Tracking Independent Reading in high school

As I started talking about in my last post, we’re in the process of setting every high school student up with a blog to use as an e-portfolio. To help you wrap your head around why we’re using blogs as our container for this, I suggest downloading and reading the Free PDF I produced at the end of last year. Once you wrap your head around the idea that these blogs are just a container that we can link into and out of then we can build our portfolio taking advantage of all the Web 2.0 world has to offer. You’ll be able to find everything I’m talking about on my school example blog here. I would suggest opening it in a new window so you can see how we integrated all the parts together making the blog the central location of content/knowledge storage. Our “one stop shop”. Independent Reading Tracker: First the teachers wanted to have a way for students to track what they were reading and what genres they were finding themselves pulled towards. On top of that they wanted to be able to encourage students to read genres they might not always read, and of course they wanted it in one place that was simple to use and see. Using our schools Google Apps account. The English Department, our high school librarian, and myself came up with a template that satisfied everyone’s need for information. I then took that template and created a Google Spreadsheet using it. I shared that template with the students at our school so that they could make a copy of it. Once each student had their own copy we shared that copy with their English teacher and then we made the document public, copied the link, and linked it to our blogs. On the example blog you can click on the IR Tracker page at the top to be taken to the template. Student blogs work the same way. Now readers to the blog can see what each student has been reading, and the teachers can see in their Google Docs account what every student has been reading. Picture if you will these 9th graders blogs and Google Spreadsheet four years from now when they are seniors. Think about how much information they will have, colleges will have, and teachers will have about how much they are reading, what their interests...

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Celebrating Teachers – Jim Fitzgerald

As I mentioned in my last post what I love about this COETAIL program is it allows me to see education across the grade levels. Earlier this week I was in Jim Fitzgerald’s Higher Level Year 1 IB English Class (11th Graders), where students were working on a Semester Long Unit on Ekphrasis. Students are using their blogs as a way to document their learning (creating e-portfolios). We have a few teachers in the high school using blogs with students and I had an opportunity yesterday to chat with them in Mr. Fitz’s class about their blogs. You have to love an English teacher who takes every opportunity to teach. He explains the naming of his netvibes page this way. The name of my page is Quarks. I take the name from the elementary particle that is a fundamental constituent of matter; it is also an allusion to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. The name “quark” was taken by Murray Gell-Mann (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Gell-Mann )from the book “Finnegan’s Wake” by James Joyce. The line “Three quarks for Muster Mark…” appears in the fanciful book. Gell-Mann received the 1969 Nobel Prize for his work in classifying elementary particles. Overall the students enjoyed having a space that belonged to them. A space on the web that they could customize and arrange how they wanted. Some students have put mp3 players on their blogs with their favorite song of the day, others have links to their favorite sites (One student had links to his favorite rugby teams). Another student loves watching movies and writes movie reviews on his blog in his free time. “I like it, it gives me a place to jot down what I’m thinking.” I thought that was a good quote and what we want these blogs/e-portfolios to become, a place for students to feel free to express themselves as people. A place for them to think out loud, and share that thinking with others. All of this is great…but the real reason why I want to celebrate Jim is because he listens to his students. Jim was looking for a way to communicate with all the Juniors he had in his 3 different classes. He didn’t have a system to communicate to all of them instantly when things changed, like the due date of an assignment. So, Jim asked the kids….what system would work and without hesitation the students said Facebook....

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