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Monday, April 30, 2007

Portfolios - The Demise of the 3-drawer Filing Cabinet

Things to add because:

  1. Cover Sheet - An equivalent would probably would be uniform file naming system. Last Name_First Name_Grade_Genre_Title(no more than 2 words). In blogs we could just use tags.
  2. Storage and desimination - The English Dept. could host a list of favorites on administered by the dept. head.
  3. In blogs all work is dated and archived.
  4. What about prewrite? Should the blog include graphic organizers, outlines, etc.
  5. Electronic Portfolios is superior for the storage of audio and video content.
  6. English teachers might need a scanner that students could access.
  7. Socs locker or Microsoft Sharepoint. Both of these programs allow collaboration and track changes so that multiple drafts would be saved.
  8. Could the portfolio be used to gain access to the next grade? Why can't it be used as a final?
  9. We need time. Half days. Full Days. For portfolio assessment.
  10. If we go to electronic we would need training.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Good That Comes From Blogging

I wanted to talk about some of the positive aspects of blogging today. We just had parent conference last week, and I was able to pull up the students work on the computer while talking to the parents. The next day several of the students came to school with stories about how they discovered their parents reading their essays that night. Interestingly, we were writing about the moral code that they live by, and I think several of the parents were surprised to find out that their children claim to live by the code of the street. Hopefully, as we continue to blog I will have more stories like this.

Many of my students are parents as well and as such sometimes can't make it to school on a regular basis. Apparently, they get time off after they give birth. Because of the blogs and email I have been able to keep in contact with these students so that they don't fall too far behind.

And now a less touching tale of classroom management. As a language arts teacher I have frequently had conflicts with students about whether they met a deadline for drafts of their papers. It should be mentioned at this point that I suffer from certain filing deficiencies and rarely had evidence to support my side. This led to many a compromise reulting in partial credit and excused assignments. I am now having the students turn in their drafts to the blogs. Since a date is affixed when it is posted in has minimized such arguments. Of course this gives the students until midnight to turn in their work, and in some case until 2:00 in the morning because they have the time set for Pacific and we live in St. Louis.

Another classroom management benefit is that students can no longer claim that they were afraid to turn their work into a sub. I no longer have to accept this excuse, and it was with a smug sense of satisfaction that I was able to say this to a student last week. Most of the time the work wasn't done to begin with and the sub was just an excuse of convenience.

As my management issues improve and student skill increases I hope to have more stories like this.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Since starting blogs in the classroom the single most annoying problem is the students' inability to remember logins and passwords. There have been other snafus like students using nicknames that I don't recognize or posting to the wrong blog. I have them all for two classes and sometimes they get confused. Some of the students can't even remember the password to logon to the network. Those I have in a spreadsheet sent to me by administration, but I made the decision early on that students would be responsible for they're profile on blogger. Mainly I am lazy and didn't want the responsibility, but I also thought that it was important for them to learn how to create and maintain an online profile.

I thought that the threat of losing all of their work on blogger would be incentive enough to keep track of the password. The fault in this reasoning is that my students for the most part don't value their work. They do value points so I had many of them create a new blog every time I assigned a writing. Of course they would then forget to give me the new URL and thus we would have many a panic moment when grades were due. I guess that I could give them a grade for maintaining the blog, but again this seems like a false incentive.

Because of a blog I read earlier in the year, I decided to let the kids to use their phones to keep track of the passwords. I think this worked for several of the students, but as a security measure it would be terrible. These passwords aren't protecting anything valuable, but if they lost their phone then they would also be giving up access to their blog.

So, I have decided that a password is a school supply. If we can charge for pencils and paper, then can we charge the students for keeping track of their passwords. I suggest ten cents for every time I have to look it up. Now there will be an issue of the student not receiving anything tangible, but I would make the argument that it is intellectual property and the students are only giving us a reward for recovering it.