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.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Journal 7: My Personal Learning Network

With each class meeting, I learn more and more how to appreciate just how wonderful the Internet is. I now have a means of accessing blog posts, articles, videos, and other websites to obtain information that will be immensely valuable to me as an educator for years to come. Thanks to my diigo library, the use of twitter, youtube, and forums at my finger tips I have contact with teachers, administrators, cirriculum coaches and professional development specialists who I can turn to for all sorts of information on what I can or should do as a teacher to be the best educator possible and enrich my students' lives as fully as possible.

For starters, let us take 3 websites I have bookmarked to diigo. One such site, a blog called "2 cents," unearths the increasingly alarming high school drop-out rate in America nowadays and how it is attributable to students refusing--or even being unable--to adapt to the rigid regimentation of school curriculums. Another blog, "Moving At the Speed of Creativity" earned its place in my library because it addresses the issue of teachers using technology, in this case the website youtube, as a powerful venue for exposing adolescents to all manner of potentially educational videos. This will be valuable to me.

On twitter I took part in a online real-time discussion forum in which poets share excerpts from their work; I took two lines from a piece of mine. The person who started the thread was asking for excerpts that could be compiled together into one giant hodge-podge of a poem that would a composite of dozens of others. It was a fun thing to do, as I have not shared my poetry in a long time, and am flattered that it is part of a separare whole than what I originally intended when I first wrote the lines in question.

For that matter, I am using twitter to now follow 14 people including people outside ED 422. Such individuals include Steve Anderson, an educator and public speaker, Angela Maiers, a literacy consultant, Jerry Blumengarten, an education expert and author, Heike Philip, a foreign language teacher, and a woman who identifies herself as TEFL Pet, a university English professor. All these people and others are individuals I can rely on to broadcast valuable information that I as an educator will cherish.

Upon joining The Educator's Personal Learning Network, one of the first blogs I stumbled upon was a post by one Mike Mackenzie called "Making Math Interesting." In it he explores what is the problem with why the vast majority of young people in their teens are not engaged in math why the fashion in which it is taught needs to improve. Although I am not looking to teach math, I found it compelling because math was always one of my poorer subjects in school and to this day I fail to see the relevance of much of it in everyday life. I agree with him that teachers need to find ways of teaching the curriculum that gets them to appreciate its pertinence to the real world and that at the same time gets students to engage their brains on a much higher level than they otherwise would be able to if the teacher relied solely on their textbooks and spoon-feeding the students information.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Journal 4: It's Time to Trust Teachers with the Internet: A conversation with Meg Ormiston

Schaffhauser, D. (2010). It's time to trust teachers with the internet: a
conversation with meg ormiston. T.H.E. Journal, Retrieved from
Dian Schaffhauser interviews cirriculum coach/school board advisor/conference presenter/proffesional development specialist/grant facilitator Meg Ormiston about all the obstacles in place that are preventing elementary, middle and high school teachers from using the Internet effectively as an education tool. The obstacles include such nuisances as built-in software that blocks out certain websites, presumably based on key words, even if the sites are perfectly suitable to the students, lack of technical know-how on the part of administrators who block everything because they don't know what to block on the school computers, and issues of bandwidth tempering the influx of videos, photos, and text students have access to. The unfortunate consequence of so much shutdown is that many teachers give up using computers altogether, crippling their students learning. Moreover, when web access is hamstrung so strongly at school, students are stripped of the opportunity to learn how to use such websites as youtube and flickr effectively; instead they are losed into the wilderness without a leash. What needs to change is the attitude administrators have toward their teachers and their students and start trusting the former to use the Internet wisely, so they in turn can teach their students how to use the Internet wisely. Ormiston propses a "tiered approach" involving opening up websites a little at a time, first to teachers, then to students, so as to get everyone acclimated to using the resources responsibly.

Question 1: What can students do to be more proactive about freeing up the gridlock that Internet access in school apears to be stuck in?

Students can research websites that they feel are appropriate to mastering their cirriculum and show them to their teachers.  If they take the initiative in demonstrating responsibility, this could get their teachers to trust them to use the web wisely. Teachers in turn can relay this to their administrators, the better to earn trust from them with respect to using the Internet maturely in the classroom. 

Question 2: Who else should be involved in rectifying this porblem besides students, teachers, and administrators?
Parents should come forward with concerns they might have about their children not knowing how to use the Internet responsibly, or they can teach their kids themselves. Politicians should also be aware of the issue as well; as with other resource shortages in schools, the problem of funding is ever-present and teachers, principals, parents, and other concerned citizens should petition their state congressman or whoever for more funding which can go toward buying more hardware and/or software that would permit more Internet time in classrooms.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Journal 3: 100 things that make me happy

100. My girlfriend 99. The feeling I get after completing all my homework 98. A cup of English tea
97. Mumford and Sons' music 96. Depeche Mode's music 95. Radiohead's music 94. A good book on the Titanic 93. A good book on  American history 92. A good book on astronomy 91. A good book on politics 90. A good book on philosophy or religion 89. Reading a very good poem 88. Writing a very good poem 87. Sleeping in on the weekends 86. Hiking 85. Going for walks on cold days 84. A dash of liquor in my coffee 83. Traveling in Europe 82. The films of Robert De Niro pre-1990 81. The film Fight Club 80. The film Titanic 79. Celtic and Gaelic folk music 78. Rainy days 77. Pat Metheny's music 76. The film Terminator 2 75. A very good episode of Real Time with Bill Maher 74. The idea of Jonny Greenwood playing the accordion or banjo for Radiohead someday 73. The tv show Father Ted 72. The scene from one episode of Two and a Half Men where Jon Cryer walks into the room with spray-on hair dripping down his face 71. The writings of Christopher Hitchens 70. Watching or listening to Hitchens give a speech or debate someone 69. Dancing 68. Hanging out with friends 67. A good game of scrabble 66. Sitting by a fire on a cold night 65. Any book by Chuck Palahniuk 64. Any book by Sam Harris 63. Not having any homework to do at all 62. The sea breeze 61. The smell of the sea 60. A hot bath before going to bed 59. Fishing 58. Snowboarding 57. Drawing portraits of the moons of the outer gas planets 56. Drawing castles 55. Helping my mother around the house 54. Looking at the night sky on a clear night 53 George Carlin's stand-ups 52. Irish spring soap 51. Lightly toasted buttered bread 50. Taking off my dirty shoes and socks after a long day outdoors in the rain 49. A woman's smile 48. The smell of incense 47. Bowling with friends 46. Teaching someone something 45. Recovering from a headache or sickness 44. Reading in bed before I fall asleep 43. The rare times my sister shows me warmth or affection 42. The end of a traffic jam 41. Singing along to good music 40. Driving in the country side 39. The film The Godfather 38. The film The Godfather Part 2 37. Good conversation with my aunt 36. The anecdotes my aunt's boyfriend tells  35. Taking a cool shower at the end of a hot day 34. Beautiful women in full length overcoats 33. Drinking coffee or tea in the sun on a cold day 32. Writing about my life memoir-style 31. Reviewing and critiquing films 30. Critiquing books 29. Critiquing music 28. Period films with exquisite set design 27. The smell of liquor 26. The smell of pine trees 25. My cat snuggling on my lap 24. Cornish pasties 23. Hamburger casseroles 22. White castle cheeseburgers 21. Pot pie dinners 20. Tuna fish subway sandwiches 19. Meatball marinara subway sandwiches 18. Half-spaghetti-half-ravioli dinners at Bruno’s 17. French fries 16. Sambuca coffee/liqueur mixes 15. My cat sleeping flat on his back 14. The jingle bell of my cat’s collar 13. Raisin bran 12. My cat lapping up the milk in my raisin bran  11. Bran muffins 10. Blueberry muffins 9. Taking naps in the afternoon 8. My father not nagging me 7. The feel of my face after shaving for the first time in a week or two 6. Taking a warm shower when my house is fifty degrees 5. Wearing my hair long and shaggy as opposed to short and "teacherly" 4. My girlfriend's hoarse voice in the morning 3. Scrambled eggs doused in ketchup 2. Going to the bathroom after holding it in for a long time 1. Completing this assignment 

Journal 2: Join The Flock!

Ferguson, H. (2010). Join the flock!. Learning and Leading with
, 37(8), Retrieved from

Summary: Middle school teacher Hadley Ferguson's article on using twitter as a networking mechanism is something that will undoubtedly prove invaluable to me as an educator. The piece is basically an in-depth exploration of how people, including teachers, can use twitter to build alliances with likeminded people in order to learn how they can improve their lifestyles and professions, as well as help others do the same in turn. For example, she writes of herself following history and middle school teachers on twitter because those are individuals whose books she can take pages from as it were. She mentions how the simple act of posting a link to another website as part of a "tweet" is how twitter can be a way-stop toward expanding a person's sphere of resources.

Question 1: What are the possible disadvantages of using twitter as a networking mechanism?

As Ferguson herself notes, "tweeting" can be be very addictive. It can be addictive to the point that a teacher might put all their egss in twitter's basket, and forget that twitter should ideally be just one of many information-gathering and -sharing resources in an educator's arsenel. Not relying too much on any one tool is the key to success.

Question 2: How can students (as opposed to teachers) use twitter as an educational tool?

Students can use to twitter to gather and share information when working on group projects, for example. Or they can use it to build alliances with students outside their class but who may be taking similar classes as them, or have taken the same or similar classes already; they can reach out to potential mentors or study-buddies that way. They can also use it find out more about the educational system and hence learn how they might be more proactive in making possible changes as they see fit. The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Journal 1: Do Web 2.0 Right

Light, D. (2011). Do web 2.0 right. Learning and Leading with Technology,
38(5), Retrieved from
Summary: Dr. Daniel Light's treatise on Web 2.0 raises important issues about the role of blogging in education. He mentions that K-12 teachers who use blogging wisely can get their students pumped up about their learning by getting them to feel that they have something to contribute. And when students feel that they have something to contribute, they feel that others are contributing and become curious to listen to each other. In another sense, classroom blogs become just another venue for the teacher to exercise their expertise with regard to getting students motivated because ultimately, as Light points, the best examples of classroom blogs being used to enrich class participation are cases where the teacher asked the right questions or provided the correct prompts that got the students fired up. However, implementing such a practice in the form of a blog has a leg up because when students can see each other's responses to the prompts from their own computers, as opposed to waiting for the next class meeting, they get inspired to have debates about what each other knows and what their thought processes are. This is especially true for students who might be too shy to speak up in class in person.  

Question 1: How might this feature be useful in an English class?

Getting students to have a dialogue between class meetings allows the class to move forward at a faster pace. This in turn may permit me to cover more material in a given school year than I otherwise would if I had to wait until each class meeting to find out what students were thinking about the material they're studying. Blogging by definition also gets students more comfortable and adept with writing, which is beneficial to any class they take, but is absolutely essential in an English/language arts course, so I sure as hell would embrace this instrument of teaching.

Question 2: What about students who are still too shy or bored to participate in class discussions, even with the use of blogging?
Blogs don't have to be accessible to the class.  Dr. Light mentions that one format of classroom blogging is to have individual blogs wherein only the teacher can access each student's blog; no student can read any other student's blog. This might free up the students who fear voicing their opinions before the class, either in the classroom or online, lest they be ridiculed by their classmates. Unfortunately, when it comes to students who still feel unmotivated, not because they are shy or timid or anxious but because of boredom, this is where I must remember that I can't save everyone. Some students are just slackers by nature and have no interest in school whatsoever no matter how the class is run or taught. Or, perhaps they aren't being properly challenged, and the solution to their academic docility isn't how the course material is presented but the curriculum itself.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Technology Self-Assessment: 2.0

I perused the results of the NETS-T Module"Design Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments" after taking my teacher technology self-assessment. I chose this standard because with computers becoming ever more ubiquitous and considering how easy it is for technology to do so much for us, including thinking, it's paramount that future generations of people not fall into the trap of letting computers stunt their learning. Instead, they must incorporate it into conventional ways of developing critical thinking skills.
I happened upon one resource in the form of an article by James McKenzie called "Beyond Cut-and-Paste: Engaging Students in Wrestling with Questions of Import." The piece stresses the importance of teachers getting students to learn how to use the Internet to gather information that they can in turn use to arrive at their own conclusions, as opposed to giving them questions that can be answered by doing a simple Google search. 
As someone who values critical thinking and wants to teach younger people how to use their own mentation and reflection to teach themselves as opposed to parroting even me, this article very much struck a cord with me; as a future language arts teacher, I have every intention of structuring my classroom around the students funneling material through their own analytical capacities to make sense of things. I like the fact that McKenzie proffered an example of a history teacher asking students to answer questions of judgment pertaining to historical figures, and then turning the students loose to examine first-and second-hand resources that they can find on the Internet, weighing said evidence and using it to support their own answers. This is how the Internet should be used in the classroom, and I do think that not enough teachers understand this.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What can Al say about he, himself, and him?

My name is Alex "Al" Sandwell. I have lived in Southern California almost all my life, having first been born in San Diego, where I lived for two years until I moved with my parents and younger sister to my mom's hometown of Kansas City, Kansas. We lived there for another two years before moving back to SoCal and settling in Ocean Beach; when I was six we moved north to Escondido where I have been living ever since. I attended elementary school first at Rose Elementary School, then at Conway Elementary School, before commencing middle school at Rincon, which I attended for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. I went to high school at Escondido Adventist Academy.  Upon graduating from EAA in the spring of 2006, I immediately begain attending CSUSM, where I have been studying ever since from which I will hopefully graduate this spring.
I have always been a bit of a bookworm and wished more people would simply have more sophisticated interests than following the latest celibrity gossip. I read a lot about so many random topics, from biographies to European history to current foreign affairs and would just wish that people broaden their horizons. I've thought about teaching history, or politics, but I think that the root of the issue is the unwillingness on the part of so many Americans to have any intellectual pursuits whatsover. Rather than gripe about it, I want to be pro-active. Hence, I feel that teaching high school English is what's calling me to action.
As far as where I am on the technology continuum, I feel like I know enough about computers and education technology to get by but that my expertise needs some serious brushing up. Admittedly, I don't even own a laptop, and I seldom text, so I feel as though that is something I am almost learning all over again every time I actually do it. I do, however, feel as though I received perfectly adequate training vis-a-vis computers in both elementary and high school. I don't really feel too strongly one way or the other about "the whole computer thing" as I really just treat it as another facet of modern life and don't think too deeply about it.
I suppose the one feature of the CSUSM/COE mission statement that spoke to me the most is the emphasis on educational equity and social justice and active, collaborative learning, as those are values I believe in very firmly and am utterly committed to as a future educator. With my technological aptitude being mediocre at best, and believing that education is a two-way street, with both the students and the teacher ideally learning from each other, I am very much thrilled at the prospect of acquiring new skills both in this class and beyond.