Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Website Review: Diigo

Diigo: The Researcher’s Best Friend
Website Review

Diigo has taken social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to the next level, offering not only a way to connect with people but a way to compile research and engage in the research done by others. Using the Diigo toolbar, users are able to create a bookmark for any webpage they view. This bookmark is saved to the user’s account so that he or she can easily link to the page from any computer. On the bookmarked page itself, users can highlight text and add sticky notes so that annotations and important passages can be recalled later; these user additions to the webpage are saved along with the site itself so that when the bookmark is pulled up, the highlighting and notes are found too! Users can form or join groups working on similar research topics so that they can all share their sources. As the Diigo site points out, this method of searching for resources is much better than using search engines because the sites saved on Diigo have already been sifted from searches done by the members. After the user compiles some bookmarks of his or her own, the research profile even allows Diigo to suggest some relevant bookmarks. This website could help students achieve a range of the NETS standards, including number 3) Research and Information Fluency: Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. According to indicator b, students must locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources. This standard practically defines the content found on Diigo because it is a digital tool designed to help people find more specific sources, keep track of their analyses of them, view how others rate and evaluate the sources, and link back directly to the original source so that proper citation can be compiled. I rate Diigo’s content and site goal as very high!

Once you get the hang of the Diigo interface, it is relatively easy to use. You have the option of installing the Diigo toolbar which you will then have access to as you surf the web, allowing you to bookmark, highlight, etc. while you research. I have chosen to use the smaller toolbar option, Diigolet, because it allows the same basic functions, but uses less space and is easier to command for new users and casual researchers. On any webpage, the user has only to select one of the options on the toolbar and the command will be completed; for example, when the bookmark tab is pressed on Diigolet, a menu comes out in which the user can title, tag, and summarize the bookmark, which is then saved on the user’s Diigo profile page to be accessed any time. On this page, users can join groups and view the various bookmarks there. If the user wants to share one of his or her personal bookmarks with the group, there is an easy option for this function on the user’s bookmark page. At the top of the page, there is a search bar where people can type in research topics and receive other users’ bookmarks that fulfill the search criteria. Users can even filter these searches to look within the users of a certain group. It takes a little time and some trial and error to get used to the Diigo site and how it functions, but once a person is familiar enough with it, it becomes a very easy and useful tool, giving it a high rating for its interface.

Web Quests have become a very common classroom activity in the past few years. With this learning tool, students are given a research topic or problem and sent onto several suggested websites or search engines to gather some information regarding the issue. At the end of the quest, students usually complete some sort of project that allows them to display what they have learned. I think that the Diigo website would be a great resource within the Web Quest activity because it could make an individual assignment into a classroom-wide investigation. The teacher could open a group in which she bookmarked the sites meant to get the students started on the background research into the topic. Then she could assign students or groups of students a specific aspect of that topic and have them find sites that deal specifically with that area. This division of research would be great in an English classroom when trying to tackle a persuasive research paper. Students could be split into pro/con teams on an issue and in this way have access to more research. It is really great to have both sides of an issue represented in one research forum because often students will focus only on research that corroborates their point of view without looking at the opposition. If the research done by the opposition is easily accessible, then it saves the students time sifting through it themselves and still gives them the time to focus on their own side of the debate. Diigo is a very powerful group researching tool, so I would rate its learning value as very high.

The tech support behind Diigo seems quite strong. On the Help Page there are several video tutorials that range from a brief introduction to the site’s functions to a more detailed explanation of the site’s full capability. There is a menu that breaks down each of the Diigo tools, such as Bookmarks and Highlighting, so that users can go directly to specific topics of interest or personal difficulty. Some of these subheadings even have video tutorials of their own. There are several articles from the users themselves about how to reap the full benefits of Diigo and troubleshoot the common frustrations found in actual experience. Although I did have trouble finding ways to contact the site administrators regarding particular user difficulties, I still give this site’s help functions a high rating for being able to tackle such a large and complicated site in a way that is manageable for users of any tech skill level.

I am so excited that this class introduced me to Diigo. So many times I have gotten home after hours spent researching in the library only to realize that I have to go back and redo all the research on my home pc; it is so frustrating. But, like GoogleDocs (which I have also fallen in love with), I can access my research from anywhere. Not only that, but I can access the research of others who have been facing the same research struggles as I have so that it is easier to find sources that have already been filtered for usefulness, reliability, and interest-level. I would love to use it in the classroom as a way to keep students involved in research communities. With the advent of the web, it has gotten easier for students to have access to a wealth of information, but with this access comes the problem of being able to sort through it all and find pertinent academic-level sources. That is tricky! Diigo is a good practice ground for students to develop these judgment skills. Users have pared down the wealth of research so that it is less overwhelming, and, with the option of sharing their own research with the class, students can help each other evaluate the sources. Rather than have students resort to the old research compilation method of recording sources on note cards, Diigo relies on the same type of logic but in a more sensible and accessible manner, especially in today’s technological world. I strongly recommend that all high school teachers implement Diigo in at least some aspect of their curriculum because it allows students to become part of a learning community beyond their school. I think the interface is a bit much for younger students to handle, but elementary teachers could implement research sharing skills that would prepare them for tools like Diigo. Overall, I cannot say enough about how exciting a program Diigo is; I give it a very high, if not the highest rating of just about any website I have ever used because it is really a meta-site that allows management of the web content as a whole. From my experience, the aspect that I am most excited about is the highlighting/note function. I have always hated reading from a computer screen because there is no way for me to interact with the text by marking and annotating it. Diigo has solved that problem—and so many other web research issues! It was about time for a site like this.

The bookmarks I have shared with the EDUC 422 group:

My best bookmark:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Journal 10

"Splicing Video into the Writing Process" by Tammy Pandina Scot & Diane Harding

This article leads with the idea that students need to learn more than just reading and writing in order to survive in this technology-filled world. To this end, the authors have integrated video into the language arts classroom in a unit designed to help students write and learn about the civil war, or any subject matter. The central tenet here is that making a film follows a similar sequence to writing a paper or story, requiring that students go back and forth between brain-storming to editing. Students are sorted into pairs and each pair is required to script part of the film as well as fill a production role, such as prop managers, actors, or editors. In this way, students get experience with actual writing and with the rhetoric that goes into the "writing" of film. All the students work together on a film that contributes to the understanding of some aspect of the class. In the authors' school, all the fifth grade classes produced a film and showed all of them at a special screening night for the parents. With how the authors have planned this activity, students get a lot of experience with group work, get to practice with the writing process, learn how to produce a film, and learn whatever subject is being studied. I thought that it was a really interesting way to bring technology together with the subject in a meaningful way. It is not just teaching technology for technology's sake, but for understanding how the two enrich one another. I feel that if the whole class works on one film though, this could become a bit too lengthy of a project.

Question 1: How would I integrate this lesson into the high school English classroom?
Almost all high school classes have to complete a research paper. I think that this could be upgraded by adding in a documentary film element, especially since documentaries are becomming such a wide-spread and important medium. If students wrote the paper as well as presented their argument in a short documentary-type film they would get a chance to see how they have to adjust their rhetorical appeals between the two mediums, and, of course, they would get important experience with film editing software. Rather than have each student make their own film, they could be grouped by topic and by their position on that topic (pro/con). Each student would write a paper and then as a group they would then have to negotiate their viewpoints into one film on the issue.

Question 2: What was one important suggestion from the article about projects of this type?
Answer 2: One thing that I would not have considered at first would be that students with unequal abilities should not be paired together. I would have at first assumed that the students who were not experienced with the iMovie software would benefit from being partnered with someone who was, but these authors suggest that this uneveness just produces uneven results. The strong student tends to do the entire project rather than integrate and encourage the skills of the other student. If students are equally matched, then they will be more inclined to work with one another because they will have to negotiate their skills together. I do see a problem with this model in that perhaps the lowest experienced pairs will suffer with their final products not being as refined as those of the experienced students. The teacher will have to be extra vigilant and helpful with these pairs.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Journal 9

"Avoid the Plague: Tips and Tricks for Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism" by J. V. Bolkan

Plagiarism is an unfortunate issue facing teachers today. Although it is a crime committed by the students, Bolkan's article offers that the teacher can do several things to discourage plagiarism in the classroom. The first is taking a clear stand against plagiarism and explaining to students not only why it is wrong, but why it is harmful to the students themselves and their learning outcomes. Less directly, teachers must understand that they are responsible for designing assignments and can develop several safeguards against plagiarism into the assignment itself. In creating a specific research question, requiring process work, and expecting students to be able to talk about their projects teachers make it more difficult for students to plagiarize. Lastly, once students have committed plagiarism, it is the responsibility of the teacher to discover it. Sure, services like can aid in this, but teachers should strive to know their students' abilities and writing styles well enough to know what they are and are not capable of producing. I appreciated that this article placed so much responsibility on teachers for changing the current trend toward plagiarism. Sure, students have the ultimate choice on whether or not to plagiarize, but if teachers just blindly expect academic honesty, then they forget their main role: to teach! Teachers have to set students up for success and the way that they design their lessons and develop the learning community in their classroom is vital to student learning outcomes.

Q1: What was my favorite suggestion that this article gave for preventing plagiarism?
A1: I think that emphasizing process work is really important. If students steal the work of others they don't get the chance to develop ideas for themselves. Finished essays nearly never come with rough drafts or topic proposals. Process work, since it is so rough, allows teachers to get familiar with student writing patterns and, at the base, it gives students experience with the writing process! I think that all English teachers need to understand that the finished product is not all there is to learning--the process can be just as instrumental to understanding. If we place all value on the end product, then students might be more inclined to plagiarize because too much rides on getting something perfect. As the article points out too, it's just so much of a hassle to create rough drafts that students may as well complete the final essay. By forcing them through the process then, it not only ensures original work but helps them develop lifelong skills for original thought.

Q2: Often students argue that plagiarism was accidental. How can the method learned in Journal 8 help students prevent their own "accidental" plagiarism?
A2: Well, this article explained that teachers detect plagiarism often by entering the paper into search engines and then checking them against similar web resources. If students kept all of their research on a computer in one coherent spreadsheet, as the research article suggested, then they could complete much the same process as a plagiarism-hunting teacher. If any parts of their own papers feel to them like they may be too derivative of their resources, then they can insert the questionable content into the search function on their research and see what matches they get back. This allows students to take responsibility for themselves!

Journal 8

"Updating the Research Paper" by Werner Liepolt

Liepolt's approach to student research papers is genius. Whereas all prior curriculums have instructed students to take notes and keep citations on notecards, Liepolt updates the process by integrating technology. With spreadsheet software, students can keep citation data, summaries, quotes, and notes all in one place and can therefore clearly label and keep track of where their information came from and what it is for. This method helps them generate a works cited page quite easily, as there would be a column in the spreadsheet for each of the required pieces of information for a proper citation. With the process that Liepolt has developed, students have the option of printing off their notes in notecard form, allowing them the best of both worlds then. As I read this article I was absolutely blown away by Liepolt's approach. In all of my own research papers, I have always been resistant to the notecard method because it just did not make sense to how I operated. To have a separate notecard for every note I wanted to make was tedious and inefficient when it came to sorting through the notes to write the final paper. Plus, I lost a lot of the notecards. Using spreadsheets just makes so much more sense! Instead of a separate notecard, there can just be a separate column, which ensures that students will collect the necessary information and will allow them the opportunity to add information easily as they see fit.

Q1: What would I have to learn in order to teach research practices in this manner?
A1: I am not comfortable with spreadsheets. As Liepolt pointed out, spreadsheets have been removed from research efforts and are now viewed as primarily good only for numerical data entry. My teachers have all fallen prey to this trend and thus my humanities course has not familiarized me with programs like Excel. I would have to become a pro at using Excel in a research setting before I could expect my students to use it facilely. Besides, I would love to integrate this method into my own research practices, so learning Excel would have a great personal benefit as well.

Q2: What are potential problems with this method?
A2: Spreadsheet software can be daunting to learn and difficult to teach. I would be worried that training students on the programs would take too much time away from the curriculum. However, if this approach became widely accepted enough, perhaps more schools would see Excel's value as a research tool and make more of an effort to teach it to students in a computer skills class. Also, I think that this approach would be so helpful in research strategies that I would probably be willing to take the time to teach it; it is a skill that will be necessary for students their whole lives. With keeping notes on the computer there is a worry that students will engage with the material less, and this can lead to plagiarism. When students actually copy notes and quotations onto the notecards, it gives them a chance to internalize the information, which allowed them better understanding and the realization that it was someone else's work. If students are just copy and pasting research from the Internet, the research is a lot more passive and students may not interact with the text as much. I think this worry is outweighed by the benefit of being able to see all the research laid out together. This is an interaction with the text in its own right.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Journal 7

"Electronic Editing: Taking Advantage of Built-in Tools to Improve Student Writing" by Leigh E. Zoitz

When grading and/or reviewing a student's paper, teachers leave suggestions in the margins and make corrections directly onto the paper. This can get messy and is not the most efficient way to do it. Zoitz offers that if students turn in an electronic copy of their papers, then teachers can used the editing tracking features on word processing programs to comment on student papers. This way students can more easily access the teacher's input and the editing exchange can happen faster because papers can be turned back outside of class. I like this idea but not only for the reasons that Zoitz offers. Yes, it would be neater and more expedient, but it would also be easier for students to keep a record of teacher suggestions. If students have corrections of previous assignments saved directly on their computers, I think they will be more inclined to look over those assignment and be better able to notice and avoid patterns of error. If they keep getting the same comment over and over again, students hopefully will take notice and change it. Likewise, the teacher will have this same collective record so that she can keep track of the student's difficulties, and the problem areas of the class as a whole. If she has to keep writing the same comment over and over again, perhaps on seeing this she will realize the need for a reteaching intervention.

Q1: Could these tools be put to use by the students themselves?
A1: Absolutely! I think that if students learned the potential of these tools it would greatly help their writing in two ways. First, the teacher is often not the only one to read student work; peer-review is an integral step in the writing process. If students used the tools on each other's papers, it would allow them to comment easier and to receive criticism in a more effective format. Peer review could take place outside of the classroom, perhaps, leaving classtime to discuss the problem areas instead of setting aside a large chunk for the reading itself. As the students write their own papers, I think that if they tracked their editing on rough drafts it would help them understand the editing process better and give them a record of their changes, which may help them understand later why those choices were made. Since the editing tools don't erase the first version, students get to view the original and the changes together, which lets them see the effect that those changes have on the work as a whole. Also, once the revisions are done, students have the option of reverting to the original if it would be helpful to do so.

Q2: What is an issue with this method?
A2: I often find that when I read off a computer screen for long periods of time, I become disengaged and begin to skim instead of absorb the material. By actually physically writing on the paper, there is more action involved. Also, handwritten comments feel more personal and weightier. So teachers would have develop an attitude for themselves and in their classroom that emphasized the importance of these tools and how to overcome the ennui that can come from a white screen (quick, frequent breaks, perhaps?). There is a paradigm shift that is taking us from a paper culture into the world of technology and we have got to develop the skills to help us meet this change.

Journal 6

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" by Ivan W. Baugh

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a fun, popular song sung during the holidays. However, Baugh understands that the song has a historical and social basis and implications. Capitalizing on this understanding, he has developed a multidisciplinary lesson plan. Students get experience with math and economics by using spreadsheet programs to chart the presents and holiday spending trends. In the humanities, students learn about the history and religion underlying the song, get a chance to write songs of their own, and study songs in current popular culture that have social importance of their own. The research is all web-based, and Baugh provides many suggestions for credible and interesting sites. Although Baugh's lesson incorporated activities, such as math and economic planning, that I would not be able to apply in a high school English classroom, I found his idea of using something iconic in our culture as a jumping off place for his lesson. There are so many things in our culture and traditions that we just take for granted without fully understanding what they are about and where they came from, so I think it is great that Baugh interrogates these familiar social practices and encourages better understanding of them. I also like that his lesson extends beyond just the song itself. Using a popular song is a great way to hok student interest so that the teacher can then segue the lesson into a bigger concept like world religion.

Q1: What should teachers be cautious of in choosing popular culture and in designing lessons around them?
A1: Often items taken from popular culture will relate to specific cultural groups and their ideals. They can express biases that oppose other groups. In this article, for example, a public school teacher would have to be very cautious in how he or she approached a Christmas song in the classroom due to the religious ties and connotations that come with it. Baugh does a good job because he does not focus on the idea that it is a Christmas song so much as a historical document that must be understood and analyzed. He does discuss religion, but in an manner that encourages inclusive inquiry into all religions, not just Christianity. The idea that songs and other cultural media might associate with particular groups also impacts a Teacher's choice because he or she must take into account which media the class will be familiar with. What is normal and traditional to us may not be part of someone else's culture.

Q2: What else would a lesson of this type be good at teaching?
A2: As this is a magazine emphasizing technology in education, I was surprised that Baugh did not discuss the validity of his web sources. He designed several research projects that were primarily web-based, which is great because a multidisciplinary project of this magnitude would require easy and quick access to a variety of information. If you are looking at popular culture, there will, no doubt, be a plethora of information offered on the Internet. However, there is a lot of room for error and bias in this information, so this project would be a great chance for students to encounter the range of validity in web sources and give them a chance to develop judgment skills for researching.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Software Review:

Web Browsing: Research and Citing Sources, Grades 6-8;

Tutorial Lessons and NETS, k-12:
  • Browsing Basics
    • 5. Digital Citizenship: Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
      • 5.a Students advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
    • 6. Technology Operations and Concepts: Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
      • 6.a Students understand and use technology systems
      • 6.b Students select and use applications effectively and productively
  • URLs
    • 1. Creativity and Innovation: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
      • 1.a Students apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, processes
    • 2. Communication and Collaboration: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the earning of others.
      • 2.a Students interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
    • 6. Technology Operations and Concepts: Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
      • 6.a Students understand and use technology systems
      • 6.b Students select and use applications effectively and productively
  • Web Searches
    • 3. Research and Information Fluency: Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
      • 3.b Students locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media
      • 3.c Students evaluate and select information sources based on the the appropriateness of specific tasks
    • 4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making: Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources
      • 4.c Students collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions
    • 5. Digital Citizenship: Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
      • 5.a Students advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
  • Validity and Sourcing
    • 1. Creativity and Innovation: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
      • 1.a Students apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, processes
    • 2. Communication and Collaboration: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the earning of others.
      • 2.a Students interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
      • 2.b Students communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
    • 5. Digital Citizenship: Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
      • 5.a Students advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
      • 5.b Students exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity

This tutorial gives students the basic understandings and skills needed to access and do research on the Internet. Beginning with an explanation of what the Internet actually is, the program grounds students in how powerful and comprehensive a tool the web is. The other lessons allow students a chance to learn how to access web pages, search for resources, and evaluate the relevance and validity of those sources. The program is extremely useful for those who have little to no background experience with the web. By teaching students something as elementary as how to type in a web address, the program assumes no prior knowledge and therefore is comprehensive in the processes it covers. However, it is unrealistic in today's society to expect that a classroom of middle schoolers would not be experienced with the web. As the lessons are a bit lengthy and slow-paced for someone familiar with the subject matter, I would expect students to get a bit bored with the lesson. I think it would be more expedient to give a quick lesson myself on web basics. However, the lessons on efficient searches and material evaluation are quite helpful as they are less commonplace skills. These can be boring topics to lecture on, but are crucial for students to understand, so this web program can help capture their interest while relaying the lesson. While I do appreciate that the program was trying to make the learning experience fun, it seemed that parts of the program that included the professor were too contrived, forced into the program merely to grab attention. This could be fixed by either toning down the professor, or invigorating the other speaker to make her delivery a bit more expressive and entertaining.

(2007) easytech integrator. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from

International Society for Technology in Education. (2007) NETS for Students 2007. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Coastal Chronicles

Creating Lifelong Learners
April Paustian
I love to learn. What is my biggest problem with my schoolwork? I often get so absorbed in my research that I collect far too much to condense into just one paper or presentation. Education carries me away and gets me truly excited, and it is this excitement that I want to bring to the classroom. When I speak with others about the things that I have learned, I know that my eyes light up and I tend to talk faster out of sheer exhilaration, and I know that it is this liveliness and passion that keeps people listening to me as I share my knowledge. If anything sets me apart as a future teacher, I believe it is this passion. Ever since I was really young and first entered th classroom in preschool, I have known that school is where I belong. I love the challenge of working with others to help them find the answer and grow as learners. That is the main component of my teaching philosophy: I want to help my students become lifelong learners. As an experimentalist in the classroom, I believe that education works best when students are interested, because, in nurturing this interest teachers can help students develop the skills to learn far beyond the classroom setting. Schooling should not be limited simply to the facts and figures (or, in the literature classroom, the tropes and vocabulary) that students are tested on. I want to ignite in my students the same passion for learning that I have. I believe the best way to do that is to encourage students and give them the tools to discover and learn about anything that fascinates them or that they may need to know later in life.
Contact Information:

Immersing Yourself
Charles Faithful
Since graduating high school I have attended numerous colleges, which I believe to be beneficial. To start off I went Santa Barbara City College after high school where I received my certificate of competency Sales and Marketing. After going to SBCC for I finished up my general education at Palomar College. After more dedication I was finally able to transfer to Cal State San Marcos. I came to CSUSM as a Communication major and enjoyed every part of it, thanks mainly to the professors. I also studied abroad in Spain and attended Universidad de Pais Vaso for my final Spanish requirements and I received my BA in Communication May of 2007. After studying abroad in Spain I decided to travel throughout Europe via Euro Rail and staying in hostels. I went through just about every European Country and fell in love with traveling. There is just something about immersing yourself into new cultures and seeing how other people live first hand. I have also traveled throughout Peru as well, surfing up and down the coast staying in fishing villages and small towns. If you can't tell by now traveling and surfing are my two biggest passions in life. Between the two you can never stop learning and I like being able to challenge myself all the time. While traveling abroad I would just teach basic English to some of the local people (Peru). Also while I was in Spain I had an intercambio in which we would educate each other about our native language. Some people say you find yourself when you travel and I feel that is true. Helping others learn a new language was very fulfilling and made me feel good about myself. I think if I were to name one of my biggest attributes to being a teacher is my sense of culture awareness. I say this because I have experienced many types of cultures in my travels from Pagan cultures to Catholic cultures. I think my travels would help me relate better to kids and would help me connect to them as well. There's just something about knowing you helped someone educate themselves or figure something out that is self rewarding that makes me want to teach.
Contact Information

Loving Language
April Paustian
I have always excelled in all of my classes, but the classes that I have loved were my English classes. I have found that I have an affinity for reading and writing, and I would love to share that enjoyment and passion with my students. Personally, I am not confident in my skills as a creative writer, yet I am really excited to unleash and encourage that ability in others. I have been astounded to see some of the writing that high schoolers are capable of and cannot wait to encourage my classroom to discover their own power with words. I am a careful reader and capable of writing good analyses of literature, something that excites me but which will probably be a challenge to get high school students interested in. However, that is a challenge that I am up for and which I look forward to; I want to make literature come alive for my students, and have them fall in love with the written word as I have. From their own writing to works by authors throughout the centuries, I want them to find something that they can connect with and use as a lens to help them understand the world. Too many people are voicing a belief that literary study is useless in today's corporate world: as an English teacher, I would like to bring a renewed relevance to English study. Another aspect of my subject area is grammar instruction. Grammar fascinates me but is usually the subject of many moans and is often cited by students as the thing that made them hate English. The intricacies and regularities of grammar and language as a whole are something that I want students to get a feel for and an appreciation of to help their problem solving and analysis skills--abilities which are completely relevant to today's world.

Language Arts Online Resources:
Schools of California Online Resources for Education, Language Arts
Read, Write, Think
California Language Arts Content Standards

A Bilingual Nation
Charles Faithful
Everyone goes into something because that's what they feel they would like to do. For me I really had no clear vision of what I wanted to do until i was sitting in a train traveling through the Pyrenees into France. I hadn't really realized how much Spanish I had learned until i had returned to another Spanish speaking country a year later. Friends and those who spoke Spanish always complemented me on my Spanish but I had never really known that I could speak it very well. I'm hoping I could spread my enthusiasm about learning a new language to those who would like or need to learn another language. I would like to teach ESL abroad in a Spanish speaking country and eventually move back to the states and transition into Spanish and teach both. The reason why I would like to go abroad is not only because I enjoy traveling but because I want to learn more as well. I really don't have a preference of teaching a specific grade. I know I want to teach those who really want to learn and are enthusiastic because when it comes to another language I believe you need to be in order to really grasp it. On the other hand it has to be made enjoyable to learn and I think some teachers have forgotten that.

Online Resources
Working Abroad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Journal 5

"The Big Screen: Using a Data Projector to Teach Writing" by John Brown

As a high school language arts teacher, John Brown has noticed that students are often unable to grasp that their writing can have a meaning different from the one that they meant to express. Because of the interpretive nature of reading, a text's meaning is largely determined by the audience, not by the writer. Therefore, the writer must remain conscious of the prospective audience and their possible interpretations. However, Brown highlights the fact that when students take their writing assignments home to complete, they are writing away from their audience. This disconnect can lead them to make errors in their writing and produce pieces that pose problems for the reader. Therefore, Brown proposes that writer and audience need to be connected during the writing process, and he offers that technology is the way to do it because it is fast and capable of reaching the entire class. So, once students finish a draft in his class, it is projected on the big screen and the entire class reads it in front of the author and comments on problem areas, which are then corrected as a class and are later used as launch points for the lecture. I really liked that Brown noticed the issues that arise from writing in an isolated environment. Writing is meant to be read, yet if the focus is only put on the writing act, then this important aspect is forgotten, along with its important implications. I think that his approach was a creative one as well, meant to reach the whole class and bring it together to create a reading community. If students write knowing that they are going to project their essay in front of the class, then a clear-cut audience will always be at the forefront of their minds as they write, and students might be inclined to try harder on writing if they know that it will reach more than just the teacher.

Q1: What is a weak point in this technique?
A1: Projecting drafts for perusal and correction by the entire class can be very intimidating for a student writer. The way that Brown wrote the article, it made it seem like the job of the audience was to find the weak points of the essay, and this is problematic because then every finished draft becomes an opportunity for a class witch hunt, in essence. High school students can be cruel, especially en masse. I believe that the whole class setting opens the student writer up to too much damaging criticism, rather than constructive criticism. Also, the student that Brown specifically discusses in the article wrote a story about the death of a grandparent--something that is obviously a very sensitive topic for the writer, and which must be dealt with in just as sensitive a manner. Teachers make assignments to help atudents learn a range of writing skills in a variety of approaches and genres, however, the classroom audience will not be an appropriate one for all of these assignments! Treating the class as a homogenous audience applicable to all writing can damage students not only on the reception of the piece, but also in the crafting of it. If students do not learn to write for a varied audience, it can be just as hindering as not being conscious of an audience at all.

Q2: What is a way to integrate technology into the editing process, but in a smaller group setting?
A2: Obviously, the classroom projector won't work for smaller groups, because the entire class would still have access to the student's work. However, if students worked in clusters at the computer, Google docs could be used between them. Once a student finishes a draft, he or she can make the rest of the group collaborators on the paper and the students can then offer solutions for problem areas. Since Google saves the paper at various stages of revision, the author could track the revisions, and, therefore, still be able to see where the audience had difficulties. Since the groups are smaller, it would be more comfortable for the student, and the groups could change for each project, thereby varying the audience!

Journal 4

"What's Not on the Web" by Joyce Kazman Valenza

The web offers a wealth of information, making student research much easier. However, as school librarian Joyce Kazman Valenza points out, it should not be the sole source of student information and it is best if it is not the starting point for a research project. Although many free-access websites have credible and usable information for students, finding these efficiently can be tricky and often leads students to choose unsatisfactory sources. Not only do students neglect to use the online database services that many schools subscribe to, but, because of the ease of access of the web, many students also neglect to actually go to the library to do research anymore. This is a loss because students miss out on the many print resources that schools have purchased and which, oftentimes are not accessible online, or are accessible only at great cost or difficulty. Also, students miss out on the most valuable research asset: the librarian! Whereas online students wade through possible sources alone, in the library the librarian can help guide students to good resources. I think that this article is really important for teachers to understand because, even though most schools do subscribe not to some sort of database (which allows students access to better resources than the free web alone) the internet is not yet an all-inclusive resource. Also, if students are not trained properly on how to find good internet sources, then teachers will receive substandard essays. The internet is a great tool, but it is far from perfect.

Q1: Should the free web be emphasized at all as a good source for academic research?
A1: It seems that the free web is a good place to begin research and get grounded in the topic. In the article, Valenza indicates that actually the library should be the place that students come to do background research and get their feet wet with the topic. However, I believe that, many library resources are not written at the basic level meant to give a general understanding, and so can be overwhelming for students if they have no previous experience with a topic. Also, the bulk of the research time will be spent on the applicable higher level understanding; therefore, since the free web is so easily accessed, the background research can be quick, leaving students the time to wade through the library stacks to do the more difficult searching. Otherwise, while there are good sources to be found on the free web, I believe that it can be too difficult for students to navigate it properly and find sources of equal caliber to the ones in the library or on a database. Whereas older students may be able to handle it, I think high schoolers are better left focusing their energy on the research paper itself instead of the perils of the web.

Q2: Eventually the web will become a comprehensive resource, probably making libraries obsolete. How can the web compensate for some of the functions that libraries now serve?
It will take away the face-to-face contact with experienced librarians. However, many library web pages, like that of CSUSM, offer a live chat option with librarians, so students can consult with experienced researchers when they hit a snag in their paper writing. One thing that my professors emphasize now is that, in going to the library stacks and actually looking for books, we often are able to then find more than just the one book we were looking for. Whereas we may have searched one topic and been led to a particular book, when we get to the shelf we usually find more related books that can be equally, if not more, helpful. I think the internet is becoming apt at this as well though, with many search engines suggesting other topics and with more than one article or website coming up on a search. Like Valenza points out, as long as students do not limit themselves to just a handful of familiar web sites, then they keep themselves open to many possible sources, many more than a library book shelf can hold.

Journal 3

"Reaching Students with Emotional Disabilities: A Partnership that Works, Part 1" by Keith Wetzel

Lori Mora taught a small middle school classroom of students with emotional disabilities, characterized mainly by issues with collaborative situations. Whereas most of her students had been stigmatized in the past due to these disbilities, Mora attempted to change this and encourage better social skills by integrating technology into her classroom. All assignments were done using a variety of computer programs, and the once stigmatized students decided to call themselves the "Advanced Technology Class" to emphasize their growing skills with computers, rather than their special needs. Wonderfully, the normal pattern of individual work faded quickly in the classroom, a change which Mora credits to the necessary collaborative nature of mastering new technology. Given something to aspire to, the students were able to concentrate on the task at hand. I feel that Mora's planning was very well done. One of her students mentioned that his other teachers did not let him use computers because they assumed his behavior problems would lead him to damage the technology. Mora did not let any assumptions about these students get in her way, and instead found a really good way to get them out of their shells and overcome their emotional disabilities. The students were not learning about technology for technology's sake, but rather to assist them in their schoolwork, thereby learning about more than just collaboration, but the actual subject matter as well. What I appreciated most about Mora's plan, however, was that it gave the students something to aim for and feel proud of, unlike many special education classes that can leave students feeling substandard.

Q1: Even though I do not want to teach a specifically special education class, what can I take away from Mora's approach?
A1: I did not think of technology as a collaborative tool before. When I read the article, I assumed that her students, who prefer to work alone, would actually be encouraged to work alone at the computers since each student had his own monitor and workspace. Technology to me just often seems impersonal. However, it was actually a really good tool because the students were able to consult with one another in order to increase their skill level with the technology. It was also really helpful because the teacher, at times, needed assistance, so the students got to experience a role-reversal of sorts and teach the teacher. Therefore, the computers helped not only with collaborative skills, but with expository skills as well, encouraging students to be clear in their interactions with training others.

Q2: The author mentioned that Mora would have the students do a lot of the activities on paper before using the appropriate computer application. Is this necessary or does it just waste time?
A2: I liked the idea of doing some of the activities on paper first. A lot of the applications do many of the steps for the students (such as in Word, the program can find synonyms for the student or it can also find spelling and grammar errors for the student). If students get used to only developing the technological skills rather than the logic skills that underlie them, then in situations where the technology fails or is unavailable the student also becomes just as inefficient. For example, as listed earlier, if Word always corrects a student's spelling, then the student does not get accustomed to doing his or her own proofreading, and therefore may become incapable of correcting errors without the SpellCheck function.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Journal 2

"See Jane Read...See Johnny Write" by Lyn C. Howell

As a high school English teacher, Howell wanted to create a project that would allow her student writers a chance to explore the concept of audience. In the past the students had handmade books for students in a partner elementary school classroom; however, this method was slow and expensive. Instead, she started having the students write their stories onto PowerPoint slides after conversing with the elementary students through emails. This was a much more efficient system, and allowed the students the added experience with technology and the advantages, such as sound and graphics, that it has to offer. When I first read about this teaching method, I was a bit skeptical, believing that the handmade books would get the students more excited about the project, having to take more of a personal interest by being able to make decisions and consciously craft the books. I felt that having a finished product that the students could physically hold and show off would give the students pride in their work, and would also be good for their elementary school buddies who would get to actually sit down with a book designed just for them. However, I did not even think about how much PowerPoint would have to offer to enrich the books. I was looking at this one-sided, but in thinking about the world in an increasingly technological way, the project gave the students just as much of a chance to get engaged with writing and reading, just in a different manner.

Q1: What other craft projects that are usually only done with paper could be done with the computer instead?
A1: PowerPoint is already a common tool in the classroom, with students using it for many presentations. A lot of oral presentations could be given a technological component: many computers have recording devices, so that, in some cases, presentations could be recorded ahead of time or perhaps taken even farther and made into a film project instead. I thought that the idea of having the students record themselves reading the books, and attaching these recordings to the appropriate PowerPoint slides was really interesting, because it would actually help the younger students read along and get into the story. So, in thinking along the lines of this creativity, many other projects could be computerized with just a bit of imagination. Autobiographies and family trees could be done on a computer. A lot of the analysis of novels could be made into a website so that the objective for the students would go beyond just helping their own class understand, but providing their work to assist others as well. This would work really well, I think, because then students could be grouped based on the different parts of the analysis (characterization, setting, theme, etc.) and each be responsible for a different page of the website.

Q2: In Howell's class, the students dealt with the elementary class through e-mail; what is the drawback to using electronic communication?
A2: Howell's class was communicating with a class several states away, so face-to-face contact was not an option. However, they used to communicate through written letters. Given the situation, email was an ideal solution because it was faster and overall easier to deal with. However, I think that if I were in Howell's position, I would seek a collaborative elementary classroom closer to the school so that perhaps students could arrange meetings with their elementary partners. If students did not meet that often (which probably would not be sustainable anyway, due to budget and time constraints), then the students could still get practice with writing letters and emails, but they would also get to experience in-person collaboration. There is no substitute for actually spending time with people. I believe that in never truly interacting with the students, Howell's class lost out on the opportunity to practice interpersonal communication, and the elementary students lost some quality time with older mentors.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Journal 1

"Chatting it Up Online: Students Talk to a Favorite Author," by Pamela Livingson

In Pamela Livingston's article, she recounts her class's use of and benefit from an internet chat in which her students prepared questions for one of their favorite authors and were able to have them quickly answered during the chat. Upon reading the article, I could not help but think what a great idea it was because, as a future English teacher, I feel that one of the best ways to get students excited about writing is to have them talk to writers themselves. Some schools are fortunate enough to be visited by authors, but these visits can be difficult to arrange; other schools resort to mailing their questions to authors, but this is not the most expedient process, especially if we consider that it is meant to get students fired up to write, yet their own letter writing brings slow returns. So an internet chat seems like a great compromise and a good way to integrate technology into the classroom. However, Livingston's narrative provided a lot of food for thought about this tool beyond simply its usefulness--a lot of planning and preparation must go into the chat in order to make sure that all goes smoothly, from having students prepare appropriate questions, to ensuring the computers will function properly, and even enforcing and/or teaching students proper internet etiquette. All things considered, I think the work that goes into integrating a chat into the lesson is well worth it.

Q1: Beyond the benefits that Livington listed, such as expediency and interaction, what could my future students stand to gain by the use of author internet chat in the classroom?

A1: I think that for one, simply having the students develop questions for the author would be incredibly beneficial. It is possible that any questions they have for a published author will reflect their own curiosities and needs as writers themselves, so in posing questions they will better understand their own strengths and interests. The author's answers of course will support that benefit. With it being a live chat, I feel that it adds an element of urgency to the discussion in that with the students talking almost directly to an author, they will more than likely be more inclined to take it seriously. With letter writing, the recipient is distant and so the discourse is not very engaging, but with the chat there is a lot more active involvement and therefore a lot more opportunity for interest and thoughtful participation. Lastly, if an author is willing to take the time out to chat with students about writing, that indicates to the students how important writing itself is to the point where even professionals are willing to take the time to encourage future authors.

Q2: Livingston's approach of asking the questions her class had posed and then giving the answers to the class later seemed a little bit disconnected. Would this approach be the best to use with an author chat?

A2: I understand that Livingston's class was young, so their ability to actively interact with the author would have been tricky. And I also understand that many of the students were not able to stay for the entire chat. However, it seems that, in being the primary active participant in the chat, Livingston took away some of the benefit from her students. If her objective was merely to get her students' questions answered, then the chat functioned perfectly. Yet if the objective is also to give students a chance to interact with the author, her approach fails somewhat because the students' participation, after writing their questions, seems rather passive. With a high school classroom, I feel that there could be more opportunity for the students to be more actively involved with the chat. I probably would not want them writing questions directly because, even though their typing skills probably exceed those of Livingston's elementary schoolers, high school students can be quite unpredictable and possibly try to push the boundaries of what's appropriate. However, if all students were consciously reading and following the chat as it was happening, that would allow perhaps for new questions to open up, either to ask the author during the chat, or to pose for class discussion afterwards.