Wednesday, June 27, 2007

NECC 2007

I had intended to blog about every session I attended, but I got pushed out of one session on Monday because it was full. Someone there said to plan on only going to every other session and going and getting in line for the next session. Wow! You can tell this little South Dakota girl doesn't get out enough!

I did get to go see Process Writing for the MySpace Generation. I already knew that we need to change the way we are teaching, but this takes it to that level! It was put on by the folks at Teaching Matters and I know I am going to be spending some time checking out their website when I get home. They are very reality-based and that is what matters to my kids!

Then I wandered into the Exhibit Hall! Talk about sensory overload. I spent 1 1/2 hours in there and didn't make it half way across the room. Yahoo is getting ready to pilot some new stuff for teachers. I signed up, but who knows if they are taking everyone. I met a wonderful lady who designed her own writing program, but I was surprised that she knew nothing about blogs, wikis, or other online tools. I know I am far from being an expert, but I did realize that I know more than the average teacher as to the Web 2.0 and the environment our kids need to be learning in. Towards the end of my visit to the Exhibit Hall I found Google. Since I am convinced that Google is taking over the world, I popped in. Fun for me...I found I do everything they were showcasing (and many things they weren't) except for the custom search engine. (I popped back in there today to do the Scavenger Hunt and found that it is fun and easy.)

Yesterday was a bad day. I woke up with a terrible headache, went back to bed for a while, then got up and got ready for the afternoon. I made it as far as waiting for the bus, only to have to run back and get sick. I missed the whole day. I can't tell you how bummed I am about that! Thank heavens there are so many people that have blogged about NECC. I have my reading cut out for me for the next week!

Today I feel better and started my day with Digital Game-based Learning in American History. I stopped at their booth on Monday. The are the Colonial Williamsburg group. I can't wait to dig deeper into this. I know our state pays for us to see all the broadcasts, but I really need to sign up for the teacher materials. There are many games and sites for students to interact at. I just need to remember there will be a lot more in my curriculum than just the Revolutionary War!

The second session of the day I went back in to see Will Richardson. I know, I know...a case of hero worship, but I get really inspired listening to him. His wiki for today was at

I know I now need to add Wikinomics to my summer reading list. I don't know that I learned any more than I have from seeing him two other times and from reading his book, but I am more prepared to go back to the classroom and fight the fight to have my kids using these tools and really preparing them for the world THEY are going to live in verses the one we grew up in. I know that blogging isn't where all teachers agree we need to be, but I am going to have my kids there doing their thing and showing teachers it not only CAN but SHOULD be done. While I agree with Will that we shouldn't be keeping our kids TOO protected, I do know I am going to have to take little steps. I am very confident that I can get the district to not squawk if I start with Class Blogmeister. Sometimes baby steps are better than no steps at all. I am going to set up my own wiki and put all the assignments and resources for my kids there. I have more to learn before I am up to podcasting, but would like to find a way to use that before the end of the school year. Perhaps my US History class could do their own podcast about the Revolutionary War? Hmm, something to think about!

I wanted to go to the Hands-On Wikis in the Classroom session, but again it was full. (Guess I would have had to skip Will!) I did go see Creating to Learn: Integrating Technology into your Classroom, Grades 5-12. I was almost on overload by then. Jacqueline Keane has put a lot of work into this and, thankfully, she sent me out with a book and folder packed with information. (More summer reading!)

Since I didn't think I could handle any more sessions, I went back to the Exhibit hall. (As if that wouldn't push me over the edge!) I finally saw the back half. I don't feel like I did it justice though! I have a backpack full of information. I found a great deal on thumb drives. I hope I can convince my wonderful principal that she needs to purchase one for every teacher. Maybe if I keep putting technology into teachers' hands, they will get excited! I saw things that make me want to drool and also realized how lucky we are in South Dakota. Most teachers aren't given web space around here. We all have it available. WebCT available to every teacher? They laughed at me. Promethian Boards starting to come into all the classrooms. I had teachers asking where was it I was from. Okay, we may be on the low end of the pay scale, but it is no wonder South Dakota scored an A- on the technology report card. (Only behind Georgia's A.)

There is only one keynote left for me today and the conference is over. It was a fluke that I got to come this year. I guess I am going to have to really start the campaign so I can be in San Antonio next year!

Monday, June 25, 2007

NECC Session 1 ~ Will Richardson

The first NECC session I attended was Will Richardson's
Learning with Blogs: Bringing the Read/Write Web into the Classroom
I have heard Will speak at the TIE conference in Rapid City. Now that I have started my own blog and am planning to use them in my English class, it seems to be a whole new conversation. I will record some of what I heard:

Will's Wiki
Will's Blog

Will had been a 21 year educator. Quit to become a full-time blogger and speaker. Will has been blogging for six years.

Google Blog Search

To start blogging you need to read blogs. The links above are great places to start to find blogs that interest you. You then need to start commenting on other blogs. Engaging is a very important piece. At that point you may feel comfortable to start your own blog. There are many places you can start your own blogs. I have a couple started, but I am not sure where I want to "live."

Blogs are reflective. You can use it as a journal, but the real power is to put your thinking and opinions in there and see what people think. You put in intellectual sweat.There is a lot of synthesis in blogs. There is a lot of hypertext. Kids will be working in linked environments.

The question was posed to Will asking the difference between a blog and a wiki: A blog is a conversation. A wiki is a collection. What is the difference between blogs and forums? Blogs are deeply personal. They are your space. Forums are not. They are a group of people.

Reading blogs is an important part of being a blogger and a few that Will talked about were:
Clarence Fisher's blog
Konrad Glogowski
Karl Fisch

Teacher modeling works best when teaching blogging. Here are a couple more:

Vickie Davis - Cool Cat Teacher
Bud Hunt

IM is a very effective language and we should be teaching students that as well as formal language. We need to tell them when it is appropriate.

There are many places you can set up blogs. Here are a few:

I have a blog. I read blogs and occasionally comment in other's blogs. I am not yet to a point that I consider myself a blogger. I am getting there though. I really want my 8th graders to publish their writing to a blog this year and comment on one another's blogs. I HAVE to be a good role model, so my summer is cut out for me. I am so excited!

I always enjoy Will's presentations and hope to catch a few more!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Courage to Teach

I have just spent the last three days in the most amazing retreat imaginable. Courage to Teach has been truly a gift to me. When you are a teacher, there are conferences and workshops you can go to amongst the lesson planning, grading, curriculum mapping, and tons of reading we do. What of that nourishes your soul? Everything we do is for improving the work we do and it's important work. But how often do we really take the time to reflect on who we are and what our purpose is? Where do we celebrate that? Where are we given the opportunity to spend time with the most amazing teachers and just share in their joy?

This week was our Summer Retreat and we were celebrating abundance. And that we did. Every teacher was to make a personal statement. We were given 1/2 an hour. The recommendation was that you speak for 15 minutes, then everyone else would take a few minutes to write an affirmation for you on a little card, and finally the chance was given for verbal affirmation. I have gotten to know many of these teachers pretty well over the retreat series, but what came out of these statements took me on a roller coaster of emotions. And I am left feeling: "I want to be like you....and you....and you...." Wow! I am truly blessed to be able to share the same space with these teachers.

My statement was last (a place I was regretting after listening to so many amazing teachers) and I stood before the group and told them I felt like a fraud among them, yet blessed to be able to learn from each of them. In usual fashion, I got wound up in my statement and storytelling and talked for over 30 minutes! And this gracious, wonderful group of people let me have every minute I needed and celebrated my journey with me.

Courage to Teach is Parker Palmer's gift to the world. I highly recommend his books and can never put the right words to to wonder of the retreats. I am feeling totally overwhelmed and energized and renewed. Good for us for being teachers! I can't wait for summer to be over so I can get back in the classroom to see my kids!