Texas Bluebonnet Writing Project Blog

Monday, October 22, 2007

Persistent Pondering

SO I've started my own site. It's called Persistent Pondering so its address is persistentpondering.com

I will still keep up Suzie Q's Whirled as well, but Persistent Pondering is for my educational stuff.

I just posted some cool stuff about a thing called Trailfire. Check it out! Leave me comments please.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Can you ToonDoo?

This is a ToonDoo. (Go to www.toondoo.com) Please scroll over it to see if it makes you chuckle in the slightest. I just learned it from the K-12 Online Conference... it's so fun to play!

PS. Blogger is acting funny with my linking so you'll have to do this one manually. Sorry.

Beautiful Belize

Check out Scrapblog.com Another wonderful resource from the K-12 Online Conference.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Free VoiceThread Pro Account for Educators

Remember at SI '07 when we all made some really nifty VoiceThread presentations? Well, not they have made them better by giving educators some great free features that they are charging others for. Check it out here.

Also, check out the Educator Guide.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In Some Schools, iPods Are Required Listening

Read this article...what are your thoughts? Will you allow iPods in your classroom?


UNION CITY, N.J., Oct. 8 — A ban on iPods is so strictly enforced at José Martí Middle School that as many as three a week are confiscated from students — and returned only to their parents.

But even as students have been told to leave their iPods at home, the school here in Hudson County has been handing out the portable digital players to help bilingual students with limited English ability sharpen their vocabulary and grammar by singing along to popular songs.

Next month, the Union City district will give out 300 iPods at its schools as part of a $130,000 experiment in one of New Jersey’s poorest urban school systems. The effort has spurred a handful of other districts in the state, including the ones in Perth Amboy and South Brunswick, to start their own iPod programs in the last year, and the project has drawn the attention of educators from Westchester County to Monrovia, Calif.

The spread of iPods into classrooms comes at a time when many school districts across the country have outlawed the portable players from their buildings — along with cellphones and DVD players — because they pose a distraction, or worse, to students. In some cases, students have been caught cheating on tests by loading answers, mathematical formulas and notes onto their iPods.

But some schools are rethinking the iPod bans as they try to co-opt the devices for educational purposes. Last month, the Perth Amboy district bought 40 iPods for students to use in bilingual classes that are modeled after those in Union City. In South Brunswick, 20 iPods were used last spring in French and Spanish classes. And in North Plainfield, N.J., the district has supplied iPods to science teachers to illustrate chemistry concepts, and it is considering allowing students in those classes to use iPods that they have brought from home.

“It’s an innovation,” said Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, which selected Union City educators to speak about the iPod classes at the group’s annual conference in Atlantic City Oct. 24-26. “Most people think of the iPod as just entertainment.”

At José Martí, the silver iPods, with built-in video screens, cost about $250 each and are passed out at the beginning of class along with headsets and Spanish-to-English dictionaries. The iPods are collected at the end of class, and school officials said that none have disappeared or been broken.

In one recent class, eighth-grade students mouthed the words to the rock song “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s as they played the tune on the iPods over and over again. The braver ones sang out loud.

“It speaks to me,” said Stephanie Rojas, 13, who moved here last year from Puerto Rico and now prefers to sing in English. “I take a long time in the shower because I’m singing, and my brothers are like, ‘Hurry up!’”

Pedro Noguera, a sociology professor at New York University who studies urban schools, said that more districts were using new technologies like iPods to connect with students. For instance, he said, teachers have designed video games around history lessons and assigned students to re-enact novels and plays on YouTube.

“You know the No. 1 complaint about school is that it’s boring because the traditional way it’s taught relies on passive learning,” Mr. Noguera said. “It’s not interactive enough.”

In many affluent communities, iPods have evolved into an essential accessory for students. In 2004, Duke University led the way by outfitting its entire freshman class with iPods that were preloaded with orientation information and even the Duke fight song. While Duke no longer gives away iPods, it maintains a pool of them that are lent to students for classes. Last spring, 93 of the 2,000 or so courses at Duke required iPods.

The Brearley School, a private girls school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, has used iPods to supplement foreign-language textbooks and its music, drama and English classes. Every Brearley student in seventh through ninth grades is required to buy or rent an iPod.

Here in Union City, the iPods are a splurge for many of the immigrant families who live in this densely packed urban center, once known for its embroidery factories. About 94 percent of the district’s 11,000 students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

The Union City district, which has a $197 million annual budget, places a priority on bilingual classes because more than one-quarter of its students are learning basic English skills. District officials said the stakes are high; 4 of the district’s 12 schools have been identified as needing improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind law, largely because not enough bilingual students have passed the state reading and math tests.

Grace Poli, a media specialist at José Martí, said that she approached district officials about buying 23 iPods for an after-school bilingual program in 2004 after being struck by students’ passion for them. Spanish-speaking students seemed bored by their English-language textbooks, she said, which they found outdated and irrelevant.

The program became so popular that it was added to the regular school schedule the following year, and in 2006, Ms. Poli received 60 more iPods. Last May, the district decided to buy 300 iPods to expand the program to other schools this fall.

Ms. Poli scoured the music charts for songs that appealed to students, compiling an eclectic mix of tunes by Shania Twain, Barry White, U2 and the Black Eyed Peas. She downloaded their songs to the iPods and typed out the lyrics. Then she deleted all the nouns — and in turn, the verbs and adjectives — forcing the students to fill in the missing words and learn their meaning.

In class, they sing or recite the completed lyrics back to her.

“A lot of our bilingual kids are very shy, and they feel like outsiders,” said Ms. Poli, whose parents immigrated from Ecuador. “You have kids who never said a word in English, and now they’re singing Black Eyed Peas. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.”

Ms. Poli has also downloaded audio books, including the Harry Potter series, and added recording devices to the iPods so that students can listen to their pronunciation as they read poetry or talk with one another.

While the iPods have been used mainly in bilingual classes, the district plans to try them with students who have learning disabilities and behavioral problems as part of the program’s expansion, which is set to begin next month. Last year, Ms. Poli helped an alternative education class create podcasts of test-taking tips that were shared with the entire school.

Ms. Poli said her Spanish-speaking students — known around the school as Pod People — have been able to move out of bilingual classes after just a year of using the digital devices, compared with an average of four to six years for most bilingual students.

Geri Perez, the principal at José Martí, said parents have requested that their children be enrolled in the iPod-equipped classes. Ms. Perez, who does not speak Spanish, said that bilingual students who once shied away from talking to her have gained self-confidence and now come up to her in the hallways.

Dianelis Cano, 13, who moved here from Cuba less than two years ago, said that she had learned so much English that her mother, a saleswoman in a clothing store, bought her an iPod over the summer as a reward for good grades. Dianelis loads her own songs onto the iPod to practice English outside school, though she also includes Spanish music.

“I’m going to check your iPod to make sure there is English music there,” Ms. Poli teased her. “I’m going to make home visits.”

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Check out this book - it is a must read!

Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century: The Importance of Paying Attention
Author(s): Cynthia L. Selfe

Foreword by Hugh Burns

Part critique of existing policy and practice, part call-to-action, Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century explores the complex linkage between technology and literacy that has come to characterize American culture and its public educational system at the end of the twentieth century.

To provide a specific case study of this complex cultural formation, award-winning educator Cynthia L. Selfe discusses the Technology Literacy Challenge, an official, federally sponsored literacy project begun in 1996 that has changed—at fundamentally important levels—the definition of literacy and the practices recognized as constituting literate behavior in America. Selfe tries to identify the effects of this new literacy agenda, focusing specifically on what she calls "serious and shameful" inequities it fosters in our culture and in the public education system: among them, the continuing presence of racism, poverty, and illiteracy. She describes how the national project to expand technological literacy came about, what effects it has yielded, why the American public has supported this project, and how teachers of English, language arts, and composition have contributed to this project, despite their best intentions.

A primary goal of this study is to make teachers of English and composition increasingly aware of the new literacy agenda and to suggest how they might positively influence its shape and future direction, both in the classroom and in the community. This awareness is an integral part of educators' larger professional responsibility to understand the way in which our culture thinks about and values literacy. Perhaps even more important, argues Selfe, this awareness is part of teachers' ethical responsibility to understand how literacy and literacy instruction directly and continually affect the lived experiences of the individuals and families with whom teachers interact.

Studies in Writing & Rhetoric (SWR) series. 182 pp. 1999. College. NCTE/CCCC and Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-2269-2.