Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Research Update

I'm in the process of writing up my pilot study that I presented at the University of Barcelona over the summer to submit to a journal. Additionally, my research on autism is getting underway. Will write more soon...

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Back to School Time!

Wow! It's back to school time. This summer seems like it has flown by. I'm getting excited about the new year. This year I'll be teaching a 4th grade special needs class in a rural elementary school in Florida. I've decided to have the kids read Willy Wonka as our first book of the year. Along their reading journey I'll bring in all kinds of goodies for the kids based on the story line. I figured I'd start out announcing the book by hiding "golden tickets" all around the classroom and having the kids each find their golden tickets. Then I'd have bubbles for the "bubble chapter" of the book...and of course chocolate.

Additionally, I will be exploring using our school's new SMART Board and I'm really looking forward to that. Lately, I've been so inspired to keep learning more about educational technology. My summer experiences abroad really taught me a lot regarding ed tech. The whole ILET experience really inspired me both as a scholar and as a teacher. Thus, seeing ed tech and special ed from an international perspective was truly a blessing. Well, thanks for visiting Teachers, Blogs, and the Law. I'm off to work on some of my lesson plans...including blogs of course. : )

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Summer Break 2005

Signing off for holiday! Have a great summer all : )

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Update on blogs in the Classroom: Violence and Video Games

Hey guys,

Today I tried something new with my students. I taught most of my class how to make blogs, rather than just a handful of students. I must say it was a daunting task teaching students with special needs how to create a blog. Hands were flying up like popcorn. Thus, I learned a great deal from my little experiment.

Anyhow, I managed to teach 22 middle schoolers to blog on Eventually, I want the kids to be able to on-line journal daily. However, for now it will have to be once a week because we are all sharing the computer lab with other classes.

I had the kids answer a prompt to get the ball rolling on their journaling. The question was, "Do video games cause violent behavior?" I was interested in this topic because the kids have been wanting to discuss a recent event involving one of their schoolmates (and former student of mine) involving violence. The student was arrested for nearly beating his two-year-old cousin to death and blamed a video game for his behavior. (The student will not be returning to our school and has been placed in a residential school setting). However, I thought this could be a "teachable moment" within our classroom since the kids really wanted to discuss the topic and debrief their feelings (e.g. fears, confusion, surprise) about it.

Hence, I will note various sides of the debate from student perspectives as noted per their blogs and we use this as a springboard for a class discussion about violence. Alas, my most of students responded really well to the blog format once they got through their initial frustrations. One girl wrote a whole page. I also noticed that a few kids who typically aren't concened about grammar and spelling really paying attention to detail, which was good. Hopefully, knowing the blog has a wide audience will inspire more students to pay attention to grammar and spelling. Most of all though, seeing the kids faces light up as they saw their work published on the web was great. I'll soon post some of the student responses for you to see. Please feel free to comment. Once again thank you for visiting Teachers, Blogs, and the Law. : )

Here's a link from the Davis & Company Law Firm

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Diversity and Blogs

Does the blogosphere have a diversity problem? According to a recent Newsweek article, "At a recent Harvard conference on bloggers and the media, the most pungent statement came from cyberspace. Rebecca MacKinnon, writing about the conference as it happened, got a response on the "comments" space of her blog from someone concerned that if the voices of bloggers overwhelm those of traditional media, "we will throw out some of the best ... journalism of the 21st century." The comment was from Keith Jenkins, an African-American blogger who is also an editor at The Washington Post Magazine [a sister publication of NEWSWEEK]. "It has taken 'mainstream media' a very long time to get to [the] point of inclusion," Jenkins wrote. "My fear is that the overwhelmingly white and male American blogosphere ... will return us to a day where the dialogue about issues was a predominantly white-only one."

Upon researching, I found that there are many conflicting views on the topic. Thus, is there diversity in the blogosphere? What are your thoughts on the topic? Here are some articles that I found interesting. Thanks again for visiting Teachers, Blogs & the Law. : )

Newsweek Article: Blogging Beyond the Men’s Club

Diversity Mongers Target the Web

Journalism & Blogging: It's About Diversity

Saturday, April 09, 2005

e-mentorship: Blogs and Mentoring (Part 2)

Reflecting back, I remember my first year of teaching I was involved in a cybermentoring program but it wasn't with blogs. The medium for our cybermentoring was via e-mail. I thought it was really good in some regards because I could tell my cybermentor how my day went and such with my sweet and tender hooligans and he'd tell me about his experiences being a special ed teacher (e.g. lesson plan ideas, classroom management advice). We started out writing once and week. However, after awhile I'd stop responding as much out of the sheer busy schedule of being a first year special ed teacher and told my mentor why. I'd also delete my e-mails after I read them our of e-mail habit. Now, looking back I wish that I kept those darn e-mails so I could see the evolution of my teaching.

But I digress...I think the whole idea of cybermentoring for me was finally shelved the day I discovered one of my students brought a gun to school and threatened another student for sitting next to his girlfriend. That day, I wrote my cybermentor about the incident, but did not really find any comfort in reading a text message with emotiocons. After that I felt really disconnected because I soon found out that he really didn't have as much experience as even I did with the population that I taught...Hence, our mentorship relationship expired. Granted he was a special ed teacher, but worked with another population besides EH with reading levels that ranged from K-8 all in one class. Thus, even he was at a loss for words regarding the population of students I teach. Thankfully, I had a lot of wonderful teacher mentors at my school that I did not have to log on to in order to connect with. Reflecting, I wonder at what point does someone outgrow his or her mentor and what makes other mentor relationships lifelong? Hmmm...

So where do blogs fit in with all this mentor talk? Well, I think that the blog format is better suited for cybermentorship than e-mails, for, the on-line journal format provides you with a diary to reflect back on your experiences and advice from your mentor. Granted, it is my contention that in the blogosphere the mentorship connection is limited in that when major things go on it's often hard to connect with an on-line mentor and often mentees outgrow their mentor. Alas, I believe that cybermentors fill a purpose, but do not compare with a face-to-face mentorship.

In conclusion, I feel the subject of blogs and mentoring are worthy of further study especially in the pedagogy. I wonder such things as how much support can one receive via an e-mentorship? Do cybermentorships benefit some students more than others and what are the limitations? And how much could blogs be used to facilitate emotional-social growth and support with our at-risk students?

e-mentorship: Blogs and Mentoring (Part 1)

I've been thinking a lot about blogs in the classroom and how blogs can be used to help meet not only the academic needs of students, but also the social-emotional needs of our kids. Recently, I was reminded of the value of mentorship when a professor gave me some sage advice inpspiring me to pursue my dreams in spite of a couple road blocks. Thus, mentors can help one dream bigger dreams than one thought possible. Reflecting, it is my contention that mentorship is part of the role of teaching...and I believe any good teacher worth his or her salt will tell you that.

Hence, I wonder couldn't blogs be a valuable venue for mentorship? Thus, could we use the blogospere to encourage peer and/or multi-age mentorships within our schools? It seems all very Vygotskian, for, blogs could scaffold learning both academically as well as social-emotional. For example, I was thinking in my own classroom I could have my eighth graders mentor my sixth graders adjustment to middle school life at the beginning of every school year. As a part of the lesson I would be modeling the attributes leadership and mentorship to my eighth graders as they embark on learning to mentor a new middle school cohort.

Additionally, when searching on-line for mentorship and blogs I also came across a couple interesting blog sites. For example, a veteran teacher was mentoring a first year teacher (which I really liked), a mommie-to-be mentorship blog, and a youth minister's mentorship blog... be continued...

Cybermentoring: An Online Literacy Project in Teacher Education
Article by Dr. Paula Boxie, Miami University, Ohio

Collaboratories: Working Together on the Web

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Teens Can Now Put a “Keep Out” Sign on Their Blogs

Yes, now teens can put a lock and key on their blogs. According to the March 29th, 2005 AOL Business Wire Press Release, “ Eighty four percent of teens said they would not be willing to share their blog with just anyone on the open web. In response to these findings AOL's RED service offers a refreshing way to create a blog in a 'velvet rope' environment and gives teens and parents the option to choose between different levels of privacy, ranging from private, semi-private and public.”

Hmmm…this all sounds good. I wonder if teachers could use this lock and key method to contain blogs within their classroom parameters as well? Here’s the website of the article. It is noteworthy to check out. Specific findings from the AOL/DMS "Teens & Communications Survey" are also on the site. However, when you read the bottom of the page it says, “parents were instructed to allow their children to answer the survey questions while they supervised.” Alas, one wonders what the data would have been if the parents were supervising while their kids were taking the survey. I’m sure the kids would probably want to keep out their parents on their blogs too…but this is just speculation. I’m curious to know what y’all think? Overall, I think that AOL may have a hit with their new blog service. Once again thank you all for visiting Teachers, Blogs & the Law. : )

America Online's Red Service for Teens Introduces New Blog Product

Update on Blog Field Study: Teen Guidelines

Hey guys,

Here’s an update on my research project of blog use in the classroom. The study is with a group my students. I picked all my eighth grade girls for the study. Thus, there are five students in the study. All the girls are in my special education Language Arts/ Reading class. All of the girls communicate on a blog I created specifically for them. They discuss various topics of interest to them. For example, they all voted on the topic of self-esteem for their first weeks discussion and now are on the topic of gangs.

Their reading levels range from 2nd grade-6th grade per the READ 180 Lexile Test, which is apart of the computerized reading program we use in class to suppliment the curriculum. Two girls have a computer at home and three do not. The girls with a computer at home type with both hands. Whereas, two of the girls without a computer type with one hand and the other predominately types with one hand also, but when prompted can type with both hands.

I originally told the girls that I was not going to correct their grammar at each post and they are free to post without me fixing their grammar. I also reminded them that others will be reading their work and to remember their audience. When I asked the girls about the guidelines they would like for our classroom blog I noticed a pattern. Therefore, I placed them into the following categories: confidentiality, authenticity, respect, and teamwork.

I am so proud of them for their effort. I don't think I could have come up with better guidelines and since the guidelines come from them they take more ownership over them. Alas, I’ll keep you updated on further knowledge I glean from the study. Thank you again for visiting Teachers, Blogs, and the Law. Please feel free to comment & have a great day! : )

Here's their responses:

“No tellin’ nobodies peeps” (i.e. confidentiality)

“Try to be honest, don’t be ‘bout dos games” (i.e. authenticity)

“Take dis serious” (i.e. authenticity)

“If u got something slick to say ‘bout somebody keep it to yo self” (i.e. respect)

“Everyone have to be repectful to everyone.” (i.e. respect)

“Make sure no one puts anyone down.” (i.e. respect)

“These is my guideline this is between the five girls and don't be mean to each other...peace out people.” (i.e. confidentiality & respect)

“They also have to work like a team. They also have to help eachother if they need help. You also have to help create things with eachother.” (i.e. teamwork)

“The last rule is to make sure you follow the rules.” (i.e. teamwork)