Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Personal Learning Network-Presentations

Last Friday, I had our first group of students present on their personal learning network. I used this rubric to evaluate their presentation as well as had the class access the student blog he/she was referencing to leave real time comments about the presentation( we pulled up the blog and had it appear via our overhead projectors). While the student was speaking, the class reacted to the presentation. The instantaneous feedback the students provided was valuable to the presenter. If a classmate did not feel comfortable offering oral feedback in our class debriefing, the evaluator could reference his/her blog and see what reactions the class had to the presentation. Here are some examples:

seanb said...
Brandon good job presenting. you had a clear voice and didnt studder or fidget. But next time try and be more descriptive and dont fade off reading the story.

laurene said...
brandon! Good job on your presentation. Your pace on your speaking was good and slow so I could really understand you. Your eye contact with the class was also good. I also really liked how you compared your article with your history class and your english class and you went into details with how they relate to the article. I also think that you should try not to fade off win speaking and try to speak a little clearer, but other than that good job.

berekm said...
Anna, You did a good job speaking loud and clear so everyone can hear. I liked your relations with the story about taking pictures of landscapes. I think its funny that you thought New Jersey was New York. I agree with you becuase people do take the easy way out and also students do it too. I understood everything you said and i agreed with the getting pictures online. You looked up while you read and talked to the class as if you memorized the writing. You added an interestin personal aspect to your presentation, good job.

avereel said...
Anna, I really enjoyed your presentation. You really got into detail about how it connects to the world and to yourself. You were so calm about presnting, you were so brave to go first! I totally agree with what you said, too many times, we do take the easy way out. I haven't read My Flickr Conundrum, but your presentation made me really interested. Good job!

annies said...
Alex! Good job explaining the article. I agree because students in the US should have a high literacy rate, and then people will see them as "Kids of the future". But i think it could have been a little longer, and you could have related it to the world and yourself. But otherwise, good job!

Xavia H2011 said...
If you have your notes, try not to look back and forth to the screen and your notes, just choose on. Good job though, your blog was well explained and it was good how you related it to yourself. Try to make it a little longer to.

I also asked for the presenter to add an additional blog entry to their personal blog critiquing his/her presentation. I think it is important for them to reflect on their preparation as well as evaluate their delivery and effect of the presentation. Thinking out loud, it might be interesting to do some goal setting before their presentation on what they hope to achieve in their personal blog and then assess that piece afterward in a reflection blog. Here are some examples of their personal reflections:

Anna K, Overall, Friday's presentation was pretty good, but I still need to work on not sounding so nervous and fidgeting so much. I think I did a good job at keeping eye contact with everyone and not talking to fast which I normally do.

Josh TS, For my next presentation I would like to do a few things diferently, first of all I would liek to be more prepaired with note cards instead of reading off the screen. I would also have like dto have a longer presentation

Alex E., After presenting my PLN in class, i think that i didn't prepare enough, by practising talking and have the materials needed, and my writing didn't have enough detail in it and could have been longer. Also i could have spoke up more and made more eye contact, and work on not saying "ummm" and "like" so much. But besides that i have learned from my mistakes and now i know how to prepare for my next presentation

We have some work to do on the reflection side, but hopefully we will get to some honest feedback on what they did and how they can improve after we practice what good reflection looks like. I am also going to add podcasts of their presentations to their own blogs as well as to Learning and Laptops for them to reflect on. I think this is a valuable piece to a reflective evaluation be hearing what you sound like when speaking in front of a group.

Some changes I decided to make to the presentations after conferencing with Jessie Comp about her classes presentations were that the students need to speak about all their blog postings. I am not sure how this will work out once they have numerous entries but I like the freedom it grants them in their presentation. Also, I am asking the presenter to create follow up questions to their presentation to create a post-presentation dialogue with the class. After all, one of my focus points for creating a Personal Learning Network is to get my students talking about issues that are relevant to them. Jessie had great success with this in her class and I am hoping to create the same dialogues in my class.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


So today, I tried something new. I know, me?

I created a new blog for my Advanced Placement Chemistry Lab students. I had one group volunteer to keep a video/pictorial record of their actions in lab. I even allowed them to repeat the demonstrations that I did at the beginning of the class. One member of the group kept a typed record of what they were photographing/videotaping and then that student is going to send it to me tomorrow. What my plans are, and I need a little help figuring this out, is to post this information in a blog so that we have a record of all the things that we do this year. I just am not sure how easy it is to post video to a blog. Is there another format that I could try? Are there teachers out there that have done things like this already?

I know that when the wireless network is running I can hav ehte students post directly as they are doing the experiment, but what are some possible work arounds right now?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Google Earth meets the Odyssey

During my first few years at AHS, Maura Moritz and I developed an assignment where we had our freshmen complete personal learning journeys on big laminated map mimicking Odysseus own journey. Along the map, they had to carefully mark 10 places they had visited, what they did there, as well as what they learned from the experience. We displayed the maps around the classroom and everyone could marvel at all the places their classmates have traveled.

Once I was introduced to PowerPoint, I updated this assignment to the use of PowerPoint complete with linking slides and maps. However, this past spring, I watched a presentation from Mike Porter about his use of Google Earth and saw how The Odyssey Personal Learning Journey could take on a whole new level.

My students will be creating a Google Earth journey of their travels following the same criteria as before looking at where they went, what they did there, and most importantly, what they learned. Odysseus during his travels learned something about himself as well as other cultures along his journey home, and I hope they will do this as well. I am hoping that these will be true reflections of their learning. Also, I am anxious to see the impact that these presentations will have on one another. Will they find they have visited similar places? Will they see and reveal the lessons they have learned over their short life thus far? Putting together my presentation did that for me. It was difficult to recall some moments, but allowed for me to really laugh and appreciate all I have been through. I would love to know suggestions others might have for this assignment. Although mine doesn't contain pictures, video or audio, these are things I am thinking of adding to their presentations.

Here are their examples

A Twist to College Essays- Using Google Groups

Google is taking over our senior essays!

Michele Davis, Lauren Gaffney, and I were interested in approaching our senior college essay unit differently this year focusing on more collaboration work done outside of class. Typically, we have our students compose a series of essays of which the teacher responds and provides feedback to the student. For my class, my students write three essays dealing with either a crossroads in their life, how have their parents impacted them, and a who am I essay.

Over the years, I have changed the focus of the essays to meet the needs of the colleges they are applying to, but for the most part in the past, it has been an out of class, teacher to student assignment. To give myself some credit, I do have them use Word’s reviewing toolbar to peer edit one final paper in class. Also, I have them conference with me about their final essay before they turn it in so we can discuss changes one on one.

However, even with all this work, Michele, Lauren, and I wanted something more this year from our seniors. We wanted them to connect with one another and see what their peers were saying. Last year, Michele had used Google Groups with her seniors to submit their essays online so that their classmates would be able to provide valuable feedback to the posted work. After discussing how to do this, we came up with the following criteria so that our combined 5 sections of seniors could upload, comment, and read their peers work. We had some basic criteria in completing this assignment:

Post one final essay

Students can choose to post anonymously. We actually came up with a coding system of the teacher’s last name followed by a number (Smith 4).

Students could choose to use their names to post, but no last names. (Anne S)

All students needed to post their essay by the same date.

Students need to give constructive criticism and valuable feedback to at least 5 other essays. (These essays need to be students in other classes)

Constructive criticism needs to be memorable and helpful.

Try not to comment on essays that have already received feedback. If an essay has received 3 comments, move on to another essay.

I will have my students blog about their feelings on this assignment, but most really felt the process was helpful. Some suggestions that we need to think about next time we do this:
· What does constructive criticism look like? Some kids received valuable feedback while others had no comments.
· Clearer identification of who is in what class.
· Do we want to open up the essays to a larger audience?

Overall, I think we are on the first steps to a really valuable and interactive assignment. I really feel that in order for the seniors to become the best writers they need to read what other students/ writers are producing- as well as the great writers of literature (We don’t want to forget Oedipus’ memorable crossroads or was it a fork in the road). This assignment enabled them to do so. In fact, when I asked them if they would want to put their essay out their for the whole world, many said yes, but only if they could go back and make the changes that their peers had suggested as well as what we talked about in our teacher student conference.

Michele’s comments on set-up and process…
Building this site was quite simple. Google groups make it easy and user-friendly. Google groups also provide pages to help users navigate their way through the site. One such link is the Google Groups Quick Start Guide. Google groups has 3 easy steps to follow to start: 1) set up the group (name it and decide who can view the site), 2) add members (if you like), and 3) add information to your page (add additional pages, upload information, change the logo, change the access, etc.).

We decided to set our College Essays site up so that we did not have to invite students; they just needed a Google account to sign in. If students did not have an account, we had them register for one. (One somewhat annoying aspect was that every time a student puts their paper (adds a page as Google groups calls it) on the site, it emails the managers.) This was a little bothersome, but it did show us who was responding by the deadline.

Overall, I love how this site provides an opportunity for students to place essays and get feedback from multiple readers. And, for this assignment, students go feedback from students in other teachers’ classes. The benefit, we feel, is that we all teach the college essay a little differently, so students from other classes will notice different things, find different areas to improve, etc. Since this was the students’ first drafts, we did not prompt them on what to respond to; however, next year, I would like to have 3-4 things for the students to critique in particular: voice, narrative, word choice, and getting to know the student. Students, for the most part, were specific with their comments, but I think it could be more focused.
Lauren's comments on the process...
Much like anything one tries for the first time, this Google groups experiment had both successes and failures. In terms of successes, some students received up to eight full paragraphs of comments. In previous semesters of teaching the college essay, students would have received feedback from a teacher and from one or two peer editors. In contrast, this Google groups assignment provided feedback from me as well as up to eight peer readers. Another positive students mentioned was that they could edit their essays with each piece of feedback they received as the Google groups’ pages function as Word documents. If students were struggling to think of a writing topic or a way to approach the topic they had chosen, this assignment also allowed them to scan hundreds of essays for ideas.

For next year, I will have students comment on three essays instead of five so the feedback is more authentic; several students felt like five comments were too many and that peer readers started getting lazy with their feedback. In addition, I would spend a class period talking about how to give good, specific constructive criticism based on the final rubric on which their essays were graded. Another student suggested that teachers comment on the essays of students who are not in their classes so writers not only receive feedback of students outside of their class, but also receive the opinion of another teacher.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Electronic Essay Editing

I am a student in Ms. Smith’s 9th grade honors class. This past week we wrote essays comparing 3 film versions of Macbeth. After writing our essays, we put them on USB drives and brought them to school. We then uploaded them from our USB’s and exchanged papers. This way we could take them home and edit them on the computer.
I personally like this process. It was fairly quick and easy. In previous years, when writing essays, I had to print mine out and physically give to someone to take it home to edit. Many times the person editing mine would lose it. When putting on the USB, it was easier to keep track of.
Plus Ms. Smith showed us how to make comments on each others papers (click view, toolbars, reviewing, and use the icon of the folder.) I liked this because it allows you to highlight errors or make suggestions without actually altering the person’s paper.
In the end, we were able to return the persons paper and remove it from our USB. It was a simple and painless process and a lot easier than dealing with a hard copy of an essay. This is an excellent method of editing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

After being introduced to online notations it is my personal opinion that online notation benefits my learning experience in a more progressive way than using the actual book. Online notation is being able to type annotations in comment boxes right along side the text. With the regular book I would have to use sticky notes and mark up my book with illegible handwriting. It is also very time consuming to interrupt reading the book to take out a sticky note, write your thoughts, and then continue on. With online notations I can type my thoughts directly onto the sheet without losing my train of thought. Something else I have found extremely helpful is that it is easier to clarify the content of the book through online notations. In the side comments one can work through their thoughts using the many resources the computer offers to understand the text. Everything is crisp and clear in an easy to understand format. It is easily transferable and my learning can continue without the aid of a teacher outside the classroom. Technology is a massive part of the world today and by incorporating it into the school systems that is truly preparing us for the future. Here is an example of online notation. I am able to work through what Macbeth is saying to better understand the text.

The service and the loyalty I owe,[k1] In doing it, pays itself. Your highness' partIs to receive our duties; and our dutiesAre to your throne and state children and servants,Which do but what they should, by doing every thingSafe toward your love and honour[k2] .

[k1]Feudal system. King Duncan has two sons Malcolm and Donalban. Thane is not that high in the system. But he owes his life to the kings his thane from when the king granted him land and Macbeth swore allegiance

[k2]Nice fa├žade of complete loyalty when he was thinking of killing Duncan. Duncan welcomes him with open arms. His downfall is trusting too much.

Online Notations

In my opinion, the online text is much more convenient, useful, resourceful, and helpful. The text is more convenient in a way that you don’t have to go and buy your own copy of the book and carry it around with you with sticky notes and a pen all the time. I love having access to my notes whenever I’m near a computer. Even if I don’t have my notes I can always access the text online. It is more useful because the online has the option of having the new English right beside the old English where our book only has the old English. You have nothing to help explain the old English version. Some books do have both of the interpretations but the online text allows you to annotate and compare both of the versions without having to draw a line from one page to the next. How many kids get to say that when they were studying Macbeth they got to have their notes with them all the time, in an easy to edit format, and get to continue learning outside the classroom? All I know is that I am one of the few. I am usually a good student, but with the added technology my learning possibilities have doubled or tripled. Not that I don’t like learning, but it has become more enjoyable now because of my online text and notations. I have learned more in these last couple weeks than in most semesters of regular classes. It is such an innovation to have this technology in the classroom, let alone for freshman, but it really does seem like the logical conclusion when we step back and take a look at how our world is progressing. We have so much technology in our world today and it seems like the school systems are taking their sweet time catching up. Imagine how many more students would stay in school all the way through high school and into college if every kid had the ability to learn with a laptop and online information. Kids would no longer have to confine learning to the classroom – they would be responsible for their own education.

Sample PLN Entries...as promised

Jessie and I wanted to showcase some of our students' PLN entries. Please take a look:

Kelly S. wrote about Karl Fisch's Did You Know presentation,

There are things on there you wouldn’t have guessed, one that caught my interestwas that it said “if you are one in a million in China… there are 1300 people just like you” talk about having a twin! Some of it was more random than other stuff, but some was really just imaginative, but probably true. It talked abouthow in the “future” there will be a computer that exceeds the capability of thehuman mind. Now the first thing that came to me was; robots are going to out smart us and take over the world! Well I don’t believe that we know what we don’t even knowhow smart we are?! In my social studies class we were discussing all the stages we have economically gone through as a country, and even as aworld. There was the “cave men” age (I suppose), agriculture age, industrialage, and now the technological age. So what will be next? I don’t think anyonereally knows what next huge breakthrough we will make. Maybe something inmedicine, they could find a cure for cancer, which would change a lot of things!Or what if we were to find another world out there, this galaxy is huge, bigger than we can even comprehend. We’ve only studied our backyard, there’s a whole universe to explore! There is no doubt of how quickly and drastically we are changing economically (mainly technologically), so what will the world look like in just 10 years? Will I have a computer chip installed in me that connects me to anything or anyone within internet and communication devises? Will kindergarteners be learning to type, instead of write? Are these changes good? Orare we getting way over our head? I’m really not sure all I can do is I guess just wait and see.

Dennis K. wrote about a quotation from The Fischbowl,

If adolescence is defined as the "learning" stage in life, if middle- aged is defined as "the starting to get it point", and if old age is the "reaching death" point in life, then, I believe that America as a country is basking in the warmth of its middle period. When the lands of North America were settled by early English Pilgrims, the territory entered a new era in its time period. As America developed, many mistakes were made and many lives lost, but America persisted through its early career. It then arrived at its "proficient" point where it developed based on its own learned lessons of the past. America has not met its old age, for, it is in no immediate danger of becoming nonexistent or a lacking nation. When faced with the question of technology slowing or accelerating the “death” of a country, I will present the following. It depends. If the “death” is very evident and unavoidable, then the scientific and technological knowledge we as humans possess will not suffice in order toprevent a “death”. If the country is at a stage where it can see death in the future further away, scientific and technological advances may be able to aid the country in its climb towards proficiency. As normal “deaths” of nations are primarily caused by the poor marketing conditions and economics, technologicaladvances in goods may help companies sell more products, earn more money, and as a result, pull the endangered country out of jeopardy. Likewise, scientific breakthroughs may lead a country to fortune through the utilization of theirscience in sold products. Although science and technology can be used in such away as to postpone “death”, it can also be used negatively to speed the process.When products are stripped of their scientific and/or technological values,sales for the product will diminish. If enough products are affected, the process of “death” will quicken.

Anna K. wrote about Will Richardson's blog,

I have just finished reading a recent post by Will Richardson called My Flickr Conundrum. This blog raises a question about taking photographs of landscape. His question was, “why take pictures of places that you visit that probably aren’t going to be as good as the photos that others have already taken that are already available for you to use in your own albums, slide shows, whatever? I mean, unless you want to organize the wife and kids in front of the spot just to prove you’ve been there, what’s the point?” I believe the point is to be able to call the picture your own. You can always look up a picture on the internet, but if you do that, you are not able to say, “I was there and I took that picture.” It doesn’t matter if it’s the worst picture in the world, you can still be very proud of it.

Sam H. wrote about David Warlick's post regarding cyberbullying,

I read a recent article written by David Warlick in the 2 cents Worth subscription. This post is regaurding cyber-bullying and how it is still an issue, but now its not only children who are doing the bullying.I looked at that post and I realzed something. It is a lot easilier to cyber bully than we think. I have heard countless times that cyber-bullying is a major issue and because I havent been involved in it I don't tend to think about it, but maybe it is something that we need to start thinking about more now. Technology has taken over in our world today and now it is much easier to say things, over the computer or maybe even texting on a cellphone, that you wouldn't say to someones face.Now we ask ourselves, why is it easier to say things over technology than to someones face? The reason that was brought up in this post is people feel more comfortable over the web or other forms of technology because there is a physical distance between the two. People feel more comfortable saying harsh things when there is distance between them because they arent afraid of the consiquences.How does this matter in the world? Now that technology is booming more and more adults are beginning to use technology for various forms of communication; thereforethe right of cyber-bullying in the adult ages has increased. Now we ask ourselves, with this technology how are we going to be able to lessen the rate of cyber-bullying among adults and children? The answer I am not yet sure of.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PLN-The beginnings

We are on the road to beginning our adventure with students developing their own Personal Learning Network. Karl Fisch wrote about this on The Fischbowl a few weeks ago and we received a number of comments regarding what we are going to implement. I have appreciated all the feedback and support. Jessie Comp, my colleague and friend, will be doing this with her class as well. Some other ninth grade teachers are going to try versions of this project (see Michele Davis).

I spent all day yesterday in class reviewing with my ninth graders the reasoning behind switching from outside reading books to Personal Learning Networks. I went over the handout and had them sign up on my Google Reader with their own personal blog which they will use to react and reflect about their readings. I then had them create their own Google Reader and began to add feeds from the online handout. Keeping the handout online simplified the process of acquiring the links to add to their reader. Then as homework, the students were supposed to read the posts in their Google Reader and react/ reflect to what they read writing about in their personal blogs. The question to react/ reflect on:
  • What did you read? Link to the article.

  • What matters from what you read?
  • How does it relate to what we are doing in class or in your life?
  • How does it relate to the world around us?

Finally, the student signed up to formally present twice to their classmates about what they were reading. The students are expected to be well prepared for these presentations. During the presentation, the presenter's classmates will access the presenter's blog and react to the present on the personal blog. I think this will provide valuable feedback for the students both presenting and viewing. It also enables the other students to see other feeds that they could add to their own personal learning network.

Today I finished logging in the students' personal blogs into Google Reader. I want to export all the student feeds from their personal blogs to the class so they don't have to add them one by one but can access the link on my web page and then import the feeds.As far as seeing how their homework went, I was impressed by how many went to their own Google Reader, read their posts, and reacted on their own personal blog. One thing I wish I would have done a better job with ( I am planning on doing this tomorrow in class) is go over the sample entries I created on our class blog- Sample 1 and Sample 2 Why spend the time going over samples? Well, it seems that from my experiences last year with ninth graders that they need me to provide more guidance and structure. I struggle with this philosophically feeling like I am showing them they way it needs to be done, but I am hoping with our conversations about this project being about them taking charge of their own learning as well as showing the world what they think, that my students will make it their own. I am really anxious about this project because I can see the amazing possibilities that can come as a result of them taking this project seriously. I will be posting some of their entries on this same post after I get through reading them. To be honest, on the managerial side, that is something I am personally worried about keeping up with. I guess I just need to relax and see what happens.

Monday, September 10, 2007

PLC questions

Jessie and Brian asked our 21c group to respond to the following questions regarding establishing mission/vision:
  1. When I leave this school, I would like to be remembered for...I would like to remembered for helping students and staff members reach beyond their potential. I want to be the person who helped them see complacency is unacceptable. I want to be remembered as someone who was innovative in their classroom and pushed students to achieve more than they thought possible. I want to be remembered as someone who not only taught but learned from her students and colleagues.

  2. I want my school to be a place where...it is expected to try new things, and that you are supported while doing so. I want my shcool to be a place where we trust our teachers to do thier jobs and trust kids to do theirs. I want my school to be a place of creativity and innovation. A place where learning doesn't seem confind to the bells of the school day. I want my school to be a place where we all learn from one another. I want my school to be a compassionate school where we care as much about the students while they are in our class as well as outside the class.

  3. The kind of school I would like my own child to attend would... be a place where they feel like they can grow as a learner and don't have to wait to for others to catch up (Emma wants to learn math right now, but her teacher told her she has to wait- they aren't there yet ), be a place where teachers are encouragers and motivators, recognize their uniqueness/individuality, appreciate the whole child not jsut the academic side

  4. The kind of school I would like to teach in would... be one that pushes and encourages me to learn more, challenges me to be the best teacher I can be, supports my family life time, encourages its staff to try new things, give time for teachers to talk to one another, trusts its teachers and treats them like adults(see T. Sale's post), 21st century ready-teachers and students with laptops, students and teachers see each other as continual learners, staff supports staff, students leave prepared with skills and knowledge that will allow for them to be adaptable/ fungable and a positive participant in their future, and one with windows.

This is just the beginning. I think it would very beneficial to have my seniors and freshman complete this from their perspective to see what they feel about school and they way it should be.