Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Only with a weblog

One of the things I love about using weblogs with my students is the flexibility it can build into the curriculum.

Case in point: In the last couple of years, the Philadelphia Inquirer has been having financial difficulties like many other big city dailies (To read more about the Inky’s most recent problems click here). Ten months ago Amanda Bennett, the editor-in-chief of the paper, wrote about plans she had to serve readers better given the prevalence of 24-hour news. Since then I’ve had each new section of journalism students read this article and respond to it.
On Sunday morning, I was reading the paper and read Ms. Bennett’s last column as editor of the paper. She is being forced out by the new owners, but her column is a positive piece about how journalism and newspapers will survive changes in society, technology, and economics. I went to the Inquirer’s online site, and created a link to the article in a post on my class weblog. By 9:30 the next morning my students were reading and responding to the column through the discuss feature of the blog. Their comments were honest and well thought out.
After class was over, I e-mailed Ms. Bennett and told her about our weblog and by 11:45 AM she had read my students comments and responded to them.
The next day when I told my students that Ms. Bennett had responded they actually seemed impressed (at least some of them), and they quickly logged on to see what she had to say.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Reflections on Disapointments and Near Misses - Part 1

In the past few months many of the projects and goals that I have excitedly written about have taken some unexpected turns or have become the victims of scheduling or student apathy. In many cases I’ve assumed an interest in collaboration, interacting with professionals, doing real research, and connecting history to one’s own life that either wasn’t there or wasn’t present in enough abundance to motivate students to do something they weren’t required to do. What follows are a few of these tragic tales. Please be forewarned, if you are looking for a happy story of students transformed and entranced by technology you would be much better served by perusing the ramblings of almost any other Edublogger (my apologies to Lemony Snicket).

Probably the one project I spent the most time preparing for and which I thought would most benefit my 10th grade American Studies students now seems dead (or at least on life support). I have written about this project several times (click here, here, and here for a quick review). It involved researching something important and personal to them or their families or analyzing an aspect of where they live. As a class we got as far as choosing topics and doing some preliminary internet research. We even had the social studies supervisor come in and teach a class on conducting oral history since this was a component of the project. But unfortunately, I could never convey my excitement for the project to the kids. Where I saw an opportunity to do real research that actually connected to their lives, they saw more work with no easy answers. When the time came for them to do their formal research paper (which is required by the social studies department), all but one student chose a topic off a list rather than the personal topic they had chosen. This effectively delayed everything for weeks, and now with nine weeks of school left, reviving this project (while completing the curriculum) seems futile.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I'm Back.....

It’s been quite a while since I last posted.  I’ve found myself trying to do too much and as a result not producing anything (blogwise) at all.  I’ve been immersed in all that goes on in the classroom and advising a student newspaper, and have found myself falling behind on reading my Bloglines subscriptions.  Now that a new semester has started, I feel it’s time to refocus my attentions with this blog.  
First and foremost, this means that my posts will primarily be reflections on what is going on in my classroom, within my school, and with my kids producing our student newspaper.  I’ve cut down my Bloglines subscriptions (for now) to reflect this as well.  Anything that doesn’t directly relate to the subjects I’m teaching (journalism and American Studies) will have to wait until the summer.  I’m hoping this will translate into regular posts once again.  I think the reflections are important and the discussions and connections invaluable.
And now that I’ve found a new focus, I’ve got to come up with a new name especially since The Open Classroom was apparently already taken when I chose it.  Any ideas?