Thursday, August 7, 2008

Journal #6

Journal #6

Writing Aloud: Staging Plays for Active Learning

Moses, A. (8/6/08). Writing Aloud: Staging Plays for Active Learning. Edutopia, Retrieved 8/7/08, from

The arts are an integral part of learning, yet educators have been distancing themselves from it more and more. Teachers are under an incredible amount of pressure to teach to the standardized tests that all public school students are now forced to take yearly. The subjects that students learn about on these tests do not involve the arts, use of digital media, or other important tools they will need to be successful in our society. This article by Moses addresses the need and importance of these “extracurricular activities”. In this case, a group of middle school students write a screenplay in which a group of boys is swept in to a virtual environment where the witness racial discrimination, and a series of events unfolds in a well-planned, thoughtful script. Moses argues that participation in script writing as well as acting is a great way to enhance students’ linguistic development. In our digital world, students need to understand how to do a lot more than reading, writing and arithmetic. This type of thinking is archaic and students are suffering because their learning is not enhanced by inclusion of the arts and technology in their curriculum.

Question 1: How do you create time in an already busy classroom to do these types of activities?

Art and technology can be included in almost every lesson plan. For example, if a class is studying a novel and ends on a chapter that is a “cliffhanger”, the teacher might assign a writing assignment in which students create a short play that explains what happens next. Students could act out the plots that they like the most. Because of time constraints, the “play” doesn’t have to be longer than one act or one scene. Technology can be incorporated by video taping the performance and then using editing technology to edit the video. This could be transformed in to a lesson about communication media. Any lesson can be creatively transformed to include something in which the students are being innovative.

Question 2: Why are the arts and technology so important?

I began asking myself this question, because I feel like I am regurgitating a phrase that I know to be true, but don’t really understand why it’s true when I say that the arts and technology are important. After considering this, I think its’ important for a few different reasons. Firstly, it allows students a different form of expression and a different opportunity to be a stellar student. Not all students are good writers or test takers, some are more gifted in these other areas. Students should all get to stand out in some way as “gifted” because all students are tremendously talented in some way. Secondly, the arts allow students a way to discover who they are. The arts are a medium in which students will realize what is important to them, what their values are and why they live their life the way that they do. In other words, activities that are creative gives students to ask themselves important questions that they otherwise might not be asking.

Journal #5

Journal #5

Connecting Depth and Balance in Class
Kuhn, Matthew S. (2008). Connecting depth and balance in class. Learning & Leading, 36, Retrieved August 6, 2008, from

In the article Connecting Depth and Balance in Class, the author explores the technology in education and how it has improved education at all levels. In a traditional classroom, many teachers were using drill and practice techniques, in which the teacher would present information, and then the students would regurgitate this information through boring and repetitive practice sessions. Not only is this strategy ineffective for most types of learners, but it makes students think that school is “boring”. New technological tools can advance education by addressing the needs of all learners and add depth to all lessons and information presented. New learning software has been introduced in classrooms in the place of the drill and practice techniques that were adapted from research in the neurological sciences regarding how the brain retains information. Other technology tools such as blogging increases student’s social awareness and improves verbal and linguistic performance.

Question 1: What about second language learners? Would tools like blogging be effective?
I think that second language learners could benefit from technology tools as long as they are implemented correctly. I think that language acquisition will occur more naturally if the student is engaged, rather than just copying down some text from a book or reciting words that they do not comprehend. For an advanced English language learner, I believe that blogging would be a very effective tool. Not only is language modeled for them directly on the blog, but they can get feedback on their work from peers and teachers.

Question 2: Why is there so much resistance to the technology if it is so effective? How do I overcome this?From what I have seen in both my educational experiences in the classroom, and my participation as an educator, there is an alarming amount of resistance to technology. There are very few teachers that are practiced and knowledgeable in these tools, and therefore they are set in their ways and feel like the methods that they are using are sufficient. I think it is important for young people like myself to be a technology leader at my school and within my district. I was not aware of all of the free and amazing technology that is available to educators, and I am amazed that it is not being taken advantage of. I think once teachers understand and are comfortable with the technology, they will be thrilled to introduce it into their classrooms and will discover all of the benefits of being a digital-age teacher.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


This is a rubric I created using Microsoft Word. I believe that rubrics should be interactive in the sense that students should be able to "talk" to the rubrics to ask themselves what they have done well and what still needs to be improved.
Read this document on Scribd: Power Point Rubric

Journal #4: Google Earth

Journal 4: Google Earth

Google Earth is an online tool in which a person can enter the longitude and latitude coordinates of any location on Earth and view a satellite picture of this location. The pictures are by my estimate about 2 to 3 months old and the clarity is good enough to recognize familiar locations. Once a user is focused on a location, they can focus in and “walk around” the area. In short, Google Earth creates a 3D environment for any location on Earth.
Google Earth has many realistic educational applications. While researching this technology tool, I found many ideas for classroom activities that could incorporate science, mathematics, ecology, geology, and geography. Because Google Earth uses longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates, the program has an obvious application in mathematics. Population studies are also an obvious way to take advantage of this program. Students might choose a location, and use the program to study population changes over time. One educator suggested that students who are studying different biomes might make use of the technology by “visiting” these different biomes of the Earth. Students that have trouble connecting to flat pictures and texts as they are “walking” through the different environments. Through my research, I also found another educator with an idea to track weather patterns. One classroom has been following a hurricane over the course of a week and then later tracking and making notes of the damage that has incurred as a result of the storm. Google Earth is a great educational tool because it has real-world applications. Students begin to understand the type of work that mathematicians, ecologists, and environmentalists do.
Question #1: I want to teach Language Arts/English. Could I use Google Earth in my classroom?
I have a few ideas as to how Google Earth could enhance an English classroom. Any project in which students are interacting with other students or people in another part of the world would be a great time to introduce Google Earth. For instance, students have a “writing buddy” in another part of the country or world. They can use Google Earth to track the weather patterns, population sizes, etc. of their buddy. This will enhance the conversations that they are having.
Question #2: Is Google Earth appropriate for a middle school classroom?
I read quite a few posts about some parents have some concerns about Google Earth, calling it “virtual spying”. There will be many parents who are uncomfortable with the technology, and this is probably simply because they are unfamiliar with it. It might help to post an informational blog on the classroom website about this program, or any others that I am using. I should also be mindful to be very clear what the purpose is of using this technology in the classroom and how it will enhance the curricular objective.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Journal #3

CSUSM Summer Institute

“Restructuring for caring and effective education: The possible futures of education”
Richard A. Villa (President, Bayridge Consortium Inc., San Diego

This summer, I participated in the CSUSM Summer Institute for Educators. I attended a lecture hosted by Richard A. Villa who travels around the country to talk to educators about the state of the current educational system and what he believes is going wrong and why. Villa in his lecture posed a few questions: Where is the educational system now? Where is it going? Who’s going with us? How will we get there? It is his belief (and mine as well) that education is currently performance-centered. The result is that the best of the best students will be successful and those who do not do as well will often get left behind. High stakes tests lead to anxiety in children and many students end up becoming frustrated with their own education and eventually dropping out. Those in favor of this model argue that the performance-centered model produces the most successful students and prepares the “best” candidates for the most difficult jobs. It does fail to recognize however that students have different learning styles. Some children may struggle on tests, but excel visually or in the arts. Another model that Villa presented was an “everybody wins” approach. In this model, all students are successful because all are included in the process. Opponents argue that this model promotes decreased standards. Proponents argue that increases success in students that may otherwise not succeed in a traditional classroom by fostering their growth and ensuring their understanding in content. Villa argues that success with both models is possible. A forward-moving classroom will maintain high standards while including all students in the process. All students will be expected to learn and retain information, and Villa argues that this will create a more fun learning environment. Student’s anxiety decreases and they become more involved in the learning process.
Question 1: How would I overcome the challenges of incorporating both models in to one?
I believe that all students want to learn, and at any age or level. For so long, students have been forced to be “good students” and if they are not because they struggle with taking tests or writing essays, school becomes difficult and often results in them dropping out. When this stress is removed and the goal is having an educational experience, not just an A, many students will succeed. I honestly believe that if I have both the success and happiness of my students as a goal, this will come easily. Students want to know that their teacher has a genuine interest in their success (even the students that succeed easily).
Question 2: So, is this really possible… in the real world?
Teachers are facing some hard times in the wake of the No Child Left Behind legislature. If students do not retain the curriculum and pass high stakes tests, teachers can lose their jobs. The focus has turned from curriculum-centered teaching rather than student-centered teaching. Therefore, incorporating both models will be a challenge. However, if a teacher has the student’s best interest in mind (making the curriculum relevant to their life), the students will learn the content more naturally.

Classroom Newsletter

This is a newsletter that I created using Microsoft Word. It would be appropriate for a 7th Grade Language Arts Classroom.
Read this document on Scribd: Classroom Newsletter

Journal #2

The Laptops are Coming! The Laptops are Coming! Rethinking Schools Online.McFarlane, S.H. (2008) The laptops are coming! The laptops are coming! Rethinking schools online. Volume 22, No. 4.

If every child in every school could have personal use to their very own laptop, it would be a tremendously valuable educational tool. Right? Maybe not. As the author and her middle school students found out, use of their own laptops had its’ obvious benefits but carried some surprising built-in challenges. The author’s class was a “guinea pig” for a new program her school was trying out in which every student had their own laptop for use. The idea was to make sure that all students have access to computers and its’ resources. Teachers don’t have to worry about if every student can do internet assignments, or require typed assignments, because all students have access to the technology. This is exactly what occurred. However, face-to-face interaction between teacher and student decreased noticeably. There were also unforeseen challenges with training. Not only did many of the students not know how to use the technology, staff was unfamiliar with it too. So many students using this technology at the same time meant that training was lengthy. An eventual “disconnect” occurred and both students and teachers simply became frustrated. The students too did not know how to handle access to their new tool and were distracted by instant messaging and email.

Question: Training was one of the key issues that this school faced when they received their laptops. How do you train 30 students to use this tool?
It would be very valuable for all students to have their own laptops but only if they know how to use them. I think that training all students would be one of the foremost and key challenges. Students should not be able to use programs until they are familiar with the technology. I think it would be beneficial to take classroom to do a quick lesson about each program before its’ use is introduced through a lesson. Some students will catch on quickly, others who are less technologically savvy might need more help than this lesson can offer. I would first introduce lessons that involve very basic technological tools such as Microsoft Word, or even the internet. As students become more and more familiar with the technology as well as the technology etiquette, they will eventually be able to use more complex tools such as Microsoft Excel, or blogging tools.