Monday, December 31, 2007

Good New and the Bad News Is . . .

It's the close of the year and the close of the Winter Break. So it was time to pull out my bag and mark papers. I had plenty. But I figured the time-consuming ones, the ones that would really take some thought, were going to be my honors students' research paper outlines. I sighed as I thought about how I had work but I had given all of my students a work-free holiday. Poor me. As I went through my freshman papers, my Brit lit projects, and some other homework sheets from my honors students, the task ahead was looming. Or was it. Turns out I must have left the pile at school and will have to wait for another day. The good and the bad news is I can't grade them today. Enjoy what's left of the holiday. Happy New Year!
Image: remix from a Microsoft graphic.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Blogging: More Than a Nifty Strategy?

Last month's National Council of Teachers of English Convention in New York City boasted a session on blogging, podcasting, or wikis, just about every hour. I attended several hoping to cull a few new tips or tricks, or even better, hear some discussion on how and why teachers were using blogs and other Web 2.0 applications. Ultimately, I wanted to know what others are finding their students are learning from this sort of practice.

From research done at our school, we know that writing proficiency improves from students' blogging. And we have some hunches about why. We figure modeling and the writer's confidence and compositional structuring that develops from models have much to do with the improvement of writers over time. But what else?
The sessions on Web 2.0 were lacking in reflective pedagogy. I don't expect to hear all the answers. (Do we ever have them?) But I'd like to hear some questions and inquiry. What I heard instead were cutesy, superficial "and then we have the students' post them (projects, writings, pictures, recordings) to the Web without any consideration as to why or what happens differently when we do this.

I'm not an alarmist--rather I think we are missing an important (teachable and teaching) moment that is actually replete in positive implications for our practice. Maybe that's what concerns me most. What I was hearing was blogs and wikis being regarded as just another "thing you could do," and I think they are more than that. My experience is that teaching/learning, i.e. meaning-making and sharing of meaning in the classroom is significantly changed by the power of collaborative, public posting of ideas and products of learning on the Web.

More research is needed. More discussion is needed. More reflection is needed. For a presentation at U of PR, Cayey I wrote a one-page sheet of some questions with which to start.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Most People Exist, Some Virsist

Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” We'll now you can have a Second Life. But I'm not sure that's living.

Recently I've seen a promo on television for a program that examines "the effects on people who persist in virtual reality." I've seen the promo twice and can't recall whether it's a news report or special documentary. I get hung up on the phrase "persist in virtual reality." Does VR take persistance?

Well, maybe. Although I can spend clock-spinning time warps flying about in Second Life, I've yet to lose track of major slices of my first life (and I've heard some people have.) Maybe my RAM isn't hyper enough, but my avatar eventually starts freezing up and the program crashes. So persistence is part of it.

Besides being in Second Life is a sort of Oz. "People come and go so quickly here." I wouldn't call it a place to persist.

I just think "persista" is not "exist," and neither is what you do in VR. How about virsist! Persist, exist, virsist--Wilde had it right. Save some time for living.

Image: Avatar in Second Life.