Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No Red Ink Webinar

"Requiring Students to Do Revisions Establishes an Expectation of Improvement." When I saw these words flash across my screen while watching the NoRedInk webinar, I was reminded of a conversation I had at my own placement.  My mentor teacher told me that students do care about the feedback you give and will usually jump at the chance to revise their papers for points. I was happy to hear that this was the case his classroom but had an immediate thought: what about grammar? How do we show students grammar mistakes without telling them? Do we use that red pen to mark up their papers? It seems discouraging to me, but I had trouble thinking of any other option.

Lucky for me, Jeff gives a lot of sound and fun advice on the subject by introducing us to NoRedInk.  NoRedInk is a website where students can practice their grammar skills. They create a username and are asked to select a few of their interests, ranging from music to movies to television shows.  The shows and characters they select will be used in sentences to practice grammar skills. For example, there may be a sentence about Katniss in The Hunger Games that addresses semi-colons. Students are given the sentence to correct. If they get the wrong answer, they then have the chance to resubmit or watch a tutorial about the grammar error.

NoRedInk seems like a great tool to experiment with in the classroom, as it gives students a sense of agency when practicing grammar. Rather than passing back an assignment filled with red marks, students are in control of their learning and can see how to fix their mistakes.  I think this could really help students not get discouraged.  Not only are the sentences fun and interesting for students, they give the opportunity for students to have second chances.  Rather than never knowing how to fix a grammar mistake, students can try again and eventually get it right.

Overall, I think that NoRedInk has the potential to be a powerful tool simply because it allows students to interact with grammar in a way that is fun and unique.  Yet the site isn't all fun and games, as students are still expected to practice improve upon grammar.  They can try, and if they still make the mistake, it's okay. They watch the tutorial and learn exactly what they did wrong.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Last Day

Let me start by saying the guest speakers we had in class were fantastic.  Not only did we get a picture of what it is like to teach in different schools, such as charter and privates schools, we got a sense of what technology looks like in the classroom.  Our panelists used technology in varied ways and even though some panelists don't have the opportunity to use technology extensively in their classroom, it was great to see that everyone was open-minded.  From this summer semester, I've learned that it is important to be open-minded with regard to technology.  Sure, it may be a difficult change for some of us, but as technology becomes even more a part of our lives, it seems that it will become a prominent part of our classrooms.  But, it was really great to see how MAC-ers are making a difference in and out of the classroom.   

When class started, I viewed technology as to be somewhat anxiety producing--will I know how to use all technology? Am I going to completely embarrass myself in front of my students? And: what if I'm not good at it? That last question is one that has been bouncing around in my mind for a while but I have learned that technology is here for my benefit.  I may not like every program or tool I use but there are so many options that I am bound to find many that will work for my classroom. I think it's a matter of trying a lot of different tools and seeing which are the best fit for me and my classroom. 

For right now, I am happily keeping an open mind about technology in the classroom and see it not only as a resource for my classroom, but a tool for learning. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


While perusing through the edubloggers, I came across a post that really spoke to me.  A post by Dana Hufff (huggenglish.com) talks about digital books and how they can shape education. While I have a Kindle and absolutely love it, I've always been worried about the future of books--how do we preserve the power of a book? How do we ensure that students have and value physical copies of books? While I am hopeful that bookstores will still be around in ten years, Huff has convinced me of the value of digital books.  She specifically discusses how digital books, such as one with Shakespeare's sonnets, provide tools for comprehension to help readers.  With the sonnets particularly, there are a number of scholars who respond to the sonnets.  This seems like such a powerful tool for high school students because the readings include tools for comprehension, which can aide in comprehension of the text.  This seems to be a great way to prevent students from using Sparknotes of No Fear Shakespeare. Wouldn't we rather give the students the tools to understand in a deep and meaningful way? I think so.

Huff also talks about an app related to a short film "The Fantastic Flying Books" (which is absolutely wonderful and I recommend watching!) Huff writes about how the reader can interact with the narration that accompanies the reading.  While this is perhaps geared more toward a young child, I love this idea that digital books let students interact with a text.  Let's think back to the Shakespeare example.  Not every student is going to love sitting down with a physical copy of Shakespeare and reading. Sure, it's a nice picture, but is it realistic? Now let's think of this interactive text.  Giving students a digital book that they can interact with and learn from is exciting. It makes learning fun; it makes reading meaningful.  And, students will hopefully walk away with an understanding. Instead of getting frustrated with Shakespeare's language and closing the book, perhaps students will use one of the text's tools--such as listening to a famous scholar discuss a sonnet. In this way, students get a new perspective and a new understanding.  

Now, I'm not saying we should do away with physical copies of books but I am saying that as future educators we need to be made aware of the tools we can use in our classroom. If digital books are a future reality in classrooms, we should take this opportunity to familiarize ourselves and realize their merits.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Class Reflection

I found class to be really helpful today, as I got to learn about a lot of applications and resources that I previously did not know much about.  I enjoyed seeing everyone's handouts and hope they will be helpful if I teach these tools to my students or use these tools in the classroom.  Our group had a unique approach to some of the teaching sessions because we used Google hangout.  One group member posted his powerpoint on Google hangout and we were able to easily follow along. I thought this was also beneficial because I learned more about Google Plus and the ways in which it is similar to different from Skype.

Before class, I was unclear as to how Skype could be used in the classroom because I have always equated it with video chatting.  However, we learned a lot about how Skype can be used in the classroom. (http://www.teachingdegree.org/2009/06/30/50-awesome-ways-to-use-skype-in-the-classroom/)  I love the idea of using Skype to talk to an author.  I think this is a great way for students to engage with texts in a new way.  I also like the idea of using Skype between classrooms.  I think it would be really cool to have a middle school and high school collaborate with one another and use Skype to tutor or peer teach.  Skype does, however, seem to be something with which teachers need to have clear guidelines.  That is, I think it is necessary to introduce Skype as an educational tool, not simply a place to video chat with friends.

My handout was on Evernote and while I don't think I would use it personally, I think it could be great in a classroom.  I like the idea of students storing their notes in Evernote and being able to share them with one another.  It also seems like it could be a good way to compile lists of resources needed for a class.  I am also interested in exploring Diigo more, as it also seems to be a great place to store and share stuff.

Overall, I feel like I walked away from class knowing four new tools that I can use in my teaching.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Incorporating Video Games into Curriculum

I had never considered that Angry Birds could be used in the classroom.  That being said, I found our guest speaker's presentation to be enlightening and inspiring.  It really made me realize that technology is something we are going to have to use in our classrooms and we can use it in ways that really engage students.  I especially liked his sentiment that we can use activities as a means to engage students in subjects they struggle with.  It seems that incorporating a game like Angry Birds helps to make students comfortable with a subject.  It is with this comfort that students open up and may see a subject in a different light.  Yet what struck me most is that games, like Angry Birds, can be used as a way to get students to pose their own questions.  According the speaker, students start questioning the best players and strategies.  Not only does this engage students with the material, it also creates a team atmosphere.  The atmosphere or environment of a classroom can make all the difference, and by using inquiry-based activities, a positive learning atmosphere can be created.

Still, I am finding it difficult to see how games can be incorporated in an English curriculum. I understand there are many places for technology in an English classroom--podcasts, blogs, online forums--yet I am unsure how I would incorporate an actual video game. I'm am hoping we learn more about how games are used across all disciplines because I think they are interesting learning tools to consider.

I also enjoyed the speaker's discussion on use of Twitter in education.  I have never thought of Twitter as an educational tool, but I am beginning to see its merits.  It seems like a great way to not only generate discussion among educators, but also share teaching strategies and lesson plans.  I also think it would be really interesting to incorporate Twitter in the classroom, perhaps by having an account solely dedicated to class. I think this would be an interesting way to get students involved in their learning.

Using Weebly is also a new experience for me.  While I am initially skeptical of posting information online, I think it could be a useful professional tool in the future.  I more so see it as a tool to be used in classrooms. I think it would be great to have students navigate boundaries between the personal and the professional by using Weebly. I especially see this being a useful tool for high school seniors, as it could help teach them how to present themselves in a professional way.  

Overall, I feel like my view toward technology is evolving and I am starting to feel less afraid of the reality that I will have to use it in my classroom.  When I can see educational benefits of Twitter, anything is possible. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Video Games and Teaching?

When I was younger, my parents, brother, and I used to travel to Minnesota every summer to visit my family. My dad would make us leave at 1 AM and we would arrive in Minnesota just as the sun peaked up over the pine trees. Now, these trips were great.  Days at the lake, four-wheeler rides, trips to the only grocery store for ice cream.  And video games. Lots of video games. My cousins and brother would stay up late at night and play for hours. I was the one who fell asleep.

So, when I saw the reading was about the merits of video games, I was skeptical to say the least.  I have honestly always thought of video games as a waste of time, but this could partially stem from the fact that I have never cared for them.  Of course, I would much prefer my students pick up a book to read in their spare time, but after reading the article, video games don't seem quite so bad. I am especially intrigued by this idea that video games "talk back" to us.  When Gee discussions the element of "interaction" in video games, he states that games "react back" and "give the player feedback and new problems." I like this idea of video games giving the players "new problems" that are challenging and make players think on their feet. And, as Gee states, this seems to be an idea to carry into teaching.  That is, we don't necessarily have to use games in the classroom (although this could be an interesting activity) but we can rather treat learning more "game-like."  For an English classroom, I could see this "game-like" notion coming by having students treat reading as an interaction.  By getting students to make decisions about a text, they are immediately challenged.  They will have to grapple with decisions that characters or authors make and interact with the text in new ways.

Now that I've been thinking about video games, I actually wonder what a lesson would look like if it were framed in the context of video games. Could students act as characters that have to reach a goal? How would obstacles be implemented? As teachers, it seems that we should always be thinking of ways to get students interested in learning.  I think my main idea here is having students be an active part of their learning.  Being good at video games is a definite skill and I'd love to get students involved in learning by knowing what they are interested in and manifesting this interest in the classroom.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Small Groups and Podcasting

I always find it interesting to work in groups--everyone has an opinion yet we have to somehow bring those opinions together to form some kind of coherent thought.  While our group did have its disagreements, I found the lesson planning activity to be enlightening.  I came into the group with a completely different idea as to how I would structure the lesson, but I found my group members' opinions opened my mind to new possibilities.  We found we could agree on the overall structure/main ideas of the lesson, but there were certain points where we left room for flexibility.  For example, in our lesson, we wanted to hold some kind of Skype session where students could talk to those affected by or associated with the New York Soda Ban. While some group members preferred to divide the students and have groups interview certain people, others preferred a Google "hangout" type situation that would act as more of a panel than an interview.  We found that it was best to leave it open ended--we did not have to agree on every single aspect of the lesson plan.

I also found it interesting to compare ideas with other groups.  While we focused more on the article itself and incorporated it into every aspect of our lesson plan, others simply used the article as a reading activity that prefaced the rest of the lesson.  Finally, I really enjoyed getting to work with a librarian, as she gave us excellent advice regarding technology resources we can use in the classroom. She also explained the ways in which technology is currently being introduced in classrooms (for example, Nooks that students can check out from the library), which is helpful in gauging where schools could be going technology-wise.

Finally, I found podcasting to be an interesting process, as I have never done it before.  I can definitely see the merit of using podcasts in the classroom.  I immediately thought of them as being useful in having students record short responses to a reading or feedback from a group project.  They really open up the idea of student response--students do not simply have to respond in written form but can respond verbally. I think it is giving students choices like this that actively engage them in their learning while also letting teachers learn the best practices for students.