Thursday, March 8, 2007

Response to Chapter 9

Chapter 9: What It All Means

"When today's students enter their post-education professional lives, odds are pretty good that they will be asked to work with others collaboratively to create content for diverse and wide-ranging audiences." (126) There truly is a gap in the expectations of the future and the expectations of today's educational system. Traditionally, we as teachers keep our students disconnected from the outside world by having them write assignments to us or to their peers, and then product is finished. The web opens up their world of learning and teaching others, so that we are not the only teachers, and they are not the only students.

The web requires that the student become a "critical reader and viewer, not simply accepting what is presented." (126)

It's interesting that our students do not need to know all the answers, but know where to find them. I have found that good web search skills are so important, really the basis to successful research.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Great WebQuest!

As I searched through WebQuests to find something appropriate and worthwhile for a high school English class, I came across a great one for learning poetry. The link is as follows:

It is called "Poetry Quest", and is written by Robert Keim. I was impressed with the amount of information, the layout, step by step instruction, and, best of all, ALL the links are active (as of 2/28/07). The end result of the WebQuest:

"With a partner, students will create an informative booklet titled "Guide to Poetry" which must include the following:

Comprehensive list of poetic elements (at least 10 elements)
List of types (forms) of poetry (you'll choose 26 types)
Definitions and examples of terms from both lists"

I feel like this WebQuest is a little more comprehensive than just a quick overview of the elements of poetry. If the WebQuest is TOO comprehensive for your liking, there is a "lite" version that still covers a good bit of information, but will take less time.

Overall, it is very well done, fun to look at (colorful, but not too distracting), and the tasks are in a logical order. Thanks, Robert Keim, for all your hard work!!!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Response to Chapter 6: The Social Web

My response to Chapter 6: The Social Web: Learning Together...

I am really excited about the concept of Social Bookmarking. As a teacher, I feel like I waste so much time searching the internet for some web pages, ideas, worksheets, etc because most of the stuff I come across is useless to me. When I finally find something that will work, I make sure I bookmark it for further inspection at a later time. How wonderful it would be if I could save some of that time by browsing through other English teachers' social bookmarks. Typically we only bookmark sites that are actually helpful, so the chances of finding something usable on others' social bookmarks are good.

I signed up with and, so I will learn more about their usefulness as I continue to play with them and personalize them. I am just getting used to using tags, so I know I will get better at knowing how to accurately tag a site so that it can be useful to others.

The ideas in this chapter will definitely decrease my frustration as I search for neat things to do with my class. And it can help my students when they are doing some searching of their own. So much to learn, so little time!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Response to Chapter 8:Podcasts

Podcasts sound very attractive to me as a teacher of EBD middle and high schoolers. I have a small handful of students who like to write. All the others would rather talk all day. Podcasts could put all that vocal energy to good use. Planning a podcast could prove to be interesting as they would have to have some kind of plan before recording. But many are very creative, and would make quite interesting recordings. They could also work on social skills by creating a group podcast, reporting on a topic of the week or general class news. Hmmmmmmmmmm. I will have to put some of these ideas to the test!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Response to Chapter 4: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts...

Before reading this chapter I wasn't sure how accurate wikis might be, but Richardson laid many of those fears to rest. Although content can be edited at any time, many are always watching those changes and will correct them if needed.

I see the advantages of using wikipedia as a research tool in the classroom, but also as using it as a tool for the class to collaborate on a certain subject. Students would find it interesting to add and change info in a wiki. I think it would hold their interest much longer than doing a common research paper. It may also be a good way to unify a group of students at the beginning of a new class.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Response to "Adopt and Adapt" and "Synching up with the iKid"

I found these two articles a bit frustrating. I felt as if they were reprimanding teachers for not using every technological advancement available in the classroom. Unfortunately (and as the author noted), sometimes the teacher is the last one to have the option to use technology in the classroom, aside from the basic internet usage. Board members and superintendents make many of those decisions long before the first lesson plan in August is implemented.

According to “Adopt and Adapt”’s definition, I mostly do old thinks in old ways, and sometime old things in new ways. I am willing to try new things in new ways, but I am definitely a creature of habit, and I generally have the opinion that “what was good enough for me as a student is good enough for my students.” I honestly have to fight that one a lot.

My basic feeling after reading these two articles is…tell me what to do and I’ll do it. If I don’t know it’s out there, I can’t use it. And if I don’t know how to revolutionize my classroom with technology, I will stick with what works.

I am well aware that students these days can multitask electronically. My 13-year-old daughter sits at the computer on MySpace, chatting with at least four different people on iChat, and talking on her cell phone, all at the same time.

The best idea out of the whole readings (in my opinion) is the school that uses no textbooks, only PC’s. It was a good example of how to get technology into the schools that would better keep our students informed on the newest advances in science, etc. I would be interested in finding out how well that went over in that school. What were some of their major problems? What were some of their successes? How can we use their knowledge to help our students?

Lesson Plan using

Using the picture below as an example, I will have my students take pictures on a digital camera, choosing one that they would like to write a poem about. Each student will upload their own picture on Flickr and add text within the picture that reflects their poem. The poem can be posted onto the Flickr website along with the picture. One of the main objectives of this lesson is to get each student to take ownership of their writing, and to feel like they have some "say" in what they can write about. It will get them thinking about key words that reflect the mood and topic of their poem. Also, the movement of going outside or around the building to take pictures will hopefully get their creative juices flowing, and create excitement about a task (writing poetry) that is difficult for some.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

nature 005

nature 005
Originally uploaded by Becky Spies.
Lesson Plan Project January 24 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Response to chapters 3, 5, 7

Response to Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, etc.
Chapters 3, 5, 7

Chapter 3
Will Richardson had many good points regarding getting started with blogging, both personally and in the classroom. First, I have to get comfortable with blogging, and then I will be able to teach my students a) how to blog and b) why it is beneficial. I am still so new at blogging, that I don’t think I could adequately teach a student how to get started, much less how to use it constructively. So, as I read this book, I continue to play with my blog, read through other blogs, and consider ways to use it in a high school English classroom.

Most of my students do not have internet access at home, so I would need to make all assignments based out of the classroom. My next step would be to have my students read blogs so that they could understand what a blog looks like, and what its purpose is. As I mentioned earlier, I am still figuring those things out myself. I like the idea of posting a “question of the day” to get my students thinking and discussing through a blog.

When students are ready, I look forward to giving them their own site. I think many students will enjoy personalizing their site (with guidance), and will make writing a little more exciting than just typing it up on a word processor.

I think I will stick with Blogger unless I find something that is easier for my students.

Richardson takes into consideration the time restraints that teachers face. His idea to have students save their posts as “drafts” until the teacher has read them is a great idea. That could save student and teacher some embarrassment.

Chapter 5
Before reading this chapter, I had no idea what RSS was, much less what it could be used for. By the end of the chapter I understood why it is called Real Simple Syndication. I am far from mastering RSS, but I have gotten a good start, and it is kind of fun. I look forward to making it a part of life in my classroom.

I followed Richardson’s instruction on starting my own RSS. I started out in the most simple way. I clicked on the 200 most popular feeds. I scrolled through and chose several that I thought I would enjoy reading on a daily basis. At this point I am just keeping it light and fun, until I get the hang of it, and then I will start digging deeper into areas of interest.

Once I get my students up and running with their blogs, collecting their work in my aggregator is an excellent idea. I can imagine the time it would take to type the address and and scroll through each individual blog.

I marked in my book how to add all different kinds of searches, and I plan to go back soon and start adding more to my RSS.

Chapter 7
Flickr looks like a lot of fun. I got on the site for a brief time to check it out, and to get an idea what Will Richardson is talking about. So far, this seems like the most user-friendly, but that might be because I already have some experience with digital photos and downloading them to the computer and online. I like the fact that the photos can be restricted to certain viewers, which could come in really handy in a classroom setting.

I have many “reluctant writers” in my current classroom, and I think that a picture site would be a great way to get them working online without stressing them out. They are more apt to comment on pictures than write paragraphs of response or comments on a blog. And the picture site would keep their interest longer. I am not saying that blogging does not have its merit in the classroom, and I look forward to using them with students. But the students that I have right now have so many emotional, learning and behavior disorders, that I have to be a little more creative with lesson planning than I might otherwise.

I know some of my students are already familiar with digital cameras and photos, and that is half the battle.

Being an English teacher, I especially liked the idea of making an “imaged version” of a poem by Carl Sandburg. It’s a wonderful way for students to express themselves through words and pictures, especially if that student is a visual learner. I also plan to play “Flicktion” - picking a random photo and having students write a story about it.

Ok, that’s all for now. This tired teacher needs some sleep.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What search strategies do you use?

My first stop is always Google. I search for web content and images, typically. In the past I have also used Dogpile. Depending on what I'm searching for, I might go straight to a known site. For example, if I'm looking for something medical related, I might go straight to, instead of sifting through pages of websites that do not relate.

If I'm looking for something concise for my students (most have very low reading levels), I might try Wikipedia or another encyclopedia. I use when looking for definitions.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Technology Autobiography

Becky Spies
Technology Autobiography

My experience with technology as a user has been moderate. I have had a computer at home for many years, and have kept in touch with friends and family through email for a long time. Most of my computer time is spent researching topics of interest, both personal and professional. Recently I have started downloading pictures from my digital camera onto my computer, and sending them online to be printed at a retail store. I have found that many of my “advances” in technology have come slowly due to the fact that as I first learn new technology, it takes longer to use it than to do it manually (or to do it the old way). But as I become acquainted with the ins and outs, my speed increases rapidly.

Technology in my classroom has been limited in the past few years due to outdated hardware and software. Our hardware at school was updated this year, which has at least helped internet speed. I am excited about the amount of information that is available to my students when they research topics. I believe that students should have access to computers to do research, scan for information and pictures, and type papers, and interact with others outside of our school. I have found that students have a longer attention span when researching on the internet than when researching using books. Also, you can find up-to-date information online, whereas books are, at best, several months old. The one problem that I encounter most often is inappropriate online content. Many of the inappropriate sites are already blocked, but some slip through the cracks. I look forward to discovering new ways to use technology in my classroom to better utilize our computers.

Response to ch. 1and 2

January 16, 2007
Response to Chapters 1 & 2: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.

I like Will Richardson’s excitement about using new technologies in the classroom. It is contagious.

As I started reading the first chapter, I didn’t think I had any experience with creating content on the web, until I realized that I have responded to opinions and ideas from web sites that interest me. It was a powerful feeling to realize that I have contributed to the World Wide Web.

I have used Wikipedia many times in my classroom, but did not know that it was a collaborative web space where anyone can add content. That explains some of the odd language that I found on my last search.

I like the concept of digital natives and digital immigrants. It is fun to see the computer knowledge and comfort in many digital natives (my students).

Being a mother of teenagers and a teacher of teenagers, I am well aware of the frenzy over MySpace. I am glad that Mr. Richardson brought up the fact that “students need to know that any content they create online will become a part of their Web portfolio.” Just like a tattoo, teens need to ask themselves if it will still be desirable/acceptable in ten years.

Question: Are Social Bookmarks and bookmarks from the web tool bar the same thing?

I have never blogged before at home or in the classroom, so chapter 2 was a lot of new information for me. I’m still trying to digest it all. These are the things that excite me about blogs:
Blogs demand interaction
Blogs can be used as an online filing cabinet
Blogs allow you to converse with experts
Blogs allow you to reach out beyond your own little community
Blogging is a conversation, not a monologue

Concern: Some of my students can hardly type (due to learning or emotional disorders), and I wonder how frustrating blogging would be for them. Several of them do okay when it comes to web surfing, but typing and coming up with original ideas are very difficult. I would be interested in talking with anyone who works with similar students to get feedback on how you address these issues.

Thanks for reading! Becky