Friday, August 24, 2012

My name

My father allegedly named me after the protagonist in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, one of his--and my--favorite films. When my mother was pregnant with me, my name was a source of contention between my parents, with my mother torn between Alexander and Nicholos. She eventually settled on the former, and she tells me it's because she was convinced I was going to be great, just like Alexander the Great. My father went with it for the reasons described above.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Journal 9: Teaching Green

Waters, John K. (2011) Teaching Green, T|H|E Journal. retrieved from

Waters' article on the issue of promoting and expanding environmental awareness in k-12 public classrooms is a welcome read for someone like myself who, though focused on being an English teacher, nevertheless is also someone who is concerned about the present problems of climate change, deforestation, oil polluting, and other ecological problems plaguing us. Waters' article delves into all manner of online resources out there that are available to aid teachers in educating their students about the environment, no matter what subject the teacher specializes in. One such website, geared toward high-schoolers, contains general information about what problems and issues are plaguing which parts of the world, sample lesson plans for teachers themselves, news articles, and the like. Another, aimed at elementary school children, includes a digital tour of wildernesses for boys and girls who live in urban areas and don't see much of nature. And yet another site still includes a quiz that makes students ask themselves just how large their carbon footprint is. In an era in which science illiteracy is reaching a fever pitch, "teaching green" is just one of myriad ways in which we Americans must repair our deplorable education system.

Question 1: How, specifically, can someone like me incorporate knowledge about the climate problem to my students as an English teacher?

As I've said elsewhere, namely in my "Prezi" project, I can have my students research the topic and take sides for or against the evidence pointing toward enivronmental problems as well as research possible solutions for reducing one's carbon footprint or getting off fossil fuels. English/language arts classes should all be about getting adolescents to learn how to think critically anyway, particularly via the written word, and getting them to brush up on a world issue, especially one that effects them personally and directly (whether they appreciate it or not) is a fabulous vehicle for that.

Question 2: What is one online resource that could be described as a "fun" way of getting boys and girls to care more about the environment?

Waters describes a multiplayer sort of "video game" that simulates ecological disasters such as floods, storms, overheating, etc. The game is called PowerUp and the object is for players to build alliances so that they can quite literally save the planet. Even if the nature of the game in itself doesn't entice kids to use it, I can always offer it as an extra credit assignment.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Journal 8: Point/Counterpoint: Should Schools Be Held Responsible for Cyberbullying?

Bogacz, Renee, and Miguel Gómez Gordillo (2011). Point/Counterpoint: Should Schools Be Held Responsible for Cyberbullying? Learning and Leading with Technology, 38(6) retrieved from

Bogacz and Gordillo's article goes well beyond addressing anything specifically digital. The article explores the prevelant societal problem of bullying in general in American culture, including schoolyard bullying. In addition to emphasizing the importance schoolteachers, administrators, and students themselves who witness or are victims of cyberbullying, the first half of the article, namely Bogacz's portion, stipulates that parents closely monitor and check everything that their children do in the online world. Bogacz places the onus of responsibility on the schools to deal with cyberbullying, while Gordillo's response in the second half of the article is to place the onus of responsibility on parents, because children who bully, either in the digital world or the real world, tend to do so because they have not been taught how to respect others. The root of that problem is how their parents, or whoever has raised them, has taught them how to behave. Schools can only do so much. Parents and students themselves have to meet them halfway.

Question 1: What can someone like me do about cyberbullying in my future classroom?

When my students use the Internet to carry out class assignments--such as having them having engage in online discussions or write responses to prompts, I may deduce points if they are disrespectful to me or their fellow students. Or, I may simply ask them to keep redoing the assignment until they behave. And whether I am dealing with cyberbullying or live bullying, one thing I have had in thr back of my mind for a long time now is that when I catch my students being rotten, I will simply ask them to write letters of apology, as well as ask the two parties--the bully and the victim--to honestly express their feelings to each other, ie for the one who is bullied to tell the bully how the latter made him/her feel while asking the bully themselves to write maybe a semi-essay on why they acted the way they did and why they will never do it again. As an English teacher, getting my students to embrace written and spoken language as a means to improve human relationshsips is what it's all about, for me.

Question 2: What should parents do about cyberbullying?

I am of the opinion that Bogacz's stipulation that parents closely monitor and check everything that their children do in the online world is indeed overkill. If parents cannot even trust their own children with phones and computers than they shouldn't let their offspring have them at all. Before letting their children have access to electronic communications, however, parents should emphasize to their kids about being careful and watchful of people they run into tin the online world, just as parents should caution children when dealing with people in the real world. Parents can't wrap their children in woll forever; they need to prepare them for dealing with unpleasant and potentially dangerous people in life and teaching their sons and daughters how to behave responsibly and how to avoid undesirables is the key to giving adolescents the tools to function on their own.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Journal 6 : Grow Your Personal Learning Network

Warlick, D (2009). Grow Your Personal Learning Network. Learning and Leading with Technology, 36(6), retrieved from

Summary: David Warlick's exploration of the use of digital Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) merely emphasizes what we here in ED 422 have been exploring and experiencing first-hand all along: that the right resources can permit information to come right to us. The presence of youtube, flickr, twitter, diigo, wikis, blogs, and many, many other devices not only act us a giant funnel that filters and channels relevant and desirable information directly to us in ways that are more convenient and less time-consuming, but also place an onus of responsibility on us, especially those of us who wish to be educators, to recognize our own roles as likely pieces of other peoples personal learning networks. Warlick's ultimate thoughts on the matter is that technology, including information technology, is ultimately amoral and that all the tools mentioned above at one's disposal are meaningless unless educators carefully illustrate to their students how to use them so that they learn how to take a more active part in their learning.

Question 1: What are some ways in which I could use the proper social networking tools to help filter out extraneous electronic information?

Using bookmarking services like Delicious will allow you to look for the most valuable and reliable sources because if someone else has bookmarked a website and given it a tag, that narrows down a Google search considerably. Likewise, subscribing to such tagged phots or videos from flickr or youtube, or to blog searches on a topic of your choice are ways that not only trim down your time looking for good articles, posts, images, or videos, but better organize it all for you. So if I were to get a youtube account, I can subscribe to the channel of a fellow user who I know uploads videos on teaching methods; I might subscribe to their videos if they are tagged with words like "creative writing" which would put me in direct contact with videos that I could learn from as opposed to having to do a google video search and potentially wading through a myriad of useless hits before reaching something helpful.

Question 2: What are some ways in which my students might have PLNs already?

PLNs aren’t about relying solely on digital resources to further one’s learning. Friends, family, classmates, and other people are part of a person’s network. Communicating both in person and via phone and email in order to both help others with schoolwork and get help with one’s schoolwork is networking in action. Part of the point of being a teacher is to show adolescents how they can expand their network further.