Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blogging Isn't the Answer to Your Students' Writing Needs

Yes, I am an advocate of student blogging. Yes, I helped create the #comments4kids meme on Twitter and made the Comments4Kids blog. Yes, I have presented both online and face to face on the value of blogging in the classroom. Yes, I know that blogging isn't the answer to your students' writing needs.

While reading some blog posts by college students today and mixing that in with my thoughts on what I am going to present next week at a technology conference session on blogging I had a conversation with Nancy Van Erp that helped me clarify my thoughts.

To become a better writer, practice is required. Along with the practice there needs to be specific feedback that addresses issues with the writing. It simply isn't enough to praise the fact that the students wrote something, or that addresses the content of the writing without touching style or context. Let's face it, specific writing feedback on a blog post is very difficult for the writer to take. Imagine having your shortcomings exposed to the world!

I am not suggesting there is no value in posting work that isn't polished. If that were the case most bloggers would never post a thing. What I am saying is that for teaching writing, blogging isn't the best choice. Your students will learn much more and be less likely personalize their mistakes if you have those conversations face to face.

Where blogging shines is through the ideas shared and the conversations created by posting online. If that isn't the goal of your writing assignment, perhaps you need to rethink the medium you have chosen for your students to use.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Define Success

I am a husband, a father, a son, and a brother. I am a writer, a reader, a musician, and an artist. I am youth leader, a conference presenter, a learning community member, and a mentor. I am a photographer, a gamer, an athlete, and a napper. In my spare time I teach.
I am a practicer of many things, but a master of none. Because I do so many things I fail regularly and spectacularly. I share my failures and the occasional success.
I agree with some opinions, disagree with others, and often have no opinion at all.
Am I a successful adult? If so, why am I successful. If not, why not? Was my education successful?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Uncomfortable Part of Teaching Are You Working On?

There is a lot more to a successful classroom than a networked teacher and a great lesson plan. I have always been willing to try to creatively create lessons that are both engaging and ambiguous. Truthfully lesson design comes very easy to me. Unfortunately the more important side of teaching, creating personal relationships with my students has always been hard for me. My goal for the beginning of school is to create opportunities to spend one on one time with every student. I want to grow a real learning community in my classroom and I need to be willing to invest myself into my students. I am moving into some uncomfortable places. What uncomfortable part of teaching are you working on this summer?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who Are You Discipling?

Over the summer I have been sharing with the youth group the book of Matthew. Throughout the book it becomes very clear that Jesus is the teacher and his class is 12 men. Read through the book and you will quickly understand that when Jesus taught it was directly to them. When he addressed a crowd, the lesson was still pointed to the disciples, that is why he often gives further instructions to them after the crowd left. Jesus knew he had three years to mentor the men who would later be responsible for sharing his teachings. He was focused on them. He mentored them. He changed their lives, and in turn they changed millions more. How does this relate to your classroom? Every class has a few students that need more time, more attention, more of you. You are in a unique position to take them in, give them a little more of yourself, and impart upon them the understanding they are valuable. It isn't enough to say 'you matter', you need to live it. Be an example to them. Make them your disciple. If you are really committed to making this world, your school, and your class a better place then start with a few students.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Comment on Blogs Week

Some bloggers write because they love it, some write because they can't not write. Some want to create an audience, some want to express their thoughts. Whatever the reason, when it comes to writing bloggers need the encouragement that commenting brings.

That is why for this week, July 9-15 I am unilaterally declaring Comment on Blogs Week. Encourage your favorite bloggers by leaving a comment or two on a post this week! Please feel free to share the posts you commented on through Twitter as well.

Update: My friend Matt Townsley suggested a hash tag for Twitter so here it is: #icommented
Use this hash tag with a link back to the post you commented on to encourage more comments!

I Got Your Flipped Class Right Here!

I am going to start this post by saying I understand completely the desire to make the classroom work better. I am not against trying something new, especially when the goal is to make a positive learning change for the student. I do think we need to tread carefully before we change the entire climate of our classroom because everyone else seems to be doing it.

There are a lot of implementations of flipping that are being touted. I have had many conversations with my favorite flipper Brian Bennett and a few with OG flipper Karl Fisch about it. I won't comment on my opinion about all forms of flipping, just the idea that flipping means students learning content from the classroom outside of the classroom. Being a very outspoken critic of homework in general, I don't like the idea at all. In fact, I have a flipped classroom proposal I would like to advocate for.

The truth is, this is not a new concept. The idea has been around a long, long time. You may recall Google's 20% idea and the classroom application has been around for a while. As applied by the teacher it gives kids time every day (or week) for them to learn what they are interested in during school hours. So here is my proposal:

What if we really flipped the classroom and 
instead of sending work home with the students, 
they brought the work from home to school?