Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reading with Diigo and Dragons

Literacy and technology have been intersecting in class this week in great ways!

I am a big fan of Harvey and Gouvis' work on the need to teach students reading strategies. Last year, students mentioned in their end of year surveys that we read too much non-fiction for our short texts and they missed reading short stories. Looking over the year, I realized they were right, we read very little short fiction although we still read novels.

In an effort to correct this, I decided to incorporate fairy and folk tales into our reading strategy instruction. I found two great resources for tales online. My teaching partner received a grant several years ago to explore the world of the Grimm Brothers. Usually, we like to use one or two of those tales in class. This year I found Professor D. L. Ashliman's collection of tales. These tales are, well, much "Grimmer" than the sanitized versions students are usually familiar with. Their background knowledge gives them the boost they need for comprehending these stories though, which have more complex vocabulary.

The other site is a more general collection of folk and fairy tales, from many cultures and time periods. It's part of the 4to40 website.

Here's the really cool part. The kids used the tools built in to Diigo to demonstrate their use of the reading strategies that we've been practicing with paper text. I used the Diigo for educators feature to set all the students up with an account that meets COPPA requirements. When it came time to assess the students' work I had such a great time. With all the stories to choose from, the students really felt that they genuine choices. Part of their grade was choosing a story that was appropriately challenging, but not too hard. (Differentiation, anyone?).

I try really hard not to give assignments that I'll dread grading. These were just plain fun to grade since I got to read a huge variety of stories through the students eyes. I hadn't read most of the stories in these versions before, so while it took a while to grade them, is was also truly pleasure reading for me. BTW, the students did beautifully and many mentioned that they really enjoyed the assignment. Wow--fun to complete and a pleasure to grade. In my world, that's about as good as it gets!

Now for the dragons. The students have been blogging about their independent reading. So many have become absorbed in the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini that I felt I needed to check them out. WOW--I'm now almost finished with book two and I can't wait to get started on number three. I just love the feeling of being buried deep in another world!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Talking about web 2.0, in theory only!

I've given two talks recently about Web 2.0 features without Internet access in the venue. In other words, let's talk about the interactivity that is so powerful right now by using screen shots and downloaded videos. Weird.

What bothers me most though, is that the talks pretty much went fine. Of course, it was a pain to get all the videos downloaded (thank you DownloadHelper and Applian!). The thing is though, that the very nature of networking is participatory, not voyeuristic. So, watching a video about a flash mob, while entertaining, is not at all the same thing as participating in a flash mob (caveat--I haven't).

It's kind of like watching Paula Deen make Thanksgiving Dinner on Food TV--fun, but you don't get to eat anything!

So, I've decided that while I might still give a talk or two, I'm really going to focus on hands-on opportunities to draw folks in. I truly believe that parents and educators have to participate in virtual communities in some way (not all) in order to guide and help the children in our care. I'm a little astonished at the number of people who raised their hands during one talk when I asked how many people agreed with the statement "you should never use your real name on the Internet." As someone who blogs, tweets, comments, and Nings as "herself" I find this fear worrying. It's also a disconnect.

Maybe I am the one who is disconnected? Am I too open and optimistic? Should adults be obscuring their identities when communicating professionally with others in their field?