Saturday, October 25, 2008

Magical Moments

For the past two weeks, one of my 6th grade classes has been collaborating with another 6th grade class at CIS339 in the Bronx using Google Docs. Both classes are participating in the National Writing Project's Letter to the Future President contest. But if no one from our 2 classes wins, it won't matter. We have already won this week. We have made connections with a group of students we would never have met. My students have been working on their letters, not only in school, but also outside of school and it is not homework. They couldn't wait to get home and work on their letters. They couldn't wait to get feedback from their partners in the Bronx. When they were editing their letters and their partner was online at the same time, they were so excited! They couldn't believe the magic of google docs. One student opened his letter and saw that his partner was reading his letter at the very same time he was proofreading and he actually said, "Mrs. Hartman, this is magic!"
My magic moment came at 9:13pm on Thursday night. I knew some of my students were behind on their letters due to absences, so I wanted to check how far along they were. When I opened my Google Docs account, I saw no fewer than 14 of my students were online working on their letters! I was able to give them suggestions and feedback in real time. The next morning, they came running into my homeroom, saying, "YOU were looking at our letters!"
Yes, I was. But not only are they writing for me, but they have 2 other sets of eyes on their work and the knowledge that their work will be viewed by whomever is judging the Letters to the Future President contest. It creates a new kind of accountability.

The class we are working with in the Bronx has a very special teacher. Mr. Spevack. Mr. Spevack is a fellow Google Certified Teacher and was just featured in an interesting article in the Village Voice about his students and technology in the classroom.

I will be posting some video documenting our journey and some more stories about our collaboration project in the future.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

NJAET Presentation 21 Free Language Arts Tools

On Tuesday, I am presenting at NJAET on 21 Free Tools to Engage 21st Century Language Arts Students. Below is the presentation. Click here to access the Link Library.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chicago GTA Recap

I haven't had time to blog about the Chicago GTA. It was truly an awesome experience. I have never been to Chicago before, but ever since watching the show "Perfect Strangers", I have wanted to ride the "L" or elevated train. After I landed at O'Hare, I was able to live my dream. I hopped on th "L" with the help of several friendly attendants and $2 and 40 minutes later, I was at my hotel. I wish I had more time to sight see, but I had a great view from my hotel, which was just across the street from Google Chicago. Last year my students created a Google lit trip about the novel Chasing Vermeer, which is mostly set in the Hyde Park section of Chicago and I really wanted to tour the area. However, I did meet several teachers who worked with Blue Balliett before she became a full-time author. I will definitely have to travel back to Chicago because I missed the Magnificent Mile and Oprah! I met up with Lisa Thumann and Cindy Lane (aka Google Earth Girl) and then we had dinner with the GTA team.
The next day was all Google all the time. One inspiring idea from Kern Kelley was that all of the seniors at his high school were gifted with a domain names as there graduation present. What a great idea for a gift that keeps on giving! I was able to meet so many people F2F, that I knew only by Twitter name. Even though I was at the GTA to present on Docs and Apps, I took away as much as I did from the GTA at Googleplex 2008 as an attendee. The atmosphere is so motivating and I swear its not just the food and the Starbucks machine, the giant bean bags and the PS3 Rock Band... when you are there all you want to do is "keep on moving forward." You are in an environment where you want to perform and question and succeed. Can't wait until NYC GTA on November 18th! It will be a Google trifecta for me!


If metacognition is thinking about thinking, I have been doing a lot of thinking about teaching lately. The new class I am teaching this year, Connections, has made me really question myself as a teacher. I love the class and I love teaching it, but it is the most challenging class I have ever taught. It forces me to constantly assess my teaching methods and assessments, which is a good thing, but I am also constantly planning and creating new material and curricula. I also have 120 students with a vast spectrum of ability and maturity.

I've been spending quite a bit of my time focused on all things Google. One of Google's "rules of thumb" is "to do one thing really well." The most important thing for me to do really well is to be the best mom- and some days I know I am. BUT, I also want to be the best teacher and the best tech ed junkie, and the best professional developer and I can't do all 3 things really well (to my standards). My Google
Reader is full and I have so many great sites and ideas bookmarked in from my Twitter network that I don't know where to start.

Another Google rule of thumb is "great is never good enough." I have started teaching a lot of professional development classes to my fellow teachers. I enjoy it, but there is quite a bit of planning that needs to be done to get everyone to be a Google Guru. My colleagues and friends deserve greatness.

This year has been one of the best years of my professional life. Never in a million years would I have thought I would become a Google Certified Teacher or had the opportunities to learn from so many prolific and intelligent people. I am so grateful for all the choices and opportunities that have come my way and how supportive my family, friends, colleagues, and students have been. I keep thinking to myself that if I just keep working hard and saying yes to every opportunity, I will figure out which hat I really want to wear.

I really need to take off this thinking cap and go to bed!