Saturday, August 18, 2012

The One Drawback of a High Tech World

How can there be any drawbacks in an environment where you can instantly look up anything not only from your computer, but right from your phone? Information is so readily available and in many forms. I've noticed one thing amongst my students and even amongst my children. They have to work at being patient. There is very little reason to be patient. With their cell phones they can reach anybody usually at anytime, and find out a query instantly.

One thing the minimal technological existence I grew up in taught me was that things take time, work, and sometimes the answers you sought took several days to find, maybe even weeks. I began studying towards my Masters in Reading at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. The year was 1991. One of the classes I took that year had the requirement of completing four 20 page papers. At the time I owned an XT that thrived off of big floppy disks and had very minimal memory. I did have a word processor, so that was a step up from my undergrad days of the electronic typewriter. However, I could not check the library's catalog through the internet at that time. One of the papers I wrote was about the history of sight vocabulary. Lehigh University has two libraries an older one called Linderman and a much newer one, Fairchild-Martindale. I figured I would start my searching at the new library, which is not very close at all the the older library. Then I realized that the educational materials from the 1930's and 1940's were in the other library. I proceeded to take the long hike up the hill, find the call number of what I needed and climbed the spiral stairwell to the stacks, and finally after quite some time was able to locate the book I needed. I worked full time for their Child Care Center with preschoolers during the day at that time and many of my nights were spent running back and forth between the two libraries and coming back to collapse around midnight. I learned patience, time management, and humility.

Everything had taken more time, even the most enjoyable pursuits. I've always enjoyed singing, but at age 14 was a bit afraid the first night I joined my parish choir for a rehearsal in September of 1980. My home parish was the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Siena in Allentown, PA. The choir was a large one with about 70 members. It certainly was a very humbling experience. During my first rehearsal, our director had handed out far from anything easy to sight read. The piece he handed out was a polyphonic renaissance period motet, 8 different parts, and in Latin: Tu es Petrus, by Giovanni Palestrina. I learned the parts thanks to the two women I sat between, Peggy and Mary, who knew it cold, and thanks to my mother, who played the second alto part several times on the piano, and also thanks to our choir director who made us practice and practice and practice. It took time, but I can tell you that I still remember it to this day. It's much easier now to learn a new piece of music. You can usually find several Youtube clips of choirs singing the same arrangement, and not only that, but some sites have midi files of just the alto line, or tenor line, bass line, or soprano line of a motet, which you can download and listen to. It's easy squeezey. Not as much work to learn your part and a whole lot less of a chance that you'll mess up and miss an entrance the second rehearsal!

Technology has made so many aspects of our life easier and faster. Yes; in many ways it is a blessing, except for the patience thing. I find my students will get frustrated fast, and in Reading, that is not a good thing. I always have to convey to them that it takes time and practice. I often find that perseverance is just not a term they are used to, since they never grew up in a time where nothing, with the exception of Minute Made mashed potatoes or Lipton soup, was instant.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Find Myself Texting More

I Find Myself Texting More!
I don't think I'd ever hear myself saying that (or see myself texting that)! On the first day of any class I teach, I pass out an index card to each of my students and tell them to write down one way to be able to reach them that they know they check often, either an email address or phone number, that if I needed to contact them, I would know that they would see or hear my message right away. I also give out my contact information and for the past year and a half, I've given them my cell phone along with my email and let them know that they can text me too.
I have had quite a few students text me questions, and I respond via text. I've gotten a lot better and am not all thumbs (so to speak). I've also noticed that a few of the very quiet students I have speak out through their texting, and because of this, I am happy to have it as a communication option with my classes.
It also came in handy one day when the parking lots I usually rely on were full. I work in downtown Allentown and the Donley Center is not that far from the courthouse. I have discovered, the hard way, that if there is a jury duty call any given morning, the parking is slim. One morning, I had to park a few blocks away and knew I would be a few minutes late. I was able to text one of my students to relay the message to the others.
Texting will probably never be my preferred means of communication. I'm who likes to talk on the phone or write an email, but if it is useful in reaching some of my students, I will continue to have it as an option for them to use.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Combining the Face-to-Face Classroom and the Online Classroom into One Course

For the last couple of years the classes I have been teaching at Lehigh Carbon Community College are web-enhanced. All the classes have an online-classroom page. At first, I simply added links to documents, notes, and websites I found useful for the students, along with the syllabus, calendar, and an announcement or two. However, I've been wading in the waters a little deeper this summer. For the first time, I've added a discussion board, some practice quizzes, and an extra credit puzzle, and for the first time I truly intermingled the regular face-to-face classroom with the virtual one.

So far I am enjoying the variety and the reinforcement that the online classroom webpage adds to the students' learning experience. I am currently teaching a Critical Reading class this summer, and summer semester, as you know, is shorter and very compact. It also gave a couple of students a schedule challenge in the beginning of the semester. I have two students who were finishing their senior year at High School, while beginning this course. I was informed weeks before the our Summer semester started how the students would miss two certain days due to High School final exams and graduation practice. This inspired me to put a little more on the online page as far as instructional activities, reinforcement, and a discussion board. I really think it helped the continuity of the class the week those students were unable to attend, since they were still able to participate within the online classroom. This is a terrific plus of teaching a web-enhanced class, and one I really intend to continue making use of into the Fall and beyond.

We have been reading the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. The discussion board was for the students to discuss their opinion of which parent, Christopher, the narrator of the story, would be better off living with. What I observed with the online discussion was that  a couple of students of mine who were usually a little more shy in the classroom, opened up in the discussion board. This brings a whole new element to classroom participation. It gives those who like to communicate more in print a chance to add their voice too. My grading on participation now takes this into account. I find the mix of the two different classroom environments is a wonderful way to meet every learning style in the classroom, and I am just blown away by how creative you can get with it as a teacher.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Addiction to Books is Now Even Worse; Thanks to my Nook.

My eldest son is in middle school, and really wanted a Nook or Kindle for his birthday last November. He was talking it up since the summertime. There were some contigencies though. He knew he had to pull up a couple of grades. Well, to make a long story short he did very well on his report card, and I knew I would need to keep my end of the bargain.

Since it was pushing the holidays both ereaders were on sale. I ended up getting my daughter, who is going into sixth grade, a Kindle. My method of madness was that I knew they wouldn't be mixed up, and I would also get to explore them both myself. Then, I couldn't resist the temptation to get myself a Nook too. Barnes and Nobles is a favorite hang-out of mine, and their marketing ploys easily won me over. Don't get me wrong though. Even though I enjoy my new gadget, I still enjoy the old-fashioned style book too. I find myself getting some books electronically and some off of the shelves. Why settle for one or the other? Why not mix the old in with the new? I still have my bookshelves full of current reads, old favorites, and textbooks from the classes I've taken and taught. Now I have 38 books currently stored on my Nook and some other pdf documents and texts too. I enjoy that fact that so much can be placed on that skinny square. It is so wonderful on trips. It's saved us a lot of back aches literally. I thought I was bad at packing up books in my suitcase, but I cannot light a candle to my husband. I would have to check his suitcase anytime we went anywhere to make sure he had some clothes in it. He would stuff it up with books. Fortunately, since he purchased his Nook Color, he has gotten out of that habit!

But when you drop one habit, you often pick up another. I've always been an avid reader, but now its escalated with the ease of WiFi and an ereader. I can "one click" buy the next book in a series. Without having to check if it were in at the book store or the library. For instance, I have been reading the Kurt Wallender Mysteries by Henning Mankell. The first few books I borrowed from my mother. Then I got hooked on the "buy" button! If I need my book fix. I can get it with one tap. My daughter is equally as hooked on her Kindle. She read the Hunger Games series, and enjoys how she can flick back easily to the first or second books, while reading the third.

I've also discovered a wonderful site for free ebooks: Many old favorite books are on this website and many ones that I have never read. I quickly downloaded Emma and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, which are ones I like to reread from time to time. I noticed that I can download books from in a variety of different formats that are compatible with different ereaders. I took my son's Nook and stuck on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and a book of ghost stories that looked like he would enjoy. For my daughter's Kindle, I loaded Little Women and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott. I thought she would enjoy them as much as I had. I'm happy that my children can also easily mix the new favorites and the old classics, and their ereaders do not take much space at all in the backpacks.

The major difference with the Nook and the Kindle is the way that you navigate, at least with the editions which we own. The Nook has a touch screen, and the Kindle uses navigational buttons. Both are very easy to use with a little practice. By the time you've read your first chapter of your first ebook, you'll have it down.

Another reason I've taken to my Nook so, is the book club I belong to. When my children were little, I joined the local chapter of MOMS Club International and made some wonderful friends in the process. We organized a book club then, and even when we all dropped out as our kids grew bigger, we kept the book club going and meet monthly. How easy it is to obtain the book for next month, just one click! It's pretty hard to put down.

If you haven't given ereaders a try, you may want to just take the plunge this summer!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Connect Safely

When teenagers and adults are taught to drive, they are educated in the safest way to drive. Fire safety, safety with fire arms, staying safe in a public place, are all very excepted as something which should be taught. Because knowledge is power. I have read the safety tips and surfed through the forums at, and was impressed with the subject matter. I really believe along with the parents and faculty team of the school being educated in matters of safety, the students need to know ways in which to interact in the read/write web safely. This site can really be a valuable educational tool. There are other measures which can be taken such as using more secure sites such as or for safer onlinee interaction. This is good, but even if you have training wheels on your bike; you best learn to ride without them. The students will meet other friends with pages on myspace who will invite them to read and comment on their blog, which they won't be able to do without an account at myspace. Though these secure sites are wonderful ideas. It is still best to teach and learn to interact safely on today's Read/Write web.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Classroom Audio Podcasting

I'd like to reflect on this article by Wes Fryer. The links he gives are great. I personally would not have guessed how inexpensive podcasting is to set up in the classroom. Basically just the expense of a microphone to add to your computer set-up. He gives links to free software out there.

Wes Fryer mentions what a motivator podcasting can be for children to write, since they can become podcasting storytellers, and the thrill to present their own stories in that format will inspire them to compose.

I agree with this and also believe that it would be an excellent tool for their reading skills too. It may help students to learn to subvocalize while they read silently. To hear their own voice in their head as they read is an important step for reading fluency and comprehension. I think it is great that they could hear themselves reading after practising reading a story or passage fluently, to hear it in a performeed podcast should not only promote their print processing skills, but also their silent reading. I would think podcasts would be an excellent tool for any reading teacher. Often, you need your students to repeat a passage orally until it is fluent, what a wonderful motivator for that!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Veni; Vidi; Wiki!

Okay, I guess I cannot get away using "wiki" as a verb! Wikis are wonderful, though. So many times I've looked up something on Google just to end up being referred to it on "wikipedia." I didn't realize wiki really means quick in Hawaiian. Wikis are amazingly quick ways to collaborate on a written work with lots of people and a fast way to look something up.

While checking out the wiki sites put up like: WikiHow and Wikiville, I couldn't help but to look for topics which may be offensive in content. It is impressive how well composed they are. I've added these two to my blogroll which you can click on below and see for yourself. Here is what is currently posted on the home page of Wikiville:

"WikiVille is closing down shortly to further edits and contributions. From my own perspective I'd like to say thankyou for all of your input and support. I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't but most of all it's been made really clear that Wiki's can be left in the safe hands of young people without much cause for concern at all. The biggest pain has actually been spammers and spambots!


Thanks again & here's to the future!


It is sad that there are vandals out there, but it seems for the most part that these students have very responsibly made contributions to the Read/Write Web in which they can be proud of.

It has added a whole new way to collaberate on a written work. I've worked on group projects in some of my classes towards my masters. The hardest part was just finding a time in which to meet and go over all of the sections each one of us was working on and make it cohesive. A Wiki would have been a great platform to use for such a project, having other's words right in front of you and adding, and editing together.