Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Progress and struggles

There has been so much progress lately, but it's tough to remember sometimes.

First the progress. My class is doing an incredible job in their new blogging environment at roomtwelve.com. I've never seen so much enthusiasm for writing. We're talking kids wanting to come in at recess, read their writing and the writing of other kids - from Seattle to New York to New Zealand, write comments on the writing of others - or add new content to their own blogs. It is absolutely incredible. Many grownups are writing eloquently about this, and I try my best to stay current with a few, but it does take time. Still, every time I look at the blogs of David Warlick, Andy Carvin, Will Richardson, and Tim Lauer, I find something fantastic, some new tool, some great way of thinking about what's going on in tech right now in school, etc. Rss feeds to those guys' blogs are on the right of this page.

The struggle has been to fit all this in to the school day. Kids shouldn't have to come in at recess to write, for goodness sake. They ought to be able to do it right in class. So what are we doing in class that's so much more important than blogging? Gosh, I'm digging myself into a hole it will take way too long to get out of.

I will say the biggest impediment is to have to spend so much class time implementing a mandated (schoolwide) writing curriculum that has no tech component. Not a mention of a computer - ever. Kids are expected to write with pencil and paper for an hour a day, five days a week, much of it in those little Mead notebooks we all remember from our childhood. I feel like I'm back in 1956.

So I've tried to re-create, re-constitute, or whatever this curriculum into a classroom environment that has 17 multimedia computers with high speed Internet access, an LCD projector - and where the third graders, after two months, are extremely facile and fluid with a computer. They learn new things quickly. They share, they teach each other, and they enjoy it, take pride in their ownership and prowess.

Adapting this tech-less writing curriculum while starting the kids out blogging has been a challenge, to say the least. Sometimes it's too much. The kids want to spend more time writing on their blogs. They struggle gamely with the one story they have been working on for over a month in our writing curriculum. We'll finish the story up, but their hearts are not in it. It's a struggle.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Broken window

Broken window
Broken window,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
How upsetting, for us to return to our car after a beautiful 45 minute walk in the woods (Lincoln Park)... aaargh. Was a good thing I had the trunk release locked. Nothing taken, but what a pain to get fixed, pay for, etc. - and Janeanne had to cancel a day of teaching at PLU.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turkey escape stories

turkey escape
turkey escape,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
For the last several years I've had my kids write on the day before Thanksgiving, responding to "Pretend you are a turkey. How will you escape being served for Thanksgiving dinner?" Off the tops of their heads in about 20 minutes, these have always been fun. This year I introduced the idea a couple of days ago, to get the wheels turning - and also to give my kids a chance to publish their stories on their blogs.

If you are looking for some entertaining kid storytelling, head over to http://roomtwelve.com and read what they said. They will start appearing there by 1:00 Wed, and should all be there by Thanksgiving morning. You might even find a few good "leads" and "hot spots" :) Feel free to add comments! Several of my kids blog from home, and would be very excited to hear from folks. Happy Thanksgiving! - Mark

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Barred owl loss in Lincoln Park

Barred owl in LIncoln Park
Barred owl in LIncoln Park,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
Sad news to report today. Janeanne and I were walking in Lincoln Park today, ran into park regular and friend Chris... who had sad news to tell. A couple of weeks ago he had told us that the barred owl (he called her Sophie) was sitting on the ground in a field, and he was able to walk right up to her. Turns out, later that day, someone else actually picked up the owl, took her to a shelter - but she died before she got there. They think maybe of internal injuries - might have been hit by a car.

Anyway, we are very sad today. We had seen her in the park for the last six years or so, hunting on at least three occasions, eating on a few more... We will still look at her roost atop a tree in the redwood grove, where we saw her dozens of times. That's where she sits in this picture, which I took about a month before she died.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Classroom bloggers doing well!

Sitting here in between parent conferences in an early evening. My third graders are doing an incredible job with their blogs! They are so motivated, I really can't believe it. This is at roomtwelve.com. I knew they would get into it, but some have really just taken off. I have kids blogging in wonderful articles from home, for goodness sake. What really gets me though, is being able to comment on their writing, and send it back to them for repairs. This is just truly amazing. Somebody just tonight sent in an article on "what it takes to be a champion". It'll be published when the author takes care of a few technical details, which I was able to give him on line. Much more exciting stuff to come....

Monday, November 14, 2005

chilly start

chilly start
chilly start,
originally uploaded by mahlness.
My watch and my classroom thermostat this morning. Yes, it does say 50 degrees. It warmed up to a balmy 54 by 8:15.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Re: blogger's contract

my message to Classblogmeister, Nov 5

Re: blogger's contract

RE: [WWWEDU] Pew report on teen-age blogging

my post to wwwedu on Nov 5:

RE: [WWWEDU] Pew report on teen-age blogging

Getting all the writing together - reporting online

I've been posting a lot to discussion lists lately. So it seems the blog gets overlooked, and I've been trying to think of a way to bring it all together - easily and quickly.

Here's what I'll try. I'll post the title of the message, linked to the archived message, so if it looks interesting enough, somebody can go from this space to my list message.

Here's what I posted to tictech, the list I moderate, tonight:
reporting online

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bloggers' contract

Forgot to mention this in my previous post. Before going to their blogs, all the kids signed a "Blogger's Contract", which I adapted from David Warlick's on Blogmeister. We had a good discussion about all the points, I think. The kids only asked a few questions, but they were good ones. A link to my version is here, for a while. I'm happy to have this as a guide. We'll refer to it a lot.

Student bloggers, finally

Well, I finally bit the bullet and said the kids were ready to use their blog. The space has been there since August. It's taken this long for them to get to the point where they can actually use the space productively. On Wed and Thurs they each took a few minutes to type up a little "welcome" message, saving it, hopefully. Then, Friday was launch day. In a couple of hours, most everyone had their intial blog posting.


Naturally, it was very chaotic, but a lot of fun at the same time. It didn't take long for somebody to figure out how to change their blog template, and pretty soon everybody had to give that a try. Then there were a few who got their message posted in their description field - but I think we managed to get everybody straightened out. A couple of kids were not there for this, and a couple more did not actually get theirs posted, so I will work with them individually on Monday.

At the end of the day, I mentioned making comments to blogs. In retrospect, I should not have done that - just too much to talk about before suggesting they try commenting on each others' writing. Anyway, several kids posted comments from home on Friday. A couple were ok, but most had several errors in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization - but the main reason I did not approve them was because they were simply not appropriate for our blog. Sounded more like chat room or IM stuff - which their blog will definitely not become. So I deleted all the comments. I'll have some explaining to do on Monday :)

But I am very proud of my kids. In their articles, they wrote well, and they wrote with purpose. I'm VERY excited to see where this will take us.