Crash Course: Differentiation

When a teacher is bored and craving innovation, she creates a FREE, helpful PDF that is chockful of resources, pre–researched for you!

While the PDF primarily explains differentiating through content, process, and product, though resources provided show a deeper level of differentiated instructional strategies for your pedagogical pleasure. What’s more? Oodles of clickable links to help you exercise that pointer finger while watching the Olympics!

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Enjoy!

Ochwoman

Paper.li + Twitter = Rich Community Conversation

“I don’t get it…” I used to reply with a vacant expression and doe-wide, unblinking eyes.

Twitter. Its 140 character max evaded me, with my peers shouting their thoughts into the internet void.

As a teacher who seeks community, I GET IT NOW.

Perhaps it’s taken a mathematical perspective, but I now understand. Twitter helps to connect people who care about similar topics. I’ve taken to exploring Twitter in the mornings with my toast and a cup of coffee, to see where the hashtag #edchat or #edtech may bring me.

One morning I found a stream of an #edchat from the night before, a Thursday, led by Craig Kemp, on the importance of educator-bloggers.The following week I joined the #edchat on Thursday night and felt instantly connected to other educators around the world who were wondering similar, sophisticated questions.

This Twitterverse makes for a great place to chat, and at first I would have thought the conversation shallow, given the 140 character limit. This is where paper.li comes in.

What is Paper.li?

Paper.li is a website and mobile app that allows users to source content into a quick newspaper online. It can link to your social media (ahem, see my Twitter), pull information that you care about, and key in on a search term such as “educational technology” as shown below.

All content is interactive and links out to the original source for the full read (or view, as videos are linked lower in the news stream). I get to read what I care about most a particular moment in time online. (Cool, right?!)

Now, Twitter is strong on its own, and Paper.li is strong on its own. However, when the two are added together, they become Powerful, like Crossfit, squats urryday Powerful. Craig Kemp harnesses this power as he shares out his “Craig Kemp Daily” with the Twitterverse before #edchats to give his followers rich content to explore and tweet about. Paper.li, like knowledge, should not be kept a secret. It should be shared with all, loudly and proudly. Twitter is the perfect megaphone for the content curated on Paper.li, as seen in Kemp’s “Craig Kemp Daily” below.

Not only can this be a powerful personal development tool, but I can also see myself using this as a school staff development tool. What’s even better? My students can quickly learn about new topics, whether we’re doing a research project in English class, or they’re checking out current events for social studies. I won’t say the possibilities are endless, but they’re certainly not limited to just 140 characters anymore.

Questions to Consider:

  • How can you see yourself utilizing the Paper.li + Twitter equation in your classroom?
  • How else might you utilize the Paper.li + Twitter equation?
  • What other tools or website might you add to this equation to create Rich Community Conversation?

Hey, Ghost of Bradbury: A Creepy Comic Just For You!

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This comic strip was designed to help students make deeper personal connections with the Ray Bradbury’s short stories. This is an example comic strip, which combines quotes taken from Bradbury’s short story “The Murderer” as well as my own ideas of how a teenager might respond to the story.

Feel free to link to your author tribute, creepy, or otherwise awesome comics. I’d be happy to share with the world! Happy crafting!

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Love,

Ochwoman

A Letter About Slaying Dragons, I Mean, Middle School Myths

Dear Rising Seventh Grader,

If you’re like I was as an awkward, gangly sixth-grader-going-on-seventh-grader, your palms are sweaty, your furrowed brow indicates an ample amount of apprehension, and your brain is a buzzing New York City intersection teeming with traffic. You can take a deep breath now. Relax. Help is here. Your older siblings, friends, not-friends, and maybe even your parents have been supplying your overactive nerves with a steady stream of white lies. Luckily, I’m here to bust the top four middle school myths for you, so that you can soar to success in middle school.

  1. Middle school is a zoo.

This myth is both fact and fiction. Is middle school a zoo…literally? No. Fact: Middle school is NOT a zoo. We do not house ordinarily wild animals in cages for visitors’ enjoyment. Is it as loud as a zoo at times? Is it entertaining, crazy, unpredictable like a zoo? Absolutely. This myth is not meant to be taken literally, but if you read it as figurative language, as a metaphor (which is a comparison between two things that doesn’t use like or as) then you can extract meaning like freshly squeezed juice from a lemon. (That’s a simile, a comparison which does use like or as.) Though this place may teeter on the brink of chaos, you can always look for a bright side and a reason to make lemonade.

  1. The eighth graders will eat you alive!

Consider this your next lesson in figurative language. Myth #2 is a hyperbole, or an extreme exaggeration. This statement is not meant to be taken literally but serves to make a point. Are the eighth graders as tall and tantalizingly overbearing as skyscrapers? Sometimes. Will they shriek, show off, maniacally laugh in your presence, and call you “Sevie!” to make you feel inferior? Perhaps. However, eighth graders can also be your mentors and friends, directing you to your classroom like a GPS or perfectly passing the soccer ball to you in a pick-up game after school. They may have grown more than you, likely both in height and experience, but you should use this growth to your advantage: learn from the eighth graders.

  1. Some of the teachers live at school.

Ms. A stockpiles granola bars, crackers, and bags of fruit in her desk drawers. Mr. B’s hoodies huddle together in the corner of his class, like napping cats. Mrs. C has a bag of clothes she brings to school every day. Newsflash: these teachers, no matter how crazy your observations, do not live at school. Ms. A stashes secret snacks in her desk for students who forgot or can’t afford lunch. Mr. B hoards hoodies because some students come to school shivering in the wintertime, without a coat to hug them snug and warm. And Mrs C? She stays after school almost every day to coach students in soccer and basketball. She has to be ready. They all have to be ready. These teachers don’t live at school, but they do love their jobs so much it appears they’re living here. Try to love being here as much as your teachers do.

  1. There is a secret pool in the basement!

Let us break this Buy-One-Get-One myth. Not only do we not have a secret pool, but we also don’t have a basement. However, if your imagination is just wild enough, you might be able to write a secret pool into a story, or explore a book from its basement to roof–thoroughly, creatively. In books and in writing, you will find freakishly fantastic, deplorably absurd, exceptionally extraordinary things that reality just can’t show you. Don’t be afraid to risk everything and throw yourself into the wonderful world of fiction.

It can be difficult to differentiate between fact & fiction, between unmistakably real and indubitably myth. The two seem inextricable like peanut butter and jelly. You will struggle to separate the two, to find meaning in new words, and to define your new life in this new place. You will struggle, but you will struggle to success.

I feel confident in you now, Sevie, but first, a final fact: Middle school myths are fire-breathing dragons. (That’s a hyperbolic metaphor.) They’re scary at first, have power to breathe fire, and can scorch everything in sight, but only if you believe in them. If there’s anything you come to middle school with, besides your brain and some bravery, it should be these final words of wisdom: Don’t believe everything you hear the first time.

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From your maybe future teacher,

Ochwoman

Hands by Sarah Kay (Day 15)

One of my favorite poets of all time is Sarah Kay. She opened up the world of poetry for me AND my students, so to her I am eternally grateful. Following is a link to a recording of me performing Sarah Kay’s poem “Hands.”

Click here to hear!

This poem was recorded using Adobe Voice, a free app for Apple products. I highly recommend using it for a variety of projects in K-12 schools as it’s very easy to use!

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Love,

Ochwoman

April is National Poetry Month! For the month, I’ll be posting an original poem each day. Today’s poem is spoken aloud, featuring my favorite poet, Sarah Kay. Feel free to send me your poems, and I may feature them on my blog!

Join the #PoemADay challenge on Twitter!

10 Tips: How to Make it in High School

Zits, drama, skipping, SAT’s, boyfriends, girlfriends, are we friends? As a 25-year-old reflecting back on high school, I struggle to remember my struggles of a decade ago, but these are the things I remember.
I sometimes have students from previous years email me with friendly hello-how-are-you’s, but today, I received a special email from a student who is nervous that 8th grade is almost over. Why? Next year, she’ll be in high school, and she knows that’s a whole other animal. She asked me for some advice to help alleviate her worries, so I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 tips for how to make high school the best experience possible for students like me…and you!
1. Keep track of assignments by using an agenda or a free app like Google Keep to help you stay on track with your busy schedule
2. Prioritize your studying! Studying doesn’t mean looking everything over from beginning to end, but looking over what you need to practice most first.
3. Make friends. Keep friends. Make new friends. They’ll keep you stress-free in and out of school.
4. Join a club for something you’re passionate about or want to try. Not only will it look great for college, but you’ll make friends in the process!
5. As much as possible, don’t procrastinate.
6. When you procrastinate, you should inevitably learn to speed read, write legibly while the bus is moving, and know how to ask friends for help. (Note: I said for help, not for their homework to copy. Copying = plagiarism = serious consequences)
7. Get to know your teachers, counselors, and principals. Yes, it’s scary that they’re adults, but they may be just the people you need someday!
8. When an awesome opportunity arises, take it, even if you’re scared or have stage fright or have to hold your breath to do it.
9. Start exploring what you’re passionate about NOW: Who do you want to be when you grow up? Not what do you want to be. Once you know who you’d like to be, you can figure out what careers might fit you.
10. Lastly, always, always take a deep breath, smile, and laugh it off.
Middle school, high school, and life can be terrifying, but not if you have all the right tips, tools, and most of all friends. Happy living!

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Love,

Ochwoman

Encouraging Pedagogical Partnerships

Rumors have been whispered; some which are much too loud betray that with advancements in technology, we won’t need teachers anymore! I say, however, that NO technology can replace the creative minds of teachers and students working together, the pedagogy behind the lessons and on-the-spot interactions that only teachers, students, and human beings can have with one another.

As Melinda Gates said at Duke University’s Commencement Address in 2013, “Technology is just a tool. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s just a tool. Deep human connection is very different. It’s not a tool…It is the end – the purpose and the result of a meaningful life.” (Fullan, 2014) Gates did not say this with teachers exclusively in mind, but it does feel specifically significant to me as an educator.

Kalantzis and Cope (2010) discuss the future of new learning: “Teachers and learners will be able to make meaningful choices about what and how they learn in order to meet new higher standards of performance.” But I ask this: can’t we engage in these practices now? Technology aside, teachers and students can join together in pedagogical partnerships, which are “equal two-way learning partnership[s] between and among students and teachers.” (Fullan, 2013)

Fullan (2014) narrates interviews with teachers, citing findings that students today are no longer complacent, accepting of didactic pedagogy, but rather skeptical of it. “Young people are now digitally connected to overwhelming amounts of information and ideas,” which makes them desire more of there education.

Now, this makes for a beautiful story, but I will be the first classroom teacher to say that this is not the whole story. Not all students are on their devices during class because they are in silent protest of the teacher’s traditional pedagogy. Some are trying to be social, some are just plain bored, and some just want to beat their high score in [Insert trendy game app that’s all the rage today].

With all this partnership talk, I’ve thought about 5 real, practical ways that I have successfully engaged my students in a pedagogical partnership with me in the past school year:

  1. Reflect on learning outcomes for the day by asking questions like: “Are these short-term goals or long-term goals? Why do you think that?” This can happen at the beginning of a lesson, the end, or both!
  2. Ask students to “Put it in your own words.” Even if it’s just directions you’ve read aloud, there is power in asking a seventh grader to put them in his or her own words for the class. Often times, lagging learners or spacey students will better key in to what and how a peer says something.
  3. Let the students teach. Every once in a while, I like to let a small group of students teach the class for an activity. The slides are ready, I let them know what the goal is, and I sit back and participate as a student. This lets me observe the class, while letting eager students take a leadership role. I get to see studets develop communication skills and utilize various classroom management strategies. Students get to see each other in a different light. For teachers and students, I deem this a win-win situation.

    See the full graphic organizer at: http://goo.gl/0MOyGs

    See the full graphic organizer at: http://goo.gl/0MOyGs

  4. Allow students time to reflect on lessons at the end of each day, individually and collectively. Individually, students complete a graphic organizer, which asks them about their confidence in their ability to [insert learning outcome] and perhaps write about the strengths they exhibited that day & something they can improve the next day. Collectively, students may have to come up with a sentence or hashtag, which sums up what we learned that day (to appear as a Class Chat update).
  5. Ask questions of your students. Listen to their answers. Keep the personal relationship aspect of teaching alive. This is perhaps the most significant strategy teachers can utilize. Whether having a one-on-one conversation with a student for 30 seconds, or asking students to reflect on a question in their journals, which you will respond to later, valuing your students’ thoughts holds so much power.

The moment that teachers bow down to technology as the omnipotent educator is the moment students may decide She won’t know the answer, or He won’t care what I think, or She’ll think I’m stupid if I ask that. Change students’ thoughts, opinion, interactions, and reactions. If you engage students in a pedagogical partnership, their inner-talk may transform: I don’t know the answer, but she can help me figure it out, or He always cares what I think, or I bet someone else is wondering this, so I’ll ask. Talk, listen, and above all: keep trying new things.

References:

Fullan, Michael, & Langworthy, Maria. (2014). “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning.” Pearson. Retrieved from http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/3897.Rich_Seam_web.pdf.

Fullan, Michael, & Langworthy, Maria. (2013). “Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning.” Collaborative Impact. Retrieved from http://redglobal.edu.uy/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/New_Pedagogies_for_Deep-Learning_Whitepaper1.pdf.

Kalantzis, Mary, & Cope, Bill. (2010). “The Teacher as Designer: pedagogy in the new media age.” E–Learning and Digital Media, Volume 7, Number 3. Retrieved from http://newlearningonline.com/_uploads/3_Kalantzis_ELEA_7_3_web.pdf.

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

4:40am: I awake. I thought I would feel tired at this early alarm; however, I fell fast asleep at 9:20pm last night in a hoodie and jeans.

4:45am: I shower away the sleepiness.

5am: I take my dog out, and hooray: He does #1 AND #2 on the first try!

5:20am: I finish planning for the day, creating activities and handouts, and uploading documents to our Drive for colleagues and students to find.

6am: What? It’s 6am already? I have to get ready!

6:25am: Fabric toys in dog’s toy box. All paper up, up, and away. (Yes, my dog has eaten my adult homework before, my W2, AND a student’s homework before.) Head out the door.

6:50am: I arrive at school as a sliver of the sun peeks over the horizon.

6:55am: Clean up, copies, check mailbox, reply to emails, organize papers, update Blackboard, pick up laptop cart, drive down hallway, feel like I’m failing a driver’s test, safely get the cart into my room, repeat, sit down, breathe, re-orient myself, did I make copies of this?!?!?, go make copies of this, wait in line for copier, make copies only for first class because there’s not enough time before the student stampede begins.

7:40am: Students arrive, groggy, loud, weird, quiet, ready, bored, excited….awesome.

8:50am: Five computers’ batteries have died already. We make it work.

9:25am: Time for yoga class. A new student arrives, “I’m so glad I finally get to come to yoga!” As I’m about to ogle over this sweet response he adds, “For all the chicks!” and I am reminded these are seventh grade students.

10:05am: We attempt something called a “yoga wave” with moderate success.

10:10am: Speed-walk back to classroom for planning period. Get no planning done. Grade homework assignments & input into gradebook. Reply to two parent emails. Who invented emails? I thank and hate him or her daily. Update agenda & desk calendar with color-coded stickers and pens of every color from the rainbow. I call this: getting my head on straight.

11:00am: Already? They’re coming already? Pass out tests to finish. Give advice on how to persuade your parents to get that expensive lacrosse stick.

11:30am: Time for lunch. Reach in bag. I have no lunch. I have a credit card! Drive to Starbucks for caffeine and coffee cake. Drive back, book in hand because leisurely reading during a 30-minute lunch period is a pipe dream.

11:50am: Mmm, coffee cake. Slirp, coffee. Scroll, Pinterest.

12:00pm: It begins again. Google surveys, everyone! Let’s talk about audience. Commercials: Obama, Grey Poupon, Justin Bieber. Let’s talk about products. What would YOU want to buy? (If you had money…since we all know you have none as a seventh grader). No, you cannot buy a unicorn.

1:10pm: Blocking the doorway with backpacks and barging in anyway. Step out, both of you, and try again. Much better. Ms. Ochman! Ms. Ochman! Now, how might Ms. Ochman feel if you come in the room crazy and loud and booming and barrage her with questions? Confused. Overwhelmed. You got it. I bet, if we wait for announcements, I might answer your question before you even have to ask it.

1:30pm: Dooooo-woop! Doooooo-woop! I have my students’ attention for the briefest of moments. How far away would you say Timmy is from me? Three feet. Yes, based on the volume it was 15 seconds ago, I could not hear Timmy. Notice how quietly I’m talking now? You can all hear me, everyone in the room. I need you to focus on what volume you need to talk with the people right in front of you.

1:31pm: Great volume control.

1:35pm: VOLUME CHECK PLEASE!

2:00pm: Whatever. This volume thing is just me trying to prevent a migraine anyway.

2:30pm: Yes, yes we have watched this video before, but we watched it with different glasses on. Last time, we were looking for persuasive techniques. This time we put on different glasses to look for the audience they’re trying to persuade.

2:35pm: One, I need you to complete your exit ticket! Two, I need you to return your computers neatly to the correct slot plugging it in to the correct charger! Three, on the post-it write a sentence or hashtag, which describes what we learned in class today.

2:40pm: Fix computers & charging cord wires because they’re not all in the correct spot, and cords are spilled out like a zombie’s intestines.

2:50pm: Finally, the restroom!

3:00pm: Meet with assistant principal and instructional coach to plan a professional development session for 21st century skills.

3:20pm: Somehow agree to have my class video-recorded to show at the session. And this is a good thing?!?!

3:30pm: Distract AP and IC with cute cartoon video about 21st century skills.

3:35pm: Yes, I was just testing you. The instructional coach refocuses us quickly.

4:00pm: Google, help us. Why isn’t this book for free? We’re teachers. We need free resources. FREE!

4:45pm: Meeting done! Let’s go home!

4:50pm: Kidding. Let’s talk about gangs. Current events. Future of learning. Let’s go home. For real.

5:00pm: Traffic.

5:20pm: Traffic. Green light! Oh, we’re still not moving. Traffic.

5:30pm: SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR.

5:40pm: I can see my apartment building. It’s right there…

5:45pm: Honey, I’m home! Happy puppy, happy fiance.

5:50pm: Breakfast burritos for dinner. Parks & Rec. Happiness.

7:00pm: I really should work on this lesson for tomorrow. Gah! I’m being video-recorded. Stressful.

7:10pm: How do I even start this thing? It’s about Communication.

7:20pm: Look up videos. Check colleague’s resources in Drive. There are 3. I need something more.

7:30pm: They say don’t recreate the wheel. I’m definitely re-creating the wheel.

7:45pm: I like my wheel better.

8:00pm: My wheel makes sense to my students.

8:30pm: I hope my wheel makes sense to teachers and translates well on video.

9:00pm: Yeah, yeah babe, I’m almost done.

9:20pm: I just have to make that presentation.

9:30pm: I just have to update Blackboard.

9:40pm: I just have to make sure the Drive folders are visible for my students with presentations ready to go.

9:50pm: Well, maybe I should just …yeah, babe I said I’m almost done.

10:00pm: Click. CLICK. Reload. Kill page? Yeah, I guess so.

10:05pm: Clean kitchen counters & wash dishes. Set up caffeine machine.

10:10pm: Stop…SHOWAH TIME! Der-ner-ner-ner.

10:20pm: What am I wearing tomorrow? Pants. I have to teach yoga again tomorrow. And not black. I’m going to be recorded, and I don’t want to look depressing.

10:30pm: I should write a blog post. I had coffee today. I can do it.

11:07pm: I can’t believe I just did this. This is my day, my diary, and it repeats. The students may change each year. The mental focus may change each week or day.

But no matter the time of day, I am a teacher, and that will never change.

Underdog Schools, Big Dog Companies & Big Data

In October 2012, the Harvard Business Review dubbed Big Data in business “The Management Revolution,” as businesses looked to transform data collected into dollars accumulated in company bank accounts. (McAffee 2012) And in 2014, big data has also struck a chord in schools, aiming to help teachers drowning in data to swim above the sea, and funnel data collected into future student achievement. We are treading water amidst the technological tide that is “The Big Data Education Revolution.” (Guthrie 2013) (This term, begging for streamlining, is thanks to US News.)

Lisa Fleisher (2014) of the Wall Street Journal notes: “With the shift to computerized testing, tablets in the classroom and digitized personal records, schools are collecting more data than ever on how children are doing. Now, some educators believe, it’s time to put that data to use.”

Pause. Now. Now, some educators believe, it’s time to put that data to use. What is the point of collecting data that is solely to be dumped into forgotten folders in a cloud?

The Economist (2014) isolates the source of the issue: “School systems were being swamped by data—like every other sector of the economy. And like other industries, they had no idea how to respond.” Just because there is a demand for data does not mean educators must cram as much data collection into the day as possible. Rather, educators must work together and problem-solve to identify a plausible response for the vast range of possibilities that exist in technology-mediated data collection.

Johns Hopkins University professor Steven Ross forecasts the significance of big data in education’s future, that “using data to help tailor education to individuals will drive learning in the future.” (Anderle 2014) Lately, differentiated and personalized learning have surged forth as necessities in education; these ethereal dreams are having their edges singed off by the reality that is technology.

“Personalized learning is not a replacement for teachers,” Peggy Grant (2014) cautions in Personalized Learning, “Rather, it provides the data and strategies educators need to make better pedagogical and interventional decisions to allow students to learn in their own ways, at their own paces.” Differentiation for all students is possible.

However: “Collecting data just for the sake of having it is not nearly as important as how actionable the data is,” warns Andy Myers of Renaissance Learning. (Anderle 2014) Data is actionable. It informs decisions and propels educators into action.

And if it didn’t before, it should now.

For some educators, big data has been an issue best tackled by outside learning analytics companies, like Renaissance Learning. Teach to One, a program enacted by New Classrooms Innovations Partners, works with schools to track data, informing educators about whether students have mastered math concepts or not. The software assigns students personalized quizzes and lessons, which target their weaknesses’ further students take lessons in various settings: “in a classroom with a live teacher, with a one-on-one tutor online or even through computer lessons.” The software is able to identify which settings allow each student to learn best. (Fleisher 2014)

For some educators, this is quite encouraging. I would be interested in learning which settings suit my students best. However, for me as an English teacher, I find myself thinking, “Math is highly quantitative. What will be done about tracking data for more qualitative content areas, like Language Arts?” Khan Academy is renowned for its game-like, interactive website, tutoring students online in math subjects. I have yet to find a similar English/Language Arts-based website that can deliver a similar experience.

Big data holds big promises for those in education, but I remain leery as of yet, skeptical that big dog companies like Renaissance Learning (last sold at $1.1 billion) may take advantage of the underdog school just trying to help its students learn. Technology-mediated data collection is a godsend to teachers looking to track student progress. But it is also the never-ending bucket bailing torrential downpours of data into classrooms. If I have one caution then, let it be this: Let data inform, but do not let it become the uniform that schools must wear to prove their students’ worth.

CIA, FBI, PLN: You’re already a member of one of these.

Teaching used to be (and for some, arguably, still is) an isolated profession. The teacher, after closing the classroom door, is ultimately in charge of deciding what is taught and how it is taught. Teaching is a profession, however, that has gradually increased in its collaborative nature, attempting to leave behind days of severe isolationism.

Within schools, Collaborative Learning Teams (CLTs) have been implemented to bring together similar content area teachers for the purpose of collaborating, creating, reflecting, and planning with one another. This collaborative team setting has been shown to improve both teaching and learning. While this is certainly encouraging, such collaboration is not fully implemented in all schools. As such, individual educators can work to create their own supportive, collaborative online Personal Learning Networks, or PLNs.

What is a Personal Learning Network? Picture courtesy of OleCommunity.com

Personal Learning Networks are the collection of resources, connections, peers, communities, courses, and tools that an individual uses to support one’s own learning. This can involve various things like TeachersPayTeachers for free resouces, following certain contributors on Twitter or Pinterest, finding free courses to supplement learning on Coursera, or connecting with fellow educators on community sharing sites like English Companion Ning.

English Companion Ning is a site, created by California English teacher Jim Burke, which is a mix of crowdsourcing, a community of common practices, and a collaborative peer-to-peer learning tool. While other sites may exist for other content areas, this site specifically focuses on giving English Language Arts teachers a space to post questions, resources, and comments regarding topics centered on the content area.

A screenshot of the home page of English Companion Ning

Once a member, an individual has the opportunity to join specific groups, add friends to connect with on the site, post discussion topics, and reply to discussion threads. The National Writing Project featured English Companion Ning on its site in September of 2009, citing its main focus as the following:

“The English Companion Ning brings English teachers a professional community that they sometimes lack in their schools. Teachers discuss books, lesson plans, and a panoply of classroom topics via discussion forums, blog posts, and multimedia.”

The site serves as an online support system to either augment or create a community that individual teachers may or may not have in their schools. Jim Burke spoke about the success of English Companion Ning at an National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference, and the title of the video is quite explanatory of Burke’s feelings about the foundation of his site:

“If WE build it, they will come.”

Originally, Burke had intended on creating a community to connect teachers at his school, especially to give new and first-year teachers support. However, on the first night of inviting friends to the site, he received a request from a New Zealand teacher to join the site. “Of course, I wanted her to join,” he said. And the rest is history.

Connecting educators has never been so easy online, and the opportunities are but a search and click away. English Companion Ning, among other websites, social media, news sources, and online contacts can be the start of a collaborative, connected, and comprehensive online Personal Learning Network, which can lead educators toward interconnectedness and away from isolation.

Poll: What sites, contacts, and resources do YOU have in your Personal Learning Network?

Answer in the comments below!

 

References:

Burke, Jim. (2012). “If WE Build it, They Will Come: Why The English Companion Ning Continues To Thrive.” National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLSPPlrMjlo.

Faulkner, Grant. (2009). “English Teachers Find an Online Friend: the English Companion Ning.” The National Writing Project. Retrieved from http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/2848.

Mangum, Angela. (2010). “Collaborative Learning Teams Improving Teaching And Learning.” Alabama Leadership Academy. Retrieved from http://alex.state.al.us/leadership/Collaborative%20Teams%20AM.pdf.