Sunday, June 27, 2010

Journal #4

I had never used a webquest before. This is such an interesting way of thinking about teaching; students can have information given to them as well as add to it all on one website. I really liked how diverse the webquests were that I was seeing, as well as how much freedom you are given as an educator to assign a task. The only component of the webquest that I have been seeing that I didn’t like as much was evaluation aspect of it. From what I could tell, the majority of webquests relied on rubrics as their evaluation, and that is a practice I do not like to adhere to in teaching. I find rubrics limit creativity and often students try to only impress the teachers by sticking to what is exactly on them, and not going any further.
I looked specifically at webquests involving the two novels that I teach within my 8th grade curriculum; Night and The Giver. I am so impressed by assignments that teachers have put together. With Night, many teachers have helped students go through and work on the sensitive subjects and materials that are presented within that book. I think this webquest idea works great with books and subjects that are so upsetting to students; these assignments allow students to work through their own thoughts at their own pace. In terms of The Giver, I really enjoyed seeing how many teachers did a compare and contrasts with other supposed Utopian societies. The Utopian Unit is one I spend a large amount of time on, and seeing other teachers’ creative view points on connecting many pieces of literature inspired me to do the same. I teach The Giver, and then supplement it with John Lennon’s Imagine, as well as the short stories The Lottery and The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. Along with a thesis essay, I believe creating this webquest will be an excellent end of the unit activity, which can then lead into some great class discussion.
I have used the delicious website before, and think this is a great way to help with student research. It allows for us as educators to weed out any of the “bad” on the internet – i.e., inappropriate sites – and it also ensures that we can make sure our students are only viewing quality information. Bookmarking sites are great as they still allow students to practice doing research and give them autonomy on what information they decide to use, yet they still allow for ‘safe’ and focused research that the general web does not.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Journal #3

The freshman English website seems like an easily accessible tool for faculty and students alike. The “how to use” website clearly explained how faculty can incorporate this technology into their classes. I like that it stated people should be cautious of trying to use too much too fast; I find often people jump head first into using technology without having a full understanding of it and it leaves their students wondering about what the point of it was. I appreciate that the website said in explanation to only use technology that can be incorporated consistently within an English class; again, this allows students to see a purpose to what they are doing rather than just using technology for the sake of using technology. Posting materials to a website to be graded is a great way to cut back on paper use, as well as help both teachers and students stay organized. However, as the explanation site explains, students need the consistency of assignment and grading formats to stay the same. Creating a community for each class is a great idea and one that will allow for students to feel connected to each other and the teacher outside of just the actual room. I wonder how I would impletement such an idea within my classroom; we have a team website for the 100 students that I teach, but it is still rather impersonal as it is teachers posted what we want, and very little student interaction. Perhaps a wiki or something more collaborative would work better for a class forum in order to create more of a community feel.

I played around with the comment feature on word; I found it under the review function rather than the insert. This would be a great alternative to handwriting on a rough draft; it occurred to me that students could comment on each other’s paper electronically as well. Color coding specific parts of the essay as a student or teacher edits is would cut down on the amount of time it takes to give relevant and productive information; if each class had a code for specifics of the assignment – i.e., red for sentences that connect to thesis, green for grammar mistakes, blue for parts that are confusing, etc – could convey to authors suggestions while saving the editor from much tedium. However, lack of lab time and space poses an issue to this way of writing as I worry if I would be able to allow for students to consistently use it.

Just starting with inspiration has already got me planning the ways I can use such software with my classes! I am very impressed with how much you can do with all the pre-writing and drafting options. I started with the mapping option and wrote a couple of points about the theme of conformity within The Giver. It was great to see how students would be able to rewrite and add/subtract points without the barrier of having to rewrite all their work. However, what I was MOST impressed with was how easily Inspiration allowed me to go from the mapping feature into an outline – I always require an outline to be turned with students’ essays, and I encourage them to take their outline right from their brainstorm. This once again takes away the middle step of having to rewrite their ideas, and allows for more time to be spent on organizing, creating and adding more of students’ own ideas. I am extremely impressed.
The downfall is that as much as I enjoy the program, as far as I know, my school does not have the money for it. I am going to petition my principal to allow the English department to purchase it; I will keep people posted with how successful it is. I always find it frustrating to know about great, helpful and innovative technology, and yet not be able to incorporate fully or at all due to lack of resources at my school.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Journal #2

I really like blogging; I find that blogs allow for people to write in an entertaining/fascinating way while still getting important (or sometimes not so important) information across. For example, the blog about Baghdad Burning blog that was linked to our website conveys a young women's experience in way that is truly eye opening and full of information that the average American would never receieve, yet it is done in a way that feels more personalized then a book, due to the nature of blogging - which is consistent and updated - rather than a book, which is stagnant. On the less serious sides, blogs are an excellent way for people to get out their opinions about vairous political beliefs or other interests, and again, they differ from books in the fact that they are interactive due to comments and responses. Both of these elements I believe allow for blogs to often make a greater impact than books, even though that in and of itself is a cause of concern.

I have used blogs in an independent reading project within my classroom, and I am planning on adding a link to show one of my student's off. I find that students really liked the personalized nature of blogs and therefore felt more comfortable sharing their opinions. The blogs also very much allowed for my students to add more creativity about their book - meaning pictures and seperated quotes - than the traditional essay would have allowed for.

This, of course, asks the questions - will blogging and wikis become the essays/ preferred method of writing in educational future? If so, what larger implications will this have in terms of literature and writing?