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BLS Featured in Washington Post

Very interesting and balanced article in the Washington Post today about DC's consideration of the NYC model of mayoral control of schools. I'm certainly benefiting from Bloomberg and Klein's two biggest policy initiatives (small schools, and the autonomy given by the Empowerment Zone), though I would like to see more information and data on the seemingly valid criticisms raised in the article in regards to the overcrowding of schools before wholeheartedly putting my hat in the Bloomberg cheering section.

But of course the real reason I'm posting this is because my school is featured in a very positive light in the article. I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Nakamura and welcoming him as a guest in my classroom and was very happy to see his positive portrayal of BLS.

Proposal - Blogging in Advisory

Since I won't be blogging as part of my Global History course, we're started having some conversations about where it makes sense to integrate Blogging into our curriculum. Until we have time to set up/test/teach some sort of Moodle and/or Elgg on a school wide basis (which realistically, may not be until the start of the next school year), we are looking for smaller environments to establish a prototype which (in theory) can be copied by other teachers.

I mean this post to serve as a first draft of my thinking in terms of the proposal I will bring to our staff along with Chris, our Tech Team leader who will be joining me in this endeavor.

All our students participate in an Advisory class. Each teacher is responsible for 12-15 students, who they stay with throughout the students' four years at our school. The class meets 40 minutes, four times per week. Advisory is a very dynamic class that wears a lot of different hats. The two most relevant aspects of Advisory for this proposal are Silent Reading and Letter Writing. Two days per week students (and Adviser) participate in Silent Reading, where students spend the Advisory period silently reading a book of their choice. Letter Writing is a two step process. Once per month, I write each of my students a letter. The letter contains three parts: 1) an update on what has been going on in my life the past month (personally and professionally), 2) a summery of what I have read in the past month (analyzing/explaining plot, characters, and themes), and 3) response and questions regarding the students' previous letter to me. The students then write me one letter per month, following the same format.

Ideally, I would like to switch the whole letter writing process from a traditional hand-written letter to blogs. There are two limitations that prevent this from happening. First, computers are charging during the advisory period (and we would not have enough for all advisories anyway). Second, we do not want to loose the privacy and intimacy of the personal parts of the letters (where students often disclose very important personal information). Therefore, Chris and I have developed the following plan to pilot a blogging program in our advisories (I have a 9th grade advisory; Chris has an 11th grade advisory; hopefully a 10th grade advisory will join us).

  • At least 2-4 students from each of our advisories will participate.
  • Once the initial group of students are set up, this will be offered to the remaining students in participating advisories.
  • Participating students will stay after school once a week (though perhaps only once every two weeks will be necessary) in order to have computer access and for Chris and I to help these students get their blogs started.
  • Students will learn about blogging safety and the importance of anonymity as part of their blogging setup.
  • All involved advisers and students will keep a "Reading Blog" which will replace the reading portion of the monthly letter. Their blog posts will consist of what was formerly Part 2 of the Monthley Letters. Part 3 will be replaced by comments left on blogs (adviser comments on students' blogs; students comment on adviser's blog initially, and eventually other students' blogs).
  • Students will continue to write the personal part of the monthly letter directly to their adviser. However, the student will now have the option to submit this portion through e-mail.
  • Initially, students will be required to publish one blog post and one comment per month, though will be encouraged to do more.
  • Blog posts will be assessed by the same criteria that letters are assessed (which differs from advisory to advisory, and in some cases, from student to student)
  • While non-blogging students are writing their letters in Advisory Class, blogging students will either read silently or write a paper draft of their blog posts.
Questions that need to be addressed:
  • Is this open to any adviser who wants to participate? (Chris and I will not have the time to support additional advisories, so if it is open, how and when do other advisers get the necessary training to participate?)
  • What is our school's policy on teachers' anonymity, or lack there of, online? (My first and last name are on this Blog - Is it okay for me also to be using the school's name? I will be setting up a separate blog to use for my reading - since students will be posting there [and I will likely be linking to student work] to I need to refrain from using the school's name and/or my last name to protect students?)
  • What issues are I forgetting here?
In the interest of modeling the type of conversation that blogging makes possible, I have posted this here in order to get feedback from my coworkers and anyone else who has any advice to give. As always, all comments, questions, and suggestions are greatly appreciated.


Outside [The Cave] 2.0

I upgraded to Blogger Beta the other day, and because of this, am still working out some kinks (my old comments are gone, for one). Hopefully this will all sort itself out shortly. Apologies to anyone who got 25 or so odd posts from me in their reader the other day.

New Job, New Roles

(I actually wrote this about a month ago, but never got around to publishing it)

In my last post, I talked about how I wasn't sure where this blog would fit into my teaching this year. That question as answered for me last week when I found that, since I am three classes short of a full load, I would be part of our school's tech team, with one of my main responsibilities being to help teachers integrate technology into their pedagogy and practice. So even though time constrains will keep me from usingblogs in my Global History 10 classes, I plan on keeping this going to set an example that I will (hopefully) get other teachers to follow. That is of course, once I get all out computers and new Smart Boards working (the joys of being at a young, small school).

With that added motivation and responsibility, I am excited to joining the community of Teacher Bloggers. I am eager to look at what others are doing to hopefully borrow some best practices to share with my staff. Thankfully, I have a supportive principal on this front. Funny story actually - when we first started talking about my new role he mentioned a friend of his who used to teach in the City and is opening a small school in Philli. When I responded, "Chris Lehmann, right? He writes one of my favorite blogs", I knew I would have a supporter on our school's path to Tech 2.0. (Though with that said now my principal talks about the wonderful ways Chris isusing tech at his school and is expecting me to do similar work here - which, at least at this moment, is far beyond the constraints of my time and knowledge).