Grading My blog/PLN

April 7, 2010

I feel only somewhat satisfied with my progress in creating and using my PLN and what it has to offer; I’m made significant progress in my opinion, especially considering my reluctance in January. I began with much skepticism and annoyance. I had just added hours to the amount of time I needed to be on my computer for school even though I had planned to spend fewer hours in front of the screen that I have in the past.  But since then I have been able to embrace the resources to which I have been introduced. I appreciate resources like the English Companion Ning, the NCTE blog, Wikispaces, Classroom 2.0, subscriptions to blogs, and surprisingly Facebook (yes, I’ve been able to view Facebook as a resource and not just to talk to friends who are hundreds of miles away).

I still am not quite sure how to evaluate my blog, especially since we were not given any guidelines when we formed the PLNs a few months ago. But I’ve decide to rate my blog and PLN on a scale—fair, good, very good, and outstanding. I cannot say that any aspects of my PLN are outstanding, but most aspects fall under good and very good.

Quality:

My first few posts were mostly about my getting a feel for all the resources to which I have been newly introduced. Considering I found it all very overwhelming, I believe these posts are of good, average quality. I discuss issues about which I feel strongly, like plagiarism, creating a book list for myself and for others, as well as making connections with news and professional resources (I found Facebook very helpful in that department). I generally use links to outside resources so that my readers can consider the article when forming their own opinions and responding to my opinions. I do no limit my readers to only reading my opinions on subject matters.

Consistency:
At first I was not very receptive to creating a PLN and therefore did not find much to write about and I feel bad writing negative posts all the time (although I’m realizing I have done that quite a bit and for that, I am sorry).  I only have seven posts (eight including this one) that are spread out over the course of twelve weeks. This does not compare to some of my classmates, like Rae, who has 38 posts and even more comments. My posting has not been  very consistent and I would give myself a grade of Fair(+) for my blog overall. I have been able to post more in the past few weeks. I have a blog entry for each week in March as opposed to my two posts in February. I have stepped it up a bit considering my few early posts, especially as the rest of my life has slowed down a bit.  Although the number of blogs I have posted is not high, I would like to remind my readers that quantity and quality are quite different. I have written on topics that I feel strongly about and would like to learn others’ opinions. I believe that it is more beneficial for me to write about topics that I feel matter rather than writing more blogs on topics for which I do not feel as strongly.

Conversations:
I do read my classmates’ blogs on a fairly consistent basis but I will be honest and say that I do not comment as much as I should. I usually refrain from commenting when I find myself not logged in to WordPress and forget what my password is (which for some reason seems to happen quite a bit. Too many usernames/passwords!).  I have commented on a few blogs and have learned a lot from Eric’s blog and from Colin’s. They have discussed topics I am interested in and would like to learn more about; Rae discusses things that are practical for a pre-service student teacher, like dress code, which I find quite interesting because it is one of those things I feel is rarely voiced in our classes. Moreover, their blogs have mentioned personal experience, which I find more valuable in professional development that reading and learning theory could ever me. We’ve spoken about writing across the curriculum in our block and Eric discusses his attempt to implement it while substitute teaching.  I would give myself a grade of Fair and in need of improvement, mainly writing my comments instead of just reading and keeping my thoughts to myself.

Goals:

I plan to improve my PLN overall during the remainder of the semester and further along down the road. I plan on discusses topics that relate more to the classroom and what we are learning in our block; I have been discusses topics that I just seem to have come across while reading headlines on my homepage and plan on changing that and expanding even more on my topic choice.  I believe that I have room for improvement in all categories and intend to comment on my classmates’ posts more as well as look at blogs that do not belong to my classmates. As of now I am subscribed to two blogs that are not related to my LLED block—NCTE and the Frozen Shape of Human Courage, a blog that discusses a woman’s progress in reading a list of books to read that she has made for herself. Her blog inspired me to compile my own list (yay for progress! And yes, I have kept up compiling my list but have not yet been able to get started on that list).  The area in which I need to improve the most is the Conversations with my classmates’ blogs.
I have read the blogs and people have commented on mine and this whole PLN does not have much worth unless I interact with it. I fully intend on using the blogs more and taking more advantage of the resources available to me (taking advantage in a good way). I have come to love the English Companion Ning but have only posted one question (I did get answers that helped me out!). I have used Wikispaces in my other classes and have come to love it. I’ve discovered many resources that I feel will be come indispensible in the coming years, especially my first year in a classroom of my own.  I have no choice by to try to embrace this all. As my classmates have said, in sum, this technology isn’t going anywhere and it will only become more prevalent. It would be better to embrace it than to resist it.

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I subscribed to the NCTE blog recently and was poking around a bit and came across this entry about plagiarism versus mixing. What’s the difference and why does it matter? The blog cites an article about a teen author in Germany published a book that had lifted entire passages from other works. Her defense was that she is part of a generation that utilizes “mixing” and that it is not plagiarism. So which is it?

As both teacher and student, I would have to say that this is plagiarism although others might disagree. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this “mixing” in writing today, but they don’t make it okay, especially with how easy it is for students to plagiarize (although they do get caught). Music uses similar terminology and there have been numerous court cases for plagiarism. I don’t believe there is a difference between music and writing when it comes to plagiarism. I used to think that “mixing” in music was okay. What’s the big deal? There are only so many ways to combine notes and riffs and whatever else that music does (I’ll admit I’m music illiterate, even after years of explanation). Now that I’ve heard the term associated with writing I have changed my stance.

The NCTE blog mentions that Chaucer and Shakespeare borrowed from other writers. What’s the difference between then and now? Consider copyright laws for one. Texts are copyrighted for a reason, so that a person’s work is not considered someone else’s and that that other person cannot make money off of it. The author of the blog asks if adding a bibliography is okay. In the case of writing a novel, it would have to be a no; a novel is not a body of research. My major concern with this “mixing” in writing is that it stifles student originality. What happens to creativity? A good writer is able to string words together in a way that is unique to the writer. Lifting whole passages from other works takes no more work that retyping those words or using the copy and paste function on a word processing program. It is not a reflection of the writer’s ability or creativity. It is our responsibility as teachers to ensure that our students are honing their abilities and while it is acceptable to borrow from others’ works and paraphrase research, I find what has come to be called “mixing” to be neither acceptable nor conducive to student learning. I’m interested to hear what other teachers of writing have to say about this plagiarism/mixing idea. What are your thoughts?

While working on a project for a different class I was researching the history of the social networking site Facebook, which is heavily used by high school and college students and has been expanding to their parents (Yes, my parents and great aunts and uncles have Facebook accounts, and they’re between the ages of 52 and about 80). It seems like people generally think of Facebook as just a way to connect with other people, keep in touch, avoid the awkwardness of asking things in person, etc.  But Facebook is actually much more than just a website connecting people.  The Facebook Blog offers numerous blogs on various topics including education and government. My project for the aforementioned class was examining Facebook and online social networking and its effects on relationship dynamics. Facebook posts some of their findings on this blog.   Of course, I ended up reading other blog entries (most of them have different authors within the one overall Facebook blog). Facebook has employees creating Disaster Relief pages and working in D.C. as lobbyists. They took a part in encouraging people to vote, and with young voters seeming to be the majority of users on Facebook, it seems like a pretty effective means of getting people to register to vote.  They even have a blog about digital abuse.
I had to dig around a bit to find these blogs, and did so accidentally when looking for a timeline and statistics of Facebook’s history, and I couldn’t be happier that I’ve found them. It’s nice to know that this blog is out there and that the people at Facebook acknowledge different topics that affect its users. I’d highly encourage everyone to check it out. There’s some pretty interesting stuff on there.

I want to tackle a topic that has sparked some controversy lately. We spent a few minutes discussing the privacy issues involved with take-home laptops at a Philadelphia suburb school in one of our LLED classes. The case started not too long ago when the spy software was used on a laptop a student had taken home. My family discussed it over spring break and I got some views from people whose lives aren’t involved in education in a professional sense. The biggest issue of conversation seemed to be why the students need take-home laptops. There are one-to-one computer initiatives across the country, but I’ve read more articles citing lack of evidence for learning than I’ve read articles that cite evidence that these computers support learning. So what is it? I have mixed feelings. I’ve heard and read more opinions against the initiative. There are other alternatives to one-to-one computers. We’ve been told that homework should only take up so much time each night; that being said, why is it necessary to take home a computer? I’ve worked with teenagers for quite a while now and odds seem to be that the students would be using the computers at home for reasons other than school—Facebook, Myspace, etc. Perhaps having an open school computer lab would be more useful for cases for class research and media projects? I know of many schools that have done this, although they have been small schools, and it has worked. Teachers reserve a computer lab for specific class periods to complete the work and students can use the supervised computer lab after classes. So I guess the big question here is what really works when it comes to computers and schools? And how does privacy come into play when students take laptops home? The aforementioned case outside of Philadelphia is ongoing so we don’t know what will come of the privacy issue for now, but I plan on tracking it through.

Become A Fan!

March 3, 2010

A while back I got an email from the College of Education at PSU suggesting that I become a “Fan” of the College on Facebook (Most of the Colleges at Penn State seem to have a fan page). I was wary to mix my social network and my learning institution, but it’s become a great resource and keeps me up to date on what’s going on since I check my Facebook page on a fairly regular basis.  I was constantly reminded about the scholarship application deadline, notified about a Cycle-Thon that is taking place later this spring, updated on faculty accomplishments, etc. But what I’ve found most useful is the page’s links to education news. Today while scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook I read a headline Dept. Unveils Revamped Rules for Teacher-Pay Fund, which obviously caught my eye. We will be full-time teachers pretty soon.  This isn’t that a College of Education post interested me.  After the link posted on Facebook takes me to the article, I’ve found myself perusing the sites and learning more and more about things I normally wouldn’t have come across. It’s great.  (So go on, become a fan of Penn State College of Education. You know you want to)

The article on the Teacher-Pay fund on the Education Week website led me to a notification about a webchat “Live Chat: Are Digital Textbooks Starting to Click?” The chat is this Wednesday at 2pm for anyone who is interested (Unfortunately I have class. Otherwise, I’d be glue to my computer to learn about digital textbooks). I started to think about the pros and cons:

Pros:
Easier to update than hard copy texts
Every student may be guaranteed to have a textbook
Easier for students to search for terms using the “Find” tool
ELL students may be able to have a textbook that presents information in their native     language
Digital textbooks may offer links to websites with more information
Cons:
Not every student has access to a computer/ the Internet
Students are unable to use the textbook in environments other than those with technology
Reading on a computer causes eyestrain (I’ve done it myself. My sight has gotten worse as the years go on, mainly because of the amount of time I spend in front of a computer)
In class, students may not be focusing on the textbook, but on other computer application or on other websites
And, as the article states, there is a cost for technical support and professional development
Students who have trouble reading off of a screen for long periods of time may decide to print out the information, wasting paper and ink (not very green!)

I’ve had a digital textbook for a public speaking course here at Penn State and I can honestly say that I HATED it. Yes, I believe it warrants all caps. Very few students actually used it (this may be different in elementary/secondary). I wasn’t the only one to complain. Using a digital textbook was frustrating, especially when there are so many other things we, students, would rather be doing on a computer than reading a textbook.

I’m VERY interested in what this chat presents, so I’m a bit upset that I’ll be missing most of it. If anyone gets a chance to take part in it, please let me know what points come up! What are the pros and cons that I’ve missed? How likely is it that most schools will have digital textbooks in the future? Share your thoughts!

Two things…

February 23, 2010

I keep running into one of these snags in technology—mistakingly hitting a button while writing a blog entry, particularly the back button on the browser (not fun to repeatedly lose tons of writing). So I’ve decided it might be more efficient to write this up in Microsoft Word first. I’ll say it’s a good call. I have two things I want to discuss in this blog, two things that have come to my attention in the past week or so. One, adjusting lesson plans in the classroom, and two, the stigma attached to reading.

Recently I was assigned to work with a group and make an iMovie, answering a few questions about a certain film clip. We were supposed to present our iMovie by the end of class. This didn’t happen. IT reminded me of how much we are actually going to have to adjust our lesson plans when we have our own classrooms (heck, even in student teaching).  I’ve learned a little bit about how to adjust your teaching plan with one-on-one tutoring, but I feel like adjusting to a whole class or a whole course is much bigger and much more of a challenge. How do we do it? It may work in one class period and not the other; so what do we do? I’m sure I’ll figure it out in time, but for now, I’m a little intimidated.

On to two. While reading the paper last week (yes, I do actually read a few articles), I came across this Non Sequitur comic strip in my college newspaper:

I’m sure I had a frown on my face when I read it. Reading=Boring? I can’t see the equation in my head, but others seem to. What is it about reading that seems to turn people off? Is it being required to read certain books in school that kids hate? (partially—there are a few books that made me want to stop reading for a while. How do we get students to enjoy reading? To see reading as an adventure, as Danae’s little sister does in the comic strip?

I came across these two blogs while I was contemplating why reading doesn’t seem fun (reasons other than the ones Wilhelm discusses in “You Gotta Be The Book”).  It discusses several benefits of reading, while the other one I thought may be a way to get students, and anyone else for that matter, reading: A reading challenge. This blog (I had a link to it when I first posted, but have since lost it) reminded me of a challenge that I had wanted to set for myself at some point as a way to relax and just enjoy reading. So, here, I’m pledging myself to make a list a books that I’ve always wanted to read, and read them (probably over the summer), and track my reading; what did I enjoy? Why? I’ve already started a list of books that I’ve always wanted to read and haven’t had the chance to yet. On there so far are Catch 22, Catcher and the Rye, and Perks of Being a Wallflower (yes, I know I probably should have read these by now, but for some reason I haven’t).

So I’ve set up my Personal Learning Network, but haven’t really figured out how I’m going to use it. I’m still opposed to Twitter—people “following me” still weirds me out a bit, even if I do just post professional info or links to WebPages that are chock full of information. I’m still a little overwhelmed with it all, which is probably why I haven’t written any more blogs or really felt my way around this virtual learning network. I’m not usually one to use the Internet extensively; to me it’s mostly social networking, entertainment, email, and research for academic purposes. (And sometimes the Internet gives you problems. Like right now, my Internet in my apartment is down and I needed to go to campus to use it, and even then, I can’t gain access to my gmail account when I need to use it)

I’ve yet to figure out how to use LinkedIn—or what it’s actually for, but it seems as if a lot of people are still trying to figure that out.; so far I’ve connected to friends from other colleges and some professors I’ve had in my past semesters at Penn State, but haven’t done much else with it. Perhaps the most interesting and beneficial part of my PLN is the English Companion Ning. I love it! It has a plethora of information on anything that I could possibly be interested in when it comes to teaching. I’ve decided to plan a unit using Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, a collection of short stories of science fiction threaded together by a man who has illustrations (like tattoos but the pictures tell stories as they move). It is one of my favorite books I’ve ever been taught, but it doesn’t seem to be that popular; I’ve tried to find some mention of it on the Ning, but so far have only come across discussions of science fiction works, especially Bradbury’s popular Fahrenheit 451, another one of my reading favorites. While the discussions do not directly correlate to the collection of short stories, Bradbury uses similar themes and literary devices in what I’ve read of his works, and so I am planning on using what I have learned in several of these threads to build my unit plan on The Illustrated Man. Although at first I was strongly opposed to using all of the different sites that Jason Whitney mentioned in his blog, I’m finally finding that most of them are quite useful. I have finally figured out RSS feeds and have been able to bookmark my classmates’ blogs so that I can follow them. I’ve learned to like Wikispaces after we actually used them in class to answer questions about teaching, reading, and writing posed in class. The only downsides were that the pages didn’t automatically update themselves and that only one person can update at a time. But, still, I like it now, although I’m still a fan of Googledocs (more than one person can edit at a time). My group for another class has decided to utilize this particular technology and it seems to be great, especially since coordinating seven college kids’ schedules is relatively difficult.

I’ve been getting emails about Webinars from Classroom 2.0 and have found the titles interesting, but haven’t quite had the time to explore what it has to offer. I’m working at a snail’s pace, but it seems to be preventing the technology overload that I seem to get from time to time.

I’m going to continue on this path, trying to utilize the different resources that I’ve found to be the most useful. After exploring the English Companion Ning and utlizing Wikis, I don’t feel as anxious and overwhelmed, but rather excited and thankful to have these resources that I would not know of had it not been for my LLED 420 class.

Meg’s Personal Learning Network (January 18, 2010)

When I was sitting in class and  that I would have to make a personal learning network that includes a blog, Twitter, Wikispaces, etc. I have to admit I was a bit annoyed. I have tried to avoid getting caught up in these technologies. Don’t get me wrong, I understand their usefulness, but have found some of the sites used to excess, especially Twitter. I also have trouble keeping track of multiple usernames and passwords. I’ll deal for now.

I already have a Facebook account that allows me to network and keep in touch. I do not know what I would do in college without it. I get notices about clubs, events, what is going on in my friends’ from back home lives. I love it. But I do not want to make it open to those other than people I have met face to face. Call me old-fashioned, but I do not feel comfortable having complete strangers know so much about me.  Facebook, check.

Twitter (@megeshanley) for the majority of people who use it seems to be essentially updating Facebook statuses, but updating followers with the mundane, everyday actions that no one really needs to know. You just took a nap? Great. I’m glad you enjoyed it, but it’s not vital for me to know. I’ve been against signing up for Twitter since I first heard about it. Why does someone need to know what I’m doing every second of every day. Unless they are physically around me all day, I feel like they don’t really need to know it all. Further, most people I know who have Twitter have a Blackberry or iPhone and the device seems to be another appendage. It never leaves their hand and they are constantly on the Internet updating this or that, or checking their email constantly. I’ve also felt that Twitter harms social skills in general, since I’ve noticed the Internet in general has done so since it seemed to be more and more widely used for social networking (AIM in grade school anyone). I’m wary, and not sure how Twitter will work out, but I’ll do it for the sake of the class. I can’t make any promises.

Semi following the list Jason had on his blog of the different networks we will be using in class, I joined LinkedIn and am surprised at how easy it was to sign up and for the system to find people you know on LinkedIn via my Gmail account. It turns out both my parents have accounts, as does my sister. I connected the LinkedIn to my Twitter Account, which simplifies things in my mind. LinkedIn seems more like a professional site. It prompted me to update my resumé (which needs to be updated) and enter other information related to jobs. I’ll update my resume on here once I have  Here’s my page: http://www.linkedin.com/in/meghanshanley

Next I signed up for a wikispace. I had a friend who was required to set one up for an Honors Seminar here at PSU. I remember her mentioning it was confusing and she hated it.
But it seemed to be quite easy to set up. I still do not quite understand what a wikispace is or how we will be using it in regards to LLED420. I guess I will be figuring that out over the course of the semester. What exactly are we using it for? And is it easier/more effective than physically meeting with people to collaborate (at least in regards to this class)?
Jason mentioned that Google apps seemed frustrating. I have used Gmail and Googledocs many times and found them quite easy to use, especially when it comes to collaborating as a class (EDTEC 400 used Googledocs a few times). And it does not have to be yet another email address—I just forwarded my PSU emails to my Gmail account. I can still send emails from my Gmail account as an @psu.edu.  So I’ve signed up for a wikispace (meghanshanley.wikispaces.com) , but what do I do with it now?

Even with reading Jason’s blog, I am still somewhat confused as to what an RSS reader is and how to use it. This will probably be another thing where I learn as we go along in class.

I signed up for the English Companion Ning and was impressed with the amount of information just on the homepage. It seems to have a wealth of information that I will most likely use when teaching. The second time I’ve signed in after signing up for it a week ago, I find topics like Teaching Shakespeare and Learning and Assessment, two areas that interest me quite a bit. I’m oddly excited about using this site that I would have probably not heard of for a while if it were not for LLED 420.

January 26, 2010

I took a break for a few days after feeling like I was signing my life a way in a single day. At this point I’m getting a little overwhelmed. I’ve signed up for enough websites in the past two weeks that I do not necessarily remember what is what or what the point of each of them is. I hope it becomes clearer once I start using them. But I do appreciate that I can link the different websites together. Classroom 2.0 and the English Companion Ning are both connected to my Twitter Account. That makes it somewhat easier when updating; I only need to update one account instead of three. I already have connections with people on several of the sites, mostly LinkedIn, which I was surprised both my parents use.

And now back to expanding my PLN.  The last thing on the list to sign up for is Delicious, a social bookmarking site.  First, I am disgruntled that I have to signed up for a Yahoo email address—I have three emails as it is and now I have to add a fourth. But, alas I signed up and have my Delicious log-in (delicious.com/meghanshanley).

So I feel like I am done for now. I still have yet to figure out RSS feeders and am still immensely confused, despite looking up information about them. I am starting to find it quite funny how much is out there, especially because I have grown up in the generation where the internet has really been in the forefront of our lives. There is still so much more for us to discover and to utilize, especially in our future teaching. I cannot wait to figure out how to use all of these sites in a professional sense and not for purely social reasons. Oh, and I am still figuring out how to personalize these pages. One thing I have learned so far: baby steps.

Hello world!

January 18, 2010

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