Friday, November 19, 2010

Wordle is Wow!

I have been playing with Wordle and Tagxedo. What a great activity! I had so much fun. I can imagine that students will love this. Wordle is very easy to use. You simple copy and paste your text, and then you can play with the font, color, and layout. Tagxedo allows the user to create a custom shaped Wordle design. It is not as user friendly as Wordle, but with a little bit of playing, I was able to create a baseball-shaped Tagxedo using my son's report on his team's run in the playoffs a couple of years ago. The best part was that I had a great time creating my designs.

Here are the links to my Wordles:

Wordle: tags Wordle: Roger Sherman
my delicious tags and my daughter's report on Roger Sherman

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waiting for Superman

Last night I went to see Waiting for Superman. I wasn't sure what to expect, because everything I had read and heard about the movie was so conflicting. I was told the critics were raving, but somehow all the "smart people" that I follow on Twitter seemed to have nothing but distain for the film. In fact, I was somehow almost convinced that it would be disrespectful to my profession to even see the movie. But the curiosity in me won out. That and the offer of a free ticket sent via a former student's parent who is now a mentor with the SEED School of Maryland. How could I not at least take a peek.

Well, I am glad that I did. I am not saying that I thought everything in the movie was logical and made good sense. But the film is passionate, heart-wrenching, and thought-provoking. One of my favorite parts was listening to Michelle Rhee. What a dynamo! She is someone who seems to be doing what she feels is in the best interest of the students in DC, making hard decisions that have earned her many enemies along the way. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of teachers' unions, Michelle Rhee is one bold woman.

I also was so intrigued by Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone. His story, and the passion with which he now leads the charge for Education Reform, is nothing less than inspirational.

Although, I was thoroughly engaged during this movie and inwardly cheering for the children whose journey through the charter school lottery process was chronicled in the film, I nonetheless was left with questions after it ended. First of all, I wonder if charters schools see such success rates because the children whose parents enter them into the lottery in the first place are motivated, caring parents. Doesn't that already give these children a leg up over other at-risk, inner-city kids? How successful would these schools be if their constituents were a random sampling of the at-risk, inner-city kids? I know that may not be the point. As long as these schools are saving some of the chilren, then success is success. I think this is true to a point, but we need a solutions for all these kids, not just the ones with motivated parents.

I also did have to wonder about the lack of teacher voices and school representation in the film. Why were not the teachers interviewed; why did we not see the inside of the these failing schools? Are we really to believe that little Bianca's school would not even let her participate in the closing exercise just because her mother was a little behind in her payments? Or is there more to the story that the film maker wasn't willing to show us for sake of his storyline.
None of these questions that I have are reason to not see the film or even to be moved or motivated by it. We all need to ask these questions. We all need to look for the answers, as hard as it may be to find them or agree on what they are. These is not an issue limited to just a certain group of people. This is America's issue. We all need to care. If our schools fail, we fail.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

multi-dimensional reading

A colleague of mine has been using Google Earth with her students this year. They use it in their reading groups to follow the characters' travels in the books that they read. I thought, what a wonderful way to help the reading come alive for the students!

And this got me thinking. Why not do the same thing in my own personal reading? I love to read historical fiction, mainly books that deal with English history. Right now I am reading The King's Grace, by Anne Easter Smith, which tells the story of the two princes in the Tower during the reign of Richard III. I have for a long time recorded the interconnectedness of the historical figures that I encounter. I have a large family tree, which helps me keep track of how each is related to one another, and I use it to even connect historical figures from one book to another. I also like to use Wikipedia as another source to add background to my reading.

But now I am thinking that I need to add a new dimension to my reading. I want to try following my characters' travel through Google Earth. How wonderful it will be to know where Middleham is in relation to Westminster Palace or Sheriff Hutton, for example. And who knows. One day I might just have the opportunity to actually visit some of these places!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Great Expectations

This past week I had my Kindergarten classes right after they had returned from a field trip to the aquarium. I should have known better! It had already been a long day for these little girls, and now they were coming to me for the last bit of their day. I was excited to hear about their trip, so as a "fun" activity, I asked the first group to draw, using KidPix, something that they saw that day at the aquarium.

At first they were very excited, but soon I started to hear the whines and frustration, "this is too hard" and "I can't do it". A couple of them were trying, but most were either staring at a blank screen or had given in to the urge to scribble and explore outside the assignment. I tried to encourage them by saying, "just try" and "it doesn't matter if it doesn't look like a real ____" (fill in the blank with your favorite water creature). After several minutes of encouraging them, it was nearly time to go.

One student had actually managed to write her name and scratch out a small image, although I wasn't sure what I was looking at. I congratulated her, and asked her if she wanted to print it. She did, so we did. As I handed the paper to her, I continued through the room asking girls to close out of KidPix and logout. I turned just in time to see the young student staring at her paper while bursting into tears. When I asked her what was the matter, she replied, "this doesn't look like an octopus!"

Well, lessons learned. First, don't ask 5 year olds to try anything new at the end of an extra long day. Second, 5 year olds, unless they are ahead of the curve or just immune to the results, are not able to draw using a mouse. After all, they are just getting used to paper and pencil. Lastly, just because a teacher says "good job", doesn't mean a student will value the effort.

The next Kindergarten group that day worked on drawing lines and circles. They were confident and successful!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Googling myself

I have tried Googling myself, and I am not impressed by the results. I tried both Chris and Christine for my first name, and I came up with random people who are not me. I even tried adding Reisterstown and Maryland to my name, and that didn't help. There are too many of us, and I am certainly not the most interesing or the one with the largest digital footprint. As a last attempt, I tried Googling my full name including my maiden name and that had better results. I got my Facebook page, as well as my High School reunion page. At least I am out there, although you would have to know me pretty well to find me. It will be interesting if I have more of a presence on the web after this year with PLP.

Time to post

Working on PLP this afternoon. I am trying to put in my 15 minutes a day, but most days, I only have the energy to lurk, not post or contribute. Today being Sunday, I have had more time to think, reflect, and contribute. As I was going through the Ning, I even picked up information on a new (to me, that is) tool, called Jing. I am really looking forward to giving it a try.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thinking ahead

I'm home from the Dallas PLP kickoff event. Learned lots and listened to many inspiring talks. Now it is time to get to work. I want to concentrate on using Twitter and my blog to begin with. It was suggested that we try to set aside 15 minutes a day to work on PLP, which I liked hearing because it gave me a concrete place to start.

My goal this year is to build my PLN. I want to read and listen to the really smart people in education. What are they saying and what do they think? I also want to connect with other teachers like me and learn from them. How can I use what I hear in my life and in my classroom. This is an exciting time to be in education, because it feels like we are on the forefront of something transformational.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ready for PLP?

Well, I just finished my pregame exercises for the PLP next week in Dallas. I can now say I have a blog, a Twitter account, a Wikispaces account, a You Tube account, a Delicious account, an RSS reader, a Facebook account, and miscellaneous accounts associated with Google. Who know it would be possible? I am still not sure how I am going to keep up with it all, but I guess that is what this year is all about. The Delicious account intrigues me the most. I can imagine that the possibilities for professional development are endless.

Finding the time

I just joined the PLP wiki and updated my info to include my blog and my Delicious account. I am working on getting these two worked into my regular routine in a useful way. I am struggling with when do I have time to blog or tweet or any of the other wonder tools that are out there. I love the idea, but finding the time is hard. When I do sit down to do it, I become so engrossed that I ignore other things and people around me. I know it's all about balance, but I haven't found it yet.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How cool

I just learned how to create my blog site. I love this!!