A Small Success

    I had a small moment of excitement on Thursday night.  I took some recordings of my students reading their poetry on a local radio station, some techno music and that Audacity software and made my first digital audio production.  The two minute file, which I won’t release until I get permission from those kids involved, was a hit with the other teachers at school.  It’s amateurish, silly, and, frankly, not going to win any awards or accolades from anyone other than my kids.  But I recorded it and learned the software, proving that I can teach kids to do this sort of work at school for very little money.
    Next step — get some good microphones.  I think I’ve got a lead on some and the money to buy them — but, as always, I’m open to any recommendations from those of you who know this stuff better than I (that’s just about everyone.)


Getting Started with RSS? Check this out

    Are you a teacher who wants to know more about RSS?  Maybe you’re interested in expanding your knowledge base, or eager to check out the good stuff?  Me, too.  This little manual, put together by Will Richardson, is pretty handy. 

    He, and many others, have done much or the groundwork that will get this stuff in the classroom.  Now all we’ve got to do is to convince people to try it.  I have been given permission to do just that for nine weeks this spring.  In my talks with students about this elective, they have some great ideas — and many of them have more knowledge than I have. 
    This keeps getting more and more exciting.


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.