Collaboration


Over a month ago, blog friend Clix stopped by to point out a great resource for English teachers. I said I would look into it, having heard about it a little, but I admit that I was remiss in doing my duty to pass on this resource to my own readers (some of whom are English professionals).

The resource is the English Companion Ning, which (if you’re not familiar with Nings) is a social network that is dedicated to questions of English pedagogy. There are a great deal of very capable English professionals on the site, and there are groups and forums devoted to virtually any broad genres or disciplines within English language arts where you can start discussions and find resources for teaching – from teaching writing to teaching texts to teaching research papers, as well as discussions on The Crucible and transcendentalism (you can bet I’ll be referring back there soon) and To Kill a Mockingbird and teaching writing to lower level and unmotivated students (I’ll be revisiting that one soon – I have plenty of both!) and even MLA research papers. There’s honestly too many discussions to link.

And it’s a huge network – over 10,000 members as of this posting – that has even won this year’s Edublog Award for Best Educational Use of a Social Network Service.

If you are an English educator and haven’t checked out this site, don’t wait a month like I did – do it now. I promise, you won’t regret it.

The semester has finally ended: despite being absolutely insane (see here – although I confess that it got better), it went very quickly, and I was sad to see it end for many reasons. The experience with freshmen comp was incredibly rewarding: I got to do some real teaching in an environment that I enjoyed, with students that were reasonably responsive, under a professor who I highly respect and with whom I share a very similar philosophy of teaching and learning (she was my instructor for a Contemplation Writing course, and we are both very reflective individuals); I was introduced to content that challenged me intellectually while helping to teach it (see here and here); and perhaps most importantly, I was able to cultivate meaningful relationships with students and found that I could interact very meaningfully with them on several levels – academically as well as personally; as an experienced college student (maybe too experienced – I’ve been at this undergrad thing for too long), and also someone who has lived through enough to provide wisdom for living. There were a few instances where I had the opportunity to talk to small groups of students in a more personal, intimate setting, and I was able to help some of them understand better ways to approach life and their education so as not to be unnecessarily frustrated. I hope it helps them – I truly care about their success, and I hope to check back in with the instructor next semester to follow up and see how some of them (the ones she will have in class for the subsequent course in the program) have fared as writers and as individuals.

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Today was the first day of fall break for me, and, in a fit of either overachieving or masochism (or perhaps a combination), I took on a full day of classes with my co-op for student teaching. The result, however, was much better than I expected.

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It just goes to show that original ideas are hard to come by – especially good ones.

In a recent post, I proposed an annotation system where users could log in and add their own comments to works in the public domain. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and I expressed my surprise that no one had thought of it.

That’s because someone had – several people, actually.

While the second link is licensed, the first is not, and I am currently trying to see how it will work (using Orwell’s essay as a test). I had hoped that I might be able to do something like this (and even had a semi-working prototype), but why reinvent the wheel? Maybe I can take the work that has already been done (since it has been released under a GNU General Public License) and utilize it with a backend system (I have no idea if this system discriminates between users at all).

Here’s to hoping (and thanks in advance, Geof!).

I had a very interesting idea – one that I would like to see through – for an educational tool for teachers and students of literature, possibly even extending beyond the normal literary canon to historical or sociological works. Hopefully someone will give me some feedback on how useful this sounds.

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