Sunday, November 25, 2007

Technology's role in a 21st century education

A new report by local, national, and world-wide technology agencies is urging education officials on all levels to work together to make our schools and the education our students receive technologically compliant with the modern world.

The report urges policymakers and stakeholders to take action on three fronts:

1. Use technology comprehensively to develop proficiency in 21st century skills. Knowledge of core content is necessary, but no longer sufficient, for success in a competitive world. Even if all students mastered core academic subjects, they still would be woefully underprepared to succeed in postsecondary institutions and workplaces, which increasingly value people who can use their knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate, and solve problems. Used comprehensively, technology helps students develop 21st century skills.
2. Use technology comprehensively to support innovative teaching and learning. To keep pace with a changing world, schools need to offer more rigorous, relevant and engaging opportunities for students to learn—and to apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways. Used comprehensively, technology supports new, research-based approaches and promising practices in teaching and learning.
3. Use technology comprehensively to create robust education support systems. To be effective in schools and classrooms, teachers and administrators need training, tools and proficiency in 21st century skills themselves. Used comprehensively, technology transforms standards and assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development, learning environments, and administration.
To view the full report, "Maximizing the Impact: The Pivotal Role of Technology in a 21st Century Education System," click here.

How readable am I?

I suppose this is a good thing. When I originally ran my site URL (and not the feed), my blog readability was "genius." At first I wasn't sure if that meant I was a genius, or that my writing was so convoluted and verbose that only someone with a superior intellect could decipher it.

I've come to the conclusion that the original reading was due to the readability scanner not making sense of all my external links. By running the feed URL I was able to get a truer sense of my writing, as only the content from blog posts was analyzed.

Another more in-depth readability site is Juicy Studio. This site analyzes a number of writing attributes, including the Flesch Reading Ease and Gunning-Fog Index. This blog's Fog Index score is 9.1, which is similar to most popular novels. A score of 8 is equivalent to Reader's Digest, and 11 is most like the Wall Street Journal. As an English teacher, I consider myself in good company.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ripway file server is down

I discovered today that the Ripway file hosting site I used to upload all my handouts and assignments is down. I don't know if this is a temporary or permanent situation. I have e-mailed the folks at Ripway inquiring as to what is going on.

If it turns out the site is dead, I will need to upload all of my files again to a new server. I don't know when everything will be back up, as if your lives are like mine, it seems that on some days I barely have enough time to eat three square meals.

Ah the joys of teaching... and technology!

If anyone knows of a free and reliable file hosting site that allows direct links, please let me know.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Writing a Wrong

Friday's Boston Globe featured a story about how young revelers arrested after the Red Sox American League Championship Series victory over the Cleveland Indians are writing about their incarceration as part of their sentence.

"Of the 17 arrested that night and charged with disorderly conduct, seven people, most of them college students, were ordered by Roxbury District Court Judge Edward Redd to write a five-page essay about their arrests," the article states.

Redd's sentence is an example of the type of reflection we, as teachers, try to impart on our students. According to the story, "one student wrote that passing a night in jail made her feel 'reduced to a fraction of myself.' Another lamented that 'running down to Fenway Park in a craze is only asking for one thing and that is trouble.' "

As I've mentioned before, our school is currently in the process of implementing Writing Across the Curriculum. It seems only natural that it would extend to our school's "planning room," the place where students who can't behave in class are sent, usually for the remainder of the period.

I wonder what would happen if, as a component of students' punishment, they were required to write a reflective essay and share it with the teacher whose class they disrupted.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Garnett Factor

Fans of Boston Celtics basketball have to be ecstatic about the team's trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen last summer. Combined with Paul Pierce, the C's now have one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Their defense hasn't been too shabby either. With last night's demolition of the Denver Nuggets, the Green are off to a 3-0 start.

It all begins with Garnett.

A 10-time All Star and former NBA MVP, Garnett's physical skills and basketball IQ are well known. What fans might not have realized are the Tom Brady-esk work ethic and passion Garnett brings to the game.

"Basketball is my spine. It's my heart. It's my blood," Garnett told the Boston Globe recently.

Garnett is articulate and eloquent, as evidenced by his use of metaphor. He's also a smooth dropper of analogy, offering up this one that would make any English teacher salivate: "Home wasn't a great place for me, and I found my sanctuary to be basketball to where I could disappear on the court," Garnett said. "It's almost very similar to people who read. They take a good book and get lost in the book. I take my ball and I get lost on the court. I can be whoever I want to be at that time. It don't matter if it's 12 in the morning, 2 in the morning. That was my sanctuary."

If you're interested in reading all of Shira Springer's interview with Garnett, click here.

As a teacher, I draw inspiration from the dedication and desire of local sports stars like Garnett and Tom Brady.

In a Globe interview last year, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said one of the reasons Brady is so successful is because of his work ethic.

I particularly like this excerpt written by Belichick in an e-mail to his 12-year-old son about being successful in school:
"Be sure to sit in the front row and pay attention to the teacher. That is what our best players do when we have meetings," Belichick wrote. "Tom Brady always sits in the front row with his notebook open when the meeting starts. He also does his homework and turns it in when he comes to the stadium in the morning."

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Literature circles

I use literature circles with every novel I teach. They're a great way to get students actively engaged in whatever we're reading, and really put the onus on them to identify key themes, passages, plot developments, connections, and literary devices. Literature circles allow students to smartly articulate the exchange that occurs between a reader and a text.

In an academic age where high stakes bubble tests and formulaic, calculated responses to mundane prompts seem to trump creativity and self-expression, lit circles allow for authenticity and ownership while also reinforcing the higher-order habits of mind found in successful test takers.

Click here for the literature circle assignment I use with my students. Hawaiian high school educator Bruce Schauble's in-depth lit circle page can be accessed here. Another nice site is This other site has 16 different lit circle links. Check out these literature circle roles from an Alaskan middle school teacher, including "character captain" and "literary luminary." Even more literature circle resources can be found here at Web English Teacher.

Nancy Patterson's literature circle role sheets are available here.

* UPDATE * Click here for a newer post on literature circles, including six new jobs!

Please feel free to share your own experiences with literature circles, or comment with questions about implementing them in your own classroom.

Van Down by the River

Anyone familiar with Saturday Night Live is acquainted with motivational speaker Matt Foley. Click here for the transcript of the famous "Van Down by the River" sketch, where Chris Farley's irrepressible Foley gives a motivational speech on the perils of drug use to teenagers Brian and Stacy, played by David Spade and Christina Applegate.

One of these days I'd like to hone my acting chops and do my best Foley impersonation before the seniors in my World Literature class. There's no doubt some of the themes would resonate.