Reflections of Blending English and Technology in the Classroom

Posts Tagged ‘1:1

#Iowaish – Connecting Iowa and Sweden

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What began as an off -the- cuff request on twitter has snowballed into a collaborative project connecting BCLUW AP Literature students with students from The International School of Helsingborg in Sweden. Each year I teach Albert Camus’s “The Stranger” and struggle through the lecture, questions, and discussions over Existentialism. At the beginning of the school year I met John Noonan a philosophy teacher in Sweden. I approached him for help and a possible guest lecture spot, but after many discussions we decided to connect our students for a collaborative lesson.

Starting in early October, students have connected through twitter(using the hashtag #iowaish), blogs, and Skype.  October 12, will be the first face to face meeting between the two schools. Throughout the next couple of weeks, students will identify characteristics of Existentialism, participate in a Skype video lecture on Existentialism given by Mr. Noonan, and apply their understanding of the philosophy to discussions, readings, and blogs. In November, students will be placed in small groups with members from both the BCLUW AP Literature class and ISH Philosophy class. Collaboratively, they will defend an argument based off of a question posed by myself and Mr. Noonan. A debate will conclude the project.

The 2009 -2010 school year was the first year of the BCLUW 1:1 laptop initiative. The ISH is also a 1:1 laptop school, making the collaboration and connection accessible outside of the walls of the school and hours of the typical school day. Having an opportunity to collaborate with students other than their normal peers, plus with a diverse group such as the one found in Mr. Noonan’s International School, cultivates an understanding of different countries, cultures and opinions. The collaboration increases the writing, speaking and debate skills of the students by constructing an audience other than the typical teacher they interact with daily. The project has already exceeded expectations and the students are looking forward to future connections and the final project.
I will update this blog periodically with our progress!

Written by sfarnsworth

October 12, 2010 at 3:26 am

Blogging Community

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This summer I started my own blog with the intent on having my senior Creative Writing class blog throughout the semester on a topic of their choice. What started off as a collaboration with one teacher and school, Shawn Hyer from Van Meter, has grown to include 2 other schools and interest from a couple more. Currently Erin Olson from Sioux Centeral,  Mike Richman from MNW, Shawn and I  have embarked on connecting our students to create an interest in writing. Providing a real audience containing more members than the teacher and modeling effective response has helped create a community of young writers. Although purpose and grading may differ amongst the 4 teachers, engaging students, inspiring writers, and connecting kids through writing are the emerging benefits witnessed so far.

What we did:

1. Established a purpose and shared vision for a blogging community,

2. Created a Google Doc that was shared with all students. Students linked their blogs, and wrote a phrase describing their focus. This allows all students access to all the blogs 24/7.

3.  Set our own individual class blogging requirements.

4. Provided examples of blogs to students, links for consideration, guidance.

5. Explored WordPress and Blogger.

6. Modeled Response.

7. Gave them time to write.

Last week a few students and I google video chatted Mr. Richman’s freshmen class to answer questions and create excitement for the project. As I sat and listened to my students speak I beamed with pride. I had the typical ones who loved to write and have found enjoyment creating their blogs and connecting. The most satisfying comments came from my student Zach. He told me with certainty on the first day of class he hated writing and would hate this class – he is now singing a different tune. He has  multiple posts, written more than previous years, and has no problem admitting he was wrong -he enjoys the class. He loves the interaction with others, is constantly posting and responding to blogs and is going to present with me at an upcoming conference. The best part is, he is one of many students that have a similar story.

Blogging alone is a great place for students to write, reflect, and learn; but building a community of student bloggers who interact with each other regularly provides a purpose, audience and a connection that was lacking in my previous years.

Written by sfarnsworth

September 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Posted in 1:1 School, Students, Writing

Tagged with , , ,

Reflections Year 1 of BCLUW’s 1:1 Initiative

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I am an English teacher at a 1:1 high school (all students grade 9-12 have laptops provided to them by the school), and although planned to blog the entire first year of implementation, life carried me away and the year ended as quickly as it started – with no blog. Now opportunity and a little time, plus nudging from my PLN (Personal Learning Network), has brought me back to my original goal of blogging.  So here it is, number one, a frightful consideration… how will I be perceived? Will anyone even read my thoughts? How will blogging transform me as a teacher?

I begin my maiden voyage with a reflection of the first year of 1:1 (Collaborative notes from an end of year staff meeting)


1.  Each staff member found personal success with implementation in their classroom and tools for their particular curriculum area.

2.  Staff agreed that the students were responsible and took excellent care of their laptops. ( we all chuckled at the memories of  the mobile lab issues that we  used to face – not charged, missing computers, check-out nightmares)

3.  Students were more organized! Opportunity to teach appropriate use of social networks.

4.  Leveled the playing field – everyone had the same opportunities and tools.

5.  Higher level of creativity in assignments and projects.

6.  Other student leaders emerged, not just the typical ones.

7.  Less paper use.

8.  Classrooms without walls, communication with students and staff increased.

9.  Student engagement outside of regular school hours increased, especially in areas of student selected interests such as Blender, Youtube channels, etc.

10.  Finally, students commented on how it was now “fun” and “engaging” to come to school.


1.  It was difficult and scary to give up control.

2. When is the best time to use in class – not just a novelty tool, but one to enhance the learning.

3.  Learning all of the new tools available. (this is where consistent PD helps)

4.  Must be specific with expectations.

5.  Getting the students up to speed. We were surprised how much they didn’t know. (folders, labeling, cameras, audio, etc.)

6.  Planning next year’s role-out.

7.  Continuing with the same vision without losing the excitement and drive, unity in faculty, and pushing students to evaluate their usage.


Finally, the staff reflected on advice they would give to other schools interested in implementing 1:1.

1.  Visit other 1:1 schools and bring a group including – teachers, administrators, board members, and STUDENTS!

2.  Must have the infrastructure in place to support the needs of all students in every classroom. (wi-fi, projectors, etc.)

3.  Enthusiasm is contagious, don’t let a small group of nay-sayers hold back what is best for the students.

4.  Must have sustained professional development. (We are bringing Apple back this year as well)

5.  Kids are kids, they will push limits, play games, get off task, etc. but you wouldn’t take away all the books in the school because someone was reading when they weren’t supposed to, would you? Sometimes they need a break!

6.  Finally, you are still in CONTROL of what happens in your classroom – classroom management!

Written by sfarnsworth

June 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm