Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bumps in the Road

Ah yes, it is always fun to imagine that life goes in an ever-ascending spiral upwards, and that projects once begun, will take on lives of their own. Sadly, reality, just like the economy, is full of ups and downs, and sometimes it does come to 'two steps forward, one back.'

Our ePals exchanges seem to be at a pause point. About half of my students sent out emails to their penpals during our 'snow week', but we didn't get any student responses back last week, and now the French class at least, is on break until March 8th. We're not sure why, but we haven't heard anything from our Spanish class this month. Some of my students are getting a bit frustrated at the lack of response.

Our class wiki continues to move along. Right now, the most active part is our book review section. This quarter, the students seem used to the idea of regular reading and posting book reports. We had our last batch of posted "Find Outs" for our US History unit on Reconstruction, which turned out to be very handy when our first date for the test was snowed out. Interestingly enough, I haven't gotten much in the way of reaction from parents when I made the wiki public except for one or two offhand comments about "gee, it's nice to see what you're up to."

I'm trying something different tomorrow. I'm going to use the discussion feature on the class wiki to talk about our current book, Ashes of Roses. Right now, I'm just requiring a post some time this week. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Questioning Web 2.0

I read a review of the book "You are not a gadget" by Jaron Lanier, described in the interview as "a pioneer in the invention of virtual reality." According to the interview, our experience on the Web is being controlled by the "lords" of technology, who have deeper access into the workings of the Web and who write the algorithms which we ordinary users follow. I'm not sure I agree with the argument, which seems to reprise the old "TV controls your life" idea, but it does raise a cautionary note to all the 'happy talk' about Web 2.0.

How do we know, for example, what any application really does? The advent of "Google Buzz," for example, has been accompanied with concerns raised about how private it really is. For the moment, the decentralized nature of the Internet serves as a check to some of the abuses of popular programs. I hope that nature continues.

But, as a less-experienced user, it does lead me to be more, rather than less cautious about trying out the "next new thing."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snowed in? S'no problem

Our school has been closed since last Friday due to two snowstorms, and it won't reopen until Tuesday at the earliest. By email, my administrator asked us as a faculty to suggest things to do for our students that would allow them to work at home. For my students, I suggested that they write their French and Spanish epals, and I set up a place on our class wiki for them to share what they found out about the French and Spanish schools. I'm rather looking forward to the results!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Man proposes, nature disposes

We in the DC area have been hit with three snowstorms in the course of eight days. The first two were ordinary, about 5" each, but the third, christened by some the "Snowpocalypse" dumped 23" on an area generally unused to storms that big. Now another storm is forecast tomorrow with 10" or over.

During our last storm, we lost power, and it was amazing how most of our time that powerless day was spent in shovelling snow, eating, and trying to keep warm, while the temperature inside the house gradually dropped. Fortunately, our power was restored before our house temperature got below 50 degrees, but it made for a very pleasant evening sitting around the fire in our fireplace.

Not much to do with web 2.0 on this post, although certain of the high-tech stuff, such as remote terminal connections, has made it at least possible for me to do some work. If this keeps up, certainly there are possibilities for distance learning.