Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wiki-Wiki-What? Magic!

"Why isn't this course counted as a computer credit?"

That's a great question . . . I am certified to teach English, but not business/computers.

"Can we ask Mr. Ward [the high school principal] or Mrs. Brandon [the high school guidance counselor] to allow your English class to be counted as computer credit?  We do as much with technology in this class than we do in computer classes."

That's true . . . Mr. Ward checked into that a couple of years ago.  According to the Regional Office of Education, since I am not certified in business or computer technology, I am not regarded as a highly qualified teacher in computer technology.

"But . . ."

Yeah, I know.

While this conversation occurs between students and myself multiple times a year, it doesn't hinder our lessons and projects, nor my style of teaching - geared to prepare students for their futures.  Students just completed the project portion of their semester exam this weekend, analyses of American Romanticism on the PPHS English 332 Wiki.  In striving to create assessments that will realistically test the students over the material and skills that were covered throughout the semester, I decided a continuation of the Wiki created by last year's English students, analyzing American Modernism, was the logical choice for 3/4 of the semester exam grade.  The other 1/4 will be determined from a grammar test on the designated semester exam day.

Perfect!  In the Wiki project, student's will be able to show proficiency in analyzing, evaluating, and writing as well as collaborating and offering constructive criticism.  In the grammar test, students will be able to show proficiency in identifying parts of speech, phrases, clauses, parts of the sentence and in determining words that are being modified by phrases or clauses.

Following are the project expectations:

Project Expectations of American Romanticism Project (3/4 of Semester Exam grade)
Using the Literature Book and additional credible, authoritative sources (no dictionary, encyclopedia, wikipedia-type sites, or spark-note/e-note-type sites), define all Aspects of American Romanticism. Everyone is required to post the Aspects of American Romanticism page. Each student will sign up to analyze one Romanticism short story and one Romanticism poem. Mr. Langley will create pages for each work of literature as students sign up. Students will post their essay assignments and video assignments to the wiki page corresponding to the work of literature they are analyzing.

All work on the wiki is due no later than 12:00 p.m. (noon) on Saturday, December 11, 2010.

Failure to use citations, using citations incorrectly, or claiming another’s work as one’s own is plagiarism and will result in a zero grade for that portion of the assignment.

Reports that are missing components or not formatted properly will not be scored. Be sure to complete all components of the assignment. Late or incomplete reports will not be accepted.
The project is worth 300 points of the Semester Exam with the following breakdown (The remaining 100 points of the Semester Exam will come from the Grammar Test on Semester Exam day):

Using Classroom time - up to 25 points (points will be logged each class period)
Posting to the Aspects of American Romanticism page - up to 25 points
Each essay (2 essays) - up to 100 points each (Rubric) = 200 possible
Post honest, helpful, and respectful criticisms on the Discussions Tab of 10 of the Romanticism Works pages - up to 50 points

The Following assignment will be on each page created for the work of literature:

Create a video presentation summarizing your report on each author and embed it into the page

Delete this text and replace it with your embed code for your video - be sure to use MLA parenthetical citations and place your Works Cited list at the bottom of the page

Write an essay discussing the following points:
  1. Thoroughly show how the work of literature fits the definition of Romanticism.
  2. Show how the writer’s life affected his/her work.
  3. Show how the work compares in style, character, theme, etc. to other works by the author and to your other assigned work.

Delete this text and replace it with your answer - be sure to use MLA parenthetical citations and place your Works Cited list at the bottom of the page

Once again, the level of writing has made me gush with excitement.  The comments on the discussion tabs have also demonstrated that students are aware of the style rules of formal writing.  The fact that the wiki is a real world product, a research venue for others on the internet with material cited from credible sources, make the learning magic even more powerful.  I love magic!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing for a Global Audience - Classroom goes Real World

Students are energized after finding out that their writing is being read globally.
It just got real . . . Real World!  "Canadians love me!" and "Look, Latvia is reading my blog!" and "Wow, they found my blog by searching for Thoreau and Gandhi!" bounced around the classroom.  Today, students were introduced to the Stats tab of their blogs.  It was eye-opening and became a competition for bragging rights for the blog with the most countries viewing it.

Doing their summer reading journals on a blog for their Accelerated English classes (A4 and B1, this group of students have been blogging for me since June.  When school started back up in late August, the blogs evolved into a creative writing journals as well as a means to publish literary analysis assignments.

Students were told from the beginning that having their writing online meant that the world would see their writing.  Writing this year has been much better than in years past when the writing was just between the student and myself.  There are still some minor grammar mistakes and some typos here and there, but the work is considerably more polished than the work that was stuffed in the "in box" organizer of the past.

Now that the students have realized that people are reading their blogs, they are more attentive to their writing.  Some were confused that people were reading their blogs but were not commenting.  They have heard of  "lurkers" before, and we discussed how most people are comfortable reading the blogs, but not so comfortable adding a comment to a blog of someone that they do not know.  I told them that it is a matter of time before they start seeing comments from people that they do not know.

Because the quality of writing and analysis has been increasing, I also announced that I will be choosing a Student Highlight a few days each week.  I will tweet out a student's blog on #edchat and #engchat.  I will announce the blog as a Student Highlight and will ask for comments.  As page views increase, I am confident that the writing will continue to improve.

The audience just went from "public" to "scholars" in a matter of moments.  While they are excited to see their published writing being viewed, I am ecstatic to see them so excited about their writing!  The energy in the classroom is amazing!  Throughout my teaching career I have been striving to bring bits of the Real World into the classroom - now, bits of the classroom are being taken to the Real World.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hitting a Moving Target

Defining targets differently
photo by
I realized today that students in my classes are analyzing material deeper than in previous years. Students are thinking critically more often and are striving to meet my expectations, expectations that are progressively raising as students approach the bar. What's different? Are the students smarter than previous year's students? No. I, like several of my colleagues, have created a culture of increasing expectations, and most students have accepted that striving for the bar is the right thing to do. Our moment of glory is seeing a student try, and, if unsuccessful, problem solve and keep trying.

Why do my colleagues and myself continuously maintain high expectations? Why do we spend extra time making our lessons more meaningful? Why do we research, collaborate with our PLN, model our ideals? The answer to each: because that's what we do. We put in the time, we give what we can - even when a few of our colleagues are "collecting a paycheck" and others are in it for the pat on the back. We are 21st Century Educators. We prepare students for their futures.

Now, I don't live in a fairyland - I understand that there are students who just don't want to try. I am not naive in understanding that there are those who do, those who can't do, and those who won't do. As educators, we can often make an impact on those who do and can intervene with those who can't do. The won't do group has to make the decision for themselves - sometimes we can reach them, sometimes we cannot - we have to accept that for what it is.

Upon reflection, I have to recognize that today's students are challenged much like students of the past. So, really, what's different? In my classroom the tools are different. Information is readily available in the moment. Research is spontaneously occurring each class because students have the Internet continuously available. Collaboration through backchannel chats are spontaneously taking place in Google Chat. Technology tools have enabled students to complete research, collaborate, create products, etc. much faster than students of previous years. The benefit: we have Time to analyze, dig, explore. Student work is public (posted to websites, blogs, wikis, web videos, etc). Students ensure that their work is of good quality since anyone may see it.

As students' abilities change, the target changes.  21st Century Skills align with this concept. Teachers who push there students for quality work typically are doing all the right things that the "educational gurus" say teachers should be doing. Even so, it's a great affirmation to be able to say, "Yeah, I do that already." So, as long as teachers challenge their students, the target will continue to move.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

American Education Week, Professional Development, and Your PLN

This week is American Education Week (November 14-November 20).  Thank you to all Educators who do their best to be the best for our students!

Just as recently as a couple of years ago, Professional Development used to mean going somewhere else to attend a conference.  The teacher(s) and/or administrator(s) who attended the conference would then pass on the knowledge and ideas gained to the rest of the staff.  Professional Development may now be attained without leaving our building.

Online conferences are available for a variety of educational topics.  Several online conferences are a fraction of the price of attending an "away" conference.  A multitude of online conferences are available for free and may either be attended live or viewed as a recording afterward.  Classroom 2.0 and The Educator's PLN are excellent organizations to join to stay in touch with the freshest ideas in education in the United States and around the world.  I am amazed that I am able to sit in on an online session with the greats of education - not as a zombie at a table in a hotel banquet room, but as an active participant.

Professional Development has shifted.  It's time that we shift with it.  Check for online sessions on 21st Century Skills, Core Standards, RtI, PBIS.  Talk to administrators about attending online workshops and conferences.  View recordings of workshops at faculty meetings.  Get in the habit of sharing your ideas with your colleagues.  Give each other choices.  There often is no perfect "right way" in education, but choices often give educators bits and pieces of inspiration to formulate plans that work in their individual classroom.
In addition to talking to the teachers you work with (your close Personal Learning Network), join PLN's for educators.  The best place to start is by joining Classroom 2.0 and The Educator's PLN.  Talk to your colleagues about sitting in on an online session with you or view the archived presentations of past sessions at your leisure.

Thanks to Steve Hargadon, I received the following notice of the 2010 Global Education Conference.
The free, all-online 2010 Global Education Conference takes place this coming week, November 15 - 19, 2010!
We currently have 397 sessions from 62 countries scheduled, as well as 63 keynote speakers--an amazing lineup.  Please take a look at all that is taking place:
The conference is a collaborative and world-wide community effort to significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities. Our goal is to help you make connections with other educators and students, and for this reason the conference is very inclusive and also provides broad opportunities for participating and presenting. While we have an amazing list of expert presenters and keynote speakers, we will also have some number of presenters who either have not presented before or have not presented in Elluminate--please come to encourage and support them, as they are likely to be a little nervous!
There is no formal registration required for the conference, as all the sessions will be open and public, broadcast live using the Elluminate platform, and available in recorded formats afterwards. There is a limit of 500 live attendees for any given session. To verify that your computer system is configured correctly to access Elluminate, please run the self-test at
Please tell your friends and colleagues about this event, and watch for the Twitter hashtag #globaled10.  See you online!
Steve Hargadon
Conference Co-Chair

As always, the most important thing we can do as educators is to be the best we can be for our students.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Students Collaborate on Virtues Ben Franklin Style

Benjamin Franklin, Born in...Boston!
Photo by Tony the Misfit
The first thing to understand about collaborative projects is that they are messy.  Everything has to be treated as a learning experience:  from the preparing of students by teaching the tools necessary for the project to covering the background material necessary for students to actively participate in the project.  As with any project, something (or multiple things) will go wrong.  The 21st Century Skills require students to problem-solve issues that arise. Preparing students for that possibility by explaining that there may be unforeseen issues with the project, and students are expected to take a proactive approach to those issues is a mandatory precursor to starting any collaborative project.  Students and teachers must overcome their fears of the unknown and 1) try, 2) problem-solve, and 3) have fun and learn as they go.

The collaborative Rationalism Project between Pleasant Plains High School and Farmington High School American Literature students brought some magic moments.  Project coordinators, John Langley (myself) of Pleasant Plains High School and Josh Piper of Farmington High School, perfected the project in its second year while two new teachers were added to the collaboration, Candi Graham of Pleasant Plains and Marti Copple of Farmington.  205 students partnered up to research Ben Franklin's system for following his personal virtues.  Student partner groups worked in a Google Document where they each posted an initial biographical sketch of themselves and their 13 to 17 personal virtues.  The partner groups then collaboratively selected the seven virtues that their group would follow for a seven day period.  While Franklin had thirteen virtues and followed the virtues in one week segments, the high school students incorporated their virtues into a seven day schedule.  On day one, the student group followed virtue number one, and at the end of the day, each partner wrote a 250 word minimum journal entry in the Google Document described how he/she lived that virtue that day.  On day two, the student group followed the second virtue as well as the first virtue (much like Franklin, adding on one virtue at a time until he lived all thirteen virtues) and then journaled in the Google Document about each virtue.  Each day the next virtue was added until all virtues were practiced on the seventh day.  This Student Rationalism Project document is an average example of student work from this year's project (student names were changed to just the first initial of their names).

Student communication was a dilemma during last year's project.  Mr. Piper and I had assumed that students would think of the multitudinous means of communicating with each other.  However, communication proved to be a stressful concept that diverted student attention away from the focus of the project.  This year, we eliminated most of the stress of communication by identifying possible modes of communication:  cell phone, texting, Facebook, email, Google Chat, chatting in the chat bar of the Google Document, etc.

While there were still glitches in the project, they were mostly related to the everyday glitches of human nature: some students did not post by deadline or did not communicate well with their partners.  Since this was a possibility, students were prepped with the idea that if their partner wasn't following through, then they would have to take charge - similar to what would have to occur in the business world with a business collaboration.  Students faced with this situation did just that, took charge and completed the task.

Most students came out of the project expressing that they had a newfound respect for Benjamin Franklin.  Students also noted that they gained insight into the Rationalism literary period as well as gained insight into their own personal value system.

Rookie teachers Candi Graham and Marti Copple took on the challenge of learning Google Docs tools and reached outside their comfort zones to offer their students the experience of collaborating with a student from a school 74 miles away.  By the end of the project, both teachers were using Google Docs with ease and were troubleshooting project issues that arose.

As the objectives of the project where to not only provide students with a Rationalism experience, but also to provide students with the experience of working with someone from a distance, both sets of objectives were met.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Puritan Exam Project example

synopsis of the presentation goes here

This presentation includes slides that will walk students through the Publish/Embed process to get the presentation posted within the blog.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Backchannel Chatter in the Classroom

Backchannel chatter is the use of any type of texting communication by students while a lesson and/or discussion is in progress.  Previously, this texting was frowned upon by educators and looked upon as a distraction.  After all, students are expected to be respectful and pay attention to the discussion, each other, and, above all, the teacher, right?

In previous classes, I experimented with allowing the students to use Google chat.  It was an interesting experience, but really had no point.  I was determined to find a way for students to communicate during class without losing focus.  Over a year ago, I had bookmarked Today's Meet in Diigo.  I hadn't given much thought to it until I saw a twitter post over the summer about a college professor using Twitter as a discussion tool in her classroom.  Monica Rankin, a History Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, found a way to increase class discussions by giving everyone a simultaneous way to answer, comment, and be heard.

Rankin inspired me to find a way to imitate this in my own classroom.  I considered that in an oral discussion students are limited in there responses - in a text discussion, responses are only limited by the time it takes to key in the comment or question.

As with any online experience, I prepared the students with my expectations of use and proper netiquette.  Today's Meet allows for the chat to be set up in increments ranging from two hours to one year.  I boldly chose one year, keeping in mind that I would not be allowed to delete student posts and that no sign up is required to post (only typing in your name).  I expressed that we would be using the chat as a professional tool and that students should log in with their first name only (their real names - there was some goofing around as they learned the tool).  I let the students know that the chat was there for class discussions: sometimes we would use the chat in place of oral discussions, and sometimes they would use it to discuss another angle of the classroom discussion during an oral discussion.  Either way, it was agreed that students would stay on the general topic when using the chat.  Students were excited that they would be able to look back at the posts throughout the school year and were equally excited that at the end of the school year, all of the posts would still be there.

The first few days using Today's Meet were a little hectic.  I had to reteach the expectations of using the chat and model the use of it by projecting the chat during discussions.  I verbally commented on posts and commented at the end of each class to praise students on their ideas and remind them again of expectations of use.  After using the chat for two and a half weeks, I have been amazed at the level of discussions that have been produced.  I use the same chat for two accelerated junior English classes, and the students from each class look back at previous posts to see what the other class discussed.  Students have begun to comment more freely about their thoughts and opinions of the literature and the literary periods through the chat.  Backchannel discussions have started over angles of the literature that I had not intended to discuss.  Occurring simultaneously with the oral discussions in the classroom, I was excited at how easily the students slipped back and forth from the online conversation to the oral discussion.  There was no reason to be left out of a discussion, either one.  I acquired the feedback that I craved when I set up my lesson:  did they "get it"? Did they understand the writing style of the literary period? the culture of the literary period? how the culture, historical events, etc. shaped the literary period and vice versa?  YES!!! . . . and I had documentable proof that I could show to my colleagues like a giddy kid showing off a birthday present saying, "Check this out!  Isn't this awesome!"

The most rewarding moment so far happened in today's class.  The oral discussion was bombing . . . I couldn't pull the comments out of them.  The awkward silence that I let occur . . . the one that usually gets someone to step up and comment . . . grew into unbearable moments of deafening silence.  I announced that the chat seemed to be having a much better discussion going than the oral discussion, and that we were going to continue our discussion in the chat.  I went over to my laptop and fired off a few questions and began having discussion with several students simultaneously.  The discussion blossomed into the level of intensity that I had expected from the oral discussion . . . then . . . surpassed it!  Students were watching me type on the screen and were answering my post before I could even click the "Say" button.  They were responding to other student comments - asking each other questions - praising each other's comments/opinions - WOW!!

I would score the chat and backchannel chatter experience with Today's Meet as a huge success.  Students were provided with a tool to make their voices heard, to be active participants, and proved that they could handle the responsibility that comes with posting online in a public venue.  What if they didn't have that venue?  What if?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Preparing Students for the "Real World": Social Networking and 21st Century Skills

Wow!  I just found out this past week that the grant my school receives that covers the funding for the T1 line mandates that Social Networking sites are blocked.  With 21st century skills emphasizing collaboration, communication, technology literacy, and social skills, you can imagine my, as well as my administrators', surprise.  Educators are responsible for preparing our students for the future - whether it be the business world or the next level of education.  The discussion of how to catch up with technology and with the business world is, and will, continue to be ongoing.  Obviously, until the issues of education funding is resolved and education is given the attention needed to prepare students (not just adequately prepare, but fully prepare) for life, educators will continue to improvise and "get by."

While there are several alternatives to Social Networking sites (Edmodo, Twiducate, etc.), these are often reduced or "dumbed down" versions of the actual Social Network sites.  It appears that the impetus that drives blocks on Social Networks is both Fear and Ignorance.

Fear historically causes people to lash out at things that they do not understand.  I understand that there is fear of lawsuits for students bullying, intimidating, and disrespecting others.  I understand that there is fear of inappropriate social connections between adults and children.  At the same time, I also believe that it is the responsibility of educators to teach Social Networking skills and etiquette (netiquette) to students so they know how to use those tools appropriately.  Betty Ray makes that point apparent in her blog Making the Case for Social Media in Education.  She emphasizes that educators must model appropriate behavior regarding Social Networking:
 "It is quickly becoming our duty as educators in the 21st century to guide our students towards responsible use of social media. We teach sex ed, we teach healthy living, we teach about drugs, we teach character ed., and on and on. We do these things each and every day, yet we are ignoring the aspect of our students' lives that is larger than all of these things (and completely interconnected with them as well). It is our duty to our students to start modeling responsible use of social media and encouraging them to follow our lead. We can no longer afford the veil."

People who are not taught Social Networking etiquette run the risk of making the mistakes that we often hear of in the news.  People do not consider that information (text, photos, videos) posted online shape the impression others have of them.  By teaching netiquette in elementary schools (and reinforcing netiquette values throughout the educational system) as soon as students begin using computers and the internet, Integrity will be instilled.

Ignorance (not knowing how Social Networking can be used in the classroom) is a further factor that promotes reluctance to allow Social Networking in the classroom.  My personality demands that there must be a purpose for a tool before I use it in my classroom.  I have found countless ways to utilize Twitter, Facebook, etc. with my students.  As with any classroom tools, expectations/rules must be discussed so students use the tools properly, safely, and respectfully.  My yearbook class has a private Facebook group and a public wiki.  My photography classes have online digital portfolios.  My speech class and English classes have public blogs.  With each of these technology tools, the risk of bullying, harrassment, intimidation, etc. is present.  Students are expected to adhere to Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom Expectations.  Social Networking expectations would be no different.

Recently, educators collaboratively came up with The 30 Newest Ways To Use Twitter In The Classroom.  I am continuously amazed at the amount of advise and information that I glean from other educators at the #edchat and #edtech Twitter hashtags (the #edtech link goes to a live feed using Tweetgrid).  I have learned, collaborated, exchanged ideas more this past summer using Twitter than I have in any workshop in the past ten years elsewhere.  With that said, I would love to bring that same experience into the classroom with my students.  Again, as educators, we are used to improvising and adapting to create experiences that will emulate the real world.  I challenge educators and legislatures to accept that the time has come that we need to stop shielding our students from the real world - we need to functionally prepare them for the real world with real experiences.

The next real challenge is to educators themselves:  are you teaching students the same way every year?  Are you allowing yourself to become comfortable?  If so, Why? We got into education to make a positive impact on students lives and education.  It is our responsibility to stay up-to-date with not only learning styles of students, but also with the tools of the real world.  It is our responsibility to create a safe learning environment for students by teaching them the proper etiquette/netiquette of new technology/tools available.

With the dilemma that I am currently in, I will concede to adapt and use technology that simulates the "real thing," but I will also continue to educate educators, administrators, parents, legislatures, etc. about the need to prepare students for the "real world" by using tools that the "real world" is currently using.  I challenge educators, administrators, legislators, and parents to work together to find a realistic solution to prepare students for the real world.

You don't remove all of the electrical outlets in your house because you are afraid your child will be electrocuted; you instead teach your child about safety regarding electricity and the importance of using electric devices responsibly.  Instead of sheltering our students from "real world" tools, let's teach our students the responsible, ethical way to use Social Networking and 21st Century Skills so they are truly prepared for the next level of their lives.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Personal Learning Network and 21st Century Skills

The 21st Century Skills that educators and students alike should strive for:
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-direction
  • Social and Cross-cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility
  • Global Awareness
  • Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy
  • Civic Literacy
  • Health Literacy
  • Environmental Literacy
The 21st Century Skills require a rethinking of the way we teach.  In order to be prepared for the workforce and/or college, students need a different skills set than what most schools are currently providing.  Society has evolved, and education is evolving with it.  Throughout past year, the concept of digital learners has been a recurring theme in my classroom.  Students not only learn differently than what we did, the professions that they will be in will require most, if not all, of the 21st Century Skills.  Students need to be able to take tools/concepts that they learn and apply them to new situations.  That's what we as educators need to do to challenge them - present them with situations where they are stretched.  Failure is a result of Trying.  Success is a result of Failing/Trying until you Succeed.

Keeping up on education, your area of expertise, and the 21st Century Skills used to be a challenge.  One of the most important things a teacher can do is start and maintain a Personal Learning Network (PLN).  If you haven't heard that term yet, you will be inundated with it soon.  Your PLN is your link to information, contacts, a network of global colleagues, etc.
A good start to a PLN is with iGoogle (TeacherTube Video: iGoogle and Building a Personal Learning Network).  Create an iGoogle page and add an education tab, a technology tab, and even curriculum specific labeled tabs.  iGoogle will automatically add popular gadgets to your tabs, and you can add more to personalize it.

After you get your feet wet, a possible next step is to join teacher networks like Classroom 2.0.  There are a plethora of teachers/organizations who are sharing ideas in education and in technology in education.

Finally, join Twitter.  I used to be avidly anti-Twitter . . . until I found out how teachers are using Twitter to exchange ideas, network, and connect.  If you want the latest, greatest info on education, the best source is from the experts in the field.  Twitter is the tool educators are using to do that.  Joe Dale's blog Twitter for Teachers has some video clips that make the whole Twitter thing clear.

There are several tools available to manage Twitter so you don't get overwhelmed and lose yourself in Geekdom for hours on end.  I highly recommend TweetDeck for your pc/mac - very functional desktop to manage your social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkIn, etc.  I use TweetDeck on my iPhone.  TweetDeck allows me to email links to someone I know who doesn't use Twitter.  Once you get really rolling, you can peruse Top 20 Sites to Improve Your Twitter Experience and Your Favorite Education Twitter Hashtags

Just setting up a Twitter account doesn't quite get you where you want to be without knowing what to do and who to get information from.  Shelly Terrell put together an amazing training video: How to Build A PLN Using Twitter.

From there, it's up to you.  Be the model for your students.  Don't expect them to try anything that you aren't willing to try yourselves.  Don't just Talk the Talk - Walk the Walk.  Move into the 21st Century with your students.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

John Langley from Pleasant Plains High School needs your help

I'm excited to tell you that I have chosen to serve as an MDA Jailbird and am being Locked-Up...that's right, I'm going behind bars to help Jerry's Kids. In order to be released on good behavior, I need your help to raise my "bail." As a teacher at Pleasant Plains High School, I have worked with students affected by muscular dystrophy and am committed to supporting MDA. My bail has been set at $1,600.00 and if everyone I know makes a tax-deductible donation, I'll reach my goal quickly! Any amount you can donate is appreciated (click Other on the donation form to enter your donation amount if it doesn't match the choices). Just click here to make a secure, online donation before 08/04/10. This is a fun event benefiting individuals and families served by MDA who are affected by neuromuscular disease. I am honored to partner with MDA, and help this important cause. Don't hesitate to call or e-mail me with any questions. Thanks in advance for your help. Together we'll make a difference! John Langley Pleasant Plains High School P.S. I'm counting on you, click here to donate. If the link above does not work, please cut and paste the address below into the address bar of your Internet browser. We hope you found this message to be useful. However, if you'd rather not receive future e-mails of this nature from, please click here or copy and paste the opt-out link into your browser:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Parent/Community Involvement

As I sit here stalling instead of doing what I should be doing (call it procrastinating, call it multi-tasking, or make up a creative name for it), I have to reflect on a tweet from one of my new network connections, alexgfrancisco.

Ms. Francisco posed the question, "How do we as leaders promote engagement of teachers, parents [and] students?"  Her tweet guided me to Rliberni's Blog – Radical language, which poses the same question.  I quickly noticed two responses that stand out:  1) parents and community members should be invited into the school as often as possible, and 2)  schools need to overcome the preconceived notions parents have of school (based on what school was like when they attended).

My mind began whirling with ideas:
  • schools can hold evening workshops for parents/community members
    • photography workshops
    • art workshops
    • science experiments
    • fitness nights/mornings
    • computer workshops
    • office software workshops
    • woodworking workshops
    • metalworking workshops
    • math workshops
    • book clubs
    • technology workshops (blogging, wiki's, social bookmarking, etc. - whatever the emerging technology happens to be)
    • music workshops (guitar lessons, piano lessons, voice lessons, etc.)
  • these workshops can be led by teachers and students
  • a minimal fee can be assessed to cover costs of the workshop
As parents and community members become more active at the school, communication will become better between school and parents/community.  Students who lead workshops - teaching parents and community members - will not only gain self-esteem, but will gain valuable leadership skills.

The workshops don't all have to occur at the school either.  Virtual lessons can be taught using the plethora of available Web 2.0 tools.

In addition, students could practice broadcasting skills by commentating on streamed home games of indoor sports.  Links to the streams can be provided to the community.

I'm sure that some of these ideas could be criticized as "better in theory than in reality," but I wonder the effects if any of them work!

Monday, May 17, 2010

NetGen2010 Project Update - Student Summit

Wow!  It's been a while since I last posted an update on the NetGen project.  The NetGen blogs began with NetGen2010 Project for Speech class and Speech Students Blazing Along.  A lot has happened since I have last blogged.

While the students were hesitant to jump on board at first and were, quite honestly, whiny, their final summations in the PPHS Student Summit on May 12, 2010 were impressive (recording link).  As part one of the project consisted of collaborative NetGen wiki pages analyzing the synthesis of the trends of the 2010 Horizon Report and Don Tapscott's norms of the Net Generation, students were tentative to make posts and/or edit posts.  After the students made their first posts, they tended to get more comfortable with the wiki pages.  Not all students completed their wiki assignments - most, in fact, hesitated until the last minute, missing out on daily homework points and the full experience of collaborating on a wiki.

Part two of the project brought the Video Challenge, and a rebirth of energy from the students.  Most of the students completed, uploaded, and embedded videos for the project, and all students were involved in either acting in a PPHS Speech student video or in creating and uploading an outsourced video for a student from another school.

The NetGen project culminated in the PPHS Student Summit.  The Summit was an online web conference using Elluminate.  The Summit was treated as a formal business web conference.  Among those who attended the Summit were Honor Moorman and her class from San Antonio, Texas; Josh Piper and his class from Farmington, Illinois; Kim Caise, a NetGen veteran who stood by to assist if necessary; and Maureen Talbert, superintendent of Pleasant Plains School District.  Each student prepared for the Summit by creating a slide that was displayed while he/she identified himself/herself, specified with which NetGen group he/she worked, and explained what he/she got out of the NetGen experience.  After all students had given their presentations, the Summit was opened for questions from the audience.

My worry throughout was that I would not see the "light bulb" moment.  However, the Summit provided that moment!  The students and I were all excited and nervous on the day of our Student Summit.  To add to the nervous excitement, we learned on the day of the Summit that a reporter from the State Journal-Register, Amanda Reavey, would be with us in the classroom.  As I set up the laptops, I tried desperately to provide each student with a functional microphone for the Summit.  I was able to get most of the 20 students set up with a system - the students who did not have a functioning microphone used the mic of a student sitting next to him/her.  The students were in panic mode for the entire setup time - I had to calm them down and remind them again of the process of the Summit and of what they were going to discuss.  However, after we got started with the Summit, students began to relax.  I am proud of the manner in which the students spoke and text chatted in a professional manner.  Not only did "light bulb" moments shine through during their individual presentations, but they also demonstrated proficiency in the concepts of the project during the question and answer segment of the Summit.  Students fielded questions from the online audience by volunteering their answers either over the microphone or in the text chat area.

On Sunday, May 16, 2010, I was excited to see the article in the State Journal-Register titled "Speech Students in Program Study Benefits of Technology" written by Amanda Reavey.  The students got much more news coverage for their project than I had anticipated.

In reflection, I am excited to see that the "light bulb" moment happened for almost all of the students.  That made the process all worthwhile to them.  I knew that they would eventually have the moment (sometimes the moment doesn't happen until well after the class is over), but I had hoped I would be able to be there when they connected, and I was rewarded with a surplus of "light bulbs."

I have been speaking to Josh Piper of Farmington High School about the project and am excited that he will be joining the NetGen project next school year.  I have also been asked if I would present a workshop at Auburn High School and hope to start the spark in their school as well.

I am planning on participating in the NetGen project next year and, if possible, work a Flat Classroom project into another class I teach.  With the experiences of this year, I will be more prepared for the project and will be able to lead students into the project with mini-lessons throughout the year on the tools that will be utilized in the project.  I think that even though the students felt like guinea pigs this year, they ultimately felt like they had a productive experience and left with the understanding that the business world for them is going to be a lot different from the existing business world, and they are prepared for the first steps.

My objectives for the project were exactly that: students should have an understanding and be proficient in collaborating and communicating on a global basis.  2010 PPHS Speech students are there!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Speech Students Blazing Along

The Speech students have been researching the Horizon Report trends this week.  While they have been researching and discussing those trends, they have also been blogging on their activities and experiences.  The frustration level has decreased as they are progressing through the project.  Earlier this week I demonstrated Diigo for them, and they played with the tools using our classroom site as a workspace.  There were post-it notes and highlights all over the NetGen2010 page of the site!!!  We discussed professionalism that must be used in placing post-its and comments.

Most recently, the students began using Diigo to bookmark sites that demonstrate the Horizon Report trend that they will be working with.  We created a PPHS Speech Group for Diigo and used the tag pphsnetgen so students will have a little practice with Diigo before they begin bookmarking sites with their NetGen subgroup team members.

The Elluminate meeting went well on Tuesday - I feel really comfortable with the status of my students.  We are a little ahead of some schools in the research, but I think that the Speech students needed to have a solid background before they begin working with their team members.  The Speech students seem to feel good about their understanding of the project now as well.

Students are joining the wiki and by the end of class on Friday, all should have editing privileges on the wiki.  The only thing that appears to be a concern with students is the amount of email that they are receiving from the wiki and ning.  I have been showing them how to filter these messages in their gmail settings and will show them how to regulate the messages from the settings menus of the ning and wiki as well.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dickinson Sites Galore!

I seemed to have been falling in a rut the last week and a half.  I felt bored, and the students had to be feeling the same - one student in particular fell asleep twice last week.  We had to shake up the dull-drums . . . therefore, I created a project last night that will not only challenge the Accelerated English juniors, but it will also place the learning process in their hands, giving them choices for the products of their learning.  Students will be creating Google Sites to demonstrate the importance of Dickinson's writing and the impact of her writing on American Literature.  Throughout the process, students will study the effects of Dickinson's life on her writing, her writing style, the themes of her writing, figurative language she used in her writing, critical reviews of her writing, and other writings by Dickinson such as letters of correspondence.

In doing the project, students will not only learn about Dickinson's writing, buy they will also use skills in research, writing, critical thinking, collaboration, communicating through various forms, and using technology as a tool to create a product for others to reference.  Student are grouped into teams of three (there is one group of two in each class because of numbers).  Teams will first fill in the blank cells of the Project Plan below and share the document with me.  Afterward, each team will submit a timeline and workload plan.

The American Literature Sites Project is as follows:

  American Literature Sites

Students will collaboratively work with partners to create a Google Site analyzing Emily Dickinson's writing.  Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom will link to the site so people may view your work in progress.  One Google Site per partner group will be created.  The project due date is March 31, 2010.  Project Plan:

Emily Dickinson - need to know topics & assignmentsHow to Address the topic or assignmentHow to Support & Give Credibility to your work on the topic and/or assignmentProduct within the Site that will demonstrate this topic and/or assignment
Effect of her life on her writing

Dickinson's writing style

Themes of Dickinson's writing

Figurative Language commonly used in Dickinson's writing

Critical reviews of Dickinson's writing

Analyze ten Dickinson poems

Other writings by Emily Dickinson (letters of correspondence, etc.)

Which literary period does Dickinson's writing reflect?

Why is Dickinson and her writing significant to American Literature?

Grading Rubric:
The project is worth a total of 45 points in the Report category of your 4th quarter grade.  Each Product withing the Site will be scored on the following Expectations and scale:

Well Below ExpectationsBelow ExpectationsMeets ExpectationsAbove ExpectationsWell Above Expectations

  • Project partners will submit their Project Plan to Mr. Langley via document sharing.
  • The product demonstrates understanding of the topic/assignment
  • The product thoroughly, effectively, and accurately addresses the topic/assignment
  • The product is a credible reference tool for others
  • Credible sources are used and referenced
  • Web sources are hyperlinked with a text link.  Print sources are referenced with in-text parenthetical citations (a works cited page in the site is present)
  • Whenever applicable, project partners research how to use the tools necessary to create the product.
  • Project partners establish and maintain respectful and cooperative working relationships
  • Project partners seek feedback from multiple sources from outside Mr. Langley's English classes (a Google form is a quick survey tool).  Feedback results are presented to Mr. Langley via gmail or document sharing.
  • Project partners constructively use feedback from multiple sources to make improvements to the product.
  • Project partners organize a timeline for each project and submit the timeline to Mr. Langley via gmail.
  • Project partners organize a work-load plan for partners and submit the plan to Mr. Langley via gmail or document sharing.
  • Project partners maintain and complete their agreed upon workload according to the timeline submitted or document sharing.

NetGen2010 Project for Speech class

Wow!  Speech class plans have been rearranged for the rest of the third quarter and all of the fourth quarter.  I'm excited to pass on that we are now part of a global project, and Speech students will be collaborating with students from the USA and from other countries.  The project is part of the NetGen2010 Flat Classroom Project.  At this point, I have joined the Flat Classroom Project Wiki, the Flat Classrooms Ning, the Grown Up Digital Ning, the NetGen2010 Google Group; have signed up for a Timebridge Group; and have signed up for Elluminate meetings.  As I have received numerous emails from the project leaders since inquiring into the project, my first reaction was that I met the Hippy Geeks of the internet.  They were so welcoming that I could almost feel them trying to hug me through the computer!

The project itself organizes students into teams of six to seven - incorporating students from the US and students from other countries in each group.  Students will utilize Chapters one, three (chapter three in particular), and five of Don Tapscott's book Grown Up Digital and the 2010 Horizon Report to research and disseminate the information from each texts to create wikis and videos on their proposals for the use of various technology as tools for education and business.  Each Pleasant Plains student is in a separate subgroup team.

My students have currently joined the Flat Classroom Project Wiki, the Flat Classrooms Ning, the Grown Up Digital Ning, and the PPHS group of the Grown Up Digital Ning.  Each also has a Speech Journal Blog to blog on the activities/ideas about the project.  Next week I will get the students set up with Diigo accounts as well.

The Speech students have reacted with a mix of frustration and excitement to the project.  They are excited to be a part of something "real" - something that matters.  They are also frustrated because we don't have all of the project information yet.  I have been relaying the project information as I have been made aware of it myself.  Most of the project plan will be made clear when the students begin working with their respective teams.

While the students are nervous about the project, the overall atmosphere is positive.  They are excited about activity on the nings - "friending" some of their team members already.  I'll update the blog on our progress as often as I can.

Monday, January 25, 2010

ACT Writing Lesson Video

I almost forgot to post this video to my blog.  I felt that the juniors need something to lock onto after they leave the classroom, so I made the ACT Argumentative Writing Video for them to review at their leisure.
I did find recently find that is a much better tool for posting videos because their are no length or file size limitations.  In addition, does not allow the school inappropriate content that YouTube allows.  For future videos, I will be utilizing

Thursday, January 21, 2010

YouTube Lesson

The logic was that I was not going to be at school, and I wanted to cover an Introduction to Argumentative Writing lesson with the English class.  I used CamStudio to record a narrated PowerPoint presentation that I would have presented if I were there.  I posted the video to YouTube and embedded it in Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom in the Video Lessons page with specific instructions about how to connect up a laptop to both the projector and the auxiliary cable running to the stereo.   I felt pretty good that I would not "lose" a day because I couldn't be there.  Unfortunately, the sub accidentally bypassed that part of the lesson, for whatever reason - I'm assuming that it was because she was nervous (from what the class relayed to me).  Anyway, I assigned the video for homework after I found that the class did not know what I was talking about when I started discussing the next step of argumentative writing.  Following is the video:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Posting YouTube videos to Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom

I have found YouTube to be a great tool for video storage/playback when you couple it with the embed video functionality of websites.  The English students and speech students have been assigned projects that involved videos, both sets of projects were finalized before Christmas break.  I was able to catch up this week and upload the videos to YouTube and embed them in Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom.  Currently, the speech class project videos are all lumped onto one page of the site . . . I am contemplating creating individual pages for each student as I have done for the English classes.  Each English student has his/her video embedded in his/her page of Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom.

One of my key concerns in uploading the videos to YouTube was the possibility of negative, inappropriate, or hurtful comments that may be posted under the videos on YouTube.  I was relieved to find that I can turn off the comments and video reply comments, therefore eliminating that possibility.  Most, if not all, of the traffic to the student videos will be through Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom.  However, because there is that slim possibility that someone from the general web public can stumble upon the videos, I feel comfortable knowing that the videos may only be viewed and not commented upon.

Because I do feel the students deserve some form of public feedback on their work, I opted to permit the ability of YouTube viewers to rate the videos (one to five stars).  That rating can be interpreted in a general sense by the students and should lead to an increase in quality for the next project as the students try to create a product that will gain more stars than the previous one.