Monday, December 31, 2007

Another year ends

This has not been a great year for me. I find that I am not letting go as well as I should. There is no reason not to, really, but I am not doing it. As I move into the next year, I want to begin to focus more on possibilities than on what did or didn't happen.

That being said, today is my 36th wedding anniversary. (I think I got it right first time, this time! Last year I was confused!) It is a good day. Tomorrow I return to Albuquerque. We'll have to see what 2008 brings around.

One thing that I intend to see happen this coming year is more regular posting to this blog. I didn't realize how much I missed that until I made myself blog regularly again.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kwout, part 2

So, to test this tool further, I decided to get the bookmarklet and try it on the Scott McLeod's post. Getting the bookmarklet was only difficult because I didn't read. All you do in Firefox is drag it to your bookmarks. Then I opened the page I wanted to copy, clicked on the kwout button, and waited a few seconds while it worked. I selected a portion of the page, clicked another button and waited a few seconds. This is what I got:

Now, if you try the links in the post, they are hot. The links in his kwout demo are not. But all I would have to do it click on the link to the post below the kwout and I would have access to the hot links in the kwout, too.

Now, the question: Will I really use this or is it a fun toy to play with and blog about? It remains to be seen. But it seems like it would make my blogging easier. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, the kwout button is waiting there for me in my bookmarks toolbar.


One of the first things I looked at this morning was a post by Scott McLeod about Kwout

Kwout takes a screen shot of a web page, allows you to crop it the way you want, and then allows you to post it to Flickr of anyplace else you want. So, I decided to check out the demo. This is what I got when I used it on my own blog:
Although you can't tell from this post since I don't have any, links in these screen shots are hot. Or they can be if you allow image mapping. All that requires is not unclicking a box.

This seems like a great tool for bloggers. I can't wait to check it out.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Well, I looked at my bloglines feeds yesterday morning and didn't find any inspiration for a post. I looked later on and had the same lack of inspiration. I was going to look later yet but forgot. So there was no post yesterday.

While it is not the end of the world and I am not even really disappointed in myself for not posting, I am aware of how easy it is to fall back into that not posting thing. I don't want to do that. I have truly enjoyed writing every day this month (except yesterday, of course!), and I hope to continue the habit. I know from the past almost 3 years of blogging that it isn't easy to sustain, but I have also seen this past month how much pleasure it has given me to write regularly again.

And, with this post, I have matched the number of posts I made last year. Next year is going to be better!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Can we change education?

Another interesting post from Edward Cherlin on the OLPC News. This one is about education. He says:
The problem that we face is that almost every education system in the world was created by a colonial power, not to encourage innovation and problem-solving, but to keep the population in order while their country was pillaged.
Now, I don't want to get involved in a discussion of the political elements of this claim, but I do want to discuss the state of education today.

It seems obvious that our schools do not "encourage innovation and problem-solving". This situation does not seem to be improving. And it is not just K-12 education.

If there is a chance of changing that situation, it comes from the free access to information. And that is where the OLPC project comes in. Students can have access to information much more easily when they have access to the Internet. Children are naturally curious and, given the chance, will follow that curiosity and will learn.

All too often we kill that curiosity in school. We force kids into move lock-step through material that may or may not be interesting to them. I do not understand why this has to be. Why do all students in a class have to do the same thing in the same way at the same time?

There are examples of teachers doing things differently, or starting to anyway. I think of Clarence Fisher's work,like his students' Outsiders wiki . I think of Eric Langhorst's The Guerrilla Season project. And then, of course, there is Barbara Ganley's blogging and her work with her students. She sets the bar, as far as I can see.

Computers don't and won't automatically change education. It will take teachers who are able to open up the world to their students through using them to make a real difference.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

His year in photographs

Teacher Dude, who does great photography, has given us a peak at some of his work with wonderful explanations accompanying them in his post today. He has selected one photograph for each month and placed it in a VoiceThread presentation. The photographs, stunning in and of themselves, are enhanced by his descriptions of what and why they are.

The post is wonderful, both as a glimpse into the photographer's mind and as an example of what could be done with VoiceThread. Give it a look. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What can I do?

In a recent post on OLPC News, Edward Cherlin was talking about whether or not computers are the best way to help children in developing countries. His response was, I think, quite good. And it really got me thinking about what I can do. He said, in part:

As to what you and I should do, computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra has a suggestion that I find helps to clarify matters for me: "Only do what only you can do."

Most of us in the laptop project wouldn't be very effective at direct food aid. We find, however, that we are very effective at what we are doing, and nobody else comes close. Please ask yourself what you know that the children need to know, and come to the Wiki to tell us about it.

The Wiki he refers to is the OLPCWiki. It has sections for educators and developers to contribute ideas and actual projects that they could become involved in.

But the question remains: What can I do that only I can do? And that, in turn, begs another question: Am I willing to do it?

Transforming education one laptop at a time

Yahoo news had an article about the One Laptop program as it is playing out in Peru. It is truly encouraging to read.

Oscar Becerra, the head of educational technology in Peru, is hoping that the laptop program will help stop the exodus of young people from rural areas in Peru to the slums of Lima. He said:
If we make education pertinent, something the student enjoys, then it won't matter if the classroom's walls are straw or the students are sitting on fruit boxes.
He also noted that school enrollment has increased since the laptop program was announced. Now, some may see that as an attempt on the part of the families to get a free laptop. And if it is, so what? If it gets the kids in school, if it opens up the world to them even a little bit, it has been worth the money.

Of course, not everyone is convinced. The article quotes a university professor as saying he fears
a general disruption of the educational system that will manifest itself in the students overwhelming the teachers.
While I understand his concern, I think it is that fear of losing control that is keeping education around the world from advancing as it could. But that is another post for another day.

The article goes on to quote a mother who says she sometimes pokes around on the laptop, too. Who knows where it might take her?

If you have been considering participating in One Laptop Give One, Get One program, please do. It is running through December 31st. We bought 4, 2 to "keep" and 2 to go somewhere to help a child. Of course, we aren't really keeping the ones we are getting, much to my husband's dismay! So there will be two kids in our lives who will get a real surprise when they arrive! But the true joy is knowing that other kids in other places will be able to experience the joy of discovery that these children in Peru have.

Thanks to LXer for the tip.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Stephen Downes has a great post about morality -- not your usual blog post topic maybe, but a really wonderful post nonetheless. He points out how our morality is shifting/has shifted and says that kids are the first ones to notice this. He says:
I think you may also want to examine how publishers and their supporters are changing (or trying to change) the concept of 'morality'.
and goes on to describe some "shifts" in terms of "the doctrine of first sale", "fair use", and "sharing", among others. He concludes by saying:
Children do not have some fundamentally different morality. Rather, they see - while adults, for some reason, are blind - that the game is shifting, that some very self-centered and greedy people are trying to change the rules. The children - who have no stake in this sudden 'ownership society' - are not fooled. We shouldn't be either.
It's a very thought-provoking post. If you are one of 2 people who read this blog and don't read Half an Hour, please correct that situation and read this post.

Are you ready for linux?

Miguel's post rings true:
...In K-12 education, I often hear that Linux just isn't ready...but everyone--except the leadership--knows the truth. The truth is that it's not ready to be supported by the staff you have on hand. So, rather than require people to learn a new operating system and make the switch, you're stuck with an expensive, proprietary system.
Human beings, most of us anyway, don't like change. It is hard to give up the known for the unknown. We only do it when we are forced to.

My son-in-law, for instance, is very happy running PCLinux on his laptop. But he would never had done it had his computer not crashed. And when he gets a new hard drive, I don't know what OS he will put on it. He says he would be happy to keep PCLinux, but the pull to the familiar will be very strong, I am sure.

My daughter is resisting getting comfortable with Knoppix, which is OK since we wouldn't be installing it on her machine anyway. But I hope that being forced to use it (or Ubuntu on my other machine) until they decide what to do with her machine will give her enough of a taste for it that she would consider Linux as an option.

My daughter's problem, actually, isn't an aversion to Linux as much as a commitment to certain Microsoft products (like Money) and Windows/Mac-centric sites like ITunes. I am sure she will end up back on Windows for those reasons.

But enough about me and mine. What about you? Are you ready for Linux? I guarantee there is a variety of Linux out there that would be just perfect for you!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


The Teacher Dude wrote about KanTalk yesterday, and I went again to check out their website. It looks really interesting. Do any of you ESL/EFL teachers out there have students who use it? Have you really checked it out enough to have an opinion?

It seems like it has potential. But I wouldn't want to suggest it to students without more input from others.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why not for Linux?

When I saw the link to the professional learning board toolbar in Vicky's links, I decided to give it a try. But then I saw the system requirements: Windows 2000/XP/Vista. I downloaded it anyway because it is a Firefox add-on. Had to work on PCLinux, right? And it did. More or less, anyway. The "jobs" button gave me a blank screen that wouldn't go away, but the rest of it was OK. I uninstalled it right away because I could see it had nothing of interest to me.

So why put system requirements if they aren't requirements? Why not say, "This will work on almost any machine. You may have improved functionality on some, but the basics will work for anyone." If the assumption is that everyone uses Windows, why put the requirements there at all?

My husband told me the other day that he isn't interested in helping people with Windows problems anymore. If you have a Linux problem, he'll be there to help in a heartbeat. I thought that was a bit extreme, but I am starting to understand.

As more and more people use Linux of one variety or another, we shouldn't be made to feel like second-class citizens. We have to stand up for ourselves. So from now on, if you tell me I need Windows to use your product, I won't even give it a try. Usually it will work, I know, but that isn't the issue. It is a stand I am willing to take.

Guess I am becoming a crotchety old woman!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Worse than not knowing...

I was looking at some Linux sites today and came across An alien's view point. While some of the posts were quite interesting, what I found most interesting was a saying stuck off in the right sidebar:

Worse than not knowing

Is not wanting to know.
What more is there to say? I find myself having little patience with people who do not want to know. It doesn't matter what it is they don't want to know: computers, the Internet, another language, a different way of doing something/anything. It is a mindset I cannot understand.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A coincidence?

In the space of 15 days, three computers in my daughter's house have crashed or suffered some type of serious meltdown. My son-in-law's machine went down as he was trying to finish his last assignments for the semester. Knoppix saved the day -- and his papers. Then the day before I was to return to Louisiana I discovered that my laptop was dead. Well, at least there was nothing other than a light glowing telling me it was plugged in and charged. Knoppix wouldn't do anything for it. It is on its way back to Acer as I write this.

An hour ago I got a call from my daughter telling me that her desktop had crashed. Fortunately, a Knoppix disk proves that the machine has at least some life in it. Hopefully she will be able to get the data off of it, and then she can decide what she wants to do.

But what are the odds of that happening? They seem astronomical, but maybe I am wrong.

A wake-up call to myself

I was looking again at the posts in my clippings file in Bloglines. And I discovered something interesting: I have probably half a dozen posts by Bruce Schauble clipped. Now, you might think that I would have realized that and started reading his blog very closely, but that was definitely not the case. Actually, I almost deleted Brice from my feeds a couple weeks ago. Looking now, though, I see a great Writing Project technique that I want to try using and a discussion of substantive blogging that has me thinking about the quality of my own blogging. I also had clipped another practical post with another classroom writing activity.

I need to read his blog more closely all the time. If you don't read Throughlines, you should. There is a lot of great stuff there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Back home again

Well, I am back in Louisiana for a few days. It is nice to be here. The only drawback is that I haven't had time today to read anything that I can comment on here today. Hopefully tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Catching up

Once I discovered Clippings in Bloglines, I started clipping posts that were of interest. But, of course, I never looked at them again. So I decided to remedy that situation today. One post that I had clipped was from Graham back in February, The Viral Glass Bead Gameboard. This was of particular interest to me because I have been a fan of HipBone games for 7 or 8 years now.

HipBone games were developed by Charles Cameron and are based on Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game. The boards look similar to the one Graham used that was developed by Chris and used with his classes.

These games, whichever version you use, are wonderful tools to use in the classroom. I have used them to practice vocabulary and grammar, to stimulate discussion, and to work through a difficult reading. Whenever and however I have used them, students have always loved them.

The games fit well with how we all seem to live and work today. It is all about connections. We follow bread crumbs online and off. Give the games a try and see what you think!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Taking time

Bud has an old post about professional development that really struck a chord with me. He says:
I think so many of the professional opportunities that teachers are afforded are races, mere dips of a toe into the waters of potential. There's lots to do and not enough time to do it.
I feel that way about much of the professional development I have done lately. Maybe all of it. We don't get a chance to really explore the possibilities of a thing before we move on to the next one. We seldom get the opportunity to try something out in our classes and then report back to the group. Reflection is what is missing from most professional development.

Bud goes on to say
I want sustainability. I want reflection. I think others want it, too. we don't learn by racing. We learn by doing and reflecting and questioning.
One good thing that has come from my determination to blog every day until the end of the year has been the fact that I have read more blogs and I have reflected more on what I have read. I think that I am learning from this process; I know that I am. And I am determined to continue after the first of the year.

I don't think it will be easy to continue this pace. I know that at times it will feel impossible. But I think I owe myself the time that it will take. I deserve it, actually!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What if I lost it all?

Like many, many others, I received the email telling me about the closing of Eduspaces next month. I really never got into using it as much as I probably should have, so for me it isn't a major deal. But is made me think. What would I do if I got word that Blogger was shutting down or I wouldn't really have to lose all my posts or anything, but I would lose these outlets for my thoughts and my writing. I would really be lost.

We have come to depend so much on free online services, and I seldom think about the possibility of one of them shutting down. I guess I am beginning to understand why people have their own sites to house all their online stuff.

Safe, interactive searches

Ewan pointed to something maybe everyone else knows about already: Quintura for Kids. It really looks great. Your basic search options appear in a cloud: stories, toys, music, school bell, sports, etc. Move the mouse over one of them and you get more options within that option. When you click on one, you are given a more traditional list of sites that fall under that category. The site is visually appealing, sporting a wintry scene right now. I can't wait to see what kids think about it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The most powerful technology resources

Wesley Fryer's Moving at the Speed of Creativity podcast the other day was the audio portion of a talk he gave to a group of teachers in a professional development workshop. It was called Blending Learning with Powerful Ingredients.

I don't always get around to listening to podcasts, but this is one I am very glad I did. He talked about not just doing the same old thing that we have always been doing. It isn't enough to use technology to tell students to read pages 6-20 and answer questions 1-10. I've talked about this before, and it is something that I really struggle with in my own practice.

The other thing I took away from the podcast was Wesley's picks as the most powerful tech tools or resources. After asking the participants to come up with their own lists, he talked about, flickr, voicethread, and skype. While I use all four extensively, I haven't used them as much with students as I would like. I have used flickr extensively, but that is about it. I need to think about how I can use the others more.

Anyway, it was a great podcast. You have probably listened to it already, but if not, check it out!

Friday, December 14, 2007

This just keeps getting stranger and stranger!

I downloaded task-gnome and have been playing around with it on my PCLinux machine. I was happy -- until I tried to print. It wouldn't work. Not at all. No matter what I did. So, I went back to KDE. It wouldn't print. No matter what I did. Finally, I tried what I did last time: I plugged it in on the Ubuntu machine. It printed fine. Then I plugged it back in on the PCLinux machine with KDE, and it printed fine. I switched to a gnome session, and it printed fine.

If there was some rhyme or reason to this, it would be a lot easier to take. As it is, it is very frustrating! But I guess as long as I have my Ubuntu machine around, I'll be able to "fix" my printing problems.

Today was the big day

My son-in-law received his Masters in Nursing today. I've been busy all day with graduation, dinner, and family festivities. It's been a great day!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

MacArthur Series on Digital Media and Learning

Clarence pointed the way to some great books on digital media and learning published by MIT Press and made available freely online thanks to a grant by the MacArthur Foundation. (He got there by way of danah, by the way!)

The available titles are:
Youth, Identity, and Digital Media

and all are available for free online!

I look forward to reading some of these over the break. What I saw with a quick glance today looked really interesting.

Thanks, but...

Miguel read about my concerns about getting used to KDE and found an answer to my problem: PCLinuxOS Gnome. I immediately downloaded it and ran the Live CD. I love the look and feel of it. I guess I really am a Gnome person at heart! Thanks, Miguel, for the tip.

Now for the "but". It found my printer, but it couldn't download the firmware for it from the Internet. This was the same problem I had when I tried to run Linux Mint. I am sure there is an easy solution, but I don't have time this morning before work to figure it out.

I have to think that the problem is something in Gnome. But I don't understand why this has to happen. If PCLinixOS with KDE can find my printer and set it up and let me print (most of the time!), why can't PCLinux OS with Gnome? Is this the real reason people like KDE better? Does it just work better than Gnome?

I will admit that after only a few days I am getting used to KDE. I got rid of the blue desktop, which is my real objection to it. (I know. That doesn't seem like a real reason to like or not like something, but if I wanted blue, I could log on to my Windows partition!) But I want to give PCLinux with Gnome a try, so I will play around with the printer problem tonight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another convert... almost

My son-in-law got his final papers finished and should receive his MA on Friday. He had gotten used to running his computer off the Knoppix Live CD. I gave him a PCLinux disk to look at, and he has been playing around with it. He really likes it. I think that he is going to end up having to put a new hard drive in his machine, but I think it will have PCLinux on it when he does. At least I hope so!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Problem solved -- for now

Well, a good night's rest didn't help my printing problem. I tried all the same things this morning that I had tried last night. Nothing. So then I decided that I needed to be sure that the printer itself wasn't the problem. I plugged it into the Ubuntu machine, and it printed fine. I plugged it back into the PCLinux machine, and it worked fine. Huh? Oh well... for the moment I can print. Let's see how long it lasts!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ah, the frustration of it all...

So tonight I went to print. And I couldn't. Yesterday I could and tonight I can't. I can't do a test page. I can't print my document. I uninstalled and reinstalled the printer and still can't print anything. I rebooted the computer. Nothing.

This is my frustration with Linux, of whatever variety I am running: Sometimes it just stops working for absolutely no reason that I can determine. I am going to bed now. Maybe the computer is as tired as I am right now. At least I hope that's it!

PCLinuxOS -- and a question

It is interesting to me that my switch to PCLinux from Ubuntu has generated more comments than my announcement about using Ubuntu did. And, if I am to be honest, it has generated more comments than anything I have written in awhile. Guess that means that the PCLinux folks are out there promoting the operating system they really love.

And I can see why they love it. The only problem I am having is making the switch to KDE. I know some people like it better than Gnome, but I am still trying to find my way around it. I got Boinc and Seti up and running yesterday; that was the last piece I needed to get in place.

This morning, though, my flash drive, which was mounted yesterday and removed safely last night, wouldn't mount until I rebooted. None of my flash drives would mount. Is this something i should expect to have happen? Is it going to go south the way it did with Ubuntu and I'll end up not being able to mount them even after rebooting? I would be grateful for any ideas you PCLinux folks might have.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A clarification

I received a comment asking what laptop wouldn't run Ubuntu. I have to say that I ran Ubuntu on that laptop for almost a year. It was fine. It was only after an upgrade to Gutsy that things started not working. It is an Acer Aspire 5100. And, as another comment indicated, I think it has to do with the 64-bit thing.

As for PCLinux, so far I am happy. Except I had a Skype conference call this morning that didn't go well; I couldn't hear them at all. Was it PCLinux? Probably not. But it is curious that it happened now. I was very happy to see that Flash works perfectly, though. I didn't have to log in to Windows to check the latest updates to the course materials.

We'll see what I think in a week or two or a month or two. I still have Ubuntu Gutsy on my other machine, so I don't feel totally disloyal!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A switch

My husband has been at it for some time now, but it wasn't until Miguel talked about it that I was ready to give it a try. PCLinuxOS 2007, that is. I finally switched from Ubuntu to PCLinux on one of my laptops.

Ever since I upgraded to Gutsy Gibbon, I have had trouble getting it to read my flash drives, and Flash wouldn't work right. It was a major pain because of the course development I am doing that is produced in Flash. I had to log into my Windows partition to edit it. (That is all I ever use Windows for anymore!).

So today I backed up everything on my Linux partition and tried live CDs of Linux Mint and PCLinux 2007. I really wanted Mint to work, but it wouldn't find my wireless card. PCLinux found it right out of the box. So I got everything running the way I wanted with the Live CD and then installed it. It was so easy. Everything was exactly the way I wanted it as soon as the installation was finished.

I am sorry to leave Ubuntu, but I need for things to work. For me on this machine, PCLinux is it. I am still running Ubuntu on my other laptop. Everything works much better there. So for now, I am content to leave it that way. But if I have trouble in the future, you can be sure I will try PCLinux on it, too.

Some things to think about

Thanks to Vicky at Cool Cat, I discovered Teen Literacy Tips. The site is great, full of things that I could have used in my old job, things that I am still vitally interested in. As I was looking around today, I found a post called Education Quotes to Peruse and Ponder. One of them seems to speak to what all of us edubloggers believe:
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” — John Cotton Dana
Nothing terrible new there, of course, but it reminded me of how important my blogging and reading of blogs is to me as an educator. It is how I learn. Would I learn if I didn't blog? Probably. I hope so, at least. But what I learned would be different. It would be textbook based. It would be theory more than practice. And that wouldn't be bad. But it would definitely be different.

And another quote:
“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.” — Source Unknown
This goes back to something I wrote about a few days ago, something that Doug brought to my attention, something that Gerald Bracey wrote about: whether or not schools should be in the business of preparing young people for jobs. Maybe this is the approach I should have taken in my post: It is OK for schools to prepare students for jobs, but they should first prepare them for life.

There are other great thougts in the post. Which ones speak to you?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Reality or fantasy

Richard MacManus' post reporting on the faberNovell Consulting research paper on social networks was quite interesting. I am not into Facebook or MySpace, but I know people on both networks. I had never thought of them in the terms that faberNovell did. What struck me was MacManus' statement that:
Facebook is viewed as "real identity", whereas MySpace is "fanntasized identity"!
As I said, I am not overly familiar with either network, but these characterizations don't seem too far off.

What I found interesting was my reaction to the idea of a fantasized identity. Granted, I am quite old (57 at last count!) and stodgy, but I can't imagine going on MySpace and creating a fantasized identity. I don't know how I would even go about it. And if I wanted a fantasized identity, why not do it on one of the many online games that are out there, where you are expected to take on an identity within the game?

I think about my desire for transparency in my blogging and in my life in general. I guess am not a good candidate for MySpace. But then, I am not sure I am a good candidate for Facebook, either.

There is a slideshow of the faberNovell paper in MacManus' post. Check it out.

A circuitous route

I am amazed by the things I can learn online every day. But I am even more fascinated by the path to that knowledge. Take, for example, this post on Read/Write Web by Richard MacManus. I got to it from this post on Column Two, which I got to from a post on elearningpost. I got to elearning post when I added the flake to my Pageflakes page. I was looking at Pageflakes today because of all the recent hype about the Teacher Edition. Although I had seen posts about it before, today I saw it in Ewan McIntosh's links, which appear in my Bloglines account along with his blog posts. I decided to check it out, to see what the difference was between the Teacher's Edition and the "regular" edition. And so started a chain of links that brought me to an interesting post about Facebook and MySpace, which I will talk about in a minute.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Today's post... just barely!

I have been sitting here for half an hour trying to decide if it is better to have a lame post than no post at all today. I finally decided that lame was better than nothing. And actually, I want to talk about something that isn't lame at all: TESOL's Electronic Village Online 2008.

Every year about this time I plug it, and this year is no exception. Check out the call for participation. It gives you a basic idea of the sessions that are being offered this year.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

In praise of Knoppix Live CDs

At 7:15 am today I was frantically downloading Knoppix to create a live CD. After I got it, I stuck the disk in my son-in-law's dead computer. It booted right up in Knoppix. After mounting the hard drive, I was able to access his files. We put the ones he needs right now on a thumb drive and transferred them to another computer. Over the weekend I hope to get all his files off the machine. He was good to go when I went to work at 8:45.

If you don't have Knoppix Live CD, get one! It can save you. And it gives you a chance to try Linux, too. You just might find that you like it.

A friendly reminder

My son-in-law has one final paper to finish before he gets his MA on December 14. He had just finished the next to the last project and was turning his attention to the paper when his computer crashed. With many of the articles he still needs to read for the paper on it. We are at the moment trying to get back into the computer and, hopefully, will be successful. If not, we will all start trying to duplicate his search and find the articles again.

But to the reminder -- to myself as much as to anyone else -- please back up your stuff! You never know when things will come crashing down around you!

I know I start out with good intentions and then get busy and forget. I know that's what happened with my son-in-law. Don't let it happen to you!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mounds and mounds of paperwork

In my new job I find I am suffering from too much paperwork. I know that I am fairly lucky not to have had to deal with all kinds of paperwork before, but that doesn't make me feel much better about having to deal with it now. Right now I feel like my teaching isn't as important as all the paperwork -- at least not to anyone but my students and me.

There is no way to avoid doing it, and I understand the value of it as a way to satisfy funders if nothing else. But I feel like I am shortchanging my students because I am taking time from instruction to test and then test again, and then I have to document all that testing. Then I have to fill out a ton of other forms on top of that and on top of all the other forms we have to fill out throughout the term. Or at least that's how it feels.

Since this is my first time doing all this, I am sure my reaction is a little extreme. In time I should be more used to it and take it in stride. But for now, I am really feeling frustrated and harried.

There must be a better way to do some of this, but I haven't been here long enough to have an idea what it would be. Believe me when I tell you I intend to find out!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Professional development

Miguel's posts usually make me think, and this one on professional development was no exception. I was struck, though, by his parting comment:
In the meantime, I'm glad that I embarked on the blogging adventure 2.5 years ago. I'm much further along than if I'd limited my conversations to traditional venues and people who I hope will embrace a different way of learning.
This ties, again, to what I have been thinking. Reflecting is good. Connecting is good. But blogging is better. What I have learned, the people I have "met" and interacted with since January, 2005, truly amaze me. There is no other way that I could possible have learned as much as I have through blogging and reading blogs.

I have taken three grad classes since I started blogging. None of them made me think as much as blogging has. None exposed me to the variety of thought and opinion as blogging has. Blogging nourishes me as a professional in a way that nothing else seems to. It inspires and challenges me on a daily basis.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

My goal for the rest of this year

I know; it's almost over. But in looking at the sidebar on this blog, I saw that this has not been a great year from blogging. At least not for me. So I am determined to finish this year up the way I started blogging almost 3 years ago -- with a post a day. If I can do that and throw in a couple extra posts when time permits, I won't ahve the msot dismal blogging year ever. It still won't be great, but it will be better than last eyar. So I am going to give it a shot and hope that it carries over into 2008, too.

The need for creativity

Coming after my last post, I was interested to read Barbara Ganley's post in which she says:
...I am dismayed that our institutions of higher learning place such little value on creativity-centered courses except for majors in the arts. If a student has 36 courses to take over the four years of college, how many of them are creative-intensive? And yet, what could be more important than building their ability to think and act creatively?
I don't think it is just colleges that are ignoring creativity. I see children doing senseless, mindless worksheets that don't mean anything to them. I see my own students not encouraged to be creative or really interact with what they are learning more often than I would like to admit.

I know that I as a human being am only happy when I am creative. I used to sew and bake. Now I blog and develop courses. And I am happy.

Barbara goes on to say:
In slowing down by moving more deeply into reflection, connection and creativity , my students have gotten in touch with parts of themselves that they haven't seen in years while coming out of themselves to examine the world around them...
Reflection is, in itself, a creative process, I think. So is connection, really. The "product" may not be tangible, but it is very real.

She says more that I need to think about and comment on. But that is for tomorrow, I hope. My thanks to Barbara for helping me think about this.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Preparing young people for jobs

Doug over at Borderland raises an interesting question. Actually, he only relays the question from Gerald Bracey:
Is job preparation what schools should be about?
Despite all the movements to the contrary, I really believe that schools -- K-12, at least -- are not about preparation of people for jobs. They are about the preparation of people for life. Or at least they should be. Work is only a small part of who we are as people. And young people need the opportunity to discover who they are. If schools are focused on preparing students for 21st century jobs, when do young people get to even think about who they are and what interests them?

On the other hand, we do need to make sure that young people have an ability to think and reason and that they can read and write. I think that they need to be encouraged to develop their creativity. And to me, those are job skills.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One of my favorite stories

I was reading my Bloglines feeds when I ran across this story, which made it into my email box several years ago. It is about retiring in Mexico. My husband and I had received it and then, apparently, deleted it but finally found it again about 6 months ago. And today I found it here in a post at Common Craft.

It is important to live life as we go along, not waiting for some magical future. That's a decision my husband and I made 36 years ago, and we have tried to live by it. Our lives have not been comfortable in a traditional sense, but we wouldn't change it for anything.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reflecting on practice

Reading Adult Education and Technology, I came across a list that the author had gotten from Vicki Davis at Cool Cat Teacher. There were 20 questions in the list, mostly relating to the use of technology by teachers and students. There was one question that I found especially interesting:
19. Have you changed anything significant about ALL of the courses you are teaching THIS YEAR?
I have always wondered how a teacher could just do the same thing over and over again every year. I had teachers like that in high school back in the dark ages, and I have seen teachers like that recently. But I don't get it. Even if you teach the same classes over and over again (Especially if you teach the same classes over and over again!), your students and your classes are never exactly the same from one year to the next. They have different needs and different interests. Why would a teacher not want to tap into those differences each year?

Another interesting question was this one:
14. Is more than 50% of your content relevant "to life?"
As an adult educator, I would like to think that everything that goes on in my class will help students get through life. I wonder, though, if that is true. It probably is true in some long-term existential way, but I am not so sure my students would agree if I were to ask them.

Teaching is not an easy job. If we are to do it well, we must consider the needs of our students, their interests and abilities, and their reasons for studying. We must reflect on our own practice and continue to learn ourselves so we can improve what it is we do and how we do it. The Internet offers teachers a chance to learn and to reflect. All we have to do is make a little effort.

Friday, November 09, 2007

So what's the problem?

I was excited a couple weeks ago to read Konrad Glogowski's post on How to Grow a Blog. I loved the graphic he used with his students to get them thinking about their blogs. I wanted to use it to come up with a new plan for this blog. But somehow or other, it hasn't happened. I can't seem to come up with a plan.

I think this has something to do with the fact that I am still making the transition from Intensive English program instructor to adult educator. I am, in some ways I think, still fighting the transition a little. I can't quite see myself in this new role -- even though it is one I have taken on before.

I want this blog to speak to who I am and what I am doing now. I want to use it to learn more about teaching my adult students. I want to use it to reflect on my practice. But I can't quite figure out yet how to do that.

I have been looking for blogs by adult educators because I want to read about their practice. I know that my blog reading has always inspired and shaped my posts here, so this seems like a necessary step. But I have not had much luck finding Adult Ed blogs. Any suggestions?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Growing my blog

Konrad Glogowski's blog of proximal development always makes me think. His post How to Grow a Blog is certainly no exception. I think his visual outlining the idea is a great one.

As I do not have studets blogging at the moment, I read the post more as a blogger than as a teacher. And I learned a lot. I have been struggling to find my blogging voice again after a number of months away. I think that I will use Konrad's visual to help me think through my own blog. What do I want to accomplish here? How can I make that happen? I have to think it through before I write about it, but look for some "thinking out loud" here. As always, I will welcome whatever ideas you might have.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Language Learning Online

I may not have told you before, but I love Mashable. What has prompted me to announce this to the world is a recent post there listing 70 online language communities for learning and practicing languages. It includes a wide variety of possibilities, including LiveMocha and

I have a student who asked me about websites for learning English. I had heard of LiveMocha before, but the Mashable post was good impetus for looking at it more closely. It looks good. Does anyone have any experience with it?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sharing uncertainty

Miguel says it all: Share More!

He says:
Our gurus should be those who are unafraid to share their most vulnerable moments, those moments when they are learning that show they do not know what they are doing but are trying to learn.
While Miguel is primarily speaking to educators, his advice is good for everyone. When we have to pretend to be perfect, when we are afraid to show that we don't have all the answers, we do a disservice to ourselves and to everyone around us.

It's hard, though.

I find it easier, for instance, to talk about my uncertainties here on my blog than I do with my coworkers. But when we do it, the results are usually amazing. I had a situation just last week where I was looking for a way to approach a topic in class. What I had done hadn't worked, and I needed help. I was looking in the resource room for something to use when a fellow teacher asked me what I was looking for. I told her. She didn't have any great ideas, but another teacher in the room told me to look in a particular book, that it addressed the topic very effectively. I took his advice, and the lesson was very successful.

Why are we so afraid? Why do we feel this need to be perfect?

I constantly tell my students that if they wait until they can do it perfectly, they will never learn to speak English. And yet I find myself not wanting to share my vulnerabilities with my colleagues.

I think I am getting better about this. Blogging has helped me a lot. Reading blogs has helped me a lot. I hope I can make more progress as I go along.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Playing Catch-up

Since starting this new job, I have been constantly playing catch-up. After 2 and a half weeks, I am starting to get caught up. It feels good. But my Bloglines account has been severely ignored. I have done a little reading over the last two weeks, but tonight I had over 1200 posts to read. There is no way I can really read that many posts!

So it is time to clean out my account, weed out those feeds I often skim over at best. This will require that I think seriously about what my needs are right now and what my interests are. I think they have changed a bit over the last few months.

All of this is, I hope, preparatory to my return to blogging on a regular basis. I miss it!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I love my job!

I am back to teaching what I really love: adult ESL. I find that it really energizes me. Right now it is a lot of work; I have had to really shift gears. But it is getting easier.

One thing that I have to see, though, is how/if I am going to be able to incorporate technology in my classes. Right now it doesn't look like it -- although there is a computer lab that I could possibly arrange to use with some of them. There are some classes that could not use the lab because they meet off-site. Do I want to use the lab with some groups and not with others? This is something I am going to have to think through before I make a decision.

One thing I need to do is follow what Barry Bakin does with his adult ESL students. His students are about the same level as my most advanced group. And I need to look for other adult ESL instructors using the Internet. This is all part of my shifting gears. It's fun!

Monday, September 17, 2007


In what I hope is the last of my self-indulgent personal posts, I wanted to let you know that I have found a job. I am doing adult education ESL in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was hired last week and started today. Although I am a little overwhelmed at the moment, I feel sure this is a good move for me.

My husband is still in Louisiana finishing up things there. Once he and all our stuff are here, I will feel better. By that time, work should be running smoothly. At least I hope so!

Thanks to all of you who have written encouraging me over the last several months. Maybe I can gradually get back to blogging again!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Preparing our students

Darren had an interesting post about "Empowering K-12 Students Online" that you should check out. It is actually his notes from a talk by Jeff Catania, another Canadian educator. He looks at school mission statments and says, among other things:

Clearly, educational institutions (likely including your own) have made it their mission to prepare students for a changing world—but do they actually do it? Even with significant reform efforts, K-12 curricula have not changed dramatically since the 19th century.

He then poses the question:
Which of the following do you think best prepares our children to succeed in a changing global environment?

• Express y = ax2 + bx + c in the form y = a(x – h)2 + k by completing the square.
• Describe the stages of mitosis – prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase.
• Recognize and use passé composé of verbs conjugated with être.
• Identify by characteristics the major rock types (for example, igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic).

- or

• Handle and compose email.
• Participate in conferences and bulletin boards.
• Navigate and create electronic content in a variety of forms (for example, web sites).
• Use instant messaging.
Obviously, the first set of tasks is much more common in schools than the second set.

At first reading, I thought that this was a really good question. But then I wasn't so sure. In the second set of tasks, there are only tasks. We don't know anything about content. I wonder if email and instant messaging really prepare our students "to succeed in a changing global environment". I would argue that, without some serious thought to the content of those messages and emails, they may not be much more helpful than completing the square.

I think that we need to show our young people how to use these tools in increasingly sophisticated ways. Somewhere I think the question of thinking and evaluating and analyzing have to enter into it. I think we need to be showing students how to interact in a meaningful way with each other and with the online world as a whole.

I guess what it comes down to for me is that we need to be doing a lot more for our students than we are. Technology is a necessary component of what we need to be doing, but I am not sure that technology in and of itself is going to fix anything.

In fairness to Jeff and to Darren, I should make it clear that I don't think either of them believes that technology in and of itself will solve all our problems. I just think that this was the tack that Jeff, as an eLearning Instructional Coordinator, took in the presentation. The discussion that I am envisioning is an offshoot of that tack.

I guess, for me, this is the other side of the coin. I have been thinking for awhile about the need to avoid doing the same old things with the new technology. Darren's post made me think about how we have to use the technology to do meaningful things, not just new things.

It's an interesting post. Check it out.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why not take the job?

Ever since Sarolta commented on my earlier post about not wanting to take a middle school teaching job because it would just be a job, I have been meaning to respond. Guess I am finally going to do it now.

Sarolta couldn't understand why I didn't take the job if it was offered and I needed one. It sounds simple, I know. But to me, at least, is isn't.

First of all, I have temporary work which keeps the bills paid for now. And my husband works. So we aren't destitute.

More important, though, is the other aspect Sarolta mentioned: that I could just leave this job if a better one came along. In the US, public school teachers are under contract. We cannot just walk away from a job as you can do in other countries. Now, I know people here do it all the time, but I come from a time when you honored a contract.

So that makes the issue more complicated. If I take a teaching job now, I am committing to it until June. No matter what else comes along. That makes it hard for me to want to take a job just to have a job. Of course, I may have not pursued this job and still not get offered anything closer to what I am looking for. That is a gamble I have to take. But I would rather take a job at a bookstore that I could walk away from with two weeks' notice than sign a contract that I would be tempted to break.

So, I don't think it is entirely a cultural issue, as Sarolta suggested, but it is tied more to the differences in conditions of employment. Either way, I am still looking for a job. But today, at least, that is OK.

What kind of blog is this?

Jenn had an interesting post with a SlideShare presentation on why people blog. I looked at the presentation, anxious to see how I would categorize my blogging. What I discovered is that my kind of blogging doesn't seem to exist! Maybe that is why I have had such a hard time blogging lately! And here I thought it was because my life was sort of up in the air!

Actually, the presentation outlines 25 styles of blogging. I found it interesting. I don't know that I would ever do some of the kinds of blogging mentioned there, but you never know.

So, in spite of my recent lack of posting, I have to ask myself again what exactly this blog does. I guess it discusses technology and education and the places the two intersect in my life. Again I must acknowledge the fact that I can't blog if I am not reading blogs. (That is another part of the reason behind my lack of blogging. Lack of focus on reading!)

I guess, too, I must admit that I don't know the exact purpose of this blog. And I am OK with that. All I am hoping for now is to get back to the kind of regular posting I did for the first two years. I miss it. I miss writing. I miss reading. I miss the communication!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Decisions, decisions

It has been almost six months now since I started my job search. I have officially been unemployed for a week short of three months. I am being paid to do some course design, but I haven't found a full-time job yet. This is rather amazing to me. I have always been able to get a job. But, seemingly, this time I cannot.

At least that's what I thought until I heard about a job yesterday. My former colleague has accepted a job teaching ESL at an upper elementary school - a middle school in south Louisiana. She told me that the school district is still looking for an ESL teacher. So I called this morning and talked to the woman in charge.

She gave me a very convincing sales pitch. 4 hours of classroom time a day,2.5 hours of prep and meeting time. More that 1.5 times the salary I was making at the college. Good benefits. I was starting to get interested.

And then she asked me why I was interested in the job. I gave her some answer or other, but I realized almost as I was saying it that the only reason I am interested in the job is just that: it's a job.

And I don't think it would be fair to me or to the school district, much less to the students, for ma to take a job just to have a job. So while I haven't made a final decision yet, I think I have pretty well decided that I will call the woman and tell her I am not interested. It seems like the honest and professional thing to do.

But there is that little bit of me that is scared, that is afraid that I still won't have a job another 6 months from now. Will my standards and my concern for others be as high then?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Using Pageflakes

I have been looking at Pageflakes for some time now but haven't done anything with it really. Then today I read a post the the TESL-L from Barry Bakin about how he is experimenting with it. Anyway, I checked out his Pageflakes page and his class blog and his professional blog.

Barry's use of Pageflakes finally made it all come together for me. I could see how I could effectively use Pageflakes to coordinate all the different things I want students to do online. Check it out. I think you will see what I mean.

(cross posted at Moving Along)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A strange time for me

It's that time again - the time when stores start having sales on school supplies. I used to love it. I still love it. But it feels very strange not to be buying anything this year. (Actually, I moved so many things out of my office in May that I am sure I have all the supplies I could possibly need for a new job when I get one!)

I have been very fortunate to get a temporary job developing a course, so we are OK financially for awhile. I still have a few applications out there that might lead to something, but I am not holding my breath.

So for now I just look at the ads in the paper and think about how nice it would be to have to go out and buy more notebooks and pens and binders and pencils and...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Are you addicted to blogging?

65%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Rachel is much more addicted to blogging than I am, I guess.

My husband walked in as I was completing the quiz and saw the banner at the top which read Mingle2 100% Free Online Dating. I had to do some explaining. So you might want to complete the quiz when your partner is away!

Try it for yourself here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Check out this wiki!

While I may be the last person to learn about this, I want to pass it on anyway! Reading Rachel's blog, I found a reference that led me to a wiki that you are sure to like. It is called Educational Software and Web 2.0.

This wiki is a collection of resources. Included are:
Audio Programs
Art and Design
iLife in Macs
Office Programs
Photo Editing
Special Needs
Teacher Tools
Video Editing
Visual Organisers
Web Authoring
Writing Software

Calendar Sharing
Mindmaps and Charts
Office Apps
Picture Sharing
Pod/ Vidcasts
RSS and Feeds
Slide Shows
Social Networking
Social Bookmarks
Video Editing
Video sharing

Internet Basics
Web Hosting
Web searching tips
Internet Safety
Free Hit Counters

Free Image Libraries
Digital Still Camera
Video Resources
Audio Resources
Other Resources
Similar sites
Digital Storytelling

It's a little like looking at Mashable or Solution Watch but organized as only a wiki can be.

Anyway, I thought it was a great resource, and I wanted to make sure everyone knew about it!

(Crossposted at Moving On)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Future of Education

Derek had a post about an interactive Map of Future Forces Affecting Education. The map legend shows us that it looks at
Drivers ... These are six categories driving all trends, hotspots and dilemmas.
Impact areas ... These are five key areas of activity where major trends are revealed from different perspectives.
Hotspots ...These are key trends that we think have broad impact on education and often make good starting points for exploring the map.
Dilemmas ... These are issues that can't be solved with either/or thinking but require new strategies that go beyond simple problem solving.
Trends ... Trends make up the core of the map. They are major shifts, new phenomena and concepts, and driving forces that will shape the future context of public education.
The map looks at things that have not really been considered much in education up until now. To give you an idea, among the trends mentioned in the map is "increasing chronic illness". Clicking on the box tells us about rising youth obesity and the fact that 40% of public school students need mental health care. Looking at a real world application of this, they say that it is becoming harder to be healthy and we must look for ways for students' need for medical care not to adversely affect their ability to participate in school. It also says that that the health needs of children can help to create real change in education.

In the resource library they have a couple of presentations about the map. They give a pretty good overview of it. There are links to other resources connected to the various trends, etc. discussed in the map. There is a lot of valuable information here. And a lot to think about.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How do you define success?

I was looking at Mashable today and saw a post entitled 6 Key Ways to Measure Your Blog's Success. It is, as you might expect, a look at different rating systems like Technorati. And while I understand what they are talking about, it raised an important question in my mind: what does it mean for a blog to be successful?

I have yet to check Technorati to find out how my blog is doing -- largely because I would be surprised to see it there at all. None of my blogs have many readers. And that is OK with me because I don't think blogging is about numbers. To me, if there is one person who has gotten even one idea or one different perspective on just one topic, the blog has been successful. If one person reads something here that helps them see that they aren't the only one who thinks a certain way, it will be enough for me.

And actually, if no one reads this blog but me, I will still keep blogging because blogging is in large part about the writing and the thinking. I want to continue to do both within the confines of my blogs even if no one ever sees them because I will have learned something in the process. That in itself is success.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I'm R2-D2.

OK. I haven't taken one of these tests in a long time. And since my son and I just bought our Star Wars stamps, this seemed appropriate.

Your results:
You are R2-D2

Jabba the Hutt
Qui-Gon Jinn
Darth Maul
Luke Skywalker
Han Solo
Emperor Palpatine
What you lack in height
and communication skills,
you make up for in industriousness,
technical know-how and being there
when others need you most.

(This list displays the top 10 results out of a possible 21 characters)

Click here to take the Star Wars Personality Test

Thanks to Darcy for the link!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In answer to your question...

Lesley asked if there was a downside to using OpenOffice. So I will try to answer.

I would have to say that, yes, there are some sacrifices you make. For instance, there is no built-in reading level analyzer in OpenOffice (OO). There is an add-on you can get, but it is sometimes a little buggy. It is possible to track changes and everything, though, so that isn't a problem. You can add written comments to a paper, but as far as I know you cannot add audio comments.

Some things are not impossible in OO but seem a little more awkward to do. Page numbering is one of them. If you want the title page to not have a number or if you have pages with Roman numerals followed by regular numbering, it is a little complicated to do. I think, though, that if I did it more often, I would remember from one attempt to the next and not have to go to the forums looking for help.

That brings up one of the real advantages of OO and other open source tools is that there is a great community of users out there who have either already answered your question for someone else or will be willing to answer it for you if it hasn't come up yet. (I have never yet had a question for which I couldn't find the answer on the OO forum.)

The only other problem I have ever had is that sometimes when I open my OO .doc document in Word, the formatting is a little off. This can be frustrating. But I have had worse problems with using different versions of Word on computers in a computer lab.

For me, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, but not everyone would necessarily feel that way. But I go back to what I said last time: Download it and try it for two weeks and then decide.

Voice Thread 2

Darren had a link to Voice Thread, and I decided to give it a look. I initially wrote about it on my other blog but it wasn't possible to embed it there. So I came back over here to see what happened.

I think that this tool, which is free, could have potential for classroom use. It would be interesting to try.

Voice Thread

This is a test of Voice Thread and my blog's ability to embed it.

Look at the armadillo that came into my yard!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In praise of open source

Thanks to a post over at Kairosnews, I learned about an article in Linux Insider about the use of open source software. As a computer user running Ubuntu Linux, using Firefox, OpenOffice, Abiword, Audacity, and many other open source programs, there wasn't a lot that was new to me. But it was an interesting read.

The first part of the article discusses myths about open source. One of them that I have heard over and over is
Myth: Students need to learn the standard applications.
When you look at the job ads out there, this would seem to be true. I have really been looking at job ads lately, and it is amazing to me the number that want you to be able to use specific Microsoft programs -- even down to Outlook. There is seldom a discussion of what one needs to be able to do with these programs, merely the requirement that you know how to use them.

My son was recently enrolled in a college level IT class where he had to use Microsoft Office products. I tried to convince him that he could do it all in OpenOffice; after all, how could the professor tell what program he had used to prepare a document? He did most of it that way. Some assignments, though, required a discussion of the process of doing something in Word, for instance. He had to borrow a computer for those assignments.

The article addresses this myth, saying:
Schools have a responsibility to give students the skills they need to succeed. By the time high school students get to the job market, today's applications will be antiquated. Students need to know how to use word processors to communicate and spreadsheets to explore numbers and graphs. Their technical skills should transcend the particular idiosyncrasies of the applications
I wonder, though, if it isn't our fear as older adults that keeps students using "standard" applications. For many of us, this is all we know about computers. We are still, some of us, a little afraid of the machines. So we stick with what we know. Until we break out of the mold, we can't really help our students do it.

While we can't expect schools to all immediately switch to open source, do you think it would be possible to introduce it slowly? Could teachers get permission to download OpenOffice, for instance, and use it with their students?

This brings me to another myth:
Myth: Moving to F/OSS will require retraining and relearning.
The author's response was:
People are often reluctant to try new computer programs, though most users find only subtle differences between one program and another. In the course of giving conference presentations about F/OSS, two computer coordinators shared stories of upgrading some users' Microsoft Office suite with, leaving Microsoft Office icons as the means to start In both cases, most users failed to notice that they were no longer using Microsoft Office.
So my challenge to you, if you are not using open source already, is to go out there and give it a try. Download a program and use it exclusively for two weeks. See if you don't like it.
It may take some getting used to, but it won't be any more difficult to adjust to than a Microsoft upgrade.

And if you aren't willing to do that, at least read the article.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The burden is on us

A History Teacher has an interesting post on plagiarism and how he has changed one of his assignments to avoid it. This is exactly the kind of thing that I think should be happening. Like the cheating with iPods I wrote about earlier, it seems to me that this is what we should be doing. Rather than expecting students to complete assignments that resemble the ones we were given as students with enthusiasm and integrity and then getting upset when they use their creativity (or lack of it, in the case of a lot of plagiarism) to get around it, we should be looking for ways to make our teaching and our assignments more relevant and more creative.

Dan mentioned a particular WebQuest assignment he has changed over the years to make it more "cheat-proof". That got me thinking about my own WebQuests. Granted, I will probably never again have an opportunity to use my Will the Real Thomas Merton Please Stand Up? assignment, but you never know. There was little in this assignment that did not lend itself to copying from the sources if my students had been so inclined. The other WebQuests I have done are about the same. But, I ask myself, what else could I have done? These assignments were for writing classes. They ask students to read, summarize, and synthesize information. If they wanted to copy from the sources, it was certainly possible.

This, for me, is the problem. I am the problem. I need to learn to think outside the box more. That is why I love reading blogs where teachers talk about what they are doing with their students. It's why I love Clarence Fisher and Darren Kuropatwa; they share their thinking and their work and allow me to learn from them. And there is so much I need to learn!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A bit of persepctive

That's what I am hoping I have, at least.

I have returned from another unsuccessful job interview trip. At first I was devastated: how could they not want to even have a second interview with me for a job I was well qualified for? But that is what happened. We drove 1100+ miles for me to have a 20 minute interview.

Since returning, though, I have been thinking about what various readers have written about taking my time and trying to find what it is that I want to do. And I have really been thinking about the idea of NOT having a job. At least not having a 9-5/8-4 job I go to each day. The freedom of that is quite appealing. My concern with that before was that I know myself: I throw myself 110% into whatever I am doing. Could I do that with a variety of part-time jobs? A better question might be, do I want to give 110% to a job now? That obviously didn't work so well for me n my last job.

One thing that I know is that I do not want to define myself by my job anymore. I have more talent and ability than I give myself credit for. I am trying to develop a little faith in myself and a little more persepctive. And I am ready to get on with life.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

More to think about

I always read Borderland, but Teaching the Controversy gave me more to think about than usual. In addition to talking about teacher rights, he talks about teaching the curriculum. He discusses the idea of teaching the curriculum and teaching about the curriculum. He says:
The adopted curriculum might actually invite discussion and controversy if you study the curriculum document itself with students.
My thinking is that if we take a critical stance toward curriculum, we can still use it, and at the same time question it’s content, viewpoint, assumptions, and relevance. Along the way we can teach what it intends for students to learn, and we can also think about why. Learning that’s embedded in a real social context stands a far greater chance of making sense than simply reading through a catalog of goals and objectives.
I wrote the curriculum in my last job. And I never once shared it with my students. We never had that all-important discussion about why they were learning what they were learning. I never gave them the opportunity to question my assumptions or the curriculum's relevance. Not in any formal way, that is. We talked a lot about how we could improve the program, but we never did it in conjunction with the curriculum. I can only imagine what insight I might have gained if we had done that.

Many of my K-12 teacher friends struggle with a mandated curriculum that they feel doesn't allow them to do much real teaching. I wonder if Doug's ideas about sharing the curriculum with the students would help. Would it even be possible? As long as the curriculum is the enemy, it controls our lives. But if we make it our own, study it with our students as Doug suggests, maybe -- just maybe -- we can all learn something from it.

Freedom of Speech

Doug over at Borderland has a very thought-provoking post called Teaching the Controversy. In it he talks about the case of Deborah Mayer who lost her job because she told her elementary school teaching job because she told her students she honked for peace. A US court of appeals ruled that the school board was justified in firing her. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle,
As a federal appeals court in Chicago put it in January, a teacher's speech is "the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary."
My first reaction to reading that was amazement. Then it was disgust. Then I thought about the fact that I was bound, in my last job, not to publicly advocate anything that was in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. And it hadn't bothered me. Of course, I don't publicly advocate much of anything. And I never felt that it limited my freedom to say what I wanted to about any topic in my classroom. My students always knew who I am and what I believe in. But in spite of my own feelings of freedom, I basically gave away my freedom of speech when I took the job.

What amazes me now as I think about it is the way I never really realized what was being asked of me. I just accepted it as something buried in the faculty handbook that didn't really apply all that much to me. And I am sure that Ms. Mayer never really thought about it either -- until she had lost her job.

But that is where the problem lies, I think. We need to be thinking more.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Am I ready to teach in the 21st Century? Are you?

I love reading Barbara Ganley! She has a great post about the 21st century college teacher. It is actually the written version of a talk she gave.

The talk begins quite unconventionally:

Because I am a writing teacher and because I believe you have to explore your own perspective on a topic a bit before hearing what someone else has to say, I'd like you to ponder this question for a few moments:

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When does a speaker ask the audience to think about the topic before beginning her/his speech and really mean it? It makes so much sense, though. That is something I want to remember to do when I make my next presentation.

The entire post/presentation is fascinating. She concludes by saying:
Yes, my father was right, if we have any hope at all that reading and writing matter, that schools matter, we do have to change our way of teaching -- what we teach even-- to focus on creativity and resilience, boldness and deep listening and observing, on conducting research and collaborating in fluid online conversations, to create bonds with community and bridges between the personal and the other. In other words, a liberal arts education should expose us to ideas and perspectives and give us training in collaboration, communication and creativity. And we have the tools, right here, to help us do just that.
As I contemplate moving into a different classroom in a different school this fall, I want to be better at doing what Barbara does and what she advocates doing. I know that, in spite of how I have changed my teaching over the last few years, I am still learning.

I am going to go back and read Barbara's post again and again, I think. There is a lot there.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The end

Of my job, that is. I just got home from cleaning out my office. I am officially unemployed.

I have had some interviews. I withdrew myself from consideration for one when I realized it wasn't what I wanted to do. It became apparent in the first interview for another job that it wasn't going to be a good match. Then there was the cool second interview in San Francisco which also ended in no job offer for me.

But there are still applications out there, and I keep finding more. Something will happen -- soon, I hope!