Developing blogging habits

    It is sometimes hard to find the time to post, given all the responsibilities that I have at school and home.  I am interested in knowing how others find this time.  Heck — I feel guilty posting at work, even though I think this blog is fast becoming a teaching reflection journal for me, and that can only serve to help my teaching. 
    Reading, too, is getting difficult.  There seem to be so many interesting teacher blogs out there — and I know I’m only scratching the surface.  I’d love to know what tools or strategies others of you are using to manage your time so as to be an effective and an informed blogger.  I suspect my students, once I introduce classroom blogs, will be interested in these strategies, too.


Lots to read out there.

    In between fiddling with podcast feeds — I think I’m getting close, but it’s time to get some RSS help — I have been scanning the educational blogs that are out there.  Man, are there plenty!
    I’ve found that Weblogg-ed News has found its way into my aggregator.  And I’m reading the archives.  And my brain is spinning by what’s to be found there.  For example, as I"m thinking about student portfolio publishing at my school, Will writes:

I’ve always thought that the most efficient model for using blogs in
schools would be the one that collects student work from all courses
and then feeds it out by categories to teacher aggregators. That way
students build an online archive and ultimately, perhaps, portfolio of
work throughout their schooling. Teachers simply subscribe to the
relevant content from each student blog and comment back as necessary.

    What an elegant solution.  And another fine reason to incorporate blogs into my classroom.  Right now, I use a discussion board for all of our online discussion.  But what if I used blogs instead?  A two-way, rather static and sometimes artificial conversation could be transformed into a very organic and interesting collection of student work — and it would be a single click to have it all delivered to me — a handy help for taking care of recording progress for the purpose of  silly ol’ grades.
    I’ve still got lots of back-reading to do to better understand the potential of this technology — but I like what I am seeing more and more.



A Blogger Born Every Minute

    I almost forgot.  Today in my journalism class I mentioned the idea of having them blog regularly as a class activity.  I asked them to check out a few of the blogs out there — specifically, I asked them to look at the most recently updated blogs on TypePad (in large part because that was the first place I could think of).  While many students said they didn’t get why anyone would want to blog, two students immediately created their own blogs via free sites online.  A third asked me about blogging this afternoon — four hours after the class ended. 
    Many of my students are hungry for this — just as I expected they would be.  A place to talk and to create.  It’s exciting.  Of course, I expected that, too.  The excitement, that is.


Recorded a “Podcast”

    Been a busy Monday.  Full day of classes, squirming baby — and now I’m sitting at my computer trying to see if I am able to record a podcast here at home with little or no new equipment.  Turns out that I am able to record and convert with no problems — thanks to an open source program called Audacity — but getting it to feed into my iPodder is an entirely different project.  I think I’ve got to learn some basic RSS programming.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone will do a random Google search for people in need of assistance with their podcast feeds.
    It could happen.
    Whether or not I get this done tonight is largely irrelevant.  In the space of two days I decided that I was going to try this and have now almost made it happen.  If I can handle the tech here, certainly my students and fellow teachers can.
    This technology is going to change everything.  I know it has changed my listening habits.  The morning commute used to be Denver talk radio.  Now, it’s the Daily Source Code.  Based on some of my reading lately, it already has — and I’m not the first teacher to figure this out.  More on that later.  Now back to figuring out enclosures and other fun technical stuff.


Johnny Carson Dead at 79

Johnny Carson has passed away. 
    I remember long ago sneaking around in order to stay up late enough to watch him and, after The Tonight Show, The Benny Hill Show.  I didn’t get why they were funny as a little boy, but I watched them just the same.   Carson was funny and, to a young man, a kind and gentle person.  I suspect the real truth was something different, but I am saddened by his death. 
    Why do we have such connections with celebrities?


Potentials for Podcasting

    I’m sitting right now in a board meeting for the .  I am on the board as the Teacher as Researcher member — which means I am tasked with discovering ways for teachers to incorporate inquiry and questioning into their teaching.  The idea is that teachers who are questioning their practice are better teachers.  That’s pretty much the main idea behind this blog.   I ask questions and seek answers in order to improve my teaching.    I digress, too . . .
    We’re talking about plans for the future and opportunities for teachers to write and improve their teaching.  has this big idea about using podcasting to record college lectures — but what if we were using podcasts to record teaching demonstrations?  A teaching demonstration is essentially practice teaching — this term
will probably mean nothing except to those of you who are familiar with
the .
    How about students reading their work?  Perhaps a weekly student presentation featuring a different student or students every week?  Something like this?    
    I continue to get excited about the potential for podcasting.  Now if only I knew more about how to create a podcast . . .


To Fark or Not to Fark

    So I often ask my journalism students to read the newspaper in class.  I like newspapers better than books about newspapers, and, frankly, I think the students that I work with could stand to read as much as possible as often as possible.  Okay — all students could stand to do that.  All people, too.
   How could the ever be a problem?  Well, one of my more tech-savvy students began sharing articles from Fark with us one day.  I was excited and ecstatic.  Fark is a site that complies links to the weird and scary news of the day — all stuff that will hook reluctant readers.  I thought it was great and began putting Fark up on the school’s SMARTBoard, searching and reading the best of the weird with my students in class.
    Until I discovered that Fark is occasionally a site that posts links to cute naked people.  Oops.  Can a public school teacher, charged to defend the public good and uphold standards of decency (and keep my job) use a website with such potentially problematic links?
    My school district does have an Internet filter, so the smut can’t get through — or theoretically, it can’t — but can I use the site?  Can I acknowledge its existence?  Can I read from it during class?  Ask my students to? 
    Or should I just pretend that such places don’t exist in my sphere of influence, like so many other teachers out there, and deny a potentially useful resource to my students?

UPDATE:  Let me be clear.  I am not advocating for using the website and others like it as core classroom texts with high school students.  What I am asking is this:  Is it okay to acknowledge such sites and to discuss them with students that are already using them?  Can I recommend, with disclaimers, such sites to some students?  I can see arguments on both sides of this. 


Experiments in Podcasting

    It took all of five minutes to find several places online that offer podcasting tutorials or resources for newbies like me.  That’s good news — the only problem now is this:  who do I trust?

   Found a site by Gary S. Stager that looks pretty interesting.  Chock full of podcasting resources.  My favorite so far?  Audacity, an open source audio recorder.  I used to use a similar program when I worked at a radio station.  It only took a few minutes to figure out that:
            1.  I’m going to need a better microphone, but I can record right now off of my laptop’s built-in.
            2.  This is actually far easier than I thought.  Wow. 
   Off to have some fun . . .


Why Podcasting?

    If you accept that blogging does have lots of potentials in the classroom, it doesn’t take very much to get you to see that podcasting has the same, if not more, potential for students.  When I think about posdcasting, I am thinking about the studnet production of short regular podcasts.  From a pedological perspective, podcasting is alluring for many, many reasons.  But one of the biggest is that I, and every student I have ever had, is scared to death of speech class.
    Can’t podcasting replace the traditional speech classroom as a way for students to both learn how to organize and present information?  I can see students using many, many different "show" formats and presentation styles to produce podcasts that will be authentic — real people will hear and be interested in them. 
    Some of my students, I suspect, will find podcasts like the Sound of the Day interesting and novel.  They’ll want to figure out their own little fun presentations.  That’s fine by me — they’ll have to learn a great deal in the process.  Others will probably want to be the next Adam Curry.

Either way, they’ll be preparing and presenting actual content, content far more interesting than the typical "Argumentative Speech."    They will have to consider their audiences and make decisions that honor those considerations.  Also, they just might begin a conversation with those audiences — which doesn’t always happen at the end of the school day after a student’s "Abortion is Bad" persuasive speech. 
    Again, it all comes back to students participating in real conversations with the real world.  Simple in concept — realistic in application?
    I hope so.  Help me figure it out. 


Why blogging?


    Now that I’m here in this space, I think it makes sense to declare, both for you and for me, just why I think these new technologies belong in the high school English/language arts classroom.  This post will focus on blogging — the next on podcasting.  I am squeezing these posts in between Saturday chores and baby care. 

    Why blogging?  Because I teach writing to struggling writers.  I want them to approach their writing knowing a few basic things:


1.  They are writing for a real audience.

            At school, students are often writing to the teacher to prove to the teacher that they are learning something.  But what, except how to write to a teacher, are they learning?  Is writing to the teacher a skill that is useful outside of school?  Really? 
            Not in my life.  And, heck, I work in a school.
            Isn’t it more realistic to teach writing by having students engage in writing to a real audience? Yes, I think so.  In fact, that’s why I have taught journalism.  The school newspaper at least creates a school-wide audience that students can write to — which is better than that silly old audience of one.   
            Blogging ups the ante.  By posting online, my students would be writing to the entire world, in theory — about as big an audience as one can get.  And what better audience than everyone and no one at the same time? 

        2.  No writing exists in a vacuum.  Texts are connected.

           Students, and lots of adults, for that matter, don’t seem to understand that texts relate to one another.  The letters to the editor in today’s paper relate to yesterday’s newspaper articles.  (Yes, overly simplistic, but a good place to show a concrete text to text connection.)  The novels written today speak to the novels written in the early 20th Century.  Sylvia Plath relates to Anne Bradstreet.  Kurt Vonnegut has a job because H.G. Wells came first.  You get my point. 
            The convention of hyperlinking text in blog posts is a very concrete way of demonstrating to students how texts speak to one another.  Better still, if students are creating their own blogs with hyperlinks, they’ll be forced to think differently about how texts talk to each other.  I can’t really ask them to do this type of thinking on a piece of loose-leaf paper with a number 2 pencil.


3.  Students today need to understand computers.

             I work  with students who may not have computers in their homes.  But they’ll be looking for jobs in a world where computers are more and more commonplace.  Even the freaking cash-register at McDonald’s has more computing power than the computers I used when I was a kid playing with LOGO Turtles.    I need a way to break my students’ fear of computers, and get them up to speed to navigate in the techno world.  But I don’t want them to simply be consumers of technology — I want them to be producers, to control their own small portion of the Inkernet. 

  More on this later — there are leftovers to heat and a baby to feed.  Interested in your thoughts.