Thursday, October 19, 2006

Check out the CO301D blogs and the K-12 online technology conference

Thanks to the patience and persistence of Bud Hunt, I was able to bumble my way through enough HTML code to add an aggregator to my right sidebar. If you're kind enough to visit, you should take a look at these blogs written by my students in the CO301D class I've been writing about here.

They've posted some interesting entries already, and I'm sure they'll make more. Check them out.

And while you're online, you should also consider checking in to the first annual K-12 online technology conference to be held over the next couple of weeks. Looks like Week 1 will focus on descriptions of how teachers are using technology in their classes as well as how-to's for using technology, period. Week 2 will cover how to use technology for your own professional development as well as tips for overcoming common obstacles to using technology in your classroom (e.g., computer access, filtering, district/parent concerns, etc.).

Bud will be "delivering" his keynote on Monday, and he always has interesting things to say. So check him out, too.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Evolving Questions

Today in my CO301D class, we're going to work on discovering questions that will motivate case studies for the rest of the semester, so I want to use my questions about school violence as a case in point. Don't get me wrong, my questions are by no means set in stone. In fact, I expect them to develop, become more complex, perhaps even change entirely as I try to arrive at some provisional answers. But for now, I just want to talk about how they're coming along and why.

What did I do to find them? (NOTE: A numbered list follows, but I don't mean for it to be chronological. Many of these processes are occurring simultaneously.)

1. First of all, I became "inquisitorial." As you gathered if you read my last post, I essentially identified an area that was perplexing to me--you know, one of those areas that your mind just won't let go of.
2. I blogged about it to explore and organize my own thinking.
3. I talked to people about it, both verbally and on-line.
4. I read about it (in the newspaper, on other blogs, in responses to my blog, and in English Journal and the National Writing Project Quarterly).

When I first started this process, I didn't really have a question in mind beyond the ever-present "why," but as a result of all the above processes, here's what I currently want to know:

1) How can we be proactive in preventing violence *and* promoting peace? How do we go to the source of violence before it happens, as many experts/lay people/law enforcement officers/the president recommend?

2) How should we react when violence does occur both far away and close to home (articles written by a couple of CSU Writing Project teachers--Hilary Hughes and Emily Richards Moyer--have gotten me thinking in this direction)?

3) What have kids, teachers, and schools done in response to recent school violence? What have they learned? What will they do if it happens again?

As you can see, I really have SETS of related questions now rather than a single one. Answering one set of questions might provide some insight into the others, but any one of the sets would provide enough direction to get me started.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Of all the sunsets I've seen worldwide, Colorado's are my favorite, but Colorado sunsets in autumn are my favorite of favorites. My daughter and I saw one on her way home from work yesterday. Blue mountains. Trees ablaze. Gilded suggestions of clouds in an otherwise pristine sky.

Against this gorgeous backdrop, our conversation turned to the relentless instances of school violence in recent weeks. The day before yesterday, a 13-year-old brought an AK-47 replica to his middle school and fired a round into the ceiling before the gun jammed. I read in the paper today that prosecutors are seeking permission to try him as an adult.

My son is 12. He's no adult.

And this didn't take place in NYC or LA. Try Joplin, Missouri. Like Platte Canyon, CO, Lancaster, PA, and Cazenovia, WI, a place where this isn't supposed to happen. (But is it ever supposed to happen anywhere?)

Since teacher-bloggers and, according to my students, their preservice classrooms have been curiously silent on the subject (see one notable exception Bud Hunt found for me), I've decided we need to talk about it in my CO301D class. So we're reading articles and blogging our own ideas on these matters over the next few days.

I was also curious to see if any conversations had occurred at my daughter's high school, thus our sunset conversation. She said the principal came over the intercom the day after Platte Canyon and told the students not to be afraid because the school would do everything they could to keep them safe. The following day, her English teacher told the class that plain-clothes police officers would be roaming the commons area over the next several days because a gang fight had taken after school. The teacher went on to review what they should do if the school went into lockdown. "Mom, he said, 'I'm not going to lie to you. This classroom is probably the most vulnerable in the school because we have all these windows, but here's what we would do if something happened.'" He went on to tell them what to do if he wasn't there, where to find the key to lock the door and how to deal with the windows. "You know, Mom, in case there was a sub or something," she said.

(I'm not so sure he was talking about a sub.)

Sitting there, thinking about the inadequacy of plans and procedures when 13-year-olds are carrying assault rifles around in their backpacks, I asked her if the conversation made her feel safe. I was surprised by her answer.

"Yeah, it really did. No one ever thinks anything will ever happen in their safe little town, so they don't talk about it. Well, it can happen anywhere, and if it does, it makes kids feel safer when they know what they can do."

I think Lexie is right, though I hate it that she's had to come to such wisdom at the ripe old age of 18. These events do prove that unthinkable violence can happen anywhere and no fail-safe plan exists. (And I think about this every morning when I see my kids off to school.) But it helps somehow to talk about it, to have a plan even in the face of our vulnerability.

In coming posts, I'll let you know what I and my students, who are studying to be teachers, think English teachers in particular might be able to do. In the meantime, be-safe.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Hi, everyone,
I'll be using this blog to post professional musings associated with the courses I'm teaching this semester at Colorado State University. Believe it or not (if you know my prior history with blogs, you'll understand why this is ambitious), I'll be trying to maintain two blogs at one time. My other blog is more of a personal-professional hybrid. If I can ever find it again, I'll post the address. Yep, I'm a novice.

My reason for establishing this new blog is connected to my conviction that I should be practicing the same professional habits I'm asking of my students. In the process of doing so, I'm hoping that we can learn from and with one another and that their increasingly insightful ideas can move beyond our classroom to be shared with whoever else cares to read them.

See you back here soon.