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.


  1. It's funny - Reading your first paragraph about the freshmen English site really pinpointed one of my problems this week. You said, "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 was in a hurry this week (end of school year, roommate in hospital, upcoming medical proceedure for myself, general insanity) and I was guilty of just what you described. I played around on a few of these websites, found myself confused, and blamed the site. The fact of the matter is that nothing is user-friendly if the user is not open minded, curious, and patient. Great point! Thanks for keeping me in check :-)

  2. I second the comment Rachel made about your quote. Last year I tried using these hand-held remotes for each student and posing questions on the board. Students could pick their answer on the remote, and the board would calculate how the class responded. It seemed like a good idea for tricky topics on morality, values and whatnot to keep anonymity, but we had a lot of difficulty getting some remotes to work and waiting for the machine to process answers that one of the students said "couldn't we just raise our hands for agree or disagree?" Oh well. At least we tried.

    The issue with funding is that if you want a new piece of technology and then, by a miracle you get it, if you cannot use it "enough" (as abstractly defined by your department) then you're less likely to get more new tools. My high school had this problem last year when they wanted to purchase 2 smart boards and the faculty was so afraid and uncommitted to using it that they put a kind of purchasing hold on the school to petition for new things. Obviously a smart board would cost more than Inspiration software, but I guess the stress of having to commit to using it frequently is also a struggle to face.

  3. I'm glad you looked at the Freshman English site. I learned an awful lot about purposeful design from that enterprise, and I think we came up with a very good site for our purposes. My former grad student who I think of as the real brains beyind it, Christian Pulver, is now in a Ph.D. program at UMass/Amhert, and I expect that his work will be something we'll be drawing on in the future. But I have to reiterate that Wikispaces is providing a reasonable replacement for us now. And you might find that a wiki will offer the supplement you need for your school website.
    Inspiration is great but expensive. Check out the Read/Write/Think interactives in the Graphic Organizers folder and Kevin's blog post about trying one. They offer some of the possibities for free.