Notes from “Partnering Students, Parents, and Teachers Through Technology”

The second in a series of workshops from NWPM colleagues at MRA 2008, these are notes from Portland Middle School teachers Amanda and Garth Cornwell’s session on “Partnering Students, Parents, and Teachers Through Technology.”

  • Begin with questions from the audience:
    • How to get younger students to access technology on their own?
    • How do parents react, what do they want?
  • Our Hopes
    • To demonstrate daily uses of technology that serve a variety of purposes
    • To aid students, parents, and colleagues in realizing the technology of potential
    • To equip students with the skills that they will need
    • Michael Wesch vide: “A Vision of Students Today
  • Our Plan
    • To share the tech tools that we use with students and parents
    • To discuss why it is important to integrate technology when we feel like we are “giving up” time for content
    • To discuss how flexibility is the key, because teaching with technology always yields surprises
  • Students
    • Shared Drive
      • Create hotlists in word that students can click to for computer lab assignments
    • District Digital Dropbox
      • Track changes in word sometimes works with middle school students
    • Wikis
    • Nicenet
      • Classroom discussion forums
      • Good for access at home and school, because it is all online and doesn’t require a specific word processor (files lost, incompatible formats, etc)
      • Watching for IM language and asking students to express themselves more clearly
    • Google Docs
    • Podcasting
      • Buy inexpensive MP3 recorders
  • Parents
    • Blogs and Edline
    • Lack of participation and interest in training sessions
    • Considering teaming up with local libraries
    • Be persistent and specific
  • Teachers
    • Open yourself up to learning with your students
  • Our learning
    • Small, simple steps can be beneficial
    • Honor the time of the student, parent, or teacher coming to learn
    • Listen to input from students
  • Lessons and Student Work
    • Book discussions

Note from “Blogging — Maximizing Writer’s Notebooks with a 21st Century Dimension”

Here are notes from my Crossroads Writing Project colleagues, Lavon Jonson and Sonja Mack: “Blogging — Maximizing Writer’s Notebooks with a 21st Century Dimension.”

  • Background
    • Bringing blogging into the traditional process of using a writers notebook
    • Writing with your students encourages them to write (Graves, etc.)
  • Blog Growth
    • In April 2007, 70 million blogs, 90% by teenagers
    • In four years the growth has been phenomenal
  • Rationale for use in the classroom
  • Why use blogging in the classroom?
    • To share items from writer’s notebook (used to share it in a circle on the floor, now we do it on blogs)
    • Edublogs forums (support video)
  • Blogs to check out

    What we’ve noticed from our students

  • All students are able to contribute
  • Comments are more heartfelt

An Update on Blogging, Podcasting, and Wikiing with Pre-Service Teachers

January has been a busy month for me as I have been coordinating field placements for my ENG 315 students and we have begun exploring the use of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and RSS in our teaching lives. When we began this work a few short weeks ago, only a handful of these pre-service teachers had heard of a wiki or a podcast, fewer still knew about RSS, some had a general idea about blogs, and none of them were thinking about how these tools would translate into the teaching of writing in their classrooms. So, we started slow, and now things are moving along quite well.

The second week, we downloaded Portable Apps, and I explained my rationale for why would use these tools — both because they are free and open source as well as the idea that they need to be able to take their data with them. We also started setting up our blogs, and discussed the Common Craft video on blogs, thinking about implications for our classrooms and personal learning. The third week, we turned our attention to understanding RSS and reading each other’s blogs. This week, we set up our Google Readers, and I am now challenging them to begin using RSS reading in their professional responses.

So far, this process is going fairly smoothly and I do not feel that I am detracting from the “content” of the course by focusing on the technologies. In fact, I feel that they are helping me get some ideas across even better. For instance, it is one thing to encourage them to read each other’s blogs; it is quite another to provide them with a combined feed of everyone in their class and invite them to read, through their Google Reader, everyone’s posts. I will be building in some time for people to read and comment each week, as their reading of other blog posts will help them activate their brains for our class discussions.

Also, I am finding that they are all having “aha” moments as we move forward. Some are seeing connections to other classes an projects, and I think that they are all starting to see the ways in which we can connect with one another. For instance, one student explained how she immediately subscribed to all her friend’s blogs and, while it wasn’t purely academic, that solidified in her mind the power of RSS to gather information. In a time where we take for granted that all of our students understand so much about the web intuitively, it is good to know that we can talk about these technologies in relation to the teaching of writing and that they can begin to see some new connections.

Next up, we will be working with Rob Rozema’s class at GVSU to post our “This I Believe” essays to a Ning social network and get comments across classes. Then, after spring break, digital stories. As we continue on in the semester, I am looking forward sharing more ideas. It is interesting to compare the snapshots of two generations of teachers that I am seeing this semester — the pre-service students and the in-service teachers in Project WRITE — and compare how they are engaging with similar technologies in different ways. I feel as if with the pre-service teachers, they can pick up on the technology quickly once it is introduced, yet the conversations about pedagogy are still emerging. for the in-service teachers, we are able to talk about pedagogy very easily, but only after very thorough discussions of how and why to use the technology.

The differences are clear and makes me even more aware of the generational gap that must be happening as new teachers enter schools. They are very excited about the technology, yet can’t talk about it in pedagogically sophisticated ways. Veteran teachers are, as they should be, very concerned about pedagogy. This dichotomy makes me wonder how we can get everyone speaking the same language and beginning to think more about the pedagogy and the technology at the same time, regardless of age or experience. Then, we need to layer in discussions of literacy for everyone, because those are not present yet.

More teaching to be done, for sure and it is a great deal of fun in additional to a continual pedagogical challenge.


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