7 Things

Jenny Luca tagged me for this meme, so I thought I would play along.

  1. Because my dad was in the Army, I attended 13 schools in 12 years. I attended one semester in an all-girls school in France, where I was one of two English-speaking students, and I graduated from high school in Germany.
  2. I have been teaching for 28 years, and I've never taught the same lesson plan in the same way. I LOVE change (my furniture, my job, my hobbies, my goals….)
  3. I am an INFP and growing more "I" by the day. I like nothing better than spending a day by myself.
  4. When I was 5, I decided to play beautician, and I cut off all my sister's hair. It was the first time I saw my mother cry.
  5. I have run four half-marathons, each time beating my previous record. Becoming a runner was a life-long goal that I finally achieved after turning 50.
  6. One of the reasons I wanted to become a teacher was because I disliked school so much.
  7. I am totally affected by my environment, and I find that white lights on a tree, rolling waves on a beach, the first sunny spring day, or a crackling fire on a snowy day can totally change my emotional state–for the better!

Now, I'm supposed to tag 7 more, unless you've already done this :)

Help me plan….

A recent blog post on a private ning about making our planning transparent has me thinking. 
I am teaching a ninth-grade English class on Introduction to Genres this year for the first time, using plans from a former teacher. Book
So far, it has worked well since I have a solid base in short stories and autobiographies and the familiar readings.
However, I am about to head into drama using Antigone and two other plays. If I ever had an understanding of Greek tragedies, it is gone now! And the other two plays are also just distant memories for me (I've been teaching almost 30 years now and NOT in this division).
So….I think I will do some thinking and planning right here. That way, if anyone has any great ideas, well, they can share with me!
My first thought is that I will ask the students to help me plan the unit, too. I've never done this before–actually let the students move in their own direction with a unit of study. One of my goals this year is to define and explore student-centered learning, so this seems like an opportunity to let them go and further my research.
The goal is to help them fully understand the concepts of drama, just as they did for short stories and autobiographies. And, ultimately, they will write a one-act play. But how we get there is undecided at this point.
I will spend some time today reading some background material and, of course, checking the previous plans. This almost sounds like a contradiction– creating a plan to let go.
However, if you want to pass along any nuggets of brilliance, please do!

Uploaded on October 23, 2007
by lochnessjess

FA Blogs, Together

Thanks to Jim Groom, instructional technology specialist at the University of Mary Washington–the EduPunk himself, my school has a blogging platform! It's just a beginning, and I am finding my way around how to manage WPMU. But soon, we'll open it up to students and faculty.

It all started here. Then Jim graciously agreed to meet with me first and then later with a team from my school, including my Head of School, to show us the possibilities. And the possibilities are endless.

Several of us have attempted to blog with our students, but we are all over the place: blogger, typepad, 21 classes….and the students have numerous logins and passwords. This will allow us to consolidate and manage one publishing platform.

Decisions yet to be made:

  • static front page or rotating posts
  • limited to FA email addresses or open
  • guidelines for "appropriate use"
  • use of names? initials? photos?

If any of you want to weigh in with suggestions, please feel free to help us out. We have all talked about how much we benefit from our PLN, but I'm overwhelmed by how this happened and came together. Jim and I have also talked about taking this collaboration a step further, getting the students involved as mentors for some of our kids. Wow, I can't think of anything better.

We're kickin' it up a notch. Uh, huh….

Building Community

  The third face to face meeting of our FA team, part of the international cohort of the Powerful Learning Practice (phew, that's a mouthful) met yesterday.
And we built some social capital.
Man, is it great working with such a bright, talented group of people. They share, reflect, push back, and reflect some more.
We researched questions we are considering this year as we explore new literacies and learning–What is higher-order thinking? How does creativity play a role in teaching and learning? What IS student-centered learning? What do we do now that works, and what should we change in our classrooms to improve our teaching and learning? And what role does technology play?

Our discussions scaffolded, building from definitions, to examples of what we were doing in the classroom, to plans for how we could put into practice what we were sharing.
Susanne took us from Bloom to an explanation of sound reasoning, and Jennifer shared Gerald Grow's stages of self-direction. Both led us into a fascinating discussion of where we are in these stages and whether higher-order thinking is the most important thing we do.
We have moved beyond theoretical discussions about whether we should shift our thinking; we are there.
But it was the sense of community in the room that gave me my "ah-ha" moment.

Jennifer turned to us and said something like, "…here we are learning and sharing and no one is telling us to do it." We have no administrative directive to make this happen. All our networking through Twitter, our blogs, on the PLP ning, and in our f2f meetings is happening because we believe in what we are doing, and we want to improve what is happening in our classes. We've made connections with folks around the world, and we've grown closer as a team.

Clay Shirky describes his book, Here Comes Everybody, by saying it's…."about what happens when people are given the
tools to do things together, without needing traditional
organizational structures."

It's true. Carey made me laugh when she tweeted this later in the day: 

Capohanka - Twitter Search

Yes, Sheryl and Will, it's powerful.

What they already know…

My kids have been presenting this week.TypePad - Compose New Post

I’m not sure what I expected. But it wasn’t what I got.

They had written persuasive essays on topics of their choice, ranging from poverty to animal treatment to global warming. But I wanted to see what they could do with visuals, so I asked them to also persuade using a multimedia presentation. The guidelines were vague: use any application, tell your story any way you want. I was curious. Would they live up to the hype of being members of this visual generation?
I was absolutely floored. Without any instruction, students used Adobe Premier, FinalCut, PowerPoint, or PhotoStory to put together powerful, persuasive slideshows. If they didn’t know something, they asked a friend or me. If something didn’t work, they figured out how to go in the back door. Some used background music; others recorded their voices. One used only large blocks of text, another inserted a youtube vide at the end. Some took videos of other students to make a point, supplementing with still photos. I was impressed. Not a bullet anywhere!
But–my mistake– Not talking to them about copyright. I was banking on Fair Use for only using the slideshows in the classroom. They are so good, I wish I could share them. But I can’t.
So I explained the next time we would be sure to use Creative Commons images and sounds and attibute them properly so we could post the final work online.

The upside? I have a new tool in my toolbelt,  AND I don’t have to teach them how to use it. They are there.

And speaking of persuasive videos…