Monday, November 24, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I also attended the tail-end of a session on laptop schools, and it was gratifying to feel like the "old-timer" there. Schools who are considering moving in this direction were asking questions, and hearing others' answers and sharing my own reminded me how far we have come in successfully implementing our 1:1 program. Yes, we are still growing and improving everyday, but I cannot imagine teaching without laptops.
I ended my day with a tour of the Alamo -- what a beautiful place. The trees are breathtaking -- they look like the olive trees I saw all over Italy. I picked up cowboy hats for my two kids and an Alamo bandana for my husband -- I am bringing some of my Texan roots home to them.
Tomorrow morning is the Commission on Composition meeting then I head home. A fast and great conference. Next year is Philadelphia, and I think I can get at least one more teacher from my department to be able to come with me because we could maybe stay with my sister (read: free). It will be great to share this with a colleague -- twice the sessions, twice the learning, twice the growth for us as teachers.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Now that I am on my own laptop (and not hogging one in the NCTE store), I have time to think more about what I heard and did today.
First, I find it interesting that the fullest session BY FAR that I attended was on AP English. Their focus was how literature still matters and how the AP curriculum is one good way to keep literature at the forefront. The session was absolutely packed -- people sitting in every empty space on the floor when all of the chairs were full. It makes me wonder why. In a conference of so many new ideas, AP gets some of the biggest attention. I enjoyed the session overall, and the presenters were well-prepared and engaging. But I have to say that I did not learn strikingly new things. Instead, I enjoyed it because it confirmed the techniques I use with my AP students and younger. I wonder why others were drawn there and what they took away.
I did attend a session that was not well-prepared, and that is always frustrating. It can take a good 15 minutes to get from one end of the buildings to the other, so once I get there, I'd like to stay and gain something. I was really looking forward to the topic too, but the presenters mostly rambled and quoted a single teacher resource. This surprised me I guess because of my own personality. If I were giving a session at a national conferance, I would hyper-prepare (not a great thing either!), so I guess I expect each session to at least have a focus and forward motion.
I have the first thing that I am going to take right back to my students. This was said in a conversation about the decline of reading habits across the board in our nation. The stats are pretty sobering -- nearly half of all Americans 18-24 do not read for pleasure. The presenter then said this: "Something about growing up in America discourages cultural and literary growth." I plan to share this with my world lit students as a step in our quest to answer the essential question, "Why must we think?" I am curious if they agree with the statement, and if so, why. Or if they do not, I hope to help them come up with ways they can prove it wrong by how they live their own lives.
Finally, that session linked with another in my head about students' reading habits. I think I am fortunate that many of my school's students are active and engaged readers. Our teachers do a great job of offering choice and encouragement with personal reading, thus keeping that flame alive. I also think our students impressively give us the benefit of the doubt and are willing to try an assigned reading and actually like it. Yet, I don't want to be living in a dreamworld, so I would like to dig a little more deeply into our students' reading habits. Do they really read enough for pleasure, or are they in that other half of the statistics? The reason why I wonder this is what was shared in a session about reading stamina. First, they said the thing that prohibits most students from maintianing their reading fluency is maintaining their stamina as texts get harder. I think this might define a struggle we have been seeing from our 7th to 8th grade as we have realized that our 7th grade texts might not challenge the students as much as even the 6th grade texts do. Is their stamina back-sliding? And this leads me to their other finding -- the students in their research study, even in 6th grade, were overwhlemed by homework so they literally had no time to read well and for a duration of time. I think my school might be guilty of this too ...
Tomorrow I am facilitating a session on how high-stakes testing is affecting writing and writing instruction -- should be interesting. Then later in the day, I am really looking forward to finally having the time to stop by "Tech on the Go." I can get there when they are having a general sharing of ideas, so it will be great to hear what others have done and be able to share what I do. Oh, and of course, I am going to visit the Alamo -- I am two days behind Dana Huff as it is!
- Opening Session with Marc Prensky: "With the old ways of teaching (lecturer/teacher), technology does get in the way. With the 'new' ways of teaching (guide/partner), technology is the tool." (a loose quote from memory)
- A talk on critical theory and practice with Gerald Graff (president of the MLA): How we read and how we talk about what we read matters more than what we read.
- A session with AP consultants sponsored by the College Board: My worlds collide when one of the presenters is someone I knew from the AP readings.
- A session on using American lit texts to teach about prejudice and cultural understanding: I went to this one specifically to bring ideas back for our American Literature teacher Jennifer. I think I have some titles for us to consider for replacing Black Ice.
- This afternoon is going to be all about teaching reading strategies. One session I am attending is billed as specific reading strategies tied to brain research, and the other is billed as focusing on teaching reading stamina. I am very curious about both of these because I think they can help with discussions our department has been having about challenging our students as readers without losing them.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Here is what he created: a document for us to use for notes and thinking plus a website to explore. (And if you listen to the audio file, yes, those are two of our Jewish students Joe recorded reciting a Hebrew prayer. He also brought in one of the student's actual Torah.)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
"When I was a teenager, I remember reading letters to the editor in my local paper, where the grown-ups were arguing about whether to allow students to use calculators. The unspoken worry was that since calculators had appeared so suddenly, they might disappear just as suddenly. What none of the grown-ups in that conversation understood was that there would never again be a day when we needed to divide two seven-digit numbers on paper. What seemed to them like a provisional new capability was actually a deep and permanent shift, one we students recognized immediately" (Shirky 294).
Do all of your students get this today about the web and all of its possibilities? To be honest, I am not sure all of mine do, and that is why this quote makes me think so much. As a teacher, I feel so often on the back-end of the "Web 2.0" movement -- barely hanging on. Yet, for some (many?) of my students, I am pulling them along. I am showing them not only, to keep Shirky's metaphor going, why this calculator is here to stay but also why they should be recognizing this as part of THEIR worlds.
So in the end, am I in front or back?