Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Entry #3

I find it very interesting that among many of the discussions we have had in class, a topic that is often brought up is student choice. For this week's entry it was free choice. Instead of making it easier, it makes it harder to take all of the ideas I have been coming up with while reading and participating in online discussions and focus on one of them. I felt better about my own struggle to begin the writing process when reading my peers blog entries that indicated similar obstacles. As an adult with ADD, I often have difficulty in scaling down large ideas and focusing on one topic at a time. One task I often engage in is brainstorming. This allows me to get all (or most) of the ideas that are scrambled around in my head down on paper so I can then narrow down my choices. For writing pieces, I will generally create a basic outline which will help me to focus on specific topics and details. For me, organization is a key factor in my being able to read, write, and think while remaining focused on the task at hand.

Technology has slowly but surely become a friend to me over the last eight years of my collegiate studies. I went from not knowing what a power point presentation was, to being able to design excel spreadsheets and even create animations. I am fascinated with the idea of RSS(Really Simple Syndication) that was discussed in chapter 2 of Hicks (2009). I wish I had known about this eight years ago! As I had mentioned before, organization plays an important role in my being able to maintain my focus and stamina (reading or writing). I created my Google Reader account at
www.google.com/reader after viewing the video on www.commoncraft.com. When readnig about this application in the textbook, it seemed complicated, but the video tutorial put everything into perspective. I am currently using this to gather more information about common core standards and the genre pieces project.

So how can I use ths in my classroom? Although I do not have a classroom to speak of right now, I have had the most teaching experience at the middle school level and this would be a great tool for students to use when it comes to research projects and to find more information about topics that interest them. This is also a tool that the students can easily access from their home computers if they have access to the internet. Often, when students would use the mobile laptops to work on projects, their work was not accessible to them at home (unless they had an e-mail account to forward their work to or a thumbdrive). I would also have some students find a great article at home or school and not be able to find it again when they went to bring it back up (a problem which I have had myself).

Although RSS does not eliminate the need to search the internet for information, I feel as though this saves time in the research process and brings information directly to the user. I would even feel as though this could be implemented into SSR as the students are checking their readers for articles to read. Instead of signing out passes to the library, the students can search, find, and read in one location. One stop shopping! I just recently added the topic of nutrition so I could start to receive articles that may be of interest to my daughter who is studying nutrition. I am hoping that I may become inspired by these aricles too!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Given the three elements of the framework Hicks (2009) notes in chapter 7 - your students, the subject of writing, and the spaces in which we write - how would you describe these elements as they are currently present in your classroom and school? What do (did) you need to develop in order to make your digital writing workshop successful?

The three elements of Hick's (2009) framework that influence the way we teach writing are "the students we teach, the subject matter of writing, and the spaces in which writing occurs," (125). I have seen how all three elements have affected the way in which I previously thought about teaching writing in my own classroom. Most of my teaching experience has been as a middle school English and special education teacher. Both positions afforded me the opportunity to use technology as a means to support my students and their learning. Because of my own limited knowledge of some of the digital tools available, I had to spend a great deal of time learning about the different digital mediums and how to best implement them into lessons and the classroom. The librarian was a wonderful woman who mentored me throughout the process and gave me many ideas for future lessons. She also took the time to show me her recommendations and how to best implement them dependent on the unit of study and student access.
Almost every unit that was taught, implemented some technology within it. For an author study, the students were introduced to research sites and how to find reliable web sources. They then had to prepare a power point presentation in which they would present their author and information to the class. For another unit that involved literature circles, as a culminating project the students created a skit in which they recorded their performances and then placed within an interactive website where they would then be presented to the class. Prior to their being able to record their performances, they needed to write the scripts. They knew their audience would be their peers and quite possibly the entire school if we could get a performance broadcast on the Friday morning news. This provided them with an authentic purpose and audience in which to write for.
What I did not plan for was an actual digital writing workshop. I didn't have a specific plan as to how to teach my student's to implement this technology. In many cases, I had the expectation the students would already know how to use power point presentations and video cameras. I hadn't planned well enough for teaching those students who did not have the experience. I also think I relied to heavily on those students who had the experience to help those who didn't. I actually wrote this in a self-reflection I had written after the completion of one of the units. At that point, I realized I needed the help of a mentor to guide me.
I also thought the students would understand the needs of their audience. Hicks explains " digital writing changes the contexts and purposes for writing," (2009). I suppose these are learning experiences that hopefully many new teachers face. I look back now and realize I had only planned a partial experience and my idea of what writing was did not necessarily include the digital writing tools the students were using. An example would be I wanted the students to provide me with a rough draft of their script writing. I now question why I needed this. Corrections can be made digitally as well and the students would not have had to take the additional time to create an additional word document as their final copy. This would have given me more time for the mini lessons which would accompany many of the tasks I had assigned, which would have helped the students that did not have as much experience using these digital mediums.
In regard to space, I had the computers placed on the outside perimeter of the classroom with the center of the room having a table to meet with students individually. Again, in retrospect, I should have placed the students in "pods" based upon their groupings. This would have allowed them the space to become interactive with their peers and collaborate.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Entry #1

Entry 1 Prompt: As you reflect on your experiences teaching (or perhaps simply assigning) writing, consider what "feels comfortable": What core principles do you value and enact in your classroom? Time for writing? Conferring with other students? how have those practices remained constant over time?
At the same time, consider your familiarity with a variety if technologies including word processors, digital audio and video editors, and online writing spaces such as blogs and wikis. What are some of the challenges you anticipate in trying to blend the principles of the writing workshop with these technologies?
(Optional): In regard to the evaluation criteria for this assignment: What concerns, if nay, do you have about the way this assignment is evaluated? Is there any language in the rubric that you are not familiar with or that does not make sense to you?

Reflecting on my personal experiences as a student, teacher, and mother, I know the value of motivation. Motivation in every sense of the word. The motivation to learn, to read, to engage, to act, to love, to go to the gym...and the list goes on and on. In my classroom, I want this motivation to be constantly and consistently fueled. Through writing, students can identify strengths, interests, fears, and learn to take risks. The art of writing can be as unique as the individual.
Blogs and wikis allow for writers to share their ideas with a larger community and at the same time, these members of the community can choose to join, read, and contribute to  forums that are of interest or value to them. This in turn creates a continuum of participation through dialogue that elicits a response through reading and writing. Where I have been a fan of utilizing technology as medium for instruction, I often do not have as much personal experience with using these methods as some of my students do. This is a challenge I have faced and as technology continues to evolve, and I anticipate this will continue. When I have utilized the computer lab or mobile labs for my classroom activities, an obstacle that always arises is after group introduction and demonstration of the activity, when moving on to guided practice, there is only one of me and twenty-five to thirty students with their hands raised. Many of the students will have to wait for more instruction before they can begin due to their learning needs or lack of familiarity with technology. Often including a print out of instructions to look back on helps students as well as providing multiple opportunities to practice through examples prior to starting the activity. Then there are those students who do not want the instruction and are driven to begin the activity because of the familiarity with computers or the programs we are using which also poses its own complications.
One of the lessons that I composed a few years ago utilized a website which allowed the students to create their own cartoons. This was extremely motivating for several of the students (in particular the boys).
In the last three years, most of my experience has been with middle school students. Most of the classrooms were equipped with projectors and I was provided with a laptop, but in order to conduct a lesson that required students to utilize a laptop to compose or research work of their own, I would have to sign out a mobile lab. There were two mobile labs for the entire middle school and there were only two desktops in each classroom. In a world which requires our students to be proficient with technology, the schools need to be provided with more access. I know this is a problem for many school districts and teachers, and this continues to concern me as technology continues to develop by leaps and bounds, but the amount of funding for our students continues to dwindle.