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Wanda Ostlund

This is my fourth year teaching upper school English at Taipei American School.

Homepage: http://www.coetail.asia/members/wandav885/

Adam’s new toy

I can’t help drooling a little bit. Adam, a teaching colleague with desk next to mine, just took ownership on a Samsung Galaxy tablet. He loves it. I took a quick look and was intriqued. It looks like a Nook or Kindle at first glance. According to http://news.everestonline.edu/post/2010/12/computer-tech-news-december-1-2010 (which turns out to be a page from an online university website) “With Apple iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs flying off the shelves, it may not be long before tablets become the primary computing choice of many consumers. So predicts Ranjit Atwal, research director for Gartner, a major technology research firm. Atwal predicts that by 2014, tablets will “displace” an astounding 10 percent of PC sales and will soon be viewed as the “primary computing platform” for many users. However, Atwal does not believe the PC’s days are numbered; traditional computers will still be needed in most business and professional environments.”
Samsung Galaxy Tablet

It does seem to be an incredibly handy size. The android operating style is likewise appealing. I will have to learn more!

ET Phone Home for Christmas?

Only 9 shopping days until Christmas! I have at least half of my shopping still to do.  Naturally, I browsed online for some ideas and happened across an interesting item– the Mac and PC Phone Home program available for download at www.columbia.edu/acis/software/pcphonehome  It makes such good sense! The Columbia University Public Safety website http://www.columbia.edu/cu/publicsafety/CPNewsCurrent.pdf shares the story of a student who had his Mac stolen at LAX, but with the help of the police and the Phone Home program the perpetrator was brought to justice! I do certainly wish I had Phone Home on my Mac iBook 6 years ago– that beautiful piece of equipment was stolen and never found. 


I also came across a sticker you can put on your computer….


What’s new with Digital Footprints?

Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology joined up with Unisys to initiate digital footprint education for the area high school students.  https://ist.psu.edu/newsevents/?pageID=736&HeadlineID=2088  It makes sense that top Penn State students in the college of IST would have an effectively persuasive persona for high school students to start taking their digital footprint more seriously.

Holton Arms School website adds a comment to parents related to the digitatl footprint of their children.  Education of parents on this issue, seems another  important part of the increasing footprint awareness.  https://www.holton-arms.edu/uploaded/technology/2010-2011_Student_Laptop_Program-_Returning_Students.pdf

This site provides a good visual of just how pervasive a digital footprint is  http://www.skuggen.com/2010/05/how-to-clean-up-your-digital-footprints/

Google Lit Trip Journey

My American Novel students and I survived in tact our Google Lit Trip adventure on the Mississippi (and elsewhere around the world) with Huck, Jim, and Sam Clemens.  I will be assessing the final products this weekend; but I can definitely say that the process of gathering information, formatting, and sharing was not only a challenging project, but also engaging and motivating for the students.  One group forged ahead with the technical production elements much more quickly than any of the other groups; they were able to then share some of their expertise with other groups struggling to make the lit trip work properly. We definitely have some kinks to work out before officially sharing the products online at http://www.googlelittrips.org/; but nonetheless, the students have done some pretty incredible things in sharing information and connecting to the life and writings of Twain.  I attempted to insert a link to one of their media files— but the file is 22MB which far exceeds the 3MB limit.   I’m hoping to get some help from the creator Jerome Burg http://www.classroom20.com/profile/JeromeBurg to combine the groups efforts into consolidated lit trips.  Once the files are set, we’ll upload to Burg’s site for the world to see!  In a nutshell, each of my two classes created one littrip related to the novel Huck Finn, and one littrip related to the life and travels of Mark Twain.

Venturing into the unknown….Google LitTrip

Whew. Exciting project looms ahead. Cognitive dissonance abounds. This is fun =)

I came across some information about Google Lit Trips http://www.googlelittrips.com/GoogleLit/Home.html and instantly felt an adrenalin rush.  This could be great with Huck Finn! So I immediately forged ahead to give it a try, trusting that my tech savvy students would figure out technical issues as they arise.  My American Novel students and I have left the dock and started developing two Google Lit Trips: 1) Mark Twain’s World and 2) Huck and Jim Goin’ Down the River…..

Updates to follow.

Angi Ma Wong “feng shui lady”

My American Novel students today were blessed to have a very special guest speaker, Angi Ma Wong aka the “feng shui lady.”  She didn’t have a chance to share her expertise on feng shui (I plan to read some of her 15 books on feng shui), because she was instead sharing some of her personal and family history as immigrants to the United States.  She connected her experiences to a novel she wrote called “Night of the Red Moon”  telling the story of 24 hours in 1871 when Chinese immigrants were massacred in Los Angeles.  It was fascinating to hear her speak from an author’s viewpoint, about the handling of sensitive issues in literature.  My classes are working through Huck Finn right now so her knowledge and comments were especially timely.  She also highlighted the importance of technology in allowing  many early immigrants to the West Coast to tell their oral history stories for posterity prior to their deaths.

Another Googledoc experiment

My English 9 students need more opportunities to use their target words prior to the vocabulary review test over lessons 1-6 (60 target words), so I tried another Googledoc small group review activity. I assigned groups of 2 or 3; each small group was assigned a mix of target words (2 words from each of the 6 lessons).  They worked together on the Googledoc to create a pratice quiz that I will make available to everyone after I have a chance to look them over for incorrect uses of the target words.  They created a definition matching section (piece of cake, of course); then a multiple choice fill-in-the-blank- section creating their own sentences or modifying sentences from the text; finally, they created a section on using other forms of the words.

The activity took more of class time than I hoped; however, now that they understand the format, they will be able to do this or something similar on future lessons reviews as homework.

Next class I’ll make available on the OLC all the practice quizzes and answer sheets so that they can test themselves at home in preparation for the test.

I think it worked well.  I like that each student used a significant number of target words in several ways and that they can use these shared documents independently to study as needed for the upcoming test. 

Additionally, I will take some questions from the review docs to include in the actual test.

Group Googledoc Notetaking

I had two of my American Novel classes try out taking notes during class using assigned groups of 4-7. Before class, I had set up the googledoc for each group and shared via email with them. It took around 30 minutes to set up two classes (4 groups in each class).

The class seemed a little surprised at their task- wasn’t this illicit? But they forged ahead comfortably as the documentary on Mark Twain began.

During the documentary viewing, I observed the vast majority of students on task- listening to the documentary and occasionally adding something to the Googledoc notes for their group. 

After viewing, we had a sharing/discussion session to recap the most important pieces of information in terms of understanding Twain and his writing; everyone had something to share!

My sense was that this could be a useful tool for a variety of notetaking scenarios. 

I asked at the end of class:

1) Have you ever taken notes this way?

100 % said no

2) What do you think about this strategy?

Thumbs up by many, positive nods by more.

Specific comments:

“I was in a group of 4; I think the lag time for a group of 4 works well; any bigger and there may be issues of lagging.”

“I was concerned that I was writing the same thing as another student.”

“I liked it!”


“It might be good to have a specific question to watch or listen for the answers.”

 All in all, it was a positive experiment. I’ll look for ways to apply the strategy in future lessons.  In all honesty, if I were a high school student, I woud be talking with my friends to create a group of 3 or 4 like-minded students and use the strategy in any class that the teacher allows lapton notetaking– it would be great to take 10 or 15  minute “turns” at notetaking vs commenting or reflecting or listening.

I’m wondering if students will now want to start doing this on their own with a partner—I expect to test the strategy again with other parameters-

Morning Vocabulary Stretch Final Project

Well, here it is 8:32 AM. I finally have the final project template completed; however, I don’t seem to be able to publish it as a web page. Sigh. I will persist, but 28 minutes won’t suffice for that. I’m attaching the file, for now, in jpeg form.

Disrupting Class and Disrupting the Teaching Profession

“Student-Centric education is the future. ” Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn really got me thinking. http://www.edutopia.org/student-centric-education-technology 

“Disruptive innovations tend to be simpler and more affordable than existing products.” Online schools certainly fit that description.  I’ve taken a few online graduate level classes and enjoyed the content.  Most people I know, young or old, have taken one or more online graduate level or undergraduate level classes.  In my former school district, teachers were writing curriculum for several online courses when I left the district four years ago. A good friend has created several online advanced level AP courses. Two former students are creating courses and working with teachers of online courses at Capella University http://www.capella.edu/online_learning/elearning_capella_index.aspx  It certainly looks as if the disruptive innovation of online schooling is moving from its infancy phase toward broad accessibility.  How long will it be until current teaching staff at public and private high schools and universities maintain their positions simply because parents want their children at a central location to complete their schooling rather than at home alone?  Five years?  10 years?

With teaching intent declarations for 2011-2012 required by December 1, water cooler chat this month commonly embraces the decision-making process with many teachers recently musing about their next career step: “Should I stay here another year? Should I look into teaching in Europe? What about Africa? What about South America? What do you know about New Delhi? Think I should shift to part time? Should I go for my PhD? Where might I want to work in the future? Should I go back to being school head rather than teacher?”

These are just a few of the comments and questions I’ve overheard in the past three weeks.  Not once did any teacher I know say, “Maybe I’ll look into teaching at a virtual school.”  Everyone I know loves face-to-face interaction with students.  Hmmm.  What does the future hold for the field of teaching?  Will we shift to Skype interviews with our students once a day?  Will we provide feedback via Google docs with students scattered around the globe? 

The more I think about it, the more I see the importance of disruptive innovations in the field of teaching.  The change for teachers is inevitable, just as the major shift to online high schools and universities is inevitable. Both are happening faster than we may care to admit.

I took a gander at an interesting article at http://www.phoenix.edu/uopx-knowledge-network/articles/current-conversations/connection-collaboration-creation.html  “In the college of tomorrow, learning will extend far beyond the classroom. After students leave a lecture on Great Expectations, for example, they’ll turn on their smart phones and find a list of links to websites on Victorian culture, video clips from film adaptations of the novel, and PDFs of journal articles for future reading. They’ll use social networking sites to set up study groups and to seek out experts in the subject matter they’re studying. Their avatars will perform physics experiments in a virtual lab in Second Life. And they’ll go online to listen to a podcast of an econ lecture one more time before the big exam. A 20-minute mini-lesson on art history — perhaps one offered by a college halfway across the country —  is only as far away as the closest Internet connection.

This, according to a gathering of experts interviewed by University of Phoenix’s Knowledge Network, is what education could look like in the near future: Wired, highly customized, social, enhanced by multimedia, and utterly immersive. Social networking, mobile devices, virtual worlds, and customized and adaptive curricula are trends poised to change the face of higher education.”

Several additional ideas grabbed my attention. 

The first was a reference to the quickly falling prices of computer equipment necessary to allow vast growth of online learning: “Computers are one of the few items that get cheaper and cheaper even as performance goes up. For example, the cost of storing one megabyte of information in 1975 was $5,257. In 1999, it was 17 cents. It’s less than 1/10th of a cent today.1”

Amazing.  1975 was just not that long ago. What will the next five years bring?

Another point addressed the loss of face time with peers: “SNSs also provide an invaluable way for students in online classes ― who may never see one another face-to-face ― to get to know one another and their instructors.” 

SNSs are already such an integral part of Net generation students that it seems to be a logical next step to use them in the classroom as workable fits are found with innovative instructors in the online realm and the “real” world realm.

Another point addressed the ability to truly individualize instruction:  “In the future, he envisions that faculty will craft curricula to fit 20- to 30-minute “chunks” of learning that students can easily incorporate into their busy schedules. DiPaolo also sees “bundled curricula” on the horizon. Someday, he believes, students will be able to handcraft their own programs by taking courses from different providers ― and receive full credit for them.”

It makes such good sense.

Last but not least, the power of the virtual world is mentioned: “ Faculty are starting to understand Second Life as a place where “you can do things you can’t in reality,” and it’s on the verge of really catching on. “It’s on the radar at every institution,” he says. “It may still be in the computer science department at this point, but it’s there.”

I admit it; I haven’t heard of Second Life until just this moment. I’m feeling old, but I am also incredibly excited to learn more about it.

Sorely neglected SMART board in 2B37

I’ve been feeling guilty. 

I have a SMART board in my classroom (for 4 of my 5 classes), but I don’t use it much.  I feel like a criminal admitting that.  For a while it needed repair, so I was off the hook.  However, two weeks ago it was replaced so now there is simply no excuse.   Just do it.

So, I signed up for a help session with our upper school SMART board guru on November 9th. In order to avoid looking like a complete dinosaur, I decided to play a bit on my own with the equipment.  My husband came into the room as I was fiddling with the width of the green and blue and red “pen” feature.  It is fun.  He had to try it out as well.  Anyway, I decided to google it, and lo and behold I came across an article telling about a collaborative effort between USA Today and SMART Technologies at http://sports.tmcnet.com/news/2010/10/21/5083325.htm   The upshot of the article is that “Over the course of the school year, 50 SMART Notebook lesson activities will be developed and will cover a wide range of current event topics, including politics, economics, environment, world geography and culture, emerging technologies, science, engineering, health and weather. The SMART Notebook lesson activities are designed to improve literacy, help students gain higher-order thinking skills, conduct research and generate ideas.”  I started getting excited about the possibilities, when it occurred to me that SMART board technology has been around for almost a decade, so there must be tons of lesson plan ideas/applications out there already.  So naturally, I had to take a look around. I started at www.smarttech.com  to get an overview, then moved on to http://exchange.smarttech.com/#tab=0   Whoa. I was not disappointed.

In a few short minutes I found so many websites and downloadable resources that I truly felt overwhelmed. Several caught my eye and I looked more carefully at them for a few minutes. The first one to catch my attention was a Jeopardy template to use with SMART Notebook.  Hmm. I could have possibly used this instead of the rather cumbersome Powerpoint template I did have my students use this morning.  Possibly.  Earlier in the day, I had my English 9 students working on vocabulary review activities, attempting to apply some of Dr. Bobb Darnell’s http://www.achievementstrategies.org/index.html  suggestions from a conference I attended last year.   For part of the period I gave them a Jeopardy template from past years and grouped them to create review games from vocabulary lessons 1-6.  On second look, this template didn’t to me, at least initially, appear to be that much more user friendly than my current ppt. I’ll give it another chance when I am actually at the SMART board in my classroom.

I dug around on the site a bit further and found myself thinking that it is a good idea that USA Today and SMART are collaborating, because for the most part, the items available were frankly rather simplistic and probably not worth the time to shift from Powerpoint.  I was probably being a harsh critic because my stomach was growling and the dreary rain contributed to my grumpy attitude.  However, I also noticed many downloads related to the actual use of the SMARTboard.  These I plan to review prior to my meeting with the guru!  I am excited about the possibilities and now know that there are hundreds if not thousands of resources available to give me ideas for lesson applications and to give me help on carrying them out technically when the guru is not available for help.

Collaborative Online Projects

 Searching for ideas for collaborative online projects appropriate for English 9 or American Literature, I came across several projects that notably caught my attention as potentially useful in my classroom.

The readwritethink.org site has many excellent resources, some collaborative in nature, of those, some in which online technology is integral to learning. Three were of special interest:

1.   http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/collaboration-sites-sounds-using-979.html?tab=3#tabs  A Collaboration of Sites and Sounds: Using Wikis to Catalog Protest Songs

2. http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/giving-voice-students-through-1096.html   Giving Voice to Students Through “This I Believe” Podcasts

3.  http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/exploring-prologue-canterbury-tales-30508.html  Exploring The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales using Wikis

YES! I found the paragraph/font size/heading options :)

I also found some interesting possible online collaborative projects at

http://www.globalschoolnet.org/gsnprojects/  Global School Network.  Several projects were potentially appropriate for my curriculum; however, the project registrations were either full or already in progress.

By far the most interesting and exciting project option I reviewed is the Flat Classroom™ Project Flat Classroom Project http://tinyurl.com/flatclassroomguide  http://www.flatclassroomproject.net/  

As I looked through the parameters of the project, I was struck by a reminder of a collaborative online project proposal I had worked on with a former Minnesota colleague three years ago.  Unfortunately, at the last minute, his teaching assignment changed and we were unable to find the common goals necessary for the project to work; we had originally planned to set up online discussion boards and media productions related to common literature. 

 The Flat Classroom offered essentially the same opportunity for my students to work collaboratively online with students elsewhere on the planet; consequently, I quickly completed the basic registration form for the project! I look forward to making this project a reality with my American Novel and Short Story classes because the project content meshes perfectly with the short story element of my course curriculum- students have been studying great American short stories-creating some digital and traditional short stories of their own.  This project will allow my students to extend their application, creation, and discussion of the power of story in wonderful new ways.

Technology in Rural Cambodia

This evening we returned from a school trip to Cambodia. Incredible experience. Our group included 29 upper school students and 4 chaperones.  We traveled  from Taiwan to Phnom Penh, Cambodia,  where the Golden Gate Hotel  served as our home base. Our first day out was to Kampong Cham and Kampong Chhnang orphanages which are sponsored by NHO (New Hope for Orphans).  Half of our group worked on an exterior walls painting project at one orphanage, in addition to spending time with the thirty orphans playing games and horsing around!  The other half of the group worked on replacing bathroom doors and painting the bedroom area, in addition to playing games and making crafts with the 29 orphans.

What does technology mean to these orphans and rural poverty stricken families? They have no regular electicity. The orphanage has a generator to allow lighting in the evening for several hours each day. The rural familites have no electrical power that I observed.

October 11, 2010 Doug Moves On

Today Doug, an English department colleague, drama director, mentor, and incredibly witty, warm, wonderful person died from injuries sustained in a horrific car/pedestrian accident about a week ago.   Everyone in our department has been stunned since the accident.  Students in Doug’s classes are having great difficulty accepting this reality.  The entire school, as well as so many former students, friends, family, colleagues around the world, are in mourning. It’s difficult to think about technology innovations  and applications today.


Primary sources online and in the classroom

Now that so many primary sources are available online, I’d like to broaden the ways I encourage students to access primary sources to enhance critical thinking. 

One idea is to utilize the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website involves historical research to complement our study of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.  I believe the primary documents available online related to the Volstead Act and Prohibition will be extremely helpful to my American Literature students as they strive to fully understand the turbulence of the 1920’s as the setting for Jay Gatsby’s life and death.

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