April 8: Bookworm

April 8, 2010 at 9:00 am (Uncategorized)

Hellooooo Blog!

I always find it frustrating that when I feel inspired or really want to blog about something, it is an inappropriate time to do so (like when I am in class), and by the time I can sit down and type, a lot of my thoughts are no longer complete or are lost somewhere in the recesses of my memory. Yesterday was one of those days, but I would like to attempt to bring back all the excitement and emotion I felt yesterday morning anyway. For my LLED 420 class, we went to the Education Library (5th floor Patee Library at Penn State) and had a presentation on adolescent literature. I found it to be really interesting and valuable. I also found myself cursing my busy schedule and wishing that I could curl up somewhere with a pile of novels to read (preferably outside since the weather is so gorgeous).  Alas, this cannot happen for at least another four weeks though. Not having any time to read for pleasure is torture and one thing that I have never gotten used to in my three years of college.

The disappointment in not having time to read for pleasure is not what I wanted to discuss, however; it was more like a side note that I wanted to take a minute to complain about. What I really wanted to blog about was one of the discussions my class had following the presentation. We were introduced to a lot of award winning novels, (young adult literature), during the presentation. Many of these books are not considered “classics” and, as far as I know, would rarely be found in the classroom. As a result of this, the conversation we had following the presentation was the merit of teaching the canons vs. more recent young adult novels. In addition to this topic, we discussed the value of having a list of set books for the class to read as one, or a list of books that the students may choose from for independent reading. It is these two topics that I would now like to address and comment on.

Judging a Book by its Cover

Just another quick side note though, as we were discussing the books, the mention of how book covers change over time came up. This included the classics as well as more recent novels. The classics have changing covers so that their present day perspective audience will pick up the timeless book with it’s new cover. What I find funny is that books I bought only a few years ago (new releases at the time) will have new covers today. And the thing I hate the most is when the book is adapted into a film and the film poster replaces the original book cover. I mean, c’mon, can’t they come up with a better way to advertise the movie? If a person is reading the book and enjoying it, they will probably figure out that there is a movie version on their own. I am not really sure why this bothers me so much, but I refuse to by a book with a film poster as its cover. My rant aside, I found this discussion interesting. Isn’t the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” I would be lying if I said I didn’t judge a book by its cover though. My mom used to laugh at me when I was little and told her I didn’t want a book because the cover was not appealing enough (though I doubt I had used the word appealing at the time). It is very true though, most people do judge books by their cover. Why else would the covers have to keep changing in order to draw a newer audience in? Another good question to ask in this case (which was asked during our discussion), is whether or not a book can be regarded to have any literary merit if people are not picking it up and reading what is inside? So what is more important, the outer appearance, or the inner material? Just some food for thought.

Cannons vs. Contemporary Young Adult Novels

Next point of discussion brings us to the canons vs. contemporary young adult novels. I think that if an English teacher is able to use his/her own discretion, there is no reason why both cannot be incorporated into the classroom. The canons are taught because they are deemed valuable teaching tools and have with stood the test of time. Classic literature can teach students about language, style, different time periods, and so on. I know I enjoy them (for the most part), but educational value aside, I can understand why students moan when they hear they are going to read Austen or Shakespeare. If not taught properly, the “older” texts can be difficult to relate to. While it is the teacher’s job to make those books relevant to the students’ lives, this is why teaching more current novels may be beneficial. It can introduce the current literature to the students, and it would be hoped that maybe the students will venture out on their own pleasure reading journeys because they realize that there are books out there right now that are interesting and applicable to their lives. I would hate to completely pull the plug on the cannons just because some feel they are outdated or overdone (again, it is the teacher’s job to rectify these accusations), but you also have to consider the options available to you as a teacher. Maybe a healthy mix of the classics and more recent novels is a good way to start to generate a genuine interest in reading for students?

Reading Novels as a Class vs. Independently

Now we have arrived at my third and final point: should the students read a novel together as a class, or be able to select their own novels for independent projects? Similarly to my above solution, I think it doesn’t hurt to mix it up a bit. I had an absolutely fantastic English teacher who was my teacher for American Lit Honors and AP Lit (10th and 12th grade respectively). In both classes, we would of course cover the basics, The Crucible, Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, Death of a Salesman, and so on. These we read as a whole class, with projects and discussions galore.

In addition to the renowned plays and pieces of literature, she would offer us a list of books from which we select one for an independent book project. The assignment was universal and could be applied to any of the books she offered. Some of the books were again considered to be classic literature, like Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) or The Scarlet Letter (Nathan Hawthorn), and others were more recent and perhaps not commonly found in the classroom, like Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith (Gina B. Nahai), Atonement (Ian McEwan), or Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison). Just as a side note, the latter three are all books that I have greatly enjoyed and would recommend, though I did not choose either one of them for the independent book project; I choose to read Possession by A.S. Byatt and White Teeth by Zadie Smith (the latter was my summer book project before taking AP Lit), which I also enjoyed and recommend.

Before choosing our books, she would have mini promos for each one. We would receive a hand out with the title of each book, the author, and a mini synopsis much like one would commonly find on the back of a book or the inside jacket. She would then take the time to introduce each one and briefly discuss it. My biggest problem with this was narrowing down my choices so that I could pick just one to do my project on. I think there is a lot to be said in allowing students some freedom in choosing what they are reading. So often in English classes, students are told what they are going to read, and often times it is one of the classics. Students tend to get bored and how can teachers expect students to learn to love reading if they are always being told what to read? In creating these independent book projects, my teacher was creating an environment in which students were allowed to make their own decisions about what they were going to read.

In most cases, I think it would be safe to assume that a student chose a book they believed would be interesting. As long as the guidelines are concrete and the teacher is capable of multi-tasking and checking in with his/her students, I think that independent book projects are a fantastic way to generate an interest in reading. Not only do the students have the liberty of choosing what they are going to read, but they then have a small packet of book descriptions to hold on to, should they decided that reading is indeed fun and would not know where to start in a bookstore on their own. I know that for both projects in 10th and 12th grade, I went back to the list of books and read some of the books on the list on my own outside of class, but maybe I am just a bookworm and that is atypical…? You also have students reading different novels, so if a student enjoyed the book they read, they may want to share it with a friend. Having a peer recommend a book may hold more weight with a student than an English teacher who loves books in general. While I do not think that independent reading should take over the classroom, I do think that there is a great deal of potential and possibilities through independent book projects. Our goal as English teachers is to help students realize the value and enjoyment of reading, and independent book projects seems to be one great way of doing so.

Wrap Up

Okay, so I know this was a longer post, and I apologize and thank you for sticking it out. If any of it was redundant, again my apologies. I had a lot I wanted to get out there and hope I remembered it all. I also hope that I gave you something to think about regarding what books should be used in the classroom and how they should be used. One final thing before closing shop for the day…

I have stopped disliking ads on Facebook and already ads that are appealing to me are seeping in. It took Facebook less than a week to get back on track and display ads catering to my likes/desires/interests. I am officially closing this investigation and am left still feeling disconcerted about the whole personal advertising thing, but in this modern world, what can you do about it? Apparently, not too much.

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April 5: PLN Report

April 5, 2010 at 3:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Now that there are only four weeks left in the semester (wow that is weird), the time has come for a brief self assessment of my Personal Learning Network. I have to say, while I do not think I have embraced the blogging and networking as fully as I could, or as fully as some of my classmates, I really feel that I have come a long way since January. In January, I struggled to sit down and write a blog post. I did not understand what it was I was supposed to be writing and felt awkward having a conversation with my computer (and all of my lovely, unknown viewers). As I have mentioned before, I was never one to keep a journal or blog before. Since January, I have been developing my own “blogging” voice, and feel much more comfortable sitting down to blog. If I were being honest, I even enjoy it a bit. I think this project is a neat way to be connected to others in my profession, my classmates, and others interested in English/teaching/education.

As part of this assessment, my classmates and I are required to evaluate certain areas of our PLN, which include our blog stats, the consistency and quality of our blogs, and our PLN conversations. After evaluation, we are then meant to discuss our goals for the end of April and how we can improve upon what we have done thus far. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at my stats….

Stats:

Here I have posted the images from my stats page. The charts demonstrate the (some what embarrassing) traffic of my blog.


The above is the views per day. As you can see, I started off really weak, and then have had ups and downs since it “took off.”

This one is of my weekly views. Again, it is very spiky and not quite consistent.

Finally we have my monthly views. Again, a very sad chart. Considering April has just started though, I am not too upset at how low this month is thus far, and am really hoping to see it rise a bit by the end.

According to these not-so-flattering graphs, I have about 3 views on average per day. I would not consider this a total loss, but considering my blog has been up and running for a few months now, I can probably do better. I am not sure how to get more people to view my blog though. I have a link to it on my ECN page, other than that I am not sure what to do to increase viewings. As far as my favorite or best posts so far, my Homepage is my most viewed (with 117 views). My homepage consists of all my blogs though, so I am not sure what this means as far as my “best” blogs. In second and third place for most viewed are my first two blogs, but I really do not think they are my best, nor do they demonstrate any growth through my PLN. If I were able to choose, I would say that my blogs entitled “Wonderland” and “My blog is my Friend” are my best posts to date. That week, I had a giant surge of excitement towards my blog (and ECN), and think that is when I started clicking with it. Since then, I have been happy to sit down and work on my blog, but finding time sometimes makes all the other aspects I am evaluating today a little tricky (like consistency). With my goals for improvement though, checking in on others blogs more frequently and more effort/time (maybe more posts in general), my blog should pick up.

Consistency and Quality:

I would have to start by saying that overall, I think my consistency has been decent. This will be my twelfth post, so that is about one post a week on average since the beginning of my blogging journey. There were some weeks though that I had two posts, and some where my blog was sadly left forgotten (like over spring break). Since the start, I do believe that my consistency has improved though, even if it may not be the best it can be. Thus far, I would describe my overall consistency as up and down, considering the random splatters of posts that appear. For the past few weeks at least, I have been establishing a better pattern of at least once a week, and I hope to continue and improve upon that within the next month (time permitting – yes, we have finally arrived at the mad rush at the end of another semester). Like I mentioned above, I find blogging kind of relaxing and I like the experience, so I hope that even with all I have to do in the next four weeks, that I can continue to develop my relationship with my blog.

Similar to my consistency, I think the overall quality of my blog posts has improved since January. Though I have typed this several times now and it is becoming redundant, I was unsure of this whole process at first and was not entirely comfortable with it; over time, however, I think that my blog posts have improved as far as quality. Again, I think there is definitely room for improvement, but I do not think that I am in a horrible position as far as the quality of my blogs. In the next four weeks, I hope to delve a little deeper and push a little further for better quality and would appreciate any suggestions or thoughtful comments to further this.

PLN Conversations:

For my PLN Conversations, I would rate myself as fair. While I may not be up to the standards of some of my classmates, I have been participating in ECN conversations at the very least. A few months ago, I started a discussion entitled “Soon to be student teacher,” which currently has 22 posts and counting. I have also joined four groups (Teaching Texts, Reading Strategies, Teaching Media and Film, and  New Teachers) in which I have been checking in with and posting comments in. As far as interaction with fellow classmates’ blogs, that interaction has been sub-par. I had commented once or twice on my peer’s blogs before last week, but I honestly believe that I can do better. Within the past week, I have already been more consistently checking out the other blogs and commenting where I feel I have something valuable to say/contribute. According to the information that wordpress.com keeps for me, I have commented 11 times on other blogs as of today (not too bad but could be a lot better considering). Already I have begun to improve upon my sub-par status and I hope, within the next four weeks, to remember to pay more attention to my classmates’ blogs and bring about more awareness of those I have been able to connect with through social networking sites like ECN (and take advantage of the connections made).

Just as a quick anecdote, I have also been dipping into the PICCLE forum set up by State College School District. With this social networking site, I have been interacting with current student teachers and have been able to ask them questions about their experience thus far. So this is another area where I have been able to contribute/begin thoughtful conversations about English and teaching. Again, my main area where I want to improve here is to be more aware of my peer’s blogs (and any other blogs in general), and have more regular interactions with those as well as ECN.

Summary:

Over all, I think that I have been doing an average job of keeping up with my PLN. There is room for improvement, which I have already begun to work towards. I have really come to value this project and see it as an opportunity to explore and examine the field of teaching that I have been aspiring towards. The connections made through English Companion Ning, for me, are especially invaluable. Before this PLN, I had no idea that so many other English teachers were readily available for advice, support, and as resources. I think I have learned a lot about myself, who I am as a teacher/educator, through this whole experience and am even considering keeping up with the blog after the class is over… assuming it is not forgotten over the course of the summer : )

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March 31: Quick Post

March 31, 2010 at 9:20 pm (Uncategorized)

I quickly wanted to mention something I found interesting and, well, kind of creepy. While continuing with my experiment (see previous posts for details), I noticed something today. For one of my classes, I was conducting some research and became side tracked when I accidentally stumbled upon an article about J.K. Rowling. I grew up with the Harry Potter books and still love them for the story they tell. Anyway, I read the article and continued on with what I was actually supposed to be doing. Because I have a short attention span, about five minutes later, I found myself checking my Facebook page. Now, I have been disliking ads for some time now, and very few have been of actual interest to me. Within the five minutes between reading that J.K. Rowling article and checking Facebook, I had an ad on the side of my Facebook page about Harry Potter. No wonder I still get some relevant ads. They do not give up easily. You cannot do anything on the web without someone paying attention to your activity and trying to peg your likes/dislikes in order to sell their product, idea, etc. to you. Frightening! But then again, I suppose that is the world we live in now, isn’t it?

Stay tuned for a self-assessment of my blogging experience, coming soon to readers like you!

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March 29: Nerves

March 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm (Uncategorized)

First off, I would like to mention the fact that, with a group of three other people, I had to do a 90 minute workshop today for my Media Literacy block. My groups focus was on gender portrayal in advertising. I was nervous before hand about meeting the time requirement, considering 90 minutes is a good bit of time and a lot of what we had planned for the block was discussion based or relied on student participation/involvement. I have to say though, I had a lot of fun doing this project. I know I probably sound like a nerd, but this topic is one I have always found interesting and I had a lot of fun analyzing different ads with the rest of my class. I have been really stressed out this semester and overwhelmed, sometimes  second guessing whether or not teaching is right for me. This always seems ridiculous to me though, considering I have wanted to teach since at least the second grade and education is something I am really passionate about; so it’s been really frustrating this semester. English especially is something I can always get excited about and that is what I will be teaching. This activity today really gave me a confidence boost, even with the three other people involved. I felt that we were able to brainstorm activities that got the class involved and allowed them to draw upon their own experiences, making what we were discussing relevant to them. They at least seemed to be engaged and not completely bored with the workshop too, which was nice even if it was feigned. I guess to sum this up, I just want to state that I had fun leading this workshop and have found a renewed excitement for being in front of a class and running it myself, rather than letting my fears take hold.

That being said, I was looking today at the handy-dandy English Companion Ning. One girl posted that it is her first year teaching and she is feeling overwhelmed with lesson plans, stress, working towards her master degree, and still fitting in time for family and friends. More specifically, she is about to teach a text that she is nervous about having time to sit down and write out a whole unit for. This is one of my biggest fears or what makes me the most nervous about teaching, having to write lesson plans that full fill the allotted time and have the kids engaged and happy. I couldn’t help her with the text she was looking at, but I did try to give her a motivational pep talk. One of my aunts is a teacher, and I have heard what I am about to type from various other teachers as well, but apparently it takes at least three years to get comfortable as a new teacher. The first year is probably the most time consuming, composing lesson plans, getting to know your way around the school, and getting to know the students and other teachers, and making last minute adjustments and such. The second and third I picture being a bit easier, but still time consuming. I told her this and also told her to power through because it should get easier with time. She mentioned one really important thing that I felt validated her occupational choice though, she stated that she liked her kids and enjoyed teaching. If she is able to enjoy teaching even with all the apparent stress she is going through, I think if she can continue to fight through all the work, she will be fine. She brings up valid points though. As a future teacher, I am still unsure just how trying my first years will be. I am willing to put in the time and dedication to make my classroom the best it can be, but it does scare me sometimes still. I guess questions like “will I be any good at this?” or “what if my kids don’t like me/respect me/are bored?” and similar questions plague teachers until they are really comfortable with what they are doing. I have not yet really had the chance to implement a lesson plan I have made. Actually, I am in the process of writing lesson plans for my LL ED 420 block, so I don’t even know if I can say I have even written lesson plans yet, but I am nervous that I will not be any good at this and my passion for education/teaching/English won’t be enough to make me a successful teacher. (I know more goes into teaching than just enjoying what you are doing and having passion for it, but I don’t think that this is a horrible place to start either.) I feel like I am starting to talk in circles now, so to wrap this up, what I am saying is that I could identify with this girl’s post. I worry too about whether or not I am cut out for this, even though I know it is what I want to do with my life. I guess that these fears will not be dispelled until I can get in the classroom myself and experience what it is really like to be a teacher.

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March 24: Things to Think About

March 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm (Uncategorized)

So, quick update on the whole scrambling advertisements experiment. The results seem to be consistent. As I continue to dislike ads, I am getting more and more random ones thrown at me. I also find it interesting that some ads I have marked as “offensive” resurface every so often, like that “What will your baby look like” ad. You mesh a picture of you and someone else together to see what your offspring would look like. That’s just weird yet despite my attempts to rid myself of that ad, it continues to pop up occasionally. Since I have been disliking ads that were targeted to me, like Penn State ads, I have now been getting ads that are similar yet branching off the specifics. What I mean by this is that I am still getting college ads, but they are for various other campuses/schools than Penn State. No matter how many ads I dislike, another ad always follows. Before this, I would go from three ads to one ad on a page if I disliked a certain number of ads, but now I could click dislike to my hearts content and still be hammered by endless ads. They are trying desperately to figure me out again. I still find it interesting when an ad that would actually interests me pops up, but now I am starting to believe that it is purely coincidental considering how many random ads are being thrown at me now. And that’s the update!

Today in my LLED block, we did an editing/writing activity that I thought was really interesting. Last week, we spent a lot of time writing our own science-fiction short story. This week, we analyzed our writing to try to improve it stylistically. We traded papers with our peers and found all the “to be” verbs and adverbs. We learned helpful tips how to avoid wordy sentences, indirect phrases, and boring verbs. An activity like this could be highly useful in the classroom, considering tips and “rules” to follow are fairly general and can be applied to multiple writing styles. Students would be able to look at others and their own writing and figure out how to improve their own writing. This activity is also useful for teachers. I am currently considered to be somewhere in between a student and teacher, but there is still a ton that I can learn (that will not change when my official status becomes teacher, either). Activities like this will help me to continually improve my own writing and to be more aware of the stylistic aspects of writing. I have had too many teachers focus on the structural or grammatical aspect of papers. While those two approaches are useful, I think writing truly improves as the writer works on finding their voice and style. As a student learns how to improve their essay stylistically, grammar and structure should follow. Working on sentence structure will help students to eliminate those awkward or fragmented sentences. Activities like the one we did in class today allows a close look at one’s own writing and let’s them critically explore and improve their own style. The activity is educational for everyone but should fit each student’s individual need. Writing is an ongoing process, which is what this activity teaches. As a teacher, it is helpful if I am continuing to improve and expand my writing abilities because it will, in turn, only end up benefiting my students.

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March 16: Long Time No See

March 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm (Uncategorized)

It has been entirely too long since I have posted a blog (my apologies). School is getting more and more crazy with student teaching coming up and I was, unfortunately, sick over spring break. While I have been away from my blogging, I have been keeping up with my little experiment. I am not sure what to think about the current results since I am not entirely sure what I expected, but here are the effects thus far. For those of you just tuning in, I have decided to “dislike” every ad that pops up on the side of my Facebook page out of curiosity of what would happen if the advertisers could not figure out what to advertise to me. So far, I have been getting a lot of really random ads with a few relevant ones mixed in. While I seem to have totally thrown off the ads, there is still some small piece of me that they have been able to hold on to. Kind of weird and freaky I think, but for the most part I seem to be off the advertisers charts presently. As that experiment continues on, I will continue to post updates here.

Over spring break, I received some exciting and interesting news as to where I will be student teaching a year from now! I will be placed in Philadelphia, which is what I preferred, so I am very excited for that. There is a lot that goes into the preparation for student teaching though, and I must admit that currently I am feeling overwhelmed, but I suppose everything will work out like it always does and I have to focus on one day at a time. Remember when all you had to worry about was attending class and passing exams? *Sigh*

On a lighter note, as I was working on my group’s wiki page (the link can be found on the side of this page, as well as one to my English Companion Ning-ECN- page), I happened upon some interesting thoughts. One of the questions I was looking into was how to identify a weak reader. While doing some research on this, I found an ECN discussion about a remedial reading class. One of the women who responded to the discussion mentioned that following any type of curriculum for a basic or struggling reading course may be detrimental to the students. I found this to be an interesting thought with some truth. The woman went on to discuss how each student who is struggling is an individual; therefore, each student’s problem with reading is unique and cannot be fixed through a standard curriculum (she worded it better than that, sorry and hope that makes sense). I think that this woman makes a very valid point. If students are struggling, there is not one universal cause of their inability to read proficiently. It is always important to recognize each student is an individual and has individual needs as a students that must be met in order for them to learn, no matter the level of the course. It of course would be impossible to come up with a curriculum for each individual student, but focusing on how to guide each student through a curriculum or book is something to keep in mind, especially when some students do seem to be struggling and falling behind. I do not think a teacher can effectively teach unless they realize that the room before them is full of individuals and not just a conformed mass of students. Just food for thought I suppose (maybe I am wrong and not experienced enough yet to have entirely accurate opinions about how to run a classroom, but as of right now, the previous statement is a belief I currently hold). That’s about all I have time for right now, so goodbye for now and see you again soon!

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February 25: Thoughts

February 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm (Uncategorized)

A major theme this semester in my LLED blocks (classes where you are basically taught how to be a teacher, more specifically an English teacher in this case) seems to be technology. In each of my three blocks, there has been a huge emphasis on various technologies, like all the Macbook technologies (iMovie, Garage Band, etc.) and the PLN my classmates and myself are working on. I think it has been very helpful so far to become familiar with and aware of this type of technology and know that it is available for classroom use. While experimenting and learning about this technology has been fun and helpful, I cannot help but wonder if we, as future teachers, will be able to use very much of it in school. What technology is available to you really depends on the school you are hired in, or more importantly, the school district. I know that a lot of city schools tend to be lacking in resources, so being able to implement any type of technology in the classroom may be very difficult. School districts near me still use PCs rather than Macs. I know that a lot of the software we are using for Macs has some sort of equivalent on PCs, but I will still have to basically relearn how to use the different (but similar) program all over again. Being able to use technology also depends on the students awareness of the resources. It would not be too difficult to have a demonstration day in which they are taught the basics of programs, but this could be time consuming. I suppose what I am getting at is that I like the idea of implementing different technologies in the classroom to further learning and generate interest in the content, but I think there can be some set backs. Perhaps if I saw this type of teaching method in action and saw how the kids reacted and worked with it, I would have a better understanding of how to use it myself in my own classroom.

Branching off of this thought, my LLED 420 block yesterday had an interesting experience. I am sure a lot of my classmates and even my professor have already blogged about this, but I wanted to share my thoughts. Yesterday, as class was about to start, our professor came in and informed us we were moving to a different room for a video conference with students in Sweden. Curious, we all got up and followed him to a conference room, where we could see about 15 to 20 other students already set up on the TV screen, around a similar table to the one we all sat down near. After a few awkward minutes, we were introduced to the students on the screen. Many were from Penn State and studying abroad, a few were from a university in England, and a few more were Swedish. We were told that these students would have questions prepared for us, but it turned out this was not the case. At first, things were disjointed and awkward. As everyone got more comfortable though, the conversation turned to some interesting topics. In Sweden, schools that are not doing well academically are given money to try to better the schools progress (imagine that!). I think it would be helpful here if the schools that were struggling had a bit more funding, since they are usually the schools in need of new textbooks and various other essential resources used for learning. There is also something called upper secondary school. This is optional for students in Sweden, but you cannot move on to university without completing upper secondary first. University is free for everyone, and students do not begin to receive grades until they are in third grade (? I cannot remember the exact grade, but it was much later than here in the US considering we even grade Kindergartners on their progress). There seems to be no real competitive edge to schooling in Sweden, which to Americans, must seem crazy. I think grading is important in that it helps the teacher see the progress of the students and ensures that they are learning, but I feel that there is too much stress placed on students because grades are so competitive and students stress themselves out over being in the top of their class. This competitiveness could very well be the reason so many American students complain about school and have break downs due to the stress of homework/exams/essays/etc. A third interesting thought that came out of this conference was that the Swedish refer to the term race as the human race. There are separate ethnicities, but only one race. I thought this was a really cool and different way to view it, since America places so much emphasis on race. When you fill out forms here, you are most likely to be asked to mark your race near the top of the form right by where you identified your name. Very different view of what race is, or the significance of it. Over all, I ended up getting a lot out of the conference. I am sad to say that I was too shy to speak up and volunteer any thoughts or questions, but I enjoyed learning a little about a culture that was alien to me. As a class, we agreed that if we had known before hand or it had been a bit more organized, it would have gone more smoothly, but I am glad we had the opportunity to experience that. It was all thanks to that wonderful thing called technology.

To conclude this post, I want to give a brief update on the status of my experiment (mentioned and explained in the previous post). So far, the only ad I have not “disliked” is the Turner Classic Movie ad. Other than that, I have been “disliking” the ads for various reasons (inappropriate, uninteresting, irrelevant, etc.). Right now, it seems that they (the advertisers maybe) are a bit confused what to send my way now. I have been getting a big variety of ads now about business, clothes, events. When I “dislike” all of them, the TCM seems to be the fall back ad now, which makes sense considering it is the only one I seem to be okay with. I am going to continue with this experiment and see if any more interesting results turn up and even may start “disliking” the TCM ads as well. We will see!

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February 23: Experimentation

February 23, 2010 at 4:10 pm (Uncategorized)

After discussing and reading the novel Feed in my LLED 420 Block, I have decided to try an experiment of my own. In the novel, one of the characters named Violet decides to mess with her feed. Rather than staying true to her personal interests, she shows an interest in literally every product she comes across so that the feed can no longer specifically target advertising to her tastes. By doing so, those monitoring her feed become confused and unsure how to advertise to this one girl who seems impossible to pin down. Similar to this type of advertising in Feed is the advertising now found on Facebook. On Facebook, there are advertisements down the right side of the screen. I cannot remember when that started, or if it was always there, but as a subscriber to Facebook, I am free to mark the ads as I see fit. This means that if I do not like a particular ad, I can click on the little “x” in the upper right corner of the ad and select one of several reasons for rejecting it. The reasons include offensive, irrelevant, misleading, uninteresting, repetitive, or other. Additionally, there is the option of “Like”, so that they (whoever they are) know that a particular ad was appealing to you. During the next few weeks, I will dislike every ad that pops up for various reasons. I am not sure what effect this will have on the ads I see on the side of my screen, but am interested to find out. Facebook is not even close to being the only website that now tries to specifically target advertising to its members. Amazon, Google, and many (many, many) more perform the same service. While this is innovative and effective advertising on one hand, it is also a bit invasive and creepy on the other. Taking Violet’s example, I am going to experiment and see what results I get if I reject all ads targeting me on Facebook. This may end up being a failure, since I don’t think it is possible to be rid of the ads completely, but it is something I want to try and am interested to see if any noteworthy results occur as a result. I will keep the results posted here over the next week or so and see what effects my little experiment has, if any.

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February 17: Wonderland

February 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm (Uncategorized)

First, I would just like to say that I am very excited for tonight because I am going to see Breaking Benjamin in concert at the Bryce Jordan Center. Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I would also like to say how surprised I am at myself for having a post two days in a row! I feel like yesterday I had this sort of epiphany about blogging and at least English Companion Ning (from now on ECN for short), if not my whole PLN in general. After I blogged yesterday, I decided to browse around on ECN and, after some thought, decided to be daring enough to post some of my own discussions. I mean, what is the point of being part of something if you are just going to sit back and watch from the side lines? I also would like to add that some of this inspiration/encouragement came unknowingly from Rea, a fellow classmate, who had been daring enough to attempt posting her own discussion on ECN first. It took me a few minutes to figure out exactly how to do this, but once I did I ended up posting two different discussions.

The first discussion was something that has been eating at me and I had to get it off my chest/have others share the burden with me. I set up a discussion asking for advice and encouragement for a student who is very near to her student teaching experience and hasn’t a clue what to expect in the classroom. Rather than building excitement, I just feel building dread. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am more than excited to begin teaching, as I have stated before, but being on the other end of the classroom is going to be new and daunting no matter what for at least the first couple of times. Although, if we are being realistic, I know the first couple of years is more like it. I will not be a student anymore. I will be a teacher. One who has to figure out for herself over the first couple of years what works and what doesn’t, as well has how to gain the respect of her students. Not that this time will not be enjoyable, it will just be challenging and a great learning experience. Back to my discussion post, after I did post it, I had a momentary lapse in confidence. My face got red as I imagined people commenting on every other discussion but mine. What if mine was not interesting, or no one really cared? To my great relief, I am proud to say that there are already eleven comments within 24 hours. That may not seem like a lot compared to how many some discussions have, but I now know I need more faith in other people and need to realize that people genuinely want to help others. Very exciting and encouraging.

My second post was asking how teachers get around the film versions and Sparknotes (etc.) that are out there and ensure that their students are reading/interacting with the actual text. Within 24 hours, I have ten posts on this discussion. For both discussions I set up, I have found all those who respond to be extremely supportive and all offering advice and things they have learned through experience over the years. I love how connected this community is and how, if needed, there is a whole support group at the tips of my and any other English teacher’s finger tips. I will have to go back through all the responses at a later date, when I have a bit more time, and write down the ideas I really like or the advice I feel I really should heed.

Once I had posted the discussions and began getting responses, it was like I was Alice who had fallen down the rabbit hole, entering Wonderland. There is this whole supportive community I was not aware of until this class that I can now use as a helpful reference whenever I need it. Since my posts, I have visited ECN much more frequently to view my own and other’s discussions. I was hesitant to get involved at first, because it was new and different, not to mention I did not know exactly how to use it. But, as they say, you will never know if you never try. And to that, I say I could not agree more.

The only complaint I have is that my e-mail is now flooded with updates every time someone responds to my discussion or joins the Teaching Texts group (which I became a member of yesterday, as did Rachel, another classmate. I know this because I received an e-mail telling me she joined, not because I am a creepy stalker haha). This is a minor hiccup, however, and I am sure I can figure out a way to stop or redirect the e-mails if I just play around with it.

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February 16: My Blog is My Friend

February 16, 2010 at 11:12 am (Uncategorized)

Over the past couple of days, I have become oddly excited about my blog. This is not to say that I was dismissive of it, but I think I was dragging my feet a bit. When faced with new things that force me out of my comfort zone, I tend to have to build my self up before the genuine interest is able to sink in. So regarding my blog, I have been thinking, and I feel that it can be a positive way to connect to other people who may be in the same boat as me. A scared student who, sooner than she expected since time creeps up on people, is going to start her student teaching within the next year and is still unsure what to expect. Since I was little, I have know I wanted to teach. In all honesty, I cannot wait for the day when I have established my own classroom of which I am proud of. The path to that future me, however, is a bit daunting (minus the “a bit” part). If this blog and my PLN can help though, which I think it can, then I am all for it!

I was on the phone with my sister yesterday, and without her realizing it, I think she gave me some good advice. (Quick side note: this particular sister of mine is currently a senior in high school, getting ready to embark on her college experience this coming fall. She is my closest sister and best friend.) I told her about my PLN and blogging assignment and explained how it still feels weird to me to write posts that I know multiple people could potentially be reading, some of whom I do not even know. Her response was to tell me to treat the blog as Sue Sylvester treats her journal. For those of you who do not know, Sue Sylvester is a cynical and self-important cheerleading coach on the wonderfully colorful television show, Glee. Glee is a show that I never thought I would get sucked into, but some how have. Sorry for the plug, but it really is fantastic. Anyway, I laughed at her suggestion, not taking it seriously because Sue is so negative and, well, evil. She only uses her journal to complain about Glee Club (“those scab-eating mouth breathers”) and all the inferior beings she has to put up with during the coarse of a normal school day. While I am not sure if my sister was earnest in her suggestion, I think that there was something to it. While I will not adapt the writing style of Sue Sylvester, luckily for you although she is pretty funny, I will adapt her attitude that she has towards her journal. She treats it as an intimate friend with whom she is very comfortable with. This is why, hence forth, I am proud to announce my new method of thinking about this blog. My blog is my friend.

With that in mind, I want to move forward and express my increasing interest in English Companion Ning and PICCLE. Both these sites are part of my PLN. Since joining them, I have, every so often, logged onto these sites and perused them somewhat. I find both extremely helpful and insightful. On both sites, you are able to interact with other students on their way to becoming teachers, student teachers, or more experienced teachers (and anything in between). PICCLE consists of a bunch of student teachers who are currently stationed in State College schools. On this forum, they are able to let each other know how their student teaching experience is going, and ask any questions that they may have. I was introduced to this forum in my LLED 411 class (focus on teaching writing). I have found it to be particularly insightful considering it has helped me to realize that teaching is a learning process. For the past semester, I have been getting increasingly nervous about my rapidly approaching days as a student teacher. Questions, most discouraging than not, coarse through my head daily. What if my students are bored and/or do not like me? What if I cannot effectively teach? Foremost, what if I am unable to find a job? All these questions and more torment me, as I am sure they do for most people in my situation. PICCLE is the place where I can get some reassurance. Here, the student teachers are able to work out their problems together via this forum. They are able to support one another and offer helpful suggestions as to how to deal with certain situations or improve lesson plans, etc.

Similarly, English Companion Ning is a place where emerging or current teachers are able to ask questions, offer advice, and provide support. Earlier this morning, I was reading a post by a freshly graduated woman who is having trouble finding a job. The reason being the ever present Catch 22. In all her interviews, she claims her interviewees were impressed with her, but always ended up hiring the person with more experience. How can you gain experience if no one will hire you because of your lack of experience? Below her cry for help, there was a handful of supportive comments and suggestions about how she can build herself up or begin gaining some of that oh-so-precious experience. It is really encouraging for me to see how supportive the teaching community is of one another, since I am nervous about the same things and will most likely be dealing with similar issues. English Companion Ning is a place where you can, it is hoped, get your questions answered and get the little boost of self-esteem and confidence needed to truly live up to your full teaching potential. These are probably the two sites of my PLN that I currently find the most helpful and inspiring, as far as learning what to expect and getting a jump start on advice and tips for how to run an effective classroom are concerned.

P.S. I have updated the About Me section of my blog, so check it out!

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