Monday, February 26, 2007

Hall of Fame...or Shame

The book title is a little hard to read; it says: Lazy Students Guide to Motivation and the kid is asking the mom to hand it to him. This has been the frustration of all teachers, I'm certain, from the beginning of education. However, now that I am working with teachers across oceans, thousands of miles away, even time zones 12 and 16 hours ahead of me, I really feel angst for student apathy.

Students were to fill out basic info about themselves and post their tale, all within 2 1/2 weeks with varying due dates. They also needed to respond to their South Korean students' stories. I have 1/3 of my students that haven't completed this last step, 5 that haven't done anything, and over 1/2 that haven't revised their story. I am amazed. They have consequences in the gradebook, which motivates some students, but for others, what is the motivation? They are excited to chat with students from around the globe, but when it comes to the academic endeavors, they still aren't doing the work. Aaarrrgh and . What do you do? I'm thinking of a competition between my 2 classes where the winning team gets a party...or maybe they both should get a party if they can get everyone to do the work and meet the deadlines. Hmmm...I think this last idea will motivate them. Everyone has friends in the class that can help him/her. We'll see how it works.

In the meantime, my cajoles, my threats, and my disappointment hopefully will motivate...someone? I did have one student say, "Sorry, Mrs. Davis. I'll step it up, tonight." 9th graders are a funny breed.

What was so interesting though, was when I logged onto the 1001 Tales Wiki today and saw the Hall of Fame...and Shame. This is a place for students to name the stars (students who have given strong feedback), too nice (ones that gave feedback that was nice, but not specific or helpful), or even mean. This should be interesting. I hope it doesn't become a retaliation game between countries. This, too will be interesting to track. For now, I'm off to check on the wiki to see if the students who "promised" they'd have something up by today, did what they said they would.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

1001 Flat-World Tales Wiki -- An Update

The 1001 Tales Project is up and rollin'; it's been fascinating to Skype with Clay Burell and to collaborate with students on the other side of the globe. What's been interesting for me as a teacher has been the planning portion:

* How do I make connections with a teacher that is 16 hours ahead of me?

Clay and I have Skyped (his time 11:30pm or 4:30am!) We also email, discuss on the wiki, and blog. Even 6 months ago, I couldn't have imagined these opportunities or global involvement. Malaysia, Canada, and Hawaii have just joined, so we have running clocks posted on the wiki, not only for interest, but for our sanity. We now have 4-5 time zones to juggle in the midst of growing stacks of grading.

* How do I incorporate this plan in the midst of my Romeo and Juliet unit?

I have found that connecting this project with storytelling has worked well. I definitely would do this project by itself and then start R/J, but it's worked fairly well. I had to be flexible with my assignments and due dates. I have to change a deadline for Friday because my kids need to revise their story before Saturday, S. Korea time. I learned that my risk-taking equates and easy-going attitude. I have to be organized, but willing to change dates, lessons, and assignments to fit the student and project needs.

* How do share what I'm doing with other teachers and encourage them to join in?

This is a hard question for me to answer. I know that the CIT group has heard of the project and some teachers have asked me about it. I've appreciated the interest, but I also wish more teachers could and would get involved. Maybe next year, some more of our English 9 teachers will take the bait and give the project a whirl. What I realized that this global classroom creates is a sincere interest from the students (using technology creatively); creates an investment from the students because they really want quality work on the web for other students and teachers to read; and it creates such depth to the writing process. Not only are they writing and doing some peer editing, they are revising their own piece once a week, plus revising/responding to 2 other students' writing as well. The added push for students to invest in their writing is the prospect of being published; the students are fascinated with the process and certainly want that recognition. The last thing that my students are gaining is a connection beyond AHS, beyond Colorado, beyond the U.S. They are learning about sports, games, books, music, etc. that is completely new to them, yet they also see that these kids have goals of going to college (many in the U.S.), have boyfriends and girlfriends, want to get good grades, and are typical teenagers.

So, 2 1/2 weeks later, I'm exhausted, but completely invigorated and so completely proud to be a teacher in the 21st Century. I have learned that if I am willing to take a risk, admit that I don't have all the answers (even most), that students will 'step up' and embrace their own learning.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Pop-Up Ads and Pornography

Earlier this week I received an email from an administrator telling me I needed to check on my latest 2 wikis because they had ads recently show up. The ads weren't bad overall except...for some wild and crazy girl videos. Yes, not something I want to have on my educational sites. I quickly contacted wikispaces and the ads were taken off.

However, when I logged onto msn last night, here was an article about a substitute teacher that is being sued, possibly ending with 40 years in prison! all because pop-up's appeared on the classroom computer she was logged into. Yikes! This was certainly a strong reminder to take technology seriously and not to get too "comfortable" with what kids are viewing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Theater of the Opressed

A concept discussed in my youngest sister's grad class, I am trying it with my seniors tomorrow. The idea is that throughout history, cultures have been without a voice. They cannot speak out in anger, is opposition, in hatred, or even in love. This theater was created to give the "underdogs" a voice, a way to disclose their opinions. Now, 4 decades later, the Theater of the Opressed is used by teachers to engage students in dialogue. In teaching Brave New World, I want my students to understand the satire and to really see how we in our current world all too easily agree with the social and political norm. We stand by without making judgments and without critically thinking about ourselves, our identity, our family, and our beliefs. So tomorrow, we will use this forum to stretch our minds to understand John from the "savage reservation", Linda a transplant from Malpais that has been abondoned on the "reservation"---all in contrast to Bernard and Lenina.

The game, according to the Theater of the Opressed, needs to have clear guidelines. Augusto Boal, Rio de Janeiro 2004 states "The Discipline of our Game is our belief that we that we must re-establish the right of everyone to exist in dignity. We believe that all of us are more, and much better, than what we think we are. We believe in solidarity." How fascinating that the game exists for solidarity and the dystopia that Huxley created is also one of solidarity. How do these 2 ideas contrast? Huxley wants us to hate the idea of solidarity, doesn't he? Or, is there a different message.

See the BNW blog tomorrow to hear the class discussion. I am going to be the scribe while several students are frozen in the middle of the class in positions I create. The rest of the students need to figure out one theme that all these student actions create. I will post the discussion as they discuss their ideas.

Next, we will have a "Hot Seat Discussion"--this is a different version of the fishbowl. I put 5 seats up front with an additional seat at my computer. The computer is projected on the screen behind the students. I give them a question and then students come into the hot seats to discuss their ideas. They can agree, disagree, add to it, etc. The silent seat is the one that students can come add their ideas to the computer. Students in the audience will be able to read the comment and might spark additional comments. I haven't added the hot seat at the computer, so tomorrow will be an interesting trial. Again, you can read the post and comments on the BNW blog.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I am launching the Pay It Forward Project with my seniors tomorrow! I hope they'll be as excited as I am. They are watching this video to understand the concept, the water buffalo video from the Fischbowl, and then we're off! Visit the class's wiki to put your own suggestions. I don't know what my project will be, but it's exciting!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

I Admit, I Procrastinated

Students procrastinate and are often criticized for such habits: caffeine-induced states of awake-ness and a crash course with their novel, biology text, or francais. I became one of my students. With my senior gradebooks empty, our administrators demand grades to be posted. Yes, yes, they're coming. But tonight I had a different agenda.

Tonight's grading became narrative writing, soul searching bleeding into colors. My Melpomene, which is my personal writing blog, finally has a new entry. I understand kids' struggle with writing and I hope they realize my sincerity. I try to write all papers to see if my directions were fairly clear, but to show them that it is approachable, do-able. They see that my writing isn't published and has mistakes, certainly room for improvement. I also take suggestions and criticism, bringing in new drafts. I hope they see that I am a learner right along with them. If constructivism has taught me anything, it is that I must take risks myself and become vulnerable if I am to see growth between six rows of desks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The world-wide connection has started!

I have Skype-d for 2 days, discussing and collaborating with Clay on the 1001 Flat World Tales project starting from a town south of Seoul, Korea at the Korean International School reaching into Centennial, CO. What an exciting process! I started a page for my students and tomorrow is the day I bridge between Romeo and Juliet, storytelling and Arabian Nights. We'll how it goes. I discussed it with the kids and they are excited. The only bummer is the time difference; we will not be able to have live conversations very easily because at 8:30am, it is 1:30am. So...I need to map that out. Here's the page I have so far: World Students (HS) page. Karl, I'm steppin' it up!

I also talked to him about a global pay-it-forward project. We are just starting to discuss this; how cool would that be to come up with something meaningful to give back to the world...across oceans, even! Anyone here at AHS (or elsewhere) that wants to explore this idea, let me know!