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I'm an Associate Professor of English Education. My time is spent preparing to teach, teaching, reading, writing, working with pre-service and practicing teachers, serving on various committees, and trying to keep my office from over flowing into the hallway.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Video Book Reviews

'Freedom' video book review with Ron Charles

Why ever do a diorama again? I understand we all have a lot of shoe boxes lying around just waiting for a project, but that's not an excuse. Above is a perfect example of where book video reviews can go: Ron Charles of the Washington Post.
I don't expect that 1st graders will be this erudite or sophisticated. but I suspect that they will be even more creative. I also image that creating a space for video book reviews, such as a place on your edmodo site, will allow K-12 students to share reading interests much the way amazon.com reviews do. The literacy practices involved in creating a video review are manifold--reading, writing, speaking, collaboration, revision, editing. Don't worry about not meeting your SCOS. Do a task analysis of this activity and then go through and match them to what your students are actually doing and you'll be blown away at what they are accomplishing. Many of them will have no idea they are accomplishing any of the standards because they are having so much fun.
I also envision excitement and possibility in the use and creation of digital book talks like those at DigitalBookTalk.com from the University of Florida.
Again, this is another way to engage students in digital composition that may motivate them beyond their recognition that they are working and learning.
You can put away the diorama. I promised Dr. Hipple (RIP) almost 20 years ago that I'd never assign one. I haven't. I'm not asking you to promise that; just asking you to try something else instead.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Facebook Fast?

I have many friends who post things like,"I'm taking a week off from Facebook, so you won't see me around for a while." Or "Facebook is taking too much of my time, so I'm taking a break. Check you later." Maybe not those words exactly, but something like that. Then last night as I was squinting through tired eyes at my 1000s of feeds in my Google reader, I saw an evangelical preacher's call to take a Facebook fast. Now I don't make a habit of doing what evangelical preachers ask me to do, but I thought this was an interesting challenge. The fact that he issued it on a Wednesday did not escape me. Why not a Sunday, for Pete's sake? It could be so much more easily done on a Sunday. And his challenge wasn't limited to Facebook. It was to Twitter and email and texting and all electronic communication. In the middle of the week, this guy issued an evangelical decree to get up out of our chairs and go talk to people or write a letter on a nice piece of stationary instead of using electronic communication.
That's sweet.
For some odd reason, all day I've been guilty avoiding Facebook--as if it's the source of my sins. In reality, I never had the home addresses of most of the people I'm friends with on Facebook. And really, it's better that I communicate with most people over email. A handwritten letter runs the risk of 1) being illegible, 2) sounding pitiful or harsh, and 3) never reaching the intended because I hardly ever have stamps. Yes, we may be moving into a world where as Tao Lin said "good things can only arrive through email." But I guess the main issue I have with an externally imposed Facebook fast is that it is one more thing to feel guilty about; one more way for someone one else to say that what we are doing is not good, and that certain ruin is to come from it all. Instead, I am going to ask myself, what does Facebook and Twitter and email and texting do for me that is good? Where are the places that it gets in the way? I do see times that I could set better limits on technology in my life, but I also see amazing benefits. So no more guilt over social networking. Let each person decide her own limits and those who need "fast" days get together and free up some bandwidth for the rest of us. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why I struggle with Diane Ravitch

http://kindle.amazon.com/work/death-american-school-system-ebook/B002ZSJTHA

The link above is to an Amazon Kindle quote page for The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch. I have not read the book, so for those of you looking for a review or for someone knowledgeable on the book, please note that I am not claiming that here. In fact, I am not claiming much knowledge of Diane Ravitch at all except some strange generational skepticism and confusion. 
I am absolutely thrilled that someone as powerful as she has come out against the tyranny of the test. Her bold statements  such as 


...it assumed that higher test scores on standardized tests of basic skills are synonymous with good education. Its assumptions were wrong. Testing is not a substitute for curriculum and instruction. Good education cannot be achieved by a strategy of testing children, shaming educators, and closing schools. CHAPTER SEVEN
Highlighted by 131 Kindle users 

assure me that she is no longer an advocate for the old ways of No Child Left Behind.  Still, I wonder what she envisions when I read that she dubs 21st century skills "the latest fad." 
Misunderstanding of the connection between standards and curriculum: That is an interesting idea to ponder as we head into the new era of common core standards. Is it even possible at this point to turn away from way has been set in place? I guess that is where I am really confused with Diane Ravitch. How can she purport to want to stop something she helped put into play? How can she fail to support innovation for curriculum that is founded on multiple forms of literacies, including those valued in the common core, not simply on "baking nut bread."   
These are thoughts I ponder heading into a new semester. I am thrilled to focus on Teaching Comp. this semester, especially coming off a summer of immersion in digital composition across the curriculum. Sad to say, I have also been transformed by my smart phone. But even before I could Twitter, Google reader started changing the way I read. Sharing news and images has become exciting. I'm looking forward a growing community in which to share!