Sunday, November 23, 2014

Multi-Genre Projects

This presentation was shared at the National Council of Teachers of English Convention, November 21, 2014, and offers excellent suggestions for implementing multi-genre projects.

View in full screen mode.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

It's September: Time to Connect with Other Classes

September is a great time to plan global projects. 
Here are a few I recommend to teachers.

1) International Dot Day

Although the title says "day," the concept extends far beyond. Numerous ways to connect based on the Dot Day phenomenon exist.

Check the International Dot Day site.

These videos offer a quick overview of ways to connect.

Two Libraries One Voice DOT Day Celebration

2) Global Read Aloud

This amazing project, going into its fifth year, connects classes through literature. Visit Pernille Ripp's blog, Global Read Aloud blog, to keep current, and follow the project through Twitter, Edmodo, and other channels.

Here's a run down on the books for this year's project.

And a whole bunch of Peter Reynold's books, which Pernille lists:

For those using Twitter, the hashtag #gra14 will put you in touch with others.

3) Comments For Kids on Twitter

You don't need to be on Twitter to search with #comments4kids, but if you want to share your class's or students' blog, you need an account to post links.

Check these twitter posts for a sampling.

4) Blog Rolls

Once you find other classes to blog with, use a blog roll, making it easy for your students to find the other classes. When visiting other classes' blogs, look for their blog rolls for further connections.

Here is a sample of a blog roll from one teacher's class blog from 2013-2014.

5) Skype in the Classroom

Perfect way to find classes, guest speakers, and virtual field trips. 

Find lesson plans, participate in a Mystery Skype, and even check the Skype in the Classroom Facebook page.

6) Google Mystery Hangouts

This Google Community is another way to find classes to do mystery location video calls.

Also, check the Mystery Location Call Google Community to make quick connections with teachers and others looking to link up for class projects.

7) Quad Blogging

The Quad Blogging project has been around since 2011, and every year teachers sign up to participate with three other classes, with each class responsible during the weeks of their cycle. It is a great way to share information about cultures and geography, and learn about the beliefs of people who live in other parts of the world.

8) Voice Thread

VoiceThread as an online image, voice recording, video recording, and drawing app that makes it easy for classes to collaborate. The educator's account is free, and the classes can use a teacher's account to make connections. A VoiceThread Google Community posts periodic updates.

9) Special Projects Centered on Subject Areas

Here is one example of a Global Math Project.

The possibilities for connecting one's classroom globally increase daily as the technology continues to find its place in classrooms worldwide.

Personally, I use the Twitter hashtags #globaled and #globalclassroom to keep current of projects as they develop and to learn about conferences focused on making global classroom connections.

Sample of some recent tweets from #globaled:

How important do you believe it is for us to integrate global connections into our teaching? Does your curriculum allow for the possibilities? If you have connected globally, leave a comment to tell how an to extend the conversation.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Look Up: What's the Tech World Doing to Us?

This video, though it used tech to create it and post it to YouTube to share, has a powerful message about how we are glued to our devices. The narration is done as a poem and questions us about how tech is isolating us.

You've heard the message before, but wanted to share the video because of the interesting way it was done and the images that were used.

Have you thought of disconnecting from tech? Does it take a storm (e.g., hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster when we lose power) to disconnect? Do you agree with the message in the video?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Twitter in the Classroom

I posted this graphic on Twitter about a week ago, and it has had close to a 100 retweets, which makes me think Twitter is gaining popularity in classrooms. Have you joined in using Twitter with students? What do you think of these suggestions?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Digital Learning: What Do We Know About the Future?

Steve Wheeler shared this comprehensive slide show that says so much about technology over the course of time. Although the presentation has many slides, surely several will speak to you.

Leave a comment to say which speak to you and why. To view, check: Digital Learning Futures: 3 Things About Future Learning or click the below image, which will direct you to SlideShare to see the presentation there, but don't forget to leave your comments here in a reply to this post. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Blogging for an Audience

This semester, spring 2014, I am off-schedule to teach Computers in the Classroom, so I've started a blog for 8th graders in Iowa.

Why do this? Well, students in my Integrating Technology and Literacy course have been corresponding through blogging with this group of students. The students in my course, who are mostly teachers, have had the opportunity to see how blogging works by reading posts from these students in Iowa and responding.

So I started a blog for the Iowa students. I don't know them personally. I only know them from reading their blogs. Each time one of the Iowa students writes a comment on my blog, I access the student's blog and write a reply to a post. This process of writing replies is time consuming, given the number of students involved, but I feel that if a student takes the time to reply to one of my posts, the favor is reciprocal.

Here is my blog:

Here is their blog:

Did I mention the teacher? It is Scott Boylen. I met him on Twitter a couple years ago, and since then, when I teach Integrating Technology and Literacy, my students partner with his in a cross-class blogging project.  

Well, if you hop over Blogging with Iowa Students, you will see what I have been up to. You can also find the students' blogs here: Mr. Boylen's 2013-14 LA Class.

Assuming you looked at Blogging with Iowa Students and Mr. Boylen's 2013-14 LA Class, what are your thoughts about the use of blogs to connect students with those outside of their class? What about teachers, such as the ones in my class, reading blog posts of students they don't know and responding?

Really would like to hear from others about what you see as the value of blogging including cross-class blogging.

Will Richardson posted this on Twitter, and thought I would share it. Do you agree with him?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Building a Global Culture

What Is Our Culture?

As the name of this blog implies and is indicated by the sub-title, this blog was created to share ideas about integrating technology in the classroom. The primary audience is teachers, many of whom take a course I teach, called Computers in the Classroom. Others are invited to participate at any time.

For me, the culture of a school environment today should be about first building support for collaboration and trust among the members of the community. Once that is accomplished, members can then use technology tools to reach a wider audience.

Technology to Reach a World Culture

I encourage students in my courses, as well as others I blog and tweet with, in addition to members of Google Communities to which I belong, to expand their audience and the audience of their students to reach a global audience. Therefore, some of my favorite tools are:

  • #Comments4kids the Twitter hashtag: this feed allows educators to find student blogs for which a worldwide readership is sought for responding. In addition, William Chamberlain facilitates the Comments4Kids blog, which features weekly student blog posts looking for respondents.
  • The Quadblogging project, with information available from this project enables schools to participate in an ongoing collaborative blogging project.
  • The Global Read Aloud, held each fall, unites students around the world based on reading one of the selected books. The brains behind this project is Pernille Ripp, who maintains the Global Read Aloud blog, where you can find more information about the project and upcoming plans for fall 2014.
  • Skype in the Classroom, which provides a way for students to connect for Skyping around organized topics. There are also the Mystery Hangout (452 members as of 2/16/14), Google Community and the Mystery Location Calls, Google Hangout (483 members as 2.16/14).
  • In the fall, I also like to encourage participation in International Dot Day. This project enables students to get their creative juices flowing and to connect with others. I have watched students in my home state of Connecticut Skype with students in Maryland and Louisiana after participating in this project and showing what they have done to celebrate the event. 
Skyping to Connect on International Dot Day:

These are just some of the ways I work to create a culture of sharing and globalization. I believe the culture of our schools once firmly established with a level of trust built in within the classroom or school is greatly enriched by globalization projects.

Going Beyond Classroom Walls to Build Community 

I have listed just a few ways that I advocate for global learning, and welcome responses from readers to learn about projects in which you participate. I realize the Blog a Month Challenge is just one of these, a way for us to connect beyond the walls of our schools.

Culture to me today means knowing one's own culture, but also encompassing within that culture a world view, and we need to do this for students, whether it means reading newspapers online from around the world, visiting online museums and historic sites from around the world, or traveling the globe via any one of the fashions now available to us through the Internet. But most of all, it means interacting with others and having meaningful understandings to develop a humanitarian world view of caring. 

Reaching Out to Others

What are some of the ways you work to build an environment in your school that invites others in and allows your students to communicate and share globally?

For additional information on how I envision creating a culture of globalization within the school to reach beyond the school, see these posts that I have created:
  • International Dot Day: 
  1. Connecting the Dots
  2. Skype for Dot Day
  3. Still Wondering What Dot Day Is
  4. International Dot Day Coming Your Way
  • Skype: 
  1. Skype in the Classroom
  2. Connecting Students Across the Globe
I am also creating a blog for an audience of middle school students in Iowa (Blogging with Iowa Students). I live in Connecticut. I write posts, and they write replies. My students (teachers) and I have been reading and responding to blogs written by students in this teacher's class (Scott Boylen) for more than two years.

Another activity to consider is attending the Building Learning Communities, held in July in Boston, MA.

With so many online virtual opportunities open to us, we would be remiss if we didn't work to build a culture of global understanding and interaction. Do you agree? What has worked for you to build a spirit of globalization within your school culture?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spreading the Sunshine

This is a cross-post from my Integrating Technology and Literacy blog:

Let’s Get Started

How appropriate I should receive the Sunshine Award challenge from two colleagues up North, experiencing an Arctic blast while I am in Florida for Intersession break with balmy temps in the 80's.

Here are some shots of a walk through the nearby Morikami Japanese Gardens, right down the road from where I am staying in Delray Beach, FL. I’ll also include one of the Delray Beach to bring some ray of comfort to my friends up North. How the Canadians do it in the winter, I don’t know, but each time I come down here for a week or two in December-January, I notice more and more plates from Ontario and the Canadian provinces.

Morikami Japanese Gardens
Bonsai, Morikami

Just Another Day at the Beach in South Florida

My first tag to participate in the Sunshine challenge arrived from Calgary high school teacher, Pamela Hunniset; check her ““Spreading the Sunshine” post to learn more.

The second came about a week later from Wamogo High School English Department Chair Colette Bennett, hailing from the northwest corner of Connecticut. You can read her Sunshine Award post following this link:  “Zero Degrees F, Spreading the Sunshine”: just that title reminds me of how fortunate I am to be in Southern sunshine.

It's funny how in today’s world we often meet people online before we do in person. I met both Pamela and Colette face-to-face at the fall 2013 National Council of Teachers of English Convention in Boston. I knew both from Twitter and Twitter English chats (#engchat), and also knew Pamela from last year’s Educational Technology MOOC, spearheaded by the University of Regina Professor Alec Couros, who was one of the first people I followed on Twitter. 

Although Colette teaches not far from where I am in CT, we met at the Council of English Leadership opening session at NCTE. She tapped on me on the shoulder and introduced herself after we heard Eric Sheninger’s dynamic Opening Address about the power of social media. We promised to meet again in our home state. As for Pamela way up in Calgary, the last time I was up there was for a Calgary Stampede and to camp in Banff and Jasper National Parks. Hope to make the trip again, though more likely, I’ll find Pamela at a professional conference.  

The Basics

As for the “rules” of the Sunshine Awards, I like how Pamela framed them in her post “Spreading the Sunshine.” Thus, I am mimicking what she did here.

Here’s how this chain letter of inspiration works:
1.     Acknowledge the nominating blogger & let him or her know when you complete your post.
2.     Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3.     Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger authored for you.
4.     List 11 bloggers to pass along the challenge. [I listed more in hopes of spreading Florida sunshine further.]
5.     Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all them know they have been nominated. (Obviously, don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.)
6.     And Pamela added criterion, which is good advice: embed links and visuals that personalize the post.

My Journey Begins

Now, on to the tasks. 

“11 Random Facts” The first three are about crashing stereotypes.

1. Statistics: 

When I was in my doctoral program, focused on English-Education, my advisor told me to take the two required quantitative research courses last because most of the English folks in the program found them a challenge. Following that advice, I held off. I enrolled in both at the end, opting for the 6-week summer format, but accidentally missed the first week of the first course. The prof told me to drop the course, but figured I would hold out for a week to see if I could brush up and get caught up. When I attended the first study group, I found myself tutoring the others, including some with math degrees and some who were district superintendents. I went on to earn an A+ in both courses. Don't let anyone tell you English majors can't do statistics.

2. Science: 

In high school, I completed a physics course in 6 weeks in the summer and became the first female in my school to take AP Chem. Both of my teachers did not appreciate having a female join the "all boys’ club." Luckily, my lab partner for the physics course was the captain of the wrestling team, and he defended me fiercely. Again, another stereotype broken; that is, girls can succeed in science.

3. Athletics

Non-athletic types should not forsake the challenge of running marathons. I ran 5, and my time in all but the last one, which I ran in 100-degree heat, was decent. Prior to training for marathons, I swam 2 miles a few times a week. But I did flunk the lifeguard-qualifying exam because the test adminstrator put me up against saving a 200+ pound, muscle-bound hulk when I weighed in at 106 pounds. My lack of athletic skills did not serve me well in this matchup.

4. School: 

Way back as a young kid, I skipped a year of first grade. Actually, I was accelerated after a half year of kindergarten and advanced to the end of first grade. This meant I graduated high school at 16 and student-taught when I was 19, teaching high school seniors, when I barely looked 16. The next year, I completed my master’s work and went on to teach middle school, moving from upstate NY to CT. Opting for the younger age group to compensate for my age, this worked well. Management issues were never a problem. I never thought about them: just taught and loved every minute with the students. I also took on the job of directing the Drama Club and put on 6 plays, though I had no prior experience in acting or stagecraft. Luckily, the middle school students had talent and led me on the way.

5. Powder and Ice

I learned to ski in powder at Jackson Hole joining a UConn ski team trip while a student in the doctoral program. The first day on the slopes, we were all asked to demonstrate our skills. Imagine someone shaking as the ski team members wiped down the moguls.

Jackson Hole: Wishful Thinking

I stuck it out for the week. Now the ultimate challenge was: Transferring those west coast skills to skiing the icy, hard-packed slopes of Vermont! (Remember, I said I was non-athletic. Won’t include any self-portraits at Killington.)

6. Island Fun: 

I grew up on an island where the top competitive sports were sunbathing (who could get the best tan) and surfing. I excelled at the first, and won't mention how I did with the second.

The Dunes, Near the End of the lsland

Beach Across from My House

7. Spur of the Moment: 

When I was 21, after my first year of teaching in CT, I acquired a small pack-back and comfy sleeping bag, hopped a plane, and spent the summer trekking the Greek Islands, sleeping at night on the beaches under the stars. Although I did this solo, I met up with groups, such as Peace Corps volunteers on break, hiking with them to remote parts of the island of Ios. 
Just One of Many Islands Where I Camped


8. British or American: 

While at York University, England, taking three 20th century British Literature course, I studied the works of T.S. Eliot. Just the semester before, I studied him as an American author in an American Poets course at State U. Albany, NY.

9. Poetry: 

I once memorized the full of William Wordsworth's “Ode to Immortality." He remains one of my favorite poets, and on another sojourn to England, sat at Ullswater Lake, imagining Wordsworth composing the daffodil poem (“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”), apparently penned there on the shores. Visited his home, Dove Cottage, in Grasmere, and took a photo with a grand niece of his who at the time was the caretaker of Dove.

Dove Cottage

10. Globe Hopping: 

Fortunately, I have visited more than 40 countries--have stopped counting. I have left only 5 states to visit in the US. Have tent camped in many. Won't mention places that are my favorite: the list is too long. I did manage to make a few videos of my visit to Hawaii two summers ago. Here's one.  

If you want to hear a narrated one about Kauai, check this one on You Tube. My narration is monotone, but the photos are worth seeing: "Our Adventures on the Island of Kauai." 

11. Transportation: 

Would much rather fly to a destination than drive, and I mean for distances not too far. Sure flights get canceled and airports have turned to human zoos, but the skies are friendlier than the byways. Not mentioning the NJ Turnpike, but you get the picture. 

Eleven Questions for Bloggers,” posed by Pamela in her Sunshine Awards challenge. I received these before Colette’s, and doing 22 will make this post even longer than it already needs to be. (Sorry Colette, but did like your questions, and there’s some overlap.)

1. What do you do to escape or for relaxation?

Travel and disconnect from the Internet to enjoy the beauty of nature.  I did this when I was in Costa Rico four years ago. Here is a shot taken from the porch of my hut while in Arenal and a shot of a wild orchid, the national flower of Costa Rico. 

Orchids, Grow in the Wild in Costa Rico

Active Volcano, Arenal, Costa Rico,
Zip Lined Over the Rainforest Canopy, Nearby the Volcano

2. What film or play has captured your heart?

More than one film: Shawshank Redemption and the lesser-known films: Paris, Texas and Lone Star are three that make my list every time. As for plays, I find Death of a Salesman of interest, though it is dated, and still am trying to figure out Waiting for GodotLong Day’s Journey into Night tires me, but also fascinates me, and A Streetcar Named Desire brings me back to New Orleans, a city like no other.

Not recommending to all, but The Great Gatsby converted me from chemistry major to an English, so it holds a special place in my life. For high school students, I recommend All Quiet on the Western Front to gain an understanding of war from a teenager’s perspective. The more recent The Book Thief does the same. Both stories ultimately reinforce the theme of world peace. I’m a fan of Hemingway and Faulkner (I know white males), but also of Richard Wright and Maya Angelou. I recommend two of my favorite books, but know others would decline to put them on a list of must-reads: The Sun Also Rises and Absalom, Absalom. 

I also recommend something by the lesser known author, Andre DuBus II, especially his “A Father’s Story,” and the puzzling works of Flannery O'Connnor, including her story, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," and Joyce Carol Oates’, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" This Oates' story teams well with "A Father's Story.” 

For middle students, I recommend the popular The Fault in Our Stars, and for elementary school students, and for even younger students, starting grade 4, Out of My Mind has been a hit. Most of all, I recommend that elementary and middle school teachers get involved in the Global Read Aloud, an annual event, each fall. To find out more, check Pernille Ripp's blog devoted to the project. 

What has been the best vacation you ever had? Greece (see 11 Random Facts above)

Although the Greek islands are now overtaken with tourists, their beauty is undeniable. 

I also loved a trip to the Swiss Alps and hiking the peaks. Got to spend 4th of July atop snow-covered Junfgrau, and the next week, traveled to Matterhorn at Zermatt 

Perhaps the most exotic was Morocco, with its vast stretches of deserts and the Marrakesh spice market. Even enjoyed a cup of tea in a nomad’s tent.

Matterhorn, Zermatt

Marrakesh: Snake Charmer in the Spice Market
5. What are some of your guilty pleasures?

I am a night owl. I can stay up all night reading a book, writing an essay, surfing the Internet. I hate going to sleep. I used to think sleeping was a waste of time. Functioning on 4 hours a sleep a night, I was told by friends I gain a few extra days in the week. Now, I love to catch a dark, rainy or snowing morning and sleep till noon.

6. If you could travel to any one place in the world, what would it be?

This is a hard one because I could spend the rest of my life on the road and be perfectly happy. I would like to explore Asia, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific islands including Mt Fuji and Bora Bora. Also, have yet to get to Machu Picchu.
Mt Fuji

7. What is your one life mantra, motto, or credo?

A cup or two of dark roast coffee a day keeps the doctor away. I also like this quote attributed to Thomas Edison: Genius is 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration. And this maxim from Ben Franklin, “Early to Bed, Early to Rise makes a good man healthy and wise.” Have heard by that he meant getting to sleep early in the morning, which makes sense to me.

Photo Courtesy of Niece Lauren, My Soul Mate

8. What is your favourite season and why?

Litchfield, CT, 2012
Walk in the Woods, Down My Road, Fall 2012
It used to be fall, especially living in New England, with all the glory of the colors as the leaves change to magnificent shades. But now that season reminds me winter is on the way, so am opting for the fresh beginnings of spring. 

Talcott Ridge Walk, Near My House, Fall 2013

Horse Barn Taken from Inside Window,
Not Yet Ready to Go Outside

Winter 2013,
Used My Body Instead of Shovel to Empty Deck of Snow

9. What is your favorite band, musician, artist of all time?

Because I love the poetry and feel of “Fields of Gold,” I guess I would say Sting. Ask me on another day, I'll have another choice. 

10. Who or want inspires your writing?

The keyboard and an empty screen. Like to tap on the keys, and then hours later discover the screen is filled with words. 

11. What metaphor or simile describes your writing process?

It gushes like a stream. It used to be a dried-up lake in a sun-soaked desert because I could never get past the introductory sentences. I learned that kind of self-editing is counterproductive. 

Your Turn Now

Play it Forward: Here is my list of other bloggers to keep the chain going. Their name hyperlinks to their blogs, and links to their Twitter Profile pages are in the parentheses. I included those links in hopes that they’ll all hook up with one another on Twitter.

11 Questions for these Bloggers, but first remember to give the 11 Facts about yourself and don’t forget to play it forward to other bloggers and to generate your 11 questions for them.

Here’s the set of questions for the above bloggers.

1) What teachers inspired you and why?
2) If you could change your college major, what would it be and why?
3) What is the best part of being a connected educator and how do you stay connected?
4) If you could make one significant change that would shift the course of education, what would it be?
5) What are your favorite tech tools and why?
6) What do you do to escape?
7) What fields/careers would you recommend to young people today?
8) If you could live your life as another person, from history or living today, who would you choose and why?
9) Would you rather be a kid or an adult, and why?
10) What is your favorite charity, and why?
11) What do you think is your greatest strength?

    Image credits for photos from Flickr

    Santorni: cc licensed BY NC SA ) flickr photo by derrickting:
    Iosflickr photo by Roland Turner:
    Dove Cottage: cc licensed BY SA ) flickr photo by Simon James:
    Jackson Hole cc licensed BY NC ) flickr photo by rarejacksonholerealestate
    Zermatt: cc licensed BY SA ) flickr photo by Martin Abegglen:
    Spice Market: cc licensed BY ) flickr photo by Natalie Maynor:

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