Making Decisions

October 7, 2007

So I was all geared up for the school year. I had roughly outlined my lessons for the semester, pretty happy about this since I have two new classes this year. I had outlined several blog article topics. I had also help several new teachers set-up ClassBlogmeister accounts. My summer of planning new ideas and learning new methods was ready to unfold. Then I logged-in to my school computer.

Blocked. Website Problems

In reviewing many of the sites I used last year and some of the new sites proposed for this year this is what I saw. I do not mean to add to the growing list of educational blog articles complaining of filtering; however, I must express my frustration and plan for this school year. I spread to many people at NECC this new blog site because I was frustrated with not being able to update my EduBlogs site; a problem since corrected by the addition of a new server. I choose WordPress because it is what my wife uses and I previously could read her blog at my school. This is no longer the case.

My dilemma is two fold: blogging and wikis

What to do about my blog:
I like the use of both sites, especially since EduBlogs has upgraded with the addition of a new server. However, I shared with many people my WordPress site. I also transferred my postings from EduBlogs to WordPress. Unfortunately the WordPress site looks horrible at school. I am trying to demonstrate the advantages of such applications, but the site looks bad. But if I transfer back, then what about those readers outside of my school? Will I loose readers, all twelve of them, if I just back to EduBlogs?

After weeks of debate I have decided to post on both sites. I realize the time I will waste, but until a proper solution can be determined this is what I have resolved at the best action.

Wikis:
I have grown to find several applications of wikis in the classroom. Since this type of site is often new to my students I must demonstrate its use. I also had a grand idea of using wikis to share lesson plans between teachers at not only my school, but other schools. Unfortunately Wikispaces and PB Wiki are blocked. I found it interesting that while I began debating my options I stumbled upon an article in Today’s Catholic Teacher an article specifically siting these sites as preferred wiki sites. Nothing against Susan Brooks-Young, the article is great and she is clearly educated in this topic, but I found it interesting that a site devoted to Catholic teachers, I teach at a Catholic school, notes for use the sites I have been told are not appropriate for education.

I have looked into creating a new wiki on a different website; although I feel that Wikispaces and PBWiki are great sites and hate to leave. Then in browsing various wiki sites I noticed that in over thirty wiki sites the only ones blocked are those I made popular at my school. I wonder if our filtering service would even know they exist had it not been for my students. I know they do not know the power within these sites. At least Susan knows and I trust that someone is able to enjoy the sites.

I am working without webmaster to integrate wiki technology within the schools web server. He tried MediaWiki and the requirements exceed our current system. However, Miguel Guhlin recommended to me PMWiki. You will know if this works because I will be ecstatic.

This is where I am. Now back to sharing the ideas from my class.

Preview of posts to come:

iPod magic–students actually reviewing vocabulary
SMARTBoards–I get to play with some fun new products and so do my students
NECC 2008–proposal is in, now we wait

Enjoy your day,

Kyle


Wikis: Why Sharing Makes Sense

August 12, 2007

As July turns to August the temperatures continue to rise and the time to reorganize for the start of school is upon us. Since my first year of teaching I have always declared that I would spend June re-organizing my syllabus while everything is fresh in my mind. 0-4. At least this year I wrote down my ideas so I can continue my progress in mashing everything together.

The first task in my summer cleaning involved deleting duplicate files. Over the past four years I have adjusted most every document I have created. Technological improvements what they are, I have acquired a new storage device about every six months. While this is great as the number of files I own increased, I never properly took the time to update my files choosing instead to simply add to the files.

As I am now nearly complete in my task of eliminating duplicate files, I look to share my ideas and documents with my fellow teachers. The past few years I have copied my files onto CDs for new teachers who shared my courses. Not professing to have all of the answers, just looking to help a fellow teacher out and possible save him or her some time in reproducing a document from scratch.

While these new teachers have confirmed to me that this is helpful, eventually the CDs disappears. So for this year, how about a wiki.

Last year while answering the request of a teacher on an English list-serve I loaded up a Julius Caesar unit to my Wikispaces blog wiki. Over the summer I realized that this could be useful if our entire English department or possibly the entire school did the same. Coincidentally Miguel Guhlin wrote about the power of sharing around the same time. I must say that I agree with this idea.

As part of my summer reading this summer I finished Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. While I will present a more formal assessment of the book later, the most outstanding item from the book to me is that while business is embracing collaborative technology, schools are typically slow to respond to the same stimulus. One day the education field will realize that when we stop wasting time by holding on to the information, we can address more important tasks. Who cares about the credit as long as you get the job done. If we share our ideas and the grunt work of creating files, then we can use the time saved to improve the education of our students. If we can share our ideas with another school who is trying to figure a new way to teacher Julius Caesar, then someone else will help us in the future.

Enjoy your day,

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Iliad Project: The study of characters and heroes

October 10, 2006

Our English I Pre-AP recently finished presenting on various books from The Iliad.  The focus of our presentations has two ideas:  1) the major characters from the book and their affect on the plot of the individual book 2) the view of heroes.  In analyzing the characters we research the purpose and meaning of the names of the various characters and their role in the plot.  In understanding the meaning of heroes the groups expressed their view of a here and compared this to their interpretation of the ancient Greek’s view of a hero, based on the groups selected book within The Iliad.

 

To view the presentations go to our class page on Wikispaces:

 

If you would like to listen to the presentation subscribe to our class station on iTunes.  Search for “KStevens English I”.