Friday, August 28, 2009

I just signed in to text blog entries from my phone. If this works, it will potentially benefit students who are stuck on a bus or who are nowhere near a computer when they are ready to blog

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Email blog posting

I just texted a test blog entry, but it has not shown up yet.  I mentioned to the students that they could set up their blogs so they could email entries to their blog.  This is my first entry sent through email.  This will also be a great way to make entries to the blogs, especially in light of the issue that one of the students is having with AOL.  AOL will not let her get to the controls of her blog, and Internet Explorer is not functioning properly on her computer.  I mentioned the possibility of emailing entries as an option - I'll have to check in with her next class to see if she tried it or decided that she is going to blog from school computers.

On a different note, my dad called me tonight and mentioned that Waverly schools gave each of their students a laptop with digital copies of all of their textbooks on it.  He said that the students will use the laptops to take notes, take quizzes/tests, etc.  Apparently, the laptops were funded by a grant - I'll have to check into that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seeing the sparkle in a student's eye he/she does something exciting

I have had the discussion with several teachers and, heck, a lot of other people about that amazing feeling I get when I see the sparkle in a student's eye when he/she figures something out, learns something new by experiencing it, teaches the teacher something, or (sometimes) "finally gets it" after several attempts.

Today I was blessed enough to experience that feeling several times.  As my previous entries alluded, I have been pretty excited by the students' response to blogging.  This afternoon I also felt like a kid at Christmas when I assisted the student who is the lead webmaster with the assembly of his new computer.  As I found out halfway through the process, he had never built a computer from components.  We installed the motherboard in the case, plugged in the various cables, installed the processor and its heatsink/fan, installed the RAM, installed the dvd writer and connected it to the IDE slot on the motherboard and to the power, installed the hard drive and connected it to the SATA slot on the motherboard and to the power, installed the graphic card, and hooked up the mouse, keyboard, dual monitors, and power.  The entire time the student had a grin on his face and was having difficulty putting in the final screws because he was getting so excited.  We did make a minor assembly error, but after some problem solving, the pc fired up beautifully.  While software was installing on the first pc, the student jumped into the assembly of the second pc with newfound confidence.  The experience of building the tool that he will use to create/edit pages on the district and high school websites has already given the student more pride than he had last year as webmaster.  Once again, I was getting just as excited as the student and was fairly giddy not only to see the new machine in action, but also to see the student beam with PRIDE at having assembled it.

Yeah, I worked for a couple of hours after school with the student assembling the pc and installing software, but seeing the reaction and excitement of the student throughout the process reminds me why I love doing what I do.

Creating Student Blogs - Fun??!!!!

It was just as much fun for me to see the English students playing with the set-up of their blogs as it was for them to individualize the appearance of each of their blogs.  A few students have already posted their first assigned entries.  I am excited to not only see the thought put into the entries, but also to see that students are experimenting with the various tools of the blog.  Several students have already left comments for their peers.  Some students are already tracking changes to their friends blogs by selecting to be a "Follower" of those students' blogs.

While some students are still a little tentative about writing in such a public realm, mostly nervous about what to write, the majority of the students are welcoming a fresh approach to journaling.  The best part of this project for me is that a "chore" has become a fun thing to do.  Students in the past loved to share their journal entries in class by reading them aloud.  We never seemed to have enough time to please everyone who wanted to be heard.  Students are not only excited that they will be able to share their blogs with their peers, but they are also appreciative that their journals are going to be read by more than just the teacher.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Start-up of Online Journaling with the English Class

Today I went through the process of accessing the student blogs with the accelerated English class . . . at least as far as I could in class.  Jenni Durbin and I ran into a couple of snags along the way today, but all is well now.

Jenni found out that because our school firewall hides the individual IP addresses of each computer connected to the server, only sending out one IP address to the outside world, Google let one student create a Gmail account and blocked us for the rest of the day.  Our firewall is designed to deter hackers from accessing individual pc's, but the feature hindered us a little today.  Google only allows one Gmail account to be created per IP address per day so we asked the students to take a couple of minutes tonight to create their Gmail accounts at home - problem solved.

The issue that I encountered was a little less of a problem but was not resolved until after school.  I found that was blocked by our school's CIPA filter.  The students and I had access to our blogs since the domain of the blogs is at, but, unfortunately, the controls to sign in to the blog, make new posts, and access the settings menu are all housed at  I called our computer tech and explained that rationale for unblocking Blogger, and he "whitelisted" it.  After he did, I was able to access the settings menu as well as all other menu items.

A few students expressed some appreciation in the different approach to journaling.  Some appear nervous about using the blog, but all are making the effort.  I am looking forward to the first entries (assigned for homework today).  Next, we will spend a little time reviewing writing by other students and leaving comments about the writing.  I plan to model how to give constructive, meaningful comments next class.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Amazing Epiphany!!!

Wow! Next spring I need to set up the outgoing sophomore/incoming accelerated junior English students with blogs so they can complete their summer journals online. That will ensure that students are working on their blogs progressively throughout the summer and will also ensure better quality journaling since the blogs will be public.

Journals Online

I contemplated the functionality and access of both options: having students type journals on the google sites page or linking each student's page on the site to a blog that the student would type on. I feel more comfortable having the students work on a blog format since I will be able to limit editing access to each individual student and myself. I was concerned that with the google sites format, all of my students would have access to each other's pages and would be able to edit other students' journal entries. To me that is too much temptation for pranks.

The blog becomes an attractive alternative because it allows each student to have ownership and allows for public comments after each journal entry. I have convinced myself that this is the way to go. It only took me about 10 minutes to create 10 student blogs. I will add each student in as an author of his/her respective site after they acquire a google account (gmail).

Later this evening I will draft an online expectations that reemphasizes the school's computer use policy and identifies specific expectations for Mr. Langley's Classroom.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Journals on the web

I am trying something different this year - students in junior Accelerated English will compose their creative writing journals online. I set up a website tonight to experiment with the layout. I think it's close to what I want . . . functional anyway. Check

There are two classes, and each student has his/her own page on the site. Each student page is set up in a two column simple layout. The student will type the journal entries in the left column and will format the date as the Header. The second column contains a calendar, clock, and a gadget. I am still debating on the right way to go. If I go with the current setup, all of my students will have access to edit anyone else's page - everyone will be on the "honor" system. I will be able to see a history of edits, but there is still a high level of trust.

The next option is to set up a blog for every student and create a link from the Google site I just built. If each student has his/her own blog, then no one else will be able to change that student's writing, but will be able to leave comments about the work. The more I think about it, the more I am talking myself into going that route.