I started to feel like my teaching life was taking over this blog. So I decided to start a new teaching (only) blog: smartboard. It has taken me a couple of weeks to figure this all out, and for now, you'll only see recycled blog posts (from this blog and my previous teaching blog) on the site. I'll start posting new material soon, though, including some thoughts on collaboration and technology in the classroom.

I've also integrated my food blog into this site, so that this is all the more personal stuff that I post. I'm going to try to keep this blog teaching advice free, although I still may talk about work in a personal way here.

Please note that both on this blog and on smartboard, you can subscribe to my posts in three ways:
1) if you use an RSS Reader, there's the usual orange widget.
2) if you'd rather receive my posts by email, you can subscribe through feedburner.
3) if you are a Facebook addict, you can have my posts appear on your feed by following me on networked blogs. Frankly, I think this will happen anyway, but if I can get a lot of followers on Facebook, this will make it more likely that people who don't know me will be able to find my blog. So please sign up to follow my blog . . . All of these options are available in the right sidebar and are pretty easy to figure out.

I do hope that you will read the blog entries that interest you--and I always LOVE it when people make comments, so please don't be shy about that.

Lastly, if you have a blog that you would like me to link from mine, just send me your URL.

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I'm not really a PowerPoint person. The only time that I've used that style of presentation regularly was when I was traveling from one school to the next while in Norway. I knew that I needed visual effects to help students stay engaged with my presentation--and that I didn't want to be carting notes, DVDs, handouts, etc. around everywhere. PowerPoint (PP), or Keynote, the software I used, really helped. But, aside from that, I haven't really used PowerPoint (PP) presentations in my teaching.

But this summer I became really engaged in the idea of using technology in the classroom. My students told me that the PP presentation was one of the only uses of technology they had experienced in the classroom. But they also told me that they thought PP was pretty boring because it was so teacher-centered.

So I challenged myself one day last week to make a Keynote presentation that would actually encourage participation instead of stifle it. My students had read a particularly important but conceptually dense article by Brian Street on the New Literacy Studies. I knew that it was essential for my students to have a solid understanding of the article and that isolating important ideas or passages that I selected could actually increase their comprehension. I designed a presentation in which I gave an overview of important ideas, but integrated discussion points throughout. I identified specific passages that I thought were key to Street's article, and I stopped talking frequently (after asking questions) to allow my students to interact with the article. I listened closely to my students who were increasingly confident in their understanding of Street's article. It totally worked.

Thursday, I did something similar with another key article by James Gee. In this case, I worked hard to suggest applications of Gee's ideas to make them more tangible for my students--who fleshed out my suggestions in ways that demonstrated understanding. I also divided the students into groups at one point in the PP to allow them to become experts on key terms that Gee uses. This presentation was even more interactive than the first--and, again, I felt that my students left class with a much better grasp of key ideas in literacy studies.

I'm glad that I was open to a different way of using PP in the classroom. In November, my friend and Writing Project colleague Jeromy and I will be making a presentation at the NWP's annual conference in Orlando. We'll be doing an Ignite style presentation--20 slides, 15 seconds a slide. I think I want to try this technique in class at some point this semester. Here's an example of how it works:

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I'm back in California after having spent a lovely year in Norway. This summer has been hectic. I've been traveling a lot in addition to working with teachers in a month long institute.

My semester begins in a week, though, so I've been spending the last few days working on syllabi. One thing I've decided to try this semester is a social networking site called ning. My former-student-now-teacher-extraordinaire Tracey has been using the ning with her high school students for the past year. She's had great success in getting her students excited about class content and learning through technology.

I've created a ning site for my Methods class (a class for pre-service teachers) which will allow me to pose questions for my class to respond to, encourage a collegial and collaborative class, post upcoming events and photos, allow students to do online chats with each other (I hope about class content), and share our blogs. I'm excited to try out this new technology.

An English Education guru in the U.S., Jim Burke, blazed the trail for us all. He has created an interesting forum for English teachers on the ning which currently has over 6500 members! You may want to look at his site as a way of understanding what the ning can do.

Happy beginning to your school year!

I've been thinking about how teaching American culture is such an important component of English instruction here in Norway. Certainly, when I was studying French, Spanish, and Portuguese, I was always really curious to know more about the cultures attached to these languages. As I traveled to other countries, I started to also wonder how someone's ideas might be influenced by culture.

As I've thought about what I could do to facilitate exchange about culture, I remembered a website that my friend Delaine told me about just before I left Fresno:

http://www.chinswing.com/

This site allows people to suggest a topic for discussion. It seems like a great tool to have your students explore cultural differences related to specific ideas. I think about how students here talk about universal health care, for example. They are genuinely curious about why Americans are so hesitant to assure that everyone gets health care. Another topic that kids have asked me about is how Americans feel about the election of Barack Obama. I think that kids in the U.S. would benefit from hearing Norwegian teens' ideas about these topics, as well.

If you decide to use chinswing, I hope you'll do a couple of things. Let us know in a comment to this post that you've started a conversation (perhaps other teachers can ask their students to respond to your conversation). I also hope you'll be willing to write a post for this blog about your experience using chinswing (or some other online tool that allows students to exchange ideas). Delaine, have you used chinswing this semester?