Are Student Really Failing Because of T.T.G.?

February 1, 2010 at 5:50 am (blog, professional_learning, twitter)

I learned of the article “Students failing because of Twitter, texting and no grammar teaching via Twitter as I did another article yesterday.  It discusses the insidious nature of sentence fragments and  inappropriate emoticon abbreviations into University papers…and even into letters of academic appeal.  Maybe I have become an eternal optimist (rather than a realist like I used to be) but I don’t see this as the case.

I use a Writers’ Workshop model.  I first learned of it when I began teaching more than a dozen years ago.  It is based on the work of Nancie Atwell.  Students are provided with the opportunity to select what they wish to write about and what format they wish to write it in.  Sometimes, I will provide some sort of basic guideline i.e. we are going to submit this to a writing contest so it must fulfill these criteria or we are going to compile all of your pieces into a magazine that we are going to base upon a central theme.  So, kids care about what they are writing about becasue they get to select it!  And, I meet with them, conference and model sentence structure (eg. this is a fragment or this could be combined into a more sophisticated sentence) and grammar (eg. you switch from past to present to past verb tense again).  Grammar outside of a meaningful context, such is the case with worksheets, is not going to serve to correct the errors of sentence structre and conventions.  I also remind students of formal (eg. writing in school) vs. informal (eg. facebook updates) writing.  We brainstorm a list of distiguishing characteristics so that they own it…and there is much more to this list than simple emoticons!

Further, I can’t even keep track of how many authors I have heard speak that tell me they can’t spell to save their life and thank goodness for grammar and spell checkers and their amazing editors!  So, is the sentence structure, grammar and emoticons the issue…or is it that students need to be reminded / taught to proofread?  Or that they need to be presented with a meaningful real-world writing challenge?


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Revisiting Creating & Connecting

January 31, 2010 at 7:31 am (blog, podcasting, professional_learning, twitter, wikis)

Just learned about “Schools lost and puzzled with multitasking and ubiquitous media” via heyjudeonline‘s Twitter.  The opening quote goes like this:

“The average young American spends practically every waking minute – except for the time in school – using electronic media.”

This quote reminds me of something that I’ve heard one of my Teacher-Librarian colleagues say the last couple times I saw her: when our students come to school, we expect them to disconnect.  It’s like cutting off their arms!  Yet, as I sit in PD sans laptop or Blackberry or iPhone (not because I don’t want to use the technology but because I don’t have it – it’s difficult to take my desktop PC to PD), taking notes with traditional pen-and-paper technology, the majority of adults there with me do not disconnect.  They are constantly checking their phones or typing away on their laptops.

This made me think about something I blogged way back in March 2008.  It was after I had read a study from The National School Board Association’s entitled “Creating and Connecting” (pdf).  The report talked about non-conformists which I equated to Malcolm Gladwell’s early adopters rather than (traditional) rule-breakers. 

Which brings be back to our highly connected students and how they must disconnect at school.  Up to this point I have been quite grim in this post.  But I see glimmers.  My own experience: If you provide students with engaging real-world tasks or challenges, ones that they know will be published to the world wide web to add to the body of worldly knowledge, they will rise to the occasion.  My most recent experiences were related to publishing Writers’ Workshop pieces (a la Nancie Atwell) and submitting them to a writing contest, a pdf online magazine and a wiki for the world wide web to read.  Knowing that these pieces are for the world, student ensure that their pieces are polished and on time – they don’t want to be the one that hasn’t met deadline (kind of like a traditional newspaper deadline)!

Outside of my own school, I have another middle school example as well as a high school example.  In the first, students are using a version of a Moodle to collaborate on a planetary project – which they learned about in a very official letter to which they were to solve a problem and rise to the challenge.  Many chose to report back via a webpage.  And at this school it is the norm for students to have a variety of differentiated technological and learning style options to demonstrate their learning. 

In the high school setting, both an English teacher and Biology teacher are using Google Apps via a student portal in their paperless classes.  Both teachers commented on how students don’t lose things and always have access via an internet connection regardless of where they are.  Students commented on how they have never felt more organized.  No more missed assignments/handouts if a student has been absent as everything is available via the student portal.  Also, when reading students writing, teachers are able to make revising or editing suggestions in a different color so that it is very evident what the teacher’s feedback is – and it can be compared to the student’s original version as it tracks all changes like a wiki. 

I really can’t believe that it has been almost two years since I initially explored Web 2.0 tools.  Back then I wondered how I could possible be so oblivious to all the tools.  I had heard of blogging and wikipedia and had my own students blog – albeit in a very elementary way.  Until you really immerse yourself in which ever of the tools that you wish for your students to use – be it blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc – you really don’t know their power.  And, this is particularly the case if you don’t interact with people via the social web that is afforded to you as part of these tools – comments from unknown strangers who share similar interests and are compelled by what you say to comment on what you have published to the WWW – kind of like I did today as I haven’t blogged since May of last year!

Yes, students are connected today like they never have been before.  If we do not harness the power of their skills in this area, they will disengage.  They are able to use some of the tools, although, not all consider the benefits and consequences.  At school, we can purposefully engage them in meaningful learning and unassemble the walls that confine us in our classrooms.  The walls come down and the world comes in!

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Revisiting Warlick

May 9, 2009 at 1:14 pm (twitter)

The last time I posted, I was sitting in a David Warlick keynote presentation with a laptop.  I didn’t know it was Bring Your Own Laptop (BYOL) until the day before so borrowed one from a friend as I don’t have my own.  This was a brand new experience for me.  

Today, my blog reader of choice, Bloglines, seems to be down and I’m itching to read some blogs, even the ones that I never seem to be able to catch up on.  Earlier this week I was giving a fellow Teacher-Librarian a tutorial on the social bookmarking site Diigo.  I asked if she knew what a blog reader was and she didn’t.  She has blogged for a university class she was taking but hadn’t been introduced to a blog reader.  Since she already had a Google account, because she worked with a class that had collaborated using Google Maps, I suggested she try the blog reader that is included with a Google Account.  To this point, I had never used Google Reader as I chose to use Bloglines over a year ago.   However, knowing how to use one blog reader is easily transferrable to another blog reader and before she was done she was reading some of the blogs that I follow.   Incidentally, I asked where/how she learned about using Google Maps with students.  She said she didn’t.  She just learned along side them!  What a model for 21st Century learning!

So, today, I have been catching up on David Warlick via Google Reader.  Since Bloglines isn’t working, I grabbed one of the feeds that I love but, by following one of my mottos of saving the best for last, I never seem to catch up on.  What a feast I have been having. 

Something that has been naggling at the back of my mind was an article that I came across (don’t remember how).  I quickly dismissed “Hyperlocal Websites Deliver News Without Newspaper” as all the cities that were mentioned were much larger than where I live so I didn’t believe it was something like this was possible in a city that, in comparison, was relatively small. 

How wrong I was. 

At the end of April I tweeted to one of tweeters that I follow after seeing #yeg after one of her tweets.  I knew that it was the Edmonton airport code but I didn’t know why the pound sign followed by an abreviation or other combinations of letters or numbers or words were starting to pop up on the tweets of the tweeters that I was following.  I learned that it was used to search.  That’s when I discovered Twitter Search where I plopped the #yeg hashtag, as I was learned it was called, and found the latest tweets from Edmontontonians.  Then last weekend, via a Joyce Valenza tweet, I learned of  Visible Tweets.  I was quickly mesmorized by one letter flying at a time or blocks of text of the tweets of others flying across my desktop.

Which got me thinking about the hyperlocal article again.  I don’t remember where I came across it.  Email? Twitter?  Who knows.  But I wanted to find it.  So, to Google I went and typed in what I remembered: blog AND news AND neighborhood AND “new york” as I knew that the article was about news from blogs that were collected by neighborhoods in New York.  And, lo and behold, 0.21 seconds later, I had my answer.  Which reminded me of something that Warlick quoted here: kids need to know how to be able to pluck the answers out of the air.  And, I might had, so to their teachers!

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Visioning 20 • 20

March 9, 2009 at 8:43 am (Uncategorized)

David Warlick’s presentation is available at CoLearners –

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Mobile Blogging – David Warlick in Edmonton, Alberta

March 9, 2009 at 8:05 am (Uncategorized)

I am so very excited to be here today.  This is a first for me – blogging outside of my home, away from a desktop PC.  I think Twittering might be easier, though.

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Target Vacations Travel Pics

November 1, 2008 at 1:49 pm (Uncategorized)

I receive a variety of different travel deal emails.  One of them mentioned a Flickr Group called Target Vacations Travel Pics.  This is some information about the group:

Hello! And welcome to the Target Vacations Flickr group. This group serves as the home base of the Target Vacations Photo Contest while also being a great way for you to share your experiences with others.

Entering in the contest couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is log in to your Flickr account and start sharing your vacation photos. You can share as many photos as you’d like, you just have to make sure that they are family friendly and they were taken by you.

Winning photos will be selected monthly by me, Jason Sarracini, President of Target Vacations and will be featured in our Newsletter which is read by thousands of travelers every month. This month’s contest has already started, so have a look through your old albums or grab a camera and start uploading. Good Luck!

I figure my luck has been pretty good lately so I uploaded six of my favorites!  This is the first group on Flickr that I have chosen to become a member.


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Stand By Me

November 1, 2008 at 10:17 am (video, YouTube)

This YouTube video, and international version of Stand By Me, was shared with me this week.  I was playing it before school started.  Students in my homeroom were attracted by the music so they came over to see what I was up to.  There were so many students crowded around, and I wanted them all to see, so I played it again on the “big screen” with the LCD projector.  Most of them knew the song but never heard of the movie.  I also “screened” it with one of my language arts classes and asked for their reactions to it.  One student articulated how they enjoyed that it was from all over the world.  I asked how this could have been done.  Of course, they knew, identifying that one person probably collected all the video and “spliced and diced” it together.

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Photo Update

November 1, 2008 at 9:59 am (photo sharing) (, , )

A couple weeks ago I received an update on one of my photos that I wrote about when I last posted.  I have pasted an update below. 

In addition, yet another of only 49 San Francisco photos that I posted to Flickr has been added as a favorite at Open Shutter Project’s Favorites.  That’s the fourth one to to receive feedback or be linked to.  That’s almost 10% of the photos that I uploaded!  I figure that’s pretty good odds in the world of the internet!

:: Schmap San Francisco Fifth Edition: Photo Inclusion 


I am delighted to let you know that your submitted photo
has been selected for inclusion in the newly released fifth
edition of our Schmap San Francisco Guide:

Golden Gate Park

If you use an iPhone or iPod touch, then this same link
will take you directly to your photo in the iPhone version
of our guide. On a desktop computer, you can still see
exactly how your photo is displayed and credited in the
iPhone version of our guide at:

Golden Gate Park

Finally, if you have a blog, you might also like to check
out the customizable widgetized version of our Schmap San
Francisco Guide, complete with your published photo:

Thanks so much for letting us include your photo – please
enjoy the guide!

Best regards,

Emma Williams,
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides

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Famous via Flickr?

September 29, 2008 at 12:40 pm (photo_sharing) (, , )

To my delight, I received the following message this morning:

You’ve been sent a Flickr Mail from Emma J. Williams:


:: Schmap: San Francisco Photo Short-list 

Hi arllennium,

I am writing to let you know that one of your photos has
been short-listed for inclusion in the fifth edition of our
Schmap San Francisco Guide, to be published at the end of
October 2008.
Clicking this link will take you to a page where you can:
i) See which of your photos has been short-listed.
ii) Submit or withdraw your photo from our final selection
iii) Learn how we credit photos in our Schmap Guides.
iv) Browse online or download the fourth edition of our
Schmap San Francisco Guide.
While we offer no payment for publication, many
photographers are pleased to submit their photos, as Schmap
Guides give their work recognition and wide exposure, and
are free of charge to readers. Photos are published at a
maximum width of 150 pixels, are clearly attributed, and
link to high-resolution originals at Flickr.

Our submission deadline is Sunday, October 5. If you happen
to be reading this message after this date, please still
click on the link above (our Schmap Guides are updated
frequently – photos submitted after this deadline will be
considered for later releases).

Best regards,
Emma Williams,
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides

This is actually the second email that I have received in a week regarding my photos on Flickr.  And, of the almost 50 San Francisco photos that I have uploaded on Flickr, I received positive praise from Syria, one requested permission to use it in an ad / website and the third is part of the final selection phase for Schmap San Francisco Guide!

I’ve always enjoyed photography and digital allows you to take many more shots to get just the right one without any added expense.  I have learned to only upload the best photos to Flickr.  As I was viewing them today, it was interesting to see how many times each photo has been viewed.  I assume that there are many things that influence this including topic, title, description, tags, specificity, subject, etc.

If I don’t hear anything further, at least it was an honor to be nominated!

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Hyperlink Literacy

September 1, 2008 at 5:30 pm (blog)

During the Spring Session, right after I finished the online class for which this blog constituted the main portion of the course work, I enrolled in a face-to-face class.  I had every intention of continuing to post here.  My plan had been to post the reflections I wrote before, during or after each class. 

At first, I really struggled because I found I wanted to include hyperlinks in my hand written or typed reflections.  In some cases I did in the pre-session responses to selected chapters from the course text.  However, these were lost when they appeared simply as underlined text when printed in hard copy form for hand written comments from the instructor.  I assume the instructor wondered why I would underline such things.     

Another major difference between the in class reflections and posting online is the scope of the audience.  There were only a handfull of us in the class.  As such, the audience was very small and intimiate.  Because of this, one is more comfortable revealing thoughts and feelings, ones that may be misinterpreted in the wider forum of the blog.  Sometimes taking the form of streams of consciousness, my reflections would have required much editing to make them blog worthy, time that I did not have to devote.  Besides, I suspect that in doing so, what made the hand written reflections effective would be lost, or at the very least, lead to weaker writing.  

I thought a lot about this while taking the Spring Session course, however, it is the benefit of the summer break, and an article that I finished reading Monday, that finally brought me to solidify my thinking here, not to mention my goal to post on a more regular basis.  Tiffany Hunt and Bud Hunt wrote an article in the September 2007 issue of the EJ on the web called “Linkin’ (B)Logs: A New Literacy of Hyperlinks. 

In it they write:

In terms of professional development, I have learned more from blogging and the community of readers and writers I have met than I have learned anywhere else.

I agree with this in part, the part where I have learned a lot from blogging, the actual writing of the blog.  In fact, the Web 2.0 inquiry that I was engaged in and blogged about led me to learn the most I ever have in the shortest time span ever.  While I have received written comments from people who read my blog, and learn much from reading the blogs of others, I feel that because I have not kept my blog up to the degree of other edubloggers I have not developed the community that Hunt and Hunt talk about. 

At the end of the school year, I met with an old friend with whom I worked on many telecollaborative projects, ones in the vein of the work of Judi Harris of Texas.  We talked a bit about blogging, as it was in sharing the link to my blog that led us to get together for dinner one evening.  She mentioned that she had registered and set up a blog to see how to do it.  She commented on how easy it was.  It was then that I made, what I thought to be, a very bold statement, one that is very true. 

You must blog to understand blogging.

Blogging is hard work but it is also very rewarding.  It takes time and practice to get good at it and I am afraid that I have become rusty.  I picture my blogging like a boom and bust cycle with its ups and downs.  Yet, as I wrestle with ideas, reflect and compose, I am invigorated at the same time!

Even though I seemed to end up doing it anyway, I think I would have found the three categories of blog post types that Hunt and Hunt talk about helpful when I first started blogging.  I’ve described them a bit differently then they were in the article.

  1. Questions, research findings and learning.
  2. Self-reflection and metacogition
  3. Read, reflect and respond to peers, quoting when appropriate. 

At this point, I am reminded of when I first started Literature Circles with my classes.  It took quite a few years to fine tune the process.  Hunt and Hunt talk about the same thing when assisting students in writing their own blogs.  It takes a while to figure out how to instruct students in how to write effective blogs. 

We can’t learn how to write connectively, to get into blogging, without first learning how to make those connections….Much as we want them [students] to understand how hyperlinks work for them as readers, I want students to appreciate the value and power of hyperlinking as a composition tool.

This is where I find the articulation of four types of connections also helpful.

  1. Connecting to locations eg. people, places, events
  2. Connecting to ideas eg. quotes, sources
  3. Connecting to self eg. conneting to earlier blog posts you wrote
  4. Connecting for attention eg. knowing that there is a possibility that someone is keeping an eye out for when they are quoted or referenced may lead to them responding. 

I see this as a continuum of increasing sophistication.  Connecting to locations and ideas is the easy part.  Unless you have blogged for a while, you probably won’t be connecting to yourself very much.  At least, I didn’t.  I started connecting to my own blog posts after blogging for several months.  While I didn’t purposely connect for attention, when I received responses from those whom I linked to, they certainly had my attention!  It make me much more conscious of my audience when I was writing.

I think Hunt and Hunt end with an important reminder:

I am seeking . . . to teach blogging, the verb, and not just writing blogs, the plural noun. 

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