Sunday, December 18, 2011

edu180atl: Ever posted there? You should!

The mission of the edu180atl project is to nurture and encourage the spirits of those who love to learn, to connect learners across disciplines and settings, and to deepen the national conversation about education by enabling parents, students, and educators to share stories of what they are learning every day.

In April 2011, the edu180atl team launched edu180atlbeta in order to test the feasibility of a such a collaborative project. The April version of edu180atl was a huge success, and the edu180atl launched the year-long project on August 1, 2011 launch. If you consider yourself a learner and are interested in sharing your voice, we hope you will consider applying to write for this year’s edu180atl project. To apply to write one 250 word post on a specific day of the 2011-12 school year, click here.


The edu180atl project wrapped up the semester with an essay by Clarkston High senior and all-around great student, Darnelle Eversley. Click here to read her essay about a science lab and then consider entering an essay of your own! Teachers, this is a great way to encourage students to write -- or write something yourself - it's fun!

23 comments:

No Duh said...

I think our DCSS students really need remedial writing classes. ALL the students in ALL the schools (before y'all jump all over me for being racist) would benefit.

An essay (not a blog post) that includes sentence fragments, missing punctuation and incoherent phrasing is not a publishable essay. It is a first draft. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I loved Darnelle's essay! My child was a biology major at UGA and now teaches science in an exclusive private school. I hear from my daughter about the need for her students to understand the basic concepts of a lab. She is thrilled when a student demonstrates he understands the concept rather than just regurgitating information to get a grade. It was obvious Darnelle's understood the science concepts he was taught, and he explained it very succinctly. You can see his enthusiasm for science. My daughter says getting students to love science and see the wonder and mystery of this subject is extremely difficult. I just emailed her the link to the blog. Maybe she can get some ideas from it.

Thanks for sharing this link.

BTW - No Duh - My daughter will never achieve the writing fluency I have because I minored in English and love to write. On the other hand, I could never have considered physics and calculus easy and made good grades in organic and biochemistry like she did.

Anonymous said...

Good for Darnelle. I am thrilled for her that she has had this experience. Unfortunately, it is an experience she should have had by about 6th grade. That this basic lab is revelatory for her reveals her day must not be filled with educationally engaging experiences. And No Duh is correct: while her prose is fluent, Darnelle has been shortchanged in that she does not know how to punctuate and capitalize. If Anon's daughter really teaches at an exclusive private school, then she's learned how to write. Or perhaps the school that hired her is not all that exclusive. And shame on UGA if it is graduating bio majors who have not mastered the mechanics of written communication. And shame on parents who think grammar and punctuation are optional for anyone who doesn't major or minor in English.

Megan said...

As one of the founders of edu180atl, I am so proud and impressed to have Darnelle contribute to this project. She did so on her own accord and reflected on the question "What did you learn today?" amist the usual stress of school, life, and the upcoming holiday season -- and in the span of less than 12 hours. I am impressed and proud that a student would CHOOSE to do this kind of thinking, writing, reflecting in such a public way.

As an administrator at a private school in Atlanta, I am convinced that we need to be providing MORE opportunities for our students to do this kind of writing...writing that is reflective, thoughtful, and written for a greater audience than just her teacher (or herself). This opportunity could be the first step on a new path for this student, and frankly, I am disapointed that such negative commentary (even from just two people) has emerged as a result of this student's post...which was truly a RISK -- and one that many adults are not comfortable taking.

Carol Dweck writes in *Mindset* about growth vs. fixed mindsets. It seems that so many who contribute to our educational community (both private and public) are stuck in a fixed mindset about learning and students. If we could all see this particular experience as an opportunity for Darnelle and a moment from which she could learn and grow, I suspect that we would all be in a better place.

@Anon and @No Duh, I hope that you will do two things becuase to critique one student's writing AND learning and not be willing to contribute to improving the system is counterproductive. First, if you already are not doing something to improve students' experiences in DCSs, then do so. Second, apply to write for the edu180atl project and share your voice and your story (http://edu180atl.org/apply/). Please contribute to the solution. And please contribute to purpose and mission of this project which is "to nurture and encourage the spirits of those who love to learn, to connect learners across disciplines and settings, and to deepen the national conversation about education by enabling people to share stories of what they are learning every day."

Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7:09

"....shame on UGA if it is graduating bio majors who have not mastered the mechanics of written communication...."

My daughter went to Kittredge and CHS. IMO - she is an just an adequate writer although she scored better than average on the GRE Analytical Writing Section. Her spelling was/is always a challenge since she skipped phonics and went straight to reading with comprehension in the first grade. If you have ever taught reading, you will understand how gifted children do this. Many gifted students skip phonics and go straight to fluent reading because they rapidly acquire an enormous sight vocabulary.

I taught over a 1,000 gifted students over the span of a decade. Be assured that writing fluency is not indicative of intelligence. Writing ability does not necessarily correlate with reading or math skill levels. Often the problems gifted students have with the writing process stems from the way they learned to read. They skipped the basics and went from zero to seventy with nothing in between. Writing is not like reading. Studying the intricacies and interaction of the acquisition of these skills shows how different they are.

If you only look at how someone expresses themselves with the written word, you will miss a great deal of their talents and gifts. I'm guilty of that as well since I tend to discount posters on this blog when they confuse their homonyms (effect and affect is one of my pet peeves) and cringe when they neglect to capitalize and miss the mark on punctuation. I find it particularly ironic when a poster who has poor writing skills criticizes students for their educational shortcomings. It shows a gross lack of self reflection. So you see, my bias is showing as well.

It is somewhat offensive although not surprising when writing ability is used against someone who has expressed his or her opinion on a blog. Words are sharp tools that can be used to bend opinions and shape the framework of the conversation. A blog is the one of the most tempting ways to shift the balance of power with nothing more than a few keystrokes.

Anonymous said...

@ Megan

I am Anonymous 4:00 pm and also 9:39 pm.

You are right to be proud of Darnelle's contribution to edu180atl.

I was/am passionate about teaching writing. I published almost every word my students wrote in one form or another so I applaud both you and Darnelle. Everyone has a voice, and it's up to teachers to give students as many opportunities as possible to use and develop that voice. I hope Darnelle continues to post. I'll be looking at edu180atl to hearing more from her. My daughter is a science teacher who teaches Anatomy and Physiology and AP Bio. I sent her the link.

Megan said...

I'm Darnelle's math and physics teacher.

I agree with Megan, one of the founders of the edu180atl project. Darnelle was brave to publish her reflection. She took the time to read previous posts on edu180atl and already was aware most of the writers were adults or students from prestigious private schools. I'm sure that was intimidating.

When the folks from edu180atl asked me to encourage student contributions, I was at first worried about impressions. "How will DCSS kids stack up next to the mostly private school students, parents, and teachers who had contributed so far?"

Then Darnelle told me about her science fair project. She was so excited about the process & results. I knew Darnelle would be an excellent contributor.

Thank you, @Anonymous 4:00 (then again at 9:39 and 10:17) for the encouraging words. I will share them with Darnelle when we return to school in January.

If you want to criticize something about DCSS here, let's talk about the travesty of teaching laboratory science classes in a single semester (but I think that's a discussion better had in a separate thread).

Anonymous said...

@ Megan

"If you want to criticize something about DCSS here, let's talk about the travesty of teaching laboratory science classes in a single semester (but I think that's a discussion better had in a separate thread)."

.....Or at placing 35 students in a lab, thereby compromising the safety of the students. This ensures their lab and hands-on activities will be sharply curtailed.

.....Or perhaps a discussion as to why the entire DCSS science supplies and equipment budget came to $55,000 dollars - only 50 cents a year per pupil.

Perhaps you would like to contribute a short thread about science education in DCSS.

I think it's great Darnelle's is so excited about science. That was what I took away from this essay. Kudos to you and Darnelle's. Science rules!

No Duh said...

Megan: You've created a fascinating blog and a positive outlet for educators and motivated students. You should be proud of yourself.

Believe me that I have contributed mightily to DCSS as a parent volunteer. I won't get in a pissing contest with you about that.

Yes, Darnelle took a risk. She is engaged by science and it is clear through her "essay" that a spark has ignited. She is clearly a bright young woman.

But, she (serving here as an example for most of DCSS students, it's nothing personal) has clearly been short-changed. Our school system simply DOES NOT TEACH our students to write. To Anon 9:39's point, "Writing ability does not necessarily correlate with reading or math skill levels."

Darnelle can clearly read. And once it was established that she could read, she should have been given the opportunity to write. Starting about the fourth grade (based on her reading proficiency at that point) she should have been assigned increasingly more difficult opportunities to write. And everything she wrote should have been edited -- in red ink -- to point out to her what she expressed incorrectly and why it was incorrect. We learn from our mistakes.

But this didn't happen for Darnelle. It hasn't happened to ANY student in DCSS. Many of them are passed onto middle school without even the ability to read. In elementary school, "book reports" are glorified art projects. Journal writing is never graded or corrected.

Teachers can weigh in here, but I suspect students are never really edited (or assigned many real writing assignments) because the teachers have too many students in their classrooms and grading writing assignments (really grading and editing) is VERY time consuming. In addition, grading writing is subjective. Parents don't like subjective. They will fight with teachers over a "B." So, if the assignment is turned in, many teachers will give it an "A" and call it a day -- to avoid an argument.

So, students like Darnelle make it to their senior year under the delusion that their writing skills are perfectly fine. This is a disservice to her and her peers.

One of the anons laughed at bloggers who complain about other people's writing skills while making mistakes themselves in their blog posts. While ironic, it is not relative to the point. Bloggers aren't writing essays.

I applaud Darnelle for taking a risk and contributing to edu180atl. But, if I were to praise her actual submission -- based on its writing merits -- I would be perpetuating the problem. False praise teaches no one.

Anonymous said...

@ No Duh

There are many types of irony. The irony I pointed out was not comedic irony so it had nothing to do with "laughing" at other posters.

I'll point out another irony. Your comment included, "While ironic, it is not relative to the point. Bloggers aren't writing essays." Darnelle is writing for a blog, and most bloggers on DSW are trying to sway the readers' opinions so in essence we could consider their posts essays based on the 4 types of writing - persuasive, informational, narrative and descriptive.

Teaching a thousand gifted students over a decade is a humbling experience. I had writers that were born to write. They were better writers in the 5th grade than I will be in my lifetime. I had other students who were brilliant in math but who saw no reason to expend any mental energy on the written word. The highly non-verbal students are the ones who really get short shrift. Our classrooms are built first for the verbal wizards and then for the math minds. The highly non-verbals by definition do not need to rely on language to solve complex problems so they are the most overlooked and under served of all.

You are correct in your assumption that everyone can be an adequate writer, but in actuality few master those skills. As a college freshman, my Western Civilization teacher deemed me the worst writer she had encountered in her 25 years of teaching. Since all of our tests were essay questions and I was a history major, that was a scary conference. However, she complimented me highly on my grasp of the subject matter in class discussions. She took a keen interest in developing my writing skills, and over much time I became a fairly fluent writer and even minored in English.

Because I understand the mechanics of writing and taught most of my students to become acceptable writers, I applaud Darnelle and her teacher. She is taking the first steps to fluent writing. That is to say Darnelle is writing about something of interest to her, she is writing for an audience, and she is practicing the art of writing.

My main concern is that this article was about a positive experience for a student that turned into a negative commentary of the school system.

Alex Matten said...

Darnelle said in her essay/blog post: "we were happy to find how to fix our mistake."

Mistakes in Science projects are easily identifiable and obvious even to the novice scientist. The teacher/professor says the final solution should be green and yours is purple -- oops, a mistake has been made. Try again.

Writing is a form of communication. If what you write is unclear and too difficult for the reader to comprehend because your writing lacks basic punctuation and sentence structure, you are not successfully communicating. You are making correctable mistakes. Adding simple punctuation can make all the difference in the world.

I believe our students who have learned to read, should then be stretched by the school system to learn to write -- yes, adequately.

Anon 9:28, thank you for proving my point. You did not improve your writing skills until someone -- a college professor -- had the guts to threaten your fragile self-esteem and tell you the sad truth. Your writing was the "worst."

In fact, I tell the hundreds of illiterate adults to whom I teach Basic Literacy that once they learn to read, they will want to become better and better spellers and writers. I tell them basic spelling and writing conventions will help them become better communicators. And then, they will not only be, they will appear educated. But my students are far behind the education level of the Darnelles of the world.

We need to stop fearing that asking students to fix their writing mistakes will crush them. It didn't crush you, Anon 9:28, so why are you afraid it will crush the Darnelles of the world?

No Duh said...

Darnelle said in her essay/blog post: "we were happy to find how to fix our mistake."

Mistakes in Science projects are easily identifiable and obvious even to the novice scientist. The teacher/professor says the final solution should be green and yours is purple -- oops, a mistake has been made. Try again.

Writing is a form of communication. If what you write is unclear and too difficult for the reader to comprehend because your writing lacks basic punctuation and sentence structure, you are not successfully communicating. You are making correctable mistakes. Adding simple punctuation can make all the difference in the world.

I believe our students who have learned to read, should then be stretched by the school system to learn to write -- yes, adequately.

Anon 9:28, thank you for proving my point. You did not improve your writing skills until someone -- a college professor -- had the guts to threaten your fragile self-esteem and tell you the sad truth. Your writing was the "worst."

In fact, I tell the hundreds of illiterate adults to whom I teach Basic Literacy that once they learn to read, they will want to become better and better spellers and writers. I tell them basic spelling and writing conventions will help them become better communicators. And then, they will not only be, they will appear educated. But my students are far behind the education level of the Darnelles of the world.

We need to stop fearing that asking students to fix their writing mistakes will crush them. It didn't crush you, Anon 9:28, so why are you afraid it will crush the Darnelles of the world?

No Duh said...

I have no idea who Alex Matten is, or how my post ended up under his name, but my apologies Alex. I don't know how to delete the post that is attributed to you, but I did repost under my name. Very weird.

Anonymous said...

@ No Duh
There is a world of difference between my college history teacher who was there for me for two years and adults on a blog who are anonymously criticizing a student's work. It appears you equate your remarks regarding this student as having the same value as the teachers who are working in the classroom every day with her.

Ensuring writing fluency in the majority of your class is very hard work for the teacher and the students. You must have first hand experience with this as you teach literacy skills to adult learners.

All of the red ink in the world is no substitute for an involved writer who strives to understand her audience, and as a result of her efforts feels the power of written communication. Give me one story that the budding writer labors over and actually applies the rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation, not because of external pressure from the teacher but from the desire to clearly communicate to a defined and real audience, and I will go toe to toe with the "red ink" method any day. Self motivation occurs most often when the teacher has carefully set the pre-writing component of meaningful writing.

Once you have provided the motivation to write, you must give the writer as many opportunities as possible to produce "meaningful" writing with a genuine communicative purpose. Practice is critical to developing fluent writers.

These are many types of writing. Writing fictional stories is very different from writing directions to use a software program or penning an opinion piece for the newspaper. You must ensure the novice writer understands the difference, has the motivation and involvement to write these pieces, and then has ample opportunities to practice the various types of writing.

Perhaps we have a fundamental disagreement on the method of producing fluent and lifelong writers. I taught regular education students for many years before teaching gifted. Many of my fourth and fifth grade students came to me with little reading and less writing skills. Through the process of involved writing every day most became good and some became very good writers. I told my students that they would never write a sentence that was not their own while they were in my class. They produced the school newspaper, wrote numerous books for school wide publication, letters to politicians, directions for science experiments, scripts for plays we performed, and participated in many other meaningful and purposeful writing projects. Editing and honing their writing through my oral and written remarks, self-editing and peer review became a by-product of the greater purpose of clear communication for a real audience.

I believe in the principles of producing fluent writers that worked almost every time for my students. The comments on this blog regarding this budding writer are counterproductive to her and to her teachers.

There are many challenges in the DeKalb school system. I have written a number of articles on this blog about them. If you want to create an indictment of the teaching of writing in DeKalb Schools, why not provide an analysis of student data from the Writing Assessment test? Criticizing a student who has contributed to an involved writing project is unfair to the student and counterproductive to the goals of this blog.

Anonymous said...

@ No Duh
There is a world of difference between my college history teacher who was there for me for two years and adults on a blog who are anonymously criticizing a student's work. It appears you equate your remarks regarding this student as having the same value as the teachers who are working in the classroom every day with her.

Ensuring writing fluency in the majority of your class is very hard work for the teacher and the students. You must have first hand experience with this as you teach literacy skills to adult learners.

All of the red ink in the world is no substitute for an involved writer who strives to understand her audience, and as a result of her efforts feels the power of written communication. Give me one story that the budding writer labors over and actually applies the rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation, not because of external pressure from the teacher but from the desire to clearly communicate to a defined and real audience, and I will go toe to toe with the "red ink" method any day. Self-motivation occurs most often when the teacher has carefully set the pre-writing component of meaningful writing.

Once you have provided the motivation to write, you must give the writer as many opportunities as possible to produce "meaningful" writing with a genuine communicative purpose. Practice is critical to developing fluent writers.

These are many types of writing. Writing fictional stories is very different from writing directions to use a software program or penning an opinion piece for the newspaper. You must ensure the novice writer understands the difference, has the motivation and involvement to write these pieces, and then has ample opportunities to practice the various types of writing.

Perhaps we have a fundamental disagreement on the method of producing fluent and lifelong writers. I taught regular education students for many years before teaching gifted. Many of my fourth and fifth grade students came to me with little reading and less writing skills. Through the process of involved writing every day most became good and some became very good writers. I told my students that they would never write a sentence that was not their own while they were in my class. They produced the school newspaper, wrote numerous books for school wide publication, letters to politicians, directions for science experiments, scripts for plays we performed, and participated in many other meaningful and purposeful writing projects. Editing and honing their writing through my oral and written remarks, self-editing and peer review became a by-product of the greater purpose of clear communication for a real audience.

I believe in the principles of producing fluent writers that worked almost every time for my students. The comments on this blog regarding this budding writer are counterproductive to her and to her teachers.

There are many challenges in the DeKalb school system. I have written a number of articles on this blog about them. If you want to create an indictment of the teaching of writing in DeKalb Schools, why not provide an analysis of student data from the Writing Assessment test? Criticizing a student who has contributed to an involved writing project is unfair to the student and counterproductive to the goals of this blog.

Megan said...

Reading these comments is, at times, fascinating and horrifying.

Last week, a student in my (remedial freshman) math class called a kid out on his hyperbole. Now, No Duh, I call you out: "But this [opportunity for increasingly harder writing] didn't happen for Darnelle. It hasn't happened to ANY student in DCSS. Many of them are passed onto middle school without even the ability to read. In elementary school, "book reports" are glorified art projects. Journal writing is never graded or corrected."

It's a real shame NONE of our students in DCSS can read or write.

If you have a point to make, I think you'll have a better chance of swaying readers without obviously false hyperbole.

Also, you wrote, "Mistakes in Science projects are easily identifiable and obvious even to the novice scientist. The teacher/professor says the final solution should be green and yours is purple -- oops, a mistake has been made. Try again."

Have you taken a laboratory science class? We are guided by a research question and seek to find a relationship between the independent and dependent variables. No outcome is predicted by the teacher.

Now, to the point of Darnelle's entry on edu180atl: she is still learning. Science, writing, the whole thing. I don't believe I need to crush her ego to improve her writing. Kids can and do learn in supportive environments, too. Your comments would imply the opposite.

No Duh said...

I don't have fancy pedagogical rhetoric to spew. Though, I'm impressed and concurrently chastised by yours. Touche'

I just don't think it's "horrifying" (really??) to expect a high school senior to know how to use a comma.

I don't think showing high school seniors where commas are needed -- and why -- is hurtful to them. I think it shows them far more respect and gives them far more dignity than mollifying them into a false sense of written success. I don't think requiring excellence of young people is a negative thing, and I don't think saying it out loud is negative.

I respect the teaching profession more than you will ever know (because you don't know me). I couldn't do what you do every day. Heck, I wouldn't even be able to understand the jargon well enough to make it through a teaching degree. I thank you for your dedication to education.

And I thank you for edu180atl. I hope you will continue to encourage students to post there. We so seldom ask them what they think.

You don't or won't see my point, and that's fine with me. So, I will take my 30-year-old journalism degree, my love of the english language and my respect for young people and crawl back into my ignorance-filled cave.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday. Godspeed.

Anonymous said...

I think No Duh speaks to an important issue in DCSS...how is writing TAUGHT?

There is a big difference between assigning writing and teaching writing. I don't doubt that all (not hyperbole here) DCSS teachers assign writing as part of the normal routine of class...but I do question how these same teachers are TEACHING writing, if they are at all.

Cerebration said...

This is where teachers function as mentors. All English teachers should avail themselves to students who wish to post essays to give them solid 'critique' as well as encouragement. After all - teeenagers are in school to learn! The edu180atl blog offers the perfect place to venture into the world of public publishing.

Anonymous said...

@ Cerebration and No Duh

I don't criticize the grammar, spelling, punctuation, or sentence structure of posters on the DeKalb County School Watch blog because the purpose of the blog is not to comment on the other posters' comments. Nor is the purpose of this blog to provide a critique of the writing abilities of the authors of the articles.

If you look at the purpose of the blog edu180atl, nowhere will you see an invitation for readers to become writing critics. Megan's (via Cerebation) article on the DeKalb County School Watch blog did not ask for a literary critique for her student.

I don't think you will have to worry about Megan providing links to any student's written work again. She is probably sufficiently discouraged.

As for my "pedagogical spew", those are actually the basic principles I used to produce fluent writers. Not because it was a "scripted" learning edict or a Central Office mandate, but because this is how many educational studies say writing instruction is effective for most students. If the "red ink" teacher centered method had proved more efficacious (may I use that term?), I would have used that method.

I must also confess that having students publish their original work in so many different formats was also fun and extremely rewarding. My students and I took enormous pride in the production of our products whether it was a book, play, letter, video, web site, or newspaper. We were a team.

Having fun when you're teaching is extremely important. Contrary to popular belief, teachers are not automatons that come to work each day, plug in and "crank out those widgets". We like to enjoy our work, and since our environment is the students' environment, improving the environment for one side of the equation improves it for the other. Also, contrary to popular belief, students do not enjoy coming to school just to socialize. They can do that at the mall with a lot less interference from adults. They respect teachers that teach them content and inspire them to use their minds. That is why it is so vitally important for DCSS to pour resources back into the classrooms and involve teachers in setting policies, procedures and programs that work for their students.

I understand the frustration most posters have with DCSS. It is MORE than justified. But putting it in plain, old English - comments that may hurt students' feelings are off limits. It's adds to the problem and it's hypocritical. Now that's just IMHO.

Cerebration said...

Point taken, Anon. I wasn't inferring anything other than what a great opportunity it would be for English teachers to offer this kind of support and encouragement to students. Students should be able to ask a teacher to check something over that they are thinking of publishing if they choose to make it the best it can be. I loved Darnelle's post - but there is also no harm in asking for some proofreading. I do it fairly regularly on this blog - I have a few friends who are professional writers and they are happy to check my posts. Obviously, I don't do this often, as my own posts are not exemplary grammar either. But then again, I'm never offended when anyone points it out to me -- and they do all the time. After all, many of our readers are teachers. They just can't help it!

;-)

Don't take any offense at all Darnelle. We are all behind you!

Cerebration said...

Trust me on this. I'm no English major either. I've had MANY teachers and others write to me - or post directly to the blog - correcting my grammar. Apparently, I ALWAYS misused an apostrophe in the word 'it's'... I'm told you don't need one when it's possessive, but you do need one when it's a contraction, like the two I just used. I "think" I write my "it's" and "its" correctly now, but certainly, I fall back into bad habits occasionally.

My point is, I'm never offended. I understand that these are teachers and like I said, they can't help themselves. It's some kind of "teacher gene" - and they really only want me to do my best.

No Duh said...

And I never said correcting a student's writing has to be a negative experience for a student. Never once did I say the red-ink-using teacher has to be a wicked hag. You can correct someone with love and respect.