Going Green Ning Discussion

A few weeks back I wrote a blog on Comment Boxes and ‘going green’ in the classroom in general.  Not knowing much about the practicality of certain technological advancements that can be used in the classroom I posted a conversation on the English Companion Ning website to see if “real live” teachers actually used technology in their classroom to avoid using too much paper.  I made some very interesting discoveries.  My post has been up since April 3rd, I’ve had 9 relied so far, and a few conversations have sprouted off of my topic.  One of my respondents even visited my blog and left a comment!

Overall, the ‘paperless’ grading via comment boxes had mixed reviews.  One teacher, Jeanette Lans, said she regularly uses comment boxes because, as she states,  comment boxes allow her to have, “greater dialogue with a student about their writing than I can if I write on the paper, simply because their often isn’t room on the hard copy page”.  Jeanette even introduced me to another feature on Word, similar to comment boxes, “Track Changes”.

Track Changes is a feature where, after reading a comment or while proof reading, students can cross out or add in text and instead of deleting the old text, the Track Changes feature highlights new changes in red.  This allows teachers to follow a students progress through the revision step of the writing process.  Jeanette even included a great PDF file, which is an example of a handout she used while giving a presentation at a recent Professional Development day at her school.

In my original post on ‘going green’ in the classroom, I mentioned how my teacher said comment boxes would be in the future of our classroom.  Well, for another commenter Andy Esquivel Jr., a paper-less classroom is what he teaches in everyday!  I was amazed by how well he, and his students, use things as simple as folders and file sharing to make the paper-less process easier.  Andy mention his students use of ‘digital lockers’ a feature that allows students to submit assignments to the teacher and then the teacher can comment and send the  paper back to the student.  Andy also makes in interesting point when he states, “the submission depends on what type of writing assignment we’re working on at that time. It’s not satisfying to print my blog and hand it to people, but it is satisfying to print my essays, stories, and poems”.  I think Andy has a good point and has surely found an even balance between technology and  old school.

Of course, there are two side to every story.  I did receive some comments of people who were completely against comment boxes or going ‘paperless’ at all.  For some teachers like Carol S, technology simply doesn’t mesh with her teaching style.  Her main concern is the frailty of a system, all the sudden a paper can be due and the system goes down.. ‘then what?’ she asks.  Also, not all students have internet access at home which may put them at a disadvantage if they are unable to get all of there work done in school.  Carol prefers, “to make revision comments and grading remarks with a pencil on a piece of paper. It is more efficient than on a computer screen. In addition, when a student revises a print paper on a screen, the original stays intact; if s/he reconsiders a change, s/he can see the way it used to look. On a screen, the old is gone forever.”  Carol brings up a few valid points, however, if you are prone to technology and it clicks with you, the ‘old’ doesn’t have to be ‘gone forever’ if you Track Changes like Jeanette!

The consensus seems that one’s knack for technology can play a huge role in their enthusiasm and success at using technology in their English classroom to go paperless.  For some, they’ve been on this track for years, for others, hand-written comments and edits seem to work fine, so why fix something that isn’t broken?  Whether or not comment boxes and change tracking help the students should be a teachers main reasoning for adapting their style.  No teacher seemed to think either way was significantly better, in both processes, people though time was saved doing it that way.  And perhaps, returning papers to students in a timely manner is more helpful than anything!

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Self-Evaluation of My Blog

My blog has been “healthily” up-and-running for a full three months!  Now it’s time to evaluate how well I’ve been able to be self-disciplined in blogging and how well I’ve been able to start though-provoking conversations across blogs and websites.

However, before I start, I feel it is only fair for me to type a quick disclaimer:  This is my first blog ever!  It has been exciting, and frustrating at times, as I worked through trial-and-error, with virtually no rubric for assessment what-so-ever.  So, now with a few guidelines, I can thoughtfully evaluate my blog-work over the past three months and come up with an improvement plan!  My plan of attack is to go through a few sections of my blog, assess them, and then evaluate my blog as a whole based on each section!

Blog Statistics: Fair

Let’s start with my Blog Statistics!  In a way I feel like I’m posting an inner-most secret of mine all over my blog by doing this, but alas, it must be done.  Here goes nothing!  Here are my Monthly, Weekly, and Daily stats.  These charts show how many views my blog has gotten in the respective stretch of time.

MonthlyBlogStats

WeeklyBlogStats

DailyblogStats

At first I was excited to see how my blog had been doing all this time (I wasn’t fully aware of my stats page, so this my first look at it!), as it turns out, I have been–unfortunately–flying under the radar a bit.

Monthly my views rose steadily between January and February,  I attribute this with my classmates finding their way around everyone’s blogs.  I had about 88 views in one month as my highest stat.  Between February and March, an less drastic dropp-off happens.  Perphaps my classmates, presumably my only viewers, has grown tired of my blog, or blogging in general.  March also held a ten-day Spring Break, where we were not required to blog.  March to April is, of course, low as April is only 5 days young!

Weekly my views appear very sporadic.  I’m not sure what to get from them, except that my highest week had about 35 views down to my lowest week of five views (excluding Spring Break where I had zero views).

Daily my stats spike dramatically and plunge equally as dramatically.  My best day had 9 views and my lowest day has zero views.  My best day of 9 views is due in large part to my post on English Companion Ning the day before.  These spikes and drops coordinate with my class days.  We were asked to blog once a week, the blog being due on Wednesday.  Some of my higher days fall on Sundays-Tuesdays as my classmates potentially prepared for their blogs.  Also, my stats grew tremendously after my teacher posted the link to my blog in one of his blogs.  I think that really helped my classmates and I connect with each other if we hadn’t already.

Here is my Blog Stat Summary Table.  This table gives an overview of all of my stats.  My blog as a total number of views at 146.  As I said before, my busiest day had 9 views.  I have 11 total posts, which equals one post every week, exactly as we were instructed!  FRom those 11 posts, I have received 4 comments.

The picture below is a snapshot summary of my most popular blog pages:

Naturally, my home page has the most views.  Oddly, my “About Me” page has the second-most views at 7 total views.  My “Personalyzing My Blog:  It’s Mine Afterall!” blog post had 5 views.  This post was inspired my a classmate of mine, Laura Young’s, blog post.  This post probably had more than my average views because I commented on Laura’s blog about her inspiring my post, which I presume led her and few other to my page.  On average, I have three other posts with 2 views each.  So, with 4 total comment on my blog and 146 total views, for every 37 views my blog receives, I get 1 comment!  That is a bit weak.

Self-Discipline: Excellent

Though I may not have the best Blog Stats, as far as views go, I am very proud of my Number of Posts Stat.  I have posted 11 blogs, which works out to one blog a week since the beginning of the semester when we started our blogs.  I realize I didn’t go above-and-beyond the number of blogs we had to have, however, that makes we wonder:  What makes a good blog?  Click-ability?  Length? Videos or pictures?

Once I got started, each of my blogs are at least 500-700 words.  Some of my blogs have interaction via links, videos, or pictures.  I don’t believe that the more click-ability within a blog post, or the more videos a blog has improves the blog.  I firmly believe in content within a blog post.  I chose not to ramble on about non-education related topics and I only included links to on-topic websites or videos.

I am very proud of my consistency through this PLN Blog project.  Every week I chose a topic that truly interested me and was influential in helping me discover what it means for me to be a teacher and the paths I have taken to welcome learning and become a teacher.

Conversations:  Poor

Despite my consistent blogging and fair viewership, I have to admit, my Blogging Conversations have been very poor.  Though I’d love to say that I wasn’t aware our PLN project depended on commenting on out classmates blogs, I won’t say that. =)  But honestly, I have only commented once on a classmates blog (mentioned above) and I only have four comments.  I see comments as compliments, the more you give them, the more often you’ll receive them.  In retrospect my 1:4 ratio of given comments to received is pretty good, but not what those are my only numbers!

I read my classmates blogs often, I just fail to comment.  I have also been reading a lot on Ning, and just recently posted a Forum on my latest “Going Green” blog.  I’ve received 7 comments so far!  I wasn’t aware how easy is it to connect with people on a deeper level through these websites.

I am connected to LinkedIn, Twitter, Ning, Classroom 2.0, Wikispaces, and PICCLE.  However, of those sites, I frequent Ning and PICCLE the most.

In the past when I’ve visited Ning, I only read the Forums, because as a pre-service teacher I feel I only have more questions to contribute, instead of Field Experiences or advice.  (But as I have found, Ning forums are the perfect place for questions!)

I would say PICCLE is the website where I as most connected.  My LLED 420 teacher set up a Forum Question Board  between pre-service teachers and students experiencing field experience now.  I have posted lots of questions on this forum and received many more answers and insights.  This is in-part to our 420 teacher making us post questions; however, the responses have been infinitely helpful so far!

Overall:  B+ (with room for improvement)

Overall in my blog, given the circumstances of no guidelines and being my first blog, I feel I have done an adequate job.  My stats are fair and my self-discipline has been excellent, but by conversations have been very poor.  However, the more conversations I start, the higher my stats will be, so I am not worried about improvement in that area.  I also think the more comments I leave, the more I will get in return!

Plans for Improvement

Through the month of April, I plan on starting many more conversations!  Through using Ning and simply commenting on my classmates’ blogs after I read them instead of just making mental notes about it!  I plan on continuing to blog at least every week on something education-related and worthy of blogging about!  I plan on doing this in a concise, interesting, and thought-provoking way.  Through starting more conversations I hope to attract more views to my blog and ramp-up my Blog Statistics!

I will fill everyone in with my progress after April!


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Going Green in the Classroom: Incorporating Comment Boxes

Peer Revision Workshops were vamped up today in my LLED 411 class.  As we worked on our Teaching Philosophies, my teacher asked us to trade papers and provide feedback to our peers.  I love Peer Review Workshops.  I think they the revision step of the Writing Process is one of the most important steps, and even more so when students are able to receive feedback from their peers and teachers.

Now, when I say our Workshop was “vamped up” I mean, we took a huge step (for me) into the digital relm of revising papers.  We used comment boxes, which can be found on Microsoft Word by placing your cursor next, or highlighting the text, you wish to comment on, clicking on ‘Insert’, and then scrolling down to ‘Comment’.  A comment box will automatically appear  in the margins with a line pointing to the text being commented on.

My teacher claimed that this form of revision is the future of papers.  She even predicted that our future students will submit papers electronically and we will give feedback electronically…So I guess teachers can say good-bye to their beloved red pens!

Here’s a picture part of my rough draft and what looked like after my classmate had commented on it using comment boxes.

As I use my these comments and make corrections, unless I delete the Comment Box’s selected text, the Comment Box will stay in place!  This is helpful as I turn my rough draft in to my teacher for revision.  She will be able to see the comment from my Peer Revision Workshop and how I adjusted my paper accordingly.  This is definitely something I can see myself incorporating into my own classroom’s Writing Workshops in the future!

Whether or not my teacher is correct as she predicts the future of revising student papers electronically, comment boxes are fun and easy to use!  Even if hard-copies don’t go out of style, Comment Boxes are an excellent option if your school is trying to Go Green!

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Personalizing my Blog– It’s mine afterall!

After reading a classmate’s blog on how to write “out of the blog rut” I was especially inspired by her advice on “finding your flow” and figuring out what works for you in terms of writing–what environment you need to be in for your thoughts to flow the best.  I agree with this advice completely.  It also got me thinking–it’s time for me to make my blog more personalized.  So I decided to add a few of my own touches to the plain default theme my blog has been residing in.

Once I decided I had to spruce my page up a bit, I went to google to search for a new header image.  Though I liked the default picture (of stacked books) that came with my theme, it wasn’t  really…me.  Originially I thought that image worked well enough, and it went along with my ‘education’ theme, but something was missing.

I thought about my aspirations as a teacher, and where I want to go with this profession.  My mind went to Hawaii, no not as a day dream, but as one of my goals.  I’ve had my mind set on doing Teach for America for a few years now, and my dream placement is Hawaii.  After going through a few image results of Hawaii, the chain of islands,  its beautiful beaches, I got a little more creative.

I thought of the charm bracelet my mom got for me this past Christmas, a pineapple.  In the note, she wrote that she picked this charm for symbolize my dreams, and to remind me to follow them.  Though the charm has a direct correlation to my Teach for America dream in Hawaii, my mom gave it a deeper meaning.

Realizing, that our lives aren’t always an exact replica of our dreams and goals, I decided on using an artistic picture of a pineapple painting as my blog header.  To symbolize my goal of becoming a teacher, wherever the profession may take me.  To symbolize my artistic side, which I rarely get to express.  And as a symbol to welcome people to my blog, after all the pineapple is the international sign of welcome!  I was surprised how a simple change, like changing my header picture, can change the entire feel of my blog page (to me at least).  This blog post itself is certainly the most personal I’ve written this semester.

I also tried, to no vail, for an hour to change the font of my blog.  It seemed easy enough, from a link on WordPress you can get to a site called TypeKit.  It takes about  30 seconds (literally) to sign-up, and the site is easy enough to navigate through.  However, once you’ve picked out your two fonts (two is the limit for Free-Trial users), it is impossible to figure out how to get your font into your blog!  (If anyone knows, please comment and help me!)

The site has a “How To” and “Trouble Shooting” page, but I guess they weren’t written for a non-computer savvy person like myself.  I like things that are a click, click, result! But, as a said before, new fonts came to no avail.  Hopefully by my next post!

Anyway, the take home message of this post is, personalizing your blog, event this little bit of self-expression, can create a space for you to feel as though you can express yourself verbally.  Though I’m not finished personalizing yet, so far it’s working!

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Digital Media: The Bane, or The Existence?

Digital Media is a medium of communication that has been, not so slowly, transitioning into our mainstream since the early 90’s or so.  Email is replacing “snail mail”, Instant Messaging and Text Messaging are replacing phone calls and in some cases, face-to-face interaction.  Almost inevitably, along with this fast and convenient communication comes a fast and convenient form of communication.

This form of communication started as a digital short-hand; however, with the incontainable growth of the digital mediums in which this form is used, this digital short-hand is starting to look like it’s own language.

We’re all familiar with this new language the LOL’s, the JK’s, the OMG!’s.  If you’re not familiar with this…keep reading.  As it turns out, this digital short-hand is finding its way into the papers of students across the country.  Watch the news clip below if you don’t believe me.

Is it possible for this digital short-hand to revolutionize our english language?  When you think about it, how has the english language transformed throughout time…through convenience, right?  There’s a reason why we don’t write in Old English anymore!  It took too long, a sentence went on forever.  This day and age, instant gratification is becoming a necessity.  People ask a question and they want an answer right away.  And if that answer can come in an acronym, like IDK (I don’t know), isn’t that even better?  Is the English language similar to cell phones in the sense that the smaller/shorter it can be, the better?

Perhaps we’re projecting too far into the future.  It seems the issue with digital short-hand is that it proves Digital Media is having a HUGE effect on students today.  They way they learn is different from the way students learned 20 years ago.  How are teachers supposed to teach to a generation when they hardly speak the same language?

Technology in the classroom is the cutting edge of education.  Videos, blogs, online submission of assignments, teacher websites, you name it.  You have to wonder, are we actually ‘cutting edge’ with this technology, or are we being forced to use this technology because our students won’t learn any other way?

This video bring up these exact points:

As the woman states in the video, “This is the single-most powerful thing that’s happening today”.  So the question remains, do we continue to incorporate digital technology into the classroom because students have been “trained” to learn this way, or because it is the best way to teach?  Maybe the answer doesn’t matter, but it is definitely food for thought.

As for now, “The outcome is uncertain” as the second video states.  If nothing else, perhaps we’ll save some paper by having our students submit assignments online and cut down on costs by using sites like Wikispaces instead of asking students to make a poster board.

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The Teachers that are going to Save the World are…2/3 Fictitious

So, in one of my classes, we’re working on our Teaching Philosophy.  In theory, we’ve been working on our philosophy’s since Day 1, but our teacher is sneaky–the little assignments we’ve been doing every week are helping us tell ourselves what our philosophy is.  I like this.

To jump start this unit fully, we started out watching three inspirational teaching movies, all portraying teachers who save their students from near drop-out status and turn their entire lives around.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get caught up in these movies while the film is reeling, but once the curtain closes, I’m skeptical of what I just saw.  We watched Dead Poet’s Society, Dangerous Minds, and Freedom Writers.

What makes me skeptical about the ‘teachers’ portrayed in these films:

  1. In two of three films, these “amazing and life-changing” teachers are first-year teachers.
  2. In all three of these films these novice, or new-to-the-school teachers, show no fear in standing up to the Heads of the School.
  3. In all three of these films, each teacher’s students seem to fall madly in love with the teacher’s teaching style and become the best learners they’ve ever been.

Alright, so maybe I’m being cynical, and in the defense of these movies, they are NOT meant to educate future teachers on how to teach; however aside from Freedom Writers, neither of the other two films were based off of a true story, so what’s the point?  Is it possible to be an amazing teacher your first year out?  Maybe a better question is, if these films are relatively unrealistic, what is the point in trying to learn about teaching from them?

But then I got to thinking, as I reflected on these films…

Even though the teachers portrayed in 2/3 of these films are fictitious characters, they still served the purpose of motivating me.  I think a lot of people can agree that after watching any of these three films, you hope that one day, as a teacher, you can make a similar difference in your students’ lives.

I can also attest to the fact that I’ve had some amazing teachers in my school career so far–in fact, most of them are the reason I’ve chosen teaching as my future profession.  So even though these “movie teachers” aren’t real, there’s a little bit of hope that teachers like them do exist in the real world.  Maybe that even means there is hope that I could be a teacher like that.

However, I must also admit, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the energy these fictitious teacher characters brought to the film.  I learned that I believe it is important to always believe in your students and in their ability to learn.  I learned that I want to make sure my students know I believe in them.  And above all, I learned that I want to make sure each of my students realizes their importance, their purpose, and their abilities in my classroom.

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American School Structure

My LLED 420 class started out very interestingly–we began class with a live video chat with exchange students studying abroad in Sweden.  I won’t go into details about this certain program, however, interesting conversations came out of this video chat that got me thinking…

The students, who were a mix of American students, English Students, and Swedish students were all involved in the conversation as we discussed the structures of  school systems in America and Sweden. The students talked about the independent nature of Swedish schooling–i.e. it’s normal for students to be given a checklist for a project and vua-la, they’re supposed to find ways to make it work.

Though I strongly believe that guidance is necessary at some points, it seems that Swedish students, who are given free reign of their education, are more likely to be in school because they want to be as opposed to American students who are often in school because it’s what everyone does, or because it’s expected.

Of course, I think it was help that Swedish schools seem to have more stopping points (secondary school, upper secondary school, college) than American schools that go straight from High School to College.  An American student who drops out of HS at 16 receives no degree at all, despite the two years they had completed.

Though I am do not have much basis for this conclusion, I wonder if American school’s were less  structured and allowed for students to be more independent with their assignments if American students would enjoy school more.  I wonder if it is even possible for America schools to adapt a Swedish-like structure in our schools, after so many years of hand-holding our students.

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