A shared reading

207418193_dafffdc266 After reading Will's post the other day, I realized my students could "read" a poem together and annotate in diigo. We created a private ninth-grade group in diigo this year to explore sharing of bookmarks. I hadn't yet realized the value in annotating with comments.
So yesterday, we opened up "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks, and I asked the students to write some of their thoughts.
One problem surfaced right away: if they highlight and comment on the same line, all the comments aren't immediately visible. If you refresh the page, however, different comments appear.
Today, I saw that I could extract all the annotations from the diigo toolbar, and this is what they did (I have removed their names since I didn't ask if I could publish this. However, for teachers, this tool is so valuable as the students' diigo user names are listed after each comment.) Notice how they often respond to each other and answer each other's questions:


FA-English9 – We Real Cool

    * We Lurk late
    * We Sing sin.
          o It's kind of a sobering statement about what our definition of “cool” really is.
          o I definitely agree with that, I mean it's likely you're going to define "cool" differently than the person next you you. Also, some people dont have a conscious of their sins, it's an interesting line, a lot can be interpruted from this.
    * We Thin gin
          o So many young people are exposed to alchol because of parents and peers.
    * We Thin gin.
          o Does anyone know what "thin gin" means. It might sound silly but i really have no idea
          o It means to like, add water to gin to distill it.
          o I think it means that they thin bottles of gin like drink a lot
    * Jazz June
          o what does this mean?
          o What does this mean?
          o I think it means like cause a comotion, like Jazz it up!
          o i think it means kinda like we're done with this… like i guess like we are done with this life and then because they give up they die but thats only what i think
    * We Die soon.
          o I like that she put this as the last line. As teenagers, and young people we sometimes don't see that life goes by so fast and often we take advantage of life.
          o Yeah exactly, it's like none of us ever think anything bad can happen to us. If we do something we know is wrong, we don't think about the consequences. We think we'll live forever.
          o I agree. It's something nobody really wants to think about. I barely do unless someone i know dies and i have a moment of reflection about the fragility of life, but it's just a thought. It's unpleasant, so i push it away. c
          o I dont think that we not only as teenagers see that we not just take advantage of life but i dont think that we ever seen dealth in the near future of our life
    * We Die soon.
          o This line to me brings the peom together. She ended it like this i think because we live life and it goes by so fast and dealth can creep up on you and no one and not even yourself would see it coming
          o I totally agree. I think that it is such an interesting way to end the poem. This line is the last in the poem, and it really brings the full impact of the poem to the reader
    * We Die soon.
          o this was a strong line i thought because as the poem progresses it seems that all of those bad things were leading up to this horrible thing. THis was the line where i understood what the whole poem was about.
    * We Die soon.
          o This is SUPER POWERFUL! it's even more powerful how she says, we, instead of just talking about one person. I'm guessing she means that a lot of people can be affected by the bad things.
          o It's scary to think about how some of the people we know now could 'die soon.' Are we still afraid of death? Or is it just an unthinkable consequence to our actions.
    * by Gwendolyn Brooks 1950
          o The fact that this was written in 1950 is really crazy. It shows how society really haven't changed that much. People are still being rebellious today. When i first read this, i didn't see the date, and in my mind i was thinking about todays society.
          o I agree. Some issues are timeless
          o Good point, and it is even more true after seeing the video of the guy talking about his (very modern) experiences in life that line up almost completely parallel to this poem

I LOVE this activity. They have begun to see the value in the comments they receive on their blogs, and now they can share their immediate thoughts about a piece of writing through diigo annotations. This is a powerful activity. Richardson quotes Steve Johnson's article about digital reading in his piece:

As you read, you will know that at any given moment, a conversation is available about the paragraph or even sentence
you are reading. Nobody will read alone anymore. Reading books will go
from being a fundamentally private activity — a direct exchange between
author and reader — to a community event, with every isolated paragraph
the launching pad for a conversation with strangers around the world.

Yikes, my head is spinning with possibilities. First, what to do with this private diigo account. Should it be open? What are the ramifications of that?

Learning the value of a network

 Something I've tried to teach my students this year is how to learn together. Over the past couple of years, I've found great value in sharing with my network of colleagues from around the world.
Twitter, of course, has been part of that network. Curious, I tried to search for my first "tweet," wondering what in the world I said to start this ball rolling.
Though I think I started in the spring of 2007, applications that search will only go back as far as 3,200 tweets, so this was the earliest one I could find:
MyTweet16 | View any Twitter user_s first tweets-2  
I remember discovering Kim Cofino, a 21st century learning specialist, who has since shared multiple presentations, learning activities, global collaborations, and things to make me thing in the time since. Is this ability to connect and learn a literacy? A skill? A practice? All of these, I believe. And as I've seen with my students, a practice that takes time because we are undoing years of learning alone.
What a meaningful journey this has been.

And one day I'll find that very first tweet.

You have to use it to believe

Zotero is one of those applications I've had on my computer for, oh at least a year. Occasionally, I would pull it up and save something, but then I'd forget to go back to it. I tend to use my diigo/delicious combo for saving and annotating websites, and I hadn't done much research lately (one of Zotero's strengths since it pulls bibliographic info easily).
This morning, I noticed an audio file in my Reader, so I clicked the play button. Suddenly, I realized I wanted to take notes. This was a conversation from the ELI 2009 Annual Meeting, and several folks were discussing how to get their faculty involved in using emerging technologies.
My brain started spinning: open a Google Doc? Word? a post it? Ah, Zotero! And before the second speaker had started, I had a note open, and I was typing away as I listened.
Gmail - Inbox (4512) - susancartermorgan@gmail.com
You can see I have several documents (listed on the left) that are in a folder I've created for things I use when I need to present to faculty. On the right, a note I was using to write points I was hearing on the audio file. The note is then a subset of the original audio file in the larger folder.
Neat. Organized. Quick.
Zotero to the rescue. I have a feeling this will be very useful.
Sigh, why did it take me so long?

Time and choices we make

Dean Shareski posted a tweet the other day (I hope it was Dean). He said someone asked him how he found the time to do what he did.
"I don't "find" the time," he said. "I make the time."
My first thought was, yes-absolutely. And I retweeted it.
But, now I am wondering if some of this networking and sharing online is easier for me to "make the time" for because I enjoy it.
If someone said to me, "Make time to cook and garden," I'd be hard-pressed to find the time.  Not that I'm equating changing the way we "do schools" with growing squash and baking bread, but you get my point.
I like being online, learning from my community. I'm energized by discussions about brain research and social media. I look forward to checking Twitter for new reads or connections. I love watching my students' learn from each other and share their thoughts on the blogs. Carving out time to catch up on my RSS feeds or comment on various nings is not difficult for me.

The other day someone said to me, "Your face lights up when you talk about this stuff."
I don't know why all teachers don't find discussions about learning with social media enjoyable. But I also wonder if our personalities, our tendencies, or whether we look at the world in black and white or gray, play into any of this.

 I also know colleagues who don't necessarily "enjoy" this, but they do it because they understand the value in learning, sharing, and connecting professionally–much as I understand the value in cooking food so I don't eat junk. I cook because I know it's good for me, not because I want to.

Being online isn't my whole life. I run and go to the gym each day, I visit with friends, and occasionally watch movies.  And there's nothing better than plopping down at the beach with a good book and soaking up the sun. Given a free moment, though, I'll login to see who's online or what people are talking about.

Some of you will argue that making "the shift" can't be a choice, and teachers should just get on board.
But I'm thinking it's a whole lot easier for those of us who love change and jumping into new things to gravitate toward this new media and what it offers.

What do you think? Am I way off on this?