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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Get an Education

The other night I met Ty’Sheoma Bethea from Dillon, South Carolina while president Obama addressed the nation. She was inspiring. His comments and plans for a better educational system were inspiring and very very necessary. Ty'Sheoma wrote the President and Congressional leaders about her school situation and her dreams of getting an education. The bottom line was "she wasn't a quitter." This is a different message than one we have heard and are led to believe when we recall Bill Cosby's "Pound Cake Speech" or Juan Williams' words of discouragement in Enough. Obama was more gentle, not as angry as Cosby and Williams. I certainly understand the anger and frustration from the latter two; however, I appreciate the gentleness from Obama. I loved what I heard the President say about Education in his speech. This was the most powerful part of the speech for me:
It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Not quitting is the crucial part, not quitting on yourself. This is the most important part of the work we do so often as teachers. It's not about race, gender, or religion; it is about NOT QUITTING. I will be using this part of the speech in my class. My expectations are spelled out and my scholars know them well.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Week in Aruba

I spent the week of Feb 14 to Feb 21 in Aruba with Caitlin and Tommy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Power of CyberEnglish

I am still amazed at the power of CyberEnglish. The young scholars are still excited about creating their own webpage. They see the difference between it and their MySpace page. They like the idea that they are in control, have the power to alter and mix it up on a webpage. They are finding their strengths as they learn how to figure out HTML and then make their page do what they want it to do.

As we have progressed, one of the aspects that most astonishes them is the feedback. No sooner have they begun to write then their teacher is talking to them about their writing. The teacher is commenting as they write. They have been told to save often, so as they do this their work is instantly published and is accessible by their teacher. After each class, I go to each scholar page and print out the work they have done that day so they have feedback for the next class.

We use Geocities. They start by creating their main homepage and then make links from it to each project. I instruct them as to the name of these files, so I can find them easily, if they have made a coding mistake. I also instruct them to save often, so that they don't lose any work if we have a technical glitch and so that I have access so that I can see what they are doing. Sure I can walk around, but I have found that my strolling about can be distracting. Rather I like to sit at my computer and watch them work fro my two computers. One computer has the capability of viewing any computer in my lab and the school and my other computer is used to view their pages. I use view source on their pages, copy the code to notepad, change the text to double space and print those pages for corrections.

This is all very new for all of my scholars, which actually surprises me since power has been available for nearly 16 years now. The power is my immediate access to their work unlike some other technical tools like blogs, wikis, moodle, and other web 2.0 tools. Having the computers to view the computers in my class and to view the work online provides me so many tools as a teacher to work with my scholars as they need it. What really stuns to me still is that teachers still use the old tools of teaching writing to teach writing when so many know how cumbersome and ineffective they are.

Just in a short two weeks I am very pleased with their work and their responses and comments in their journal about this process and their own investment in the process. they see the relevancy and appreciate the new approach to writing. Interestingly enough, the response from the scholars today to walking into an English class filled with computers is a far cry different from what it was when I first started this class, 16 years ago.