Sunday, August 30, 2009

Multiple Profiles on Facebook

An interesting post on the Teach Paperless blog made me think about the way that teens create and recreate their identities when they use social networking sites like facebook. On Teach Paperless, there's a discussion going about teens and college students who establish more than one account so that they can create a public persona while also keeping other aspects of their lives private.

I feel like this is a huge step forward for teens and college students. The notion that you can keep the antics and enjoyments of your private life mixed with information about your career or education is a short-sighted one. I know that I am super careful about what I say and write on my facebook because I have such a wide variety of contacts as "friends". If I write an inside joke or allude to something that seems unsavory, who knows how it could be construed?

This is something I am definitely going to keep in mind for this fall. Once my students get their laptops (yay for 1:1), I am going to ask them to create new student accounts on facebook. This way, we can use some of the amazing features of facebook without the hassle of trying to keep our personal and private lives separate. That said, I still want to have some discussions with students about keeping all of their online writing and photos appropriate for potential employers and colleagues. We still have a long, long way to go before teens, college students, and even some adults understand that pictures of serious partying are not okay, ever.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bloggers are Writers for Real

If there is anything that I learned from seeing the movie Julie and Julia, it is not how to make the perfect hollandaise sauce, but that blogging is powerful and that bloggers are authors.

Early on in the film, Julie is struggling with the fact that she never finished her novel and that she is not the writer she planned on becoming. She laments over and over that she never became a "real" author, until her ever-patient-in-the-face-of-whining husband suggests that she start a blog. Of course, this story starts in 2002, which is long before the term "blog" was recognized as an actual word. The notion that bloggers are writers was a new idea for Julie then, and it probably is for many, many Americans still.

Since I started blogging with and for students, I have heard several remarks that basically boil down to this: students are not learning to write for real any more and they are just playing online when you assign blogging projects. I would like to point out that I think students are writing more now than I ever did when I was in high school. I never went home and chatted with friends using a computer. I never corresponded with the public (or the entire globe) through any of the writings I completed in high school. When I turned in a piece of writing, the teacher was probably going to be the only person to ever see it. End of story.

Now, students have the ability and the want to communicate their ideas and findings with the outside world on a regular basis. Most are engaging in social networking daily. They have instant feedback and regular feedback on their thoughts and ideas when they update their status on facebook; shouldn't we give them the same opportunity for regular interaction and feedback from a global audience in our classrooms?

As for Julie of Julie and Julia, I think that we all know how that turned out. Blogging led to public interest, which led to interviews and a book deal. Now there's a movie and Julie is probably feeling very comfortable with the idea that she, a blogger extraordinaire, is actually a writer. For real.

* * *

Further evidence of a writing revolution can be found in this article from Wired magazine.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Facebook as a Tool for Learning

When I first started using facebook, I was very literal about the word "friends" and had little understanding why all of these people who I barely knew would consider "adding" me as a "friend". Over time, and through some conversations with students, I started to understand that "friends" on facebook can be mere acquaintances and that the more "friends" you have, the more social connections you have.

At first, I did not accept students as "friends". I told students who had requested me that we could become "friends" once they graduated from high school. After a while, though, I started to see the benefits in adding my students to my circle of friends. Some students moved away and I lost touch with them, others dropped out and I had no way of contacting them. Once I started to accept friend requests from students, I was able to engage in meaningful, rich conversations through the messaging and chat features on facebook. I've had students who've clarified homework expectations using facebook as a mode of communication and I've had students who've conversed about characters and plot lines that I've not assigned for reading. In short, I had actual conversations about books with students that were not required or graded and that happened in students' free time. Isn't this something that should be encouraged?

This year, I'm going to find ways to utilize facebook in my teaching. I am not completely sure how I am going to do this and I am definitely accepting suggestions. I am finding this technology more and more exciting and less intimidating than before I started to use it on a regular basis. I feel like students will be more engaged in their learning if I use a mode of communication that is comfortable, accessible, and is something they already use on a daily basis.

Here are some of the facebook applications that I plan to use:

Notes: Notes could be very, very cool for classroom use. I love that students can tag one another and get responses to questions. I love that I could create discussion questions and tag students who can then answers questions and add to the discussion by tagging others.

Visual Bookshelf: I am excited by the possibility of students sharing their independent, or free reads with one another through their virtual bookshelves. I have a circle of friends who read and share reviews of books through this application. This could put a whole new, cool spin on the traditional "book talk" routine.

Photos: It can be challenging for students to share photos in class. I anticipate using photography more and more in my teaching, and I hope to utilize this facebook feature more in the future. I also love that we can tag photos for sharing. This way, discussions and group work could become much more efficient.

Here's a link to another list of ideas for integrating facebook applications into the school setting.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Because I so thoroughly enjoyed Kelly Gallagher's Readicide, I decided to try out another of his titles. I found Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle and High School available online for a great price and with good reviews, so I ordered it.

After having read Readicide so recently, I recognized some of the same arguments and ideas in Reading Reasons. I did not find this repetition annoying; rather, I felt like going back and rereading Readicide.

The main difference between Readicide and Reading Reasons is the inclusion of many practical strategies and lesson ideas in the latter. Where Readicide seeks to rally, Reading Reasons is more a collection of time-tested ideas and lessons that have inspired students to become more involved in their reading. I definitely found Reading Reasons to be a great resource and I look forward to implementing some of the suggestions I read about this fall.

After having read two titles by Gallagher, I am eagerly awaiting his next endeavor and will probably continue to read other titles he's penned in the past.
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