Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Saturday, May 31, 2008


4 cups dry red table wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup Rum
1/2 cup sugar
liter of seltzer (lemon-lime)
2-3 apple, sliced, to serve
1-2 oranges sliced
6 cloves

In a large jug:

Pour in the wine, rum, the orange juice, lime juice, and seltzer.

Add the sugar and stir well until it has dissolved.

Add ice and cloves.

Add fruit.

Let sit or serve at once.

Friday, May 30, 2008


TeacherEase is a great program. The program provides tools for maintaining attendance, making comments, recording and displaying assignments, recording grades, maintaining telephone logs, and sharing all of this with the school community that includes all school staff, parents, and students. Short of maintaining your own computers, this is web-based and it works. As each teacher logs in and looks at specific classes, information about that student in other classes is immediately available. Any comments made about a student on any given day is available for teachers of that student as the day progresses. Parent notes are available instantly to all teachers. In short, so much of the paperwork that bogs us down is managed online in a secure manner and most importantly is available to all as needed.

Last year, three teachers signed up and used the three free accounts for the year. As they were using it, a few other teachers observed it and about midway through the year a few more teachers took advantage of three free months. Eventually, because of the overall positive feelings and results from using the program the school bought the package for the entire school. We had fruitful training sessions because so many teachers were familiar with the product. They sent a representative to continue the training. Administering the program is very simple. I can add new students in minutes as we admit them and the students receive their school accounts. Instantly teachers can add them to their rosters.

We are finding that students who are absent can access their teacher's pages and collect assignments. Parents can monitor their child's progress. The administration can have access to important data when needed with parent or other meetings demanding student data. The use of technology makes the school more efficient and safer. It relieves the teacher of much of the burdensome paperwork that has heretofore bogged them down and stolen time from the students.

TeacherEase is a program you may consider evaluating over the summer in preparation for next year. It is just one more program that is free with the option to purchase. It is also a good use of technology in the classroom and school.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Free Stuff

I love free stuff. Who doesn't like free stuff? Teachers love free stuff. When I go to the NCTE Fall conventions, I love going down to the convention floor to get my posters, pens, pencils, squeeze balls, books, pamphlets, book bags and so much more. I use the stuff I collect to decorate my room, to fill my children's Christmas stockings, to give to my scholars, and as gifts for other teachers. Not only do I walk away from these conventions with so many pedagogical ideas and so much knowledge from the sessions, but I also walk away with many great freebies.

Typing in "free stuff teachers" into a Google search returns many great free sites on the Internet for teachers to get posters, worksheets, books, and so much more. I recently sent away for many posters and books. For the next months, until school starts next September, I shall be receiving lots of free items for use in the classroom, posters for the walls and books for my shelves.

In addition to the mail I will receive, I also found many websites with excellent forms for teachers. Freeology is a good site for teachers to find forms for passes, class work as well as a variety of Graphic Organizers. The collection of teacher tools is very useful. In addition you will find lots of academic worksheets and edutainment types of worksheets. I was particularly impressed with the Journal topic prompts. This is a very useful site for all teachers. and everything if FREE!!

Another site, The Online Teacher Resource has a well organized site for teachers and their needs. The free material is plentiful. If one wishes to become a member, then even more is available. Many sites work this way. Free material is available and if one becomes a member, even more is available. This site provides a chronological organization from back to school to end of year award certificates. Specific discipline worksheets are also available.

School Express has lots of fun activities like flashcards and the like for classroom activities that augment what is being done in the classroom. Sites like HotChalk provide lessons plans for all grade levels and disciplines.

Other sites are clearing houses for Free Stuff for Teachers like this one, maintained by a teacher.

Just for English and Language Arts teachers, check our ReadWriteThink, an NCTE affiliate with great lessons plans for all levels and needs.

As I have said just enter "free stuff teachers" into a Google search and you will find lots of free stuff and will spend many hours collecting stuff and finding stuff that will be very useful for you in your classroom.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Left Brain Right Brain

Click image to learn more.

Are you Left Brain or Right Brain dominant?

Take a Quiz to determine if you are Right Brain or Left Brain dominant.
1. Quiz for Teens.
2. Another Quiz.
3. Hemispheric Dominance Inventory Test.
4. Another HDI Test.

This is a very recent positive development in society, allowing for the study of right brain or left brain dominance because of long held prejudices against left handed anything. For a very, very long time people who were left handed were not allowed to be left handed. This was attributed to the idea that Lucifer, the devil, sat on the left hand side of God before he fell from Grace. So the Latin word for left derived from sinister. If one was born left handed, that person was forced to be right handed. In fact today, left handedness is still discriminated against. School desks are right handed, very few left handed desks can be found. Consider tools like scissors. Even the keyboard is a bit right handed, but is more democratic than most tools. To find a left handed tool or glove, or whatever is getting easier, but still we are a right handed dominant world. So to see more and more studies emerging about right hand and left hand dominance is very encouraging. I suspect many students determined to be special education were actually left handed people who were not allowed to be their natural left handed and suffered as a result.

What does it mean to be right brain dominant or left brain dominant? The brain is divided into two hemispheres. They communicate which is good as we tend to be left brain oriented or left brain oriented. No one is completely left or right brain oriented. Each side processes information in different ways. Generally speaking we are in conflict perhaps between linear and holistic processing; sequential and random processing; symbolic and concrete processing; logical and intuitive processing; verbal and nonverbal processing; ands reality-based and fantasy-oriented processing. So imagine how it must be in a classroom when the single teacher is either right or left brain dominant and those who are of the opposite brain dominance. When a scholar says, the teacher doesn't like me or understand me, maybe the scholar is right. The same holds true when a teacher speaks about the frustration of a certain number of students. Does this difference in right brain and left brain have an impact in school? It has to have an affect. Consider your own experiences as both a student and as a teacher.

I would say schools are more Left Brain oriented in their presentation and operating procedures:
Left Brain characteristics:
Looks at part

As I look at these characteristics I see rigidity in instruction, one way instruction and a total loss of the individual. They reflect the NYState Regents and curriculum. Sequential is a key world in English, American Literature, British Literature, World Literature; Sequential Math A and B; Global, Us History, World History; Living Environment, Biology, Chemistry, Physics. Everything we do is sequential, no integration, analytical and objective. I have always found this wanting and lacking in pure education.

When we look at Right Brain characteristics we find a balance and a difference from Left Brain characteristics:
Looks at wholes

The key characteristic for me is subjective. I am constantly having heated discussions with other English teachers about the use of the word "I" in essays. I find all of the right brain characteristics important in the learning process. When these two brain sides work together some great work can be done. As I said earlier, NYState schools are too left brain dominant and should employ the right brain characteristics so we can achieve a more whole picture of our scholars. When Tom Sobel left the State Department of Education of New York State, he left us with an exit strategy of 50% portfolio (right brain) and 50% Regents exam (left brain) requirements. When Richard Mills took over he changed that to 100% Regents. This was and has been a huge mistake and a disaster to our scholars on an international level as those criteria show that compare United States education to the world.

Dan Eden has created a very interesting visual page that presents some fascinating ideas about the bicameral aspects of us. He uses visuals of many people you will recognize with very stimulating discussions about the left brain and right brain aspects of these individuals. This site must be visited to be truly appreciated.

So is this Myth or Reality? Your call.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Teenage Brain

In "Findings" in the June, 2008 issue of Harper's Magazine, I read this:

Students exposed to subliminal Apple logos were found to answer questions more creatively than subjects exposed to subliminal IBM logos.

I was intrigued by this information. What research was this based on? What was the source of this statement? So I did a Google search with the whole line. WOW!!

I found the research! A research team of psychologists from Duke and the University of Waterloo had conducted the research which was published in Journal of Consumer Research. This study concurs with Apple which has been trying to link creativity to its logo and advertising. This is a fun study of subliminal thinking. We may remember how movie theaters many years ago used inserted clips of popcorn and soda in previews that subliminally influenced the movie goers to go and purchase items at the concession stand. In fact subliminal exposure was more powerful than overt exposure which is curious. The suggestion of this research means that print rich rooms can be a positive influence in class. What we post on our walls is important. So should we put the Apple logo on our walls in our classrooms?

Brain research has always been in and out of education. It is back again. We have been exploring it. So this research has some bearing on our pedagogy. I have always been aware of a print rich room. In fact, this year I began with bare walls. For the first month of school, the room was not vibrant. After the first month was over, I spent a Monday afternoon, with the doors closed decorating my room. The reaction the next day was phenomenal. See pictures at top and bottom of this page. So how do we as teachers tap into our teenage student's brains?

A teacher and I were talking and he was speaking about what he was studying in his graduate class was similar to what we were doing with Brain Research at our school. He was speaking about how the teenager's brain was in a different development stage then others. He showed me the book he was using in class. A new version is coming out in August, so I will wait to purchase it. So what does this research tell us that will inform our pedagogy?

Click image to see a gallery of teenage brain pictures.

Doing a Google search for "brain research in teenagers" yield lots of good stuff. The following were my favorite ones: Number one is the original work of Dr Jay Giedd. Number two is a visual PBS account of his work. Number three is a report on his work. These three represent three ways of looking at the research: the primary, the secondary and the tertiary and it is presented in a variety of media.

1. "Teenage Brain: A work in progress" National Institute of Mental Health. This study, by Dr Jay Giedd is interesting in that it confirms what all parents of teens already knew, "they are not easily understood." The reason may be in the fact that the brain is still developing. In early adolescence, the frontal lobe is not as active, but as the teen gets older the frontal lobe grows. By using the MRI, researchers examined the brains of teens over a period of time and noticed gray matter growth in the frontal lobe. Another interesting finding dealt with the idea "if you don't use it, you will lose it." This idea was the result of these MRI studies. The growth or lack of growth of the gray matter helped researches draw this conclusion. I relate this to language learning. Language is best acquired when one is young because the throat muscles are more pliable in young people. As we get older, our throat muscles are formed by the language or languages we speak, making alien sounds more difficult to speak. The most important suggestion for me is to allow our students to use the technology because the human brain does not stop growing and pruning. That their is a suggestion that there is a second growth spurt at the beginning of puberty is crucial for my work as a teacher. It is during this time frame I work with students. The discussion of growing gray matter and then the pruning of not used parts is fundamental in our use of Multiple Intelligences and allowing our students to use all parts of their brains in learning. Maybe it we are the problem if we don't present our material in a variety of ways and not do everything the same old way.

2. Inside the Teenage Brain, Frontline, PBS provides interviews with key scientists in this brain research and it uses video, instead of words to present its findings and arguments. Whereas the above report was simply verbal, this one employs video and audio, another way of presenting information.The major emphasis for me was again on the second activity of brain growth and pruning at the crucial teenage years. This is an important point as it helps explain many of the confusions and frustrations adults have with teenagers. What it tells me is that they should be making mistakes because they are still or once again learning and in the learning process we learn from our mistakes. It may be frustrating to us as parents and as teachers, but it is natural and wanted. It realigns my whole thinking of how we should teach. Whereas we may have thought of these teenagers as just being rebellious, they are in fact learning again and admitting new material and finding places for it and in fact creating whole new pockets for putting new information. It is a brave new world indeed and exciting to think that these teenagers are actually absorbing what we teach rather than thinking they reject it out of hand. It is and must be a more confusing time for them then we had formerly believed.It gives me a whole new respect for what must be going on for these young people in spite of what we as adults do to hinder this growth.

3. "Are Teens Just Wired That Way?" Washington Post. This article discusses the above research b y Jay Giedd. The importance of this article is how it stresses what we do with teens is crucial. For me, I am drawn more and more to the use of technology in the classroom to satiate all the needs not usually addressed in the non computer classroom. Computers are more effective in realizing what Gardner says about Multiple Intelligences (MI). This is an excellent assessment of the above research study.

Click image for a fun survey.

So when I first read the findings: Students exposed to subliminal Apple logos were found to answer questions more creatively than subjects exposed to subliminal IBM logos, I didn't find this alarming or shocking, only where's the proof. From my experience, I have found students working with Apple technology far more creative than those working with the IBM. The Apple is far more MI friendly than the IBM, from my own experience with technology in computer classrooms since 1983. Now I have a room of sixteen IMacs and sixteen Dells, with one of each on my desk. The types of applications capable of being done on each of these computers is very telling to me. It must be a left brain right brain thing. We'll have that discussion tomorrow.

An op-ed in June 27, 2008 New York Times: Your Brain Lies to You.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Garden

It is Memorial Day weekend and the garden is in great shape. We have had lots of rain and now lots of heat and sun. The Morning Glory have started out well and will be climbing the fence to the right. The red rose behind the reading Heather is near bloom while the newly sprouted winter berry shrubs on the left are climbing to new heights. The birds loved the berries this winter and we should have twice as many next winter for our cardinals, now in their third year. The Azalea, bottom right is well, but the rain stripped the blossoms, prematurely.

This area is for afternoon cocktails or just plain chatting. It is a comfortable place to relax especially during parties or while dining. Morning coffee is especially fine here as there is no morning sun.

The far corner of the garden has a bird bath and fish pond with fountain. Three Koi live in the pond and have for the past three years. The umbrella provides much needed shade on sunny days and protection from light rain. I do lots of my computing at that table. The winter berry are in lower right.

The pond with the fountain which provides a very relaxing trickle and is oftentimes accompanied by the three wind chimes of different keys.It is a sanctuary in the middle of Hell's Kitchen, Times Square, in NYC. The three Koi have enjoyed the pond for the past three years.

Our six tomato plants are doing well and you can get a better picture of where the morning glory will be growing on the fence, while Heather is relaxing with a good book.

Having this oasis in NYC is phenomenal and delightful. We spend lots of time outside and grill four or five times a week all year round. The cats love it too and so do many birds that visit and live here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Useful Tools

Have you ever needed to convert a file from one format to another? Hasn't everyone. I discovered a great file conversion program called Zamzar. Because I can't get YouTube links in my school, because of the filter, I discovered I could send Zamzar the TouTube URL and they would convert that file into a media file of my choice like .mov, .mpeg, etc. In addition I discovered I could convert many formats to file formats I could work with on my computers.

doPDF is free for both personal and commercial use. Using doPDF, everyone from novice users to professionals, can create high-quality searchable PDF files, by simply selecting the "Print" command from virtually any application. With one click you can save your Microsoft Excel, Word or PowerPoint documents or perhaps your emails and favorite web sites, into easy to share PDF files. This is especially handy for teachers who have created Word or other word processing documents or other handouts for their class. These documents might be read by each scholar for lack of that software, but a PDF document can be read by everyone via the free Adobe Reader. So all the teacher needs to do is upload the document to a website and the scholars have access anytime, anywhere.

LibriVox provides free audiobooks from the public domain. There are several options for listening. The first step is to get the mp3 or ogg files into your own computer. You can also read for Librivox. I have found this very useful. I could create my own podcasts of literature I teach, but Librivox sometimes has better voices and even the author reading. This is a great audio resource for teachers.

What happened to that great website I used to go to? How many times have you gone back to a website you have used and come to depend on only to find it is gone. YIKES!! The sense of loss is numbing. It leaves us empty and wishing we had saved some remnants or information we used and needed. Well not is all lost. There is a website called "The WayBack Machine" that has been spending the past decade archiving all websites. They don't necessarily have all of the website, like images, but you should find the text content. The archives contains many different versions of the website over the years. I have been lucky to find many of my former websites that were lost when a major server I had stored many many files on crashed and died. I was able to find almost all of the files I had lost on the WayBack Machine. It was arduous, but it was a life saver. In fact, the WayBack Machine will show you different versions of any website still active or inactive. This is very cool to see growth and changes of different sites. They boast of 85 billion pages and counting. In addition to webpages, they also have archives of moving images, live music, audio, and text files. It is a digital archive library and is growing. So next time you get a "not found" message, don't panic, try the WayBack Machine to see if the files you are looking for are archived. Chances are in your favor they are.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How Do I....

Sitting at your computer, you are in the middle of something and then you realize you need to do something with some software and you can't remember how or you don't know the software you need. How do I do that? is answered at "I want to." It is a website that has a a plethora of software applications that let you do whatever you want with which ever tools. They have over 450 applications organized by categories.

Common Craft is a phenomenal tutorial website for many Web 2.o tools. The folks here have created very good videos to help you through the introductory aspects of many Web 2.0 applications. These videos are great for Staff development or introducing teachers and students to the ideas, theories, applicati0n of the tools you will be working with in class or in school. is a collection of Web 2.0 applications made by users.
* A directory of web 2.0 applications and services
* Born around mid 2006
* 2410 logos as of Tuesday, May 20, 2008
* As a visitor, you are probably active in the web 2.0 community and you are one of those labeled as 'early adopters'. Are you?
* Thousands of visitors every day
* There's a higher chance that you've been here before than that this is your 1st visit here
* Converges both Flash and AJAX technologies

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Some Examples

See what Michael Moloney, Paul Turtola are doing with some of these tools and what Dawn Hogue said in a presentation she did about these tools.

Michael Moloney is doing some very impressive work in a NYC high school using blogs, wikis, and podcasts. Take a look and be awed and inspired. Here is a link to his Blog Lesson and Rubric.

Michael wrote this for me to post on the Blog:

I have a laptop cart in my classroom with the mac ibooks. My students use garageband 3 to record podcasts. They can add images to the podcasts - making them I guess what you would call "enhanced podcasts". But the garageband files are huge files - so I convert them to quicktime files by saving the garageband file to iweb, then copying and pasting the file to quicktime. I use quick time pro for this. Then I put the quicktime files (they are .mov files) on my website. I have my own website so that I can house all my work.

The podcasts are kind of a lot of work. But I am having my honors global students make some really good ones that will go on my global review site - so hopefully other students will watch them and students can learn from students. But of course I still have to convert the files, load them on my server, and then connect them to my website. This is my Global Studies Regents Review page, which has many of the student podcasts. The entire 2-year curriculum is broken down to 50 subjects. And each category has- 1.) notes, 2.) a student made podcast, 3.) the link to the text book chapter, 4.) practice multiple choice questions from This site can help any student prepare for the global regents exam.

Concerning podcasting:
Podcasting takes tons of time - so it is hard to do if one is teaching a course loaded with regents content. I now only use podcasting with my 10th grade global honors kids. When I first introduce podcasting to a class, I give them the script - and they record it and put in the images. When they put in the images, they have to listen to the podcast over and over again - so I hope that the content sinks in.

The 2nd time my honors global kids make podcasts, I give them a topic (renaissance, plague, holocaust, etc.) - they prepare a 2-3 minute script - they email it to me. Then I check to make sure the script is ok, I delete some things and add some things. But the general flavor of the podcast is theirs. This is a lot of work. Then I email them back with the new improved script and they then record their show and get their images. You can also give kids images to use on a site like "flicker". It is better if they also use text signs (which they can make with photoshop).Here are directions to a global history podcast lesson.

I also use podcasting with my seniors for Participation in Government and Economics. Since there is no regents exam here and they are seniors, I let them make their own podcast from scratch the first time out. I encourage them to be creative, funny, unique, etc. Still this takes tons of time, two solid weeks for even talented seniors to complete a podcast about a topic. I give then a guide of what they should have on the podcast - and see what they come up with. Here is an example of the directions to a podcast lesson about "how banks work".

I learned how to make a garageband podcast by going to the Apple store in soho. they have free, hour-long seminars on how to do it. they have a couple of classes a week, usually one on saturday - go to apple store in soho website for details.

Wikis: When I started using wikis i used PBwikis - as in peanut butter wikis. But I eventually switched to wikispaces, which offers free educational upgrades. I now use wikis as a class webpage when I teach seniors. That way, I can open the site up to the whole world - and the kids can link up their blog pages and wiki pages - then I can shut the site down again after the kids hook up their stuff.

Like anything - these things take time - and any teacher willing to use blogs, wikis, or podcasts must go home and 'play' with them before they break them out in the classroom.

One great feature of blogs and wikis are that they have the time and date of the work. You can simply look at the time and date the work was submitted.

If you have any more questions - let me know. I could go on for hours about this stuff. Using tech in education has changed a lot since you were teaching us that first year.

Michael added: Here is a site from a Pennsylvania social studies teacher, Jennifer Dorman, who used tech extensively for about 8-10 years. She is no longer teaching, but is a tech director/coordinator for her region. Her site is great - she does a lot with blogs, wikis, and podcasting and has tons of resources on her site.

Michael Moloney
Thanks, Michael.

Dawn Hogue did a presentation for the Wisconsin State Reading Association in February, 2008. She discussed the use of these Web 2.0 tools and created a great website of the theories and links to practical applications as well as providing useful resource links.

Paul Turtola's CyberEnglish Center features a wiki.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Usual Web 2.0 Suspects

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Videos....

Blogs are relatively simple. For me they are a natural and obvious evolution from the webpage in school. Scholars make their work public. Via the comments section, they can engage in peer review. Of course by publishing they are passing it on. There are many sites offering Blog applications. Four of the more popular Blogs used in schools are Google, EduBlog, Blogmeister, and WordPress. I've spoken about Google before. The key is to get a Google account and use the Blogger tool. All Blogs have editing tools and are very intuitive. The scholars get it very quickly. Teachers should start using a Blog for hir class assignments and to begin discussions. I used my Blog for a "Do Now" exercise. Upon entering the class, the scholars login and use the Blog to comment on the "Do Now." I have seen teachers use the Blog as the class webpage. If the teacher spends some time using the Blog before introducing it to the scholars, its use should go much smoother.

The teacher should put links to the scholars' blogs on hir blog. Each scholar can use the editor in the blog or prewrite in another word processing program and copy and paste. The scholar can also save a draft before publishing. I featured "Stairway to WV" a while ago as a good school use of the Blog. Tomorrow you will see some examples.

Wikis are an interesting interactive collaborative tool. Wikispaces and PBWiki are two popular free wiki sites online. Everyone has access to the same page in a Wiki and everyone has editing capability. It may seem chaotic at first. Users can only log in one at a time otherwise if multiple users are on at the same time, then one user could overwrite another or cause another user's work not to be saved. It is a collaborative tool where users can share a document online. One very cool and important feature is the history of the edits by the users. If this tool is used in class, the teacher has access to whom the editors are, when they edited, and what they edited or added. Here is a very good tutorial about wikis. Tomorrow you will see some school based wikis in action.

Podcasts are a fun tool. They are audio files created by the scholars using a recording tool like Audacity or GarageBand. Audacity is a free software that can be used on Linux, Mac, or PC platforms. GarageBand is a high end Mac application. Audacity is a simple tool to use. By doing a Google search: "How to use Audacity" you will find dozens of great tutorials. A few of my favorites: This tutorial is excellent. Here is a great Word Document. There are many other good tutorials online for Audacity. GarageBand is a higher end tool for the Mac and is very professional. I use a SnowBall and/or a headset with built-in microphone for podcasts. Tomorrow you will see a good use of the podcast in the classroom.

Scholars should write a script before creating the podcast. This will eliminate lots of editing and redoing. The script is a good writing assignment and satisfies writing components before speaking components are satisfied.

Video tools are a bit more complicated and require more technical expertise. You need either a good video camera or IMac Intel with iSight. On the Mac, I record with IMovie. IMovie is a great and easy tool to use. On the PC, use the Windows Movie Maker. However you record the video, be sure the camera has a quick and easy way to transfer the shot video to the computer WITHOUT any third party software. If you have the wrong camera and the shot video cannot be transfered to the computer easily, you will get frustrated and it might get expensive. So determine the computer on which you edit your video. The Mac is better, IMHO, to the PC in this area. Be sure the camera you purchase or use will allow you to download the shot video and begin editing in IMovie. Once you get the hang of this, it is fun and you will wonder how did you survive in the classroom without it. Creating scripts before creating videos is crucial. Like the professionals, consider Cinematic techniques.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Here are five videos from TeacherTube that help explain how teachers are using Web 2.0 tools in their English classrooms. Let's use this as a taste of what is being done and give us some food for thought about our own classrooms. TeacherTube is a phenomenal resource for us. Unlike YouTube, TeacherTube is educationally oriented and should get past school filters.

The first video is from an English teacher in Barcelona, Spain. His interests are in the emerging technologies of Web 2.0: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Videos as they affect 21st Century Learners. In addition he speaks briefly about Second Life, deemed Web 3.0. The Webheads of Second Life are initiating educational uses for digital learning. One of his biggest points is publishing student work. This of course was the basic tenet of CyberEnglish. Again Web 2.0 is not much different from CyberEnglish.

Graham Stanley, November 2006

In this second video an English teacher shows how he is using the Blog in his class. Students speak about their blogs and uses. This was produced by Christine, a student teacher in Mr Sheehy's English class. Search "sheehy" on TeacherTube for more.

An English teacher, Jim Hatten, at Tartan High School in Oakdale, Minnesota provides the third video. His class has been using the usual suspects of Web 2.0: blogs, wikis, podcasts, surveys, and webquests. Students comment on their work and the process. Perhaps the most entertaining aspect was watching Jim prowl his own classroom while the scholars work. It is a student centered class!!

Rachel Boyd, let her 6 & 7 year olds from Room 9 at Nelson Central School educate you about what they think a blog is and why they love using them! This fourth video is the introduction to her presentation for a New Zealand Online Conference.

From, the final video is about paying attention, a term I have been made more conscious of after hearing Cindy Selfe utter them many years ago about our use of technology in education. We still need to pay attention for many of the reasons stated in this lovely video. It is a lovely compilation of Gardner, Bloom, Prensky, Gates, Carnegie Foundation, students, Daggett, Warlick, and others. I love the haunting music that suggests some urgency and the quote: "engage them, don't enrage them."

Now after viewing these remarkable videos, I hope you have a better understanding of what can be done with technology and where you can go and search for more inspirational examples and videos you can use in your classroom.

Eventually you will want to create your own. We will talk about that.

Friday, May 16, 2008

KISS Storage

Living in NYC, I know about space, living space. Optimizing space is an art form in NYC. Multiple uses of our objects makes those objects valuable. Using all spaces in the apartment wisely is always sought by us. Innovative ways of using space is always a topic of discussion and brings awe from friends when they see great usage of space. Companies make money helping residents optimize their living space. We have storage companies dotting the city, so residents who don't have attics, cellars, or garages can store those items they rarely use or those seasonal objects. Some storage locations can be elaborate or they can be simple. It all depends on how much we are storing and how often we need access.

The same is true in the world of technology. We have space issues on our computers, on our cameras, on our thumb drives, on our websites, in our email. How do we manage all of our gigabytes? We are gatherers and we are gathering more and more digits. We have learned that digits take up far less space than atoms, so we collect and gather so much. All of a sudden we get a warning message telling us we are running out of space, or we don't have enough space to perform a certain task. We are flummoxed. Do we buy a new computer, camera, another thumb drive? No. Many folks are using free online resources to store data. I've written about Google before and there are lots of online locations a person can store stuff to share it with others or to access from another computer. I have a list of such places on my 2dotzero webpage.

A new site has recently come to my attention, BOX. I love the simplicity of this site. All the user does is upload files. The user can share them with others. The files are downloaded to the computer and worked on the computer. The site does not have the capability of editing files as some other sites have. This is a great site for schools and business. the original documents are passed on and worked on by the the original user or a collaborator and then returned to storage. Users have control of programs used and aren't dependent on a second party editor that may not be compatible with the original user's computer. It is a simply a storage and share website. Simplicity is sometimes the best way to go.

As we know and see everyday there are so many ways to store and save data on the Internet. We each have our own needs and methods. Box is one of those sites that provides a very simple solution to one on the go, a simple solution for one in need of some more space, simply a place to place something for later use without all the bells and whistles of editors and other distracting toys and tools. Box is a good example of KISS.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Good Quote

One must learn by doing the thing.
For though you think you know it,
you have no certainty until you try.
Sophocles (BC 495-406, Greek Tragic Poet)

I have used this quote in many ways. I have used it in my email signature, on my class syllaweb, and here. Quotes are powerful tools. They provide a truism common to all readers. They give us a way in, a segue to what we want to say, by pulling our readers into the same mind think. We read the quote, we interpret the quote, and now that we are on the same page, we can discuss how this quote leads us to our current conversation. Another neat aspect of quotes is who said it and when. In this case we are talking about a really old concept. A concept that is central to me as an educator and that is "we learn by doing." It is central to my work in that I am a constructivist. I want my scholars to construct, to generate projects that demonstrate their learning. We can read about things and we can hear about things in the world; but we don't know about them till we do them. Secondly, we must always try to do those things, otherwise life is wasted. This quote is a powerful one to have a conversation around in any class or gathering of people.

"Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see."
Benjamin Franklin

I first heard this quote in eighth grade from my math teacher. I think it took me years before I really understood it. This is another quote I use in my classes. Most recently I used it to introduce a lesson about Wikipedia. This was an eye opening exercise for my scholars. So many instances in our lives are cluttered with things we hear and see. What do we believe and what don't we believe? I use a sports analogy here to help make this more clear. We speak about using video replay from many angles to see if a foul was committed, a touchdown was scored, or if his knee was inbounds or not. We discover that we need different perspectives on things. We need to investigate, challenge, and question everything to arrive at our own conclusions.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Lao-Tzu (BC 600-?, Chinese philosopher, founder of Taoism)

I have used this quote often in class. Whenever a scholar asks me how to spell a word or another question that is better answered by the scholar who does some work to find the answer then by me simply giving the answer, I reply, "I don't know, let's figure it out." The concept is that they must earn it. An analogy I use with them. If you find twenty dollars how carefully do you spend it as compared to the twenty dollars you earned through labor? I am a teacher and wish to teach my scholars how do do something rather than give them the answer. This is why I use computers in my classroom and not a lectern.

In New York State we have a section on the English Language Arts (ELA) exam called the "Critical Lens." It asks the student to examine two pieces of literature through a critical lens, which is a quote. The state provides the quote and asks the student to first interpret the quote and then to select any two pieces of literature that support the interpretation of the quote. In my class, I have used quotes as a "Do Now." I provide a quote and ask them to interpret it in on the class blog so we may use our interpretations in class. I have asked the scholars to select quotes that they think are appropriate segues for their own essays and to include them at the beginning as many authors use quotes at beginnings of chapters in a book or in the beginning of a book. On my class syllaweb, I have a link to "Quote of the Day" so that I have a fresh quote on my syllaweb each day as a Do Now.

Quotes are powerful tools. Authors, speakers, politicians use them to provide some authenticity to their own work, to give their enterprise credibility, to let them associate themselves with greatness. When an audience hears or sees a recognizable quote or a quote of good sense, the audience is joined with the speaker, the author, the politician around a common thread, a common idea, a common adage; that is a good segue to where we are about to go. Quotes in the classroom are powerful tools. I love them for their power and diversity.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
Buckminster Fuller

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Instruction (DI) is today's educational buzzword. In a nutshell, DI suggests that students learn in different ways, so the teacher needs to find the different ways to help each student learn, in hir way. DI is the culmination of Multiple Intelligences and of Ron Edmunds. In the late 60's and early 70's, Edmonds was deputy chancellor of education in New York City. In one of his reports he said, "All children can learn." He was involved in "Effective Schools."

Edmunds' original list to identify an effective school had five elements on it. The first is that the principal is an instructional leader. Secondly, the school has high expectations. Thirdly, the school is a safe and humane climate. The fourth is a focus on basic skills. And the fifth is an effective use of student data, as kids progressed. Many students of Edmunds and critics point out that he left out a couple of important factors, parent involvement and faculty teamwork. The concepts of the Effective School movement and practice uses these seven elements and others to be effective.

Now we are in another phase of the educational revolution, differentiated instruction. It accepts "that all children can learn" and that we all have "multiple intelligences." DI incorporates the parents and demands faculty teamwork. DI suggests we be aware of the differences students have. Teacher need to be aware of the scholars' prior knowledge, language, learning style, and readiness to learn. Technology is ideal for this environment. With technology, we can assess prior knowledge, adjust to different learning styles, and provide different time and sequencing activities to meet all the special needs of all students. We agree that no two student are the same nor do they learn in the same way. This is why computer technology is so powerful and useful in achieving effective classrooms for the DI model. DI reflects Bloom's Taxonomy. There are increments in accessing the content. Accessing and absorbing the content is key and the steps used to help the students absorb the content is a crucial part of DI. Perhaps the most frequently used word in most definitions and descriptions of DI is "flexibility." Students and teachers must be flexible in all aspects of DI. When it comes to flexibility, those of us who use computer technology, we know about flexibility. We can provide different lessons instantly to our scholars. We can adjust the level of content in nanoseconds. We can provide different time limits or none and provide for multiple uses of content. In all cases the scholars are dependent upon their own knowledge of the computer technology. Access to content in various forms is constantly available. The scholars can change the font size, can have the text read to them, and can do other fun things to the text. The teacher has many online surveys to help them determine the learning styles of their scholars.

For example, in CyberEnglish (CE), my scholars were working on different parts of their pages. They chose the work they needed to accomplish in what order they select. Some worked on vocab, some on reading, some on the content of an assignment, some were revising work, some were reading email. In all cases they were in charge of their own learning based on need and necessity. The computer technology allowed all of this to happen without much control from me. It allowed me to move around the class to assess, to conference, to coach, and to encourage the scholars. I had a Smartboard on which I could do quick little mini lessons for one, a few, a group, or for the whole class. Since the scholars were publishing to the web, I had constant access and could use their work as the content of the mini lessons. CE meets all the criteria of DI and more. As I have said, CE has allowed me to be as close to a brain surgeon as I will ever get. While sitting at my computer, I can login to watch each scholar work and therefore think. I am watching their brain work. It was my introduction to brain research. I wrote about this in my March 27 Blog. Brain research plays a bigger role in the classroom now, because of the introduction of Differentiated Instruction.

Now I use DI in CyberSchool.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Make em Laugh

The sentiments of Donald O'Connor's classic says it all, "Make em Laugh."

We all love cartoons. Whether we read them in the New Yorker, a local newspaper, see them on the television, or on the Internet; we all read and laugh or chuckle or groin from reading a cartoon. Much of what we read can and is expressed by a cartoon. Everyone gets the reference to following cartoon from Frost's poem:

Cartoons provide the visual representation of a good sentence, a juxtaposition, a pun, a witty interpretation. A cartoon is a good use of Multiple Intelligences. Using a cartoon format so that the scholars can extrapolate the meaning of a poem, a short story, a play, a novel is just one more way we can help our scholars express themselves. A cartoon can augment the essay or other method we ask our scholars use to demonstrate their learning. The cartoon can be included in the final project as a grabber or merely as illustration placed strategically within the final project. Cartoonists have relied on literature to help create their cartoons and in some cases the cartoon becomes very important. Consider the famous Pogo cartoon, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

The phenomenon of a cartoon show like The Simpsons is an important event. This show uses cartoon format to ridicule, comment, and otherwise satirize the viewer in a very entertaining way. I find the shows dealing with education very useful in my own graduate classes and in my high school classes. Laughing at ourselves is healthy, otherwise we might take ourselves too seriously.

There are many software cartoon generators as well as online cartoon generators. A relatively simple one to use is Make Beliefs Comix. The user can make 2, 3, or 4 panel cartoons. the programs provides a plethora of characters with many options in manipulating them. There are many dialog boxes and balloons as well as other options. There is no save feature, which means the creator must complete the cartoon in one sitting. Printing and emailing it are options, so the user can present the finished product to the teacher. Obviously some planning is necessary before logging in, so completion can be done in a class period. The email option allows the user to embed a link to the comic as an image in the associated project.

The comic strip maker on ReadWriteThink does pretty much the same thing as Make Beliefs, except email the strip to yourself or anyone else. This program provides stock backgrounds, characters, balloon dialog boxes, and props. Another simple program to use. Again good planning before using will make the experience worthwhile and fun.

Another interesting cartoon generator is actually a Blog, Stripgenerator. Blog entries are cartoon strips. Stock characters and tools are available. The fun aspect of this is that then user can generate a new cartoon every day and repeat characters just like the newspapers. The user not only can create a strip motif, but also an audience, which is always important in writing, peer review.

Programs that allow the user to save work and edit it later on, may cost money and must be loaded onto the computer. This of course takes away from the Web 2.0 experience. Comic Life comes bundled on the Mac. Scratch is a new MIT product in development. These are just two cartoon generating programs one can install on a computer and work on saved cartoons.

Cartoons are just another Multiple Intelligences tool, a way to differentiate instruction, and to provide some fun in the writing process in our classes. They can be good tools to assess whether or not our scholars really understand what they are reading if they can create a satirical, ironic, illustrative cartoon to demonstrate their learning. A Google search for "cartoon generators" or "cartoon makers" will yield many more applications. The key is to have fun and to have a good sense of humor. Remember, "Make em Laugh."

Monday, May 12, 2008


Hypertextopia is a free hypertext story writing program similar to the more expensive Storyspace program. It is a program created by Jeremy Ashkenas from MIT. It is a space where the user can read and write stories. They are hypertexts and more. In hypertext, the author does not have as much control as non-hypertext. Ashkenas uses axial hypertext, which gives the writer a bit more control to complete a train of thought to move the story along without interruption. Ashkenas explains axial this way:
The axial style helps the author to maintain narrative coherence in a hypertext by insisting on a beginning, an end, and a thrust of rhetoric that connects the two. After a reader has completed an axial hypertext, they should understand the point that the author is trying to make. This style is often contrasted against fully networked hypertexts, where the reader is free to enter at any point, proceed to any other point, and may leave at any time she chooses.

Some may be familiar with another such hypertext program called Storyspace. I was first introduced with Storyspace in the early 90's with a story by Michael Joyce called "afternoon, a story." This program from Eastgate is widely used and costly. It requires commitment. The results however can be astonishing.What I love about the concept is how the reader becomes so involved and engaged in the story. Reading is not passive, instead it is engaging and active.

Hypertextopia is a great experimental web 2.0 program that permits the teacher to let hir scholars play around with hypertext stories, to read them, and to gain a better understanding of hypertext. The glory of hypertext is that it imitates the mind. By that, I mean that with hypertext, we the reader are able to pause and take a sojourn down a path of thought initiated by a text being read that has a hypertext link to a site that provides further reading on a topic so that the reader may be better informed about the original text and inspiration provided the writer. It helps the reader become equal with the writer, it allows the reader to have access to the knowledge that the writer has. There is a democracy aspect about hypertext that we don't find in traditional print texts where the reader needs to have access to the inspiring texts which is not always possible given physical location and proximity to a library or bookstore. The text may also be unavailable completely. The concept of hypertextual writing coupled with the axial concept provides a dimension to writing and even to reading, heretofore unaccessible in print writing and reading. It gives a physical depth to reading and writing that may make the process of both more accessible to more people and might even be a way to introduce Multiple Intelligences into the reading and writing process in our schools and for our scholars.

Learning about Hypertextopia is easily accomplished by viewing stories in the Grand Library. The library is filled with inspiration and great learning. The scholars will be awed with wonder and inspired to write and to consider hypertext. This is a worthy program, a good experiment to explore. It will give our scholars great opportunities to grow and to see reading and writing from a different perspective.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Group Dynamics

I will end the week with a quick discussion about Group Dynamics and links to further reading about Group Dynamics. Wikipedia starts its entry:
"Group Dynamics is the study of groups, and also a general term for group processes. In psychology, sociology, and communication studies . A group is two or more individuals who are connected to each other by social relationships.[1] Because they interact and influence each other, groups develop a number of dynamic processes that separate them from a random collection of individuals. These processes include norms, roles, relations, development, need to belong, social influence, and effects on behavior. The field of group dynamics is primarily concerned with small group behavior. Groups may be classified as aggregate, primary, secondary and category groups."

The University of Richmond provides Group Dynamics Resource Page which begins with a quote explaining how 2 are better than one. This is a comprehensive site explaining different types of Group Dynamics based on research and scholarly studies of groups. "To understand people, we must understand their groups" is a powerful statement made on this webpage.

Group Dynamics by RONALD W. TOSELAND, LANI V. JONES, & ZVI D. GELLIS is a chapter in Handbook of Social Work with Groups, Charles D. Garvin, Lorraine M. Gutierrez, Maeda J. Galinsky, Eds. This is a very comprehensive look at the system dynamics of groups. It delves into the philosophical and psychological dynamics of people in groups and how the group affects the individual. It is heavy reading, but very worthwhile for the teacher interested in the effects of group work in hir class.

Resources for Group Dynamics, Small Groups and Community Building on the website Group Dynamics and Community Building by Jerry Hampton, provides many links to many resources on the research and assessment of group work. Another scholarly resource for teachers interested in the deeper affects of group work.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Group Activities

Group work is an essential quality for survival. We need to work as a family. We need to work together on teams and at work. We all work in groups in one form or another. Cooperation within the group is crucial for success. I have spoken about some specific academically oriented methods for successful group work in the classroom. There are hundreds of ways in which a teacher can use group strategies to enhance learning in the classroom. I will present just a few in this blog entry.

Team building can be fun and productive in creating the proper atmosphere for learning or doing something needed to be done. On this site, we find the classics, Pair-Share, All My Neighbors, and the Signature Game. In each of these exercises, the participants get to know each other in a quick and simple way. It can be fun too. The purpose is to be sure the members of a group, a class, a team know each other and some things about them that make being in the group more productive. Since they are in game format, they help everyone participate, even when an individual may be reluctant. These exercises are very much like calisthenics an athlete does before practice or a game. Each exercise helps each member of the group learn a little bit more about the other participants. In the end, each member comes to realize similarities of all the members, what they have in common, and what makes each unique. Once these exercises are done, the group should have a better understanding of each other and make working together much more fruitful and productive.

Jigsaw is a very powerful group activity for the classroom. When a class is working on the same project like a poem, a short story, a play, or a novel; the groups have the opportunity of interacting. It works this way. In each group each of the five members have a role. All groups have the same configuration. Then the members with the same assignment from each group meet as a group of "experts." After conferring the "experts" return to their original group to report. The power of this exercise is that the scholars have to work together in their "expert" groups and then report back to their "home" group. What this does for the scholars is to teach them how to problem solve, research, compromise, negotiate, and then to assimilate and report back. For the teacher, this exercise allows hir to observe all of this while still overseeing the quality and amount of work being assessed and produced. It is a great way to achieve "Guide by the Side, Not Sage on the Stage."

Teachers are constantly in search of Icebreakers, Warmups, Energizers, & Deinhibitizers. This website provides nearly 30 activities a teacher can use in hir classroom to stimulate the scholars. There are icebreakers for the beginning of the semester or the year. There are activities to revitalize the classroom. There are exercises to augment other classroom activities. There are methods to re energize the class on those sluggish days. In all activities, the teacher can use hir own class content. They provide a way to introduce some elements of Multiple Intelligences into the class work. There are many great and various tools here for assisting teachers in their classrooms.

Reading provides a lot of Strategies for Reading Comprehension. This is a great repository for classics like KWL, Compare and Contrast charts, Graphic organizers, Column Notes, Story Maps and many more. The instructions and charts for each activity are clear and printable. The teacher uses hir own content. These activities augment what the teacher is doing and provides some graphic assistance in presenting material in hir class.

The above sites and many others provide teachers with a variety of activities useful in helping the teacher make the classroom a more powerful learning environment. Have fun.