Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Month: April 2015

Blurb: My Go-To for Self-Publishing

In a previous post, I wrote about using the online publisher Blurb to publish my 2013-2014 Expository Writing class’ favorite works.  I enjoyed the process, but I didn’t know how the final copies would turn out once I had them in my hands.

Now I know.  They’re FAB-U-LOUS!

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The magazines came in with a thick glossy cover, plus nice thick pages with full-color images.  It was just as I’d hoped, but was afraid I wouldn’t get.

Immediately I started showing them off.  My own expository students this year were impressed and started thinking what they would submit for this year’s publication. Even students in other classes were a bit envious and asked if they could submit a piece of writing.

Which got me to thinking…other schools do literary journals.  It’s not a new idea–just new to us, and maybe new-ish for a school our size.  But why not?

I took the magazine to my principal and guidance counselor, and they were both impressed as well.  And then the ideas started flowing.  Why not open this up to submission from the student body and have my expository classes edit and manage the submissions? Why not publish quarterly?  Wouldn’t local dentist offices and car dealerships want a subscription?  In fact, couldn’t the new marketing class next year help market the book?

I’m feeling excited and overwhelmed with the ideas flowing–on top of all the other ideas I want to do next year.  I’ve got a lot of planning to do this summer.

But I can’t wait for school to get out–so I can start getting ready for next year!

(I’m such a teacher geek.)

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Protect Your Digital Footprint: Use Google Alerts!

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Image from www.breatheenterprises.com

 

This week I was privileged enough to attend the  NETA (Nebraska Education Technology Association) conference and attend George Couros‘ session about establishing and protecting your digital footprint.

Although we can’t prevent stop from writing slander or untruths about us on the internet, we can at least be aware of them by using Google Alert.  Then we can contact the writers and try to resolve the issue.

It’s really simple.  Here’s how to do it.

Google Alerts   Monitor the Web for interesting new content

1) Go to Google Alerts

2) Type your name or the phrase you want to monitor.

Every time your name or phrase is published online, you’ll receive an email notifying you.

While this is vital for names, it’s also important for your school or business.  If your school image is being tarnished, it’s good to know and, hopefully, resolve the issue.

This is also an important quick lesson to teach students.  It’s not too early for them to think about their online reputation.  When they’re applying for jobs or college, they need to be aware if others are writing negative and/or untrue items about them.

Of course, this is easy for someone like me with a unique name.  If your name is David Smith or Jane Johnson, the Google alert will be constantly emailing you.  George Couros recommends using your middle name or initial when establishing your online abilities.  This isn’t an overnight fix, but it will establish your brand and help differentiate you from other people with the same or very similar name.

Putting on the Gloves

It’s Debate Week!  The week we’ve been researching and writing for in Expository Writing class.  And in every debate this week, my students have impressed me in the way they’ve stood up, made a stand, used solid statistics and direct quotes to support their arguments, and most of all, awed me with their critical thinking skills.

It all started last fall when I attended a debate workshop at our state’s speech conference.  Persuasive writing is a huge focus in Nebraska high schools, since it’s the genre used to evaluate our eleventh graders.  And rather than just teaching students to write persuasively, the debate workshop made me realize how powerful that performance activity could be.

It’s Debate Week!  The week we’ve been researching and writing for in Expository Writing class.  And in every debate this week, my students have impressed me in the way they’ve stood up, made a stand, used solid statistics and direct quotes to support their arguments, and most of all, awed me with their critical thinking skills.

It all started last fall when I attended a debate workshop at our state’s speech conference.  Persuasive writing is a huge focus in Nebraska high schools, since it’s the genre used to evaluate our eleventh graders.  And rather than just teaching students to write persuasively, the debate workshop made me realize how powerful that performance activity could be.

Before I go any further, let me say in full disclosure that I took a semester of debate class in college.  I hated it.  The stress, the conflict–I dreaded each and every debate.

So I don’t expect every student to love it or even enjoy it.  However, I recognize that many of my students thrive off it, and those who don’t enjoy it have gained argumentation and presentation skills.

The class started with narrowing topics using Google Moderator, until they finally chose the death penalty, vaccines, and ipads.  Then they researched.  We used Google Scholar and studied academic articles.

Then they wrote two papers.  The first was an informative, objective piece covering both sides of their issue–a genre they found extremely challenging.  Then they focused on their debate arguments.  We analyzed a sample position paper, highlighting the organization (specifically the heavy use of direct quotations) and then they took off on their own arguments, producing the best writing I’ve seen from most of them.

If you haven’t caught on, I’m so proud of these young people.  They’re graduating in mere weeks–days, really–and yet they’re still pushing themselves.  In fact, one group that finished debates a day early elected to have one more impromptu debate.  The topic:  ham vs. turkey.

And let me tell you, this was the most creative yet critical thinking I’ve ever heard.  It was silly and fun, yet they used statistics and research straight off the internet as they debated.  They thought on their feet, collaborated with their team, and gave me a day I won’t soon forget.

Writing a Choose Your Own Adventure Story!

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You remember these.

The Choose Your Own Adventure books, where you’re chased by a tiger.  You can escape it by leaping into the ocean 50 feet below (go to page 48) or face the tiger with your homemade slingshot (go to page 128).

Tomorrow, after weeks of research writing, my expository writing students are going to take a break and write their own Choose Your Own Adventure story.

I swiped the idea from Sean O’Neil’s webinar from last year’s QuestBoise Unconference (can’t wait to “attend” this year’s!)  Sean demonstrated how students could write their own choose your own adventure stories using links in word documents or slideshows.

Then I thought, couldn’t this easily be done in Google forms as well?  And that’s just what I did today.  To provide a sample product for my students, I created a Choose Your Own Adventure story based on Hamlet.

Since I love the play and am very familiar with it, I jumped right in and started writing.  However, I think I’ll encourage students to start with a storyboard/flowchart tomorrow, especially if they are writing a story from scratch.  I’ll also give them the option for using a story they already know (as I did with Hamlet).  Providing the “alternate routes” that don’t happen in Hamlet challenged my creativity similar to if I had written a story from scratch.

Normally I focus on essay writing in class, but there are benefits to this activity.  One, when students do write narratives, I often find that they get lost in describing the mundane and don’t confront their characters with conflicts.  An activity such as this prompts students to throw conflicts and decisions in front of their characters.  I’m also considering using this activity next year as a possible quest when I teach Beowulf and The Hero’s Journey.

Other standards can also be addressed in this activity.  Storyboarding/flow-charting can be taught as a method of pre-writing, and students can peer review each other’s stories.  Students can also be required to include specific literary elements, such as allusions, metaphors, and alliteration.

And knowing that students will be writing these stories for other students to read?  The stakes just went up about a million percent.  (Yep, just showing off my awesome hyperbole skills).

Can’t wait to get started tomorrow!

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