Touchcast + Students = Virtual Analysis

After reading “Wonderland,” the second part of the 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, my students created a series of videos. This one is one of my favorites. If you’d like to see the rest of them, check out my YouTube channel here.


Addicted to Statistics

I admit it. I do it every night and sometimes even at school. The longer I do it, the deeper the obsession becomes. I’m obsessed with stats on WordPress.

I only started writing this blog because I planned to ask my students in my Social Media class to follow suit. It’s the same reason I joined Twitter, because how can you teach something without actually done it yourself first? And, like the newbie blogger I am, no one read it. I was shouting in Plato’s cave about the shadows I saw every day, and the rest of the world shook its head and ignored me. And then NaBloPoMo started.

Free confession time. I’m a procrastinator. I enjoy the adrenaline of deadlines, of the axe waiting to cut off my metaphorical head. Although my creative writing teacher in college loved my poetry, the only time I really wrote it was when I was under the gun. Something about the feeling of pressure inspires me. And committing to blogging every day in the month of November sounded right up my alley.

And something strange happened. As I blogged every day, sometimes poetry, sometimes confessionals about my classroom, people started reading. They viewed my posts and even sometimes liked them. Maybe not enough to write a comment, but that’s okay. And then I noticed the little symbols on the top of the admin page, and I was hooked.

It’s fascinating to see how many people poked around at this blog, sometimes just viewing one post and moving on, sometimes lingering and looking around. And it’s addicting. And I don’t even like numbers for the most part. Give me a juicy language puzzle, or a brand new book, an intriguing poem or a moving short story, and I’m your girl. Hand me a pile of data about my classroom and I don’t know what to do with it.

Here’s hoping I can avoid the sports stats’ addicts need to memorize and share what I’ve found. Way to go, WordPress, you’ve actually got this addicted to words women addicted to stats.

Masquerading Online, No Fez Required

My husband asked me today if my name was posted anywhere on this blog. I looked, and although my username kind of gives it away, it’s not. We started talking about the difference between an online professional learning network and one that could be created by joining the institutions of our grandparents. I like interacting online because I can connect with my PLN on my time, be it 11 PM or 5 AM. The anonymity afforded to me via asynchronous connections is also great, as I have trouble interacting with adults in real time. Throw me in a room with 30 teenagers and I’m fine, throw me in a room of judgemental adults, and I feel like I’m always saying the wrong thing. I can’t imagine joining the local Lions club or the Knights of Columbus. I tend to be brutally honest and straight forward, and social niceties often slip through my fingers.

But online networking has its pitfalls, too.  Although I try to be as honest as I can online, nothing is stopping me from portraying me as an amazing teacher who never has any problems in her classroom. No one is going to check up on me to see if I am really flipping my classroom. No one would know if I just spent day in and day out, passing out worksheets and lecturing in class via powerpoint. In fact, since I don’t post my actual name or the school I teach at (or heck, even the state in which I teach), I might not be a teacher at all. I might be a 18 year old boy, just pretending to be a teacher. And so might you.

Chatting Our Way into Deeper Waters

Yesterday, my students and I waded into the ocean of online chatting.  We started slow, rolling up our pant legs and dipping our toes in with Neil Gaiman’s short story “Don’t Ask Jack.” As we listened to the story which I had recorded ahead of time, students jotted down three things: what they noticed, what they thought was interesting, and what they thought was important.  Then we listened to the story a second time, and they waded in to their ankles, chatting what they observed in an online discussion on schoology.

Some classes got so excited about chatting that they instantly started texting in their comments, hardly waiting till the audio caught up with what they were chatting about.  Others were confused. They barely made any connections to the text, except to note one after the other that “the jack in the box was scary.” I can only hope that as we work on this skill, they will start to clue in on what is important in a text.

Today, we actually started our novel, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I have been teasing them all week with book trailers from the author. This time, we tried chatting while listening to the story only once. Some students did an amazing job. I saw textual connections to The Host, comments about the symbolism of owls, all kinds of comments. Afterwards I asked, “What frustrated you? What can we do to make this better?” The main complaint–that we only read the prologue today and that refreshing the chat in schoology was annoying.

Admittedly, one class struggled with the fact that I had moved their seats, took extremely long to login to schoology, and basically dragged their feet. Other students elected to write their observations on paper, so they missed what the other students had to say about the text. In my last class, I even had to remove a student who would not stop complaining at the top of his lungs about how unfair I was in chaging the seating chart, moving his seat to different places in the room, and disrupting the rest of us.

And where did this awesome method of reading a book come from? From my PLN on twitter, of course. Much thanks to Cheryl Morris and Andrew Thomasson for the original concept. If you’re interested in flipping your classroom, you should follow them on twitter @guster4lovers and @thomasson_engl.

Next week, hopefully we won’t all be carried away by riptides as we dive into the book.

Does your principal know how to tweet?

My principal is a wonderful person. He knows the names of the students, pays attention to what is going on with his staff, and is passionate about student learning. My principal is also uncomfortable with technology.

How do I know this? Well, several years ago, I interviewed for a job at his high school. The school was three hours away from where we were living, so I had done my homework on the district ahead of time; I had looked up the high school online. Unfortunately, the site did not have much information about the students, staff, or community.

I have always been a straightforward person. So when I told the principal that I had tried to do background research on the school online, and he asked me what I thought about the site, I told him it didn’t communicate much information. He knew that already.

My principal doesn’t tweet. He doesn’t blog. He doesn’t use schoology for staff meetings. But does this make him an ineffective leader in technology innovation? No, it doesn’t. Because like any good leader, he knows how to delegate to the strengths of his employees.  During the interview he asked me if I’d take over the website. He didn’t micromanage the project, either.

It’s not just delegating–when I found out our middle school was allowing students to bring their own devices, last fall I wrote a proposal that explained how I would BYOD in my classroom. Even though the stated school policy prohibited the use of smart phones, like any good leader, he saw the potential in my ideas and let me experiment.

Even though he doesn’t tweet and the school currently has no official site on Facebook, when my proposed “Social Media and Digital Interactivity: Journalism in the Digital Age” course crossed his desk, he knew that using social media appropriately is a crucial 21st century skill, and he said yes.

I think the hallmark of any great leader is one who is supportive of enthusiasm and best practices. He might not know hashtags, but he does know how to support great teaching.