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

Monday, August 25, 2008

Op-Ed: Heather Johnson

This article is contributed by Heather Johnson, who regularly writes on best online college. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal email address:

The Librarian in the Technology Age

Some people wonder why we still need librarians in an age where everything is seemingly available online from research resources to every major newspaper in the world. If you’ve visited a top notch college or public library lately you’ll notice that the librarian is no longer someone who stacks shelves or knows the Dewey Decimal System like the back of their hand. Librarians have conquered online databases and have become more like teachers in this new world of academia. Here are a few ways the librarian’s role has evolved and is more important than ever before:

1. Sifting through research resources. Librarians have to filter through the myriad of resources now available. While there are the major databases that any library would be incomplete without there are so many other obscure sites out there that need to be explored and evaluated. Decisions need to be made whether or not the library will pay to have certain databases available.

2. Producing a reliable web site. Any library worth its salt will have its collection available for perusal online. People need to be able to get all pertinent information about a given book online. Whether the book is available or checked needs to be automatically updated to assist the person looking for that book.

3. Being ready to help users navigate complicated web sites. The librarian needs to be prepared to walk members through web sites or data bases that aren’t particularly user-friendly. Helping people do research is vital to the librarian’s job and they have to have a mastery of every tool available.

4. Be prepared to teach. Many high schools and universities rely on librarians to conduct classes on proper research. This extends to teaching proper research techniques online but attention still needs to be paid to traditional research through books and journals. Many students know how to conduct basically anything online but are lost when they actually have to open up a book and find out what information is pertinent to their research. This is where the librarian performs their traditional job.

5. Interaction with the faculty. Teachers and librarians need to operate on the same page. If a teacher has an idea about how to improve the library, there needs to be an open dialogue across the faculty. Likewise if a librarian notices a group of students struggling with a project in the library they should feel free to not only help out but to talk with their teacher to work through the issue.


This article is contributed by Heather Johnson, who regularly writes on best online college. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal email address:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Scholars' Blogs

I will be in Scotland (Skye, Lewis, Harris) from the 14th to the 24th.
So please enjoy my summer school scholars' blogs while I'm away.

Start with the scholars' assignments, (the last assignment is at the top. scroll down to see earlier assignments) then check out what the scholars had to say and to see how they handled each of the assignments. I am very happy with their self assessment blog because of the honesty and their love for the Habits of Mind Blog. Very impressive work.

The first alpha list of scholars by first name are those who did the self assessment; the second alpha list are those who did lots, but not the self assessment; the third are those who started but didn't make it past midterm.

ToDaY's MeNu, the scholars' syllaweb for this class.

Monday, August 11, 2008

SmartTeaching is brand new. The Blog archive starts with August 2008. Now that's so new, especially since August isn't over yet. This is a site for new teachers, student teachers, and aspirants. This is what one might call, "Getting in on the ground floor." This site launched in August 2008, just in time for the new school year.

There is an overwhelming collection of resources for new teachers from all the states. The resources and articles are deep. I was bemused when I saw the Blog archive of a single month, August, 2008. Of course I clicked and was amazed at the find. 100 videos, awesome indeed. I only wish the time of each video is included in the blurb.

100 is a popular number at SmartTeaching. Symbolic? At least it isn't more than 100, though the plus symbol does appear once and 101 is used, and only 50 wikis... okay, a stretch, though 50 is half of 100. 100 is a good number, all scholars seek to attain it.

Only 101 ways to deal with stress? The calvary will arrive soon, though, right?

I found the 5o ways to use the wiki the most fun, cause this one I understood. Now since 50 is half 100, is this resource half full or half empty?

Then I saw it: "Baptism by Fire." Finally an action article. With words like terror, stressful, and crazy used in the introductory paragraph, I knew I was at the right link. These folks know how to talk to brand new teachers, prospective teachers, and student teachers. As I read through the list, I suddenly realized how useful all of this would have been to me when I was starting out. Oh well, never too late to learn new tricks.

The only confusion I had was that the Blog link doesn't open a Blog. Hope a Blog does appear and is under construction. This is a very useful and plentiful resource, one to return to often. It is delicious worthy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Go to this show!

I love my internal clock. As I was drifting off to sleep Thursday evening, I said to myself, "I'd like to wake at 5:10."

I grabbed the clock and it was 5:10.

I went out to the kitchen and made the thermos of ice coffee and finished packing my knapsack loaded with provisions necessary when I go to join the line get tickets for that evening's entertainment at the Central Park Delacorte Theater: Hair.

I'm ready to go when the alarm goes off. I had set it for 5:20, just in case. I let it go for its one minute performance. I grabbed my bike, my folding chair, my knapsack and was off to the Delacorte via 8th Ave through Columbus Circle to Central Park West to 79th Street and onto the paths leading to the theater. I love this early morning bike ride in NYC. I arrived at 5:41. It was still dark, the sun would rise in about 20 minutes. I was at the top of the hill across from the bathrooms. Maybe 30 people back. Within a half hour, the line is woven its way to the bend where it will be going out of sight. In another half hour I'll get up and walk down around the corner to see how much further it will weave its way.

For now I need some more sleep so, I set my chair and settle in for some shuteye. Sporadic sleep blesses me. It is a pleasant morning and crowd. To my left and to my right are people sleeping in line to pick up two tickets to sell later that day. I know this because as they wake there is a whole posse obtaining these tickets . They are walking around discussing where to go to sell the tickets and what to ask for them. Besides getting tickets for a good show I'm getting great drama while waiting. I read some, I watch lots, I rest some. I order a couple of BLT's from the local Deli that delivers anywhere.

I need to take a stroll and survey the line. I head off to the Delacorte where the seniors wait on benches. I exchange greetings and turn my attention to the posters on the walls and in the theater shop before turning from the Delacorte towards the end of the line.

I turn.
"Ted, the teacher?"
"Glenn! How are you?" I ask when I see a former student about 10 places ahead of me in line.
I discover he is acting downtown, knows some of the players tonight. We spend some time chatting it up, sharing stories, then resume our lives. Later we see each other before the production, during the production, and after the production.

I continue my walk down around the corner. The line goes on forever. I walk up to the crest to see the line continue up to the playground. That is usually the "no more getting in" spot. People are still milling around at that spot, the decision point of whether to stay or go and swear you'll get up earlier tomorrow. I turn from this drama and return to my chair and that stage.

We are told to clean up our area, gather our stuff, pack it away, and begin to form a line. As the line collapses, I am at the top of the hill, just across the path from the tickets. We have been watching rain clouds pass over, while some in line are getting calls about the rain. What rain? I get my tickets, and jump on the bike and start pedaling to get home. As I get on the Central Park Drive, I feel raindrops. It starts to get heavy, so I pull over, don a poncho and open an umbrella to cover us, me and the bike. A fifteen minute downpour. When it stops as suddenly as it began steam starts rising from the streets after the cold rain hit the hot streets of NYC. This is why they call NYC a jungle. I get home in 15 minutes and no sooner am I in the house, then it rains again. This is good for the garden. Let's hope this passes for tonight's entertainment.

The rain stops about 6 pm as the sun shines brightly.

Let the sun shine in, let he sunshine in...

This will be the third time I have seen it live. The first time was before I went to Vietnam, the second was when I returned, and now 40 years later. I wonder how close to the day when I first saw it. This is a fabulous interactive production. The tribe grows from the audience to perform on a grassy stage with a band in the band shell. The climax has an all audience finale that will give you goose bumps. It doesn't matter whether you were alive when the original played or not, you'll get goose bumps. I want to be outside one night to hear the show. I loved it. Sure it is dated, brotherly love, school sucks, love, hair, and the like. What the hay. Oskar Eustis, the Artistic Director, introduced the production. He explained the beginnings of the Delacorte , 54 years ago, and Hair, 41 years ago. He mentioned the draft card burning scene, because many in the audience, young and foreign, might not understand the draft, hence the comment to the significance of the burning of the draft cards scene. Yes, there was some nudity and more interaction with the audience. We should have had swivel seats. The relevancy of protesting a war was not missed. Maybe the 68-48 duet needs some dusting off for 68-08 duet. Loved what he said about using cameras.

The audience, the tribe were ready for the final song. We were thunderous. Did you hear us?

Our finale was the culmination of that tryst created all night between the tribe and audience: "a love in" on stage as the audience, after being invited, flooded the stage to interact with the tribe. What a beautiful love in on stage and in the seats, everywhere.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Google 's Wedges

Google offers a fabulous suite of tools for teachers to use in their schools. They are Gmail, Docs, Blogger, Picassa, YouTube, Pages (webpages), Alerts, Calendar, and lots more.

I have my scholars start with Google's Gmail account to set up the Google tools suite. By using Gmail, each scholar establishes an email account we will use for school as if it were a business account and not a personal account. Now, I have control of the names they use for the accounts. I can have them create an account using something I can devise that let's me know who each scholar is. I use combinations of their name and a school ID number. I have them use their name so they have ownership and we know who they are. In your school you will probably want to use something you and the school allow so the scholars aren't using their own crated names or handles that may not be appropriate for school. Once the Gmail account is created access to the rest of the Google tools is available and intuitive.

Once the account is established and each scholar has signed in, the link to "My Account" will appear in the upper right corner of the screen. Once "My Accounts" is click a new screen will appear that lists the tools already selected. Gmail will be there. Further down on the right hand column, the scholar will see the word "More." When the scholar clicks on "More" a list of tools will be shown. Once a tool like Docs or Blogger is clicked the tool will open and be added to the list of Tools being used by the scholar. So next time the scholar logs in and clicks on "My Account" those new tools will be visible and accessible.

"Docs" is a fabulous tool. The scholar will be able upload, share, and even work on Word, Powerpoint, and Excel documents. S/he can share these documents with teachers, peers, and anyone else s/he wishes to allow read and write access. What is also fabulous is that anyone who has access can use the editing programs on Google. "Docs" is a wonderful document sharing tool and necessary for NWP projects.

"Blogger" is another tool teachers should explore for their scholars. Blogs are personal discussion boards. A scholar posts a thought, question, essay and views have the rights to comment on the post. The scholar has initiated a conversation with others. Now the scholar can have many of these conversations with all of hir class and others outside school, who find their way to our scholars' blogs.

"Pages" is a webpage editor and viewer. The scholar can either build webpages using HTML code or the editor and templates provided. Webpages are an excellent way to build the scholars' webfolios, web portfolio versions of their work.

"Picassa" is a picture sharing program. The scholar can create picture galleries used in school projects. Picassa houses all the graphics used in the Blog and Webpages, too.

As the scholars explore Google Tools, they will discover many more useful tools.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Cleveland Visitors

Peggy Smith and her husband, Doug, are in NYC, biking, theater going, museum hopping,and dining this week. I was fortunate to meet them at Pam Real Thai. The Photo is badly focused, sorry. I like it as we can see Pam sitting at her chair, (chef in white hat and smock) while we can also see the flash of me taking the picture.

After dinner we walked to Vintage and then had coffee at Renaissance.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dear Mr. President,

Want to get your scholars involved in national politics? Incorporate the presidential elections into your curriculum.

The National Writing Project and Google have collaborated to create a project to help you.



Teachers of high school scholars are invited to participate in an online publishing project. The scholars will write about issues they would want a new president to address, then they will publish their writing for a national audience. NWP and Google have teamed up to develop Letters to the Next President: Writing Our Future, a website where teachers can publish writing through Google Docs, a collaborative web-based composing tool.

Teachers and scholars will need to have a Google account to register. The easiest way to do this is to go to Google and and click on the Gmail link upper left hand corner of the screen. Once the Gmail account is created, each new user automatically has all the Google tools, including Docs and spreadsheets, the tool needed for this project, that complement the Gmail account. By doing it this way, each scholar can set up a school/business account that has been overseen by the teacher for appropriate name creation and is not necessarily a personal account. My Friday, August 8, blog post will discuss Google Tools in greater detail.

Registration: August 4 - September 8.

Go here for more information:

Registration is a two-step process:

1. If you are not already a member of the NWP site, please go register with National Writing Project Interactive (NWPi) here: (The NWP site is free and open to the public.)
2. After you have logged into NWP, go here to submit your Registration for Letters to the Next President:

Before you can bring your scholars to the conversation, you must first register and get connected.

Once you have registered you will be directed to this page for further information:

You will receive a welcoming email and be added as a member of a discussion forum you access by logging onto the NWP site. Use the discussion forum to share ideas, ask questions, get answers, and collaborate.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Where's the Technology?

I'm seeing less and less use of technology in education. Fewer teachers are adding technology to their repertory in spite of the very positive research. We have seen how technology has enhanced other professions, moved them beyond where they were, and provided new possibilities to those industries.

The use of the net in schools has been hampered by fears of abuse like pornography, trolling, and bullying. These are not unique to the net, in fact these vices have always existed and they haven't stopped any other media fro existing as they have hampered the growth and use of the net in schools.

Consider how we in our schools spend a great deal of time having our scholars put away their technology. They are using technology to read and to write and yet their teachers are not using the technology to have them read and write. I don't get it. Instead we push, force, coerce our scholars to do things against their nature and why? Because that way is against the grain of most teachers. Whenever a teacher brings a class into the computer lab, s/he always is amazed at how on task, how productive, how motivated to accomplish the work the scholars are. And yet, these same teachers continue to work too hard with too little results the old fashioned way.

As I have said I don't get it. More can be done in the computer classroom. The scholars are all on task, they are collaborating, they are using more habits of mind and skills, they are having better results, they are learning more. The problem may be that teachers do not feel as needed and not the center of attention when in the computer lab. However, they can do so much more conferencing and teaching. As the scholars are working, the teacher can move from scholar to scholar and teach or conference. The scholars have the work right there in front of them and now the teacher has many teachable moments. These teaching moments are relevant because the current work is used and will be relevant to the scholar right now as this is where they are right now.

As a parent, I question why my child's teachers don't have a web presence so I know what is going on, have access to classwork, forms, and resources from home. Before I go to my doctor, I'm able to do some research online. Before I visit my lawyer, I have access to do some research. Before I visit my child's teacher for such limited time, I should have access to what is going on so our meetings can be more ]productive. Too much time is wasted in the teacher explaining what is going on and then our time is up. Too little time is spent on the child. I know the parents of my scholars know what is going on in their child's class because they come to our meetings prepared.

I don't get it, why teachers are so reluctant in using the technology. I have heard it said technology makes a good teachers better, so why don't more teachers use the technology?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Second Life

I was teleported from Orientation Island by Peggy Sheehy after weeks of stumbling, bumbling about this initial location after one makes an avatar and joins Second Life.

Let's step back to how this rescue was set up. I had made a query on some lists about Second Life and her URL was sent to me, amongst other documents and contacts in addition to Peggy. Peggy's work had been praised by some of the responders including Ryan Bretag, and Madeline Brownstone.
Ryan's response:
There was a conference in 2007 in Second Life that discussed a lot of ideas about SL in Education. I did a lot of research on MUVEs during the early part of my PhD work and I blogged about a lot of it. If you are seriously considering bringing this to your school, you might want to read this article I wrote for the Illinois Computing Educators that was also put on the T&L Blog.
OTHER Documents and Contacts:

1. If Second Life isn't a game, what is it?
2. Second Life Improves Real-life Social Skills
3. Texas State Tech To Deliver Digital Media Program via Second Life
4. Literature Alive!
1. Beth Ritter-Guth
2. Kevin Jarrett
3. Nergiz Kern

Peggy was the one I needed to contact, so I did.

This was Peggy's response to my inquiry asking her for help and leading a workshop at my school during the summer. She was available in between her busy schedule:
Hi Ted-thanks for getting in touch--I love nothing better than acting as MUSE to those interested in braving the Second Life waters--and although they may appear murky at first - come on in - the water's fine! Let's do this - Why not let me know where your avatar is right now (are you still on Orientation Island or have you made it to the mainland?) I will be happy to set up a tour for you and help you get acclimated - but if you can't wait for me, here are some basic suggestions:
1. Get thee to ISTE! Use your map or search tool and find ISte Island - head on over there and most of the avatars you meet will be educators willing to help.
2. Join the group, Educator's Coffeehouse. You do this by again, using the search tool, but be sure you have th GROUP tab selected at the top of the dialogue box. Once you have successfully joined the group, you should see a title over your head that reads, "Real Life teacher" Now you will also receive notices about meetings and events from that group.
3. Send me your avatar name and I will esend friendship and we can then see each other's online status (you will see when I log in and vice versa)
Peggy addressing the newbies.

Needless to say,I had no idea what she was talking about. Oh was I in trouble. I had never felt so helpless. Now the words of another responder to my initial query rang true.SL has a HUGE learning curve and as I stepped onto Orientation Island I realized this immediately. I just stood there as avatars approached me, offered me things, spoke to me and pop up screens cascaded on my screen. After a few minutes of this chaos I simply QUIT SL, poof, I just disappeared, but was unable to appreciate that disappearing image from a SL POV. "Wow, what was that all about." I thought, while safe in my First Life and went to the refrigerator for a much needed real beer.

It was about a week later a couple of days before Peggy was going to visit us and guide us in our initial workshop with Second Life. Using the arrows keys I was able to navigate, and began to feel comfortable. I heard myself laughing and before I knew it three hours had flown by. Still I had no idea what I was doing and I was still on Orientation Island.

On July 30, at 2:15, Peggy Sheehy (far right) walked into my classroom to join me and (counter clockwise) Paul Turtola, Paul Stengel, Stephen Fink, Albert Bouchard to begin our Second Life.

Stephen Fink working with Peggy in background speaking to Paul Turtola, far right, as Paul Stengel, with hat, works his avatar.
So after we got started she gathered us with her at ISTE. We learned teleport and that there was life after Orientation Island. She teleported me, then I teleported the others. We learned how to move, fly, communicate, change our appearance, and in short many of the things we do naturally in First Life. It was magical and exciting. She was patient and responsive to all of our excitement. We teleported to another location and continued our tutorial. We learned about building. Before we knew it, nearly four hours had passed and the building was going to close. If we didn't have a First Life to return to, we may well have been locked in for the night.

Paul Turtola shared his thoughts:
i had a great time in ted's classroom as we learned how to move around the secondlife grid and begin to build objects. peggy is a great resource and is still a teenager at heart which is refreshing to see in such a wonderful teacher. her involvement and enthusiasm in sl was easily apparent and her patience with raucous students (like ted, haha) was impressive. 4 hours flew by and i foresee many more hours spent learning how to use this in my classroom. sl has GREAT possibilities and initially i see it as a very fine design project for literature and writing scholars as they design settings and costumes that go with stories they study. there's even potential for script writing at high levels and the possibility of character development with voice chat and other interactive elements of the game. sl is a very cool tool to engage the kids and allow them to explore the possibilities of flushing out the meaning of what they read and write.
Peggy making a point as Paul Stengel, in hat, and Paul Turtola, back to us listens.

Now it is our time to grow and learn more about what we can do in SL. It will take time. What we learned was that the SL world is a serious one as far as education is concerned. There are two worlds, Second Life and Teen Life. In SL the real world activities of adult life is real and not the place for all students. Teen Life is too restricted. So we need an Education Life that allows for students to interact with others and with valuable resources like NASA, Museums, college classes, and more important learning activities. The reality of SL has to be considered and how we bring our scholars into SL.

Now when I reread her first email to me, it makes sense, whew. Now it is my time to play and learn. I'm jazzed. Thanks, Peggy and others who provided me important information when I needed it.

See you in the World,
Nellen Tennen.