Making Bold Choices Wisely

1 11 2012

So you’d think in this day and age when TV, movies, and the Web make the viewing of “mature” material hard not to experience that challenges to books would be a rare occurrence.

Think again.

The latest data on book challenges from the American Library Association does show a downward trend in book challenges but still the average is one a day in the United States (Huffington Post, Sept. 30, 2012).  That’s 10,000 since ALA began its data collection and The Office of Intellectual Freedom estimates that only one quarter are reported and recorded (Englebert, Sept. 29, 2012).

We’ve discussed the importance of being open and upfront about the books you choose to share with your students, be that in whole class direct teaching, small group inquiry or books clubs, independent reading projects, or your classroom library for recreational reading.  And we’ve shared advice like designing teacher blogs and web sites as windows into your classroom and curriculum (be sure to offer option of subscribing via email or RSS feed) and using Google Voice if you send messages to parents who may find it easier to respond via voice.  Email marketing companies like Contactology also offer free services to educators so spiffy eNewsletters can be sent via email.

Frances Bradburn, who shared via video of her vast experiences as a librarian, state-wide technology director, and lifelong advocate for young adult literature, has graciously set aside some time this week to respond to lingering questions that you may have about making bold choices.  Please post your questions below and click “replies via email” so you’ll be prompted when Frances or others have posted responses.



Elemental Riffs on CCIs

29 10 2012

So I just posted a description of the collaborative critical inquiry that I hope is helpful as you think the one you’re designing for Stage 2 of The Change Project.

Elemental Riffs on Virtually

Essentially, your assignment is to design a CCI by:

Step 1: Introduce the inquiry in a way that engages learners while setting them up to activate any prior knowledge. Make sure your essential, compelling question addresses some area of social justice and positive social change. Here’s an insightful article by Grant Wiggins on creating essential questions. This can serve as your collaborative contribution.

Step 2: Share some of the resources you’ve explored in addition to your anchor book by Aronson.

Step 3: Suggest activities to engage and scaffold so students can research this question or related questions they create and how they might look for multiple perspectives, evaluate resources critically, curate their resources, and produce creative contributions.

Step 4. Steps 1 – 3 are recorded on The Change Project wiki page along with a reflection on the group’s process (much like Aronson’s and Budhos’s reflections closing Sugar Changed the World).

You’ll be sharing your CCIs during class in the Bookhenge on November 15.

avatars around the fire pit

Where’s ERIC?

9 10 2012

That’s what Doug asked when we conferenced today.

ERIC has fallen down and may not get up anytime soon. Kim, our personal class reference librarian at DH Hill (you can call/chat real-time many hours of the day with her) explained the whole back story when I called.  Evidently, ERIC documents are not necessarily peer-reviewed but often submitted by individuals from whom data was collected to prove that they were who they claimed to be and that information was published along with the other information on the submission form.  Ooops!

So options that Kim suggested are:
1) if the article you find in ERIC is prior to 2003 then the kindly reference librarians will find it on microfiche, make a copy, and email it to you.  Allow a couple of days.  Now for our purposes, the Action Learning Projects, that could be ancient history and not as relevant as, say, articles published in the last three to five years.  But if it’s what’s become a classic, as perhaps Lisa Delpit’s “Other People’s Children” Harvard Review article from the late 80s could be considered, then it is timeless and worth including in your research.

2) the handy “article” search on the Libraries homepage at NC State should actually be your first stop for research. Uses the highly touted Summon search tool.

3) Google Scholar will provide more scholarly, peer-reviewed articles that could be valuable.  To learn more about Google Scholar, click on the link on our library toolkit page (see tab at the top).

4) kick Google search into the advanced mode to find more specific information.  For example, do a search and to the far right on the search page results you’ll see a little gear that when clicked reveals “Advanced search.”  You can specify .edu sites, .gov sites, and more.  Here’s more on Google’s Advanced Search . . .

click gear for google advanced search

I also have to put in a plug here for making the most of your evolving personal learning network.  Jim Burke’s English Compainion Ning (Shannon has tweeted about this amazing resource) can be an incredible  goldmine of resources provided by kind and helpful teachers who remember what it was to be a grad student.  And someday you can pass along the kindness.

#ENGchat is a Twitter meetup for English teachers and #LITchat for anyone interested in literature and writing.

More you’d like to add?  Helpful tips? Your comments are welcome!

Coming Around Again

30 09 2012

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know that place for the first time.

— T. S. Eliot

A mobiius strip brings us back around to where we began, and often, as T. S. Eliot reminds us, we come “to know that place for the first time.

MidTerm is a good time to “come back around.”  It’s a good time to do a bit of critical reflection.

I’m re-posting Teresa’s thoughtful explanation of critical reflection to remind us that critical reflection is all about examining our beliefs and our assumptions.  Each week we critically reflect on what we’re learning and how that might be changing our beliefs about teaching and learning with literature for young adults.

So far, we’ve examined our assumptions about young adult literature and its role in the English Language Arts classroom, and along the way we’ve studied theories of learning, literacy, and literature and begun to develop a pedagogical framework complete with principles to guide our practice.  We’ve also begun sort of a meta conversation about the technology we’re using and how it may be shaping our teaching and learning.

We’re beginning a project that will continue for the rest of the semester — The Change Project, a project dedicated to teaching for critical literacy and social change.  It’s both an author study of Marc Aronson, well-known author and editor of nonfiction for young adults, and a collaborative critical inquiry into how we might design literature-based projects that teach for social justice.

Meanwhile in the next few weeks, we’ll continue with our collaborative critical inquiries into important topics/issues that include: “Sequential Art, a Radical Change?,” “Nonfiction: The Neglected Stepchild”; “Whose Face Do I See in the Mirror: Are We Post-Multicultural?”; and “Making Bold Choices: Intellectual Freedom and the Right to Read and Create.”

First up is “Sequential Art, a Radical Change?”  Many of you have not read nor even considered reading sequential art also known as graphic novels.  You’ve much to examine then about your assumptions about how intellectually rigorous and compelling this art form can be.

This collaborative critical inquiry includes the typical compelling question with resources to explore before blogging a creative response, “weaving” what you learn from colleagues to extend the conversation, and then bringing all of your questions, assumptions, and beliefs to the Bookhenge for a live seminar next time we meet there on October 11.  We’ll also have a passionate fan of sequential art, founding member of the Eva Perry Mock Printz Club and now grad student in Library Science, Lauren Nicholson aka Serenity Engineer, talk with us.

The Sequential Art CCI also includes our first collaborative assignment — a book club.  One book club has already formed around the book, The Arrival.  Pitch your own graphic novels via Twitter and make sure your group gets listed on the wiki project page.  It takes three readers to create a club and a club usually maxes out at four.  Book clubs will meet to discuss their book and prepare an introduction to the book that will engage our class.  Ideas for these “performative engagements” include collaboratively produced bookcasts ( WeVideo has great potential for collaborative online editing), dramatic performances, Reader Response activities, and others not yet seen in The Bookhenge.  These book club presentations will take place October 18.

Yes, that’s a week later than the original due date, but Marc Aronson has rescheduled for November 29 so we have an extra week to work with.

Here’s an overview of The Change Project:

The Change Project, Part I — Bittersweet: Freedom at a Cost — Due Oct. 25  Form and organize groups . . .
You need to join a group to research a question — probably the question you suggested; Share your research journey — what you learned and resources you found helpful on a Wiki Project Page; Engage class in a performative engagement.   Note that these wiki project group pages are for archiving your project in one central location.  You may link to any other tool you prefer (Glogster, Google Sites, Weeby, etc.) from your wiki project page.  Many groups also find organizing and working behind the scenes using Google Docs to be helpful.

The Change Project, Part II — Aronson Anchor Book — Due Nov. 15  Form and organize groups . . .
You need to join a group to choose an Aronson book Design a Collaborative Critical Inquiry with question, related resources, plan, etc. Share with class. Engage us with the book in a performative engagement, too.

The Change Project, Part III— Aronson Interview — Nov. 29th
We’ll welcome Marc Aronson to The Bookhenge.  By this time we will have constructed a Wallwisher with questions to guide our interview.  The world is invited, and with nonfiction’s new-found popularity due to the Common Core State Standards, this event should make a real contribution as well as all of our collaborative project work that is shared freely on the Web.

That pretty much spells out our two collaborative projects.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Please post in a comment here and tweet to update others.  As always, if you have a variation on these assignments that would hold more value for you and your group, pitch it and we can negotiate a rubric that will meet course goals and your own personal goals.

See you in the Bookhenge!

DIY Digital Storytelling

26 09 2012

I’ve been working on The Daily Create challenges for over 125 days now and I thought I’d share a good example from this week of how we can move beyond the canned music to creating our own.

Monday, the challenge was “Somebody near you is making music.  Let’s hear some sounds!”

So I took a deep breath and learned how to make and record my own music using GarageBand and a Midi keyboard.  Mind you, I’ve never had a music lesson in my life and have no natural aptitude so this had to be really simple.

Here’s the result which I kinda like:

Then today, The Daily Create challenge was: “Love sees no color.” Make a short video expressing that idea.

So I imagined how I wanted the movie to work, found a Creative Commons -licensed photo (attribution only) and was at the “what music am I going to use?” point when I realized my first composition just might do the trick.


All of this to say that there are digital tools that enable even non-musicians to create their own music to use in their video work.  I am so much prouder of this work because I did use my humble little composition rather than, say, Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and I love Joni Mitchell and the chorus “take paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Here’s a list of free online tools for making music.

And for more on copyright and fair use, see “There Be No Dragons.”

It’s a RAP! Welcome to Session 2

27 08 2012

The critical reflections for the first ten days of the course are coming in, and most all have in common the surprise at the amount of technology that’s involved.  I’m happy to report that all I’ve read so far have embraced the challenge and see the potential for evolving new ways to teach in the English Language Arts classroom.  We’ve a marvelous mix of highly experienced tech-integrators and newbies and there’s much we can learn from each other.

One thing I learned long ago and have faithfully tried to accomplish in this course is to stagger the introduction of new tools as best I can.  The ten-day boot camp was necessary but from here on out we will learn a few tools when they’re necessary.

The necessary tool for this week is Google Drive.  If you’re an old hand with Google Docs then Drive will not seem any different.  You’ll just have this terrific Dropbox-like function of synching your cloud folders and files with your computer — and vice versa.

I explain more in this video about the Reflective Assessment Process that we’ll use Google Drive for.  Please watch the video so you’ll know what to do when you receive an email from me first thing Tuesday with the key to your own RAP folder for ECI 521.

I’m also available (see Google Calendar linked from the course site) for those first conferences — brief 15 to 20 minutes — so we can meet real-time, discuss your goals for the class, and prepare you for class sessions in the Bookhenge.

Enjoy your week and keep in touch!


Twitter Is the Street

20 08 2012

Sometimes it takes awhile to buy into Twitter.

I, too, was a nonbeliever and I’ve written about my conversion — “Tweet to Teach” and included a video about how  and why I use Twitter in my teaching.

I just finished a video guide to our goals and tools for using Twitter in ECI 521.  Hope it demystifies the purpose and process.

Still skeptical?  That’s cool.  I confess that I’ve got my doubts about Facebook for professional development.  But, take a look at this thoughtful commentary on Twitter as professional development tools and give it a serious try.  This could be a case where we may want to critically reflect and re-examine our assumptions.  This is an “open” course, afterall.