Blogs for Learning

Thanks to the team at MSU’s Blogs for Learning for featuring my blog under their “User Submitted Blogs” list. This looks like it can become a great resource based on what they have described here:

What is Blogs for Learning?

Welcome to Blogs for Learning, an online resource about instructional blogging. The site provides students and instructors with information and resources about the technical and pedagogical aspects of blogging in the classroom.

Blogs for Learning

Just this past week, I have had three different conversations with educators about how and why to integrate technology – especially read/write web tools – into projects that they are doing. A site like this can serve as a clearinghouse for information that teachers can use to justify blogs in their classrooms. They already have some great articles and tutorials about blogging, and I think that this will grow into a very helpful site.

One thing that is curious to me is the fact that you can’t get the RSS feed for the site off of the main page (I don’t get a chicklet in the address bar of Firefox or Flock). Rather, you have to click on their “Feeds” page and grab it from there. I would have figured it would be easier to get the feed than that.

At any rate, I hope to blog more about these conversations that I had this week – as well as submit a few of the great NWP blogs that I know about to the Blogs for Learning site – but we have to get to the cider mill and pumpkin patch before snow threatens to ruin our day. Ah, Michigan weather…

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George Hillocks, University of Chicago: Procedural Knowledge and Writing Instruction

Another great talk on campus from a leading scholar in English Education and Composition…

Notes from George Hillocks’ talk, “Procedural Knowledge and Writing Instruction”

  • Statement about effectiveness of grammar instruction that Mary mentioned– often cited and often ignored
    • The more time that students spend on grammar leads to a negative correlation in writing scores
    • Teachers think it is important to teach grammar and kids get worse as writers as a result
  • Pedagogical content knowledge for teaching English and critical thinking
    • Last English Education was a report on the Summit, focusing on “The State of English Education and a Vision for its Future: A Call to Arms”
      • Goal 1: critical thought, dialogue, and a circumspect and vigilant American citizenry
      • The English teacher should be second to none in this goal
    • It is hard to argue with these goals, but there is no indication about how the authors would go about meeting these goals
    • Let’s assume that this is, indeed, one of the major goals of English Education — if so, we need to know what counts as critical thought and literacy
      • How do you know if someone is doing this?
      • How do you teach it?
      • How do you know if it has been taught?
    • We are entering into what I would call a task analysis.
      • What kind of knowledge, declarative and procedural, to write an argument?
        • At the very least, it involves a sense of what words are and how they work. At another level, it involves propositions and how they are supported with warrants. It separates fact from fiction, and this is the beginning of understanding argument.
      • Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity — looks at how argument plays a role in civic freedom
        • We need to be able to look at all kinds of arguments, not just the antagonistic ones. We need to understand a cultural of critique in which argument is a Socratic inquiry, not just shouting the loudest.
      • As we listen to the arguments about the US in Iraq, we need to listen more carefully and understand the Arc of Rhetoric
        • Rhetoric is the argument of probability
        • for Aristotle, it was important to bring many arguments to bear in deliberation so that one can consider if it is “holy” (just)
        • These are dependent on warrants being tied to the claims
          • We can’t call something a good movie, without defining what a good movie is
        • Forensics — arguments about the facts of a case
          • There were no forensic arguments in the lead up to the war in Iraq
          • But, where was the evidence? It turns out that even the administration admits that the claims are now untrue.
    • In Aristotelean terms, we can persuade, negotiate, or judge (epideictic)
      • Oedipus as an epic hero and having the right to brag – this is one of the rights of heroes
    • Summary of argumentative forms
      • Fact
      • Judgment
      • Policy
    • The Uses of Arguments – Toulmin
      • One of the criticisms of this text is that you have to keep attacking the warrants and the arguer needs to respond to the arguments
    • Warrants depend on the situation
      • Forensics – based on scientific facts and the situation
      • Epideictic – based on judgment
      • Deliberative – based on ethics
    • Example from a teacher in a Chicago high school, Sara Rose Laveen
      • Students were studying argument over the course of the whole year
      • They had been studying forensic and epidectic and were working on deliberative
        • They were discussing a gang ordinance in Chicago and took different roles (community members, police officers, gang members, those falsely arrested, etc.)
        • Teacher had students working in pairs of two or three and she provided a number of resources for the students, including articles and information from the ACLU
        • Since many had had encounters with loitering gang members and the police, they wrote about their experiences and shared them in their arguments
        • When students prepared and peer reviewed their arguments, they shared them with a panel of Hillocks, a lawyer, police officer, etc.
        • They had three hour presentations where they debated and rebutted one another to discuss the policy
        • Then, they wrote extended papers supporting or opposing the policy.
        • Students operated the entire session and thinking was at a very high level.
    • 1986 metanalysis looking at experimental studies on sentence combining, grammar, and other foci
      • Computing the effect size for the gain the the experimental group divided by the gain for the control group
      • Study of sentencing combining and other tasks of procedural knowledge were the ones that showed the most gains
      • The difference between inquiry and other effects sizes is significant because it focuses on content.
      • Free writing is in the zone of what students can do without help, while inquiry is in the zone of proximal development and pushes them beyond what they can already do. This is a better model than inserting info into something like the five paragraph theme.
    • Trying to get beyond the apprenticeship of observation and move into a more robust model
      • First, we have teacher led lessons
      • Then, we have naturalistic inquiry where development precedes learning (student-centered instruction). This is opposed to Vygotsky’s notion that student develop as they learn.
      • Meeting with students had a low effect size
      • The treatment that had some kind of balance with student-led small group work focusing on a challenging task where they had to interpret or analyze information to come up with something new.
      • Students in the environmental groups out performed student in the natural process group.
    • With students in my masters of teaching degree program, I assumed that they were committed to helping children learn.
      • Certainly, no teacher would deny that they care.
      • But, making consistent manifestation of caring can only come out if the teacher understands her students, content, and the interactions between them.
      • It entails not only the ability to analyze existing teaching materials, but to create and critique new ideas
      • I wanted my students to develop ideas and lessons for active learning in their classrooms with most students on task most of the time and engaged in inquiry and constructing knowledge for themselves.
  • So, what is pedagogical content knowledge for an English teacher?
    • Example activity to help students pay attention to evidence
      • Queenie mystery
        • One warrant is that people fall forward down stairs, and that can lead to one claim about her guilt.
        • Another warrant is about the glass being in his left hand, and he should have been grabbing the banister.
          • The warrant ties the evidence to a claim — generally when people fall downstairs, they raise their hands to protect themselves.
        • There is something on the stove cooking — so what?
        • We have at least two or three pieces of evidence that lead us to believe that there are warrants to support the claim
        • His clothes are looking quite neat, the items on the wall are still straight, jacket is fastened right over left, there is something cooking in the kitchen
      • This activity takes two 45 minute class periods, and then they write on a third day, and we move on to the next topic
      • They were using more evidence at the end on the post-test as compared to what they had done in the pre-test
  • Engaging students in classroom discussions
    • Giving them the skills to take up discussions and interact with one another

    Rethinking Peer Review

    Given the discussion that the Critical Studies had earlier this week about Morville and folksonomies — and what counts when doing background reading for research — this article from Wired makes me rethink how the research gets done in the first place.

    Scientists frustrated by the iron grip that academic journals hold over their research can now pursue another path to fame by taking their research straight to the public online.

    Instead of having a group of hand-picked scholars review research in secret before publication, a growing number of internet-based journals are publishing studies with little or no scrutiny by the authors’ peers. It’s then up to rank-and-file researchers to debate the value of the work in cyberspace.

    The web journals are threatening to turn the traditional peer-review system on its head. Peer review for decades has been the established way to pick apart research before it’s made public.

    Wired News: Web Journals Take On Peer Review

    The entire notion of what and how academics write is being turned inside out. In the past, the process of peer review supposedly meant that everyone got a fair reading and constructive criticism for revision, all in an anonymous fashion.

    Of course, that is not exactly how reading and writing in the academy actually happens, but that is beside the point. Now, with blogs and wikis, it is easy to publish and collaborate on our writing and research in ways that makes peer review more transparent and immediate.

    In many ways, I think that this makes us more accountable, in a good way, to get ideas out there faster. I was talking with a fellow grad student earlier this week and we were sharing how it is tough to get articles related to technology “out” in a timely manner given peer review processes. Maybe these online journals are the way for writers like her and I to share our work.

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    Thoughts on Morville’s “The Sociosemantic Web”

    Today for Critical Studies, we read a chapter from Peter Morville‘s Ambient Findability, “The Sociosemantic Web.” This chapter suggests that taxonomies are out, folksonomies are in, yet (given the choice) Morville says, “I’ll take the ancient tree of knowledge over the transient leaves of popularity any day” (p. 139). That was the one line of the text that confused most of us, given his overwhelming support of how links, tags, and other forms of metadata can contribute to our understanding of the web, but that was one of our only concerns.

    A few things that the chapter raised, however, related to the ways in which we, as researchers and educators, find, use, and distribute knowledge, as well as what counts as literacy now. First, we talked about the ways in which we “traditionally” did research in school with 3×5 cards, encyclopedias, and card catalogs which then lead to a final, polished paper of regurgitated information. Today, students are (or, at least, they could be) working from Wikipedia, keeping Google Notebooks, checking out social bookmarks and blogs of others working on similar research, and creating collaborative reports with a wiki. In what ways does this challenge the traditional power structures evident in schooling, in general, and literacy education, in particular? Was there ever a “pure and good” way to do research, despite the clear and concise steps that we would like to believe comprises good research?

    Second, the idea that the world was built on taxonomies and is now working in folksonomies (although we are not so sure there was ever a dichotomy) makes what we want students to do as literate citizens very different than what it used to be. It is no longer about memorizing one idea sequentially after another, but instead looking for connections — sometimes suggested by experts, sometimes by peers — and trying to synthesize ideas into something new and useful, not just to repeat it for a test. We talked about the list of genres represented in hypertext (p. 146) and the ways in which composing those texts on paper as compared to using hypertext drastically changes the task. In some ways, linking is the new way to create citations (although, looking at a list of someone’s references to see what to read next has been a skill that we’ve used before the Internet).At any rate, it was an interesting read and since Morville might be coming to campus later this year for a talk, I figured it would be good to write a little bit about his work now.

    Notes from “Using Multi-Media Records of K-12 Practice as Teacher Education “Texts””

    Here are some notes from another presentation on campus:

    Using Multi-Media Records of K-12 Practice as Teacher Education “Texts”

    by Pam Grossman and Anna Ershler Richert

    In this presentation we will explore the use of web-based, multi-media representations of practice in teacher education. Both of us are affiliated with the Quest project, of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Quest has been actively developing web-based cases of teaching for use in teacher education. Over the past several years, we have been looking at how teacher educators use these representations of K-12 practice in their teaching, and how both their assignments and the nature of materials focus novice’s attention on particular aspects of the work. We will introduce the overall project and explore more deeply the uses of these materials in our different teacher education settings. In addition, we will discuss how we have
    documented our own practice and created web pages that describe this
    particular teacher education strategy in our classes. Our documentation work has has provided us new ways to think about our students’ learning, which we will explore in this presentation as well.

    Notes:

    Anna and Pam will talk about their work as teacher educators — how to put practice at the middle of teacher education in the university and not to wait until they are in the schools. There will be an overview of the Quest project, then talk about how we use these multimedia texts in our classrooms. Finally, they will talk about future directions for the project, both in terms of practice and research that could be done.

    • Project Overview
      • Making practice visible: the development of the CASTL website
      • Learning to use multimedia materials in teacher education, developing curriculum and pedagogy
      • Creating a community of teacher educators
      • Making the practice of teacher educators visible
      • Documenting student learning
      • Now we want to know, “so what?” What is the new advantage to using these tools?
    • Part of this began as a way to help teach English teachers how to talk about literature with their students
      • How do we get them to lead kids in student-centered text discussions?
      • There was a two hour video of a class discussion on the website, and it was a lot to see (it happened in April)
      • My students would not see all the work from the entire year that led up to that April discussion; how did the teacher get there?
      • We went back and videotaped earlier parts of the year, and the website became collaborative between teacher educators
      • Yvonne Divans Hutchinson’s website.
      • Where does this fit in an already crowded teacher ed curriculum. I wanted it to be more than show and tell, and have the pre-service teachers investigate the website.
        • I developed an assignment where I created a set of questions around the teaching of discussion, and I had my students investigate the site in pairs. People took different questions.
        • Second, they had to come back to our class and enact a discussion on their questions. The pairs were split so they could lead a discussion with half of the class.
      • Decomposing practice into constituent parts
        • Leading a discussion in the teacher ed classroom to approximate
        • Then, they had to identify something that they learned from Yvonne and do it in their classroom. They taped it and brought it back to their student teaching classroom.
        • Finally, they brought it back to our teacher ed classroom. They viewed the video, reflected on their experience and sought input from their peers.
        • We are teaching them to learn from the practice of others and to learn from their own practice, making the connection between the two.
    • How to help students grapple with the centrality of “knowing the learner” in secondary school settings?
      • One thing that I didn’t expect would be how obvious it would be to establish the purpose for talking to students about how they should love their subject, and their students.
        • They didn’t understand why they were taking adolescent development
        • There are many websites of secondary teachers that are teaching well, and I wanted them to look at websites of teachers who were having success teaching students of color
      • They needed to know them as learners in general, but also in the different subject matters, too.
    • There were three texts in the adolescent development class
      • One, a hefty text of course readings
      • Two, the voices of kids — talking to adolescents
      • Third, working with the websites of experienced and accomplished teachers of adolescents
    • The websites were assigned by content area and students were asked to investigate the sites alone and with partners.
      • I gave them a frame to look at the sites:
        • How did the teachers learn about their learners?
        • What did they find out?
        • How are they using this information?
      • You have to build things into your practice to get to know kids.
    • How can we use this information to create a professional learning community for teacher educators, helping prepare doctoral students to do this work, too.
    • Representation
      • What do we choose to represent?
        • Do we need lots of video?
      • What is the nature of the representation?
        • Do we need full videos, or just clips?
      • How do we design multi-media representation of practice to best support novice learning?
      • What central principles and practices lend themselves to multimedia representation?
      • What practices, assignments, and contexts facilitate learning from multimedia representations?
      • What are the consequences for student learning in approaches like this?
    • We can now look at all these representations in many ways and we need to think about how best to use them.
    • Q&A
      • Q: One thing that you noted was how this helped teacher educators have discussions with one another. How?
        • A: Teachers talk in stories, and the video helps us look at the fuller picture of what is going on within a larger context. It is a type of case in teacher education and builds on that work. Many of the teachers come back and want to create websites so they can share their work with other teachers.
      • Q: How do we avoid the trap of having teachers look at these examples and dismissing it (these kids are not like my kids, etc.)?
        • A: I have them look at practices, not the practitioner. I also have the enactment piece, so they will try it out, even if they are resistant. One student said, “I didn’t think this was going to work, but I couldn’t believe how well it did when I tried it.” So, they can all analyze it in some way.
        • Need to select sites and focus carefully on practice. The stance that you take on it, of the “images of the possible,” is what matters. Approach it from an inquiry stance. We know that the students are going to react this way, so we need to anticipate it and design assignments in such a way that they will be able to get something out of it.
      • Q: How do novices and expert teachers look at it? What do they see in it at different stages?
      • Q: How do we have students explore this in a social collaborative way?
        • A: Looking at these sites together helped students see different things that they may not have seen on their own.

    eSchool news article on New Literacies Research Team

    Here is an article that features a summary of the great work being done by the New Literacies Research Team. I saw them at AERA earlier this year and I think that they are on to some interesting points about online reading, especially in light of all the Wikipedia-ish concerns this summer.

    Study aims to improve internet literacy
    Researchers test new way to teach internet comprehension skills to students

    By Laura Ascione, Assistant Editor,
    Researchers at the University of Connecticut and Clemson University are in the middle of a three-year project to find a proven method of boosting the internet literacy skills of disadvantaged students. As part of the study, they’re testing a new way to teach students how to read, understand, and critically evaluate the information they find online, through a “reciprocal” model that has been proven to work well in teaching traditional literacy skills.

    eSchool News online – Study aims to improve internet literacy

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