Mike was the only other teacher from New Jersey in my Thursday, "Experienced A.P. English teachers'" Seminar. Over lunch, I found out that he had grown up in Indiana, had come to New Jersey and was teaching in an independent school, and his wife was flying to San Francisco the same night my wife was. Talk about coincidences!
Like Kerry Mahoney's workshop yesterday (second session), Mike offered a great deal of information and examples for teachers in general using 21st century technology, not just English teachers. His teacher home page (http:web.me.com/mstultz72/home/Home/Home.html ) offers many relevant articles and web pages to draw from, and his individual page provides further background (http://digitalis.nwp.org/users/mstultz72 ).
He started with an opening video by Carl Fish ("Shift Happens"), which I'm almost sure Steve Loy has played at a faculty meeting, and offered a continuing discussion about how teachers can become more multimedia savvy, without abandoning fundamental literacy skills. I was particularly interested in his use of Prezi, as a multimedia software, instead of using the traditional PowerPoint. It reminded me a little of Inspiration software on steroids, but that's probably not helpful. He provided examples of "digital literacy" and discussed graphic story telling, hypertext, and other relevant school projects. Living so close to Rutgers Prep, he might be a good in-service presenter.
Stacey and Sheryl formed an excellent team. They provided an enormous booklet of handouts, offering a case study of their topic. I would say, in hindsight, that while their session did offer legitimate ways to be more efficient and use resources in a variety of ways, it was far more than that. They showed, both in the three dozen slides off of their PowerPoint (effectively used, with a print out of all the slides at the beginning of the booklet) how to balance quality with quantity in providing students with steady practice in strong writing, without spending every waking moment on it.
Their examples were loaded with A.P. English Language assignments, but also could apply to non-A.P. English assignments as well, whether it was creating seasonal poems using rhetorical devices, making "Shrinklits," or employing "visual rhetoric." They also had many standard expository writing topics, but often with suggests of streamlining the time spent or employing a long-range goal, as the school year progressed, towards increasing autonomy with their writers.
The Formal Lunch and
(alluding ironically to the raising of the national debt crisis), and noting "It doesn't take long to describe a temper tantrum or a lover's quarrel . . . The Democrats are like John Edwards, about to face a paternity suit."
She shifted into a more serious note, wondering, "Are We really governable?" and observing that in past administrations and Congresses, Democrats and Republicans would go at each other tooth and nail when debating legislation, but then Tip O'Neill would drop by the White House for a drink with Ronald Reagan, or chat with each other at D.C. restaurants in a civilized and friendly fashion. She cited four factors that have influenced this shift over the last decade or two, and that "demonizing opponents or not giving any ground makes for an extremist view." After quoting Secretary of Education Duncan's prediction that 80 per cent of the public schools won't make the "No Child Left Behind" deadline of qualifications, she felt that "Massive emphasis on testing has gotten out of whack," to more rousing applause from the crowd. She did conclude on a hopeful note, "I want to believe that Americans can come together to solve our problems," although as educators, we need to be aware and involved in the democratic process.
I almost went to another session, because the title initially put me off, somehow, but I finally decided that the description was most appropriate for some of the nuts and bolts of writing a lot and writing under pressure that are an inherent part of the AP writing curriculum. The presenter displayed a wicked sense of humor, pushing her kids but also respecting them. She had a helpful packet of information and we also did a 5-10 minute simulation of her technique, on the topic: "Terminally ill people, with no hope of recovery and in pain, should be able to have assisted suicide. Write an essay where you support, dispute, or qualify the claim that physician assisted suicide should be legalized." (p. 3 of handout)
She doesn't grade these quick, pressure responses, but rather cultivates a group critiquing process that involves the class, first as partners, and then with the whole class. I liked her philosophy that "You have to be gentle, but honest" when giving feedback about organizing thoughts on paper, especially when generating under a timed period.
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