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.