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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why can't kids just be kids?

I felt compelled to write this post after listening to Dr. Leonard Sax's anecdotal opening at a professional development day at the school district where I teach. Here was his story. Dr. Sax began by telling us about a retired teacher fondly reminiscing about snowball fights he used to have with his students. After 40 or so years of teaching, that's one of the things this teacher noted he missed the most. When Dr. Sax told us this, all of the teachers in the room became excited. How fun would it be to throw snowballs at our students! Could you imagine? What a great opportunity to bond! How thrilling! I thought there was even a certain sense of giddiness as teachers fondly remembered their own childhood experiences with heaving snowballs and building snow forts. It's difficult these days to create moments where the older generation can connect with the younger generation. Nowadays, with lawsuits and for liability reasons, teachers could never throw a snowball at a student; nor could students be allowed to throw snowballs at each other (at least not on school grounds or at bus stops or on the way to or from school...). The rules really weigh down on students' opportunities to just be kids.

So I started thinking...how come there are less opportunities for kids to "just be kids" these days? What I mean by "just be kids" is to feel little responsibility related to the adult world; to be able to run around and hang out with neighborhood friends getting a game of baseball going or building tree forts. Catching crickets or fireflies in the summer. Riding bikes and getting excited for the ice cream truck. Not needing lavish birthday parties with ponies and blow-up jumper buildings. Not wanting to have hotel pool parties or limo rides to the salon. Not knowing these things exist because you're not an adult yet and you wouldn't even dream of it! That's what I mean. I mean teens not caring so much about their social status of clothing, or their social status online (i.e, number of facebook friends).

It seems to me that kids don't have as many opportunities to relax in positive ways. Pastimes have been stripped away. Kids no longer have opportunities to just "be themselves." These days they are constantly putting forth a self-image of who they wish they were or of who they see on T.V. They emulate rap stars whose claim to fame includes prison time and spending time and money in strip clubs, "poppin the champagne." They look up to young women celebrities who are in and out of rehab for drug or alcohol abuse. They watch T.V. shows where teens are partying or living lavish lifestyles (i.e. MTV's My Sweet Sixteen Birthday Party). Parties and lifestyles well out of reach for the majority of teens...not to mention even debating about whether such parties are acceptable.

Teen and pre-teen girls can't find modest clothes at the stores anymore. I walked into a store that was meant for elementary age girls and it had chain belts and belly shirts. I was shocked! What kind of message does this send to our children? Should elementary aged girls be allowed to wear the same kinds of clothes as teenage girls? Plus, from my own observations, it seems that lower-cut shirts for women are becoming more and more the norm both on T.V. and in the workplace. Is this o.k.? What do kids think when they've grown up with this as the "norm?"

Television and radio greatly affect children's' outlook on the world. Lyrics to songs on the radio used to be more fluffy and cute; while sometimes suggestive, they were never explicit. For example, the Beatles "I want to hold your hand" has been replaced by inappropriate and in-your-face lyrics. There are several examples that come to mind, but I'd rather not list specific examples on my blog. Shows like the Secret Life of the American Teenager attempt to reveal issues that teens today deal with. I'm not saying adults should turn a blind eye or pretend that teens aren't more sexually active these days, but what message does this send to teenage girls who watch the show? That teens having sex when parents aren't home is what all the kids are doing? That teens will have support and can afford to have children? That life is all about relationships with boyfriends or girlfriends? (Talking with some teenagers, this may be true! And that's o.k).

What about sports or music? Many students are involved in extracurricular activities, that's a good thing, right? It depends on a few factors. Factor number one: the pressure the kids feels to have to continue to be in a specific activity. Maybe your child used to love to play soccer, but is not interested in it anymore. Say, for example, your favorite sport is soccer and your kid is good at it. What do you do? Have you sat down to even ask your child if she/he likes the sport still and is having fun playing it? Are you the parent that's counting on your child to earn a scholarship for college? (If you are, you should really take the time to look up the statistical data on the number of athletes who receive collegiate scholarships according to the specific sport). Do you push your child to be the best on the team? Competition is fun. Sports can serve as a wonderful physical and social outlet, but at what point is competition o.k., and at what point does it become too much to handle or start to feel like a chore?

Parents are enablers of burn-out when it comes to extracurricular activities. I've coached softball (at jr. high level) for the past two years and after talking to several parents, a common topic of conversation was the ridiculous and rigorous sports schedules their child had to face. At more highly competitive levels, parents drive their athlete across state lines to compete in weekend tournaments. Parents don't like long sports seasons, but not much is being done to shorten that. It is acceptable in my school district (and plenty of others as well) for softball teams, for example, to play double headers two-three times a week. Often, athletes get on a bus right after school and don't get back home until 7:30, 8:00, or 9:00 at night. (Some sports/music groups get to leave school sometimes up to an hour early just to make it on time to a competition. Think about how much instruction time that student is missing in his/her last class of the day and how much extra work that creates for teachers?) Couple such a schedule with all day Saturday tournaments, dinner, homework, and sleep and then ask yourself, when do our kids have time to be kids?? Parents have repeatedly told me they feel like they are their child's personal chauffeur taking their child (or children!)from one activity to the next. Hello! You're the parent! Tell your child he/she has to choose one activity and can't do them all at once! If it's becoming too much for you to drive your child to activities, you have to assume that it's too much for the child to handle as well.

Kids are becoming less and less interested in face-to-face, personal interaction. I'll talk a bit about boys and video games and girls with texting/facebook.
Boys are addicted to video games, and some girls, too. It is an epidemic in our country. Think of how many teenage boys play video games or multi player computer games such as World of Warcraft. What's the future of those boys going to look like as they become fathers? Will they encourage their sons to play, too? Will this replace going outside and playing catch or taking fishing trips? Will fathers encourage the false sense of accomplishment that you get from making a kill or organizing a raid online? What do these skills and experiences have to do with reality? How will ample video-game playing time increase boys' reading skills?
Girls, generally speaking, are addicted to texting and facebook. Facebook was a tool designed to keep college kids socially connected- and it should have stayed that way. Why does a 12-year-old girl need a facebook account? What's the point? Why do 500 people need to see your photos and know what's going on in your life? I'll admit, I have a facebook account that I started in 2004 when it was just spreading to colleges across the country. I use it to keep in touch with friends who live far from where I live. It's a nice way to drop a note once and a while. Is it necessary? No way. I call the friends I want to talk to and vice versa. I can email those I'd like to stay in touch with. But for a high school student who sees her friends everyday? It's like they don't get a break from each other. It's like taking your school home with you; exacerbating issues like cyber-bullying and increasing chances for passing judgments and gossiping.

Kids aren't allowed to be kids anymore. And who made this so? I know children aren't born into this world making the rules; society's norms are well in place before they reach school age. Can you blame society as a whole? Can you blame parents? Can you blame the kids? Teachers? It's not about pointing fingers and placing blame. It's about seriously considering how society and technology impact our kids on a daily basis. It's about raising them to make competent, morally advised decisions in life. It's about teaching them to have fun and be a kid once and a while. What kind of adults will our kids be if they were deprived of a childhood?

On one final note, I observed a girl in her early twenties visiting an older relative. This girl and her relative rarely get a chance to spend time with one another. For a good portion of the weekend visit, the girl was busy texting on her phone and answering email. There was little conversation between her and the relative. I thought this was sad; maybe they weren't that close to begin with. But think about when you visit your own relatives? How much quality conversation do you have with them? How often do you end up sitting around and staring at a T.V. screen together? Do you watch T.V. during family dinner time? Do you even designate a specific family dinner time where everyone sits down together to share a meal? I think it's crucial that we start to think about the role models we are for our children and for our students. We can make changes that could impact the way a child takes in the world for the rest of his life.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thing 13- Glogster and Final Reflections on "13 Things"

One Final Thing for the 13 Things class
One final "thing" I came upon is the website Glogster. As with most of these applications we've been learning about, it seems like there's a lot you can do with glogster that I just don't know about yet. So far, I'm in the middle of editing and updating a page which is to serve as a data base for both my students and fellow teachers. I put in a few links- one to the school's website where I teach, one for an upcoming English classroom blog, and one for my in-progress wikispaces page. Basically, you create your own page and you can upload images, videos, audio, and text. It's full of fun, practical, and even funky designs to customize the look and feel of your page. If you go to their homepage, you'll find a multitude of student examples to get a better idea of what I'm talking about. I've heard it mentioned a few times on Twitter, and Glogster has won a few awards...so it's worth checking out.

Reflections on "13 Things"
As far as websites that I've used the most...Blogger, Delicious (now Diigo), Twitter, and Bloglines (which I came back to after using twitter and reading excellent blogs) take the top spots. What I've enjoyed the most about Twitter, is deciding to randomly click on a link tweeted by someone, and then finding out how cool or thought-provoking or practical that link is. I've noticed by reading someone's blog or checking out a new application, I usually end up on about three more webpages before I'm done. And then I don't remember what link I clicked on in the first place! I'm finally catching on to Twitter. (and spending way too much time on the computer! Next, I'll need a class in computer time-management : ). I find it very inspiring and motivating to hear what other educators are doing all over the country and the world. It's a reminder that we're only limited by our own creativity and innovation.

I've managed to tag over 100 webpages using Delicious, and now they're all on Diigo, too. Such a constant exchange of information, followed by convenient methods of organization, has given me SO MUCH material to sift through and explore. Knowing that is a comfort, relief, inspiration, and challenge. I actually don't feel overwhelmed because I know that I'm sure to stumble upon something great. I welcome the change! It scares me to think of teaching the same way I do now for the next 30 years! A thought like that makes me reconsider my profession, but all the technologies I've been learning about change my outlook of the future of education. That outlook is no longer fearful. Some teachers are afraid that computers will replace them; I don't see that happening. I've heard colleagues state that we shouldn't give in to technology just because students use it....to me such a statement is a testimony not to the lack of technological skills that some teachers have, but rather just proves that they simply just don't know what's out there. I've already talked several colleagues about the 11 Things and 12 Things courses when I was taking those.

Getting completely off track.....back to answering the questions for class.
Yes, I've shared many of these sites with family and friends. I intend to share them with colleagues once the school year is back in full swing. One of the most important things I've shared is the TTS/STT technology with my mom and younger sister. My little sister has trouble reading, and I think this technology could help her out. I've learned that a few of my friends have a Skype account, which I didn't know about. I've shared some tweets that I thought were interesting; particularly this one: What happens if you give a class of 8 yo an iPod touch ea? video: http://www.l4l.co.uk/?p=835 #mlearning #slide2learn.

It's hard for me to pinpoint why some sites are easier to navigate then others; I guess I'd say good organization and links available on the home page tend to make things easier.

I'm still working on making new PLN friends, but I'm up to 45 followers on Twitter and I'm following 125! It's nothing to brag about, but the numbers are growing, and that's what matters. Although I will say, I've surprised myself for being bold and leaving my thoughts/comments on a few blogs. At first it's intimidating to read professional PhD blogs or tweets. For example, someone will say he/she just lead a conference on Skype...my initial reaction was, what could I possibly have to say to that person?? My thoughts changed though; if I want to ask or share, I'll do it now.

These websites have changed my computer routine. I used to check my gmail, hotmail, facebook, read some news, and maybe check my bank account. I still do all of that, but now I also log onto blogger, twitter, and have a yahoo email to check on. Plus, I have a lot of unfinished sites/projects related to this class that I would like to expand on- let the work continue!

Most of all, this class has changed my approach to creating lesson plans. I'm a practical/planning kind of person. I'll try to integrate one or two new things each trimester (that's do-able) and see how they fly. That could be a total of six new things by the end of this school year. I would like to continue to blog about my experiences using these technologies with my students- should be fun and I'm looking forward to it.

Thing 12 - Diigo

Diigo- first impressions...I love that it only took 2 sec. to transfer my bookmarks from Delicious to Diigo. I also really like that Diigo allows educators an upgrade ; I'm awaiting the email confirmation to test that out. It will be nice to be able to add sticky notes and pictures onto sites to remember more information. Tags are a great way to keep organized, but just using generic tags such as "education" or "technology" makes for a broad range of potential sites. Often times, a website can fall into a few different tag categories making it difficult to remember which category I put it into. Hopefully, by adding notes, I'll be able to better remember the sites. Furthermore, I'm interested to learn more about books online and Diigo.

It's clear that Diigo has more functions than Delicious, so I'll be using Diigo more to try them all out. I like that Diigo does not require student emails for students to access the site. The creators of Diigo have given thought to protecting students, which is respectable and helpful. I'm interested to find out how exactly that works (giving multiple students access to Diigo in a safe setting), but for now I have the main gist of it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thing 11 TTS/STT (Super Extra Double Bonus Points)

Text to Speech

Looking for free software to convert text to speech or speech to text? The following three sites are good places to start: vozme.com, yakitome.com, and readthewords.com.

Vozme.com allows you to type in a text to be converted to an audio file. What I liked about this site is that you didn't have to sign-up for an account to use it. You could simply type in your text, listen to the audio, download it, and then save it. I did not test for length/time restrictions, and the voice quality is fair. You may choose from several languages.

Yakitome.com allows you to upload files, rss feeds, emails, or type text that you want converted to audio. You have to create an account first, but you are able to convert documents into audio free of charge. I uploaded a 13KB word document (instructions for a Romeo and Juliet acting project, and it took about 5 minutes to upload to Yakitome. The sound/voice quality was good. Sometimes certain words or phrases sounded muffled together. It was entertaining to hear my own words played back to me with a different voice; particularly the banal computer lab times and project due dates. You get more of a feel for what you sound like to your students! I could choose to translate into Spanish, French, or Gernman.

is fun because you can customize your own avatar, but you have to sign up for a free account which is limiting. You are unable to upload files with the free account and you can only record up to 3 audios at a time. The sound/voice quality is the best out of the three sites. Also, you have several voice options with various tones from which to choose. ReadtheWords has links for teachers, too.

Speech to Text
Dial2do is a speech-to-text service that can be used for free for a certain amount of time (a month I believe?). It's very easy to do. You set up an account and can then send an email to yourself or your friends, send a reminder to yourself, or even tweet from your phone! You can even hear your emails read to you over the phone. This would be an excellent way to save time if you're away on business and don't have the time to sit down on a computer or if you rather not type emails into your Blackberry/Droid. I tried it out and recorded a brief message over the phone. The transcription was dead on, which was impressive because I have a tendency to talk to fast when I'm on the phone.

How can these services could be used in education?...
I'm sure special education teachers (especially the tech-savvy ones) could answer this question better than I could. I could see it being extremely useful in all levels of education. I stumbled upon this blog for the 411, http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=5312179896693140824&postID=4175248529216185095

I would try to use it on my own students who might be struggling with writing/reading. It could be an interesting experiment to try on foreign-language learners, too. For example, a student writes a small sample in Spanish. He then converts it to an audio recording and can hear what he wrote. Maybe he'll know he's made a grammatical error when something doesn't "sound right." Or maybe he'll just smile knowing that he's communicating in a foreign language. He could pick up on correct pronunciation, too. Reversely, that same student could speak in Spanish and then see it in text. It could serve as a way to check speech and see if main ideas were communicated clearly enough or not. The same could work for ELL students.

Out of curiosity, I googled tts/stt for special education, and here are a few links that popped up:

ispeech.com- software for educational institutions

Mangomaon- blog about the history of TTS and the implications of today's TTS technology

Iser.com - a list of
software for special needs students

Wordq.com - writing and speech software

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bonus Points- View of Burgos from the El Castillo look-out point

View Walking tour of Burgos, Spain in a larger map

Thing 10- Google Maps

View Walking tour of Burgos, Spain in a larger map

Initial ideas for how to use "My Maps" in the classroom:

In a foreign language classroom (Spanish)

1. My Spanish students have done a research project where they are required to put together a travel plan for a particular Spanish-speaking country, (as previously mentioned in Thing 9). For the project they have to create a brochure in Publisher and also ...hate to admit it...a Power Point!- yikes! How cool would it be to have them create their travel plan through Google maps instead! They could include pictures and links to websites (which would undoubtedly provide them with actual hotels, restaurants, etc. that they could use without having to Google them individually). They could create 1-2 specific excursions through Google maps, or they could create their entire vacation package this way.

2. I often have my students do webquests. I could create my own Google map of a specific geographical location, say Bogota, Colombia, and have my students navigate my map to find out information. It would literally give them a "map" to follow : ) This could be even more interesting if I included links of particular holiday celebrations and fiesta days.

In an English classroom
1. Students could create a walking tour map of places that a specific author may have walked by everyday during his/her lifetime in that city. This would work well for authors who are directly linked to city/town, or it could work for an author who was inspired by a particular place when writing a particular novel. Ideas include:
William Shakespeare- Stratford upon Avon, England; various cities in Italy
Charles Dickens- London, England
John Steinbeck- various locations across the U.S.
(not that my students will be reading this one, but Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love comes to mind- Italy, India, and Bali)

2. Using the same line of thought as #1, students could create a map of the setting of a novel.

3. You could incorporate maps into a writing assignment about a dream vacation. Rather than just write about it, students could make it come to life online.

My maps would be a fun way to document your travels while they're fresh in your mind. I could see how it would be very useful for planning upcoming travels. I'll be planning my honeymoon for next summer; I almost used a My Maps for that but decided to start one that I could use in the classroom instead : ) I've embedded it into my wikispace (which I'm still working on...).

Thing 9- Google custom search

Thing 9 is on a separate page! Use the link on the top!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thing 8 Screencast and Jing

I had trouble downloading Jing; it said an interruption occurred during the download process, but I was finally able to fix the problem. Then, I began to capture a video which was a tutorial on how to use I-Tunes Software. I was just finishing the video when Jing shut down because an error occurred and my video was not saved. I uninstalled all files related to Jing, restarted my computer, and tried again, luckily, with success this time. As I went to publish the video on my blog post, I had to modify the size because it was too big. Then, I made my settings "hidden" in Screencast and wasn't able to see the video on my blog afterward! Even though I went into my settings in Screencast and changed the view back to "public," I could still not see the video on my blog. Finally, I just uploaded the video again onto Screencast and embedded the video one more time- then it worked : )

I decided to make a capture video that I might actually use for students. I would like to have students blog this year, and so the video covers how to configure settings, comments, design, etc on Blogger. This video would be used for students to see after they've set up their Blogger account and tried out their first post. Making the video itself was easy; however, I would have liked to have the option to edit. I like that Jing had a direct link to Screencast so that I was able to upload the video there. I like the privacy options on Screencast.

My overall impression is that I really don't like the Jing software- I can't pinpoint why. Perhaps it's because I had a hard time downloading it.

I feel this software would be difficult to use with younger students. High school age is appropriate, but elementary and maybe even junior high might have a harder time with it. I like the possibility of having students create their own tutorials and share them through a common folder in Screencast. This could save the teacher a lot of time, or at least save them from having to watch their own video over and over again. For example, students learning Microsoft Office could work in small groups to create a tutorial on the functions of Excel or PowerPoint. That sounds boring. A better idea would be for students to create a video about their favorite software application and share it with their peers. This way, students would have access to various Web 2.0 applications (if they're all saved in a central, accessible location) without having to Youtube tutorials (which are blocked at school and which could contain inappropriate video listings on the sidebar). As you can tell, I guess I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one. Overall, I'm pleased that I was able to get the video to work.

Thing 6 Comiqs, ToonDoo, Kerpoof

BAck to school

I hope you like my very first computer-animated comic strip created through ToonDoo! If i figured it out, my students could, too. The site is very easy to navigate. I like that you publish your toon publicly or privately, and that you can comment on others' toons as well. For someone like me who cannot draw, ToonDoo provides you with backgrounds, props, characters, text, and more to create a vision online. I'm curious if an artistically talented student would feel limited on a site like ToonDoo, or if that student would still feel as though he/she had free reign over the creative possibilities.

Another similar site is Comiqs. Today, their server is down on the homepage, but it looks like you can still click on the "create" tab and begin creating. Comiqs would be a lot of fun in a digital photography class where students could manipulate their own photos. Another idea that comes to mind is to use Comiqs for teaching about marketing, advertising, and propaganda. It seems like a good site to create posters or items that could become a part of a greater project, such as a family photo album or multi-genre writing project (perhaps in Spanish).

Kerpoof is yet another option for creating comics online. What sets kerpoof apart from the other sites is that it has the option to make a movie. It looks like you can even include sounds, which would be a lot of fun for students. Kerpoof also includes lesson plans and has a "Teacher's Lounge" link- a big bonus!

All three of these sites allow students to create stories. I did a project once with my students where they had to work in groups and create a comic strip (6 quarters of big poster board)related to themes and the plot of Beowulf. (I took this idea from a colleague who had used it with Animal Farm). I had fun watching my students present their comic strips (and often times defend their drawings!) in front of their classmates. Students would have more creative options if they transferred this project online. What I like about it, too, is that students who can't draw very well will feel like they can participate more.

Thinkfinity Teacher Resources http://thinkfinity.org/widgets/resources_share.html


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thing 5- Voicethread

I really couldn't choose just one Voicethread to share! The first one I chose is called Learning Languages. Kids tell how to say basic phrases in their own native language- it's really cool to listen to! Kids also came up with the pictures themselves, which is always fun to see.

The second one is about poetry. The teacher has each of her students share a poem that he or she wrote. I love this for several reasons: 1) the student publishes the poem to a wide audience 2) the student gets to publish it in his own voice! 3) the student gets to use an image that correlates to her poem 4) others can comment on the poem, providing instant feedback 5) it's practical!- this would be a simple project to undertake. It would offer a place to keep all the poems, too, without having copy/print poetry books for every student.

The third voicethread example I chose is completely narrated by a younger student. It's always exciting when a student wants to rave about a book! He even compares the book to the movie, very impressive. Plus, it lets other students know there's kids out there reading the same books they are and gives them a place to discuss the books.

I could see myself trying out Voicethread this school year because I do feel it would be easy and that the students would get a lot out of it. I could copy the poetry idea, use it as a book review, or use it for language practice. How could other subjects use it? Digital photography could critique each other's photos, it could be a forum for discussing math problems (as was pointed out), art classes could discuss art, kids/teachers could publish science experiments, coaches could use it to review past games....go to Voicethread for more ideas!

Thing 4- Skype

I'm new to Skype, and so far I think it's awesome. I wish it would've been invented when I lived abroad so I could have used it to communicate with family and friends back home. I've seen it used on T.V. shows and I've seen first-hand how it works with a friend. I've only had one Skype conversation so far with my brother. We used audio and I didn't experience any difficulties. Luckily, I already had a headset at home, so I was able to use that. I'm working on trying to set up times to Skype with others in the 13 Things class. I'll update this post when that happens. UPDATE: Last week I was able to Skype with a classmate, and it went well. It took us a minute to figure out how her microphone worked, but after that we were able to chat.

Skype would be so much fun to use in a foreign language classroom! I really liked an example of how it could work, so I posted that video on my blog. Basically the teacher would allow each student to come up to the projector screen and ask a question in Spanish to a student from a Spanish-speaking country. It's fun to watch the students' reactions on the video. They get so excited about actually using the language with a native speaker. I noticed, too, that the rest of the class was watching and listening fairly intently to their classmate. This is an excellent way to spark students' curiosity; they can formulate their own questions, they can learn in a second how easy it is to try using a new language, and they can listen to the voices of several native speakers.

I can't foresee too many potential problems. One is that I don't have a projector in my room right now, so I wouldn't be able to use the big screen. However, I could still schedule students a time on the student computer to try it out. Another option would be to ask a co-worker with a projector if we could swap rooms for the day. A third option might also be to use the projector in the computer lab; this might be an interesting option.

A second issue, then, is scheduling itself. I would have to schedule time to Skype with a teacher from a different country, and schedule the equipment and necessary facilities in my building.

I'm learning which of my friends already has a Skype account, so I can talk to them online. My one friend told me that her husband uses Skype to talk to his family back home in El Salvador.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Idea- Podcasting feedback

Just heard that the National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling uses Podcasts to provide feedback on English papers- genius! Do you know how much time that would save?

My thoughts after reading Mindset

I happened to stumble upon the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, PhD.D after it was given to my mom by my little sister's school to read. My younger sister has a learning disability in reading and is therefore attending a reading program this summer. The school handed out copies of Mindset for all the parents to read. Of course, being a teacher I was instantly curious and snagged the book quickly to read it myself first.

I'll admit, I was 98% skeptical about what I would find in reading this book. I'm still skeptical on some of the findings and statistics (one chapter states that 4-year-olds were reading about Daedalus and Icarus and 2ND graders were discussing Shakespeare), HOWEVER, there is one valuable lesson to be learned from this book as an educator: be mindful of the language you use when praising students.

The number one piece of advice that I will be trying to follow come this fall when the school year starts up again is to be careful of the language I use when praising students (this works for parents, too, I'm just not a parent yet). Based on her research and the research of other qualified individuals, praising kids' abilities such as saying "you're so smart!" or "you're such a natural artist!" actually hurts kids in the future. The rationalization is that kids will feel pressure to always live up to those expectations; failure is not an option. The future negative implications are that 1) kids who were praised in this way won't be able to handle criticisms 2) kids will feel like they don't need to put effort into anything because they're naturally gifted and 3) kids will be afraid to fail. From my own experience in teaching so far (granted 2 1/2 years), I found this to be true. Students are afraid of failure. They don't like it. They don't like being wrong and they're afraid of applying effort because they might not like the outcome.

Dweck specifically writes, "these children of praise have now entered the workforce, and sure enough, many can't function without getting a sticker for their every move." Dweck continues, "we now have a workforce full of people who need constant reassurance and can't take criticism. Not a recipe for success in business, where taking on challenges, showing persistence, and admitting and correcting mistakes are essential." I am a child of the praise generation. I can completely admit that her description fits me. I've never been able to handle criticism well. I make excuses, I rationalize, and, though not often, blame others. I always feel like I know what I'm supposed to do or what I'm expected to do and if I don't meet expectations I feel like that doesn't reflect what I know or am capable of, and therefore, I take it personally. Luckily, I've grown to a point where I can reasonably handle criticism, but I still don't like it. What's more is that teachers aren't often rewarded. I was told by a Spanish professor that teaching is one of the hardest careers to have because it is a thankless job. Thanks and praise come along in the forms of thank you cards from former students years after they graduate- and that's if you're lucky. I have more growing to do, especially if Spanish prof is right!

The alternative is to praise students for effort
. Praise them for taking on challenges and for wanting to learn new things. Complimenting on effort teaches students that they have the ability to learn, grow, and change. They can become smarter. Furthermore, using positive language high-lighting effort enforces confidence and self-assurance. Kids get the message: it is OK to fail.

All teachers want students to learn and grow in their learning and to make mistakes and learn from them. I will be praising students for their efforts instead of their natural talents. (I've done the other- I've written on English essays, "Wow- you're a natural writer! You should take Honors English next year!") As a new teacher, it's not easy to figure out how to motivate students. The ones who show interest are easy to work with, but what about the kid who acts like he/she doesn't care? (Which by the way I love when teaching an elective and a subject I'm so passionate about like Spanish!). How do I help this child to develop what Dweck calls a "growth mindset"? If I practice what she preaches, how will it impact that child's future? particularly if the student faces the attitude from others (family, friends, teachers) that he/she is not smart, not capable, not worthy of the attention to grow and learn?

The Mindset website

Worth checking out is Brainology- a program that teaches students how their brain works when they learn

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballentine Books: New York, 2006.

Personal review of the book: The central idea is that you either have a "fixed mindset" in which you believe intelligence, personality, etc. are inherent traits that can't change or a "growth mindset" in which you feel these things can, in fact, change. The writing's not great- the author admits she intended to have a conversational tone. It leaves a lot to be desired- it often poses questions without answers, it mentions specific example references, but does not elaborate on them, and it's very repetitive. The best information comes toward the second half of the book. I'd suggest reading the first few pages so get the gist of her idea, and then read the second half which gives ideas for how to apply the "growth mindset" to your own life. An alternate subtitle to this book should be: Another Way to See that the Glass is Half Full

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thing 2- Twitter

Twitter...I'm just getting started. I haven't been actively tweeting, but I have been navigating the site and reading up on others' tweets. A link I found helpful in getting started following fellow educators' tweets is: http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com/

On a personal level...
I've enjoyed using the Twitter search for specific topics such as the World Cup. I love that Twitter allows me to have contact with native Spanish speakers. Although I wasn't in Spain, I was able to share in the joy and victory of its people. Listening to individual voices and opinions is more interesting to me than reading a newspaper article about it. Although, there were some great links to live coverage on one of Spain's news sites, http://elpais.com.

I predict that I will enjoy following book reviews, tennis updates, and occasionally taking a peak at what Congress has to say.

On a professional/pedagogical level...
I think it will be almost a relief to know how many resources I can be in contact with at any given moment. I've already noticed that people are tweeting links to various websites that can be of immediate use in the classroom. I can't wait to try out some of those sites and see what's out there. I would also like to continue to update my wikispace so I can post it on Twitter for other teachers to use as a resource.
It's inspiring and refreshing to know that there is a multitude of teachers wanting to improve and to use technology in the classroom. I've learned a lot from my colleagues, but this opens up many doors in the world of education.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thing 22

I think there is an 80% chance that I would take on a self-paced class or two through Michigan LearnPort over the summer. It depends on my plans for the summer. I'm in the process of applying to UT for my Master's, and if I start taking classes there then I'm not sure if I would have the extra time. Also, if I do not receive PD hours for them then I might not be as motivated to take them (just being honest). I didn't catch if I'd earn PD hours for those or not...I would assume so. The grant writing and creative classroom ones looked interesting. It's clear just by looking at the offerings that technology is being emphasized.

The advantages to online PD would be you can pace the class yourself and take it from the convenience of home (much like this class). The fact that they're free is an advantage, and earning PD hours would also be an advantage. Disadvantage- no face-to-face contact for discussion, but if you blog in discussion, you're still exchanging quality information. As with any online class, you might run into technical difficulties along the way which may cause frustration. Overall, there would be more advantages than disadvantages.

I guess I would like to see more curriculum-specific PD opportunities to take what I've learned and be able to use it in my classes right away. We recently had a speaker talk about restructuring the classroom and rethinking assessment procedures. The idea was great, but I would have liked to have been walked through what that process would look like and told the steps I could take to implement those practices in my own classroom.

Overall, I've liked my experience with this class. I've found the content useful in both my personal and professional life and I'm glad we've learned things (no pun intended) that we can apply to the classroom right away. I also liked how the 12 Things focused on continued professional development with other fellow teachers. I had very few technological issues, and thought the information was user-friendly. I really like that I have a whole slew of sources to refer back to and projects that I can continue to improve upon, such as my wikispaces page.

One Semester of Spanish Spanish Love Song

Maya Angelou- And Still I RIse

Thing 21

I have used videos in my room before, and I'm glad I've learned how to still be able to use YouTube videos without the school filter preventing showing it. Earlier this year,I tried to embed a soccer video on my blog, but when I went to show it to my class, the school filter still blocked it. It was a YouTube video.

Videos are useful for generating interest and bringing humor into the classroom as with One Semester of Spanish Spanish Love Song. They bring people and places of the world into the classroom. I love having audio or video of authors reading their own works- putting a face to an author's voice is a great way to bring that person to life to the students.

I did have trouble with some of the videos I tried to upload. I was successful in converting the videos using Zamzar and Benderconverter, but once they were saved to my computer and I tried to upload them onto a blog post, it wouldn't work. Also, how do I make the videos smaller? They look giant on the blog page.

Thing 20

I think my students would enjoy listening to podcasts, but it depends on the topic. My Spanish students would be very interested in hearing from native Spanish speakers who are around their same age. Podcasts with humor or story lines would be of interest to them. We teach Night by Elie Weisel, and a lot of students are very interested in the Holocaust. If there are podcasts out there with interviews of Holocaust survivors, they would be very interested in that. In 11th grade, we teach Fallen Angles by Walter Dean Myers (Vietnam story) and I would imagine the 11th graders would be interested to hear from those who were a part of that war.





I think my students would like creating podcasts more than listening to them. The high school years are a very self-interested time. They would think it's cool to hear their voice online. I'm hoping it would motivate them to do better work knowing that anyone could listen to the final product (especially peers from other classes or mom and dad!). Plus, I think podcasts allow more room for creativity and personalization that perhaps an essay would limit for some students.

My Spanish students would be nervous (at least at first) to speak Spanish online. I think they would need to hear from other foreign language learners who have done the same thing before they try it out.

Ideas related to my curriculum I have already explained in my podcast about the top five ways I could use podcasts in a language arts and/or Spanish classroom.

Podcasts that I personally like include:



Podcasts that benefit me professionally include:






Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thing 19

Podcast- Here are the podcasts I listened to:

Coffee Break Spanish Lesson 48- a discussion on adjective agreement- great for beginning learners; could be used in a Spanish 1 classroom depending on the topic

Spanish Pod- "Del Taco al Tango"- a discussion of Arab influence on Spanish language and culture- very advanced Spanish- college level

Learn Spanish Survival Guide- "At the restaurant 2"- for beginners- gives students a chance to break pronunciation and use common, useful phrases; good for Spanish 1 or 2

Learn Spanish Pod101- "Absolute Beginner #5- gives everyday scenarios and explains what was said in the conversation; I'd say more for Spanish 2 or 3 in high school. What I loved about this one is that it has speakers from 5 different countries, so students could have the chance to hear various accents and compare vocabulary and expressions.

Grammar Girl- Dangling participles- I was surprised by how clear this concept was explained

I also looked at the Audio Books sites to see which books are available for free

I think my students would prefer "vodcasts" because most of them are visual learners and I think would have a hard time with just listening. A vodcast would reach both visual and audio learners. However, practicing listening is useful- both as a life skill and as a foreign language skill.

I could make a list of podcasts like the example pages shown and give my students the url (such as my wikispaces url) to check them out. I think I would try to send them to as few pages as possible. Having all of these amazing links on one website would be awesome. I would just have to be specific with my directions for which links they need to choose depending on the assignment.

I could see using podcasts at the beginning of class as a way to get my Spanish students hearing authentic language everyday. They already do some listening activities with a CD the textbook provides, but like I've said in other posts, students are more interested in real-life scenarios. They want to hear about the lives of actual people, not just Juan y Maria going to the store on the CD.

I would love to have my students create their own conversations via podcasts and share them with the class. We could post them on a student website. We could post them on the school's website under the foreign-language link where parents could listen to them. A colleague of mine just told me about Google audio and it's almost the same idea as a podcast. She explained more of it in an email. I think I might try that out this coming trimester and see how it works.

I think I still have to learn more about podcasts before I can think of "issues" I might face. I know we're told not to stream audio or video at work because it clogs the bandwith. We're told to download videos from teachertube, etc. I would like to learn more about "subscribing". I noticed links to subscribe, but I didn't sign up for any one podcast. Although I did download a few to i-tunes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thing 18


For Spanish, I embedded a widget to help students with verb conjugation. They could use it if they are working on publishing information in Spanish to a wiki or trying to blog in Spanish. If they knew the wiki website, they could use this widget while they are doing homework, too. I give them verb books already and they have plenty of notes, but if they forget to bring home their verb books, I think this widget could be very helpful because it shows charts of the various tenses of verbs.

Widgets might be a useful way to get kids interested in the subject matter, thus forming them into "intrinsic learners." For example, I found a widget where kids could play a game called "running of the bulls"- it looked fun, but I soon learned it is violent and therefore not appropriate. However, I like the idea of using games to learn. A website students go to when there's time leftover in a computer class is freerice.com. They like the challenge of seeing how much vocabulary they know and they can test it out in foreign languages, too, like Spanish and French. They compete against each other to get the highest rankings. Widgets could potentially be used in that way.

A map widget would be very useful for the wikispaces project I'm working on. I've already embedded a link to the lonelyplanet website using a map. I'll have to look into more ways of using a map. Kids love using Google Earth right now. That might get them interested in Spanish-speaking countries.

I'm not sure what's on my widget wish list. I got the weather widget to work today! Wish list: Proofreading for English, Famous poets, Games related to the literature I teach (Speak, Night, 451, Ender's Game, Romeo and Juliet), Spanish vocab quiz, and Spanish verb conjugation quiz.
Locations of visitors to this page

Thing 17

Wikispaces...I'm having some trouble along the way. I tried to apply a widget from The Weather Channel (I got the idea from the mcisd wiki), but I couldn't do it. It said that the text needed to be pasted in plain text, not html, but when I tried to paste it under the "other text" category and not the "html" category, it still didn't work. I'm going to try it again today and see what happens.

The project I decided to do for my wikispaces is going to be time-consuming. Every year for Spanish 1 I have the kids do a travel agency project where they have to plan a one-week vacation package to a city in a Spanish-speaking country of their choosing. I thought I'd do a wiki containing information and links to various countries and major cities. I'm hoping this will save the kids time on searching through websites in the future. I'll include MLA citation links to help them along, too. They are required to correctly site their project. Giving the students the information they need all from one source could save me time in validating websites, and allow me to spend more time helping them with the Spanish part of their project.

To me a wiki is different from a blog in that it can be a place to provide a ton of information and links in a well-organized way. In a blog, perhaps you add a link to one post, but people would have to search for that one post to find it. In a wiki, the links are neatly placed on the side of the page. A blog is written only by one person; others may comment. Multiple people can contribute to writing and creating a wiki. Blogs are world-wide conversations, while wikis are a world-wide sharing of information.

Assignments/projects where a wiki would be appropriate: research- may be taken from the wiki OR may be added to the wiki; group projects such as audio interviews; and video projects (weather forecast in Spanish for example). I know there's more ideas, but that's all I can think of right now.

Assignments/projects where a blog would be appropriate: group discussions about a novel, journal writing, a place to post online quizzes, using a blog conversation to generate thoughts on a particular topic (like reading a newspaper, but instead of getting only a journalist's perspective, students could read various other perspectives on the same topic, too.

I could envision them having trouble including widgets, uploading photos, getting the links to work, forgetting to save after every item that they add (happened to me!). So many ways it could go wrong! Like anything they do for the first time. To decrease potential problems, I think it would be necessary to walk them through each step and practice each skill. It might take a few weeks. Perhaps go to the computer lab for a day and show them on the master computer screen and have them emulate your actions. I'd focus on 2-3 easy tasks the first day such as navigating the wikispaces page. A week or two later we could go back to the computer lab and try another 2-3 skills; this time difficult ones such as adding a widget, and see how they do. By the end of class, students should complete tasks 1, 2, and 3.
After a few weeks of practice with in-class and out-of-class assigned tasks related to the wiki, hopefully students would be ready to start working on full-length wiki assignments. That's my first instinct on how to approach it, but I'm sure there are other ways...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thing 14


The Wiki I found is a junior high English class. The teacher set up the entire wiki as a "book". It appears to be a collaborative class research project. It looks like each student and/or group of students was responsible for researching a specific topic related to Elizabethan England. There are clear links to each topic on the left side of the page. There is a link to each Works Cited page within each of the topic pages. There are also links to MLA citation rules and directions/expectations for the assignments.

I could completely copy this entire idea for my 9th grade English class where students are introduced to Shakespeare for the first time and read Romeo and Juliet. I love the idea of setting up a "wiki book" a.k.a a collaborative class research paper. I think presenting research online makes it more interesting for the kids to read their peers' work rather than listen to a speech. It also creates a team atmosphere in the classroom. I know that kids almost always do better on assignments when they know their peers will be reading or reviewing them.

Something else I came across on a different wiki for English was that the kids did interview projects related to characters in a novel and shared their interviews via audio on the wiki pages. I liked this idea a lot, too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thing 13

This was fun!! I could definitely see students taking an interest in this kind of creative outlet. It's so much better than having to manually draw a magazine cover or a movie poster. I see potential with these website applications. I like bighugelabs better than dumpr in terms of potential classroom uses.

I've done multigenre papers in the past, and one of the requirements is some kind of cover to put everything together. Students could use photos in multiple ways to bring their particular subject to life. It might inspire kids to do good work on their projects. I've learned from other teachers, that while of course you need restrictions for safety purposes, sometimes it's better to let kids loose and have them choose a creative outlet that they're more comfortable with. Using photo sites could be an option.

The best part is that it gives students creative ownership of their work. They can publish it to the world, and may receive positive feedback.

I'm not sure of how photos would function in a math/science room...One idea that comes to mind is that at my school we have an Environmental Science class. In the fall and spring the teacher takes the kids outside to explore the high school's campus. The kids could take photos instead of notes and then do a report on what they've found that way, or create graphs using photos of their findings over a few weeks. The teacher could create a classroom group on flickr where the students will be required to store their photos. They could also upload photos to their personal network drives. The problem would be sharing digital cameras, but because we do have that digital photography class, it might work.


Thing 12

Flickr would be helpful for finding photos relevant to material being taught to add to Power Point notes in a foreign language classroom. There are a ton of recent travel photos I could use- perhaps more updated than those in our textbook. I could also see my Spanish students using Flickr to find photos for an upcoming assignment (they will be pretending to be travel agents selling a travel package to a specific city or group of cities in Spanish-speaking countries). They will need several photos for their presentations and brochures. Perhaps I could even limit them to using only Flickr to teach them how to cite photos. This might make things easier. A concern, of course, would be the students stumbling across inappropriate photos...especially travel photos.

I already use images as writing prompts in English class. I could start to look for images on Flickr and group them together for future use.

We have a digital photography class at Bedford, and I know the teacher has his students publish photos on Flickr. I could always ask him for more ideas about how to use Flickr and how to solve problems.

Another idea is that I could publish photos from my personal travels to share with my students. It might be easier having them all on one website and just uploading them to Flickr rather than copy/paste into Power Point.


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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010