Friday, June 27, 2008

Comment Quotas and Student Blogs

Note: This post is in response to my E-Learning Assessment Class
In Sarah Hurlburt's June 2008 article"Defining Tools for a New Learning Space: Writing and Reading Class Blogs" she poses this important question about students bloggers:
"Are there other ways besides comment quotas to enforce student reading?"
Hurlburt answers this question:

"When a topic or assignment is directly connected to a larger assessment
exercise, such as an exam or a paper, students also read each others’ posts
as a way of studying the material through exposure to different approaches
and observations. Obviously, there is a risk that some of the material
posted will perpetuate incorrect information, but it must also be noted that
for a post to actually propagate a mistake, its errors must be indistinguishable to
the average reader. This is often not the case – in fact, the process of
identifying which material is useful and on target and
which material lacks the necessary substance significantly contributes to
the larger goal of developing critical thinking skills. Furthermore, as long
as the instructor comments, even if no one else from the course does, the
instructor can ask questions that will point both the original author and
any other readers in the right direction, without necessarily rejecting the
post out of hand."

As a teacher, I usually assign comment quotas to mys students, such as every student must read and comment on at least two other student blogs per week and follow up on any comments on their personal blog to earn full points for the week. If students are blogging about novels we are reading, they are usually blogging about personal connections they are having with the novel and answering discussions questions about the novel in their blogs. When students know that by reading other students' blogs, it will help them study for a final exam, they have a vested interest. Next year I will be working on a collaborative blog between my students and students from another state, NY. They will be working as groups to create blogs that can be considered "grass roots campaigns" for global development issues they feel strongly about. I predict that because they do not know these students at all, they will be scouring the blogs to find out what they "look" like virtually and to see if they have any shared interests. Since we won't be letting the students email, commenting by teachers and students is one of onnly 2 ways that they will be able to receive feedback (the other way will be a discussion board). Leaving comments will hopefully be at an all time high because I find students comment more on a blog when they don't know the person f2f, they are more comfortable commenting when there is anonymity and no assumptions based on physical appearance.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Even More

Today I attended the Google Teacher Academy. It was phenomenal, a life altering experience for sure. I have tons of notes to review and ideas to post, but my brain is spinning right now. I need a day or two to soak it in. The two key words for today as stated by Christopher Fitzgerald Walsh of Big Tree Learning are "even more" - literally, this means click on "even more" under the "more" google button. There are so many apps under the "even more" that can be used in the classroom that I haven't really explored until today. But "even more" has a deeper meaning for today. Even when you think you know everything possible about google apps, there is even more. Even when you think you can't add one more rss feed to your blogger, there is even one more that is a must read. Even when you think your PLN is at its limit, there are even more incredible people out there to learn from. Even when you think there is there is no room left in your stomach, there is even more in the google micro kitchens. There is even more to life than we will ever know.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Left Brain or Right Brain

On my long flight to San Jose for the Google Teacher Academy, I finally got the chance to finish a book on my "to do" pile: Daniel H. Pink's A Whole New Mind. In the book he writes about the age we are entering, the conceptual age. "In short , we've progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers, to a society of knowledge workers. And now we're progressing yet again- to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers" (Pink, 50). To survive in this age, Pink says that we need to ask ourselves three essential questions about our jobs/careers:
  1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
  2. Can a computer do it faster?
  3. Is what I am offering in demand in this age of abundance and conceptulization?
How are we preparing today's students to answer these 3 questions?
Pink gives examples of schools such as
CHAD in Philly that are preparing students for the conceptual age, an age of designers. He also notes the Rainbow Project , a new standardized test developed by psychologists appears to better predict who will succeed in college. Instead of taking a test like the SAT's, students are give 5 New Yorker cartoons and asked to write captions, or write a story using only a title as their guide. The are also presented with real life challenges such as trying to convince friends to help them pack and move. The Rainbow project is trying to replace the SAT, but make people more aware of the role the right brain plays.

Pink also talks about the new Six Senses of the Conceptual Age, Design. Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. He devotes a one chapter to each sense and gives examples of how one can develop these senses:
Design - Choose a household item that annoys you in any way and recreate it. Send your new sketch to the manufacturer.
Story - Write a mini saga about someone's life; it cannot be more than 50 words.
Symphony-Look for solutions in problems. Ask yourself these 2 questions about any object: 1. Where else would it work? and 2. Would flipping it work? or Create an Inspiration board- put anythings that speaks to you from quotes to scraps to leaves on an empty board.
Empathy - Play "Whose Life" - ask a random person for their bag and have them remove only their personal identification. Then determine who this person really is by what they have in their bags.
Play- Play video games such as the Wii or Play Station 3.
Meaning-write gratitude letters to people who are special to you on YOUR birthday.
The book was a great deal to take in ,especially before GTA tomorrow. Somehow I am going to use this in my Connections classroom next year. Maybe I will come up with something on my plane ride back to NJ if my head in not completely "googled."

Image from:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Learner or Teacher Center Post for Assessment in E-Learning

Note: This post is in response to my E-Learning Assessment Class
Partner Interview:
This is Erica Hartman. Here is a little about her:

FAMILY: She is from Bergen County, NJ but now lives in Northwestern NJ with her husband, Todd. She has a daughter, Jaylin. Todd is a high school phys. ed teacher and a basketball coach at a high school in Central NJ. Her daughter Jaylin is 3 and a half and is full of fun.

EDUCATION BACKGROUND: After graduating from The College of NJ, she has been a 6th grade language arts teacher at Sparta Middle School for the past 6 years. Erica finished her Master's in Technology Education at NJCU in May 2007.

WHAT SHE WANTS OUT OF THIS CLASS: She would love to get new assessment ideas for her classroom because next year she is going from having 60 students to 120 and needs a fast and efficient assessments.

INTERESTING FACT: Something interesting about her is that on June 24th she is going to Google for the Google Teacher Academy! Also, she has a friend and colleague in this course, Pat Chodkiewicz.

Link to class wiki

After taking the quiz, Assessment: Learner Centered or Teacher Centered, I agree with the results because I feel my classroom is very learner centered. I always ask myself 2 questions when I am planning a lesson:1. Is this fun? 2. How can I be sure they are learning? If I can answer both those questions, then I am confident about the lesson I am facilitating. I believe that assessment comes in many forms and I am a big fan of exit tickets and parking garages (students park their car in a column such as "I am confident about my knowledge today" or "I have more questions"). One of the best forms of assessments I have used recently is a cell phone poll. I post a question on a smart board and students use cell phones to text the answer ( The answers appear on the screen in the form of a graph.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Google Cake

On Friday, my 7/8 Language Arts class threw a Google party (they were in my Google Application Video). We totally broke the "no sugar law" but we had a blast playing Apples to Apples and Imagine If... and listening to great hits of the 80's . Going to miss these guys when they move up.

Friday, June 13, 2008

End of Year Technology Survey

I always like to get a feel for what my students enjoyed doing the most at the end of the year. I created a 5 question Zoomerang survey about technology integration.

Their favorite Language Arts project that involved technology was Photostory (57%). The comments mean more to me than the numbers:
"The project we used the most technology on was the photo story. It was a whole new experience for me. We wrote a fairytale and recorded it onto photo story and we had to choose a picture that described the scene.I think it was a good project and i enjoyed it because it involved creativity and wasn't just an assignment that everyone else was doing the same."

"the language arts project that enjoyed the most with technology involved would be the photo story. it was sooo fun! i loved how we were able to talk in the microphone and then you would hear it and it would be you saying what you just said. it was my first time doing this kind of project and i cant wait to do it again!"

Wikispaces came in 2nd (34%). Here are some comments:
"The best technology tool i learned about this year was wikispaces because when we were reading the book Esperanza Rising we would have to answer questions on the wikispace but other people would answer them too so you could compare your answer. I think that is an effective way of teaching while reading a book."

" The best technology tool learned this year would be wikispaces! itwas the best because it was on the coumpter and i love the coumpter. I answered every single question and made some of my own."

Voicethread came in 3rd, followed closely by Google Docs. We only had one working computer in the classroom, so I am sure the results would have been different if we had 4 or more computers. The two projects that involved Voicethread and Google docs were done in the classroom and students were very frustrated with the lack of computer access.

Their favorite NEW web tool was (the fruit machine!), closely followed by and Notestar.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Okay, class take out your cell phones...

David Pogue listed a bunch of cell phone freebies in the New York Times on June 6th. Many of them can be used in the classroom. For example, Jott is a personal transcription service- students can record their homework assignments into their cellphone and it will automatically send a text message to the phone and an email to the account that was used to sign up. Having a disagreement in class? Just call ChaCha - 800-2CHACHA. She can answer any question, such as who wrote the lyrics to "Walk Like an Egyptian?" For some reason we were having that discussion in class today.
Last week a bunch of teachers were writing curriculum for a new class and Patrick Higgins took a poll using Poll Everywhere.
He asked us what we were most apprehensive about regarding the new curriculum. Everyone took out their cell phones and answered. Bam! Animated graphs display real-time results in PowerPoint or in your web browser as people vote.There are endless possibilities for the classroom.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Horses are Cool

One of my students created her own wiki, Horses are Cool, and it really is wonderful. I love her disclaimer, "By the way, this wiki is for educational purposes so please don't put peoples names or gossip about people on here. If you want to do that, go somewhere else and get in trouble by yourself. Thank you." She updates it weekly and is also one of my Hartman Hoopla class bloggers.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Going to Google!

I got the best news yesterday, I am going to the Google Teacher Academy at the Googleplex! I am so excited and have already "met" a bunch of people who are going. However, I need to thank a bunch of people who helped me get here, especially my students in Period 7/8 who pretty much came up with the concept of the video. Also, Pat Chodkiewicz for being an excellent Director of Photography and Patrick Higgins for teaching me all things tech! I will be forever grateful to them. Check out the video!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

NJAET Conference

Just found out I will be presenting at the NJAET conference on Tuesday, October 14 at Georgian Court University. Here is a short description:
Presenter: Mrs. Erica Hartman
Position: 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher
Organization/ Business Name: Sparta Middle School
Workshop Type: Hands_on
Workshop Length: 70 Minutes
Workshop Title: 21 Free Tools to Engage 21st Century Language Arts Students
Workshop Description: Trying to make it all work in a one computer classroom? As teachers we need to be in
the continuous loop that is Web 2.0 technology. The priority is to reach and connect with students. Here are 21
FREE web tools/sites you can use to stay one step ahead of your tech savvy students. They are short, fast, easy,
and free. All you need is one working computer in your classroom.
Hope to see you there! I am a bit nervous because it is my first big presentation by myself!