Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writing to our PLN

Another poignant post by Karl Fisch came to be quite useful in my all boys’ class. We are transitioning this week from simply writing our weekly PLNs to publishing our work so that others can comment and engage. Rather than submitting our work on our personal blogs, we are writing to the bloggers that are inspiring our PLN responses. Karl recently posted a piece by Seth Godin as well as Karl’s own remarks about writing. Both pieces couldn’t have occurred more serendipitously to my classes’ efforts:

Godin writes “Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

I believe that everyone should write in public. Get a blog. Or use Squidoo or Tumblr or a microblogging site. Use an alias if you like. Turn off comments, certainly--you don't need more criticism, you need more writing.

Do it every day. Every single day. Not a diary, not fiction, but analysis. Clear, crisp, honest writing about what you see in the world. Or want to see. Or teach (in writing). Tell us how to do something.”

Fisch responds, “So, are you having your students write every day? In public? I know I'm not (although I'm starting to have them write a bit).

I think we're often overly concerned about the quality of our students' writing, and whether it's "good enough" to share. Now, to be clear, I think our students should be concerned with the quality of their writing, and should strive to get better at communicating their thoughts. But if we let the worry about what others will think get in the way of having our students write more, and for a larger audience, then we're doing them a disservice out of fear.”

As a class, we read Fisch’s post discussing both Godin’s and Fisch’s points regarding writing. Should we only be publishing good pieces of writing? Why should we publish unfinished works of writing or writing in progress? What does it say about us if we publish writing that isn’t proofread and contains errors? Is what we are doing with PLNs purposeful and meaningful? Should we share our thoughts with others moving beyond the walls of our classroom? Will the blogosphere write back to us? Will they care what we think?

I challenged them to engage in their PLNs. I challenged them to write about the issues they are reading and ask questions, seek clarification, connect to what the author was saying. I challenge them to move beyond just writing for me, or just writing for them. Write so that others can see, hear, read and learn.

Here are some of the initial posts:

Austin- wrote to David Warlick

Mr. Warlick I couldn’t agree more with this idea of a game! About every kid has played or dealt with any sort of technology. I thought about the point you made, “The goal of this game IS NOT generating the best test scores. No! No!” This focuses on giving the student a fun and more efficient way of learning. My schools today focus solely on grades. I relate this post to Will Richardson’s “Getting Rid of Grades” where he exclaims, “We’re a society hell bent on competition and ranking and sorting, and much of that no doubt has contributed to the focus on grades as an easy way (supposedly) of giving a value to what has been” ,“learned.” I believe that schools should focus a lot on the students themselves other than what they have turned in. I myself, am on a computer for homework, projects, and socializing. I occasionally play games on a computer or any other handheld device. I would try this game no doubt. Because it would give me motivated to seek help, expand my knowledge, and enjoy myself all at the same time. My education would also matter because I check my grades for school daily, or even hourly. Just praying that they will never fall below an A. But with your concept, grades are NOT the most important aspect, the learning is. Finding better ways to progress and innovate the ideals of schools. Our world would not only benefit, but prosper. Think about a nation where success is worldwide. I know it is far fetched, but this game would bring this out-of-site idea into zoom. Kids in Africa, Mexico, and even all the way to India would be inspired to do better than they have before. If the world is more advantageous and astute we could work together and one. No more wars, no more poverty, and no more failures. But once again this “dream” will probably not be happen anytime soon or at all. What would you change in our school systems today? Why do you think kids choose to “fail”? Your idea is not a solution, but it is definitely an excellent place to begin our journey into the world of academic success.

Lou- wrote to Will Richardson

Mr. Richardson-

In “Getting Rid of Grades” you describe how grades affect students and their learning. This matters to me because I am a student and grades really do stress me out. I continuously check my grades and if my grades aren’t what I expect them to be I automatically begin to get stressed. Grades are a good way to show a student’s progress but a student’s growth depends on the student. Grades are the same for every student even though every student isn’t the same. All kids learn at a different pace and learn in different ways, by having grades teachers are forcing students to learn a certain way or they fail. This piece matters mostly to education. Schools and administrators need to have ways to grade students individually not the same way for every student. Schools need to form their grading styles to fit every student personally. If they can’t do this they are cheating their students by not letting them be creative learners. This matters to the world because our futures (kids) have to learn the way their teachers want them to learn not the way that they understand and grasp the most. If we want our future to flourish and be successful we need kids to configure a way to clench and understand information on their own. After reading this piece I have a few questions to ask you, if you don’t like how grades are formatted today then how would you change them? Also have you noticed a leap in students understanding and ability when they no longer have grades that they must worry about? Mr. Richardson you bring up a valid point, and after reading this I understand why you believe that grades are bad for students learning and growth.

Scott- wrote to Karl Fisch

Mr. Fisch,

This article has motivated me to become a better and more effective writer. I'm very shy when it comes to writing, because I feel very discouraged after I post or turn in an assignment; my thoughts in my head are that the teacher is snickering at my work, laughing at every mistake I make. Hopefully, the world can see this post, because honestly, it will encourage more kids to write, helping them to improve their skill. This method doesn't just have to work in writing, the more you work at anything the better chance you have to improve. Your article relates in a strange way to Mr. Carr's blog, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", because kids spend a lot of time relying on Google; this will make them less likely to be succesful in typing because they might just copy and paste documents. They won't ever experience real typing. I have already started to type much more this year and after reading your post, I'm inspired to dramatically increase my grammar and punctuation skills by the end of the year.

Will B- wrote to David Warlick

David Warlick- I really enjoyed reading about your idea for a new video game that tries to push the idea of creating an award winning school out of nothing. However you said the school would not be trying to earn the best test scores, but trying to raise students to be the next “masterminds” for the human race. I believe that that is a great idea. Schools are too focused on keeping up the status quos of trying to make their students earn A’s all year round. Which is not a bad thing, but it is creating this student that is almost made out of a mold resembling an honor student that is successful in school but not striving for anymore than that. Sure that student would go on to be successful in college and life but it wouldn’t create what the world actually needs, someone that can cure a disease thought to be incurable. Someone like Winton Marsellas or Kurt Vontegut both men that changed the world with their research alone. Hey- maybe this game could be published and designed and maybe even sold worldwide. But most importantly it could spread this idea that test scores shouldn’t be the big picture, it should be what these students turn out to be. What this idea might even do is even change that general picture of the perfect student into a student that strives for greatness and knowing that they have the power to change something. What I grew up believing and still am is that a good idea can catch on like wild fire and no matter how unimportant that idea is it’s not one to be thrown away and forgotten. This is one of those ideas and I believe it could be influential to schools all around the world. The idea of education needs to be rethought and I believe your game is a place to start.

Jake- wrote to Gary Stager

Mr. Stager

I was intrigued and entertained by your article and Silvia’s videos but I disagree with some of the points you made. I watched Silvia’s videos and was very impressed as I could not see my self, a ninth grader at Arapahoe High School doing something that educational or high quality for a school project let alone in my free time. I am usually worried about a hockey game the next weekend or the cheerleader in my science lab, not learning how to use an Arduino or a new computer program to do something productive. This sentence from your article really struck me “While you bathe in the warmth of your PLN with self-congratulatory tweets, Sylvia is sharing serious expertise with the world.” The fact that I am currently doing a PLN(Personal Learning Network) for my english class makes me think if you are calling out my teacher. PLNs are the first time I have been exposed to blogs and all of the blog posts we have had to summarize are sending the same general message of improving education with technology.

I respect Silvia’s devotion and love for what she is doing but she is one of few in our current education system. I, like many others in my class have just started to understand the art of blogging and personally I am pretty proud and then there are the kids like Sylvia who are clearly a level head and shoulders above kids like me when it comes to lust for knowledge. There has always been people like Sylvia who are fortunate enough to come form such supportive parents and has a love for learning and we call people like that over achievers or active learners. Its not meant to be an insult in fact the opposite but it helps show there is another side of the scale. Kids who come from divorced parents living off lower wages who cant afford home computers and struggle in school and life in general. We have to give both an equal opportunity for an education. Should we send them to different schools, or should take away Sylvia’s opportunities and give the challenged kids the same attention Sylvia needs or vis versa.

So, just to remind you, these are boys. Ninth grade boys. These are 9th grade boys who all have something to say. They will be writing to you.

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