First Stop: Wikipedia

September 28, 2009

Wikipedia is usually the first place I go whenever I want to find out more about someone or something.  On Saturday, for instance, I wanted to learn more about Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul and Mary) who recently passed away from leukemia.  I went to Wikipedia and learned that she was born in Kentucky but grew up in New York City.  She was also married four times. For some reason, this sort of inane information is really interesting to me.  I kind of like to read about nothing which is why I enjoy People and US Weekly so much.

Typically wikipedia.org is a good starting place, although sometimes it is disappointing.  The entry may be too short and not very helpful.  Or an inordinate amount of space is devoted to a single incident in a person’s life while other important information is completely omitted.

From Wikipedia I do a Google search and usually end up clicking on the first few hits.  I usually try to piece together information from the different websites I visit.  It’s not a very scientific process. I think the “controversy” or disagreement surrounding a topic is interesting.  Mostly it just serves to remind me that there is a lot of misinformation out there.  Or perhaps a lot of people just believe different things.

In general, I think I’m a pretty efficient Internet browser.  I can usually find the answer to something in a minute or two.  When I look at my browsing history, it tends to be pretty long and extensive even though I may have only been on the Internet for fifteen minutes.  I also know how to narrow down a search using key words.

In terms of news websites that I regularly visit, I just have a few “old reliables” that I look at every day.  Those websites are: msnbc.com, helenair.com (my hometown newspaper) and mpr.org. Sometimes I’ll hit the Star Tribune website too.  I like those sites because I know my way around them, and I trust what I read on them (although I must admit that the quality of reporting in my hometown is not sensational).

My students do not go on the Internet at school.  As I read this week’s chapter, however, I started to think that perhaps I am the one who needs a tutorial in how to use RSS feeds and bookmarking software to look for resources online, especially teaching resources.  I have spent HOURS online looking for good lessons, activities and worksheets to no avail.  I don’t quite know why that is. Perhaps there is just an inordinate amount of bad stuff out there.  Maybe I am more critical when it comes to teaching materials.  Maybe it’s because just when I’m on the cusp of finding something good, I discover that I have to pay money to access it.  It’s awfully discouraging. Often it’s just easier to wade through books with teaching materials than it is to search online.  I would like to find some good reliable teaching sites to visit on a regular basis.

On a side note, before my students and I head to the computer lab, I have to make sure they have adequate receptive skills to handle listening to instructions in French about how to log on and use KidPix.  Typically, we start going to the computer lab in December or January.  I still struggle to come up with meaningful technology lessons each week, and this is a site I go back to again and again for ideas. It’s been a lifesaver.

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In search of a good blog…

September 20, 2009

I went in search of a good blog today.  I had to do this because I never read anyone’s blog.  I began by searching to see if any of my favorite writers had good blogs.  I didn’t have much luck.  Then I had the idea to go to my alma mater’s website and browse through a list of Mac grads who maintain blogs. I clicked on the name of a guy who used to sing in the men’s a capella group and discovered his daddy blog.  From his blog, I clicked on a link to a wonderful blog called Cry It Out: Memoirs of a Stay-at-Home Dad.

Cry It Out is a daddy blog written by Mike Adamick, a successful author who lives in the Bay Area.  His work is regularly featured on NPR, on news websites and in national newspapers.  Needless to say, he is an excellent writer, and his blog is good primarily for that reason.  His writing is honest, funny and engaging. It can also be quite beautiful and poignant.  For example, in a recent post about traveling to Europe with his wife and daughter, he wrote:

She has stripped us naked.  A country we had seen two times before is suddenly new again.  Our familiar haunts are more inviting than we remembered.  The food is tastier, even the greasy offerings in the menu touristico. Everything is a wonder. Everything is a delight.

Everything is magic.

The blog has a good layout and a nice banner.  Adamic also spices up his blog entries with really beautiful photos of his daughter and their life together.  He also has a photo of the day, an incentive to visit the site often.

The most obvious way in which this blog exemplifies networking is that the author has several links to other mommy and daddy blogs.  Moreover, the whole process I went through to find his blog (starting in a familiar place that eventually led me to his blog) demonstrates how the Internet is a big web of connection (a big network, if you will).  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I found something good by starting with something I knew I already liked (Macalester).  It’s kind of like finding a good realtor, a good yoga class or a good restaurant: it’s probably best to start by asking your friends or colleagues for recommendations.  That way you can bypass some of the bad stuff and hopefully end up with something good based on the advice of people that you trust.

My Dreams

September 17, 2009

I aspire to become more comfortable with digital writing.  I have a very limited web presence.  Mostly I just have a Facebook and even there I have a lot of anxiety about posting status updates.  I post once a month or so and when I do, I hope to be funny, clever and memorable.  I worry about the immediate reaction I will get from my audience (really, they’re just my Facebook friends). I’m anxious about typos and misplaced punctuation and read carefully before I click on submit.  I’ve even had to retract a couple of things because I immediately felt bad after posting them.  For example, last year I wrote “Kelsey sure hopes her ex finds someone special on match.com.” That came down pretty quickly.

I’d like to quell some of my worries about publishing online.  I hope that learning more about the software and programs that are available will help me feel more comfortable about using technology.

I’ll admit that it’s hard for me to imagine my kindergarten students using blogs, wikis and podcasts.  But I’m excited about the prospect of creating my own video essays or movies in French to share with my students to supplement the kindergarten curriculum.  French resources can be very hard to come by, and I think that digital writing could be quite useful in an immersion classroom because visual representations are so important when teaching children a new language.

This is the message that greeted my students in kindergarten today.

I love using the Morning Message to get my students to speak in French.  Below is an example of how I build oral language skills through my Morning Message. Students told how many sisters they had, completely in French.

Morning Message