BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

December 25, 2008
by blogwalker
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From Del Paso Heights to City Hall – A victory on many levels

I love it when a city unites to celebrate the accomplishments of a group of students – especially when those students have overcome the odds to reach a goal. And so it was on Tuesday when the City of Sacramento cheered on Grant High School’s Pacers, the underdogs who had just defeated Long Beach Poly High at the state football championships, as they set out on their victory parade from Del Paso Heights to City Hall where our newly elected Mayor Kevin Johnson presented the team with the keys to the city.

While probably less than 20 miles from Grant High School to downtown Sacramento, the distance traveled is more than just miles when you consider the high dropout rates, the gang-related violence, and extreme poverty levels this group of student atheletes has clearly not allowed to stand in their way.

Now that Grant High School is in the limelight for its sports accomplishments, I would also like the public – especially Mayor Johnson and his frequent advisor Michelle Rhee – to know about a group of English/Language Arts teachers, whose passion for teaching and dedication to providing Grant students with an achievable and academically rigorous program may have a subtle but more important impact. While I am sure Grant has similar groups of remarkable teachers across the disciplines, I know this particular group first-hand through their inspiring leadership at the Area 3 Writing Project (part of the National Writing Project). Year after year, they share at a regional, statewide, and national level, lessons and strategies that have made the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) attainable for “at risk” students.

But this group has also vowed to provide all students with the background, scaffolding, and requirements that will move them considerably past the CAHSEE and prepare them for the level of academic writing required to succeed at the university level. Each year, through the A3WP and California Writing Project, this team of teachers guides participating teachers through the highly successful ISAW program.

With Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and others in top educational positions promising “to shake up education” and advocating merit pay for teachers , I suspect – and I certainly can understand why – a number of effective teachers, for monetary reasons, will transfer to wealthier school districts. But the Writing Project teachers at the heart and soul of Grant High School’s English Department, well…I hope not.

August 3, 2008
by blogwalker
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Three favs from The Edublogger

I just finished a week-long tech workshop for the Area 3 Writing Project. What a treat to hang out for five days with 18 enthusiastic teachers, eager to add Web 2.0 tools to their classroom toolkit. For many it was a steep learning curve, but all left with at least one Edublog ready to go. Throughout the week I would periodically suggest that they check out the wealth of tips that the wonderful Sue Waters keeps sending our way via The Edublogger. The post I most often referred them to was 100 Edublogs Themes Separated into Categories .

This morning I’ve added another post and a comment to my list of favorites from The Edublogger:

Heading into my workshop wiki to add these three links to my blogging resources.

May 31, 2008
by blogwalker
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Articulating Blog-Reading Habits

NWP colleague Kevin Hodgson is a guiding light in many ways. For several years now, he has sponsored the Youth Radio project, a podcasting project connecting classrooms across the nation and world as students share topics and projects from their own classrooms, neighborhoods, and regions. It’s been my privilege to connect with the YR project locally by joining A3WP colleague Jim Faires and his students as they listen to, respond to, discuss, and even take to a worldwide audience YR topics.

In the blogging workshops I currently teach, I always direct teachers to Kevin’s classroom blog. In every session, there will always be a teacher or two who, after touring the Electric Pencil, has a whole new understanding of how blogging can benefit teachers and their students.

Now I have a new resource to share in my workshops. I’ll be directing workshop teachers to Kevin’s NWP article Bringing the World to My Doorstep: A Teacher’s Blog-Reading Habits article. Often in my workshops, I realize that teachers leave all setup with their own blog (an Edublog), but without an understanding that blogging is all about reading – reading other bloggers’ thoughts, ideas, and challenges – and responding. Kevin’s article makes visible “how the world of blogs enriches his teaching, supports his tech liaison work, provides opportunities for his students, and keeps him connected both to his NWP network and to a wider network of educators.”

His article also explains so well the power of RSS, another topic I rarely get to in a 2-3 hour workshop, but I think by having teachers read Kevin’s article, I’ll have a great starting point for introducing RSS early on in my upcoming day-long and week-long summer workshops. I’ll also be introducing the term social media literacy.

Social media literacy refers to the ways in which bloggers connect and stay informed of each others’ work. One blogger, Chris Heuer , suggests that RSS could be “the fourth “R” in our conception of literacy , noting that RSS-based social media literacy “enables any individual to step into the conversational flow—to not only follow what other people are communicating, but ensure what the individual has to communicate is heard by other people who care about the topic.”

One more time, I want to thank Kevin for his innovative teaching practices, his commitment to bringing others on board with Web 2.0 best practices, and his willingness to mentor 24/7.

April 19, 2008
by blogwalker
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Entering the Grant Writer’s World

cde.pngFor the last two weeks, I’ve been immersed in writing the application for my district’s EETT Round 7 grant (federally funded grant, administered through the state). The form and requirements are enough to put off a grant-writing newbie such as myself from jumping through all the hoops required in time to meet the April 23rd deadline. Why would I volunteer for such a task? In a nutshell, I want to provide three of our low-income elementary sites with the equipment, research base, and professional development needed to transform the current language arts program into multimedia/multimodal opportunities to take a publisher’s scripted program beyond the walls of the classroom and into the 21st century. In large part, the inspiration for writing the RFA comes from:

  • The DOLCHE project: I am awed by the film projects coming out of our DOLCHE classes, along with the teacher testimonials for how filmmaking has enriched their curriculum and engaged so many of their students in the learning process. A significant percent of this year’s SEVA entries are from the DOLCHE project. The project has clearly had an impact on students and teachers.

As part of the proposal, I am therefore very enthusiastically including Mathew Needleman, who will connect from Los Angeles Unified SD via interactive videoconferencing to work with teachers and students on the skills needed to take an Open Court (district-adopted language arts textbook) theme through the steps required to create an language arts rich production.

  • Will Richardson‘s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms: Will’s book (pages 8-9) made it easy for me to lay out Teachers’ Use of Technology to improve student achievement (Section 2e of the proposal). In a matter of minutes, I was able to explain the teacher toolbox, with its “mix of tools that publish, those that manage information, and those that share content in new collaborative ways”: blogs, wikis, RSS, social bookmarking, and audio/video-casting.
  • Greg kearsley & Ben Shneiderman’s piece on Engagement Theory: A framework fro technology-based teaching and learning. I know it’s a no-brainer for anyone reading this blog, but for administrators who have fallen into the “it’s all about test scores” chasm, this research sums up the need to move in a different direction: “The fundamental idea underlying engagement theory is that students must be meaningfully engaged in learning activities through interaction with others and worthwhile tasks.”

    Given the cost of textbooks, not surprisingly, in those first few years following an adoption the focus is always on teaching. A few years down the line, as we are with Open Court, we can once more, thankfully, shift our focus back to learning!
  • California Department of Ed’s definitions for technology literacy and technology integration (p 21). As much as all the tables, forms, assurances, etc., required in the EETT application suck away my creative energies, the state’s new definitions provide us with the argument – back at our districts, sites, and classrooms, for moving beyond technology as simply a vehicle for student assessments, ala multiple-choice test taking, to technology as tool for learning:
    • Technology Literacy is the ability to use appropriate technology responsibly to communicate, to solve problems, and to access, create, integrate, evaluate, and manage information to improve learning of state content standards in all subject areas and to acquire lifelong knowledge and skills in the 21st century.
    • Curriculum Integration involves the infusion of technology as a tool to enhance the learning of state content standards in a content area or multidisciplinary setting. Technology integration enables students to learn in ways not previously possible. Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions – as accessible as all other classroom tools.
  • EETT Partnerships – In addition to partnering with Mathew Needleman’s to bring filmmaking into the elementary language arts program, we’re also very fortunate to include the partnerships with:
    • Area 3 Writing Project – I’m really looking forward to introducing A3WP teacher consultants to the EETT target teachers.
    • UC Davis Writing Program researcher/writer/professor Carl Whithaus – This will be a dream come true for me to have Carl Whithaus and his grad student researchers observing, evaluating, and publishing about the connections between technology and improved student achievement – and engagement with school in general and reading/writing in particular.
    • California K12 High Speed Network – Without the HSN, including edZone, it would not be possible to seamlessly build in videoconferencing and to have unlimited storage for the video, audio, and documents that will be created and shared across the 2-year grant period.
    • California K20 Education Technology Collaborative – This new collaborative will provide the Skype/Elluminate- like component to make desktop videoconferencing available to target teachers. This could be a great school-to-home connection!
    • Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) – Another opportunity to work our wonderful SECC to document via video best practices and make these videos available to target teachers.

On this beautiful California Saturday morning, I wish all of you across the nation applying for the EETT grant (and working on the RFA over the weekend) the best of luck:-)

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