Wednesday, October 3, 2012

10,000 Hours of Grammar Practice

Is it possible to have a crush on a Web site?

I just discovered — thanks Jeff & Kristin!! — and I am smitten.

Kids online, logging in hours of practice with spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Oh my!

I was fortunate enough to get to listen/watch a recorded Webinar with the founder of the company, so I got to hear a little about the evolution of the site. I understood him to be saying that, as a teacher, he was looking for a better way of dealing with the time-consuming effort of "low-level"grading (vs. working with students on their ideas, arguments, etc.), as well as how to see improvement in student performance with the mechanics of writing, which, despite the repeated marking of errors on papers, really needs to be addressed by practice.

It brings to mind that notion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something.

So now there is a FREE Web site that lets kids do just that with commonly confused words, commas, sentence fragments and run-ons, apostrophes, subject/verb agreement, etc. Did I mention it's free?!

There are so many super-useful features of this site for teachers, such as quiz creation and data analysis, that I would begin to feel as though I'm writing an advertisement if I were to try to detail them. Take the time to check it out for yourself. And let me know if it's not love at first site (ha, ha) for you, too.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Realms of Possibility

I took two pages of notes today listening to the former MAC grads. These ranged from savory food for thought — the fact that students are accustomed to a world full of technology that offers them immediate results and to what extent that handicaps their ideas of how learning happens, why practice is important, and what they expect of themselves — to very specific ingredients to keep on hand, such One of my favorite of these was the “Inspirational Song of the Day,” or, using music to get students pumped up before a test.

The session also got me thinking about elements I should address in my classroom management plan, such as: What will be my policy on eReaders? In this way, hearing from practicing teachers is invaluable; they brought up things that might not occur to me. For example, one teacher talked about how she allows students to turn in papers by the end of the day, as opposed to their class periods, because she has learned from experience that some students don’t have printers at home and need the opportunity to get to the school’s computer lab. This is a very specific but helpful thing to know.

But if I tried to articulate a single lesson for the day, it would be this: I will do well to expand my notion of what a teaching job looks like. I could be wrong, but I think that not one of the teachers who spoke with us today works in a public school. They are teaching in charter schools, private schools, and, interestingly, a hybrid high school-college program. I don’t know why, but when I think about life after MAC, I imagine a public school. Hearing from these teachers has opened up whole new worlds.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Well, actually ...

This evening, my six year old got really frustrated with an online game and wanted to "post on facebook" that it was "stupid." Already thinking about how to encourage him to be a good digital citizen, I talked to him about why it might not be a good idea to express online really strong feelings that you have right now but might not have later on because putting things online makes them pretty much public "forever."

So he asked if there was a way to put it just on our computer — aside from the anger, I think he genuinely was looking for a way to remind himself (in case he forgot) that he'd tried this particular game, didn't like it, and he shouldn't waste his time again. Two weeks ago, I would have said no. Tonight, after learning recently about Diigo, I said, well, actually ...

(This isn't really an official class post, but I thought it too precious not to share.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My First Comment

I've found a blog — The Reading Zone — I think will be really useful to revisit.

The most recent post is a book review:

I'm also very interested in the archives. The teacher behind the blog is currently in a high-school setting, but there are posts in the archives from her days as a middle-school teacher (which is where I'd like to teach).

Really excited about this one:

The Nerdy Teacher: The Epic @Evernote Experiment #edchat @EvernoteSchools

The Nerdy Teacher: The Epic @Evernote Experiment #edchat @EvernoteSchools

In poking around the world of Edubloggers, this caught my eye since I just learned about Evernote. I'm not sure at this point even what to write about this post. My head is spinning.

Randomly organized responses:

This is being done in a high-school setting. The teacher fielded a question about whether students have their own devices/access to the Internet; most do. I'm wondering whether it is a reasonable assumption to think that high-school students are more likely to have laptops, iPhones, etc. than middle-school students, which is the age group I would like to teach. In other words, are there more reasonable uses of technology in the classroom with older students?

I think it's worth gathering data on the extent to which students utilize resources made available to them electronically. In the comments, there is discussion of this. One teacher says she can't get students to look at resources on a class Web site unless they can earn credit for doing so. While The Nerdy Teacher acknowledges this is a problem with both students and parents, his response is that, at the high-school level, it is his responsibility to make resources available and students responsibility to utilize them. Does the way resources are delivered change that?

It's reassuring to see how the teacher heading up this "experiment" is willing to share and support other teachers by answering questions, etc. That type of collaboration makes me more inclined to believe I could be successful with my own experiments with technology in the classroom. (Disclaimer: Just as with Evernote, where there is a free version and a paid version, I noted that The Nerdy Teacher, in addition to providing excellent information on his blog for free, does consulting.)

Although it was brought up in the comments, I'm not clear on whether students are incurring costs (having to purchase the paid version of Evernote).

Like I said, my head is kind of spinning.

Is this the future?
Or is this already outdated in terms of what teaching with technology will look like by the time I have my own classroom?
Do I have to embrace this or not have a future in teaching?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Organizing My Electronic Life

I have just downloaded Chrome and set it up (with bookmarks, etc.). And I have (finally) migrated my school e-mail. So now Google owns my graduate-school experience.

Seriously, there has been a pretty steep learning curve for me lately. And trying to navigate these new tools and ways of doing things is especially difficult when I’ve been overwhelmed with what I think of as the content part of the program.

After looking at various online storage options (Dropbox, Evernote), I’m still not sure which, if any, of these tools I will use either, in the short term, as a student or, in the long run, as a teacher. Although, a colleague made what I thought was an insightful remark: that, whether I choose to use these tools now or never, it is better for me to keep a pulse on what technologies are out there in order to make those choices. I pledge to try.

Diigo certainly seems like it will help me get through grad school — especially getting used to all of the electronic reading that is new to me. Realistically, though, I don’t see using it in this last week of summer session. I simply don’t have time at this point to explore how to use it as I cram for finals. It would have been useful to learn before starting classes.

Live and learn, right? Then — since the tools are ever-changing — learn again.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What Are We Sacrificing?

Recently, I heard a young math teacher share his experience using Angry Birds in the classroom. He explained that his students were coming off of a very difficult unit, suggesting that many students felt defeated. So in introducing the next area of study, he decided to try another tack. He let the kids play a video game. This got even the most disengaged students interested and participating. Of course, this also provided the jumping-off point to explore the math concept at work in the game.

I was struck by the word choice he used in saying that he “sacrificed” instruction time. Clearly, he didn’t think this was a poor choice; in fact, he said if he did it again, he would let the kids simply play longer before bringing it back to math.

I think this way of framing the situation speaks to the pressure that teachers are under to cover so much content in very tight timelines. One of the biggest challenges as a new teacher is being savvy and brave enough to know when — and how — to put students needs above the demands of the calendar. If we don't, and we are delivering content for content's sake (that we know isn't reaching students), we must ask ourselves: What, really, are we sacrificing?