Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wiki Wacky

This is how my head is feeling. Starting two new novels and two wikis simultaneously. Students have a choice between The Cay by Theodore Taylor and Esperanza Risng by Pam Munoz. Plus, except for a handful of students, this is their first experience with a wiki. I am laying the groundwork for both wikis over the long weekend. I know I will need "How to" for changing the icon. I am sure this will be their first order of business. Any advice for teaching 2 novels at the same time?

Short, Fast, and Easy

Short, Fast, and Easy...Anyone who knows me knows I am not describing myself. My name is Erica Hartman and I am a 6th grade Language Arts teacher. Like many other Sparta Middle School teachers, I am trying to make it all work in a one computer classroom this year.
Angela said it perfectly in her previous post when she wrote: "The bottom line is this: Times, they are a changin' and if we, as teachers, don't keep up, we will certainly be kept out."
This scares me because as a teacher, we need to be in the loop and this continuous loop that is Web 2.o technology is moving fast. Our priority is to be able to reach and connect with our students. Well, what if you are trying to stay one step ahead of your tech savvy students but find it frustrating to implement your Web 2.0 ideas in your classroom?
Here are four web tools you can use. They are short, fast, easy, and free. You will feel like you are teaching in a 21st century classroom. Your students will think you are tech savvy. All you need is one working computer in your classroom. A Smartboard is a plus, but not a necessity for all of them. I'd be interested to know what you would do with these tools in your classroom.
Voicethread Example

Sometimes it is hard to remember that technology is only one way or gimmick we can use to connect with the digital natives that are our students. Watch this YouTube video and you'll forget about your technology frustrations. In fact, you might be inspired to give a good ol' lecture today.

What would you tell your students today if this were the last day you would ever teach?

This can't all be true, but if it is...

The title of this movie is "A Vision of Students Today." These are obviously college students, but if this is how they feel, I can't imagine what a movie made by our students would look like when they are in college - if they will even set foot on an actual campus. If you don't have time to watch the movie, just read the transcript and if you want, get involved in the conversation.

I have to wonder if the kindergartners of today will ever walk on a college campus. Will my 2 and a half year old daughter ever have to schlep to a 7 am class in her pajamas in a torrential downpour? (I could do with her missing the experience of a frat party.)

There are obvious pros and cons to virtual colleges. In a recent NYT article entitled, "Classroom of the Future is Virtually Anywhere," Joseph Berger interviewed college professors and got some very interesting opinions. The first are about the cons of virtual colleges and univeristies:

Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers wonders what will happen, should campuses go exuberantly online, to the intangibles — the late-night bull sessions, the serendipitous strolls with professors, the chance to feel one’s oats in student government? And what will one more switch to electronic conversation do to our need for intimate human connections, he asks?

Andrew Delbanco, the Columbia humanities professor, said flatly that it would be impossible to put his seminar on war and culture online because “the energy and spontaneity of discussion among people sitting together in a small room cannot be replicated by electronic exchanges."

Dr Duck, who teaches an online course at Penn State notes in her slippers at her dinig room table has different viewpoint:
Dr. Duck, a respected instructor who taught conventionally for nine years and online for five, said she “wouldn’t go back to the classroom if they doubled my salary.” Her work, she thinks, is on the frontier of education in a global economy.

She also points out that online postings are more reasoned and detailed than off-the-cuff classroom observations. Students learn as much from one another’s postings, informed by the real business world, as they do from instructors, they say. And Kevin Krull, a technology executive, pointed out that introverts reluctant to speak up in class can strut their stuff.

In her dining room, her children sometimes pause beside her as she teaches, and she does not shoo them away.

“It’s good for them to see this in action,” she said. “It’s going to be their world.”

Do you think your children or students will have a traditional college/university experience?

How can we prepare them if they won't?

What will they be missing out on if they don't?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Great AntiDrug Assembly Today

Paul was one of the most captivating speakers I have ever seen. The students were raving about the assembly and begged me to put his site on the Smartboard. We even took an impromptu field trip to the parking lot to check out his Honda/BMW hybrid. He even has BMW floor mats. Check out his site www.justthewayyouare.com for complete information.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Last Lecture

If today was the last day you were ever going to teach, what would you teach? What would you tell your students?
Randy Pausch, a Computer Science Professor gave his last lecture, entitled, "How to Achieve Your Childhood Dreams."
Oprah.com reports:
Randy Pausch is a married father of three, a very popular professor at Carnegie Mellon University—and he is dying. He is suffering from pancreatic cancer, which he says has returned after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Doctors say he has only a few months to live.

In September 2007, Randy gave a final lecture to his students at Carnegie Mellon that has since been downloaded more than a million times on the Internet. "There's an academic tradition called the 'Last Lecture.' Hypothetically, if you knew you were going to die and you had one last lecture, what would you say to your students?" Randy says. "Well, for me, there's an elephant in the room. And the elephant in the room, for me, it wasn't hypothetical."

Video Watch Randy's famous "Last Lecture."

Despite the lecture's wide popularity, Randy says he really only intended his words for his three small children. "I think it's great that so many people have benefited from this lecture, but the truth of the matter is that I didn't really even give it to the 400 people at Carnegie Mellon who came. I only wrote this lecture for three people, and when they're older, they'll watch it," he says.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I have been meaning to use Voicethread for a while

And I finally got some time in the computer lab so I did. It would be best if each student had their own account, but I just made one for my class and let them make a continuous Voicethread. It is great because it is totally anonymous and they love to try to guess whose voice it is. Now I am set on using Ustream. My students saw Mr. Higgins' presentation and immediately came up with ideas for TV shows and guess what? They were all about topics we are learning about in class.

Wiki vs. 21 classes- and the winner is...?

I am on team wiki.
There are pros and cons to both wikispaces and 21 classes. However, wiki has very few cons when it comes to using it with 6th graders.
Customer Service and Help
Wiki wins hands down. Their help pages are easy to use and they respond almost instantly to emails. On 21 classes, they have so few help topics and I actually had to use the telephone to contact them and got a message back after 3 days. Plus, 21 classes only offers 50 free accounts and a public wiki is pretty much a free for all.
Navigation and Visual Appeal
It is very easy to change the look and feel of a wiki and I really like the "tab appeal" of wiki. I can easily see how many postings there are on a page. Plus, everything you put on the home page is visible. On 21 classes, after you post 5 topics, you cannot see the 5 before and they are very hard to find.
Setting up student accounts
Unless your school assigns student email accounts, setting up accounts of any kind can be a pain. However, 21classes wins because you do not need email addresses to set up accounts for your students. In wiki, you do unless you ask the wizards at wiki to set accounts up for you , but this takes time and advance planning.
Depending on how you set up your wiki, anyone who is a member can edit whatever they want, that is pretty much a wiki given and part of the game. However, on 21 classes, each student gets their own weblog that they can personalize with backgrounds, icons, videos and music. This allows them a great sense of ownership. However, as a teacher you need to check up on the weblogs to make sure nothing inappropriate is posted. Unlike comments which you can accept or deny, personalization of the weblog is not monitored. Wiki also gives each member a mailbox that remains on the top of the screen when they are logged in. It is very easy to check your messages and respond to either the whole group or to just one member. I find it very hard for the students (and myself) to check the messages on the 21 classes blog and it is not easy to respond.
21classes. You can make them both as secure or unsecure as you want. Anything on a wiki can be recovered or deleted. Watch out - when a student creates a wiki account, they have access to your (probably private and or protected) wiki and any public wiki. On 21 classes any comments or posting are deferred to the owner (in my case the teacher) of the blog before they are posted. You can set a deadline such as "At 7 am and 7pm I will release comments if appropriate." Since I have started blogging in my classes there has only been one incident where I had to remove someone. The students are so into blogging that they take the rules very seriously.
21 classes wins. They offer so much mathematical info that sometimes my brain hurts. The charts and graphs they provide are endless. But for me, seeing the tab on wiki that tells how many times a discussion question has been answered is enough.
Fun Factor
Wiki wins. It is just fun to say "wiki." Plus, the competitiveness of making your page the best and being one of the top edited sites on the wikispaces home page makes wiki seem like a game. A game where there is a lot of learning going on.

Most Active Spaces

edits in the last 30 days
www 5892 by edits in the last 30 days 5892
art110 4771 by edits in the last 30 days 4771
vmccorley 2880 by edits in the last 30 days 2880
worldunivers... 2252 by edits in the last 30 days 2252
teamforce 1911 by edits in the last 30 days 1911
marq 1899 by edits in the last 30 days 1899
collaboratio... 1872 by edits in the last 30 days 1872

Most Active Members

by edits in the last 30 days
ozymandias107 ozymandias1071861
megagig megagig1564
chericem1 chericem11258
mock mock997
MarkLOlson MarkLOlson853
manuelflr manuelflr853
Mikebloke Mikebloke

Which do you like better? I am in an arguing mood.

Why I love my job!

Patrick passes this onto me and I have been slacking on my blogging so...
1. I am a good teacher because…I plan everything on the fly.
2. If I weren’t a teacher I would be a…an event planner or a profiler for the FBI.
3. My teaching style is…if I am bored, then they will be born. Do the unexpected.
4. My classroom is…in the best spot, right across from the bathroom and the lounge. I also have a beautiful view of fall foliage.
5. My lesson plans are…written posthumously.
6. One of my teaching goals is…to have a one to one computing environment and still have a great rapport with my students.
7. The toughest part of teaching is…feeling like you always have to defend yourself.
8. The thing I love about teaching is…when students beg me to let them continue working on something.
9. A common misconception about teaching is…that you only work for 10 months of the year from 9-3.
10. The most important thing I’ve learning since I started teaching is…treat every kid as if they were yours.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Including Parents in a Blog

When we decided to start off the year with our blog for the novel Chasing Vermeer, one of our questions was whether or not to extend an invitation to parents as well. After all, we needed their permission and sometimes their email addresses to even start out blog. To our surprise we received no parental objections to our blog, probably because we talked up the value of one and showed an example at Back to School night. Parents were blown away when we showed one discussion question on our blog that was repsonded to 546 times. In a classroom discussion, maybe one or two children would have been given the chance to respond.
In a recent New York Times article, "Spreading Homework Out So Even Parents Have Some," a teacher in Montclair, New Jersey requires parents to blog with their children, and even gives them assignments. Students can be penalized if their parents do not complete the assignments. While the idead of parental involvement sounds great, I would never penalize a child if the parent did not complete his or her assignment.
Next year we will be experts in blogging so maybe we will invite the parents, perhaps we could even sell copies of the novels we'll be blogging about at Back to School night.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bringing Basics Back

I was intrigued by an article in today's post about how Bill Gates, the Microsoft mogul, wants to reform American education because it was NOT focused on technology. It was the total antithesis of what I thought he was all about. He is a strong proponent of standardized tests and wants to see them become more challenging and more uniform. Why does each state have a different test? He believes there must be a national standard. His plan to fix schools:
He argues for using phonics to teach reading. 'When we gave up on phonics, ' he says, 'we destroyed the reading ability of those kids.'
He also wants to reward quality teachers and believes in creating small high schools so that students will not be pulled into cliques. Presumably ones where it is "cool" to fail. The article ended with this question:
Do you agree with Bill Gates and his solutions - or do you have your own?
My solutions:
1. Smaller class sizes.
2. Year round school (with many two week vacation breaks instead of a full summer off).
3. New class offerings such as robotics, Chinese, Japanese, Global Etiquette, Nanotechnology, etc.
4. Lap top for every teacher and student.
5. Strong school partnerships with corporations and businesses with more internship opportunities at middle and high school levels.
What are yours?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Best Back to School Night Ever

Even though the chorus room was sweltering, it was definitely the best back to school night I have ever experienced. My whole team really pitched in and we wowed the parents. We really need to thank Patrick Higgings for showing us the tools and Mr. Brad Davis for the tech support and emergency Airport Rental. Having the movie poster up while parents entered set the tone of the evening. Our math teacher took the edge off by making everyone laugh with "New Math" from YouTube. Next, my Language Arts partner and I showed an Animoto tour of our classrooms, some parents were dancing to the video's music! We followed it up with a Power Point and our wiki, as well as our ideas for digital storytelling and Deep Web Research. Next, the science teacher used Accuweather.com to do a sample lesson with some audience participation. Finally, our Ancient Civilizations teacher ended the night with a pretty nifty Power Point. The difference between this back to school night and back to school nights of the past was definitely the focus on technology. Parents saw that we were on the cutting edge and that we are going to reach their child, no matter what. More importantly they saw we had a sense of humor.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ready,Set, BLOG!

Before blogging can begin, students and parents need to be aware of the procedures and agreements. TeachersFirst.com provides a Blogger Agreement that each teacher can make his or her own:

This week we my 6th grade Langauge Arts class is starting the novel, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet. Spurred by the success of our Tangerine Wikispace, my co-teacher and I are going to start a blog for our last period language arts blocks. We decided this cohort would be the best because it is the smallest group of students so the computer to student ration will be low. If this blog works out, we will expand to all of our classes for the next novel. We decided to use 21 Classes because it is free and the students do not have to have an email address to join. It is fairly easy to set up accounts for your students and to protect who views and edits the blog. All postings can be sent to the teacher first before they are posted. We decided to give the students two discussion questions to answer a week, one question must be blogged and the other can be done in their journals.
Edutopia recently had a digital discussion about taking your class to the Internet: How to set up blog in your classroom. It discussed different approaches to setting up a classroom blog. The approach that connected with me was to stress how important personal expression and ownership is in a blog even if it will be used as a traditional homework assessment. One of the first things I will let the students do is personalize their blog and perhaps create an animoto that expresses who they are without using any words.
One of the most important blog lessons is teaching how to comment on a blog. Even on the wiki we had some comments such as "I agree" and "Yeah." But it was no fault of the students; they were never taught how to comment on someone else's post.
Vicki A. Davis, author of the Cool Cat Teacher blog gives teachers some suggestions on how to teach effective blog commenting:
  • Write a meaningful comment
  • If you have written about it, hyperlink it to your post
  • Share something about yourself if you have a blog
  • Use a comment tracking service
  • Don't be afraid to comment
  • Teach commenting
  • Remember the power of words
Davis also lists 10 Habits of bloggers that win!

If anyone has any suggestions on blog start up we would be more than happy to hear them!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My First Foray into Animoto

I'm planning a virtual animoto tour of my classroom for back to school night but wanted to test it out first.
Any other suggestions for using animoto in the classroom?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First Day of School- A Gift with Challenges

I have to admit that I was a little taken aback by the lack of technology in my room to start off the year with. Back to a one computer classroom and a printer that does not work! I had so many technology aspirations stemming from summer inservice classes, but I am going to stay positive and hope these issues will be resolved soon.
I will have to say that I thought today's speaker, Jonathan Mooney, was excellent even if it had nothing to do with technology. I added his two books, The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal and Learning Outside the Lines to the top of my must read list. It definitely made me think about past mistakes and a new way to think about learning differences. To think of ADD, ADHD etc. as a "gift with challenges" really opened my eyes. As a parent, it hit even harder. So many friends ask me how they can deal with their kids who learn differently because I am a teacher and now I can point them in a new direction/philosophy.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Throw out your red pens

Why the blog beats the essay in writing class

This article caught my eye this morning.
Duke University's professor Bradley A. Hammer states:

In contrast, "standards-driven" high school writing is hindering student interest. Without opportunities for students to publish their writing, they will assess that they write not for meaning, intellectual discovery, communication or understanding but rather in obligatory, outdated, punitive and proce dural ways to obtain grades. Consequently, as students spend their years of education consumed with standardized tests, they learn to write -- and think -- in ways that fail to offer rich and critical contexts for learning.

Teachers seek opportunities for writing to engage and challenge students to think critically throughout the processes of intellectual debate. Writing courses that remain wedded to the genre and methods of the past merely limit students' ability to imagine their work as real. The traditional argumentative essay does not force students to engage critically with complex reasoning "about" an issue but rather merely instructs them on how to argue "for" or "against" it.

Eventhough this article pertains to college writing, I am thinking about how it relates to grades 6-8, especially the mind numbing preparations we do for the GEPA, I'm sorry the ASK8.
Seems to me this is more evidence that each student should create and maitain their own blog.


I came across this great resource when I was searching for some Cinderella songs for my daughter on iTunes. Contrary to popular belief, I was not looking for Britney Spear's new single, "Gimme More."

Lit2Go is a great resource for teachers who are using iPods in their classroom or even if you don't!
With Lit2GO you can
* Download the files to your Mp3 player and listen on the go,
* Listen to the Mp3 files on your computer,
* View the text on a webpage and read along as you listen,
* Print out the stories and poems to make your own book.
We do not have an anthology in 6th grade, so this is a great resource and its free!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Teachers....get ready for your close up

Have you checked your school's policy regarding students' use of cell phones. If not you better put that at #1 on your back to school To Do List. After reading an article in the this morninghttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
Cell phones will continue to be a problem in all classrooms. If you don't want to be recorded or videotaped, why not embrace the cell phone. One professor came up with a great solution:
Benjamin Davis, adjunct professor of journalism at Rutgers University, has devised a simple means of keeping video recording contained while still allowing students to bring their cell phones to class. He has them place their phones on his desk at the beginning of class and retrieve them when class is over.

"I'm surprised other teachers don't do the same thing. What I'm really trying to do for the students and myself is insure that a journalism class is free to discuss some pretty tough topics that come up without fear that the discussion is being recorded," Davis said.

Cell phones are never going away, they are only going to become more advanced (ex. the iPhone). Instead of playing cell phone police, I would rather foster an environment of respect. I want my cell phone in the classroom in case there is an emergency with my daughter.
Besides, this past June one of my students created a beat box rap on his cell phone that we downloaded onto a classroom computer to create a soundtrack for a book we read in class- a great culminating activity, although this year I think I will try Garage Band instead.
Two years ago I banned iPods from my study hall, but this year I will be using iPods to differentiate instruction and learning.
If I had an iPhone, I'd keep it on my desk...

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I opened the Business section of the NJ Star Ledger this morning to find out that I am a bad mother. I do not have a domain name for my child. After reading the article I screamed to my husband, "Give me your credit card!" I have to buy jaylinhartman.com before someone else does. I, of course, do not want to run into the same problem Britney Spears did when her second child was born, his name was already taken.


Is this hype to just make more $ for domain sites such as godaddy.com?

In 15 years will there be other websites suffixes besides .org, .net. .tv?

Monday, August 20, 2007

The British know everything

Sir Michael Barber's recent book, “Instruction to Deliver,” is a British import on strategies to improve schools.
In England, the biggest change was hiring the cream of the crop and keeping staff, unlike in the states where some teachers are burnt out by year 5 and switch careers:

“What have all the great school systems of the world got in common?” he said, ticking off four systems that he said deserved to be called great, in Finland, Singapore, South Korea and Alberta, Canada. “Four systems, three continents — what do they have in common?

“They all select their teachers from the top third of their college graduates, whereas the U.S. selects its teachers from the bottom third of graduates. This is one of the big challenges for the U.S. education system: What are you going to do over the next 15 to 20 years to recruit ever better people into teaching?”

South Korea pays its teachers much more than England and America, and has accepted larger class sizes as a trade-off, he said.

Finland, by contrast, draws top-tier college graduates to the profession not with huge paychecks, but by fostering exceptionally high public respect for teachers, he said."

Perhaps we should start a book chat on this book.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Baby Loves Disco

I have babies on the brain
two of my friends are about to have babies and second now
These 2 sites are great things to check out on a rainy day

Baby Loves Disco

Baby Blogs

Baby Loves Disco is an ingenious idea. I only wish I lived closer to the city!

Baby Blogs proves that no one it to young to blog!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I'm not sure if being "memed is a good thing"

Patrick Higgins memed me with the 8 random things meme
First, the Rules:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

Random facts about me

1. I am obsessed with Perez Hilton and I am not ashamed.
2. I am a speedreader.
3. I am not great at anything but I am good at a lot of things.
4. The last concert I went to was Billy Idol.
5. I make a "to do" list for every day of my life.
6. I saved a hyper color t shirt and a pair of skidz for my kids (circa mid 1990's.)
7. The last song I downloaded from iTunes was The Story by Brandi Carlisle
8. If I wasn't a teacher I'd be a wedding planner

New version of something that will make you go hmmmm

As a teacher, this makes you think about how we are preparing students for the future. What can we be doing differently? What should we be exposing our students to that we are not?

Monday, August 6, 2007

ipods in the classroom

This year my class and the class next door are getting an iPod cart. 25 video ipods and one apple lap top. The possibilities seem to be endless. From creating podcasts and digital stories to watching United Streaming videos. I am a bit concerned with how the whole thing is going to work. It will definitely be a motivator for all students involved, but I tend to hye things up at the beginning of the year and then as my interest and stamina dwindles, so does the students'.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What is "theitclassroom" ?

This blog will be my think tank for all the different ways I will be using technology in a 6th grade language arts classroom.