I’m Back…with an Apology

My Bad

 

Well. I’m back. I took “a bit” of a break from blogging…if you can count almost 2 years as “a bit” of a break. Why did I stay away for so long?  Hmm…basically, I think I burned myself out in a rather short period of time. At the time I was becoming obsessed with trying to post more and more stuff in order to drive up traffic numbers.  So, I started following a lot of the advice out their from “professional” bloggers–schedules, post types, post lengths, best times to post, etc. etc.  The result? I sucked the fun right out of writing. I was turning this space into a job and I wasn’t really ready for that.

Why did I decide to come back now and try again? I guess that could be chalked up to guilt. I attended a tech conference for teachers today and in a couple of the sessions I attended one of the messages was how our students should blog and how we should blog. That hit a nerve with me because that was a thought or feeling I had in my mind ever since I abandoned my blog here. I had pushed that thought to the back of my mind as best I could, but it came roaring to the forefront today. So here I am.

How are things going to be different this time? Well, the main change I am going to do is to only write and post when I feel like I really have something to say. No more scrambling and scratching to try to come up with ideas for 3 or 4 posts a week. Maybe some day–but now for awhile. My goal as I write this is to shoot for 1 post a week. Having said that, I would like to write another post this week with my thoughts about the conference I attended today. We’ll see. I’m not going to stress about it.

If there are any followers out there who followed the blog before, I truly apologize for such an extended break. I will try to do better going forward.

Link of the Week: TodaysMeet

My Ipad

My Ipad

Online Discussion in the Classroom

For this week’s link of the week I thought I would suggest a site that my colleague over at AWritableLife introduced me to over the summer: TodaysMeet. After having used this a few times this year with different classes and grade levels, I can honestly say that this is a great resource for the classroom.

TodaysMeet allows the teacher to create a room for online discussions. It honestly only takes a few seconds to set up a room and get the ball rolling. When you create the room, the site gives you an address as todaysmeet.com/your_room_name that you share with your students. Once the students go to that address, they just sign in with a name and can begin contributing to the discussion. No one has to sign up for any sort of account or even give an email address. You just think of a name you want to use for the room, tell the site how long the room needs to be up, and that is that. Plus, the site will work on Ipads. If you are lucky enough to be part of a 1-1 program this is a great benefit.

If you happen to teach at a school where Twitter is blocked, like mine, then TodaysMeet is a great alternative. The comments are limited to the same number of characters as Twitter, so students get the Twitter experience with having to choose their words carefully. When I have used this in my classes, we have even used hashtags to make things easier to follow. So, if you have ever wanted to host a tweetup for a class, this is an easy way to do that if you are blocked.

My 2 Favorite Aspects

The aspect I like the most about using TodaysMeet is that I have been able to get input from students who I never hear from during a traditional class discussion. I have noticed students who I would have thought were clueless about what we were reading had some really great insights to offer. That is a priceless thing and has reminded me to not judge students so hastily. Along with this, I have gotten more discussion about texts compared to times when we discussed things outloud.

The second aspect of TodaysMeet that I really like is that once we have finished the discussion I can save the entire transcript of the meeting. I usually save it as a PDF file and email it to all the students when we are preparing for discussion or essays questions at test time. When my senior, college credit class was discussing The Crucible the transcript for that session was 40 pages long. That is a pretty hefty study resource.

I really recommend you check out the site. I know I plan on using it even more next year and will devote time this summer trying to dream up some different ways to use it.

How have you used online discussion in your classroom? If you have tried TodaysMeet, what are your thoughts about it?

As always feel free to leave comments, or questions. If you like this post or site, like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, subscribe, or share it with someone. The more, the merrier.

Link of the Week: Hatrack River

A Stack of Books

Some book on one of my classroom bookshelves

Another Favorite Author

Recently I decided to begin a weekly feature wherein I wrote a short post about blog or website that I particularly enjoy or find useful. This week’s post is the second in that series.

I chose the website of another favorite author, Orson Scott Card, as this week’s link. I decided to focus on Card’s website because of a recent incident involving  a who read from Card’s most famous book Ender’s Game being put on leave because a parent said it was pornographic. So, in response to what I consider the most ridiculous piece of news in awhile, this week’s link is for:

Hatrack River The Official Web Site of Orson Scott Card.

I became an instant fan of Card the first time I read Ender’s Game. I went on to red the sequels and the companion Shadow series; all of which served to solidify my status as a Card fan. For several years I have had my students read Ender’s Game and it may be the book they have enjoyed the most. It is a rarity for any of the students I have taught to say they did not enjoy the book. Many of them go on to read the other Ender books on their own. I can’t think of any other book I have ever used that fosters such interest or engagement.

Your's Truly with Orson Scott Card

Your's Truly with Orson Scott Card

I first ran across Card’s website when I began using the novel in class, and I also became an instant fan of it. While the bulk of the site is devoted to Card’s books, there is a section devoted to recent articles he has written as well as another section of research materials for students and teachers. The research section is what makes this site really stand out for me and I always recommend it to students who sometimes decide to write about Card or Ender’s Game for an assignment.

So, from a teacher’s standpoint it was an easy decision to make Hatrack River this week’s link. You should check it out sometime–it is worthy of a visit–or several.

Have you used any of Card’s book’s in your classroom? Which of Card’s books have you read? What is your favorite?

As always feel free to leave comments, or questions. If you like this post or site, like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, subscribe, or share it with someone. The more, the merrier.

Blog Link of the Week: Neil Gaiman

Pens and pencils on my desk

Pens and pencils on my desk

I spend a lot of time reading. Big surprise big surprise since I am an English teacher. One thing I have noticed since starting this blog is that I read more and more material that is online. Whether it is surfing around looking for inspiration, or information, or interesting blogs, the list of blogs and sites I like to revisit continues to grow and grow. With that in mind, I thought I would start sharing some of my favorite links to various locations around the web. This post is the first in what I intend to be a regular, weekly feature.

As a reader, English teacher, and wanna-be writer, words hold a special power over me. Well, saying that it is the words that have the power is probably a bit misleading. The real power comes from the ideas–and the transmitting of those ideas from one person to another through markings on a page, or screen. It should come as no surprise then that writers grab my attention rather easily. Some more than others. Professional writers who give us a glimpse into a life filled with writing usually make it into my bookmarks or favorites folder. And that is where I am going to start this new weekly feature, with the author Neil Gaiman.

Here is the link to Gaiman’s blog: Neil Gaiman’s Journal. His official website can be found here: neilgaiman.com. I must admit that I didn’t really visit either of those two sites until I started following Gaiman on Twitter.

Gaiman frequently tweets and updates his blog. So, getting a glimpse into the life of a professional writer is pretty easy and entertaining with his tweets and posts. He covers just about everything–from his current projects to things that inspire him.

So, whether you are looking for inspiration, insight,  or entertainment, visiting Neil Gaiman’s blog is a sure win.

Which writers have blogs that you like to visit? Which authors do you follow on Twitter?

As always, please feel free to leave a comment, ask a question, give some advice, or tell me to shut up. If you like this post, or blog, please follow it on Facebook or Twitter, subscribe to it, or share it with a friend. The more, the merrier.