Friday, December 3, 2010

How to Teach with Google and a PLN in Bliss

On Wednesday, I had wonderful opportunity to visit my Alma Mater (The College of New Jersey) and share my passions with aspiring English teachers.  My secondary English teaching professor, Dr. Emily Meixner, does a wonderful job of keeping in touch with alumni so that they can come back and share their experiences in the field with ENGT students at different events and “How to Teach” seminars.  As an undergraduate, I always enjoyed these workshops because I was able to see many practical applications of the English teaching methods we learned about.  It was very rewarding to return and share what has made a significant impact on my teaching. 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve truly embraced technology as a secondary English teacher.  Though I admit that I can sometimes be overly zealous about using technology, I began the seminar by noting that I promote using technology not merely for the sake of using technology, but for meaningful educational purposes.  I showed a short clip from Rutgers English Department’s  Richard E. Miller’s “This is how we dream” video because I think it presents the most compelling argument I know for English teachers to value digital literacy and new media. Richard E. Miller’s presentation illuminates how influential digital proficiencies will be in students’ professional lives.  Although Miller has published books and articles, he recognizes that the information he delivers in this video on YouTube is somewhat more effective because it reaches wider audiences faster than if he had written it in text and published the information.  In fact, Miller first delivered this video presentation to the Modern Language Association in 2008 and notes that it acquired 9,000 views in the first three months and “changed his travel plans virtually every week.”

I also showed undergrad and graduate students ( how Google Apps for Education is spreading across the world in higher education.  I shared technological tools  (Google Apps and Jing, which are both free) I’ve used to foster active reading, collaborative writing, and improved feedback.  I shared some resources for developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN, but afterwards, I really wished that I emphasized how developing a PLN on Twitter has provided invaluable networking tools. Reading various blogs and participating in Twitter discussions (like #edchat or #engchat) awaken me to so many interesting things that teachers, principals, and librarians do.  For current students seeking teaching jobs next year, I can’t think of a better way to familiarize themselves with educators across the globe and make connections with teachers and principals that share the same values (I’ve actually seen many tweets about teaching openings).  I’m fortunate to work in a school that inspires me every day in different ways, but I’m also thankful that my connections on Twitter, Ning, and Blogger keep me in touch with the ways other educators make a positive impact on the schools in which they work.  

From only a few months of student teaching, people who attended the workshop shared great resources and examples of student work.  Their students have used texting in the classroom (as a type of back channelling) and I saw amazing book trailers and got a lot of new ideas from talking with them.   I thank them for sharing and inspiring me to try new things and follow new blogs like this one:  

Some final thoughts and suggestions:
                       - My best regards to The College of New Jersey and thank you to all of you who attended. 
      -  Take any classes you can with Dr. Meixner and Professor Sowder; they always inspire me to be better.
      - Start small.  Use Google forms for simple surveys (only you need a gmail account and students just need a link to the form).
     - Develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) online (via Twitter, Ning or whatever works best for you) that will foster your learning and move you to collaborate with people outside of your typical teaching/learning community.
       - Model good digital citizenship for your students.  Show them how to be 21st century learners and positive contributors to online writing communities. 
       - Please keep in touch so that we can continue to learn together and collaborate in the future (Email: or Twitter: @michelleleandra).