An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog

An educator blogging….novel idea.

Coursekit: An essential tool for engaged Professional Learning Communities

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Whenever I meet educators at EdcampNYC or engage in Twitter chats (#scichat, #edchat, #edtech, and #kinderchat are my favorites), I shake my first at the sky and say “Man, I wish there was a way to engage in a structured and collaborative Professional Learning Community with these people!”. I have similar needs during in-house professional development, Professional Learning Communities, and grade level meetings. By the time we’re really digging into a topic, it’s time to leave. There isn’t a central place we keep notes, action calendars, or resources. Engagement needs a place to live. This week, I’ve been experimenting with Coursekit – an engagement manager that’s useful for a variety of digital and in-house professional learning communities.

Coursekit has features we’ve seen before – gradebooks, a place to submit work, and calendars. The innovation is the focus on peer to peer interaction. The case studies on Coursekit’s website feature professors teaching hands-on classes in a university setting. As a primary educator, I am drawn to Coursekit because I can use it to support my Professional Learning Communities whether participants are at my school or the other side of the world. I’ve created a mock Professional Learning Community coursekit called “Professional Learning Community: Integrating Social-Emotional Content into K-2 Lessons“. I’ve left the coursekit open so anyone can join. Have at it! Pretend you’re a part of this learning community – post questions, links, and media.

Coursekit is free. Create your own and comment with the link. Do use Coursekit? Are you as excited about it as I am?


Pro-teacher tips: People engage in communities when they feel a sense of belonging, significance, and fun. (Crosspost from Candaceopinion)

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I wrote this post for my new blog that has a digital community management focus.

Ryan Arndt’s post 7 Ways to Put LOVE Back Into Your Community Management has great advice for community managers AND teachers (it turns out Ryan used to be a teacher! Go figure.). This post made me wonder which elements of my teaching philosophy and practice I apply to new community management roles.

I’m lucky enough to teach at a school that has a social-emotional approach to education. All classrooms use a community-building model called Responsive Classroom. The end goal of Responsive Classroom is to create  engaging communities of intrinsically motivated learners who care for the social, intellectual, and emotional health of their classmates. I can (and will) write many posts about how my classroom management plan is similar to my community management plans. The focus of this blog post is the core belief of Responsive Classroom. In order for learning to happen, people must be engaged. For people to engage in a community setting, they must feel a sense of belonging, significance, and fun. Belonging is the feeling that we are important to our community. Significance is the feeling that what we say matters to our community. Fun is when we experience joy with our community.

In my experience, most brands go for the joy factor first. Schwag, booze, and food are thrown at potential community members in the hope that they will engage. The Responsive Classroom framework helps us understand that this approach is superficial. Slightly better brands combine social opportunities with joy: exclusive and intimate networking events (with booze, schwag, and food). This is better but not sufficient. Brands tend to forget that people will not engage in a community if what they say or do isn’t significant. In the past few years, we’ve seen brands start to tackle significance with their customer service outreach (JetBlue, for example). In the past year, I’ve noticed brands take this a step further and create opportunities for community feedback to change brand operations. Mashable’s article 5 Fitness Brands Kicking Butt on Social Media gives a case study of a contest by Under Armor that ended in users being crowned social media experts for five weeks.

What are the innovative ways your brand (or brands you love) make you feel significant? (Please comment!)

Written by TeacherC

17 February 2012 at 5:30 pm

BTW, I blog about Community Management now (and education too, LOLZ!)

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I’ve been in sick in bed for 6 days. After exhausting all of the “Sh*t _____ say” videos, I decided to clean-up my social media outlets. I found a post in the draft section of my dashboard: “2009 Resolutions: Work out. Blog more. Survive student teaching.”

Well, I survived student-teaching and 3 years of teaching in my own South Bronx classroom. I have a healthy approach to fitness – long Bed-Stuy walks and longer 5 boro bike rides. I’ve decided to change the focus of this blog so it’s a relevant place for me to facilitate meaningful conversations. My Classroom Management Plan on Scribd has over 20,000 hits and continues to start conversations about what it means to create lively intellectual, social, and activist communities in our classrooms. Community-building is the foundation of my professional practice. On the side, I’ve begun to engage in the world of Community Management. In the digital world, Community Managers are people who build and facilitate communities around brands and causes. Most think  social media is the primary focus of Community Managers. Like good teachers, good Community Managers foster meaningful collaboration amongst small groups of people. They help members build community norms and roles generate meaning and value for participants. From now on, this blog will focus on community-building from a teaching perspective, a digital perspective, and of course, an edtech perspective. Stay tuned, folks!

Written by TeacherC

16 February 2012 at 10:37 am

ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival – Summer Break Edition

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Welcome to the 12th ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival – Summer Break Edition

Whether you are catching up on your professional development reading, filling carts with school supplies at Staples,  or  planning your curriculum, you will find great minds blogging about fascinating topics.

Shielding himself from the sun in the computer lab, Chris Mark is helping teachers perfect the use of web-blogs. His article Using Web-Logs in the EFL Classroom posted at Students’ Page. This blog post contains a Slideshare presentation from a recent conference and a list of links to related presentations. Next to him, Burcu Akyol helps “blogger wannabes” find their place in the blogosphere. Check out her article My Blogging Adventure – Some Ideas For Blogger Wannabes (Part 1) posted at Burcu Akyol’s EFL Blog.

On the obstacle course, drill instructor Shelly Terrell leads teachers through a strenuous bootcamp. The focus of this bootcamp session is wait time. Check out her video and instructions in Wait! Don’t Tell Me! posted at Teacher Boot Camp.

You’ll find Lucy Bertoldi at the bookstore adding to her classroom thesaurus collection. Her article  Context Explanation and Synonyms Versus Translation posted at ESL-EAL and More. This concise article helps educators coach their students when they cannot come up with words in English. In the checkout line, she strikes up a conversation with Larry Ferlazzo about ESL/EFL/ELL terminology. Check out his article The Best Guides To ESL/EFL/ELL Terminology on Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day.

Cool drink in hand, Mathew Needleman engages in a debate about curriculum and responsibility. His article, It’s Not the Curriculum, It’s Us posted at Creating Lifelong Learners is a direct response to Scott McLeod‘s It’s not ‘the tests.’ It’s us.

At the bank, Miracel Juanta is depositing her blog revenue. She teaches educators how to make money off of their blogs in the article How to Add Google Adsense to Your Blog posted at On Blogging and Social Media. Nice way to make summer cash…

David Royal is on his way to an environmental protest. On his blog, ESL etc., he explains how he helped make the Hawaii English Language Program greener: Greening an Intensive English Program.

Karenne Sylvester (of Kalinago English) is at the comic book store looking for seed ideas. Her article Murder Of A Superhero. Weapon? An Item Of Office Equipment is an example of a formal and informal language lesson.

At the principal’s office, David Deubelbeiss explains how his lesson about lies helps students understand the emotion behind language. Check out his article Using Lies in the EFL Classroom on EFL Classroom 2.0 – Teacher Talk.

During a conference, Mary Ann Zehr presents a study about Latino teens, parenting, and culture.  Her article, Study: Latino Teens Benefit From Sharing Two Cultures With Parents is posted on the Edweek Learning the Language blog .

Enjoy your summer vacation! ELL Classroom will be hosting the 13th Carnival on October 1st. Us this nifty submission form to get your article on the midway.

Written by TeacherC

5 August 2009 at 4:08 am

Call for Entries: ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival

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I’m scraping the cobwebs off of this blog and hosting the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival on August 1st. You still have a few days to submit your work via this this easy submission form (deadline: July 31st). The carnival welcomes anything related to teaching or learning English – from class blogs to student work samples and reflections about your teaching.

To learn more about the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival, check out this page on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog.

I look forward to seeing you on the midway!

Written by TeacherC

28 July 2009 at 10:31 am

I don’t empower students.

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Last Friday, I met Donaldo Macedo (friend and collaborator of Freire) and listened to him give a talk about racial, ethnic, and class identities; xenophobia, and suffering in the United States. There were many things that struck me in the talk, but these words helped me understand myself and my role as a teacher:

It is dangerous when teachers say they empower others. If I have the power to empower you, I have the power to take away your power….We should give students enough critical tools to empower themselves. Through their own power they can come to voice. Empowerment involves pain and struggle.

Macedo put into words a feeling I have had for awhile. In terms of social justice, I am not responsible for the empowerment of my students. The very notion implies a flow of power that is not consistent with socioeconomic/political realities or social justice. As my science ed teacher says, “I can tell a student information, but I cannot tell them learning”. The same distinction is true of empowerment: I can give the students information, build mentor relationship that extends beyond their year in my classroom, and help them gain critical thinking skills, but I cannot give them power in our society. Learning and empowerment are both student constructions. If I try to take on my student’s process of empowerment,  I will burn out. It is impossible for me to lift children out of poverty, racism, classism, xenophobia, and the many other forms of prejudice and oppression that exist in too many realities. What can I do? I can think about the path my empowerment took and what paths theirs could take as young adults. I can create a classroom community that functions like a caring, student-centered learning lab, where students can experiment with their own power and learn how to “come to voice”. Just like learning, empowerment is a process of self and community-driven deconstruction and reconstruction. I think we need to stop using the term empowerment so lightly. It’s a life-sustaining process.

What do you think? Do you use the word “empower” to describe what you do in the classroom and/or why you do it? Am I being too heavy-handed here?

Teacher geek sites of the (mid) week (April 28, 2009)

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Happy Tuesday! I’m in considerably better shape this week than I was last week. Here are some sites to get you over the mid-week hump.

For the avid procrastinator and lover of beauty: (via @lalianderson)

Interactive designer Paul Neave must have woken up one morning and asked himself “How do I make procrastination seem like art?”. From Anaglyph, an awesome 3D (think 3D glasses…) drawing tool to Planetarium, an easy to use tool to explore the night sky, Neave creates an addicting interactive experience.

For the information junkie: Aardvark (via @abijones)

Question and answer websites are not new to the web. Aardvark is the best-designed question and answer site I have ever used. Ask Aardvark questions via phone/text, your instant messenger, or email. Aardvark will quickly find a self-identified expert to answer your question and mediate dialogue between you and multiple experts until your question is answered. Yesterday, I used it to plan a lesson on quadrilateral angle measurement, start looking for a “reasonably-priced” apartment in Brooklyn, plan a running workout, and figure out the Mariner’s chances for winning the World Series (Aardvark is still working on that one….). Instant messenger is the easiest way to interact with the service. I try to answer as many questions as I post.

For the person who has heard of Remember the Milk but hasn’t taken a sip:

I tried to use RTM a few months ago and my usage petered out after a few days. Now, I can’t get by without it. RTM is an easy-to-use to-do list service. Think note on the refrigerator on steroids. With RTM, it is easy to add, categorize, and visualize tasks. Now, assignments and teaching events don’t take me by surprise (my students surprise me enough as it is….).

For the dreamer: Bank of Imagination (via @LarryFerlazzo)

Larry Ferlazzo describes this site as “strange but interesting”. I agree. It’s hard to explain – you’ll just have to visit for yourself.

Enjoy the rest of your week. Remember the milk the next time you’re at the store, lose yourself in 3D worlds, or figure out if your baseball team will make the World Series.

Written by TeacherC

28 April 2009 at 9:29 pm