Monthly Archives: April 2015

Twitter: #langchat vs #Baltimoreriots

I have been trying to develop more of a PLN via Twitter (@mmekingsley). I have retweeted posts that I have found on #langchat, #flteach, and #WLteachers. I have also tried to start a couple conversations, and am finally getting some back-and-forth dialogue going! My involvement is not anything life-altering at this point, but it is at least a start. (I actually just edited this post from earlier today with this new photo, because I am excited that maybe my Twitter-connections are going to extend beyond Twitter and the 140 character limit!)

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At this point, I am seeing Twitter as a good resource full of interesting and current information about education, and I am actually enjoying reading many articles, infographics, and blogs that mentioned on Twitter.

I was just joking with Ross Connelly that his recent blog post on Twitter “stole” way too many ideas that I was also planning to write about. I find the character limit frustrating at times, and think that my poorly phrased questions are less likely to get a meaningful reply from other Twitter members that they would if I were to just have an extra 100 characters or so. I also feel like this leads to too many tweets that are very shallow in nature. At the same time, I get that the whole point of Twitter is brevity. I do like that I can skim through so many tweets so quickly, and click links in those that interest me so I can better explore the issues that I find meaningful.

I also really agree with him about the fact that for now I am greatly enjoying using Twitter just for professional reasons. I have Facebook for personal use (although since nearly all my coworkers are also my “friends” on Facebook, I guess those lines have started to blur). In an ideal world, I like separation. I enjoy(ed?) Facebook because I could post personal updates for people I really care about— like my close friends back home, and my family members that I don’t get to see nearly often enough. As my “friend list” on Facebook has grown, I have actually been using it much less often and have even been considering leaving it completely.

Although my love-hate relationship with Facebook goes way back, I have never used it for professional purposes. That is partly because I do like to keep my personal life somewhat separate from my professional life, but it is also because most of the people I most care about on Facebook are not even slightly interested in my professional life. If I started posting links about Coetail, gamification, teaching French, or standards-based grading, I can imagine that most of my high school friends and older family members would unfollow or unfriend me. Only an educator wants to look at educational jargon on a routine basis.

I do, however, follow the Facebook pages of various media outlets that I regularly read, and also follow various organizations. The New York Times can show up in my newsfeed and not do anything to alienate relationships that I use Facebook to maintain.

This morning I woke up, and logged into my personal Facebook page as usual. Wow. Things in Boston are really a mess. It was clear from those news articles in my feed. I read a couple full articles while getting ready this morning, and came to work feeling somewhat-informed about the current situation.

After getting to work, I logged into Twitter for professional reasons. I checked #langchat and the other hashtags that I normally check, and found some more good resources.

Today, however, was the first day that I clicked on one of the trending hashtags listed on the left. #Baltimoreriots.

Woah!!! Way different story that the NY Times article. Many images from people who are there. Many voices expressing frustration and anger. Also many voices expressing specific frustration about how the protests are being portrayed by traditional media. Here, there is no censoring or editing of anyone’s opinions. If you check out #Baltimoreriots you will see a lot of opinions on all side. Some will inspire you, and some just might make you give up all hope in humanity. There was a lot of commentary from people who are far-removed from the situation— and a lot of that commentary was quite disturbing. Much of the #Baltimoreriots tweets were disgusting, racist, and violent. I’m not surprised in the slightest bit, but I am also not used to getting such a first-hand live view from people who choose a Twitter name involving “Adolf.” I am choosing not to give additional voice to those views, but the reactions below sum it up pretty well:

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Twitter showed a much more R-rated version of events than CNN or NY Times is ever going to provide. Although I appreciate my NY Times articles, I also think that the ability to see ourselves what is going on in situations like this— to see the good, bad, and horrible aspects of humanity— is important.

As much as #langchat and #WLteachers can provide some fuel for thought and action, so can #Baltimoreriots. Thank you, Twitter, for a much needed kick in the stomach.

Gamification: Course 5 update #2

I am nearing completion of my Coetail Course 5 work in the classroom (… the video is another matter entirely), so I wanted to check in here to process some of my thoughts about how gamification has been working with my different classes. The short version is that I am sold on the potential it has to engage and motivate learners, and I plan to keep using it after this course ends. The long version, as usual, is a little more complicated.

I have been using Classcraft with my students. For my official Coetail Course 5, my original plan was to use it with my beginning-level French course. One week after I debuted the program with my two classes at that level, my other classes asked why they didn’t get to do it. Apparently, they had heard about how great it is from their friends who were in the beginning-level course. There was no reason for me to refuse to use it with them, so I started to use it with them as well! So, now I have been using Classcraft for about 6 weeks with 4 different classes. What is currently fascinating me is that the 4 classes are all having very different reactions to it.

I teach 2 sections of middle school beginning-level French, and 2 sections of intermediate-level French. For both of the levels I teach, the number of students in each section is unbalanced because of scheduling conflicts. For both levels, the two sections are also completely different in personality.

For my beginning-level classes, my class of 9 students is made up of eight 6th graders and one 7th grader (who is actually younger than many of the 6th graders). The class of 19 students is made up of thirteen 6th graders, and six 8th graders— most of the 6th graders are boys, and all but one of the 8th graders are girls. If you ever want to watch an interesting social interaction, have a 10-year-old boy work with a 15-year-old girl on a class activity. For my intermediate-level classes, the larger section is all 7th graders, and the smaller section is all 8th graders.

So, what group is the most enthusiastic about Classcraft? The small group of almost all 6th graders. And the least enthusiastic? The small group of almost all 8th graders. When my small group of 6th graders arrives in class, the first thing they do is shout for the “event of the day” to be shown. When my small group of 8th graders arrives, they just don’t care about Classcraft. They were interested in it for a week or so, but it quickly faded into disinterest. If I never mention it at all that day, they certainly don’t seem to miss it.

The reactions of the group of all 6th graders and the group of all 8th graders don’t shock me much, but where things get extremely interesting is in the beginning class that has a good mix of 6th graders and 8th graders. The 6th graders in that class are equally obsessed with Classcraft as their peers in the entirely 6th grader class. In fact, the two students with the highest overall scores in the gamification system so far in the system are both in that mixed-grade group. It has changed a couple of my least-engaged students into a couple of my most-engaged students. Right now we are on spring break, and just finished a unit right before break. Typically this isn’t a time in the academic calendar where many 6th graders are thinking about French class—- but I have gotten emails every day of break from some boys in that class telling me what they are practicing online, and asking if I can still give them points in Classcraft even though it is break! It is amazing! While the 6th graders are enthusiastic, the 8th graders seem to being downplaying any interest they have in the gamification system. Since we just finished a unit, I asked my students if they want to keep using it for the next unit as well. Almost every 8th grade girl in that mixed-grade class said the same thing. “Yes, we should. I think it is really good for the 6th graders.” Ok. So, it is good for the 6th graders and as 8th graders they will just go along with it to be kind? Maybe. But if that is the case, why were those same girls logging in every day to earn points with such enthusiasm even when the 6th graders were away on Week Without Walls?

So what is going on? Is Classcraft really more interesting for younger students, and their enthusiasm rubs off on the older ones (even though the older ones might want to claim otherwise)? Or is it equally interesting for 6th-8th graders, but the 8th graders are a little more self-conscious about it? Perhaps it isn’t that complicated, and maybe my classes just have really different personalities, and what works well in one class doesn’t go over as smoothly in another? Or did I approach my use of Classcraft with more enthusiasm with the beginning classes, because those were the classes that I had originally planned on using it with for Course 5?

Regardless of the reasons, I am going to keep using Classcraft with any class that has students who keep sending me emails on break telling me that they are practicing their French to try to get enough points to level up.

My last student email asking for points in Classcraft just says, “I did one lesson in adjectives. Awesome right?!”

Any student who is doing option French activities during break without me even having suggested such an idea is awesome indeed!