Thursday, November 30, 2006


On my "Proofreading with Podcasts" blog, I noticed that the link was not right. It should work now.


I came across Chris Craft's blog today and hope that you all will take a moment to look at what he is doing with his students. In short, his class in South Carolina is communicating with a class of students in Lima, Peru via Skype. This sounds like such an excellent way to help students communicate with students in other parts of the world and learn about other cultures, traditions, etc. I would love to do something like this with my students next semester when I am a full-time student teacher. Anyway, with my 25 page paper looming over my head, I do not have time at the moment to write more, but I encourage you all to check out Chris' blog.

Also, if you are unfamiliar with Skype, take a look at it. I became addicted to it when I was studying abroad last year. It's such a great way to communicate with people all over the world for free or at really low cost. The quality is just as good as a landline and all you need is a microphone and headset.

more thoughts on blogging

I recently read a blog about the importance of others commenting and reading the material we blog about (click here). Although I couldn't agree more about the importance of feedback, I also wonder about students who are not comfortable sharing their work. This blog mentioned that the teacher is often the only person reading elementary school students' journals. When I was a kid, I personally liked the fact that my teacher was the only person reading my work.

In contrast, blogging allows students to read each other's work and receive valuable comments. While this is extremely important, I wonder about the students who might not want what they write to be publicized. Journaling may be a personal time for students to reflect and share thoughts they may otherwise not want to. While I love the idea of sharing and agree that it spreads new ideas, how do we accomodate those students who prefer to keep their writing to themselves? Yes, these students should learn how to share some of their work, but respecting their privacy is also important. I am particularly concerned about one of my students who is already having many self-esteem issues and family problems, who I think would be much more likely to share his feelings in a personal journal, as opposed to a public blog. Should we give students the opportunity to do both personal journals in class, as well as blog? If so, would doing both take up too much time?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The excitement of receiving comments

One of our assignments throughout the semester has been to maintain a blog about our pre-service teaching experiences. Prof. Nussbaum-Beach has also encouraged us to get our students blogging. Thus far, I have been somewhat skeptical on the idea, as it seems logistically challenging to implement. However, the more I maintain my own blog, the more benefits I come across to blogging. The main aspect of blogging that I find increasingly exciting is receiving comments from other educators across the nation. Although this has not happened very often, the times that it has happened has motivated me to write again. Furthermore, other educators' comments have led me to new ideas.

With that said, I think the excitement I receive from other educators' feedback, could also be very motivating for students. Initially, I thought that students may not care who is reading their blog. However, I find myself checking my blog just to see if I received comments. I can only imagine that elementary-aged students would be ten times more excited to receive comments!

Unfortunately, my cooperating teacher did not seem very keen on the idea of blogging with our third graders. However, perhaps I can warm her up to the idea by providing her with student examples of blogging...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Honor Code Violation Update

Bud, an educator from Colorado left an important comment in response to my original "Honor Code Violation" posting. He pointed out that it is not only important to explain to children that we should put information from other sources into our own words, but that we should also cite it. Although as an almost 2nd-semester college senior, citing seems like second-nature to me, it had not crossed my mind that students at all ages should learn this skill and learn it well. Furthermore, it is important to teach children how to cite at an early age so they become accustomed to it, and do not run into plagurism problems later on in their careers.

Proofreading with Podcasts

I came across an idea by "Mrs. C" called "Proofreading with Podcasts." Mrs. C's students made podcasts of stories they had written so they can catch errors by hearing them. Mrs. C also posts comments to students on their class blog, so they can all have immediate feedback. As we have talked about in class, this seems like such a great way to get students excited about using technology and integrating it with traditional school subjects. Proofreading by reading aloud is something I actively use in my own writing, but have not thought to do with my students. As my students work on the writing process I will try to introduce it so that they can also learn how hearing a piece of written work can allow you to take a different perspective.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I admit, it has been a while since I have had an inspiring occasion to blog about. However, this changed last week upon my observation of a 4th grade class researching and writing about hurricanes.

For the most part, the students were actively engaged in their assignment-- to use a website to find information about a hurricane of their choice, and write a newspaper article about their findings. After circulating around the classroom for a while, I noticed that one particular student was having trouble extracting pertinent information from the website and writing up her own article. I gave her a few pointers and moved on to helping other students in the class.

After a while, I was circulating back around to her side of the room. I overheard the boy next to her say, "I know a trick! Let me show it to you!" Immediately, my interest was sparked. He proceeded to show her how to copy sentences from the website and paste it to her word document. The first thing that popped into my head at this moment was "RED FLAG! RED FLAG! HONOR CODE VIOLATION!" The little girl then did just what the boy had shown her. I decided that this would be the moment to intervene, but just how do you explain plagurism to a 4th grader?

At this point, I began talking to the two kids. I said to the boy that copy and pasting can be very helpful at certain times, but that we need to be very careful with how we use it. I then explained that when we find information from any source, we must always put it into our own words, or else it is like stealing. The two seemed to understand what I was trying to say, so I was satisfied. As soon as I finished my explanation of plagurism, I noticed the boy re-opening his word document and deleting the entire paragraph. It was clear that he had simply copy and pasted his information into a word document and then began playing computer games.

In a way, the children's clueless-ness was adorable. However, I was surprised that no one had ever explained the concept of plagurism to them before. This incident brought to my attention that students who are required to do any type of research, especially using technology, should be given a lesson on plagurism first.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How lucky we are...

Remember way back in the dark ages when dial-up was the only way people could really access the Internet? Remember how slow it was?

Last year, I spent a semester studying abroad inAdelaide, Australia. When I got there, I could not believe how technologically behind their Internet capabilities were! Here is an example of how slow it was: in order to check my email, I would open up gmail, go take a shower, come back and sign into my account, blowdry my hair, and a half-hour later I would be able to read my email. Don't let me forget to mention that this was on a college campus, where Internet access is vital. Even more frustrating is that the Internet was down so often that you could not count on getting your research complete.

When I came back to William and Mary, I was reminded how lucky we are to have such strong access to the Internet. Yes, it goes at times, but at least we can "Google" something and usually have an instantaneous answer to whatever obscure question we may have. It seems even cooler to me that the elementary school I have been assigned to, DJ Montague, has wireless throughout the school. What a wonderful resource for our students!


This past week I taught my first lesson as a pre-service teacher. It was a literature-based social studies lesson. I used "the ELMO" to read the book to my students. While I was really excited to use this piece of technology, I think that I would use it differently next time. The "ELMO" seems like a wonderful device to use when showing students something specific, but in terms of using it for an entire book, it felt like it was just in the way.

I thought that it would allow the students to see pictures in the book better while I was reading it, but the book was too big to have the whole picture show up on the screen. If I were to do the lesson over, I would probably not use it for reading the book. However, if I had thought to keep the machine on throughout the rest of the lesson, it would have been perfect to show the example I had made for their extension activity.

Vending machines in schools

Last week, I was doing some reading at Swem and after a couple hours, I could no longer concentrate because I was so hungry. I decided to go down to Swem Cafe to get myself a cheap snack from the vending machines. Much to my dismay, the machines were only stored with various types of junk food- chips, cookies, Pop-tarts, candy bars-- you get the picture. Furthermore, water was the only healthy option for beverages, as all of the drink machines were full of soda. Juice was out of the question, as the only juice offered was not 100% juice, and merely "juice drinks" full of sugar. I subsequently grew extremely frustrated with the lack of healthy snacks and drinks available. This made me think about the food available to our elementary school students. After reading a CNN article titled "Guidelines forged to ban unhealthy items from schools," I realized that efforts are being made to encourage schools to change what stocks their vending machines. However, the latest nutrition initiative taken by former President Bill Clinton, does not require schools to change the food they offer. Five dominating snack food companies have agreed to encourage schools to buy healthy foods rather than catering to their students' cravings. Clinton acknowledges that "the plan's success will depend heavily on the participation of schools, which will continue to be free to buy whatever they like."

Although such initiatives are a step in the right direction, it leads me to wonder if more pressure should be put on schools to give students healthier options. The nation is undergoing a "childhood obesity epidemic" and limiting students' options prevents them from making healthy choices. If students spend about 7 hours a day in schools, how can we expect them to eat healthily if we do not actively push them to do so by limiting their options to healthy foods?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Short Rant

While most blogs that I have read are in response to various intellectual articles or classroom experiences, this blog is a little different-- it is a chance for me to vent about the little appreciation that teachers seem to receive. After two semesters of being in the School of Education at W&M, I am sick and tired of being told that it is a "joke" and "the easiest major". I get very frustrated with these comments from students who have chosen different majors. Yes, our class assignments may not be deriving complicated calculus problems, but they are a challenge in a different way...

After reading an article about a 10-year-old girl named Lisa who has Down's Syndrome, it reminded me just how challenging being an educator can be. Lisa is only in third grade, but functions at the level of a first and second grader. She is two years older than her third-grade peers because she has already been held back. The ultimate dilemma in this situation is whether or not Lisa should be held back again so that she can be caught up academically, or if she should be promoted to the next level so she is not so isolated in terms of age. Furthermore, should Lisa be constantly pulled out of class for special services? Or would her needs be better served in a regular education classroom where she can be integrated with the other students? All of these questions are questions that have no clear answer and can be debated in circles over and over again.

Although such problems may not seem as complex as a tough math or science problem, the problem can get that much more frustrating when you realize there is no good answer. For this reason, I ask that all of my non-education friends who have looked down upon the education field, spend a day in a classroom dealing with 25 first-graders who all need special, individual attention.

Market Forces and Education: a Solution?

In recent years, public schools across the nation have been in the spotlight for accusations of decreasing test scores, mediocre standards at best, and a lack of social values. The escalating dissatisfaction with schools has led more and more parents to school choice. While criticisms of education in the United States continue to rise, some public and private schools have shown improvement. However, there is widespread variability in the amount of progress that schools are making. For example, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), New York City public schools had an average of 53% of students below basic reading levels, while Washington DC had 69% in 2005. New York City showed a 6% improvement rate from 2002 to 2003, and Washington DC had a 0% improvement rate in the same years. Such variations in school progress occur not only at the state level, but also according to district allocations and whether or not it is an urban or rural area. How do we explain these variations in school improvement rates?

Does introducing market-like forces, (i.e. competition among private and public schools through government issued school vouchers), into the education arena facilitate or hinder school performance? Assuming education operates in harmony with the basic market theory of economics, it seems logical that school choice will promote schools to improve test scores in math, reading, writing, science, and other essential subject matters from year to year. Schools that are unable to keep up in the “business” of education will then “go out of business”. Market theory generates the claim that treating education as a commodity will force schools to improve their test scores as a result of competing with other educational institutions.

However, while this argument theoretically seems to make sense, I question its merits. Doesn't introducing school competition fundamentally go against the American ideal of an equal education for all students? Furthermore, does providing certain families with school vouchers simply take away money from the public schools, causing them to further spiral downward?

These are all questions that I am exploring in my senior seminar- a class on education policy in the United States. I would love to get feedback on what you think about school choice. I will be sure to update this blog after conducting further information on the topic.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

On Second Thought...

After listening to the following podcast:, I have given the idea of blogging in the classroom a second thought. Professor Nussbaum-Beach and a teacher (Darren) who actively blogs with his students had a conversation with preservice teachers about blogging and how students benefit from it.

Listening to the conversation made me realize that blogging may offer more positive experiences for children than at first glance. The main point that Darren made that stuck in my mind was that blogging is a great experience for some of his quieter students who are less likely to participate in class. Blogging allows these students to participate with a certain level of anonymity. Shy students are much more likely to share their opinion if it is not face to face contact.

Furthermore, Darren mentioned that another positive aspect of blogging, is that students receive positive responses from people that are far away, making them feel that their thoughts are valued. Students also respond to others students in their classroom, providing an interactive environment.

Many people, including myself, often argue that the technological revolution has decreased human contact. Darren responded to this notion by expressing that his students have in fact become closer to one another through blogging. He says that because his students can speak with each other in a less confrontational manner, they are more likely to share their opinions with each other and bounce ideas back and forth.

Finally Darren made the point that students go home after school and "get connected." This means that students can possibly can go home and continue the academic enrichment their received in class. I admit, I was skeptical at first, but I have warmed up to the idea of blogging in the classroom.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Miguel's 2nd Grade Writing Lesson Plan

Miguel's lesson plan using blogs seems like a good way to introduce young students into the field of blogging. However, there are a few things that I would change about his plan. First of all, towards the end of the lesson plan, it says that students will vote on the poem they like best and then assess their peer's work. Although I have never worked with second graders, it seems to me that they might be too young to judge each other's work. I fear that kids would not know how to give constructive criticism. Secondly, it often seems that incoroprating technology into lesson plans can end up taking lots of time. Having to sign in each child to his or her blog may take valuable time away from teaching. I have observed that both teachers and students get frustrated in lessons that require so much individual attention.

Finally, while I am a proponent of using technology in the classroom, I also have my reservations about children and blogging. I believe that it should be introduced at an older age because more and more children are becoming addicted to computers and video-games as their free-time activities. Yes, technology has added so much to our society, but I believe that it can also be detrimental to human interaction-- especially among children who have grown up with it. I believe that too much time spent on the computer could reduce children's desire to read literature in old-fashioned print. I am not trying to bash blogging and technology, but I am also cautious about the number of assisgnments I would use the Internet and blogging as a main component.

Technology at DJ Montague

After speaking with teachers at DJ Montague, and observing the technological resources available, I am awed by the advancements that have been made since I was in elementary school. I remember that the availability of computers was far and few between, despite the fact that I went to school in one of the wealthiest and highly regarded counties in the nation-- Fairfax County. Every classroom certainly did not have a computer of its own, let alone a computer for each teacher. I also do not remember any trips to the computer lab or lessons relating to technology in general. Furthermore, the World Wide Web had not yet become mainstream. I do not even remember having dial-up in my household until middle school. However, it has been almost a decade since my last year in elementary school, and times have changed. Today, kids seem to be clicking away at their mouses, downloading songs on iTunes, and Instant Messaging on a daily basis. Today, students in my school have widespread access to the Internet and computers. Their predisposition to technology from a young age has allowed them to become adept at computer skills.

Not only that, they also have access to engaging technological educational tools such as the "Personal Response System." Using this system, students can each answer questions that are projected on a screen, using a remote-control-like device. The class results are instantly calculated, so that the teacher can use the quiz as an assessment tool for how much their students have learned and the students can see how they did as a class. Not only is this useful for teachers, but students seem to love the interactive system.

Students are also using technology in subjects that are not traditionally considered to be related to technology. A perfect example of this is the nationwide "Accelerated Reading" program, which provides online quizzes that are related to educational literature. After completing a set of tests, the teacher can print out each students' responses and use it as an assessment tool. All of these technological tools are great educational devices that should be utilized often, to increase creativity and engagement among students in the classroom.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Can technology harm our children?

The use of technology in today's classrooms, homes, businesses, etc. continues to grow everyday. When technology is implemented for educational purposes, it has proven to be extremely beneficial to our students. With access to the internet students from all walks of life can have the world at their fingertips. Furthermore, the World Wide Web has allowed students to not only use computers for educational purposes, but also for learning in everyday life. In fact, the phrase "google it" has become commonplace among children and adults alike. However, can free access to the internet be harmful to our children? This is a question that is receiving extensive scrutiny, as more and more children are getting into trouble with unchecked use of the internet.

A Primetime investigation airing on ABC last week featured an experiment conducted by Brigham Young University professors, that showed how adolescent girls have been utilizing various forms of technology to bully their peers. The use of Instant Messaging, texting, and the copy & paste feature in computers, has resulted in girls threatening, bullying, and outright being mean to other teenage girls. This leads me to believe that technology in our children's world is a double-edged sword. On one hand, students are becoming more and more proficient in using technology resources at younger and younger ages. On the other hand, the increase in bullying could cause more harm than technology is causing good. While I do not believe that this is necessarily the case, it certainly leads me to question how teachers and parents can address the problem, without denying our children access to the World Wide Web.