Friday, April 25, 2008

Make your own quiz 2

Barry posted a quiz on his blog that he had made with MyStudiyo. I decided to check it out. It is a really, really simple way to make a quiz for students to take online. It is possible to include photos, as Barry did, and even video, I guess.

Once you have created the quiz, you have two choices: post it immediately to a blog or other site (as I did, with the result being my previous post) or copy the code and paste it (as I am doing in this post).

When you post the quiz to your site, you have the option of posting it to the sidebar. I tried this, but I couldn't get the size right. My lack of skill, I am sure. It is a neat option, though.

I can see a ton of uses for this. It is very easy to use and can, apparently, do so much more than my simple quiz does. I want to play around with it more.

Oh! I forgot to tell you it's free! Check it out!

Make your own quiz

Friday, April 18, 2008

Attention writers... and readers

Jane posted a link to what looks to be a great website, StoryMash. According to the site, it is

the future of collaborative fiction. A creative writing community for authors, amateur writers, readers and anyone interested in collaborative fiction and collaborative creative writing.

I went and looked around a little, read the beginning to a story, Two Steps Back. I really enjoyed the story chapter.

I think this could be fun. Could it be used with students? My guess is it would depend on the age of the students. But I could see having students find a story they like and then add to it. This could be done off the site, probably, for my ESL students or on it for college students. It could be very interesting. I haven't checked it out a whole lot yet, but I like what I see so far.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How do we carry on the conversation?

I had a comment the other day on my other blog from the Literacy Adviser. He talked about being a new blogger and said he was
Not even sure whether to reply to someone’s comments by leaving another comment or by linking through to them like this.
For me the answer lies in the content of the comment. If it raises an issue that I want to discuss further or feel I should address further, a new post on the blog linking to the post with the comment seems to me to be the most appropriate. If I want to really respond to the comment, this seems better because there is a better chance that it will be read. But that assumption could be entirely inaccurate.

If someone makes a comment that is nice but not necessarily extending the discussion, I may just comment after the original comments to say thank you. That is what Clarence Fisher does here. It is very appropriate, I think. But it would probably have been just as appropriate to write another post about the support he received -- if he had wanted to.

Another option, and the one that the Literacy Adviser used, was to leave a comment on one of my blogs acknowledging that I had commented on his blog. To me this is OK, too, but it is a little awkward as the comment and the post aren't necessarily connected. But I know I have received a number of comments like that, so a lot of people must do it.

I don't know that there is a real protocol for this. Or if there is, someone forgot to tell me. So now is your chance: What should bloggers do when they want to comment on a comment? Bill and I are both anxious to know.

So obvious I hate to even say it

In my efforts to eliminate worksheets and as a result of some of the awesome ideas I got from the teacher's institute I went to last weekend, I am struck by a simple truth:

If a student can miss class and get the worksheets later on, there is little incentive to come to class.
If a student comes class and misses an experience that can't be duplicated, then there is a lot more reason to make an effort to show up.

Of course, this awareness isn't going to be automatic. Students don't have any way of knowing now that there are a lot more experiences to be had in class. But I think that they will figure it out pretty quickly.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A new blog I'm reading

Miguel has a new blog. This one is more about writing than anything else. It is a good read -- as all his blogs are. He has made 20 posts in two days, so don't wait too long to start reading or you may never catch up!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Professional Development

I just got back from a training institute put on by the New Mexico Adult Education Association. It was the best PD I have ever received, I think.

Friday I attended an all-day session on TESOL run by John Kongsvick of TESOL Trainers. His focus was low-prep materials for use in the ESL classroom. A lot of what he talked about was not totally new to me, but it was really good to be reminded. He presented 8 strategies -- including my favorite: Don't do for students what they can do for themselves.

This morning I had the opportunity to talk with GED instructors from UNM-Gallup and Dine College. Although our teaching situations are very different, we found that we struggle with many of the same issues. It was great!

I was able to attend this institute at no cost. It was held at Bishop's Lodge in Santa Fe, NM. The accommodations were lovely. The food was wonderful.

My boss sent out an email a few weeks ago asking who would like to attend. I was the only person who expressed interest, so I got to go. We could have sent 2 more people, but no one else was interested. I couldn't believe it then, and I really can't believe it now. We missed the opportunity to have a real core group of excited teachers working together to improve our program. Now, I am excited, but I am sure that excitement will be killed after about ten minutes back at work on Monday. That makes me sad.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Helping students learn to write

Over at Hey Mister, a teacher shares his method of working with student writing. It is really easy and simple and, possibly, quite effective. He reads until he gets to the first "problem" and then makes an X. He then gives it back to the student to revise. Next draft, he does the same. Eventually, students seem to figure out that it is easier to make an effort and try to do it right the first time. Or at least the second or third!

I really like this idea. I have heard it before, but I haven't heard as good an explanation and justification before. He does it because he was plagued by questions like these:
How do we get kids to actually worry about the work they produce? How do we get them to work through draft after draft of a paper in search of perfection?
... questions that, of course, all of us who teach writing ask. I love the idea, and I think it would work.

But I wonder about my students - adult second language learners. I would have really limit what I marked. They don't have the proficiency with the language they would need to be able to decide what was wrong every time there was an error. But surely, if we are working on a particular verb tense and I marked an X the first time I found an error of that type, they should be able to fix it. With help, at least. And then, they could be responsible for finding the other mistakes of that type before I look at it again.

My Intermediate students are writing this term, focusing on different verb tenses as a way of review. This would be a great opportunity to try this. I think I will.

Thanks to Bud for the link to the blog.

More on community

Miguel wrote about community today. I commented over there, but his post made me think about this issue again and in a different way, so I decided to bring my part of the conversation back over here.

First of all, I agree with Miguel that there is danger in only doing this for myself. I have given up on lots of projects over the more than 5 decades of my life. Many of them were great ideas and good causes, but I just couldn't sustain interest in them in the face of all the stuff that life brings. Blogging, for me, is different, though. Blogging feeds me and helps to keep me going. I may be sporadic, but I cannot now envision not blogging. I have been doing it for more than 3 years - a fact that amazes me!

When he comments on my post, though, he says:
Again, there is a perception that the edublogosphere isn't a community, or that such a community, if it exists, isn't worthy of existing if it's focus is going to change. This disillusionment is natural.
I really don't agree with this part of Miguel's post. At least it doesn't reflect how I feel about the edublogosphere. I think that we are a community of sorts, and I am glad of it. And I certainly do not object to it changing. What I object to is the perception that I have to do what everyone else does and be where they are if I want to be part of it.

I think that we are a lot like a brick and mortar community. We don't all go to the same coffee shop. Some people don't even drink coffee. But we run into each other at the grocery store or at the library. It doesn't matter where I see you; what matters is that we care about each other enough to speak to each other and, at least sometimes, exchange our thoughts and ideas.

Maybe what I am part of isn't "the edublogosphere" that everyone talks about. I honestly don't know. But, I read lots of blogs every day. I value the discussion. I participate probably not as much as I should, but I take part. I try to take what I learn here and apply it to my own life and work situation. I try to be a responsible member of this community. Whatever it is.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Help them succeed by getting involved

Schools Matter always has some good ideas, often in the form of articles written by others. Today was no exception. The post includes an ABC News article by Neal Karlinsky about high schools raising graduation rates. It showcases a couple schools that have seen dramatic increases by getting more involved in the students' lives. Karlinsky writes:
A handful of schools across the country have discovered that a key ingredient to helping kids be successful in school is helping them deal with the problems they have in the outside world.
It really is that simple, I think.

The article closes with these words:

Educators say the solution won't come in the form of more testing. As one principal put it today, the key is to see students as human beings, not statistics.
Now, if only we could get someone to listen...

It's up to us to make the change

I know you've seen it: Will's post about tests and cheating. Probably his shortest post, but one of the most important, I think.

If kids cheat on tests today, it is largely our fault. If we use fill-in-the-blank tests, we obviously don't really want students to think too deeply, so what does it matter if they cheat? The same is true of "essays" copied from the encyclopedia or whatever. We need to craft assignments and assessment tools that require students to create something, to synthesize information, to express opinons and back them up with "facts". I wrote about this last year a couple times.

This is tied, of course, to my current struggle with worksheets. I am happy with how this term is going so far without worksheets in two classes. We are having more quality discussion. Students are writing more and better. It has been hard to get this all organized, but it is worth the effort. At the end of the term, I will know that my students have learned something. Also, I feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I am enjoying my classes a lot more. Even more important, my students seem to be enjoying them more, too.

But back to tests... In one class, we are eliminating the end-of-term test and replacing it with portfolios of the students' writing. We are allowing students to select 5 from among 12 pieces of writing, some of it more complicated than others. This is something new for our students, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to it. In the other class, I think I will give them a test but ask them to respond to "essay" questions. They will be similar to questions we have answered in class in writing and orally, so I don't think it will be too hard. At least I hope it won't. The writing will be personal and pertinent. I am not sure exactly what this will look like yet, but I know it will be better than the suual tests they have to take. And they won't really be able to cheat. Not substantially, anyway.

I am ecitied to see what happens. These next 6 weeks are going to be fun!

Are we a community?

Bud's post in response to Doug's post was one I was glad to read. Bud's point, which he made back in November, too, is that there is no such thing as "the edublogosphere" but rather that there are lots of us out here doing what we do -- whatever that is. He said in November and quoted again now:
Mostly, the assumption that’s troubling me so much is that there’s one group (community - whatever) out there that exists for educational conversation via electronic media, and that we should all try to engage and involve everyone in that one (fallacious) group so that we’re all friends and reading and commenting each other. And that we’ll all agree on where that group should go, when they should meet, and what we’ll all do when we get there. Or that we ever agreed in the first place.

Ain’t going to happen. Not now, not ever. Never did happen, in fact. We all construct our blogrolls, our Twitter friends, or our other social networking relationships for our benefit and to meet our own unique needs. That leads some folks to add everyone as a friend. Others, no one. And whichever way you want to go is fine for you - but please don’t require that I or anyone else goes with your system to meet our own needs.

I think that there is possibly a community of those "A-List" edubloggers whom everyone wants to read. Or most everyone, anyway. But there is no way I will ever be part of that community. I don't even want to be part of that community, really.

I am interested in what I am interested in. I read what I want to read where I want to read it. I am not in love with Twitter and probably never will be -- but you never know!

Blogging, for me, is as much about reflection as it is about exchanging ideas. I will stay here, read the blogs I read and add a few more from time to time and be happy. If I am not part of the "community", that's OK. I am doing this for me.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Google survey tool

Randy Rogers has an interesting post about Google's survey tool, which is part of Google Docs. I haven't really used Google Docs much, but this looks like it could really be useful. He also has a link to a great video to explain how to use the tool. It can be found here.

I tried this out for myself and was really amazed by how easy it was. The data automatically goes into a spreadsheet in Google Docs. I was afraid that you might need a GMail account to access it, but you can send the form in an email to anyone, and they can complete it in the email itself. At least I was able to do that with my Yahoo accounts, and the results showed up in my Google Docs spreadsheet.

Right now I am not sure why I would need a survey tool but this is definitely where I would go to first if I needed to survey people. It was super easy!