Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Argument Writing Assignment - Leonard - Not a final copy!

Bethany Leonard

Argument Writing Assignment

ECUC 452 Teaching Writing

Not a final copy!

Social Media and Social Networking in Education?

                Using social media and social networking in education has been up for debate with many educators over the past few years.  To clarify, I am referring to the tools and online communities used to share information.  Some examples of social media, according to Shantel (2012) are blogs, social networks as in Facebook or Myspace, microblogging like twitter, wikis, YouTube, discussion forums, and photo sharing communities like Flickr. The world of education is continuously changing to include the use of technology and web 2.0 tools.  Salgur (2013) states that, “Social Networking services has become an important part of teenagers’ daily lives” (pg. 35).  Our students will be using social media and social networking tools even if we do not teach with them.  According to Ramig (2009) there are even social networking sites created for students as young as 5 years old.

There are both negative risks and positive benefits when it comes to using social media and or social networking in education.  Should social media and social networking be used in education or are there to many risks involved? Do students need be taught how to safely utilize social media?  Shantel stresses that, “Educators in in the twenty-first century are charged with the responsibility to teach students to read, write, and function responsibly in a digital world” (pg. 54). Will we be doing our students a disservice as educators, if we do not teach them how to use social media and social networking tools in education?

The Risks

                Michelle (2014) supplies a good example of a survey showing that many teachers are afraid to use social media in their classrooms.  In this survey, 1,005 teachers in grades K-12 were asked if they used social-networking in their classrooms.  An overwhelming 80% of the teachers that were surveyed expressed fears of possible negative consequences from using social media tools in their classrooms. Only 18 percent of the teachers surveyed claimed to use social media tools in their classrooms.  Is it possible that the educators from this survey need more education on how to properly use social networking and media in their classroom or are their fears of the consequences substantial even with the proper precautions?

                There is the fear that teenagers will share too much of their personal information on the Internet or inappropriate information that may even get them into criminal trouble (Salgor, 2013).  Salgor (2013) also mentions that social networking may also cause cyber bullying in schools.  Cyber bullying also occurs through home use of social media and social networking.  Riman (2013) suggest the following negative “claims” about using social media in education.  One of the claims includes students spending more time communicating socially online and losing their ability to communicate in person.  She claims that pronunciation and grammar skills have declined.  She suggests that student’s ability to remember pertinent information has decreased.  Finally, Riman insists that instead of studying, students are checking their Facebooks or Twitter accounts.  Many of these negative claims, as an educator, I do not agree with and feel they are more like fears.  There is also no research given to support the “claims”.  
The Benefits

                Social media and social networking can offer a variety of educational benefits according to Salgur (2013) including, encouraging students to work together and collaborate with other students in ways they were not able to in the past.  Students are able to share projects through technology and improve their technology skills as they do so.  Riman (2013) suggests that students learn important skills including resume building, creating personal websites, and online portfolios they will need if they someday work in the business world. Shantel (2012) explains that students are able to listen, watch, evaluate, reflect, collaborate, connect with other learners, plan, and find their voice when using social media sites.

                Learning continues even when the school day is over with social networking and using media sites (Ramig, 2009).  Depietro (2013) explains that social media will allow shyer students, who tend to be nervous about participating in class, a platform to get involved.  Social media and social networks provide a new low stress platform for all students to participate.  In some cases, learners may even respond and communicate with each other more frequently. 


                “It is not feasible and quite na├»ve to suggest that students should be set free on the Internet and told to learn” (Shantel, 2012. Pg. 56).  Ramig (2009) makes many valid points about staying safe and being responsible when using social media and networks in a school setting. 

·         Limit network access so that only the students and select individuals may view and post to it for privacy.

·          Monitor the social network on a regular schedule.

·         Remove inappropriate posts, but also discuss them with the class.

·         Also, share appropriate post examples with the class.

·         Give specific directions about what you are expecting from students when utilizing social media or networking sites.

·         In some situations, allow parents access to the social networks and encourage them to read the posts.

There are definitely some risks with using social media and social networks in education, but with the proper education and precautions, many of the risks can be avoided and addressed when they do arise.   There are far too many educational benefits to avoid using social media and social networks in education.


Depietro, P. (2013). Transforming Education With New Media. New York:  Peter Lang Publishing.

Michelle, R. D. (2014) Teachers found to avoid social media in classroom. Education Week, 33(18),

                4. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1493811260

Ramig, R. (2009). Social media in the classroom-for kindergarteners (!) through high schoolers.

                MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 16(6), 8-10.


                Euromentor Journal, 4(3), 35-46.

                Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1462851084

Shantel, M. S. (2012). Go ahead…be social: Using social media to enhance the twenty-first century

                Classroom.  Distance Learning, 9(2), 54-59.

                Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1034600860


(I still have two more citations to add!)





Chapter 14

Chapter 14
                The take-away from this chapter…there are 7.

1.        Believe in the voices that once led us. We learn to write by writing. This is something that I have embraced this year with a free write journal.  The students can write about ANYTHING but I do have a topic available if they feel they need a starter.

2.       Believe that the human spirit is too elusive, to vast, and too diverse to be defined bt a single assessment. This is something that I believe wholeheartedly, even outside the realm of writing. Why don’t the powers that be understand this?

3.       Believe that we can and must create assessment to match our vision of good writing instruction. This is a constant area of struggle for me. I am always looking to improve in this area.

4.       Believe that students can write. I am believing this more and more as I am figuring out how to teach my students. I also see this through the writings of my 7 year old in first grade and even 5 year old in preschool.

5.       Believe that writing isn’t just a skill for school, but a skill for life. This is very true and I know that as a 34 year high school graduate, college graduate twice, a former counselor, and a current adolescent Language Arts teacher. To have students of positive school experiences understand this is a challenge, much less students that have nothing but negative school experiences.

6.       Believe that voice is power. This is exactly what I hope to teach my students through their journals.

7.       Believe that you can teach. This is a constant work in progress for me. This is one of the reasons that I enrolled in a teaching writing class. It has truly helped!

Chapter 13 Reflection

Chapter 13
                The conference is something that I myself, as a teacher, find overwhelming about teaching writing to my students. I have read my students’ paper and I am overwhelmed by them. I am even more overwhelmed by their struggle to write. I am so ridiculously careful not to be harsh that I often times don’t say anything at all. This is not the way a good or decent teacher should teach writing and I would like to think that I fall into one of those categories. I have long understood that my students struggle with the school and learning environment, often times hating it and even being court ordered to attend. They have not had positive or successful experiences in the classroom and I don’t want to add to those negative learning experiences. The behavioral challenges are enough as it is. This does however bring up another challenge even “regular” teachers encounter…what do you do with the other students as you conference with one? I am open to suggestions.

                I like the idea of the Collin’s writing program where only one to a few things are focused on. This truly reduces teacher and student anxiety. I also found the idea of a 2 minute conference to be less daunting. This, too, would reduce teacher and student anxiety. I think it could also be used to build a positive rapport between students and teacher. Through this process you could be honest, specific and help guide the student in how to fix what ails their writing without being harsh or negative or further damaging to their school experiences.

Chapter 10 Reflection

Chapter 10
                I really enjoyed reading the different approaches teachers took to teach their students the 6 traits of writing. They came from such diverse experiences is years and populations taught. This is something that I sometimes struggle to “fit in” with since I teach alternative education students from grade 7 to 12. These students are often in the same class and have very differently ability levels. This is part of the challenge of my job but it is one that I graciously embrace. I will take struggling to write and read over struggling to read any day but they often go hand in hand, but I digress.

                I took this class to meet Act 48 credit needs but wanted to take something meaningful, not just something to fill in the credit need. Writing has been one of my favorite activities since grade school. I know that also came from having teachers that taught the process with enthusiasm and encouragement. I want to be that teacher for these students that hate everything about school, especially the reading and writing. This chapter instills that this is possible at any level of teaching and level of student. I am not a very seasoned teacher having only taught 4 years and had a non-traditional way of coming into teaching Language Arts. While I value the life experiences that I bring to my classroom, I am sometimes left second guessing my how I am teaching my students certain areas. I didn't necessarily take specific techniques away from this chapter but it left me with confidence to teach my students writing the way that I feel they learn best.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ch. 10 Reflection

Spandel Ch. 10 Reflection

On the first page of this chapter, it was encouraging for me to read that letter writing was supported by the author. At our elementary school, we have a bucket filling program, which focuses on teaching kids how to how to “fill the bucket” of others by encouraging positive comments and deeds towards one another. To assist in this goal, my students and I write a friendly letter to a different student each week. These letters are assembled in a three-prong folder, as a keepsake, and given to the student at the start of the following week.
Students are given a checklist of requirements to include in their writing. They are asked to share three compliments that are deeper than physical appearance, ask three questions, share three personal revelations that the reader likely did not already know about the writer, and suggest a book including why the recipient should read it. Just as Spandel acknowledges,”Kids love to write letters that get answered. It’s like magic. Suddenly, there’s a reason for the writing.”  
It’s true. My kids love doing this so much they want to know who the next letter recipient will be before the next week even starts. In fourth grade, I find this repetitive practice also reinforces important writing conventions that can fall by the wayside if not practiced consistently, such as indenting paragraphs, capitalizing “I” and the first words in sentences, using appropriate end punctuation, formatting greeting and closings correctly, use of transition words, etc. Also, letter writing seems like a natural genre for encouraging students to let their unique voices shine.
As I continued reading, I identified two areas where I would like to improve my instruction. Over the summer, I want to plan writing instruction that focuses on each of the traits. I really like how Elaine also used pre-assessments not only to tailor her instruction but also as a way of showing growth by year’s end. I was also fond of the idea of having the class score and discuss an anonymous paper. What a fun to learn the traits!
The writing coach checklist on pg. 252 also seemed like a powerful self-assessment tool. I think the way the questions are written for each trait allows the writer to become more independent and take more personal ownership for improving their craft. Searching for answers to our own questions reminded me of website I like to use when I am stumped on a writing issue with my own students: http://www.writingfix.com/.
I also enjoyed reading the conference dialogue that was shared in this chapter. It is helpful for me to see how other teachers structure their conferences and what types of questions they ask to push their students forward. Breaking students into groups to revise also seems like a powerful way to build good writing habits. Maybe one of my favorite take-aways from this chapter was the idea of “backwards planning” from pg. 255. While I am not sure this would work at the start of the year in 4th grade, I think it is something I would like to try in the 3rd marking period. I like to think about how this method could foster choice, autonomy, and personal responsibility.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Argumentative Writing: The Space Debate

Brandy Walker
EDUC 452 Teaching Writing
Argumentative Writing
The Space Debate

Each year our government spends billions of dollars on space exploration. One of the familiar complaints that NASA receives when its budget comes up for approval is “Why waste the money on space when we can use it down here on Earth?”  (Jessa, 2009).  Leaving aside the fact that NASA's employees all live here on Earth, and thus the money is spent here, NASA's fifty years of research and development have resulted in a wide range of inventions and processes, ranging from complex advances in medicine for treatments of brain cancer through the simplicity of fire-resistant kid's pajamas (Jessa, 2009).

NASA credits many modern innovations, in whole or in part, to research conducted in space. Some of these innovations include the artificial heart, Jaws of Life, improved insulation, and many vehicle safety features (Jessa, 2009). Space endeavors have also been credited with other indirect benefits to human life including the microchip, the modern computer, fuel cells, the development of cleaner cars, and increased knowledge of the human body and the aging process through research conducted zero gravity space environments (International Debate Education Association, 2011). Despite these glowing accomplishments, even the legendary space advocate Carl Sagan once stated, “You don’t need to go to Mars to cure cancer (Cowling, 2008). In other words, there may be more cost effective ways to achieve NASA’s technological space spin-offs without having to leave Earth.

While reading the article,“Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost? A Freakonomics Quorum”, I was surprised to learn that while space programs in the United States may cost $7 billion a year, that amount actually translates into pennies per person per day (Cowling, 2008). Furthermore, this amount is put into an even clearer perspective upon learning that in the past, America has spent $10 billion dollars a month on the war in Iraq and up to $154 billion a year on alcohol (Cowling, 2008).

Yes, it is true. Billions of tax dollars are spent on space projects, but it is also true that a large proportion of the money spent results in high paying, high tech positions. In turn, this money also often extends outward, indirectly supporting private corporations, such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, that are contracted out to perform specialized jobs for NASA (Jessa, 2008).

Another strong point to consider in analyzing this argument is that there are some current space endeavors, separate from spin-off technologies, that continue to improve the quality of our lives on a daily basis. These particular advances could arguably not be achieved without a financial investment in space. For instance, certain space satellites allow us communicate instantaneously around the world via cell phones, Internet, and televised broadcasts. The Global Positioning System (GPS) allows us to carefully determine locations anywhere in the world. Weather satellites that are in orbit around our planet not only assist in routine forecasts, but they also help to save lives with advanced warnings of serious weather events and possible asteroid impacts. As we saw in the news in 2013, asteroid impacts with Earth could pose a significant threat to human life. Further, research into climate change would be significantly less advanced without data obtained from satellites (International Debate Education Association, 2011). Such statements give support to my belief that the United States government should support continued research in space.

However, let’s continue to look at both sides of the coin by returning to the counterclaim. As Manali Oak states in his article Pros and Cons of Space Exploration, “When many people cannot even meet their basic needs in life, is it right to spend money on space exploration?” It’s a fair question. Should we continue to risk human lives in space and devote large sums of money to research when such a large percentage of our world population is living in poverty? Oak (2008) also warns, “We may also find something in space that is lethal to life on Earth. Space exploration may invite some dangerous microorganism that may exist in space.”

Yet, as The International Debate Education Association (2011) claims, “China and India, nations with far greater social welfare issues to address with their limited budgets, are speeding up their space exploration programs.” This is important because it serves as an alternative reference point.  It also reinforces the argument that value of space exploration cannot be gauged by money alone.

While there may be unknown risks associated with space exploration, and there are certainly numerous unfortunate and tragic scenarios on our home planet, it is also worth asking the question: Can we really afford NOT to explore space? Undoubtedly, there are some serious future challenges that stand in the way of humankind if we are to continue our current way of life on Earth. With the threat of human overpopulation, climate change, and the depletion of natural resources, space exploration offers the potential for finding solutions to perhaps even more pressing problems than poverty. Is it too far fetched to wonder if we could mine resources on other planets or asteroids, deflect a collision course asteroid, or even possibly establish a colony beyond our home planet that could extend the viability of our species? Space is one of the final frontiers. If we close the door on space, could we conceivably be closing the door on our own species?


Cowing, Keith. "Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost? A Freakonomics Quorum." Freakonomics
RSS. NASAWatch.com, 11 Jan. 2008. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.

International Debate Education Association. "Space Exploration." The Debatabase Book: A
Must-have Guide for Successful Debate. 5th ed. New York: International Debate Education Association, 2011. 195-96. Print.

Jessa, Tega. "Benefits of Space Exploration." Universe Today RSS. Universe Today, 24 Aug.
2009. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.

Oak, Manali. "Pros and Cons of Space Exploration." Buzzle.com. Buzzle.com, 27 Aug. 2008.
Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Leonard-journal, chapter 10

Bethany Leonard

Journal – Chapter 10

                Chapter 10 did a nice job of showing how a variety of teachers on all different skill levels can use the six traits to best fit their classroom grade level and setting.  As I read, I found a number of strategies/activities that I could incorporate into the library media center setting.  In one of the very first teaching settings, in the book, I enjoyed reading about how the teacher wrote on the board and had the students look for mistakes.  This is something that is very easy and simple to do.  It is almost a role reversal that can be quite fun for the students as well as the teacher.  In the library, I would already have a paragraph or sentences on the white board waiting for as soon as students walked in.  This will save time and can be treated like an opener as well as a wrap up.   In the same section, parents were being involved and used the six trait scoring guide. 

                Ellen’s perspective from page 256, involves viewing students as writers first.  To me, this gives the writers or students a sense of ownership. Ellen also concentrates on reading aloud to her students and sharing many different pieces of writing for examples. This reminded me the mentor texts we talked about in class. On page 259, Barbara discussed how students can learn by working with their peers and getting suggestions and compliments can really motivate some students to become more involved.

                In one of the last sections, Sammie on page 265, discusses being on a rotation where the teacher doesn’t get to see the students every day. Her lessons on the six traits need fit into whatever time that is available.  This is a lot like my education setting in the library, where I only see students once a week. Sammie likes to create books with her students, as do I.  My 2nd grade classes each get to make a nonfiction class book based on an area in nonfiction that they are working on in class.  

                By the end of this chapter, you get a feeling that almost all teachers, no matter what their subject or grade level, can make use of the six traits in their own unique way.

It looks different in every classroom

Vicki Spandel (2009) makes the point that different teachers incorporate the six-trait model into their instruction in different ways.  I agree that it's important to remember that there are different ways of dealing with the traits and teaching them to students.  In chapter 10, she describes how the Six Traits look in a variety of classrooms.  These are my big "Take-aways" from this chapter.

1. Is there a reason for the writing?  By using letter writing with her students, Elaine taught her students that there was a purpose for writing, because they mailed the letters and got answers! 

2. Invite parents into the process.  I have never tried this, and I guess I'd have to think about how I would do it.  However, when some of my children were in school, I was sometimes asked by a teacher to share a funny story about my child, or to describe what I thought their interests were or how I believed my child learned best.  I think that's a good way to show kids that writing is real.  In these cases, the writing was either shared or posted in some way. I wonder if sometimes children are reluctant to write things that are for their teachers' eyes only.

3.  You're already doing it.  I like Billie's answer to teachers who are reluctant to incorporating the use of traits in his or her classroom.  "You are already using the traits -- you just don't realize it."  Teachers of my generation weren't taught how to teach, we were taught what to teach.  However, most of us when we began teaching thought back to the teachers that we had and tried to be like them.  When innovative strategies come along, we often think at first, "Oh, what's this now?! Another new thing?!"  However, if we look at it with an open mind, we'll often find a lot of familiar territory.  On the other hand, although I have been teaching 27 years -- I don't know everything!  There are still new strategies to consider using.  There is a little saying they used to use with kids, and though it is corny, I believe it's true:  "Good, better, best -- never let it rest. Until good is better and better is best!"

4. Show me the funny!  I agree with Billie that humor is important.  Kids love to laugh, and I think sometimes we're too serious.  Can we make an important point and also let them laugh about what we're learning? Recently I've been trying to incorporate more academic vocabulary in my lessons.  We were looking at the word explicit (stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt).  We critiqued Grant Wood's painting Parson Weems Fable and discussed what was stated explicitly and what was stated implicitly (implied though not plainly expressed).  In this case, we don't know for sure that George cut down the tree, but we can infer that.  We know for certain that for some reason, the artist has given a grown up face to a young boy.  What possible reason can he have done that?  We know that the trees appear almost perfectly round, but we don't know why.  We know that the curtain is ringed with cherries, and this motif is used throughout the painting.  The cherries even hang in perfect little rows like fringe around the perfectly round trees.  Is there something about this scene that is a little too perfect?  How about the slaves picking cherries in the background?  "George Washington didn't have slaves!" protested one student.  "He most certainly did," I replied.  What might the artist be "saying" about that?  It brings up a great discussion about what is presented explicitly or implicitly in a work of art.

Now here's the joke. Soon afterward, I complained to a student, "Hey, you told me that your ceramics project broke and I told you to plug in the hot glue gun.  I assumed you would infer that you should glue it together!"  One student quickly replied, "Well, Dr. Wales, I guess you were not explicit enough!"  For the rest of the day I read this sentence on their vocab cards, "The art teacher was not explicit enough."  I am glad they understood the new word well enough to use it to throw me under the bus!  My point is, it doesn't hurt my feelings if they want to have some fun with the new word at my expense, as long as they have learned to use it correctly!

5. The fine art of writing.  Sue's Elementary Art-Based classroom got me thinking.  I like how she pairs each trait with a particular visual artist.  I believe that visual art is in many ways parallel to the writing process.  When we can show students how an artist's approach is similar to a writer's, I believe we'll help them understand both tasks better.  For example, using the painting above, I talk to students about the Principle of Emphasis in art.  Every work of art has a focal point, or center of interest.  We sometimes call it the main object.  What do you think is the focal point in Parson Weem's Fable.  I choose this painting because it is so unbelievably obvious!  Almost everyone immediately points to the axe in young George's hand.  For heaven's sake, there are three sets of fingers pointing right at it.  The corner of the building comes down, with the diagonals on either side acting as an "arrow" pointing right at it.  I point out to my students that just as a paragraph has one main idea, and the other sentences in that paragraph are there to support the main idea -- a work of art has a focal point, and the other accessories in the painting are there to emphasize that and draw attention to it, not to compete with it. 

There were many other good ideas in the chapter, but these are the suggestions that stood out the most to me.  My classroom, like yours, is a "work in progress".  It's a pretty good "work of art" -- but I'm not done refining it. 

Reading: Pathways to New Worlds