Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Webinar Review

Being an English teacher, I decided the webinar that would be the most interesting and applicable to my career was the first one on the list that talked about grammar rules and ways to include students' grammar. The webinar speaker, Jeff, discussed the ways in which the website, can help include kids' grammer and make the lives of English teachers, like me, way easier. Throughout the webinar, Jeff went through the website talking about the cool and engaging feature of the website and how it greatly improves the lives of teachers and students!

There is so much that I could write about based on my feedback from watching the webinar. However, I will just focus on a couple of cool items that I saw. My initial reaction to the webinar was how cool it was to sit in my sweatpants listening to a bunch of other teachers interested in ways to improve grammar teaching skills and methods. It was like being at a conference, only sitting in my living room with a giant blanket. I can definitely see myself taking advantage of opportunities to watch and participate in webinars in the future. They are a great resource for getting new ideas and improving teaching methods, and I want to take advantage of that as much as I can.

In response to the website that Jeff discussed in the webinar,, all I can say is that I was amazed. While I am not completely sold on too many online sources for teaching, this one was really cool. Jeff explained that the objective for the website is to promote students to be engaged in learning, and for students and teachers to see improvement easily. I was very impressed by how easy it is to see improvement on this website. There are several tables on different parts of the website where students' scores are kept so that teachers and students can easily see scores improving over the school year.

Another aspect of the website that I want to comment on is the quiz generating feature that it had. The website made it very easy for teachers to make quizzes based on specific grammar rules. For example, if students are struggling on specifically apostrophes, a teacher can generate a quiz on No Red Ink that is only on apostrophes. With the quizzes, teachers can go through their students and see individual progress, along with specific things like the time and number of tries it took a particular student to get an answer right. I thought this was really cool. If I know a student did really terrible on a quiz, I could go through and see exactly what they did wrong in each attempt of the quiz question along with how many tries it finally took them to get it right. This could really help teachers keep track of the struggling students. Anymore in education, so much emphasis is placed on improving the achievement gap and managing each of your students individually as much as possible. This website makes keeping track of individual students' learning pretty manageable, and I was impressed by this.

One downfall that I saw in regards to this website is the same downfall that comes along with any online resource/learning tool: There are always going to be students who don't have computers at home. I feel that the best use of this website would be for homework quizzes and assignments, and if there are some students who don't have computers at home, than it would be unfair to assign an online assessment. Furthermore, I would hesitate to use too much classroom time to go to a computer lab and work on the website. However, at the end of the day, I think that it is a good resource to have and use, especially for grammar. The instantaneous answers that the computer would give students would make it an efficient way to pick up on the patterns and rules of grammar, and to practice them.

My mentor teacher does grammar for the first 10 minutes of each class. She has the students write a sentence on a piece of paper and then trade sentences with a partner. From there, each student writes the parts of speech above each word in the sentence. This is an efficient, quick way to get a little bit of grammar/writing practice at the beginning of each class. However, it doesn't necessarily offer repetitive practice to the students who especially do not understand certain parts of speech. No Red Ink would offer those students the practice that they need and allow them to then do better putting it all together in the sentence activity. The website would be a good addition to my mentor teacher's classroom, and probably something that I will utilize in my future classroom.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Reflection on Last Class

Well, today was our last class session of 504 for the summer term. (And the last day of classes of the summer term) Woo! This is what may have made it a little harder than normal to focus today, but regardless, it was a very good class session. I liked the mix of hearing the MAC graduates and the more detailed discussion that we had as a class that followed.

We started out the class with the privileged of getting to hear several MAC graduates talk about their life and career now and where they are at. It was so cool to hear MAC graduates of several ages talk about their very very different current jobs. All of them had very different backgrounds, just like our MAC class does now, and are all have current jobs at several very different schools. We got to hear experience about being at a public school, a charter school, a middle college, a private school, a low-income school. It was very awesome. I especially loved hearing the lady (Valerie?) talk about how she was first in law school before deciding to be a teacher. She also shared that she worked in Rwanda for several months before getting a job at the middle college at EMU, and I would have loved to hear more about her experience teaching abroad and how she was led into doing that. Teaching in a country like South America or Africa is something I want to get a chance to do in my life. And if I don't teach there I at least want to travel there and help out with a community project in education. I would love to talk to her more about her experiences.

They also touched on their opinion of technology in the classroom and how they are or are not implementing several aspects into their classroom. I learned a very interesting stance on technology in the classroom from these MAC graduates that I actually hadn't heard much before. What they said overall about the technology was that while it may be great and very enhancing to the classroom, sometimes you don't always even have access to the wonderful benefits of it due to the funding of your school system, age of building, or resources available in the school you're working in. One of the graduates specifically talked about the fact that while her school was equipped with several simpler forms of technology, it was always a toss-up whether or not things like the over-head projector was even going to work that day. I loved hearing the consensus from the graduates, that yes, while technology is very amazing and helpful and wonderful in the classroom, teaching takes passion, compassion, and patience which cannot be enhanced much with technology. I felt that the graduates were genuine and honest with sharing their experiences with us, and I was so gracious that they were kind about letting us potentially visit their classroom. Their advice to visit as many classrooms as possible while we are learning to teach was amazing, and something I have never heard before. Why not see as many different types of classrooms/ideas as possible?!!? This is something I will definitely be doing.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Response to Edublogger!

This wasn't a blog that I originally posted my observations on, but was another one that I found super informative. I loved this teacher's logic and style. This post about the implications of Lexile scores and readability was really fascinating for me, especially as a future English teacher. My comment to her post can be found at this link:

As a side note, I highly recommend that everyone read her post about Lexile scores. It directly reflects a lot of content that we've been learning about in terms of struggling readers and motivation.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Observations of Edubloggers

I really loved checking out these Edubloggers that people have been talking about. I will admit, while the term "Edubloggers" is pretty self-explanatory, at the same I didn't really know what to expect from them. What I found from browsing through Kristin and Jeff's list of favorites, was an incredibly vast/endless amount of information that relates to the field of education. Honestly, it was amazing. It just seems like little by little my eyes are being opened to soooo many resources. I know that no matter how much I read, and study these resources, my first year of teaching is going to be somewhat terrifying. However it is awesome to know that there are so many places out there (in technology) that are there to help us and give us ideas!

The first Edublogger's that I absolutely loved was the book blog called "Bookends." It is the first one on Kristin's list of favorite! In this blog, two middle school librarians, Cindy and Lynn, discuss a books aimed for children and young adults. Every post talks about a different book, whether it is a picture book, a collection of ghost stories, or a novel. As an English teacher, this website was wonderful for me. I scrolled through a couple of pages of the critique's and loved it because I found the two librarians to be believable, right off the bat. I trusted their opinions, fairly early on in my blog exploring. I am not sure why exactly this is, the posts just had a very honest feel. In some cases, Cindy really loved the book, but then Lynn would point out what is good about it but also mention that it "read a little slow for her." Maybe this is what made it seem so honest. Also their reviews discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each book in terms of literary devices and methods. For example, the ladies would state things like "This is a good book, if you are looking for something with a lot of dialogue." As an English teacher picking a text for my students to read, I could turn to this website for some honest advice on which book I could choose. Maybe I am working on teaching them how to use dialogue in their writing, and so I could have them read (or offer for them to read in their free time) the one called Greyhound of a Girl which includes a lot of dialogue. While I am not sure how much leeway I will have in choosing my literature (I assume not a lot) I want to make sure I am picking the coolest, and best books out there for my class to read in hopes that it will help with the motivation of reading in my classroom.

Another Edublogger that I really enjoyed was a blog called "Digital Media & Learning" by Ewan McIntosh which I also found under Kristin's list of favorite blogs. This guy was pretty cool, right off the bat I loved that he really knew what he was talking about. And didn't elaborate extensively at the same time. The blog alternated between video posts, text, images, twitter surveys. All kinds of things. Obviously this appeals to me, because variety is always nice. I liked the different ways that he conveyed information and the fact that he always mixed it up. And the topics of his posts varied too which was awesome. Even from just scrolling the first page I read a post about school lunches/Jamie Oliver, one about Google, one about music and learning that talked about Will. I. Am. too. All kinds of interesting things. I liked this blog in a different way that I liked the book guide blog. It is more of something I would follow regularly and read here and there, just to keep up on stories out there that talk about education today and media and what is going on in the world. It is not as much of a reference tool like the first blog I talked about was, but still a great way to stay informed on the most recent stories involving media and education. Also, I am going to be following Ewan McIntosh on Twitter for sure.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reflections on Class July 27th

As nervous as I originally was for my Evernote presentation, I really loved class today and all the interaction that today's class entailed. We've done a lot of experimenting with group teaching and projects so far this semester (more than in any other class I've ever taken!) But today's group work was really well needed for me. I really enjoyed the aspect of teaching eachother the website. It was a really effective way to teach this particular material as it allowed us to all sit in our small groups and show eachother, practice sharing files with eachother, while simultaneously interacting/discussing. A really great relaxing Friday class. I am not sure that I would have retained everything that I did if this class was setup in lecture format. I think if Kristin and Jeff had decided to teach us all of these websites in front of the class, I definitely would not have been able to focus, especially after a long week of classes. The small group interactive discussion and presentations was a good touch and overall amazing way to cover this material. I loved it.

We didn't have a whole lot to talk about with Skype although we got into some pretty good discussions about it. We found that we actually all had Skype already downloaded onto our computer. The discussion that we got into about Skype involved ways in which it could be incorporated into a classroom. Some argued that it wouldn't really be helpful at all, and with guest speakers it would allow students to tune out even more than if the guest speaker was there in person. I didn't agree with this opinion, although I could see how it could happen. I took a class last semester at U of M (Rust Belt Narratives with Jeremiah Chamberlin -- AMAZING), where our professor would Skype in the authors of the books we read so we could talk to them about their process writing their respective novel. It was absolutely awesome. Before then, I didn't think about Skype being used in the educational field, but the flexibility that it entails is amazingly convenient. Without Skype, there was no way our professor could have these professors come in to talk to us. It wasn't like he could just fly them in on a moment's notice. They could however sit in their office on a half hour break and log onto Skype to talk to us. Amazing. And I know for everyone who doesn't think this would be helpful in a secondary classroom would argue that the student's aren't as engaged because they aren't really there by choice. But disengaged student's are always going to be somewhat of an issue, in every classroom settings. Skype theoretically could maximize guest speakers in classrooms because it wouldn't be as much of a hassle to get them physically at the school, and distance isn't limited!

Oh boy, this is going to be a long post.

So Evernote, I wasn't as sold on. This was the website that I researched and learned about. There are some awesome features on it, actually there wasn't anything on it that I didn't think was awesome. It was more an issue of "OH my gosh there is so much to do on this website--I am now overwhelmed." I think I would need some time to really sit down with it and organize my stuff into it, and then I would really value it. I also think that at this phase of my life, I don't have an exact need for a website like Evernote, since I am always carting around my own computer with me. But I am so happy I got to learn about it because one day I bet I will be needing something handy to sort out all of my teaching/classroom stuff.

Dropbox was pretty impressive too. I really like this one. I honestly couldn't think of a reason why I wouldn't just save everything to Dropbox anyway. And I wish I would have known about this during my whole undergrad education here! I could probably name at least 15 times when I emailed myself the wrong document from the Fishbowl and lost papers and had to start all over ... very, very lame. And yes, there were tears involved in every one of those times. This website is honestly probably going to be instantly incorporated into my life.

Finally Diigo. Super cool! I was also a little overwhelmed by all of the amazingness, but I loved that we learned about this now, because I will be using this now for the rest of the school year for sure! A lot of the tools that it offers are tools I could really use right now. Especially the highlighting and bookmarking. And the groups were also fascinatingly convenient.

Overall, super impressed with this class. I loved the setup and the material that we learned. So helpful! I can honestly say that I am excited about my new life that involves several of these new websites.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Class 3 Reflection

Today we started off the day with a lesson on how to use Weebly. This Weebly lesson was my first experience with any kind of online portfolio, and I have to say, it was pretty fascinating. (Minus the fact that I was overwhelmed thinking about all of the work it is going to take to figure out what information to put on Weebly! I was literally flooded with so many ideas that it was overwhelming. I liked exploring with the website and playing with all of the different ways to portray information. We had a discussion about the usefulness of these kinds of sites, and while there were some mixed opinions, I think that sites like this could really be incredible for my future as a teacher. I mean with everything going electronic as it is, it only makes sense that resumes become electronic too!

The part of the class that I most enjoyed though, was the presentation from the former MAC student about angry birds in a math class. I just loved the sincerity and genuineness that the student expressed when talking about his first year teaching. It really helped put it in perspective what we are about to be doing, and some of the obstacles that are going to pop up in our first year. He said that he thought of the angry birds lesson during the week before the student's spring break, when he knew they were all drained and couldn't focus as well as they usually do. This made me start thinking too! Timing of certain lessons is really important. I started back thinking about my breaks in high school, and realized that it did help with learning when teachers would find a more creative/laid back way of presenting material when they knew we were thinking about vacation and not in full school mode. One of the points he expressed was the tradeoff that the real computing of functions wasn't happening, even though the students were clearly getting good practice at working with parabolic functions. In terms of standardized testing material, this doesn't really work, however, a teacher must consider the attention span of their students and find ways to promote learning in the most effective way possible given the circumstances.

Another topic I was fascinated by is Tweetdeck. I have had a twitter account for a year or two now, and honestly don't ever find myself tweeting. Recently though, I've had friends tell me cool things to follow to get running tips, or news updates, etc, and I've been really loving those sorts of things. Tweetdeck takes this whole interest/usefulness level of Twitter to a whole new level! The MAC speaker talked about all of the teaching tips, or lesson plan ideas that he gets from Twitter all the time and he has this information all functioning through Tweetdeck, so he can always see ideas when he is working on his computer. This is really awesome, and I would imagine would be especially helpful our first few years of teaching when we are really exploring what works and what doesn't. I presume, based on how he learned about Twitter, that maybe later this year this class will teach us more about Twitter and all of the amazing resources that it facilitates. I can't wait to learn more!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Games to Save the World?

Wow. So you gotta give this Jane lady some credit right? Getting up in front of all of those people and talking about her PhD in how video gaming can change the world. Honestly, I thought it was really impressive.

First of all, this lady is very well spoken. I thought she did a phenomenal job at articulating everything and making it very easy to follow. So that kept me engaged from the get-go (as if the subject matter wasn't enough). I thought she was great at speaking, and great at putting so many points out there. I thought she really did do a great job at making something that is totally irrational/crazy (like video gaming to save the world) into an idea that kind of, sort of sounds like it makes sense.

I don't know, though,

I guess, I was impressed with her, her presentation, her points. But overall, even though the games that she designed clearly related to real-life problems, I'm having a hard time grasping how playing those games is going to make the world better. What I am getting at is that if you play a game where the challenge is to survive without oil, then when our world actually runs out of oil, you will know that to do. That is somewhat valid. I just wonder if she is missing the component of all of the other people in the world. There is everyone in this world to consider here. Maybe that is one of the aspects of the game, which would add an interesting and logical perspective, but it still seems bizarre.  I mean, there is also the question in my head of: How is the world going to get that much better if people are literally sitting around all day playing video games? But then a side of me wants to say, well at least sitting around on your butt and thinking about it is at least better than sitting around on your butt and not thinking about it at all. I don't know, Jane has really got me thinking to be honest. I am really eager to hear what everyone else has to say about it in class, or through comments! :D

And now to shift to the reading, "Good Video Games and Good Learning." What I mostly got out of this related to Jane's speech in that, it is more beneficial to think of these issues, whether they are world problems, or boring facts that you learn in class as games. Ideally, there would be a way to make everything that is boring to learn a video game. I guess my only problem with that is I feel like it is still going to be boring. I know if I was presented with Mario Golf, and something like "Chemistry Gaming 101" I am most likely going to opt for the Mario Golf. For me, I'm taking the time to play a game and do something fun, so why would I pick something boring. Even if we turn every problem solving scenario in the world into a video game, there is still going to be the issue of people deciding not to play those games.

I can't help but think about my mentor student at Scarlett though when I am reading all of this. He is a huge gamer, and recently was telling me all about it and how all he ever wants to do is play video games. He actually even told me a few days ago that he wishes there was a game to practice his reading because he would play these kinds of learning games if they existed. These games could be a learning strategy--and a way for kids to study. If they can help students learning, why wouldn't we be in favor of them?

I wish I could clearly decide what my stance is on all of this. I think I am in favor of the ideas. I actually find them very fascinating, and even though I still find myself with these doubtful response questions to the ideas, I am by no means dismissing them. The fact is, our world is moving, technology is becoming more and more important, and so like Jane said, maybe it is time to use games to do real world work and put these powerful gamers to the test. 

 So I guess I've been slightly all over the place with my ideas so far, but after thinking it through, the bottom line is, it is important to consider video games when talking about the future. They are a clear example of how technology is increasing. And so just like we as teachers need to take advantage of pod-casting, and blogging, and the latest computers in our classroom, we need to take advantage of video games. It is time to open up to the world, and not dismiss it. If we are going to demand this change, and demand these improvements in teaching then we need to be open to helpful ways to help make that change happen.