Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Media Literacy Project

So, our media literacy project has developed further. We have developed a website that includes our lesson plan, project assignment, and links to youtube videos. Check it out and let me know what you all think.

Hopefully, we want to work with Ray to put a podcast on the website. Staci and I created a podcast for students who potentially missed class that day, so they could catch up on missed work through our podcast. I just do not know how to put a podcast on the internet, but I am sure willing to learn.

This website was also created in order to practice how to incorporate this lesson into an actual classroom. We can use this website to present our lesson plan, instead of delivering a dry presentation from a piece of paper. Websites are more visually stimulating than pieces of paper, as we are learning in this classroom. Students will be more likely to remember our assignment if our presentation is more unique and creative than just regurgitating our creation by speaking it to you all.

I am pretty sure that we will have you all practice our assignment by watching the youtube videos and answering the blog questions so we can see how effective we are. Feel free to browse the videos beforehand, if you're curious or interested, or just give feedback on the idea, the website, or the podcast dilemma.


So, another idea for the interview task, from last class, would be to create a class blog. I know that I could easily do this; class blogs are not difficult to form (we should know since we have our own). I think is a great resource to use, and other schools are using it too.

The other day, an article surfaced in the New York Times about the great tool of the blog in the classroom. Specifically, this article was about a second-grade class, but that's amazing that second grade students are interacting with blogs at such a young age! If some students are using blogs in elementary school, then by the time they get to us (at the middle or high school level), then they will be familiar with the program--maybe even pros at blogging.

In the article, students are using blogs for all different course, from math to science, social studies to ELA. The teacher implementing this specific blog says that her most quiet students are the ones who come alive on the course blog. This is exactly why I want to have a blog in my classroom. I want every student to have a voice, and many students are able to express themselves in forms like writing--especially published writing via the internet. I want to have a place where students can explore class skills and topics outside of the classroom in a relevant manner, and I want a place where students can interact with one another, and myself, because I think most of students' lives are focused on the computer, or some other form of technology.

Also, an education consultant says that blogs will probably be more effective educational tools than using websites in classrooms. Honestly, I think he is right. Blogs are student-created; students are doing all the work! Class websites are great to have, but students need to be doing all the work. In my last post, I talked about how Webquests will be a great tool to use in classrooms. They will be so great because teachers will spend a great deal of time creating a website that allows students to explore the internet in order to create a meaningful, interesting, relevant, and exciting project related to class material. As much as this is a great tool, blogs really are essential because students feel ownership over having their own personal space where they can express themselves and write to a wide audience about what they have to say.

Students will learn more from blogs, too, because they have so many more resources available at their fingertips. Students can include links to websites that relate to class topic, discussion, or material. Instead of only relying on the teacher to find websites or links, students can assist in the process, actively contributing to classroom learning. The teacher, then must acknowledge and use student-found material in order to encourage this additional work and to expose additional material that is widely available to students.

Most importantly, students need to be engaging in each other's blogs, like we do in this class. Some students might want to be acknowledged for their hard work and effort; they might want someone to respond to what they have posted for everyone to see. Response is clutch for the classroom, for students may motivate one another more than a teacher could. Peer encouragement and compliments are what students need in a classroom setting: it encourages learning and boosts self-esteem. So, why not blog? There are so many positives to incorporating it in the classroom. I'll compliment blogs as I blog here myself...why not? Don't we all just want a voice? Don't we all just want to be heard?


I am not extremely with Webquest, for I did not do a project on it, but it seems to be very useful in the classroom. I would like to incorporate my own webquest in my own classroom. These websites are interactive tools that students can use to explore literature or ELA-based content. Webquests seem more engaging and exciting than a worksheet or some random text that is read aloud. These seem stimulating to students; perhaps a webquest is more motivating than traditional class work and homework assignments.

One example of a Webquest used in a classroom is for an eighth grade class that is currently reading Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The teacher includes various helpful websites, like a biographical links and the online text. Also, the teacher has created meaningful and interesting assignments that students receive on the internet. They do their homework online, exploring various websites and then using that information to compile a creative writing assignment. I love the idea, personally.

This teacher used to create his Webquest, but I know that the presenters in our class used is a great tool, but it costs money for those who are concerned with financial costs.

Websites from class are located at the following links: Culture Quest and Ancient Egypt. These two examples are great to see how Webquest can actually be incorporated, so generate some new ideas!

If you're getting stuck, these are good websites to consult: how to do a webquest, and what are webquests?

I am very excited for this new tool to use in the classroom, perhaps more than other tools we have discovered during this course. Honestly, with last week's interview challenge, I think I might design a Webquest if I was ever faced in that same situation. I want to familiarize myself with the program so that I could perform it on the spot.

If anyone else finds some good ELA Webquests, please forward them to me somehow!

Monday, May 7, 2007

No Progress?

Liverpool High School is phasing out its use of laptops in its school. This article discusses laptops' inability to increase students' test scores, laptops' common distractions as students use it to download inappropriate websites, and laptops' as a further disturbance since it continuously freezes from so much internet activity. Liverpool's school board president says that in seven years, computers have had no impact on student achievement.

My question is, were they being used appropriately? Were teachers applyng them in useful ways that students would be focused on interesting class material that would not cause them to stray to inappropriate websites?

The president also stated that “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”

This idea reflects on a teacher-centered classroom. Students will learn the most material when they are in a student-centered classroom. Students need to be doing all the work--not the teachers. If teachers are "distracted" from outside tools, doesn't it sound like they are lecturing? In ELA, some direct instruction is necessary every once in a while, but most of the work should be hands-on, student-processed work. Technology is not a distraction but an essential aid for students to independently work and learn.

This article from eSchool News discusses the related study mentioned in the above article, where the US Department of Education conducted a study showing how educational software programs did not lead to academic improvements in students.

I found an interesting statement from the article: "Student use of the software accounted for only about 10 or 11 percent of the total instructional time for the entire school year in each of the four experiment groups--well below what the products were designed for. So it's no wonder, ed-tech advocates say, that researchers didn't see any tangible results."

I think teachers see computers as a tool for a mini-lesson, or a tool for vocabulary that they might not want to teach. These are the programs designed on these educational software programs. Students are only active for 10-15 minutes, which is probably only one quarter (at the most) of class time. In order for students to really take something out of computer use, students need to work for long spans of time on projects that require the majority of class time, and additional time spent outside of the classroom on their own computers at home.

However, these projects must be designed appropriately, in ways that we are learning now in ENG307. Renee Hobbs' suggests multiple ideas in her book, and we will get some more great ideas from next week's presentations.

But, we are young teachers who are trained to incorporate technology in our classrooms, so how do current teachers successfully switch to technology in the classroom when they have no sufficient training? I can understand and imagine the intense shift of technology. I can understand the pressure and stress associated with it. I just do not think that they are using them properly in the classrooms, or the programs they are using are not stimulating and/or interesting to the students.

Related to my above comments, the executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association said, "Brief training at the beginning of the year is not sufficient. Ongoing and sustainable professional development that provides support and mentoring or coaching for teachers ensures that technology tools and resources are used in ways that lead to increased student achievement."

We have an advantage: we are recently trained to implement technology in the classroom. Let's use this to our advantage, and to the students' advantages. We can use what we have learned (and are continuing to learn outside the classroom) in our future classrooms. Students will perform better if we know how to incorporate meaningful and interesting assignments that probe critical thinking. Why not incorporate media literacy? At least students will be interested! They will use necessary ELA skills that are transferrable to the test. This is a win/win situation if we know how to do it right; we just need to master these ideas/skills now before we get in the classroom so that we are able to follow through with our promises when we deliver them to our school districts.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Interview Task

I have to admit: I was pretty overwhelmed with the task at hand during class yesterday. I had a few ideas in mind, but I didn't know which task I could perform that would show the best of my abilities.

Thank god for the resources in this class, though; the first avenue I traveled down was my page, because I keep many educational youtube videos on it. I browsed what I had, and then I decided that I was going to do a PowerPoint.

Unfortunately, I do not think you can save PowerPoints to websites, so I do not have the PowerPoint that I made in class attached in my blog. I can do my best to replicate my idea, however.

The video that caught my eye was a slam poet talking about the power of poetry. So, I started to make a PowerPoint about different types of "poetry" that would appeal to adolescents. I opened up with "What is traditional poetry assumed to be?" And then I included a link to a Gwendolyn Brooks poem, "We Real Cool." I prompted questions about how this relates to them, and then followed that poem with a link to lyrics by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which deals with a similar theme of growing up as an adolescent. Then, my last example was my youtube video of the slam poet, in an attempt to show the varying ways of poetry, even if they don't appear to be poetry on the outside.

I was going to include an assessment piece, or some culminating activity for my slideshow, but I didn't have time to do so because, when I tried to insert a picture from clip art, PowerPoint shut down on its own and I had to restart. Ugh! But this is the kind of problem that could pop up during an interview. Dr. Stearns walked in right as I began to panic, but she leveled with me, telling me that this could happen during the interview process. She's right.

So, I tried to handle it as if I was in the interview situation, and I started over. It actually worked out in my favor: I developed a better presentation this time with a more specific focus. Something good came from something that was terrifying at first.

Overall, this was a great exercise to practice in case something like this does arise in the future. It also prompts thinking for what I could do in addition to the idea I created. We really have to market ourselves to the best of our abilities through what we've been learning here at SUNY Cortland, and technology is definitely something we want to include in that shape-shifting portfolio, because technology in schools is on the rise. We want to show that we can bring positive changes in the technology area to their school--and we can! We're prepared; we just need to be able to perform when crunch time comes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Block III Project

So finally, here is my block III media literacy project post. Staci and I have finally come together on a final topic for our project. We were a little stuck and confused with what to actually do with the assignment, but after consulting Hobbs, we decided on a final idea.

We're going to focus on advertisements and how they effect teenagers.

Our objective: To show how marketing shapes social lives of teens, and how objects function symbolically in the construction of personal identity.

Hobbs research conducted a similar exercise in her chapter on advertisements/propoganda. First, students free write about brand loyalty. What brands are you loyal to, and why? Where have you seen these brands before?

Then, we have a class discussion on the students' free writing. Hobbs said that her students moaned when they were told to stop writing. They were so excited to write about brands that they didn't want to stop! Then, they were chatterboxes upon discussing it. Imagine having this much participation in a classroom!

Then, we will define brand loyalty as a class: When people repurchase a particular brand for a number of reasons (friends use it, socially acceptable, no other option, out of convenience.

Students will break into small groups (6) and will be assigned different commercials which they will analyze.

Students will be answering the following questions in their own personal blogs:

Demographics: who are the people being targeted? Race? Gender? Social class? Educational background? Residency?

Underlying idea: what is the underlying idea that the commercial is promoting? What do they want you, the viewer, to learn from the commercial?

Symbolic Association: What does the commercial want you to associate with its product? What emotional feeling do you get from watching the commercial?

Here are the links for the commercials we assigned to each group:







Understanding that this will take more than one class period, students are expected to present their findings to class the following day.

This project seems fun and interesting to students. Hopefully this would be ultimately successful in a real classroom!

My Praise

Not only in ENG307, but in all my English and Education classes for the past two years, Staci has been an inspirational and extremely helpful student, teacher, and friend to me. We have taken so many classes together with which we grew and learned together the various different pedagogies and basic subject of English which we love and aspire to teach.

Staci would be an ideal student that I would want to teach. She always goes above and beyond the expectations of any student, always pushing herself to a level farther than the requirement. Not only does she have this incredible work ethic, but she has this love and drive to do it. She masters any task or concept put in front of us. In the future, Staci will model her excellent drive to continuously learn; I just hope that her students appreciate how lucky they are to have such a bright educator.

With so much stress and with such a heavy work load, occaisonally I feel overwhelmed or behind with work. I always know that I can turn to Staci to fill me in or point me in the right direction. She is on top of everything, organized to the maximum capacity that anyone could be organized. I wish my life could be so organized!

Going into these final assignments in ENG307 as Staci as my partner, I feel so confident that we will produce excellent products together. These will be the last assignments we collaboratively work on, and I am glad that her and I are a team for the remainder of the semester. Her brain functions so well in the educator's mind (one that is constantly developing throughout our education programs and observations), but it just comes so naturally to her.

I doubt that I am the only one who looks up to Staci and admires her hard work and drive. I hope that she knows that her diligency is acknowledged, and I hope that she knows how I look up to her ability to work so hard and so well. I am sure others admire her as well, besides myself.

So Staci, if you are reading this, I want to tell you how excited I am for your future classroom, for I can see how anxious you are to finally be in control of your own class. I can see so many good things coming for you, especially if you head in this administrative path (which I definitely think you should pursue). If you were my administrator, I would definitely be pushed to not fall into the lazy, easy way of lecture/teacher-centered classroom! You would keep me on my toes, and I am sure you will do that when you get there.

I can't see your passion faltering any time soon.

I hope I didn't sound too sappy here. I meant it all though--I wouldn't spend my time here writing to you if I didn't believe the words I said. Accept my honesty here.

Now I just feel as if I have signed a high school yearbook. So, Staci, consider this my signature at the end of the yearbook signing, except I won't put "have a nice summer" with my phone number attached to the bottom. (Come on, I needed some comic relief).

I love sending out compliments; I wish more people would give them to one another more often. I've been thinking this for years, but only when an assignment comes along do I actually say what I'm thinking. I wish people (and myself) would be more open and positive with one another. Compliments feel so good to receive, even better to give! So I hope that I can start giving out more compliments now, because this actually felt really good, really inspiring.