Friday, June 27, 2008


I found this site on the email that Larson sent out a while ago. It is a collaborative story writing site where you can add to what other people have written. Check it out!

Final Presentations

Last night’s presentations were great. It was really nice to see what other groups had been working on over the 6 week course, and it was interesting what everyone’s video topics were. There was great variety among them. I was also surprised with how many groups used a website to create their final project. I agree with Grace’s post about “Learning it Digitally.” We were given the opportunity to use a “new” literacy ourselves. We were given an example, but then as the presentations show, each group played around with the “new” literacy in a different way. This shows how we successfully incorporated a “new” literacy into our classroom. Thanks Liz for letting us do this! I think if a teacher allows their students the chance to play around with different literacies, they will eventually learn new ones. But if they are not exposed to such types existing, they will never learn.

Standardized Tests

"The vast majority [of parents] think classroom work and homework - not standardized tests - are the best ways to measure how well students are doing."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bilingual Education

SO... My first student teaching placement was in a bilingual class. I have spent a great deal of time in bilingual classes, and I have sort of mixed feelings about bilingual programs. Even one of the teachers whom I have worked with in the past (a bilingual teacher herself), doesn't feel that they are actually good for the kids. A Spanish professor of mine in undergrad (a native spanish speaker) herself chose not to enroll her own children in bilingual programs... she thinks it's important for them to learn and be able to use English in order to get a good job and be successful. What are peoples thoughts on this?

Read All About It!

So a recent New York Times article mentioned that Laura and Jenna Bush had come out with a book that was intended to get kids excited about reading. Taking a look at the book on Amazon, it seemed to be pretty standard children's book fare. I find it hard to believe that a child reading this book would suddenly say, "You know? They're right, I should read more. It's fun!" I feel as though Lynn Gatto has the better approach. Give kids the option of what they want to read and they'll find something that interests them. Furthermore, make reading a necessary part of achieving some other goal - like building a butterfly farm - and they'll understand its purpose and usefulness. Someone mentioned this sort of thing in class. Kids aren't going to read because there's a poster in the library that says "Shaq Reads." They need to find their own reasons to read.

Learning It Digital

I was thinking how on the syllabus, this project is described as a written paper. When Liz introduced it to us in class, however, she mentioned that one group a previous year had done it as a website. I would not normally have thought to create this project on the Internet, but because of this suggestion, my group and I soon found ourselves learning how to manipulate a wiki. It was much easier than a traditional group paper would have been, too, I might add. My point is that part of including and teaching digital literacies in the classroom is simply to allow it and perhaps offer a few suggestions. Students will likely learn and explore on their own, choosing whatever is most efficient and appropriate. You don't necessarily have to spend class time teaching it.
I read an article the other day about how teachers need to "interview" schools that they are applying to to make sure that they are a good fit. I was wondering how plausible this much are you really able to tell before you actually begin teaching there? Are other teachers willing to talk to you about what happens within the school? Does anyone have any suggestions?

LAST POST Here is the link to our final project. Go and take a look. There is a blog on the site, so feel free to comment on our creation. Have fun. Adios, Warner, It has been one hell of a year

Struggles with Literacy

So I have a problem with literacy! When are we supposed to understand the true meaning of it when it is constantly changing? Look at Lynn, even she admitted to having a certain teaching technique for 15 yrs until she realized she needed to do something different. How can we define something that is debatable? And clearly we have debated it to the grave!

Literacy and Prison

My mom teaches at Wyoming Correctional Facility, the jail behind Attica. Why am I telling you this? She teaches the Hispanic inmates that have little to no education below the sixth grade level to read, write, do math, etc. She teaches "illiterate" adults between the ages of 19-65 of all different levels to be "literate". They have graduation and advance beyond the sixth grade once they complete her class. Do these adults deserve to be educated? They are being taught in a bilingual classroom because there are quite a few of them who don't know English and often do not know how to read or write in Spanish either. How do they "graduate" from, essentially, elementary school and continue through school in the U.S. without necessarily knowing the language? I can only imagine that the prison school system differs from that of regular school system or does it? What makes it legitimate to obtain education in the prison system?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lankshear and Knobel

So are you tired of hearing about literacies just yet? Well if you are do not read any further, if not go to this link . this is the blog of Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. as they travel the world they discuss the different practices of literacy that they encounter. Enjoy


So while I was fooling around one of my favorite sites, Wikipedia, I found a new definition of literacy. The definition that was on Wikipedia is Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. What do you think of this definition, does it hit at all of the things that we have talked about during this class.

Hard Times at Douglass High

For those of you who have HBO, they are showing the above titled documentary tonight at 11 (it premiered on June 23rd). It's supposed to be a review of the impact of NCLB on an urban high school in Baltimore. There have been some mixed reviews. I'd be curious as to what the class thought.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tengo un "gatto"

In Gatto‘s article she said, “Commercial programs endorse themselves as foolproof. Who are the fools in the foolproof? The companies and districts that align their instruction to commercially produced literacy programs believe it to be teachers! Teachers are not fools! Why do they allow themselves to be considered as such?” (p.31) So why? Is it that some people are just lazy and want to get by doing very little? Is it those who are “just in it for the money.” Is it teachers who are scared that they are not tenured yet? Ideas?

One more Lynn thing...

I just wanted to add that after 30 something years of teaching, Lynn is retiring this month. It is easy to think of how much is lost without her in the classroom but I choose to imagine how much better we are having had her with the children of our city. I also am so grateful to have had her as a professor. The three months with her has deeply influenced what kind of teacher I will be.

Lynn's class

What can I say, last semester I spent several evenings a week in her classroom (yes the children are still there late after school) and it really is a community of learners. I want to add to the ‘community of learners’ definition from Larson and Marsh that trust and normalized power is only the beginning. From that trust, and normalized power emerges highly aware learners. I would also dare to call them a community of questioners, participants and students who are quite conscious of not only what they are learning but how they learn. The feedback from my lessons were from the students, not Lynn. I learned that I should always ask students what they thought of a new lesson. What would they change? What worked for them or didn’t? Sometimes teachers, in a well intended effort to establish authority and power, would not dream of sharing how they teach and ask for feed back. But, I have found this is a critical part, the congress and the end, that allows students to establish their own control over what they learn as well as make me a better teacher. Like the museum suggestion, every student has the right to say what he or she thinks about what they are doing in school.

Lynn Gatto-Amazing

After reading Gatto’s essay, I was so empowered and amazed. She is such a great teacher, and example after example is able to create a community of learners environment for her students, where they truly are enthusiastic about learning. Since most of the activities she did in her classes came from her students questions, the kids were engaged and interested in the subject matter. This is a great way to make them involved in the learning process! Why aren’t more teachers doing this? Also, the fact that schools mandate teachers to teach from certain books is crazy. Gatto said, “How would any company know what words my students need for their writing and reading? I do not even know until it comes up, and it is never the same from year to year” (p.19). She is right; how can a book company possibly know what students need to learn? Each student learns differently, and only after time, can a teacher recognize their learning style and know their strengths and weaknesses. Why are companies determining what schools teach? If the teachers are the ones who really know their students, why aren’t they coming up with the curriculum?

She also mentioned that in order to create a meaningful community environment for students, teachers need to collaborate together, to share ideas and affective strategies. We mentioned this in class that having a support system is really important to being a successful teacher. How are we supposed to create this support system, if teacher’s doors are closed all the time? I think we need to just break out of our shell, and get involved with other teachers so that we can all learn from each other.

Pressure from Adminstrators and Teachers too?

Gatto discusses the pressure that she, even as an accomplished and veteran teacher, faces to conform to generally accepted literacy practices. Considering all of the awards and citations she has received, I found it pretty remarkable to think that she still faces this thinly veiled criticism. How should aspiring teachers prepare themselves for this pressure?

Success? thoughts, feelings, concerns. I would like to know exactly what these "new" programs are. I know from student teaching at one of the school mentioned they adopted a co-teaching method in many classes, having an ELA teacher push into social studies and math questions. Also, in the middle school they introduced a reading course.
Why say be an audience?
don't embarrass me
don't be uncool
don't act like white, overeducated, elitist women
Until I grade your papers.
in Warnerese
"Make it harder to get a felony than a diploma." -Elliot

pedagogizing slam poetry

On Thursday, Pierce mentioned how we are trying to pedagogize slam poetry instead of appreciating it as an art. So, I thought that I would use our readings for class in an authentic way and support Pierce's idea with some research....Larson and Marsh (2005) state that "teachers thus need to avoid pedagogizing out-of-school literacies or just simply repackaging them in a school-based framwork..." (pp. 156). Thanks Larson and Marsh for bringing up that point.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Qualitative vs. Post-hoc analysis

Many of the case studies we've read have involved a researcher studying a classroom experience (ostensibly without interfering with it) and then describing it in terms of some learning theory. This is essentially using the theories in a post-hoc (or after the fact) application and analysis. Does this help or hurt the value of qualitative research?

My guy feeling is that qualitative research has its value but that trying to describe an organic classroom experience in light of a post-hoc applied learning theory will inevitably cause the researcher to miss traits/qualities that are outside of that theories framework.

It seems to me that if we're hell-bent on qualitative analysis and the use of learning theories that we should instead design a program around a learning theory and then do qualitative analysis of that, otherwise we should just analyze the classroom experience for all that it has to offer rather than limiting our field of view to a theory that we're applying after the fact.


literacy vs. illiteracy

Earlier I had posted definitions of both these terms. Now I come back to it after a group discussion we had in class about literacy. We spoke about literacy and being consciencious of individual student progress. However, what it boiled down to was...ultimately students progress is determined through a standardized state at the end of the year. Are we preparing our students and teaching them enough for these tests that "prove" their progress? Or are we trying to be "accepting" of who they are and understand that not every student learns the same? In my opinion, it isn't all this school stuff that bothers me so much as real life scenarios our students will face and may fail depending on their literacy abilities. I mean school is what is supposed to prepare them for life after school, whether that means more higher education or a job.

teacher conference days

On teacher conference days throughout the school year, what do teachers do? Are they workshops? Are they are specific day dedicated for teachers to catch up and see how the school year is going? Since I'm taking a disabilities class, we were talking about how it would be good to have a workshop for the teachers that don't have any training with inclusion. I was thinking a workshop would be a good way to go about it. However, I wasn't sure if that type of thing goes on in the regular school year.
I've started working on my portfolio, so, I have been looking through all of my stuff from warner (which, by the way, is a ridiculous amount of stuff!). Anyways, I found this quote and I thought that I would share... “…to say the internet ‘is about information is a bit like saying that cooking is about oven temperatures, it’s technically accurate but fundamentally untrue.” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2007, pp. 12).

i'm just here for the pay check...

So this dates back to last week when Elliott came to share his poetry with our class. During his "presentation" he spoke openly about his disgruntled feelings concerning school and some of the teachers that he has had the (dis)pleasure of crossing paths with. One of his biggest complaints was this idea that teachers just "show up to get a paycheck" and they don't really care what happens to the students because they get paid either way. Well, last week (Friday it must have been) I was talking with some fellow teachers at my current job, and without prompting or prodding by yours truly, one of the teachers mentioned how sometimes they tell their 'slacker' students that its their decision to do the work or not because, at the end of the day, this teacher will get paid either way. I almost started laughing out loud. It is so ironic that after our discussions Thursday that one of my colleagues brought up this same idea and spoke about how they say this sometimes to their students. Knowing this teacher, I can see how this teacher would use this in a joking manner with students that they have built a relationship with. However, I can also see how students that didn't like this teacher (which I don't really know of any) could take this as ammunition to not like the teahcer. Anyways, thought it was ironic, thought I would share.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

call it education, it was somewhere in between... i found this article to be really powerful, one of the students mentioned in the article I worked with during my student teaching placement and he gave me a heads up he was going to be in the paper. hopefully this series continues to let an often silenced voice in the educational reform debate be heard: the students.

A New Third Space

Mostly it seems as though we’re talking in dichotomies; there are schools where it’s possible to be like Lynn Gattos and Mrs. Maiers, and there are schools that use Reading First and teachers are restricted to commercially provided lesson plans.  How can we, especially we as new teachers without the “street cred” of the proven veterans, how can we create a Third Space?  Not the Third Space of the students and their instructors, but a Third Space between the administration and the teachers?  A space where both discourses are present and respected.  I feel this is especially important given the way in which schools are failing to stand behind their staff.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Web 2.0 - I stumbled.

I found this thing called "STUMBLE." It's actually a new add-on for the newest version of Firefox. When I downloaded the new firefox it gave me this as an option for an add-on. So, of course, I felt that I might as well do it. Now I'm ecstatic that I did! It's a fabulous program! When I first signed-up I had to provide the normal information and was allowed to add a picture if I wanted. It then asked me about my interests.... I picked quite a few: Math, Archeaology, Architecture, Science, Funny Movies, Funny Pictures, Astronomy, Chemistry, Educatoin, Teaching, Music, Movies, Comedy, etc... Next, I clicked on the link that said, "stumble." When I clicked this it instantly sent me to a new, apparently random, website. What I've realized after "stumbling around" (Ha, i'm hilarious)... is that it just sends you to random websites that are related to and have tags that are your related to the interests that you gave it. What's spectacular about this program (aside from the fact that I've found, though "stumbling,") many spectacular math and science education websites. What I love the most is that I've been able to add friends and if I find a fun website that I think he will like I am able to send him a link that will just show up as a red number "1" or "2" depending on how many sites I've sent and he can click the number and it will bring him directly to the page I sent him with a comment I've been able to add to the page. So on top of finding spectacular sites and marking them as "favorite" or "dislike" I've been able to easily share them. It also allows you to make favorite pages, add new tags to the pages, and make comments that are available for all "stumblers" to use and see. This site could easily be used in a classroom in my opinion! If I added JUST the tag "mathematics," "science," "biology," "chemistry," and "american history" then those are the only sights that would show up while I was "stumbling" and many of them are great educational resources.

Plagiarism in New Literacies

This is going back a little bit, but I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on this past Tuesday's readings discussion of plagiarism. In Leander, they discuss teachers' fear that students would just cut and paste from online sources to write in-class essays. This is criticized in the article, which says "the idea of what it meant to be knowledgeable or to do knowledge work was not challenged. The space of where knowledge was located (in authorized texts and individual memories) and how it was measured (in individual performances) and what it was characterized by (unique voices) was held stable." The articles in general seemed to suggest that plagiarism needs to be redefined as a result of technology. Personally, I think it is great to have access to so many sources, but at the end of the day you still need to be able to formulate your own ideas and put them on paper yourself, rather than taking bits and pieces from other works. Any thoughts?


I have always enjoyed slam poetry, for those of you just starting you will hear more about it and see more demonstrations. It is important to see that students are passionate about something and through their passion you learn from them and about them! I thought Elliot was great I wish I could get some of that type of passion out inside the classroom!! I also wanted to touch on how funny it was to have the classes joined. We are a completely different class when we are separate. I think our class is a very relaxed relaxed community and when the other class came in it was like a joining of 2 different worlds. Its funny to think that a teacher (or professor) can make a huge difference in the attitude of the class!! Thanks Liz!!

After last night’s presentation of slam poetry, I was left in awe. I have never really seen slam poetry done, although I am aware that it exists. I was so impressed with Elliot’s poems, especially the subject matter. He is so educated and knowledgeable of so many issues, it just surprised me that he is only 16. I thought he was much older. I know many teenagers are as smart as him, but he just has his head on his shoulder, which many teens do not. Also, he was so articulate in what he was saying, which is another difficult thing for teens, or anybody to do.

We didn’t really touch on how his presentation relates to literacy though. He talked about his feelings of school and what not, and about his process, a little bit, but we never made a connection to literacy while Larson’s group was there, and I thought that was kind of weird. I definitely consider slam poetry to be a form of literacy. It is such a powerful way to express your views and feelings, which involves the use of language. Any other thoughts on his presentation or it relating to literacy?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The use of technology in the classroom

One question that I have in regards to the Leander piece is how does a teacher prepare their class for the introduction of an external force into the classroom such as the internet? The internet poses many dangers to students and as such they should be knowledgeable about the danger that this force can have on their lives. Technology should never be used as a crutch to lean on. It should enhance the classroom and not be used as another tool to perform regular teaching practices. Also, technology should be explained to children as to its purpose for use within the classroom. I also believe that teachers should educate their students as to the positives and the negatives of different types of technology.

Average Classroom

So last week in class we all designed what we thought of as our dream classrooms. We all had technology as a main aspect of the designs that were created. However, we unfortunately do not live in a dream but in reality and reality bites. So my question is what does the average classroom look like, in an urban area, in a rural area, and in a suburban area? Is there a way that all of these can begin to look the same? Do students lose when the classrooms do not mirror one another?

Kids creating and maintaining their own community

There was a show on nbc or cbs about a community of children that had to build their own community, live in it, and govern it. I never saw the show but it now strikes me as interesting when thinking about literacy. The children in this show had to divide up the responsbilities among themselves and had to vote one person off the community, really the show, every so often. Did anyone watch this? If so, can you see how this could be a new literacy application? Or was it a way to occupy kids while their parents worked? I wanted to think that it had a new literacy meaning to it but now I'm not so sure.

FINAL web 2.0 assignment!

For my web 2.0 assignment I created a skype account. It is similar to msn messenger and aim. My brother recently went to Iraq with the army and purchased a laptop before he left so he could keep in touch. He recommended that we use skype to talk. He told us he heard it provided the best internet connection and, when doing video, it would be like seeing him in real life because there weren't a lot of interruptions. So, I finally settled down at my apt and had the time to create a skype account. Anyway, skype is complicated! It is different from aim because you don't really have a profile, or maybe that's just me being new to it. Also, you are able to have your skype be "available" to others. This means that people you don't know can message you. Luckily you have the ability to decline or accept before the person starts to harass you. It's interesting. It seems like another way for people to meet other people around the world in a more direct manner than myspace or a dating website or blogging. The only thing that is missing is physical presence but that can be solved through a webcam. As a matter of fact Oprah uses it on a regular basis on her show. When she has guests that can’t physically make it to the show, she has them appear through skype. I look forward to playing around with it more to learn more about it. I can see it being extremely resourceful! Especially if there is a need to communicate with business partners or other times when it is good to have a conversation with someone but either an individual or group of people are able to physically relocate in order to make that happen. Therefore, skype is useful for personal and professional matters.

Web 2.0...

For my web 2.0 assignment I joined a science listserv. It was quick, easy and something I have looking at doing for sometime now. It was extremely easy to set-up and I only had to check two boxes and submit my email. I have been getting alot of emails for the earth science listserv I joined. Some emails are just complaining and some are pretty cool little conversations. I have been wanting to join to get new lab activities and ideas how to attack the same old information in a new and exciting way. I do not have to go anywhere besides my school email to check new comments. The positive is that I can become a better teacher and get new ideas and the only negative so far is that I get 30 emails a day.

Web 2.0: The Final Frontier

For the final web 2.0 assignment I decided to discuss a website that I created. The link is The website was easy to create. I just went to my Google account and then went to Google pages and began to create the site. Although it was an easy process, it did take a considerable amount of time to make everything look the way that I wanted. I ran into a few problems as I was creating this site. One of the issues that I ran into dealt with the embedding of YouTube Videos into the site and also how to get the pictures to show up in the final version of the page. However, when I figured that out it was smooth sailing. Some of the literacies that are used in this process are the same literacies that have been used in other web 2.0 assignments such as technical and media literacies. I think that this could be a positive literary tool in the classroom, if there was a blog space where students could talk about things that they have learned and/or questions that they may have.

Web 2.0-FaceInHole

I used the email that Larson sent out with Web 2.0 ideas and found Know those cardboard cutouts they have at amusement parks where the faces are removed and you can put your head through? Well, FaceInHole is the online version of that. You have to make an account to save things, but it is basically a nickname, password and email. They have several different categories for ‘scenarios’ you can look through. Then, you upload a picture and can resize and angle it to fit into the hole. You can also adjust the color, contrast and brightness of your picture to make it match better. It is very easy to use, the controls are the same in a lot of other photo software. It also has instructions on the bottom of the page for what you can do to the picture. Your creations are stored on the site, and they give you a link to put in your blog, Facebook profile, etc. You have the option of making it public so others on the site can see it or making it private. You can also send them a picture to suggest that they make it into a scenario.

Here is one I made of me and my friend…

Web 2.0 Part Tres

So for my third and final Web 2.0 assignment I checked out the Verve Earth website that Matt talked about last week. I originally wanted to check out just to see if there was anyone I knew who had blogs who was using this, but sadly I did not find anyone. Matt had mentioned someone in Boston who had gone to SU and I knew someone from my high school who went to SU and is now in Boston, but it sadly was not the same person. Anyway, I found the site really easy to use: to sign up it was just your name, email, password, and location. Linking your blog to the site was not difficult either, a few clicks and I linked my much ignored blog to the site. Having seen that I neglected my blog since january i did an update and hopefully will be able to keep it up better. I think Verve will allow me to do that because it provides a very easy to use view and feed back system were you can check other blogs and comment easily. so hopefully my blogs will stir up some interest, but if not i am at least connected to others doing the same. overall, this is definitely something I plan to use on at least a weekly basis.

Web 2.0

For my final web 2.0 assignment, I would like to discuss a website I created. This website is to be used in conjunction with the Unit Plan I am developing for my Integrating Social Studies and Technology class. The website is located at, and it'll be incorporated as a technological resource in my Unit Plan. I will use it to provide resources for the lesson plans as well as a place for students to expand on the information presented in class. I was really surprised at how easy it was to create a website. It was a pretty straightforward, with the site assisting you as you proceeded. You could incorporate a number of features, such as a blog or photo gallery. I have high hopes for the blog, perhaps it could turn out to the elusive Third Space or even an Affinity Space. I'll utilize the blog to recap lesson plans as well to post interesting topics. For instance, I posted a link to the movie Pierce and I created for the Unit Plan in the Gettysburg Address. In terms of literacy as a social practice, I though the website was a great way for to combine a literacy practice and technology. This website could provide a potential place for students to express themselves outside of class as well as a means to provide resources outside of the classroom.


Last class I brought up that you could try to write grants for different technology or supplies for the classroom. Here are a few links, I will also try to find the information that Ann Panella gave us. She is in charge of writing grants for the warner school so shes a great resource!

Finally with Pandora

For my last web 2.0 assignment I also decided to do Pandora. After seeing so many others in class try it, I figured it was time to try it out myself. It was very easy to sign up. I provided my e-mail address, created a password, gave my zip code and year of birth, and finally my gender. After this I was brought to the main Pandora page and was able to type in an artist or song title to create my own radio station. I was really impressed with how it is able to match the kind of music you put in to give you options of other similar artists. The one thing I noticed though was that there wasn't a color scheme type of think like there was when Tamara shared her Pandora page with us I'm not sure if they took that feature off of the site, or if I just wasn't in the right spot to see it. The site overall was easy to navigate. The hardest part was thinking of artists to put in. I'm horrible at remembering names of groups or artists, I just know I like them. I guess I would consider Pandora to be a new technological literacy, but I'm not sure how it relates to school that much. Like we were saying in class the other night, what really counts as literacy? I think Pandora is a great tool and source for music, and it could be useful for presentations. For example if a group of students were putting together a video clip for a presentation, they could go to Pandora to find music they wanted to put in the background of their video. I am also concerned with the comment Genna wrote about whether or not you can filter music in Pandora. It would not be good to play or use inappropriate music in a school setting.

Web 2.0: My radio Station...Pandora

I decided to give Pandora a shot today. I have heard a lot about it but never actually created my own station. I went to and decided to register so that I could create my own station. From there it asked me a few email, a password, birth year, zip code, and gender. After this I was officially a member of the music genome project that is pandora. I typed in a few songs I like or artists into the prompt box from this pandora created different "stations" that played songs of similar musical tone and rhythm to the ones I had picked out. Pandora also allows you to create an actual profile so that it can help you pick out even more music that it believes you will like. I did not go through that part yet but I do plan to play around on the site some more. It really is incredible that when you put in one song or artist this program can generate so many similar artists and songs! I found the program pretty intuitive. It really wasn't that challenging, the hardest part was choosing my favorite songs and artists. It had prompts throughout and even explained why and how it was doing things. I really like this as a tool for my self. I don't know yet how I would bring thins into the classroom besides playing music for them during a down time or quiet time. I would have to screen many of the songs for appropriate language however, I don't know if Pandora can do that its self, it would be an interesting thing to look into.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Interesting Article

An article I found on the Rethinking Schools website: The Laptops are Coming, the Laptops are Coming

Mayer-Johnson symbols

We read an article in Disability and School and, I quote: "Children who cannot hear learn sign language, children who cannot see learn braille. Children who can hear but not speak, like Thomas, learn their own language too. The symbols used in Classroom 506 are known as Mayer-Johnson symbols - thousands of little pictures that represent words and actions and thoughts." In Thomas' classroom these pictures are Velcro-ed to the story books that are to be read in class so that students, like Thomas, can "read" along with the class. Now, I say that, for Thomas (who has cerebral palsy) these collection of pictures are a form of literacy. He is able to read along with the class by seeing these pictures. But in Larson/Marsh we read, ""Kress (2003: 23-4) suggests that the term 'literacy' should relate to lettered representation..." (pg. 69). What do you think?

AutismJAM 5k, auction and picnic

SHAMELESS self promotion, please come and have fun.
August 9th at Mendon Ponds park
All proceeds go to Autism Speaks Research Fund and feel free to spread the word!

online Rubric generator This site looks neat. Has anyone used it?

OSCON video about web identity

This is the video I referred to in my comment to the Time Magazine article posting. It is technical but, a provocative talk on identity and the web. Also, excellent presentation style. Outside of the technology, it raises some interesting questions not only about identity but about validity as cross-connection between sites continues to develop.

Shopping for Something Web 2.0 style

If this assignment can be used as an excuse to buy an Xbox game, then I can use it as an excuse to shop too. Last week I was going through my morning routine listening to NPR. A business report about a very unusual business model came on: The Something Store. Its simple. You give them $10 and they give you something. Thats it and it is wildly successful. Why would this work? Why would someone willingly hand over money just for "something?" My husband and I over-discussed this for days. Perhaps it is like buying yourself a present. Perhaps its a little like gambling (though you will get something worth about $10 not exactly high stakes). Perhaps you just don't care at all about that secret santa gift and anything will do. I hate that one by the way. I am a very fussy gift giver.  Anyway, eventually we confessed to each other that we wanted "something" and loaded up the site.
Here's the thing, it's more than chance. It is actually sharing back. There is a Something Blog and comments where customers come back to share what they got. Kudos are given for lucky ones who were sent ipods and cameras. Interest and compassion is expressed for what people did with their somethings, whether or they will try for more somethings and if they felt their new somethings were worth the $10. People also share their experiences and feelings opening their somethings (each something is individually wrapped). 
It is all a very strange, indulgent, resource wasting, narcissistic thing to do and you know damn well we ordered our something with giddy delight. Actually, we ordered two somethings. I want my own. He can have his.
We should have our somethings soon. In all honesty, I am as excited to share my feelings about my something as actually getting it. We can "unpack" that one in the next post when I tell you what I learned ...oh, yeah, and what my something is.

Web 2.0 - Harry Potter Fanfiction

After yesterday's Lankshear and Knobel readings, I decided to check out some fanfiction for my final web 2.0 project.  I used a website that was sited in the book,  When you first open the site, you can browse by the following categories: anime/manga, games, books, cartoons, comics, moves, TV shows, and misc.  I choose to go with books, and when I opened the link, there was a long list of books in alphabetical order.  Naturally, I chose Harry Potter.
When I went into the Harry Potter section, there were 9,643 fanfiction posts.  I first opened the first entry that came up, which was a story with several chapters that was based in the Order of the Phoenix, where Harry finds out that Snape is actually his father.  It was interesting to read, and the author did a decent job at using the characters, although I had an inherent problem with Harry's mother having slept with Snape, but that's not the point here.
After reading that first entry, I browsed through some others.  There were many interesting stories, some using existing characters, some inventing new characters, such as a little sister for Harry, and others that took characters from the book and put them into other settings, such as the "real world".  I also stumbled across a chapter-by-chapter parody of the book, "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince", called "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Princess."  There were maybe 18 chapters, and I read the first few.  It was pretty funny, at least to me.  Here are a few snippets:
"The clock hit eleven, and Harry woke up, as if by magic, which would be a lot more impressive if he wasn't a wizard.  He noticed that Dumbledore was walking up to the house, and ringing the doorbell.
Downstairs, Uncle Vernon, said, 'Who the hell is that?  Who comes to people's houses at eleven o'clock in the night?'  Harry ran downstairs in time to see Uncle Vernon open the front door. 
'Good evening,' Dumbledore said.  'I'm here to see Mr. Potter?'
Uncle Vernon turned around and bellowed, 'HARRY, THERE'S A HIPPIE HERE TO SEE YOU!'"
"As you know, Dumbledore continued. 'Lord Voldemort is staging a comeback, much like Mariah Carey.  In response to this, we have tightened security a hundredfold.  You may rest assured that Mariah Carey will not enter the halls of Hogwarts while I'm around.'"
I really enjoyed reading this fanfiction.  The author was very clever, and really did a great job at going along with the story line, while changing things and making references to the book to make it funny.  They also tied in current popular culture (aka the Mariah Carey comment).  I read the first five chapters, and will probably finish reading it in my spare time.  I also plan to leave feedback for the author once I have finished reading.
I think this could be a really valuable tool in the classroom, although technology isn't necessarily crucial.  For instance, we could have student rewrite an ending to a story, or write a parody such as the one I read.  Another thing that we could do, which we would need technology for would be to have students read a fanfiction and write a review on what they read.  This would be a good way to have students examine the characters, and how they were used in the story, and whether or not the author kept those characters "in character" or not, and how they could tell.  This could open a really interesting conversation about writing and the development of characters.  
This reminded me of a fourth grade lesson I taught, where I had students rewrite a story, "Big Bad Bruce" by Bill Peet, from Bruce's perspective.  It was an extremely successful lesson, and the opportunity for students to write a story from another perspective brought out incredible voice in their writing.  Fanfiction could be used to accomplish a similar goal.

web 2 assignment - my turn at pandora

I heard about pandora last year from my intern at the studio, he thought I should check it out, and I didn't have time, but my curiousity was peaked in class recently.

I've tried three stations with varying levels of popularity of the initial band I entered. The popularity of that initial artist really had an effect on the overall success of the computers choices in the station.

I started with Snow Patrol - an Irish band who has an urgent combination of beautiful melodies (and a great accent) and jagged guitars and drum loops (mixed with classic Irish jangly guitars ala U2). This band has risen to popularity in the US initially through use in indie films but have had two breakout albums in recent years with significant radio play. Here's the playlist that I got off of Snow Patrol:
1) Snow Patrol - great first song choice
2) Keane - didn't surprise me that they were listed, all my friends and my sister keep suggesting them to me and I just don't like them (even though on the surface I should). I think the computer picked this for the same reasons that my friends do, but they are missing the intangibles that cause me to like a band - thumbs down
3) Snow Patrol - I didn't actually know this song, from a rarity or B-side I think
4) The Fray - obvious choice by the computer, but a good band
5) The Bloc Party - never heard of them - not polished enough (even rough and disjointed can be polished - ala Sonic Youth - these guys just aren't there yet) - thumbs down
6) U2 - yuck - I respect them greatly - love the guitar work - but can't stand the songs - thumbs down
7) coldplay - obvious choice - but okay
8) Snow Patrol - great song, single from most recent album
Overall Station success: 7/10 (good stylistic similarity, missing the intangibles)

Station 2 - Matthew Good Band (relatively unknown in US - currently broken up too)
1) Matthew Good Band - great first song choice (they're a canadian band who was popular in the late 90s but very few know about them state side)
2) Foo Fighters - love love love dave grohl (he and I swapped hair styles for many years - I'd start a trend, he'd copy and vice versa - he's one of my idols!)
3) Splender - never heard of them (but recognized the song), but definitely part of the early 90s sound - but pretty generic - it'll stay in the lineup I think
4) Weezer - great, but very different mood than Matthew Good Band (what's the computer thinking here? is it just looking at the year, i know they say they don't but the last couple selections sort of point that way) - not very stylistic or emotionally similar to MGB
5) Matthew Good Band - great great song
6) Red Hot Chili Peppers - they were respectable in the early/mid 90s but are terrible since. This is one of their worst albums - they also are 180 degrees opposite the emotion or lyrical point of MGB - poor choice by computer - thumbs down
7) Weezer - again - good band, wierd combo with MGB
Overall Station success: 4/10 - some bad bands, no stylistic or emotional similarity

Station 3 - Paramore (currently very popular)
1) Paramore - good starting song
2) The Veronicas - good, unexpected follow up
3) Cartel - good
4) Everlife - good enough if a little bland (they're a disney band I think) - i'll keep for now
5) Paramore - good song, 2nd single from the 2nd album
6) Anberlin - AWESOME to include this in a Paramore station! GOOD JOB computer
7) Yellow Card - makes sense to include them in this group
8) the used - very good selection
9) everlife - again already, maybe not so good, i'll dump them
10) Flyleaf - nice thought - a little bland but very acceptable - love girl fronted hard rock!
11) Fall Out Boy - obvious choice for this station, but acceptable
12) Just surrender - never heard of them, but okay, not great, but okay
Overall Station Success - 9.5/10 (good selection of bands, close stylistically and emotionally)

So it seems that the popularity of the band and the recentness of the band are both factors in the success of the station. Matthew Good Band is unpopular and old compared to Paramore and Snow Patrol. But I very much like pandora!

time article on the next web revolution,8599,1811814,00.html Here's an article from time magazine two weeks ago. Its about the movement to create cross-platform compatibility (in google's case - linking with myspace and others) and Facebook's attempt to create a platform that provides easy access to creating new apps. The fundamental idea behind all of these is that all aspects of the net should be able to work together (especially googles approach to their new platform).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Web 2 Assignment - Castle Wars

Web 2 Assignment 3


I went to this website to play an online game called Castle Wars.  People from around the world use this website to play each other, and I was hoping to find someone who spoke French.  After posting a few times in the community chat room and getting no response, however, I enlisted the help of a friend.  While waiting, I had played it through a few times, and now I had the hang of it, so I was able to direct her how to play.  Once she’d figured out the basics, we were able to chat a bit as well.

I used reading and writing skills in both English and French.  I navigated Internet chat rooms and Instant Messenger (so that I could invite my friend to the game).  I learned the game itself, it’s specific vocabulary, the significance of the different cards, and the rules. 

Learning to play the game was the hardest part of the exercise.  At first, I didn’t know what schools, soldiers, and magic did, but I learned a lot by diving in and making careful observations about when I could and couldn’t play, and what happened to my numbers when I played certain cards.  Since the object of the game is to build one’s castle, I did not immediately see the utility of the wall, for example.  After the first game I played, however, I realized that building a wall is cheaper than building onto the castle, and so if the opponent plays an attack card, it is better for the wall to get destroyed than the castle.  Talking with other players helped a bit, too, but mostly I learned by observing.  In comparison, using the community chat room and the in-game IM device was easy and very intuitive; it was like many other online communication devices I had used before.

            What struck me most about this game was that for a student who is learning a foreign language, whether it’s English or French, this would be a fairly good place to practice.  It’s not very judgmental, it’s fun, and it allows one to apply what’s learned in school to real life situations.  I think that appeals to kids.  I also felt a connection with the problem of Internet danger outlined in Leander’s “Wired Bodies.”  Even though there was (supposedly) a moderator, I found that many kids – and perhaps adults as well – seemed more interested in cybersex than in socializing or playing the game.  I realize this may be a result of logging on to play at 12:30 at night, but ultimately we don’t want danger to be present for our students at any time.  If it’s there at night, there’s the possibility of it being there during the day.  I wonder if we’re raising a more responsible group of teens who consciously have to weed out bad information, advertisements, and online characters from the good.  It’s impossible to protect them from all the dangers out there, so I guess it becomes necessary to make sure they can make informed decisions.  In some ways, we have to let them go and try their wings.  Within reason.  There is always that fine line, so hard to pin down.

New Tech Magazine

Check this out! I recieved this in an email today and it looks pretty cool.


I thought Lankshear and Knobel’s section on fanfiction and scenario build was particularly powerful. Looking at a social studies curriculum I feel it could be use to predict what could happen after a given historical event, how history might be different if a particular event did not occur, or to write historical nonfiction as a well to develop writing skills. But again, many would argue this is not “testable” and it will not be asked of these students on any mandated tests so why use it? Can you argue that in order to complete the assignment students need a working knowledge of history, so it can be used as a review or to track content acquisition? Also, does is matter if student’s have no clue about how fanfiction relates to literacy? Where I sub the middle school is putting on a play that provides 11 different endings to Romeo and Juliet. However, the play was not constructed by students or integrated into their English class only the students in the play have worked with the text of Romeo and Juliet and have discussed how these different endings relate and/or change the original story and if they are justified given their knowledge of the play. Is this still a new literacy practice? Or is my perception as a graduate student seeing a potential new literacy practice where one does not exist?

Inconclusive Conclusions

“First, we think education can only benefit from a lot more research… Second, we think education can only benefit from a reduction in applied research – and, particularly, contract research – that aims to provide pedagogical ‘quick fixes’… Finally, we think teachers should be encouraged to engage in research of digitally mediated social practices… (Larson & Marsh, 2005, 98). I find it frustrating that educational theorists offer research and case studies, but never specify recommendations in their conclusions. Conclusions are always the same: more money and more research. Educators read theory and research articles to maintain a current understanding of contemporary educational practices. Usually the conclusions are generic and inconclusive, as Larson and Marsh suggest. I agree that we need to avoid the quick fixes, but is it possible to make a few specific suggestions? It seems as though researchers tend to avoid subjectivity. If future research disagrees with their conclusions, then at least we will know what to avoid doing. Deductive and inductive arguments are valuable. Theorists need to start taking more risks, for the benefit of all educators, not just their own scholarly reputations.

Wired Women vs. Vulnerable Online Space.

I haven't finished this article yet about "wired bodies in wireless classroom" but I am at the part where teachers, parents, students, principals, and such are discussing the vulnerability of internet for young woman. In my opinion it is very simple to guard children, in general, from the "dangers" of the internet. I understand that parents dont want their kids seeing porn or being able to access websites with vulgar games, words, or movies, but there are ways to stop that. It is very simple to set up a network so that certain websites are blocked. It is as simple as setting up keywords that, if found on that site, it will be blocked from any user of the network (including faculty and administrators.) It's simple to set up networks that can only access a handful of sites as well. To me if schools take a little time in trainings on how to set up networks properly or hire someone (IT, etc) who has experience this whole debate should not be an issue. Maybe I'm missing the point of the argument that is being made in the article though?

Some thoughts on the readings

Lankshear and Knobel discussed the role of remixing and its importance in the Internet. I was particularly struck by the analogy made to the creative writing lessons many of us experienced as students. The examples of fanfiction as well as photoshopping are clearly ways of expressing yourself individually and should be considered literacies. However, I am curious how this concept of digital remixing can be utilized in schools, especially outside of the traditional language arts classrooms? Where would this remixing fit into the standardized requirements? Larson and Marsh provided a case study of an English primary school, which was described as not the most technologically advanced classroom. Still, this teacher had access to two computers as well as an interactive whiteboard connected to the teacher's laptop. Maybe it's just me, but this does not seem to be the average American classroom. Any thoughts?

From Lankshear and Knobel:

“A wiki is about as easy to set up as a web log. There are various free wiki hosting sites where one can register and establish a wiki for the purposes of a collaborative writing project…goal of wiki sites is ‘to become a shared repository of knowledge, with the knowledge base growing over time’” (p.89).

I chose this quote about wiki’s because my group is using one to write our final paper. I had never used a site like wiki before, so the whole process of creating one was a “new” literacy for me. The quote says that it is a place to collaborate, and so far my group has done this. We have each posted our individual writing excerpts online, and some of us have made slight changes to others writing. It is a great space to easily view others work, and it makes the writing process much easier. I agree that it is a warehouse of knowledge. Doing this project online has made me realize that there are so many forms of technological literacies out there that I am unaware of. If I am unaware of them, then most likely most teachers are too. The first quote said that educators who have a broader knowledge of student’s literacy practices will be more successful increasing students learning. I agree with this statement, but how are we supposed to become more knowledgeable with technologies such as wiki’s? Are we just supposed to explore the possibilities ourselves? I have a better understanding of “new” literacies from this course, but what about current teachers who have been teaching for a long time and are unaware of technology in general? Any thoughts?

Culture-jamming-The Decapitator

Here is an article I saw on Digg when I did my Web 2.0 the other week. 'The Decapitator' has been removing heads from popular ads in London. The comments about the article are interesting, since there is a debate about art vs. vandalism and motive. Here is the Flikr site with the pictures...

Questions for 6/17 readings

These are just some questions I really wanted to share from the readings.  I have an aunt who teaches in a "one-room school" in Eastern Oregon ... for real. They are wired to the rafters and their communication technology is significant to these students' learning. However, she had told me that she could still teach it all without it ...just in a different way. After the readings I wondered if she was or was not a teacher approaching technology under the constraints that Leander describes? OR, though Leander stated that the pedagogical use of technology was constrained by the needs of the teachers, comfort with the technology and their lack of awareness with the students’ use of the laptops, are these good criteria for determining if the technology is actually being used effectively? Can I teach this lesson effectively without the technology? Can I enhance the lesson with technology? Is this lesson ineffective without the technology?
“First, we think education can only benefit from a lot more research… Second, we think education can only benefit from a reduction in applied research – and, particularly, contract research – that aims to provide pedagogical ‘quick fixes’… Finally, we think teachers should be encouraged to engage in research of digitally mediated social practices… ( Larson & Marsh, 2005, 98). I find it frustrating that educational theorists offer research and case studies, but never specify recommendations in their conclusions. Conclusions are always the same: more money and more research. Educators read theory and research articles to maintain a current understanding of contemporary educational practices. Usually the conclusions are generic and inconclusive, as Larson and Marsh suggest. I agree that we need to avoid the quick fixes, but is it possible to make a few specific suggestions? It seems as though researchers tend to avoid subjectivity. If future research disagrees with their conclusions, then at least we will know what to avoid doing. Deductive and inductive arguments are valuable. Theorists need to start taking more risks, for the benefit of all educators, not just their own scholarly reputations.

Speaking out against LITERACY abuse

I'll talk more about this today in class I'm sure (just try and stop me!) but I wanted to bring up the very real and under-funded issue: Literacy Abuse.

Literacy Abuse is characterized by the naming of any discourse facilitating aptitude being called "literacy" and being branded as the savior of modern education. The long-term consequences are: 1) dilution of a very real term about making and attributing meaning to abstract symbolic representations of a spoken language and the consequent failure to address those needs in society
2) corruption of the very mediums which are termed literacies by their pedogogization
3) a confusion between so called good and bad teaching methods and good and bad teachers.

Photoshoping, youtubing, digg-ing, etc... all may have value and their underlying skill sets surely have value in society, but they are not literacies, they are something else, and by confusing that with literacy we risk confusing the people who ultimately pay for our schools and determine what we must teach. Let's call it something else and justify it on its own terms. Let's also forget that just because we want to teach a 3 paragraph essay doesn't make it evil or necessarily boring. It is what we do with it as a teacher that matters. There is no inherent evil in any of the "traditional" source material or goals of school. There is only evil in poor teachers and poor teaching.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Web 2.0 assignment #3--bitstrips

I was inspired by Tamara to make a comic strip using To do this, I went to the website and created an account. I then got used to the software by making an avatar of myself. I then poked around with the website and looked at all of the different things that you can do with the comic strips and I also looked at the comics that other people had made.

Eventually, I conjured up the courage to make my own comic (pictured below and inspired by the Warner school). The learning process that culminated with this comic strip was actually pretty difficult for me. It took a lot of practice and frustration to figure out how to manipulate the scenes, people, and props without screwing up the entire frame of the comic. There was no real how-to on the website, so my learning process was really a trial and error type of learning.

My lack of familiarity with online art creation was probably one of the biggest challenges that I faced in creating this comic. Also, there were very rigid things that could and could not be done. For instance, many of the scenes are pre-made. There is also a list of pre-made props and objects that you can insert into the comic. For me this was very frustrating because I was not able to exactly bring to life the image that I had in my head. I also think that I am still quite novice with this software. From looking at the comics from other people, there has to be some controls that I just haven't figured out yet. (so if you know how to create your own scene then I would love to learn how...other than pick that selection from the side menu bar...I tried that and it got me nowhere).
In making this comic, I participated in a variety of literacy practices. This whole assignment began when I heard about the website from Tamara in class and from our class blog. I then used a lot of technologically related literacy practices to navigate the website. The creation of this comic strip in itself is also a literacy practice.
I can see how this web 2.0 assignment linked back to the theory that we have been reading about in several distinct ways. The first link that I am able to make is the idea of learning from masters that Gee suggests: “The process involves “masters” creating an environment rich in support for learners. Learners observe masters at work. Masters model behavior accompanied by talk that helps learners know what to pay attention to…learners are aware that masters have a certain socially significant identity that they wish to acquire as part and parcel of membership to the larger cultural group” (pp. 12). On this website there are clearly dedicated souls that are experts (masters) at creating bitstrips. While I did not interact with any of these masters, there is the opportunity to leave messages on comics in a message board venue. Also, I figured out some of the different things that I could do by looking at the comics that others had previously created on the website.
Second, I think that this website could be used as a distinct tool within the classroom. As Rogoff (2004) suggests, “Rather than trying to select only one model to use in all situations, we may do well to foster children’s and our own flexibility in using different models in different circumstances” (pp. 226). Introducing students to bitstrips, or the idea of creating comics or drawings in general, to represent what they know may allow students to increase what they have in their tool boxes.

Some thoughts about the readings for 6/17

There were several key insights that I gained from reading these fine literary works. First, I found the definition of literacy suggested by Lankshear and Knobel (quotes #3 & #4) to be specifically useful in considering how these new literacies, which are exponentially growing due to the rapid gains with technology, actually fit into the idea of being literacies and not just skills associated with technology: “We define literacies as ‘socially recognized ways of generating, communicating and negotiating meaningful content through the medium of encoded texts within contexts of participation in Discourses” (pp. 64). & “They say that literacy is not a matter of knowing how to read and write a particular kind of script but, rather, a matter of ‘applying this knowledge for specific purposes in specific contexts of use’” (pp. 66). In a sense, this quote (“We define literacies as ‘socially recognized ways of generating, communicating and negotiating meaningful content through the medium of encoded texts within contexts of participation in Discourses” (pp. 64). ) works to subdue the intensity that is felt by this quote from Larson & Marsh: “The theoretical framework introduced was one in which, in an era of swift technological advancement, the nature of literacy has been subject to interrogation and uncertainty” (pp. 98). The second topic that these articles made me consider was the implications of using technology in the classroom on a regular basis. It is clear from Leander (“These contrasting lists begin to suggest how monospatiality is contested through ubiquitous online access, and also through the “hyperliteracy” of online interaction in the classroom. Teachers lament that everyone seems to be writing, but no one talking” (pp. 37)) that using technologically based literacies, such as the internet and laptops, changes the dynamic within a classroom. I think that this is true, however; I think the way that the classroom dynamics are changed depends on how the technology is integrated and utilized in the classroom. It seems from the following quote that many of the teachers in the case study were using an “old wine in a new bottle” approach to utilizing the laptops (and related technologies):

“The idea that teachers might “keep doing what [they’re] doing,” and that technology might “enhance” or be an “outgrowth” of the curriculum, is essentially a guarantee that the social space of schooling will be saturated by the relations set forth in current curricular practices…a key difficulty, of course, is that “keep doing what you’re doing” discourse is not merely about refusal, but about giving reassurances to teachers that change can happen gradually and incrementally” (pp. 46). Other thoughts: (Thought #1) In the Leander article on page 38, the author talks about how Barbara compares her use of online spaces to that of Kristin, another teacher. She says: “I mean…for Kristin it’s not a problem. For me it’s a problem. But she’s…she’s in her 20s, I’m in my 40s. That’s the difference.” I think that this ties into the quote above from Larson & Marsh (pp. 71), which talks about whether or not there can be a “perfect synergy” between schools and technology. I wonder if this issue comes from the teachers’ perceptions of their abilities or the schools inability to provide the proper technology training for teachers. It seems, to me, that both of these factors are playing into the situation. (Thought #2)“A prominent conception was that curriculum must remain at the center of anything “new,” and that new technologies must support goals already in place from the curriculum” (pp. 46). In this quote Leander explores how technology should only be used when it furthers the goals of the class and the curriculum. To some extent, I agree with this because (most) everything in class should be linked back to the goals of the course and the curriculum. However, I think that with this era of “new literacies” that our curriculum needs to change to incorporate the new skills related to technology.


So this past friday night, my boyfriend and I were over at a friends house, having a few drinks hanging out.  One of his good friends, who happens to be the type of person that is "right" about EVERYTHING was there.  Basically, he and two other guys were outside having a political conversation, which I unknowingly joined by going outside (I had no idea what I was getting myself into).  They were talking about immigration, specifically Spanish speaking immigrants, and how we are "accommodating them" by having signs, etc. in public places such as home depo in Spanish.  His view was that it's ridiculous that we have so many things in Spanish, such as the verizon wireless customer service hotline (note: he works for verizon).  He said that all of our ancestors learned English when they came here, and so should they.
My personal view on the matter is that the increasing amount of services in Spanish is only a reflection of the growing hispanic population, and that when there is such a large community of people that speak the language, there isn't a great need for them to learn English as there was in the past.  That is NOT to say that most of them DON'T know how to speak English, because many of them do.  I sort of feel like it's just the change of populations over time, and that it's happening all over the world.
He made the argument that if you went to another country, such as Italy for example, that you shouldn't expect people to have signs and speak English just to accommodate you.  I said, however, that when you go to Italy, or Spain, or many other countries, you DO see signs in English, and are able to communicate in English.  How is that any different than what is going on here?
I'm not denying that we have an immigration problem, but what about the language aspect?  Do you think there should be these services in Spanish or other languages of large populations?  Is this a bad thing that's happening, or is it actually really incredible that languages are being spread and mixed around the world?

Regents Exams

Throughout my student teaching I began to realize that the assessments (the regents) in classes don't always match up with my learning goals for my students. This of course drove me to bring other types of assessments into the classroom; however, I also felt it important to prepare my students for the regents exam not only through content but for the language used in the regents. There are specific "regents exam literacy or language" that students need to learn but is teaching them this considered teaching to the test?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

web 2.0: myspace

A little late but here we go... For my second web 2.0 assignment I made a myspace page. After our talk in class last time about myspace and how they always have your information I decided just to use my initials instead of full name. I went to the myspace page online and clicked on sign up. This then took me to a page where I put in some basic info including email, name (first and last), zip code and birthdate. After this my page was born and I was an official member of myspace. I went through and altered my profile a bit just to see the differences between myspace and facebook. I too found myspace not very user friendly. I was able to easily put up some interests and books, but when it came to changing the background and the layout I couldn't figure out how. This makes me think of my students. They all had many myspace pages and talked about it a lot; I had students ask me for pictures of them in class and on field trips so they could upload them to their myspace pages. It just goes to show that their ability to use technology, more specifically, networking websites is more "fluent" than mine. I am still not convinced that myspace could be used in the classroom. I have found that myspace is a place in which a lot of the fights at my school started. It seemed to create more drama than good in my student teaching placements. I am still on the fence to weather teachers should have myspace and facebook accounts. I have had a facebook account for a few years and It has helped me stay in touch with many friends from high school and college. Of course my privacy settings are on but I still don't know if I will keep the account come September.

Back Online!

So I haven't had to live without the internet in years and I must say that my 3 week hiatus was very difficult. This makes me think about the many students in schools who don't has access to computers or the internet at home. Not that this is our integrating technology class, but not having the internet definitely affected my daily life and could affect the literacy of our students. Technological literacy and computer literacy would typically aid in students learning to read because throughout the internet there are sections and directives that need to be read. Could this lack of technology at the homes of our students contribute to the different literacies that our students have strengths and weaknesses in?

Laptops in Class

In the Leander article, teachers deplore how students use laptops during class to write blogs, check email, or play computer games.  At the same time, Lankshear and Knobel back in Chapter 2 suggest that such off-topic multi-tasking might be helpful because many students are still able to learn and stay involved in classroom activities while staving off apathy and boredom.  What do you think?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Literacy in practice

So, tonight as our group was discussing our paper, I realized that we will each be using our own literacy practice with in writing our final paper. We were deciding how to structure our paragraphs for a certain section, and I said we will be practicing our own literacies in that each of us has our own style of writing. I just thought that was interesting, and it reiterates that literacy practices happen all around us! Even with in our discussion and classes. Has this come up in any other groups?

web 2.0 assignment round two!

I made a blog. It was just about 4 weeks ago that I was introduced to blogging through the wonderful classes I'm taking at the University of Rochester! I had an idea of what it was before but was never interested. I see that people post blogs on Myspace but spending time on Myspace isn't my idea of telling the world about your ideas. Now that I say that, maybe it is-haha. I accidently made my own blog when trying to "register" for this blog. Little did I know that the questions I was answering actually meant that I was creating my own personalized blog. It was relatively easy only because I was given the main resource to begin, that is the website. I think it would have been more difficult had I googled "blogging", or any variation of that, because I can only imagine the number of websites it would have suggested!!!! The only challenge I have experienced so far is how to promote my website. I think once I become famous or important (haha) it will interest more people to visit my blog. Who knows maybe my blog will create my fame! I highly doubt that but, hey, you never know. I do look forward to the blog potentially turning into a place where people can share their stories of trial and error. I hope that it can become a place where people share stories that help other people have faith in the tasks/dreams they are pursuing.

Irvine and Larson

From the Irvine and Larson article: Here is a quote from a first-grade teacher-
Learning to read is so complicated. If they can come to first grade knowing letters and knowing some sounds, having been read to, they'll be ready to learn to read. I do not get many children like that in here. They do not come to kindergarten ready for kindergarten. So I'm always looking at children who aren't ready to learn yet. And that's a sad fact. But it's true. Nevertheless, you have to keep on truckin'. They come in, in the hole...that you have to dig them out of. That's not a very easy thing to do. I know that people downtown will tell you that it can be done. I'm here to tell you it can't be done.
This quote just amazes me/breaks my heart...How do you "get ready to learn"? She seems to suggest that this happens by EXPERIENCING reading at home. So if all this kids aren't 'ready to learn' because they don't have that background, doesn't it make sense to give it to them by letting them experience it in the class rather than trying to teach through worksheets and skill sets? How is reading and other practices at home getting ready to learn and not just learning? And I don't even know what to say about the fact that she thinks it can't be makes me so sad to think that people have given up on kids at all ever, not to mention when they are 5 or 6 years old.

Web 2.0 - The Incredible Hulk

I picked one from the list that Larson sent us. I used to create a comic strip. It was incredibly fun! I picked this because I wanted to do something I had never done anything similar to before. When I first got to the website I saw a button that said "Design Yourself" so I picked that. It then brings you to this character creator where you pick things such as gender, skin color, build, height, head shape, hairstyle, nose, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, clothes, facial expressions and more! That was just the simple editor. I saw a small button on the bottom that said advanced editor so I clicked it, of course. It was fantastic. You could make the person look EXACTLY like you if you wanted. Then, to save your character and move on, you had to sign up (10 second process). So then I had to decide between playing with this more or start my reading so I played more and made two more characters that I could make a comic strip using. I created Bruce Banner and The Hulk:
I'm kind of a perfectionist and so this took me about a half hour. I think they look pretty sweet. Creating these two characters was done in the same fashion as when I created my character from above. Next, I wanted to create a comic using these two new characters I had created. I went to the comic editor and picked the strip that had three windows. I played around with some of the buttons, expressions, body positions, and backgrounds and ended with my final comic:
It was truly a learning process. I think for me it is just easier to jump into these sort of things. I did not really see a reason to read the 'how-to' or 'FAQ' parts because something like creating comics and characters is a creative process that I'm not going to follow any method in doing anyway. It seemed to work out okay for me! I think there is a ton more to be done with this website and to play around with and I probably will. I could easily see this being used in a classroom. How easy is it to get kids interested in comics? Throw in a few math jokes and it's a great addition to a worksheet that may make kids enjoy looking at an otherwise boring worksheet. At the bottom of the comics there is a "share" button. I clicked it to see what I would be allowed to do with it. With the click of a button I could connect a comic to facebook, myspace, digg, and so much more. This is web 2.0 - making sharing easy throughout all the internet.

AAVE & Hip Hop Culture

I'm a hip-hop fan and I had been working in a middle school in Ithaca for 3 years. When I took the kids to the gym to play basketball we'd often put on hip-hop CDs that I would bring (only because all theirs had profanity and that's a big no-no). We had one student, Kris, who had just moved from NYC and produced a lot of rap with his cousin and we got to talking about the language they used. He was complaining that he can make all this money producing/writing/rapping in, as he called it, hip-hop language, but in Ithaca he would get yelled at if he spoke like that in the classroom because it was not proper. He said it was only a few teachers but often english, reading, and writing teachers. I never really knew how to fill him in on this whole idea the AAVE is a fine way to speak but that many people consider is subpar to SE (standard english)... Not to give this kid too much credit though... He was suprised I liked hip-hop and that I liked basketball because I was white.

A scary reality

Today there was an incident at Jefferson. Our school was put on 'Code Blue' lockdown because of an attempted robbery involving gunfire, directly across the street. Because of the heat all of our windows have been open, and many students and teachers heard the shots, and saw the commotion. My classroom looks directly onto the yard/alley. Fortunately, I was not teaching during the incident, but all day long we could see the taped-off house, police officers, and news crews stationed outside the premises. Sometimes I laugh and joke about the reputation our school has, but today was scary. For the first time I felt unsafe. We have practiced lockdown procedures before. Everyone followed directions. It took about 20 seconds to lockdown the school. But, open gunfire 25 yards from my open classroom window can never be considered safe.

Language Literacies

Richardson's article offered wonderful insight into the styles of communication and comprehension that young African-American females utilize. This article was different from most opinionated ed. articles that analyze an issue then criticize by explaining why teachers, administrators and schools are wrong, based upon subjective views. Richardson spoke out about a specific and often unobserved issue, used personal experiences and observations as well as fictional accounts, and finally offered simple and reasonable advice on how to overcome these obstacles. I set this article down with clear and attainable objectives. Richardson cites Foster's work and suggests teachers use "familiar language patterns, including repetition, call and response, analogies, aphorisms, and moral messages that resemble the secular and religious speech events in the African American community". Richardson takes Foster's suggestions further and "encouirages students to articulate their ideas int heir native tongue and translate it so that the higher education experience does not alienate them from the languages and cultures of their nurture". This process would provide knowledge confirmation for students, and increase self-esteem by reinforcing their own knowledge and culture. An easy and simple way to implement Richardson's ideals into our classrooms.

Web 2.0-Pandora

I absolutely love Pandora. My housemates keep making fun of me for not having known about it before, and because I am slightly obsessed with it. My main problem with Pandora-they played Hanson (and their bio called them “a revamped Jackson 5”) and New Kids on the Block. It is kind of my fault, since I did add the Teen Pop shared station, but still….

It was very easy to set up and use. It asks you to start with a band or song and walks you through what to do and how the site is best used. Little pop-ups appear to remind you of things or to teach you new things, like how you can put a song on ‘sleep’ for a month. I at first was disappointed that you couldn’t enter a genre for a station, but playing around with the section at the bottom of the page I realized they have shared stations for genre. The cool thing is that they will still customize what they play on the shared sites to your preferences and they can give you a reason for why they played that particular song. You can also still rate them with the thumbs up or down.

I had a lot of fun reading about why they played the songs they did for me. It is interesting to see what they have decided that you liked based on what you have shown preference for. Apparently I was doing it wrong at first in my enthusiasm, because I was saying I liked pretty much everything. I later got a little pop-up hint saying you should only say that when you like “almost every aspect” of the song and think it really fits with the station. I like a lot of different stuff though, and apparently I am very easy to please.

While you are listening to a song you can read a bio of the band, look at a list of some of the attributes of the song that the Music Genome Project identified and get a list of similar artists. It also shows you some people that are listening to the same thing and the other things that they listen to. There is a social networking aspect of the site, where you can look for people based on either location or their music. Stations can be shared with other users that you meet on the site. You can also bookmark songs or artists. Your bookmarks appear in your profile, and there are links you can click to buy it on iTunes or get the album on Amazon.

Overall, Pandora is pretty user-friendly. You can just jump right in and start doing things, and there is a lot of support built into the site to guide you about what to do next. The menus are very accessible and easy to use and figure out. I wish I had known about it earlier.

Deficit Model

After reading the peice on literacy practices, packaged materials and their effects on kids learning I refected on my time in the RCSD. The deficit model that was brought up is a tough feeling to overcome. The reading suggests that teachers have this feeling and it is driven by a historical and institutional belief that students abilities are what they are and they are not going to change. I thought back to when I used these curriculum activities in my science classes my first year. It was a frustrating my first year. It felt like everything I tried didn't work and towards the end of the year I found myself givign the kids note-taking worksheets that went along with the book and vocabulary builders. I guess I lacked the confidence that year to dump that "deficit feeling" and really challenge my kids and force them to get on board or get off the train. Has anyone else ran into this or felt this? What did you do to overcome this? I never overcame it as I transferred to the burbs...

New Website

For my Web 2.0 activity this week I semi-created my own website for my classes. Back in January the district bought the software for a webspace for teachers to create their own website and place it on the district/school websites. I signed up for it but never used it. So i decided to go back and fill it out. At first I was alittle apprehensive about making a website because I have never done it before but as I went through it was pretty easy. The set-up was extremely easy to use and I even put up pictures, review sheets, added websites and there is room for even more. I love the idea of having a website where my kids can go to get information at home such as worksheets or reminders, and they can even email me right from the site. I am also going to try and use the class bog spot to start a running blog next year. Overall it was easy and straight forward. As a test, I had my forensic kids to check it out and give me some feedback. They liked it.

WEB 2.0 - Wiki

For this Web 2.0 assignment, I decided to create a wiki, which I had never done before.  I have used wikipedia to find information, but that is the extent of my experience with wikis.  I decided to create a wiki for our research project for this class that my group could use to write our research paper.  I have had experience in the past with writing papers in groups, and it has always been extremely difficult to do, because we would always end up with several word documents floating around, and it was confusing and inefficient.  I thought that in using a wiki, each member of the group would be able to add information and writing whenever they wanted, and we could read and edit each other's work as well.
To create the wiki, I went to google and did a search on "create a free wiki" and found a website,  All I had to do was enter my email address and a name for the wiki, and that was it!  I then added the other "writers" (my group members) by adding their email addresses, and pbwiki automatically sent an email to each of them, inviting them to join the wiki.  They needed to enter a password for themselves, and they were all set!
So far, the wiki has worked out extremely well for this project.  We have been able to add, edit, write, etc. without problems.  Also, the wiki website sends out an email to each member of the wiki whenever something is added or edited, so that we each know when changes are made.  We were also able to create several "pages" of the wiki for different portions of the research project.  I have found using the wiki MUCH easier than any other way of collaborating on a group project.
This would be an extremely useful tool as a teacher in that it could be used by students to complete a group project or even a larger class project.  It allows each member to contribute, and it can be changed and added to at any given time, from any place.  Students would be able to work at school, at home, or anywhere with the internet.