Monday, July 30, 2007


I'm having an interesting conversation with Ginger Lewman about individual blogs. We both clearly recognize the benefits of group blogsites, such as the one I use - Class Blogmeister. The children create a network of readers, just by being a part of the site. The audience is ready made and easily increased by commenting to other blogs and leaving URLs. Having an audience gives writing a purpose, which leads to better writing (at least that's the desire).

And blogging in a social network, like Classroom 2.0, also affords one the opportunity to begin discussions, simply because of the ready-made audience. The blog, then, becomes the discussion starter. Comments lead to connections, people read what you have to say, you feel like people are really interested in your thoughts and ideas, and you can find like-minded people to work with.

But individual blogs...where's the audience? I link my blog everywhere hoping to attract an audience so I don't feel like I blog for nothing. Without an audience, I might as well write in my diary that I keep at my bedside. I'm not sure how long I can keep this blog going without an audience. But I'll try for a while longer.

Maybe next I'll attempt to podcast without an audience. That's Ginger's next project. And just to help her out..check out her podcast at It's really fabulous and, since this is her first, she needs an audience. Good luck, Ginger. Your podcast is worth listening to!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Responsive Classroom

I just complete my weeklong training session for Responsive Classroom. This is an approach to teaching that enables teachers to help children create a community of learners who are accepting, helpful, respectful, and hardworking.

My first job as a member of this training period was to learn how to be a student again. I have not been in a classroom as a student for a very long time. That's not to say I don't continue learning always, but I normally do it on my own, online, or in one-day conferences. This was one solid week, Monday through Friday, 8-3:30. I followed another teacher's schedule...with breaks and lunch when I was told to break and have lunch. It was extremely difficult for me to get back into that "student" role. I's a shocker ;)...I like being in charge.

But mostly, this week was about learning. I loved the Responsive Classroom approach, am excited to implement it in the classroom (Christine, get ready for the ride of your life), and have already spoken to the principal about getting more teachers involved.

The basic idea of RC is to use specific language and proactive teaching to teach students to respect one another, treat each other with kindness, and work to their potential. The belief is all children (and all of us) need to feel a sense of belonging, significance, and fun in order to learn. And this is so true.

I started an internship with the Webcast Academy this week. Not only did the instructors (Thanks Cheryl and Susan) make us all feel so welcome and comfortable, but I found many friends were in the class with me. I immediately felt at ease knowing that I "belonged" there. And having my friends say hello to me as I entered the chat room gave me that sense of "significance". I kept thinking about this throughout the RC training. How wonderful if the children could feel this on a daily basis.

So now on to preparation and, in September, implementation. The excitement never ends!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

School Supplies

Ginger and I talked this morning (actually are still chatting through instant messaging) about the changes in school supplies for a Web 2.0 classroom. Thinking about the list brings up some interesting points. How do you set up your classroom to be a Web 2.0 classroom?

Do children need all that notebook paper, notebooks, markers, crayons, pencils? Can we cut back? If writing is primarily done online, paper is moving towards obsoleteness. Is it now too archaic to use? I think not quite yet. I am not ready to give up paper and pens. I don't think the parents are ready yet either. Maybe one or two more years.

So we eliminate some paper. Save a few trees in the process. What else do children need. Certainly, they need access to computers at home. This is the biggest challenge I face with parents. Some say they don't want their child using the computer during the week. My job, then, is to help parents understand the difference between playing games online and doing work online. The tricky part is when the work looks a lot like the play. Chatting with friends, creating artwork, collaborating in wikis, writing blogs...can all appear to be playing. Other parents say they have a computer, sitting in a box in the corner, or broken on the desk. Then my job is get them to understand that having access to a computer is vital for their child's education. It's time to pull it out of the box, repair it, get it going.

The students will also need a flashdrive. Much of their work is still offline but on the computer. So they need to be able to move work back and forth. E-mail isn't always reliable for this task. This one is easy to handle. Parents don't usually complain when the children ask for a $10 flashdrive.

E-mail is the last barrier for my students. The idea that they need an e-mail account of their own excites the students and terrifies the parents. I think this year, I'm going to try gmail. I will set up the accounts, send home e-mail information, and get it working in school. That might solve some problems.

My biggest concern is the parents who don't want their children working online at all. Some parents are so fearful of predators that, instead of teaching safety protocols or trusting me to do it, they don't allow online access at all, not at home or in school. This might be an obstacle too large to overcome. I hope not. I would hate for one student to be left out of so much. Hopefully, I can make parents see the importance of using technology. And the year will go smoothly.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New Apps and Me

I find it interesting that I have two very different reactions to new applications I find out about. One, which is envigorating, exciting, and enjoyable, is ...I understand the application, can learn how to use it fairly easily, and can see applications to my classroom. Blogging is a good example. Using, I learned how to use the basics of the site within a couple of hours and had it up and running. The children were introduced to blogging, took to it quickly, and it grew to great proportions in very little time.

But, sometimes, certain apps create a different reaction...I don't understand it, everyone seems to be using it but me, I don't see how this can help me. When that happens, I find myself frustrated that I don't have a...what...a mentor? call and say, "Help me." I am frustrated that I am the mentor in school...the one people call on. While I love having that position, and love helping others, where is my help?

Second Life gave me that reaction. The easy part about SL though is the many people in world who are willing to help. So thanks to KJ Hax, Ceili Bailey, and others, I am getting to know SL a bit and actually enjoying myself there.

My latest obstacle seems to be Twitter. Everybody uses it. Everybody finds each other. Me? I don't know how to find people. I don't know how to follow conversations. I don't know how to make this a useable application. So, anyone out there? Help me!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Body Images

When my daughter, Ali, was born, I was determined to create a powerful woman to whom body image meant nothing more than "Is my body strong enough to do what I want it to do and is it healthy." This is a far different body image than I have..."Is my body thin enough, tan enough, tall enough, is my face the right shape, nose the right length, hair the right cut, etc."

So since she's been old enough to stand in front of a mirror, Ali heard from me, "Wow, your legs are so powerful, your arms are so strong, look at your nice, straight back, etc." And I never knew if it had any effect.

Well, now Ali is in middle school and body image is of the utmost importance. She complains when I refuse to shop in Abercrombie (I will NOT pay $40 for a t-shirt she will outgrow in 6 months), has begun wearing make-up, and spends an awful lot of time on her hair and clothes each day. And I started hearing about her body...negatively. "This girl's stomach is flatter, this one's legs are longer, this one is beautiful, not like me." So I really had to begun to think all my work was in vain. No matter how hard I tried, she couldn't be convinced that she is a beautiful girl growing into a beautiful woman.

And then...

We just got out of the pool. Since it was just me, Ali, and Frank, I wasn't concerned about looks. I threw on a suit and jumped in. We had a blast. When it was all over, I got out to shower. Ali followed and, while she waited for the water to warm up, she began examining herself in the mirror. She looks at her body, looks at me, and says, "We have the same bodies. Look, my legs, my stomach, even this line here." I immediately cringe, thinking "Poor thing, she's right." I get ready to apologize for my genes when I notice her face. She's smiling...hugely. She thinks it's cool to look just like Mom! She's not upset at those legs, that stomach, those arms. She loves that we are the same.

Maybe, something worked afterall. And, maybe, it's time for me to start believing that I am a beautiful woman!

Second Life Fun

Last night I joined a chat in Second Life. It was fun watching everyone relax around the fire. I think the programming is soon as I sat down, I put up my feet, put my hands behind my head, and leaned back. Normally, sitting in SL is very simply sitting. This was clever.

My friend, Susan, and I spoke last night in RL about how difficult it has been to relax and get into "summer mode." Usually, it takes me about 3 or 4 days. Here we are into the third (?) week of summer and I'm still thinking about school. I wonder if staying hooked up and contacting so many people online has anything to do with that. I keep telling myself I'm going to stay off but it doesn't seem to happen. In fact, I just spent time getting a feed to all the blogs that were recommended to me last night in SL. Now I have a ton of reading to do. So many blogs, so little time.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Second Life and Other Thoughts

Yesterday I spent some more time in Second Life. I am having fun meeting people although can't keep real names and SL straight so I never seem to remember who I am talking with.

I am still waiting for the big AH HA moment that makes me realize how this site is anything more than a social network. I did see something Peggy Sheehy wrote about doing a health class on body images using avatars. I thought that was a great idea. I just can't see setting up accounts for all my students and teaching them how to navigate around, would be worth it for a health lesson. I need more.

Today I'm taking Ali to see the Harry Potter movie. Must get away from this computer. I'm actually dreaming about Web 2.0 apps. It's summer and I really need to shut down for a few days or weeks or I'll be burned out before school even begins. Oh my poor brain.

But I am having fun. Made a VoiceThread this morning..very cool, can see the application to the classroom. Skyped a conference call last night with Ginger and Christine. That was exciting, especially when Frank joined in to discuss virtual fieldtrips. The tricky part was that I was chatting with Durff et. al. at the same time. I was loving the conversation and hope to join again soon. I also played around with ZoHo and Google apps yesterday. And this is why I dream about Web 2.0.

I'm going to have breakfast now...away from the computer. Whew!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Early Morning Thoughts

The house is quiet, everyone asleep. Yesterday I took a day off any computer thoughts. We went to Splish Splash Water Park. It was my first time ever at a water park. Not only did I have great fun, but I noticed that most people really don't care what they look like. I, myself, agonized over my bathing suit...does it cover enough, do I look thin enough, can I be seen in public like this...but, with the exception maybe of the teenage girls, nobody else cared. Everyone just had a great time. It was extremely refreshing to realize that looks at this place really didn't matter.

This morning I went to David Warlick's blogsite, 2 Cents Worth. It's saved in my aggregator so it's an easy early morning click. I read his blog post and subsequent discussion about his daughter's lack of tech ed in college. As I read, I realized that, by focusing on technology, and talking with so many others focused on technology, I have been losing track of what's really important in school. Technology is a great tool, but that's all it is...a tool. While I LOVE using this tool to help me inspire and teach my students, it's not the end all and be all of education. If the children aren't taught...taught to be life-long learners, evaluative readers, cooperative and valuable group members and productive members of a global society...then we haven't done our jobs, and all the technology in the world will not change that fact.

My daughter is in a district that does not have tech as its focus. She types up papers and creates covers for reports. That's it. And yet, because she lives in a household with two techies, she is using technology in her world. She is much more knowledgeable than her classmates when it comes to usage. But, even without the technology in school, Ali has come to love going to school, is interested in her classes, is engaged in group activities, and comes home to do further research on topics of interest to her, ready to share in class the next day. She is able to question and evaluate information, synthesize her learning, and take it further to application. What more could I ask of a student?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Just Getting Started

So here it first official blog. I have a blog set up on my Classroom 2.0 site but I thought I'd like to try my hand at something not attached to a whole website. We'll see if this blog gets any traffic.

I find myself, this summer, focusing in too many directions. I'm learning Google apps, planning a Web 2.0 class, trying my hand at Second Life (find me...I'm Leesa Biedermann...the one who keeps walking into walls), and having fun Skyping (LisaParisi). What seems to be happening is...nothing great is coming out of anything.

I think, instead, I'm going to spend some time working on my writing program for next year. The ideas are coming...I know because I'm starting to dream about writing ideas (call me crazy but it is how I work and I'm sure I'm not the only one). I brought home all my books for the summer. I'm going to use the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing as my starting point. I want to get blog entries in there. Perhaps the students can blog examples of each trait as we learn them. Or the blogs can be their final pieces. Or perhaps blog the journey. So many possibilities. Come visit our blogsite in September and see how we do. Perhaps moving away from learning all this new technology and focusing on what I do best...teach...will make learning the new technology a bit easier.