Friday, March 21, 2008

Playing with Literature

Our school is switching to an on-line book service, so we have had to turn in our book lists for next year this week. So I have spent the last few weeks thinking about texts, and it really has been fun. So often I get on auto-pilot as a teacher -- doing what I did last year but just trying to make it a little better. Thinking instead about the what we are reading (not just how I teach what we are reading) has pulled me away from the trees to see the forest. It is actually a daunting task to put my mind around. I have some control over what the students read from 6th through 12th grades, and to think about how my fellow English teachers and I are in charge of the exposure to literature that our students will get is a bit staggering. How can we introduce every genre, every diverse author, every great title? It is these choices that we must make that define our students' experiences as readers, and I hope I can do them justice.

So for now, we are replacing The Once and Future King and Frankenstein, while also considering How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents for incoming ninth graders' summer reading. Do you agree or disagree with these ideas? Other titles to suggest instead?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tumblr and Google Notebook

Today was double-shot of technology day. My students had posted their Othello links to Tumblr for homework last night, and today I showed them how they could use Google Notebook to read and take notes on their on-line sources. Their enthusiasm about Tumblr remains to be seen. I hope they like the idea of having everyone's sources at hand, but I think the way I arranged the assignment made them not use what others had posted as much. They all had to post (maybe part of the problem ...), but I told them they could post a site someone else had found and posted -- they would just need to explain why they liked it too. But it is not easily clear in the postings when someone is doing this, so it just looks like lots and lots of sites. I will refine for next time, but in the meantime, they do have everyone's site to work from tonight as they start their research.

Google Notebook however was an immediate hit. They loved how it helped them take notes and recorded for them both the highlighted quote as well as the source. I really think they will use this, even though I am not asking them to. The only IF is that right now the sending a note to Google Notebook for them is not working, so it really doesn't do much. I am trying to learn why they can't get it to work like I can so that I can rekindle their enthusiam, but this technology wall stopped our momentum. My students would have read sources on Othello and taken notes on them to the very end of class if they only could have through the Notebook. Ah, next time ...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

UStreaming My Students

Today at 1:00 was my first attempt at ustreaming -- my students performed live Act V of Othello. Click here to watch the video.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Google Notebook

I have been playing with Google Notebook and have decided to show it when we start researching our Othello character sketches. I am going to require that my students use Tumblr because I want a class-created resource list. But I am just going to show them Notebook and see who decides to use it. Since most of my students use g-mail, I feel like they may actually use other Google features on their own, and this is the idea I am playing with as I work to define my own philosophy as a teacher in this new world.

As I am sifting through all of the technology I COULD use in my classroom, some applications (like the Turn It In discussion board) make my teaching better by taking my classroom to a new level. But some tools are not necessarily better -- just different ways of doing the same thing. I am struggling with defining for myself why I might choose to use these tools. I would like to show my students how to use technology to aid their learning rather than just as for social networking. Their college professors and future bosses are probably not going to insist they use Notebook, so that old adage, "We are doing this to prepare you for college" is not true. Instead, I hope I am introducing tools they find useful enough to choose to use on their own. I am trying to pick carefully the tools I show then use those tools in various ways so the students come to really understand them. Maybe this is just my old 20th century brain working :), but with so much available to them on the web, I hope to help them focus on some really useful things I have found.

Thus ends another blog that was just to be about a new tool ...