myself, as a teacher, that I could learn a few things from their critiques and try to improve in my own verbal instruction-how enlightening! I also asked the students in the audience to ask questions or respond to the comments of the person. Now some of the presenters automatically asked the audience questions (what do you think-how do you see it?). I loved this aspect of the presentation because the students were able to have a dialogue with one another regarding the issues that were presented. Some disagreed constructively; others just talked about how they perceived things to be. To me, this is the ultimate! To see a class start to wonder and think about each other’s responses and then verbally discuss it, is ideal! I want more of this. I don’t want my students just sitting there; I too want them interacting. And it happened! I don’t have them responding to one another on their personal blogs, but we will get there. The fact that these presentations took off into discussions is a plus.

I am so excited about these PLN’s; I feel that my student’s are beginning to see the value of their thoughts and that their voice, even as young teenagers, really do matter. I am deeply intrigued by what they have to say. I appreciate that I have been introduced to this and I can't think of anything better to really have them dive into the issues that MATTER.

I did end up giving them a new handout that I just typed up quickly regarding things to think about when they reflect and the various errors they need to fix in their writing. The beginning paragraph is touchy feely, but I think there came a greater understanding of what I want them to get from this journey.
Personal Learning Network Writing Expectations and Suggestions

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It amazes me...the joy of freshmen!

I love teaching them. I love that they are open and spontaneous and everything done in class is so unpredictable. I love that they get into things and really want to learn from you. Yet, they lack so many skills that I expect them to come in with. What happened? Did they lose everything they learned in middle school? Was their knowledge replaced with the crap on MTV? Did they forget what responsibility is?
I don't know about any of you, but I'm frustrated. Obviously, each year is a challenge with freshmen because we have new students with new problems and behavior issues. I'm not saying that all freshmen are placed into this rant; but, COME ON! I assigned their first writing pre-assessment, which was not assigned a grade. I asked them to think reflectively on what they were passionate about in their life. They wanted me to tell them how to do it. How many pages, what it should be on, etc. Blah, blah, blah. I said, "Just go with it." I really don't think posting my expectations on my web page, which they supposedly read, did anything for them. There is one full page telling them what I expect of written compositions. They don't follow directions. Half of the class wrote a paragraph, that's it?! You only had eight sentences for your paper. How is that possible? But Mrs. Comp, "we were told that a paragraph is only 6 sentences." "I'm not passionate about anyting in my life." "I don't really have deep beliefs or ideas that I live by." Plus, many didn't double space, or type it, when I said numerous times, every day, to do that. Today, going over literary terms, some of them can't even define setting or a theme; yet, they got this years before.
It amazes me what skips out of their head. It amazes me that they lack the skills to write a personal narrative. It amazes me that I want them to take learning into their own hands and define themselves and what matters, but they have had their hands held all through their schooling. No wonder it's confusing. they haven't been taught to think (at least, may of them haven't). Maybe it shouldn't amaze me anymore. I feel like I could really challenge these students, but I have to focus a lot on their skills to get them up to par. I'm still not going to underestimate them. But, if this is the best freshmen class possibly to go through AHS, I might cry. All I ask is that some of these freshmen start to LISTEN! I think that is the biggest problem I have. All of the above can be fixed with time and practice and application. It's just they all have something to say and will do their all to get that out, but they don't know how to listen and take it in and process it. I'm tired of them playing the game of school. They will either own it, or won't. Many of them seem to value their education, as this was our first blog together. Maybe some of them aren't writing what they truly feel; but a loud wake up call is coming and with freshmen, we still have to guide them and hold their hands at times. It's amazing how they change from freshmen year to junior year. I know developmentally, their brains are still developing critical thinking processes. But, to learn in my class and have it stick is so valuable to me. I don't want my kids learning for learnign sake. I want them competnet and knowledgable going into their future years. I don't want to be just another class. I have to trust that they will find their voice and begin to grow. But, what's coming out right now is not acceptable.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The beginning... once again

Thus far, the new school year has proved to be the best one yet. I have great freshmen, who supposedly are to be the best fresh class ever and juniors who are willing to LEARNand take action by DOING-not once have I heard about grades...yet. I must say I feel good about the year and where I am taking my classes. I attribute a lot of that thought to our group and our fearless leader, Fisch. I love where this has taken my teaching. The panel of "real-world" professionals, at the end of last year, got me thinking over the summer about these students and their place in the future. They talked a lot about skills one should acquire and even more so those interpersonal relationships and professional networks that must be established. I began to think of my class in these terms, although Cris Tovani (sorry to quote Tovani again...but this just sticks out in my head) would say, "if you're solely teaching content, you aren't teaching them skills to help them succeed." In literature, we tend to hammer away at it, evn though it stands as the foundation of most English classes. But, I began to wonder if I could let go of one novel that we may read per semester, so I could focus on skills that they actually need. I'm not saying that it isn't important to read, analyze, thinking critically about literature and connecting our lives to it. But, we, as a group, have talked about the question: What can I let go?

Karl talked about students acquiring personal learning networks, networks that can expand. He said they need to be able to find information and know how to evaluate it. How many of us are really teaching them this skill? He said that they needed to form relationships, talk to people, make connections, but also contribut to them and be a bigger part of the community. The question was asked-what is our role in this? Further, it was said that if we want our students to be able to learn on their own, we have to commit to using tools of the 21rst century. Also, we have to model those skills and how we have learned about it. We have to share.
It seems that in my former years, trying to work outside the education realm, networking wasn't about what you know , but more about WHO you know. But, I really see these kids stepping up to the plate and taking charge and more importantly wanting to learn these skills. I have to be the guiding force behind that. What they do know still does make a difference. I had a student blog that basically said schools doesn't teach students what they need to know for the real world. This struck me big time. So I asked him, what do you need to learn for the real world? What can I do to make that relevant for you? I haven't heard back yet. But, I do constantly think about what I am doing in class to get my students ready and to allow them to enjoy it as well. What's going to make them better for the future?
Also,I really do wish that Karl Fisch would win the powerball jackpot, so that he could donate laptops to us all. Maybe Oprah or Bill Gates will donate. Maybe I'll ask Santa. Maybe they will magically appear one day in my classroom. Until then, I will keep plugging away at the lab signups, where time slots are full and availability is short. If only...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hello, again...finally

I decided to finally kick the dust off of my personal blog and write something. Now, I don't feel like I have been slacking, not blogging, yes, but slacking, no. I am currently finishing my master's and my entire final culminating paper/project has to do with consturcitivism in my classrooms. Now, I haven't been as creative with technology; however, I believe that constructivism has led to great things in my classes. I can't say, as of now, that everything is constructivist based, but I do feel that my students are more excited about their learning and the things that they do. Now, this may be a lofty assumption, but I just collected surveys today regarding this method of instruction and how students learn and most students are seeing its value. I don't know about anybody else, but this has been a truly hard year. I feel that I'm learning more as a teacher now than I ever did in getting my education licensure, and that I am constantly trying to make and do things better. I really feel that we have some of the most difficult jobs and the fact that we are coming together as a group and trying all of these new things, has weighty influence in our professional lives and the lives of our students. When we first started this process, I never thought that my teaching would change like this-and for the better. I have collaborated more, tried more new ideas, and challenged myself more than I thought I could. Really, we are doing wonderful things as a faculty. you know by just talking to students. I think we have a special situation at this school and really don't know how lucky we are to teach most of the students we have each day and more importantly, the staff we have. However, I still worry about whether or not how to write a thesis statement will stick with my freshmen. I worry in how to make something like Dickinson poetry applicable to student lives. I think the biggest worry is that I may be overestimating my students. What i see them doing and accomplishing might be bigger in my own mind. I really, honestly, truly do beleive that our studnets are capable of amazing critical thinking and application of what they are learning to the world around them. I truly beleive that they are capable of deep thought and looking at something with a more discerning eye. Is overestimating them bad? I expect a lot out of myself, thus I expect a lot out of my students. If I can't challenge myself, I can't challenge them.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Freshmen with Constructivism

Recently, I have been having a difficult time with my 6th hour freshmen; things are turning around slowly but surely, but it made me think of some things. I have tried to make the classroom environment theirs as much as mine. I gave them freedom to determine some of the class expectations and to give them a voice in their learning. These are great kids, but there are some who haven't bought into the school mentality yet. What I wonder is, are freshmen capable of a constructivist method in class? I find that just inexperience, immaturity, and the fact that skill base is so low, that even if I try to get them to create meaning, they have a difficult time. Everything is hard for fresh! I am helping them in that process because I can't just turn them loose and say go...but I'm not sure they are old enough for that kind of thought and thinking process yet.
Now, it is something we can teach and try to bring out of them, but it's nowhere close to the level it could be. I guess I feel that I highly overestimate my students abilities sometimes and maybe I expect too much, thus leaving me frustrated; I suppose that's better than the latter. But I feel like kids should have some of these skills coming into high school; and truly they DO NOT. I am having to teach things that were basic skills (like common literary terminology and thesis statements) that they either didn't learn or forgot. Then, when I ask them-what matters to you? What do you think? What are you seeing? How does that make you feel? What questions do you have? How can you relate that to real world applications?-most just stare blankly, like they have nothing to say. I know this is a lesson in patience for me, and I haven't given up on them. But, essential thinking skills lack within these students, and they only look at what is on the surface. Trying to get them to think for themselves is something that is new to them-I don't have all the answers, I don't want to provide all the answers. I have made it known that I want them to dive into the literature, or text we are reading, and find what matters to them for their own purposes. Sometimes, constructivism fails me in this regard. Like Brett Favre, I can lead my team down the field so many times, but nothing works if their is no one behind me to receive or catch. Sometimes I throw interceptions. Nice analogy, eh? But that's how I feel sometimes. Anyone seeing similar problems? Don't get me wrong, I am still pushin'-but when we want to place emphasis on students' learning and getting them to think of their learning differently, there are problems surrounding this method. I have to hold a lot of hands, as I should at times, but I feel like I'm carrying a lot of the weight most of the time. I also speak in terms of MOST of my freshmen. There are some students who are extraordinary, and can learn wholheartedly with this method. I'd like to hear what you guys think!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Some thoughts...

First things first-I really like the ideas of wikis-but I am still confused to how to it-I would have like time to tackle it together, ask more questions, etc. But, I feel as if we rush through some of these great pieces of tech. integration too fast, because we have to get to the next thing. I would haveloved to maybe collaborate and talk about how we could use them and it would have been benficial to get the how-to's. I know people just go and try it themsleves, which is great, but I am a person who needs a little more concrete when it comes to something that is foreign to me. Just a little thought.
But, on the plus side, I really feel like my students are buying into this thinking for yourself idea and allowing themselves to decipher meaning. I have had richer discussions and they are beginning to see the implications of "thinking" instead of just sitting back passively. I feel like the class has been more constructivist based as the students have been running the discussions and they are annotating constantly-partially because I'm making them; but I want them to see that there is real world application in interacting with what they read. So many students don't do this. They just get a piece of text, are assigned homework to read and then they just expect the ideas and answers to fall from the sky. I think the purposes are easy to grasp, but complacency and apathy take control, and the buy- in just skips out of the brain. It's easier to settle and just do it to get it done, which is a conversation I have had with my kids. I have been talking to my students about my intentions of what I want them to do and grasp, and how my teaching will affect that. I think they appreciate my honesty, even if I'm preaching the importance of what I want them to be able to do and know, especially when it comes to their thinking and doing. I have appreciated their interaction with me and taking the time to see things through my lens, which in turn, becomes reciprocal. But, i can't have a great class, and learning can't occur without their buy in. I think it is important to have these discussions with our kids-reflecting, going back to it, calling them out on the things that they are underperforming in, and really having them take a look into their own education. I keep telling them, I can't tell you what to think-you have to ask those questions and find what is applicable for your own purpose. I just want to note also, across all content areas, that my hope is that despite content, we all buy in to the idea that we are all teachers of literacy. I think our classrooms could be som much richer, if we taught kids how to think using some strategies. Most people do this anyway, even if they don't know it; but reading is a complex process that involves thinking. We have to give our kids the chance to succeed despite our content and the text we read. I found that just using a few strats. have enriched my kids thinking and it helps them with future preparation in education.