Ideas for the first day:

  1. Present how people see me vs. how I want to be seen. (talking about a fresh start).
  2. Don’t talk at all. Play a song that fully represents me. Ask students to think about the one thing (a song, a book, a character, or a movie that most accurately represents them).
  3. Introduce the concept of giftedness (the curve a la Jen Gottschalk).
  4. Tour of the room for 7th graders going over all of the little areas of the room.

Continue reading“08/14/06”


In order to build community support for technology use in the classroom, we must make the community aware of the technology, but we must also educate the public on all sides of the issue. A lot of parents seem deathly scared of social networking mostly because they don’t understand what it is. If we inform them, guiding them through the more technical aspects of web 2.0, then they would be more likely to support any use of these social elements in our classes (linked blogs, uncensored wikis, etc.).

I think that this could be done by holding meetings at local schools in order to address the myspace/internet safety issues. There should be a place where parents can ask as many questions as they want and learn about the educational benefits of moving beyond pencil and paper based classrooms. I would like to set something like this up at my school. These are the resources that I have so far. Let me know if I need to include anything else.

Safe Blogging and Social Networking Resources 

Karl Fisch’s Internet Safety Links 

A resource for CyberBullying 

A wiki introducing Internet Safety to Parents 

A sad little article about the lack of understanding among teachers about internet safety. 

I am still working out what this meeting(s) should look like. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

The first day of Pre-AP

I will be attending a Pre-AP vertical teaming conference this entire week. I was excited about discussing rigorous classrooms and genuine vertical articulation, but what I found was a lot of talk about giving access to AP classes in Junior and Senior year of high school for all students by giving kids skills to handle AP level work in the middle school. I loved our discussion yesterday about creating equity in our schools. Here are comments, questions, quotes, and group generated writings that I experienced yesterday.

Our group definition for Equity: Access to opportunity with unlimited guidance and support.

We need to eliminate the gatekeepers at our school. They treat learning as an elitist act. You need to socialize students to intelligence. Gatekeepers are teachers who prevent access to learning because they have a problem with a disposition or a type of intelligence.

You don’t have to be the smartest teacher in the world. You simply have to be resourceful.

In order to make sure that kids are prepared, there must be a discussion among teachers about what the expectations will be throughout the years.

Part of learning is failure.

Exposure alone to rigorous curriculum is going to prepare you later in life, as long as the support is there so that students don’t feel like a failure.

Be a talent scout for kids, especially the ones that don’t look like the typical AP-Student.

Strategies are a lifeline for students to be successful in the rigorous classroom.

We should echo students’ language in order to value their background, we should show how our language translates to theirs.

Learning is not a sprint; it is a marathon.

Rubric for Access and Equity

Teachers/Administration Students Parents
4 Actively promote rigorous classes for all students. Are enfranchised to make decisions about appropriately rigorous classes Advocates for an inclusive program and encourages student responsibility
3 Recognize need and working toward greater levels of access for all students Simply Enjoy the diversity Recognize value for all
2 Superficially recognize need, but no action taken (lip-service) Social Expectations Only concerned with own students
1 Gate-Keepers Grade-Grubbing or Apathetic Apathetic or uninformed

Alternate Rubric for Access and Equity

4 3 2 1
Students WANT to enroll in AP courses; there is a waiting list to get in. Teachers actively recruit students to enroll in AP classes An open enrollment policy exists but not many students are interested. Students must all qualify for enrollment in AP classes.
Population of AP classes is diverse Population is diverse Population of ap courses is only partially diverse. Population is elitest
80% of AP students take the AP exam 70% of students take the AP test 60% of students take the AP tests 50% or fewer take test
Resources and support and well established in the building and often used by students Resources are support are available and developing Minimal resources and support available to AP students Little to no support is available for AP students.
AP teachers are given time to collaborate and attend AP training Professional resources are available in building Professional Development resources are available but not well-known or used Teachers research and locate AP info on their own.

In elementary school some parents are helicopter parents, but in high school they turn into black hawk down parents.

What does it mean to be in a rigorous classroom? Does it mean that everyone can get an A or a B? How do we communicate this to students/parents?

In order for a rigorous curriculum to take hold and be sustainable, we must have coordinated support from administration, teachers, parents, and community.

Intelligence is not static. It can be honed and solidified with strategies.

Learning is learning no matter where you are or what you are doing, we only attach elitism when it comes to academics.

You cannot laugh at true learning.

There is no such thing as Pre-AP classes. All classes should provide strategies for students to succeed in a rigorous high school and college classroom.

We need students to have a repertoire of automatic strategies. Students should be able to decide for themselves which one is the most appropriate.

If we don’t use our professional development time wisely (taking it back to the classroom) then we are wasting taxpayer dollars and the time of everyone involved.

Do we need to embarrass our reluctant teachers into signing on to engage in collaboration and academically rigorous classes?

Can we get money to work on weekends toward vertical teams?

I know that as a proficient reader, I have developed my own shorthand and language for coding a text. Is it more helpful to have a set list of codes for reading, or is it better to let students make up their own and create a language similar to the way I did?

If you say: Annotate the text, how many kids would actually do it? What would they think that annotating the text means that they should do?

Never put someone down without showing them the way back up.


I have decided that starting a new lesson plan book on paper is not a very smart idea. In fact, I have been so excited by the possibility of starting a lesson plan book online that I have been searching every chance I get for a suitible alternative. I still haven’t found an online calendar that lets me do everything I need to do, so I thought that I would start a blog instead. I can search any of my previous posts. I can do my reflection right on here if I want. I can even use the calendar feature to look back at a day I need to reevaluate. I can’t wait for the school year to start so that I can begin this new journey of planning with new technology. If you would like to see fully formed lesson plans of mine, rather than the non-sensical inner workings of my classroom, go here.

The Perfect Online Professional Development Community

I have really been thinking a lot about how to create an online community for all of the teachers in my school district who are as passionate about technology integration, reflection and collaboration as I am. The way that it stands, I feel so isolated in my quest for new and more effective ways of teaching. I know this is not the case, that there are probably hundreds of teachers who feel the same way, but that isn’t really much comfort when I don’t know who they are and I have no way of contacting them. I almost feel like I need to send out a classified ad: Young passionate teacher seeks the same in order to learn and collaborate about technology and pedagogy.

I can’t think of a better way to ask for a community than to create one and hope that other people join up. I have already run this idea by a few, more experienced, Edubloggers, Bud Hunt and Karl Fisch. They have both responded pretty well to the idea and are willing to help me get it off of the ground.

After my initial e-mails to my administration and these two great teachers/resources, I thought that there would be no way of stopping such a mammoth idea. My principal loved it, and the feeder area coordinator thought it would work well with some of our other goals. But last night, I received an e-mail from the Web Services manager of my district. In it he said that I should consider using two semi-crippled technologies (Firstclass and SchoolCenter) that teachers in my district are already fairly comfortable with (and the district has already paid for). I say that these are crippled technologies because they have real holes in their capabilities. They just can’t do everything that I want to do with this community.

Even with this minor setback, I have decided that I will not compromise (at least initially) my vision of the “Perfect Online Professional Development Community.” I would like to see just how collaborative, easy to use, scalable, social, and reflective I can make this experience for other teachers. So, without any further explanation, I would like to unveil what I think are the essential pieces of a new generation professional learning community.

A central portal will give you access to the following (I am thinking about using protopage):

    1. A master blog that would guide discussion.
    2. Blogroll
    3. Recent Blog Articles (a la SuprGlu)
    4. Archived Blog Articles (in a newsletter type format)
    5. A Google Earth Mash-Up of all of the school represented in the community
    6. Bios of the teacher bloggers (if they wish to include them) done in a social way so that collaboration is easier (an Elgg.org-type personal page)
    7. A calendar for event planning (Skypecasts, Classroom Demonstration Webcasts, Classroom Picture Flickr Stream)

The other aspects of the community that will not be directly shown on the portal’s front page except for simply linking to them:

  1. A Q+A section for both teaching questions and technical help questions (Ning.com has a great set-up for something like this).
  2. A Digg-Style Article/Website recommender.
  3. A Wiki for success stories of technology integration or improved practice (a little like David Warlick‘s Telling the New Story Wiki)
  4. Walk-Throughs (screencasts) for how to create blogs, collaborate, etc.
  5. A way of dealing with comments both attached to and unattached to their original posts. (co.mments.com has a pretty great strategy)
  6. A professional development bookshelf (akin to either this one or this one)
  7. A way of signing up for an e-mail RSS system for new posts (most teachers check their e-mail religiously)
  8. A belief statements wiki about technology or teaching in general for certain collaborating members or individuals (this could be a running list of belief statements and/or a running list of questions that these belief statements beg to be answered. I also like the idea of using standpoint.com somehow).
  9. A system for sharing lesson plans and ideas (both formatted and unformatted) including a collaborative document center.
  10. A cross-school project starter (partnering up similar teaching styles)

Questions I still have about how to get this done:

  1. How do we get as many different positions represented in this community (principals, core teachers, librarians, elective teachers, etc.)
  2. Should we try to protect anonymity on the blogs?
  3. Just how much do most people know about these technologies? Will it be like starting from scratch for most people? And if so, should I send out a formal (or informal) survey about these ideas (What have you done in your classrooms with technology? Do you like to create you own lessons? How much do you enjoy reflection? Do you want feedback on your classroom ideas from other teachers? How worried are you that this is going to take too much of your free time? How many of you already blog?)?

Well, that is pretty much it. I would like to make this project as appealing and voluntary as possible, so that everyone who is in the community has a lot of buy-in. Let me know what you think of this grand scheme. What is possible and what is not possible?

Authentic Writing (concise new ideas)

I have spent a great deal of time over the last year talking about Authentic Writing in the classroom. I have written a few papers on this subject, but I am most interested in the practical application of this idea. I am in the process of creating a Lesson Plan Wiki for next year, and I realized that I needed to define my terms. So under the Terminology Dictionary is my definition of Authentic Writing. I will continue to work on it, but it I think that it captures quite well what I have been talking about for so long.

  • Authentic Writing (aka Real Writing)

Authentic Writing at its most basic is writing that has a real audience and a real purpose.

Now to define the two new terms I have just created. A “real audience” is one that is not only the teacher. The teacher and the self can be part of a real audience, but rarely do they make up it entirely. A real audience is made up of people who are genuinly interested in the writing for what it has to say not because they are forced to be interested. A real audience is one that is likely to listen to, comment on, or attach value to a piece of student writing. Equally likely for a real audience is the posibility of using the writing to create something new. Finally, a real audience is one that does not require perfection to find importance.

A “real purpose” is one that has some intrinsic value to the writer. Getting better at writing can be a real purpose, but it is not (and should not be) the only one. A real purpose is determined by the context of a student’s life. It is made up of what the student wants to do or would benefit from doing (making a grocery list, writing a passionate eulogy, getting out some teenage angst) rather than what he/she has to do. Writing with a real purpose is a social act; it is connected to the self and to others without any educational manuvers or imagination on the part of the writer (i.e. Write a letter to your congressperson about spending a million dollars).

To further illistrate the point of Authentic Writing, here is a chart of what constitutes Inauthentic Writing versus its Authentic counterparts:

Authentic Writing Inauthentic Writing
A grocery list A CSAP prompt
A blog post A research paper on a teacher-selected topic
An intelectual passion paper A form poem that is only seen by the teacher
Student-selected creative non-fiction An essay that does not relate to the student or the current curriculum

I’m not sure if this is a good idea.

I was reading some of the articles on Karl Fisch’s del.icio.us account. I found this one and I was caught by some strange version of inspiration. It basically talks about how kids can be so innovative to post answers to tests online. I’m not a big fan of this particular act, but I find the idea of innovation in finding answers to be full of possibilities.

Here is my idea:

I will develop a quiz on new technologies that will help my students throughout the year (blogs, wikis, rss, podcasts, thinkfree, glypho, etc.). They can either follow the links and find each of the answers individually. Or they can search and follow their own path to a file (or website) with all of the answers to the quiz in one place. I need to work out the logistics, but I can imagine finding a way of hiding the file (or website) so that my students will still have to use all of the skills that they are being quizzed on.

Do you think that this is possible or a good idea?

Change in the L.A. Department.

I’m trying to create an atmosphere of change in my Language Arts department. Now, I knew that there would be resistance from a few teachers, but I thought that the passion and purpose of what we (my co-chair and I) are doing would convince these teachers that we are not trying to hijack the department with an anti-basic skills agenda. That was until I talked to a veteran teacher in our department. I realized then that universal buy-in is going to be nearly impossible. After this “illuminating” conversation, I started thinking the opposing viewpoint of this complex dilemma. I really wanted to distill the differences between the two ways of thinking about a department so that I could get a hold of what I was up against. Obviously, I have some bias in this debate, but I tried to eliminate as much inflammatory language as possible. Ideally, I would find a way of bringing both visions of a working Language Arts department together so that all voices can be heard. Perhaps my optimism is too expansive, but here is what I have come up with so far.

These are the assumptions about the two competing orientations of Language Arts department:
Anti-Change Orientation:

  1. We are a leading department in the district and we are doing the best that we can.
  2. The main objective of the department is to follow the directives of the district and the school administration.
  3. Reflection is touchy-feely and therefore unnecessary.
  4. There is no time in the regular meetings for talking about the specific lessons and resources we are using in class.
  5. You must go through drudgery and organizational hoops in order to accomplish anything worthwhile within the department.
  6. Striving for change is either a hopeless endeavor or completely unnecessary.
  7. All issues involving students and teachers can be looked at through a black and white lens and are therefore easily solvable without debate, nuance, or further research/intervention.
  8. When you find something that has worked in the past, there is no reason that it shouldn’t continue to work in the future.
  9. Technology is simultaneously unnecessary in the classroom and too hard to learn to make the effort worthwhile.
  10. Young teachers cannot add significantly to a department until they have had sufficient experience and have adopted the teaching styles of veteran teachers.

Pro-Change Orientation:

  1. Unnecessary social and pedagogical differences hold us back from really fulfilling our roles as master teachers and supportive colleagues.
  2. The main objective of the department is to create a unifying voice of all of its members so that we make sure that all students can learn in all classrooms.
  3. Teachers (members of the department) know what is best for the classroom (in terms of assessments, lessons, programs, etc.).
  4. Reflection leads to a greater depth of learning, higher retention rate, and greater buy-in from all participants and is therefore an essential part of the department.
  5. The only way to make sure that our department stays student-centered is to bring the classroom into the department via easily digestible, highly engaging lessons that have worked well with our population of students.
  6. Striving for change is courageous, filled with promise, the inevitable result of looking at where we are and where we need to be.
  7. Passionate ideas, candid discussion, and a safe environment that allows teachers to freely mentor and seek help can circumvent most of the unpleasant tasks and red tape associated with the process of creating worthwhile/useful materials.
  8. There is nothing that works so well that it should never be revisited, reflected upon, or bettered somehow.
  9. The student issues surrounding reading and writing and teacher issues of development and interpersonal clashes are inherently complex and should be met with understanding and appropriate action to bring about lasting resolutions.
  10. Technology is an integral part of any classroom that aims to engage our savvy student population and prepare them for a 21st century world.
  11. Young teachers should learn as much as they can from veterans who are continuously improving their craft. These young teachers should not have a qualified voice in the department because they are the ones who will either continue teaching if they are fulfilled by it or leave teaching if they find that serving students has taken a back seat to logistics, assessments, or tradition.

I’m not sure how I am going to bring these two viewpoints together, but I think enumerating these viewpoints may lead to some good discussion amongst our department’s members. I have visited the Classroom Change Wiki, and I think that a lot of these ideas are congruent with the ones that are already there. It may be of use to the Edusphere to start another section of the Wiki devoted to change at the department level. Please let me know what you think about any of these ideas. I am particularly interested in refining these points so that we can discuss them as a department and not have people throwing chairs at one another.

I’m back, sort of.

The wiki has been keeping me pretty busy. Version 1.0 of idiosyncratically useful websites will be ready in a couple of weeks. I plan on actually letting people know about it then. I am still struggling, however, with all of the excess great ideas from other people. I wish that I could clip things directly from other people’s blogs into my bloglines clip folder. It would make things easier. Recently (over the last day or so) I have been finding a lot of things that may help our Language Arts department in this coming year. This idea I couldn’t furl or clip in bloglines, so I thought here would be a good spot for it.

Wendy, a co-chair of our department, and I have been talking about different ways of reflecting after/during meetings. Karl of Fischbowl fame had his fellow teachers answer to these five categories with his own examples:

Continue reading“I’m back, sort of.”

My new Wiki

I now have a Wiki. I will use it to help annotate all of the great resources I have found for both teaching and existing in the 21st century. I am really looking for others who share the same passion for this kind of work to help me expand this Wiki. Please explore it for yourself, and then let me know if you want to help. Go Here!