The English Inquisition

What I’ve Found

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on April 21, 2010

            When looking back at using a PLN (and after dwelling on Jason Whitney’s latest post) several experiences come to mind.  At first it was very foreign and difficult for me.  Soon after I got the hang of blogging, and using the tools that accompany a PLN, it was almost an obsession to check for comments and site traffic.  However, the most important thing I have gotten out of my PLN is that I now have a much better understanding of how to receive advice and do academic research within the field of Education.  By using my PLN to research questions on reading, I have learned where to go for my inquiries in the future.  With all that being said, I would like to share what I have determined to be the most helpful sources in English Education.

 NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) – I found this site invaluable because it is so specific about the subject that I aspire to teach in the very near future.  The site is dedicated to improving all facets of the instruction of English in this country.  It contains an incredible archive of research and journal articles on the subject, but also provides professional development opportunities and national teacher conferences.  In all, this is a great and credible first stop when researching English Education.

ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) – ERIC is a government funded online database which provides an incredible amount of information on education related research.  ERIC contains over 1.3 million entries to search through.  Though ERIC can be overwhelming at times, it does provide great resources.  I find myself using ERIC when looking for books on education that I will later find in a library.

JSTOR– As with most students, I had a prior knowledge of how useful JSTOR was.  However, it is still a tried but true source for absolutely any type of research.  All of JSTOR’s journal archives are peer reviewed which is paramount for substantiating claims.  Though JSTOR can be used for any type of scholarly research, it does provide an archive of over 100 journals on Education.

NWP (National Writing Project)-  The National Writing Project is a country wide network of education experts who are dedicated to improving the writing of all learners within our schools.  The projects are based out of universities, and they provide programs and resources to help teachers teach writing.  Though NWP isn’t really an article database, their publications are very helpful.  The book Because Writing Matters which was written by Carl Nagin and the NWP proved to be very inflential in showing me the importance of writing.  The NWP also seems more personal and shows the actual teaching experience of those involved in a way which a journal article simply cannot.

English Companion Ning-  Finally, the EC Ning proved to be one of the most interesting sources I have come across.  I found that one could post any question and receive feedback from other Education professionals within minutes.  Though the replies are usually opinions, they can sometimes be the best sources of real-life information.  The people who frequent the EC Ning are not only experienced educators, but also genuinely care about their profession because they are so willing to help others in the field.  Though I can’t cite the EC Ning in a college paper, I will undoubtedly use this resource when I have questions about my future classroom.

            Though the above only touches on some of the sources available to students and professionals, it highlights what I have deemed to be the most important aspect of my PLN.  I find myself using the techniques of research and the sources for research in all of my education classes.  Though I was hesitant about using and building a PLN, the way I learned how to research questions has proved extremely useful.  Being a graduate student, who never researched aspects of Education before, this was a great way for me to get acclimated to what is available to me.  If nothing else, the sources I have found through my PLN make me feel comfortable researching my English Education inquiries.

A Word of Caution…

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on April 14, 2010

            A few weeks ago, I posted a blog entry about an experience I had while substitute teaching over spring break.  Another experience I had was when I actually tried to do that exact entry while I was in the school.  I was not able to log on to my blog because it was ‘comment-enabled’ and considered a ‘social-networking’ site.  The school district in which I was teaching (Clearfield Area) does not allow students to view websites where comments can be made.  That throws any blog out the window, and definitely does not allow for YouTube or Facebook.

  I am not writing to argue whether I think blocking these types of websites is right or wrong, I am simply throwing it out as a caution to aspiring teachers.  Though using blogs, twitter, facebook, etc. in education has been getting a lot of attention lately (and rightfully so), some school districts will not allow students to use these websites.  Partly because some of the content may be deemed inappropriate for schools, but also because of the distraction social networking and media can create when not used in the manner that the teacher prescribes.  I think that with this in mind, though it is very smart to plan to use some type of social media in a classroom, as an aspiring high school teacher I would not invest myself too far in planning for this without knowing how your future school district works.

While on the topic of cautioning new teachers on the use of technology, we need to realize that not all (and in some districts not even most) students have reliable access to technology.  Colin Hill does a great job of discussing this in one of his latest blog posts.  As teachers we need to remember that students may not be able to access technology as often as we can.  To me this means understanding that a student may not be able to respond to an e-mail assignment, or may need extra time to type a paper if he/she only has access to a computer during one period a day (if even that much).

I am definitely not saying that we need to disregard technology use in high school classrooms.  I am all for the use of technology in proper situations.  I am simply cautioning teachers to not plan on being able to use technology in every way you wish…it may not happen.  Also, it is not fair to assume that all students have equal opportunities to access certain technologies.  As technology becomes even more sophisticated and prevalent in classrooms I’m sure these issues will move closer and closer to the forefront of education.

Self Reflection

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on April 6, 2010

        I have been planning on writing a review or reflection about my blog so now seems like a good time to do just that.  I’ll admit that I was very skeptical of blogging and the idea of a PLN in general.  I am so accustomed to traditional learning practices that it just seemed unnecessary.  I was sticking to the old saying: “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it”.  However, I think it has proven to help with my education way more than I ever thought it would.  I have been able to explore websites that I have never heard of and discuss education issues with people I have never met.  That has been a pretty neat experience.  These resources have proven valuable for researching education issues in all of my current course work.  For example, I am currently writing a paper which discusses the helpfulness of writing in science classrooms.  I have been able to synthesize the information I have gathered with my PLN (Ning discussions, blog posts, resource suggestions, my own writing, etc.) to help formulate opinions and find sources.  In essence, I have learned how to utilize my PLN.

            I would like to take an opportunity to look at my PLN and give my analysis in regards to a few issues.  I would like to examine my blog posts, my site traffic, my connections with others, and how my blog compares to others.  I hope to receive lots of feedback from others on these subjects as well.

Blog Posts: B

          My blog is certainly not flashy, but I do like the posts which I have been able to publish.  Looking back at all of my posts, I have been able to see a rise in quality and subject matter.  When I first began to blog my posts were just short little paragraphs about sources I have found and how to use them.  I’m not saying that is a bad thing at all, but I do like the subject matter and quality of my newer posts.   I think my latest two posts are my best.  My latest, “Good Riddance to Bad Teachers”, talks about the current state of education in this country.  It specifically talks about a Newsweek article which bashes the tenure of teachers.  I thought that post was very current and pertinent to many of my readers.  I also thought my entry entitled “This Ain’t English Class” was a good post because it brought real classroom experience into my blog.  I discussed how students do in fact view writing as a separate subject from the rest of their school work.  Much of the work I have done this semester has discussed this, and to combat it first-hand was a blog-worthy experience.

            As far as consistency with my blog posts goes, I have tried to post at least once a week.  Many classes which meet once a week, like LLED 420 at Penn State, require some short writing assignment every week.  I think of my blog as a place to do a weekly assignment of my choosing.  I think a weekly blog post is not too much to ask of a student, and at times blogging can be more convenient and interesting than traditional work.

Connecting: C

            Making blog posts and looking at blogs and discussions has been pretty easy and straight forward to me, however, connecting with others has been difficult.  I do receive some comments, but not as many as I would like.  For instance, my latest post discussed how at least some of the public has a problem with how teachers receive tenure.  I thought for sure that most of my readers would have some opinion on this topic.  However, I received one comment from someone who is not even one of my regular followers.  I have intentionally left some of my posts short to leave room for discussion, but I may need to lengthen them to create discussion.  I will admit that I do not comment on others’ blog posts regularly, and commenting is something that I will definitely need to work on as my PLN project draws to a close.

            The English Companion Ning has helped with connectivity immensely.  It is a great place to have people in the field give feedback on issues.  It also greatly increases traffic to my blog.  I posted a link to my last blog post on the Ning and had 22 hits that day.  I also had a reply within 40 minutes.  I am going to try to use this resource in order to increase not only my blog traffic, but also my connections to people in the English education field.

            I have looked toward my site stats when critiquing my blog.  As of this post, I have 11 posts.  These 11 posts have received 15 comments.  I have only had 280 total views as of this post (though I have been posting regularly).  I usually see peaks and valleys when I look at my traffic charts.  I will go several days with only a few views, and then see that I have over 20 hits the very next day.  This usually corresponds with activity on the Ning or a new post.  I will try to connect more on the Ning in the coming weeks to increase my traffic which will hopefully increase the discussions on my posts.

Blog Stats Summary Tables

Total views: 280

Busiest day: 22 — Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Views today: 6

Totals

Posts: 10

Comments: 15

Categories: 1

Compared to Others: C

            Having looked at many different blogs, most of which are those of my classmates, I see three types of blogs.  Some people have gone way above and beyond what I would consider an ‘A’ PLN.  They post VERY often and comment on almost everything they see.  They also demonstrate a mastery of how to use networking sites that others don’t demonstrate.  The second tier of PLNs are those who blog regularly and add to discussions every now and then.  I would consider myself in this group.  I don’t slack, however there is definite room for improvement (as highlighted above).  Finally, I have seen some PLNs that have only a few posts.  These people are also completely mute as far as participating in discussions goes. 

            If I had to grade myself on my PLN performance right now I would give myself a C+.  To me, my PLN is slightly better than mediocre.  After reflecting on the components of my PLN, and looking at others, I see room for improvement.  In the coming weeks I hope to have more thoughtful posts on my blog and on the English Companion Ning.  This will hopefully allow me to connect more, and hopefully my thoughts can help others who read my content.

Good Riddance to Bad Teachers?

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on March 22, 2010

    I know it isn’t the most exciting magazine, but I do in fact read Newsweek.  About two weeks ago the cover had a picture of a chalkboard with the words “The Key to Saving American Education” written across it.  The first of the series of articles on the state of education in this country wast titled “Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers”.  I knew that I would need to read this, and also knew that there would be some important issues to discuss on this forum.

    The main point of the article discussed above is, at least in my opinion, a very valid one.  The authors discussed the issue of tenure and adminstration approval ratings of teachers.  They stated that within two or three years, many educators can be offered tenure.  Once a teacher gains tenure, it is almost impossible to remove them from their position because of how powerful teachers unions have become.  The authors also said that 99% of all teachers are rated as satisfactory by the administrators in their district.  The problem they see here is that bad teachers may be given a good job with job security which can play into the downfall of the quality of education in this country.  They also believe that along with tenure and security comes the ability for teachers to not be held accountable for their job.  The authors state, ” In no other socially significant profession are the workers so insulated from accountability.”

      Some aspiring teachers may feel up in arms about an article such as this, but I am not upset at all.   I think that any person from any profession should be fired for doing a poor job.  They should definitely be given an oppurtunity to prove themselves, but in my opinion there is no room for a bad teacher to be allowed to teach for 35+ years.  I believe that if bad teachers are told to pack their bags, then the teachers who are left may be recognized as a more elite group.  Medical professionals can be stripped of their licenses with great ease.  This leaves us with better and more respected medical professionals throughout the healthcare system.  Would removing bad teachers help education professionals be viewed in a more positive light? I hope so.  The authors state in their conclusion that many “teachers are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. Maybe they’d get more respect if the truly bad teachers were let go.”  Again, I find the authors view agreeable.

Here is a link to the article as it has been recently added to the Newsweek archive: http://www.newsweek.com/id/234590/page/1

    I hope to see some discussion on this topic since it is an issue that will be pertinent to many of my followers.

-Eric

“This ain’t English Class”

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on March 15, 2010
     Though I was planning on sleeping late everyday and being lazy over spring break, I decided that my wallet would be happy with me if I worked during the past week. I let my old boss know that I would be available to substitute teach, and she told me that I would spend the next five days teaching a ninth grade physical science class. Though I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the grade level or subject, I decided to make the most of it and see if I would think about things differently after having had half a semester of education courses under my belt. By the end of the first period, something struck me that has been discussed in many of my classes: Writing across the curriculum. 

    My instructions for this class were to review material on Monday for an exam on Tuesday. The rest of the week I was able to introduce new material any way I wished. I took a look at the exam and decided that since the review was only going to take about 30 minutes, I would have the students take the rest of the period to do the critical thinking essays on the exam in pairs in order to get deeper into the material (they were not supposed to do these questions on the actual exam). Upon hearing that they needed to write out their answers, I heard one student say, “This ain’t English class.” After getting over the initial bad taste that enters my mouth when I hear young students use the word ‘ain’t’, I realized that some students really do see writing as something that should stay in the English classrooms. It also became apparent that by ninth grade, these students had not been introduced to much writing in a science classroom. After hearing their moans and groans, and telling them that doing the questions would help them on the exam, I had time to think about the implications of this. 

    Though the readings I have encountered in much of my current course work emphasize how important it is to develop student writing across all sections of the curriculum, it still does not happen in some schools. The use of writing forces students to understand ideas and put arguments together in their heads and then on paper. This level of thinking is advantageous to understanding material in all class settings, not just in an English classroom. I realize that implementing writing across the curriculum is easier said than done, but it should be happening on some level. With writing and communication being such needed skills in finding a job today, it is important that students not see writing as something limited to a 45 minute block during the school day. As for the student using the word ‘ain’t’…well I’m not (ain’t?) going to discuss that in this post! 

-Eric 

Mid-Term Push

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on March 2, 2010

    I am currently sitting with a list of nine assignments in front of me that are due before the end of this week, and I decided to vent here!  I also decided to use my blog as a place to gather my thoughts on a certain assignment.  For one of my classes I am to figure out what my overt objectives will be as a teacher of writing, while also figuring out how to accomplish these.  I think talking about this on here will help me clarify some of my ideas. 

   Though my actual assignment is a little more in-depth, my first basic objective is for my students to be able to communicate with the people around them clearly an confidently.  Secondly, I want them to be able to engage in what they have read and think critically about it.  To accomplish this, I believe that group work and a clear revision/editing process is needed.  Group work will hopefully help students lose any fear they have in sharing their work, and should also help with communication skills.  Group discussions about readings should also help students think deeper into a story, which should in turn help all aspects of their education.  An editing and revision process should help students think about the reading and their writing more, while helping them grow as writers.  Without using drafts, and simply handing in a final copy, how is a student supposed to know what he or she is doing correctly?

I know the above seems jumbled, but it has helped to put this down in a more informal way first.  

Good luck with mid-terms, and if you need a study break check out a few of the types of students you may find in your future classrooms.

-Eric

A Word On Student Self Efficacy

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on February 23, 2010

While researching an activity for an educational psychology course, I came across an issue that I felt was worth discussing. I think the self efficacy of students is extremely important when teaching students how to read and write. Self efficacy is how well one thinks that one can perform a certain task. Having researched this topic, I think it is a necessity when teaching students how to not only read, but to think critically about and explore what they have read. As teachers, we can have the best lesson plans, the best activities, and have students who are good readers. However, if the students don’t think that they are good readers, they may be less likely to dive as deeply into readings as we would like them to. If we are able to make students think that they are good at reading and writing, then it will make our jobs as educators easier. Hopefully the students would be more eager to read, and would be more willing to try new things if they believed in themselves. Though high self efficacy does not always correspond with higher grades and aptitude, it does help in some cases.

With all the above said: How do we instill self efficacy in students? I am especially interested in how educators can make upper grade level students believe in themselves as readers. I am hoping for any comments on this.

-Eric

p.s. the information which sparked my interest on self efficacy came from studies done by Albert Bandura. Though he gets into the psychological/scientific end of this, his ideas still helped me think about how to help students.

iTunesU

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on February 16, 2010

      Though it doesn’t currently work for any of my current courses, iTunesU looks like it will be a valuable resource for researching education questions.  It basically allows you to have course pages on iTunes, and many major universities are members of it.  It allows you to post multimedia projects for an entire class or even an entire campus to see.  These are not only neat and educational, but can be used to help find sources when researching.  Though a lot of these productions are made by students and therefore can not be cited when researching, they can point you toward helpful sources these students have used.  Hopefully this will be a helpful resource.

Anyone having trouble finding iTunesU can simply type itunes.psu.edu. This will open up your iTunes account and walk you through the process.  iTunesU is NOT located on ANGEL as I thought it would be!

-Eric

New Name and Thoughts on Grading

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on February 8, 2010

I decided to change the name of my blog to something a little more pertinent and interesting.  I think “The English Inquisition” not only sounds interesting, but also was my main purpose in creating my PLN.  I have used it primarily to answer many questions about teaching English.  Looking at resources posted by others, as well as exploring some of the educational websites I have subscribed to, has proved very effective in doing this.

Another thought I have been tossing around has been about how we should be graded on our PLNs.  Jason asked us for some input on this in class, and I have decided to add my two cents.  I think that we should continue to create and explore the different resources within our PLNs.  We should also use them to find answers to the wikis we have created for LLED 420.  Another thing that we could do is maybe have a formal blog or essay about what worked for us and what seemed to serve no purpose.  Maybe show how we used some of the tools in our PLN?  Or have a chance to say what was a major pain to use?  Describe how effective it was compared to other types of researching and learing we have used?  Just a few thoughts I had.  Please comment on this.

-Eric

NCTE and Adolescent Literature

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Yingling on February 3, 2010

While working on the questions posted on my wikispace for LLED 420, one education website  became increasingly useful.  The website of the National Council of Teachers of English has proven to be a great resource.  The NCTE website says that their main goal is to improve the teaching and learning of the English language, and I found it very helpful in answering some of the questions that were posed in class last week.  This web site also contains a section devoted solely to adolescent literacy which seems like a perfect resource for our class.

I had heard about this organization in another Education class, but never had a chance to use it until recently.  I am thinking about purchasing a membership to the NCTE because it will undoubtedly help me in the future as well as while at PSU.

Just decided to make a quick post about this resource.  I hope others find it as useful as I have!

-Eric