Monday, August 29, 2011

State Assessments & Multimedia Work

I'm interested in assessment of multimedia work in the classroom, especially in terms of using these curricular devices as a means for preparing our high school students for standardized tests. With the new Common Core Standards adopted by Michigan, I wonder how teachers can effectively utilize classroom technologies to not only prepare students to meet these standards, but also to meet the standards of the MME & ACT; therefore meeting AYP. I'm a strong advocate for technology-based/multimodal instruction, but I fear that these state restrictions have only limited the creative capabilities of our already low performing schools. Also with new state wavers granter for online high school instruction in Michigan, I'll be interested to see how much technology integration verses online standardized curriculum will prevail in order to meet the real needs of our students.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wikipedia & Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody"

I was also very interested in Shirky’s discussion about Wikipedia in his text, "Here Comes Everybody," stating that it is a self-sustaining machine. No one is getting paid to do the work, so no one is concerned about how much work is being done by other people, “[s] ince no one is being paid, the energetic and occasional contributors happily coexist in the same ecosystem” (121).
I find this notion of work and “happy collaboration” to be somewhat similar to the structure of the cyber school where I teach. Many of the subject area experts and other project managers happily fill random duties and other obligations with very little direction or without being assigned to do so.
Essentially, at my school many of the employees are given the freedom to work on what they please, with some minimum requirements. This model works great in many ways, and it’s funny how the people I work with fully function to their own regard. It’s like a self-sustaining machine, and people come up with new ideas, groups, projects, work, and other functions without any direction whatsoever.
On the other hand, there are many areas that are inefficiently run due to this open structure. I liken it to the way Shirky describes Wikipedia that it, ” …involves being effective without worrying about being efficient” (120).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Virtual Learning

The cyber school I work at was just referenced in a Detroit Free Press article posted yesterday. Oddly enough, this article connects very well to our conversations from last night's class...

Online commentary:
Virtual learning 

works for many students


Online Tutoring

When tutoring online, I believe that it's imperative to make sure that we, as the instructors, don't come off as too cold, distant, or unwelcoming. Something that I haven't read a lot about with the notion of online tutoring is the importance for developing trust within teacher/student interactions; those are achieved through openness and encouragement with responses. 

Just a couple nights ago I had a student ask me if I could read over his college entrance essay that was due the next day. The topic was to discuss whether there were any struggles that he may have faced that would have caused his transcripts to not be reflective of his actual abilities as a student. He wrote in a very dry and simple manner with little voice, and he was well under the word limit. The directions for the essay asked for some personal insight and connection, which I felt his was missing, since his essay was just so simple and factual. This was a situation where I responded a bit differently than normal because I knew he wasn’t going to revise in great depth, but I gave him suggestions for revision anyways. This is my email response to his essay: 

Hi M..., 
You have a great sense of basic writing conventions, and you're very good with your grammar and mechanics. There were only a few common errors that I commented on for revision in the attachment. You have good organizational structure as well. If you had more time, then I would encourage you to try to add some voice and depth to your story by giving some heartfelt details. What happened? Why did you have to move? What were some specific struggles that you faced? Be personal, be real, and be specific.  Write the same way you would tell someone about how hard something was for you. They are asking you to tell your struggles, so don't be afraid to do so. What is the real story behind this story? What other challenges were you facing? If you add these things, and want me to read it again tonight, then I will, but I'll be in lab all day tomorrow and Friday. Good luck!

This was the first real contact that I had with this student, other than when he had instant messaged me prior to my response to ask me if I would look over his paper for him. He may have known me from lab, but I wasn’t necessarily familiar with him. This onetime communication might be similar to those in online writing labs.

In the world of online tutoring, emails need to be open, encouraging, and not at all critical on a personal or intellectual level. I think sometimes online communication can get too technical. We've already lost all body language cues online, so we must substitute those with an extra sensitive tone.  

In reference to tutors for online writing centers, I can see the value in being super technical, but I also think there are a lot of benefits to just being real and open with the students. I think it’s important for online tutors to be extra sensitive to their communication, and to make sure it is extremely friendly, open, approachable, and encouraging. This type of communication will help to provide a positive experience for both the tutor and student. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Watchtower

  After reading Selfe and Hawisher, "The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing Class," I really started to think about this notion of the www as an omnipotent watchtower.

   I love blogging and making my ideas heard, but I have become so fearful about putting anything online. First of all, I fear that if I post about a similar idea that’s been published under my authorship for the digital textbook company that’s employed me for the past 5 years, then I could possibly be sued for using my own ideas. I’m not sure how all that works, but it is a general fear of mine. Once I sell my ideas/writing, then they’re not mine to share anymore, right?

 Another reason that I fear the omnipotent 'watchman' is that I don’t ever want my ideas, thoughts, or rants taken out of context or ever used against me.  In many ways, I feel like I have to restrict myself so much, that it almost sucks out any inspirational or creative ideas that I have.  My feelings of restriction don’t come from this class, but rather from the notion that these will be public and recorded ideas that could be viewed/shared and/or taken out of context in any way.

   I recently had a colleague send a string of email excerpts about a problem she was having with the administrators’ requests about our department at school, and she included notes from all the other English Experts to use as support for her argument to them. She didn’t present my ideas in any ill form, but the notion that someone was taking excerpts of my emails, and using them in conjunction with other people’s emails, which were not even related to my messages, was completely astonishing. I don’t think she had any malicious intent, but the whole idea that someone can just string pieces of conversations like that together really freaks me out.

   It’s almost like we’re constantly being interviewed, and we know whatever we say could possible be shared publically or easily taken out of context. This notion of the ‘watchtower’ has really made me cautious about many things…

Saturday, March 19, 2011

NCTE Belief: Writing grows out of many different purposes

Some things that are on my mind in relation to P3...

Regardless of the purpose for writing, I think essential criteria for instruction and curriculum should allow choice in order to determine which purpose will best suit a student's mode of writing: 

If the first cardinal rule is “Give students some real choice of assignments so that they want to do them and you can be sure  that any problems will result from true compositional difficulties, not from poor motivation,” the second cardinal rule is “Put writing to some realistic use after it is done, and make clear in advance writing what that purpose and audience are.” Assignment directions and directions should stipulate purpose if it’s not distinctly implied there or elsewhere. (Moffett 25)

There is no reason that all students should be expected to write the same texts in the same way; students must be allowed to make choices that will make them comfortable in their writing endeavors. Also, students must be given the freedom to write pieces that are prevalent to their lives. “Don’t assume that only some books are for the ‘bright’ students and some for the ‘dummies.’…Above all you can have your students make their own selections. Don’t forget that independent reading is one of the goals” (Purves et. al 78). Many of the readings and writing assignments should focus on the students’ opinions, beliefs, and thoughts—while using multiple writing purposes as a foundation. It’s important for students to be able to integrate their own voice and thoughts into their reading and writing practices. 

   Students must also be made aware of the purposes for their writing activities; they need to know why it’s important for them to complete certain writing assignments. “Rather than merely empathizing (or not) with a particular character, for example, students can be taught to question how specific readings are produced, and why” (Mellor  516). Students must be exposed to various perspectives and purposes in writing in order to intrigue their interest of writing functions. Through an increased understanding of writing objectives, students will be able to understand the purpose and expected intentions in their writing activities.

   Good writing style isn’t something that’s achieved overnight; it takes a lot of practice. As with reading comprehension, there is no “one way” to teach writing style. Students must develop their own writing style, at their own pace. If the students are able to identify the main objectives and purposes for their writing, then they will be far more likely to communicate their ideas and thoughts effectively. 

  As with any developed talent, constant practice is the best key to substantial achievement. The more students practice writing in various genres and formats, the more comfortable and confident they will become. Students should be exposed to constant writing practices in order for them to develop an idiosyncratic method of writing techniques, style, and voice.

     Students must be given flexibility with their writing practices. With so many various genres of literature available, it’s essential that students not only read a multitude of texts, but that they learn how to write using various methods of purpose. Also, in order for students to discover their individual writing style and tone, they must be exposed to a broad range of writing practices in various genres; this will allow them to find the genres and narrative perspectives that they're most comfortable writing. Students must learn to write multiple genres of texts for carious purposes and adapt these writing techniques to multiple forms of narratives. Writing isn’t a one-way street; it needs to be an amalgamation of pathways leading to a specific destination.

Mellor, Bronwyn & Patterson, Annette. "Critical practice: Teaching Shakespeare." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (2002): 43(6) 
Moffett, James. "Introduction: Background." In J. Moffett Active Voice (1981): 1-26. NJ: Boynton/Cook
Purves, Alan C., Rodgers, Theresa,  and Soter, Anna O. (1995). "If literature is exploration, what’s the territory and who’s the guide."

   A. Purves, et al. How Porcupines Make Love III, (1995):77-88. NY: Longman.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

RFID and the Rapture?

I’ve been meaning to write my reflections on Halavais’s Search Engine Society since I finished reading it, but this is literally the first opportunity I’ve had all week. There were several things about the book that peaked my interest, but the concept that has stuck with me the most is in the closing chapter when Halavais starts talking about RFID tags.

As I read the descriptions of such, I couldn’t help but recall some memories from my childhood… I know it’s not generally polite to speak about religion, etc. in such open forums, so I’m not really sure how to approach this subject, but I’ll try my best not to offend anyone…

Throughout my childhood I was raised in a very strict Assemblies of God household, and through the 80’s there was a huge influx of Evangelistic Christian doctrine whose rhetoric my parents’ deeply adopted. Thankfully, they’ve come to their senses in many ways, and let’s just say that my childhood experiences have made me less than enthusiastic about being religious or about scrupulous conformity in any form.

Anyways, when I was young there was this Christian propaganda film that was very popular, that was based off the book by Lee Kedrie, A Thief in the Night: Unraveling the Mystery of Technology, Prophecy, and Christ’s Return.

In the story the Rapture, or Christ’s return, occurs and millions of people go missing from the Earth. Those who remain will have a second chance at redemption if they avoid any earthly things, repent, and get their heads cut off (yeah, my parent’s let me watch that, but I wasn’t allowed to watch Scooby Doo because there were ghosts and sorcerers—go figure). So toward the end of the story all those who basically choose to “be of earthly things” are given things that are somewhat like RFID tags or identification chips implanted in them. Those who resist the earthly things and chose to repent had to resist the temptation to immerse themselves in such technologies. Without such tags, they weren’t able to buy groceries or be part of any public service or do much of anything. Their resistance was representative of their resistance of the devil.

After so many years of trying to clear my mind of this type of rhetoric and ideologies, it’s strange to hear similar things actually come to fruition.  I wonder if the invention and expansion of such things will only play into these religious ideals and beliefs. I mean I’m sure there are plenty of Christians out there that could easily use these technologies as proof that the end is near.

I also wonder if some of this rhetoric is what makes some people so resistant to technologies? Halavais says that with such tags, almost everything has the potential to be identifiable. I think these technologies can be useful in many ways, but I do see how they can also seem intrusive to our privacy. 

I guess in a sense we’re trading our privacy for some convenience. Who knows what will come in the future. All I can say for now is that my daughter will most learn about things like RFID tags from their emerging presence in our lives, but however she learns about them, it won’t be in the same way I did –that’s for certain. 

P.S. Sorry if I offended anyone, I love you all : ) 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Code-Switching—NCTE Belief: Literate practices are embedded in complicated social relationships

As part of P1, I’ve become a member of the NCTE Ning Page. There is a group about the 11 NCTE beliefs. After reading the belief that, "Literate practices are embedded in complicated social relationships," I think that literate practices are not only imbedded in complex social relationships, but that all subject area teachers must learn how to view their students and students’ perspectives from diverse points of view. 
Many of the issues dealt with in this belief avoid speaking about the importance of these concepts while developing strong teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships. These beliefs barely touch on the importance of a teacher’s ability to code-switch. As I taught, I found myself constantly code-switching, and I believe it was my ability to do so, which helped me to develop strong relationships with the students and their parents. 

Instruction about the ability to “code-switch” can often be difficult and complicated, but I do believe that there are several things that people and teachers can do in order to become more efficient at doing so. First of all, it’s essential for teachers to read a variety of literature from various perspectives about different cultures, societies, histories and origins. All teachers should become well versed in a variety of world literature and other multi-cultural literature. These pieces will give teachers insight into worlds and lives unknown to them. Also, teachers must become constant learners and listeners. When we encounter people with different cultures, origins, or background from ourselves, then we must take those opportunities to gain insight into other personal perspectives. 

We must learn to get to know people for who they are. We all have common threads in our lives and communities despite our cultural differences, and finding those commonalities can also be a strength in developing code-switching abilities. Teachers must also be willing to listen to the students, and try to see things from a teenage perspective. Teachers often avoid attending to the obvious differing perspectives of age, but that is one of the greatest distances between a teacher and student. 

We must realize that our high school students are not adults, and we can’t be surprised when they don’t act that way. Teenagers might overreact, be emotional, and dramatic, and we shouldn’t just brush it off as if it doesn’t matter. We need to see that their issues, as trivial as they may seem to us, are important and meaningful to them and their lives. Once we begin to understand one another, then we will be able to move ahead with positive social interactions.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Let's Connect: Response to Rice

In Jeffery Rice’s piece, Symposium:What should College English Be? Networks and New Media:  He calls for college English to become networked, he states: What I call the network are these spaces—literal and figurative—of connectivity. They are ideological as well as technological spaces generated by various forms of new media that allow information, people, places and other items to establish a variety of relationships that previous spaces or ideologies did not allow” (128).

Now I know that when he used the word “relationship” he is not necessarily referring to personal relationships—as he makes reference to it in his point about socializing, but I think there is something to be said about those personal relationships in networking that make the public media and networking so appealing and satiable.

In the beginning of his piece he talks briefly about some social networking sites such as FB, etc., but I think there really is an aspect of this available relationship making which makes online interaction and new media so appealing. Yes, we are seeing students write in new ways like never before; we are seeing literacy come into new terms of use; and we are seeing communication occur as never before. 

So what is really at the center of all this interaction? Is it writing? Literacy? Publishing? Audience? Feedback? Or is it really an accretion for every aspect of interpersonal relationships, of communication between two or more individuals, or simply collaboration in new forms?

Obviously not every student is inspired to write outside of their academic requirements, but we have seen such an insurmountable rush of students that freely write for any opportunity to reach out and be heard, to get a reaction, a comment, a like. So what is at the core of all that networking, in the true social sense?

It is the need to feel connected, to be connected, to build communication and relationships--some type of connectivity. Yes, college English should be networking, but we mustn’t forget the interpersonal push, pull, and impetus behind any person’s true purpose for networking. We need one another, and we desire the communication for each other; that is why the network has become such a vast empire of social rapport.   

So the question becomes... How do we translate and utilize that need into the English curriculum? 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Digital Media - New Learners Of The 21st Century

This a pretty interesting video about digital literacy. It implies that content knowledge and memorization are 20th century skills, whereas producing and creating are 21st century literacy skills... In it, it also quotes John Dewey as saying, "If we teach today’s kids the same way we did yesterday, then we rob them of tomorrow."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Think it Out...

After our discussion the other night in class about the impact that the Internet has had on students’ abilities to construct original thoughts, I began thinking about the common belief that writing is s tool for thinking (NCTE). I would have to argue that writing is not only a tool for thinking, but real writing is in fact thinking.

As mentioned, I think that many students have difficulty creating original ideas; they search through Internet sources, and try to gather other peoples’ ideas as a means of constructing their own. Very seldom do students initially search for meaning and structure of ideas inside themselves. It seems as though the students believe that someone else has already done the thinking, and all they really have to do is summarize the information and reword it enough so they don’t get a paper handed back to them with the big “P” word across the top.

From my experience, many students don’t like to try and generate ideas of their own; they like to search for someone else’s thoughts and answers. Ironically, in Phaedrus, Socrates predicted that the technology of writing would be the demise of human knowledge. He speculated that once we began to write things down, then there would be no more need for memory, and those who had no true knowledge of a subject would be able to participate in the topic’s discourse. So often we ask students to write about things of which they have no knowledge.

We ask them to go find the answer, but they don’t really have to think about answer; they just have to discover it. The growth and expansion of writing technologies have exploded since his time, and strangely his predictions have somewhat come to fruition.

Personally, I constantly look things up on my phone or computer as I search for dates, facts, or other information. There is such little knowledge that must be retained in our lives today since it is so easily accessible. I wonder if this diminishing knowledge has led to a decline in our students’ capabilities to construct original ideas. Without the foundational knowledge needed to initiate the thinking process, can thoughts really be built?

Writing is certainly a tool for thinking, but just because a student has written something doesn’t necessarily mean that there has been much thought put into the process. True writing is thinking, and it should be used as a tool for thinking, but oftentimes writing simply becomes a recording and regurgitating mechanism.

In order for a student to develop strong thinking skills, they must be able to develop, compose, create, decide, criticize, and defend things from their own perspectives and thoughts.

 Although I am a huge digital and technology advocate, I still believe that sometimes our greatest tools and strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. Teachers need to create a balance in the classroom by not allowing digital technologies to become the basis of instruction and resource; there must a space created where students do not have access to other people’s ideas, and therefore must create their own.

Sometimes we need to let the writing process and students’ ideas act as the tools for perpetuating thinking in the classroom. If we always let them search for the answers, then they’ll never have to come up with their own.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Writing and Numbers

I’ve just finished writing and submitting 246 pages of Algebra 2 content, (the first of 6 submissions), and the feeling of accomplishment and utter exhaustion is completely overwhelming.

 I love math, I love numbers, and I always have. Those around me have always referred me to as a human calculator. Although I would not give myself that high esteem in regards to my computation abilities, I’m able to do things with numbers in my head that I find peculiar in most situations.

 I’ve often wondered why my mind works so fast with numbers, and I’m curious if it was something that I was taught, if so I don’t remember, or rather if it’s just the way that my mind works. If it is something that I was taught, then I wish I could hone in on the specific skills and strategies that were employed to me, so that I might pass them on to my daughter.

 I’m very curious about how she’ll feel about math when she’s older. My parents weren’t particularly math whizzes, so I don’t think I can simply give them the credit for my love of numbers. I do, however, hope that I’m able to pass my love of numbers on to my daughter.

I studied math in college for quite some time as an undergrad, but I decided to teach English instead. I’m not sure that my love for writing can be translated as easily. Writing is so different than math, and the teaching of writing is immensely different. I teach math to many of the students at my school, and I always find the experience very rewarding.

I often wonder why I feel so much more accomplished after I teach math skills than I do teaching writing strategies. It’s interesting because many students seem to value good lessons in math much more than writing; although they fear it much more. Why is that? I know that they see math as a much more difficult subject to approach, so is that why it seems that they value those lessons more?

What about the notion that everyone can write? I mean, most literate people write in some form on a daily basis. Do people feel more connected to writing, so they don’t see it as an equally difficult task? Is it that they see their writing as something that they could improve upon if they put in the time and effort, and they view math as some obscure entity?

Whenever students come in from ACT prep, they automatically assume that the writing and English portions will be easy; they’re mostly concerned with getting help for the math portion. I wonder why? Most of my students generally score pretty poorly on the English section initially, but they still view it as easier.

Personally, I think I enjoy teaching math more because it’s so concrete, and writing is so abstract. I can teach my students very specific steps and processes when it comes to math, but it takes so much more for me to impose strategies to improve voice in their writing. Effective writing skills are very hard to teach, but on the bright side, it seems that most students would rather write than do math, so at least we’ve got that going for us…

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Something They Need...

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about he students that I work with. Many of them would be termed as “at-risk” or “disadvantaged”. And there are some correlations to both those references of which I cannot deny. But despite their disadvantages in life, they still deserve the same respect as any individual.  I think at  WCHS (Westwood Cyber High School) we try to offer them a different environment than they’ve ever been exposed to in any other previous educational setting. The kids walk into our computer lab much differently now than they did on their first day.

Many of my students must be so tough in the outside world. They are ready to fight, yell, defend themselves, or do whatever it takes just to get by or even high. The kids are judged everywhere they go: by each other for their toughness and exterior; by their parents for their poor life choices; by society for their tainted language or immature demeanor; by store owners for their potential and assumed kleptomania; by religious sectors for becoming teenage mothers; from previous teachers who felt that they were not worth the extra time to be listened to; but when they walk into WCHS we strive not to judge them. We try to create such an open and approachable environment.

Our students are required to come into the computer lab at least twice a week for at least an hour each time in order to get extra help in subjects that they may struggle with at home, but many students come for hours at times, and some even all day everyday. Our lab is a truly supportive environment—which I find to be the most beneficial piece of our program.
Young mothers bring their babies and the mentors (teachers) joyfully play with them, we do not look at these teen mothers as failures, but rather we look at them and let them know that we care about their lives—no matter what choices they have made. Special Education students come in, and they are given one-on-one individual attention. Troubled teens walk in with an attitude, but we listen to stories about past troubles, and we offer them words of advice. Self-motivated students come in, and we help them make a plan to graduate as soon as possible. Students who were once terrorized at their previous schools come in, and we give them their space, but we let them know that we are there if they need us. We get all different types of students, and despite the reasons that they decided to enroll in a cyberschool, they all have one main thing in common: they don’t want to be judged.

Throughout my years teaching English in a traditional high school, I saw endless displays of disrespect and disregard toward the students. So many teachers seemed as though they were against the students; that the students just made their lives harder, gave them more work, and induced massive headaches.

Some of the students that come into our computer lab are really shy at first. I often try to provoke some type of conversation, but for some that are shy, this can sometimes be a challenging task. There is always one question though, no matter whom I’ve asked, it always elicits a passionate response, “So what brought you to WCHS?” I always get an array of responses that include reasons why they didn’t care for their previous school (typical teenager, right?), but upon further inquiry, I always end up hearing a string of similar stories that include the topic of disrespectful teachers. I can’t argue with them in regard to the blatant disrespect because it’s something that I’ve seen firsthand multiple times; although, I always give an unbiased, professional response. I don’t encourage their ranting, but rather I just listen. I’ve heard endless stories from students about how they felt like their teachers thought that they were better than them or above them in some way—teachers that showed no respect.

As teachers, I think we need to begin to listen to our students. We need to respect what they say and think, whether we believe that they are right or wrong. And although they may be dramatic and often immature, they still deserve our respect. We can’t get anything out of our students if we don’t put anything into them. Knowledge, and dates, and processes, and facts are not all we need to put into them. Sometimes all they need is our ear, our trust, and our acceptance. Teenagers are already self-conscious enough—the last thing they need is one more adult telling them that they’re music, clothes, habits, or speech is bad. How can we expect them to be successful when we look at so many aspects of their lives as failures? Sometimes I think some teachers need to be less concerned with what they are teaching their students, and more concerned with how they are teaching them. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

It is what it is...

What Does Technology Want? What is the Question and Answer Concerning Technology? In technium, sorted, evolutionary ways, this force, enframing, decongestion, ultimate regression, overpowering obsession, leaves me too with more questions. How can technology want or ask a question or not? It merely just haunts us each in our own ways. Ineffable, inscrutable, ambiguous, referable:  technology is our essence; it’s our presence. It’s our everyday, whatever we wish to make, whatever we want to make it. Technology is indefinable, it’s livable, breathable, unconceivable, and undeniable. It goes beyond limits, in our hearts, our cars, our phones, and in the stars. It over joys us, annoys us, entertains us and refrains us. We have the power to choose, the technology won’t loose, but we cannot be over-mused. What then should we really ask? What things should we look past? What parts of technology do we not openly accept, but yet we all secretly wish were adept—the epistemology of the tech. Why is technology only digital? It’s not. It’s ubiquitous, all around us, it is us, it is society, it is culture, it is our language, it is our freedom, our enframing, our reframing, our playing, our penetrating. It is us, all around us, so why do we act like it’s something so mysterious? We are technology, and it is us. It is what is it, and we are what we are. It is something different to each individual; the technological philosophical rhetoric is inevitable, but we should just accept it, love it, let it be. It is whatever it is, and that’s about it from me concerning technology. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Doing Real Stuff

I was recently chatting with another English professor from a different university who is also reading Kelly’s book, and he said, “The idea of technology and people as an almost symbiotic evolutionary force is quite engaging, and I wonder what the implications of that argument are for us in education... what do you think?”

He presented a very curious question, but I only saw a few references in the text that approach the subject. Ultimately, I think Kelly’s overall message is that we shouldn’t shun technology because of its potential risks, but rather we should embrace new technologies in order to learn about them, and assess harmful possibilities—in order to make solid evaluations of their use and effectiveness. Perhaps this concept could impact education by demonstrating the value of at least testing new technologies, while negating the holistic approach of rejection. 

On page 230, Kelly does speak about education in a brief reference to his interactions with Leon, the Amish man, where he asked about the goodness of Amish life. He mentions the fact that Amish schooling only goes up until 8th grade, as he inquires about the value in such limited education. Leon replies, “hormones kick in around the ninth grade, and boys, and even some girls, don’t just want to sit at desks and do paperwork. They need to use their hands as well as their heads, and they ache to be useful. Kids learn more doing real things at that age.” Kelly goes on to note that, “When I was a teen I wish I had been ‘doing real stuff’ instead of being holed up in a stuffy high school classroom.”

I sort of liken that to the notion of online and multimedia composition in learning. The educational process is taken into the students’ hands, and we, as teachers, need to be allowing and teaching them how to “do real stuff”. For me that includes utilizing multiple modalities with every opportunity possible, in order to appeal to multiple senses, and therefore engage multiple types of learners. In reference to digital literacies,  we as English teachers can and should encourage our students to "do real stuff" in order to optimize the experience of the writing process.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

$$$ It's all about the Benjamins $$$

It seems obvious that many of the same difficulties with the integration of high school English curriculum still occur in today's curriculum as when the notions of such were first brought forth by the "Committee of Ten" . Some of the founding notions discussed in the original development of English curriculum that are still prevalent in educational theory about the teaching of English in high schools today include the following: 

1. It is essential for high school English teachers to create a diverse curriculum, for a diverse audience of students, in order to meet the needs of all students.
2. High school English curriculum must be geared toward students who are and are not headed for higher education.
3. High School English curriculum must prepare students for college English courses. 

Okay, so these are great thoughts and ideas, and I certainly agree with the founders, but after almost 100 years, I would argue that now we have even more dilemmas to rectify. First of all, how do we make those original ideas actually come to fruition? And why the heck has it taken us so freaking long to figure all this stuff out?

Some might argue that there needs to be some sort of tracking, vocational track vs. college track. Others might say that grade-levels by age do a disservice to the students by ignoring their reading and writing levels.
Although I cannot say what the problem may have been during the majority of 20th Century, across the United States, I personally would argue that currently the major problem in Michigan is state mandated testing. And the impending doom of poor ACT scores from students statewide has really got me thinking a lot about this lately. 

Do I think testing is bad? No. I think testing can actually be helpful for assessing the needs and growth of students, but I think the way that it is implemented in our state, and perhaps others (I am just not privy to the knowledge of such) is inherently antithetical to the founding beliefs about the teaching of English. If we look at the ACT test, three of the five sections are related to English: Reading, Writing, and English. 

What once was ignored in academic curriculum has become the primary focus of education. Schools are required to follow state standards and benchmarks, the established English curriculum, but yet those three sections of the ACT test, which determine AYP and school funding, are completely unrelated to and unaligned with the state's standards and benchmarks. 

So now we have English teachers who are taught in their college classes that they should teach based on the founding theories of Education (the right way to teach in my opinion); given a list by the state that regulates the ways that they implement those beliefs; required to test their students on content and material that has nothing to do with the curriculum they’ve been given to teach; and then their teaching capabilities are often judged on the scores of those tests. 

What should really determine the quality of a writing teacher? You might think it would be their abilities to implement those founding notions about how English should be taught, but unfortunately a majority of their merit, when often other elements are thought of as irrelevant, can be evaluated based on the scores of those tests. 

Basically, these mandates have taught teachers that their values has nothing to do with educational theory, leave that in the university; it's just about the money honey.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In or On Too Much?

At the cyber school that I work in, I go in one day a week to help the kids that come into our computer lab. Somehow that one day seems to expand itself to be the premise for my week, a week of work that, in most cases,  should seemingly end on Friday. Now that I'm back to only going in, onsite, one day a week, it seems as though my day is overloaded with requests from Project Managers, other Experts, students, and just about every other individual with whom I have an interaction.

With every interaction comes a new responsibility, a new request, some new proposal, and I come home from work and realize that I have just somehow agreed to be a part of, or involve myself in, several new tasks, proposals, items, projects, etc. 

I remember days of classroom teaching when going "in" soaked up a large portion of my life. All the hours of teaching, planning, contacting parents, grading, emails, along with a plethora of other tasks created a never-ending stream of responsibilities. Regardless of that stream, I would only turn my computer on at home after long days if I had something essential to complete, or for some planning/grading during the weekends. Generally, I tried to complete a lot of my work before I ever left school, so when I got home, I could just relax. I went in, and I came out.  I truly thought the world of online teaching would help to eliminate even more pressure from my life--providing ample amounts of time for relaxation. 

I have to say, overall, I much prefer my current job over my previous years of classroom teaching. Most of my work can be done from home; I'm on now, and I don't have to go in. I don't have parent/teacher conferences, open-houses, sporting events, dances, or any other "teacher duties" that need attending. 

Despite my flexibility, I find that I am always working every moment that I'm not attending to motherly duties. The only time where I separate myself from my computer is during those times. How can I possibly be "on" all the time? Why am I always working? Is it the nature of cyber school? Has it just become habit? Of course, as teachers, we know our jobs are never done (well, at least not until summer), but cyber school runs 365 days a year; we have no summers, we don't take breaks!

See that's the thing about being online, you can be online, all the time, at all times, regardless of any respect for time. Online just goes on and on and so on. 

When I go "in" to work that one day a week, it brings me "on" even more. So I wonder, is going "in" or "on" too much? Is one worse than the other? 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

That's it, I quit!

Okay, I think I've been really hesitant about posting to my blog because early on I found the 30 Day Teacher Blog Challenge, and I thought that I  found it at just the right time, but I have discovered that it has only made me feel very restricted in my blogging endeavors. I think blogging can really be something that is unique, raw, and real, and this challenge has presented so many structured activities, that the complacency (of which I've previously complained) has inevitably returned. I want my blog to be an extension of my mind, not the extension of something that has already been thought up.

Throughout the past couple of weeks, I've found myself reluctant to post any real thoughts because I felt bogged down by the challenge; I felt as though it were something that I had determined I would complete, so therefore I had to do it. I honestly can't remember that last time I quit something. I will generally forge through, and despite any obstacles, I will get it done.

Well, here it is, I give up the blog challenge. I'm not giving it up because it's too hard, in fact it's too mindless and easy. It's just all about answering basic questions and posting general things--things that could easily be adapted to a larger audience. I am not a large audience, and my blog is not constructed from a large group of writers or teachers; it's written only by me. If I have something that I want to discuss on my blog, then I want to be able to freely discuss it, and not have to search for the next blog challenge. I make this sacrifice of quitting in an effort to rejuvenate the spirit of my lost blog.

In a way, the challenge was probably appropriate for me, since I often have  tendency to say things I probably shouldn't or write off topic. The challenge would have helped me to restrict my natural indecent tendencies. Now, I see this as a new challenge for myself. I can't let restrictions dictate the my own restrictions, but rather I must learn to indulge in multiple avenues with my own restrictions; I must form and reform myself constantly. I can't leave it up to anyone or anything else to do that for me. I think ridding myself of this "blog challenge" will help me to defeat the real challenge: construct an interesting blog. If my blogging efforts are unsuccessful after this, then it's my fault and my fault only. I guess I have to start taking responsibilities for my own writing endeavors, and I mustn't always depend on the restrictions and guidelines of others

Let the real challenge begin!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

From Creative to Compliant

After talking about Creative Writing verses Technical Writing the other night, it really got me thinking about the concept of “compliance” that I remember Elbow referring to in his article Illiteracy at Oxford and Harvard: Reflections on the Inability to Write, which is about the notion of voice verses compliance in writing.
Personally, I have struggled to integrate my compliance to structure with a passion for writing. In fact, I feel as though my passion for writing has become abolished by educational rhetoric and academic compliance.  It’s been almost 6 years since I received my undergrad, and I’m finding the transition back into the classroom much more difficult than I had expected. I was actually very excited about returning as a student. I’ve been trying to create good students for so long now, so I felt like I’d know exactly what I needed to do in order to become one myself. Of course, this all falls right into the trap of compliance.
Not only am I complying with the standard writing structures in that regard, but also for the past 4 years, I have been writing digital textbooks. The texts demand so much of time, effort, and writing energy that the creative writer, which once such a significant part of my life, has seemingly vanished.
 Shortly after I began teaching, I also started writing the digital texts. The work was tedious and never-ending. Along with grading, lesson planning, and every other aspect of my life, I found that I had no time for writing unless it was something that would make me money. The deadlines that were set were ridiculous, and I would spend days upon days glued to my computer screen from sunrise until late into the night writing.
Writing became a duty and a task; it was work. It was no longer something I believed in. The structure of the textbooks completely conflicted with my beliefs about teaching and learning; I was writing instructions for things that I would never actually do as a teacher. I still work for the company, and I hate it. I only do it because I’m getting paid to do what I do best: write. I can do it from home, on my own time. Most people would love to have such an opportunity, but sometimes some things aren’t as great as they seem.
I thought I enjoyed being a compliant writer, but I’ve begun to realize that my lack of personal voice and passion for writing must be reflected in my teaching practices. How can I expect a student to feel passionate about their voice if I have become so compliant in my quest for knowledge and writing that I have lost my own?
 My cyber school teaching experience differs greatly from my classroom experience, and it seems to be more aligned with many of the theories surrounding writing that I’ve been learning about during grad school. I suppose this makes me feel a little bit better about what I’m doing now, but I’ve sometimes found myself more passionate about teaching the students in the computer lab about the distance formula than I do about writing. What am I missing? Why have I become so compliant? Why do I feel like I’ve lost my voice?
I only taught the 9th grade Writing class for one year, and I taught 11th grade Honors Literature during the rest of my classroom teaching experience, so there was a lot of writing involved. During the class, the students each had to write their own original novels, and other than analytical, reflective, and research papers, the curriculum focused primarily on writing strategies geared toward the ACT.
As I reflect back on those experiences, I feel like I did a disservice to those students; I never really taught them how to find their voice. I feel like I regressed my teaching to basic writing strategies, grammar, usage, and mechanics, but I never gave them a chance to really embrace their inner creative writer. Sure, the novel was great, and most of the students really enjoyed it, but I feel like I never showed them how to become passionate about their writing. I taught them compliance because that’s what I do best.