Monday, September 28, 2009


Check out the Sunday Arlo and Janis comic and this month's NEATODAY to see that the technology age is upon us. Last night I went to the school board meeting and there was Dr. Dressen using the 'dashboard' terminology again. When I first heard him use the term I had no idea that I would have one, too, by starting this blog. Brian Hedberg, a school board member, kept asking Mike Burke when the students would be able to use "smart phones" to download lectures, videos, calculators, etc. Students have begun to access online classes like statistics while the administration wonders how to deal with virtual teachers. I checked a number of Edina teacher blogs this week, many of which are focused on communication to parents--like homework postings, about the teacher, class schedule--but with the promise of work by students to be posted as the year goes on. And I set up a wiki for my husband, who was complaining that he couldn't get a group together by email, and sent him the link to the Common Craft video.
I'm feeling that much of what I've blogged is for me and the prof since I have had very few comments--and one of them was SPAM! I try to leave a post on other people's blogs when I visit just to know it's not all lost in cyberspace. Maybe if I keep my posts shorter?

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Before I post again, I was wondering how to change the date of a post. The last one I posted had a date of September 20, which is when I started it, but I didn't post it until after the next class. Is there a way to change the date? Thanks.

In my job, I do a fair amount of searching for information. Where do people speak Telugu? When is Eid al Fitr in 2010? What linguistic elements of Farsi interfere with English language acquisition? Usually I GOOGLE search, but always check at least two sources, one of which may be Wikipedia. I've attended enough sessions of 'how to make sure you have a safe and accurate website' at the elementary level to have internalized the warnings. Now, however, I also find myself checking out YouTube and blogs. Although I grew up loving the library, and even worked in both public and school libraries back in the days of World Book and Encyclopedia Brittanica, I now do most of my research online.

I am hesitant to join the RSS world. The NYTIMES pops up as my homepage and we get the STRIB seven days a week. Unless I am passionate about a topic, I doubt I will choose to be bombarded with more clutter in my life. Having said that, I am following the political situation in Honduras, where my church helps sponsor a school and orphanage. I could access Honduran TV I guess, as well as the English version of the Tegucigalpa press, and maybe even the Reuters or other feed. However, there is nothing I am going to do with the information (maybe more prayer?), so emails from the principal of the school and occasional NYTIMES searches is all I need to know. Thanks to Lee Lefever for explaining RSS on this video .

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How do we establish, maintain, and grow relationships/ideas online?

Email is my preferred method of maintaining and renewing relationships. Occasionally, I go through my address book and send our friends an announcement of some sort: go to Picasa where I've posted photos of Grandpa's 100th birthday party or view a pdf of the invitation to the Peace Garden Bridge dedication or listen to JoAnn on online radio (podcast) for example. This frequently brings responses from people out of town and out of country. I always feel good when I get responses, since responders also share their lives with us.

However, I spent some time looking at the Common Craft videos last night. It seems like email is inefficient and passe. Wikis are designed for coordination of events.

BLOGS IN PLAIN ENGLISH explains why blogs are better. What I'm not sure about is that people will check my blog for news without an email update--and the notification emails: so and so's blog or wiki has been updated are super annoying.

As I wrote these paragraphs, I realized that I have at least entered the 21st century: in the past six months I've used a variety of technologies from Picasa to podcasts, wikis to blogs, and probably more. And I think digital storytelling may be my next step.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Multiple meaning words

LAND a plane

LAND in China

I just read this week's assignment from the Jenkins article and was struck by the use of the term "negotiation" in the article. Since this is a contract negotiation year for Edina, that term conjures up a cloud of mixed, but mostly negative, feelings. So, I had to redirect my thoughts to another meaning for negotiation, found on p. 54: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative sets of norms. I probably would have used the term navigation, although I suppose navigation implies you know where you're going. Negotiation can imply that you need to interact with (in this case) the multiple perspectives rather than steer around them. It's about context, isn't it? And also background knowledge, which, for example, our ELL students may not have.

One of my favorite stories is about a lecture my new boyfriend took me to many years ago. I had graduated with my BA without taking a psychology class. My new boyfriend was in a Ph. D. program in psychology and some bigwigs in the field were speaking. I sat in the lecture hall as these erudite speakers went on and on about "behavior modification." Now, I knew that behavior had to do with how people act and modification means change, but what did this new-fangled term mean? I spent forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to ask a question that didn't show my total ignorance of the topic (I wanted to impress this boyfriend) but gain me the information I needed to understand the speakers.

How often do our students--or their parents--sit and wonder how to make sense of this jargon which becomes second nature to us schoolfolk? What other language (word choice) is emotionally charged to the hearer/reader? Another story: my friend asked someone from another country to write a brief message for a program she was hosting. She was expecting a paragraph of greeting and maybe a thank you for inviting me. She received a seven minute long dissertation of heart-felt sincerity, which was indeed his message, but which was very off-topic for the event. Then, she was caught in social negotiation--how to say thank you, we can't use this; you wrote an excellent piece, but it's not appropriate to the occasion; there's not enough time for you to read your message, and people aren't coming to hear it, they are coming to the event for another reason altogether.

We should be aware that words don't always convey what we want them to convey and what we blog may be misconstued and become a barrier to communication.


Of course, duh, HOTS means Higher Order Thinking Skills, a concept that's been around at least as long as I've been in education. When I first began teaching in Edina, I was observed and checked by the principal on the number of HOT questions I and my students generated. What was interesting to me was at the time, I was teaching special education with students with cognitive impairments; we didn't get into higher order questions very much. The principal finally decided WHY? would do as a HOT question, so I scored well. :-)

When I was an intermediate grade teacher, I did try to bring my students to the next cognitive level. When I moved from fifth to fourth grade, though, I discovered that the students couldn't answer the same kinds of questions the fifth graders did. Going back to Piaget, I realized that my bright fifth graders were entering formal operations where integration and evaluation and the top levels of HOTS were developmentally possible. Once I figured out that fourth graders could be exposed to models of those higher order thinking levels, but not to expect that they would spontaneously express them, they and I became much less frustrated. So, I hope that the primary teachers reading this article don't kick themselves. I don't think technology in and of itself will use increase thinking skills.

On the other hand, I am now working with ELLs. IF posts to a blog don't have to be in complete sentences, the medium might produce more answers. However, the role of verbal facility is important in our educational culture. ELLs who are struggling with vocabulary, for example, may misstate because of incorrect word usage--the lost in translation idea. Another source of concern is that students may not yet have learned the language keys to show concepts like causality or generalization, for example. Not all languages use subordinate clauses the way English does. Students may come from a cultural/linguistic background that hasn't prepared them for this type of thinking. Obviously, students can be taught our linguistic clues, but the written format might also be intimidating until they understand the connections without the visual, facial, and tonal clues of personal contact.

I'm going to keep this post short.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Today is Saturday, the day after September 11

Hello! I am new to this blog thing and probably wouldn't be doing this except for my class on Digital Writing. I hope that the prof doesn't mind if I expand on my reflections to include tangential current events.

Today President Obama is coming to Minneapolis to promote his health care agenda at a huge rally. Mr. Obama's use of technology during his campaign was quite impressive (email fundraising twitters), but it is interesting that he still feels the need to appear in person. I guess there's something important about the human touch/real person affect and effectiveness. Another reason I want to write about the president's visit is that it is taking place in a time when civility--common courtesy, it used to be called--seems lacking in our culture. The fact that a Senator would blurt out in the middle of a formal speech by the leader of the country appalls me. However, it supports the concern I brought to class last Thursday: the lack of self-censure in speaking and writing in today's society. I am very concerned that today's speech will be marred by protest. Related to protest is the use of digital media by minority political groups whose purpose seems to be to slam and disrupt and overwhelm thoughtful conversation and debate. That traditional media--TV, radio, newspapers--extol the protest sound bites over the substance of the issues is also of concern. I am a huge believer in the potential benefits of a flat world, but I am increasingly aware of its perils.

Now, to get back to the prof's question. What are some things I want to learn to do with d.w. in this course? The first is to figure out this blogging thing. Another is to learn more about online social networking (I don't do FACEBOOK, etc.); a third is to explore this multiplayer game media (several TV shows I've watched talked about avatars; I had to figure out what that word meant). I see that the syllabus includes Digital Storytelling. I've been a storyteller for years, so that intrigues me, too.

I have done a fair amount of creative writing and memoir for my personal purposes (processing a friend's illness; celebrating birthdays; recording experiences from which I hope to make meaning; writing collaborative plays with my Sunday School class). I am wondering if 'going digital' will enhance the content and effectiveness of my writing, not just give it bells and whistles.

As a teacher of writing, I think this course will be valuable because it will expose me to and give me experience in using some 21st century tools. I also know that technology is changing so rapidly that the tools will become obsolete. When my oldest went off to college, we began to use email to stay in touch, far different from my phone call home on a land line shared by fifty other young women on every Sunday morning; today's college students text message or Twitter so they're not tied to the computer in their backpack. Hopefully, my own technological expertise will expand and I'll be ready for the next round of innovation!

So, I feel I need to prepare for not just contemporary but future technology. It was about 20 years ago that I read Donald Graves and began using 'the writing process' with my students. I'm not sure that anyone has come up with a different model that is better. I can see how access to information has changed and therefore students' writing content may have improved. (I could write volumes on this topic alone, but that's for another post!) I am interested in seeing how other elements of writing might be affected.

Now, we're supposed to include a resource link. We didn't talk about how to do that or what the link should be about. Here is YouTube video featuring Donald Graves.