Thursday, 30 April 2009

Social web + teens = stranger danger?

We often focus on the risks involved when teens roam free on the internet. Since there are a lot of people in cyber space with cruel intentions, we certainly have to take these risks seriously. At the same time, however, the digital world is also a world of learning, and according to this article from the New York Times, teenagers who socialise online most often do so with people their own age who they already know. Why not read the article with your English class and see what the teenagers themselves have to say about this? It might turn into an interesting discussion. Photo from flickr: Jump on the social media bandwagon.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Optimistic about social web

Facebook, msn, twitter and similar online services can be huge challenges in classrooms when they steal pupils' attention from whatever we would like them to focus on. I must admit that this occasionally (understatement) happens in my classroom when my class is supposed to work individually on some assignment I have given them. They each have their own laptop and they are all online, so the temptation to chat or play sometimes becomes too much. Despite this, I am not one of those who propose we ban social web in schools altogether, because while the internet sometimes steals time, it also gives us access to...well, the whole world, more or less. In stead of returning to an offline existence in class, I think we just need to give ourselves time to figure out how we can make web 2.0 work with us and for us, rather than against us. A number of excellent people are doing great work to get us there and I insist on staying optimistic. In these in so many ways challenging times it is (oh, this is going to be a cliché, forgive me!) absolutely necessary to focus on the possibilities rather than the limitations (I warned you!). Comments? Photo: Twitter pack

Monday, 20 April 2009

I think my brain is coming out of my ears...

My colleague Liv Kristin recently wrote a post about late nights spent marking papers and how this made her think of Frost's lines "and miles to go before I sleep". I can certainly relate to this and reading what she wrote made me think of a poem that often comes to my mind when I have too much to do and feel like there just isn't room for anything else inside my head, namely Luke Yates' "I think my brain is coming out of my ears". I first encountered this poem on the London tube in 2001 as a "Poets on the underground"-poster and I just had to take it with me, so I took a quick photo of it that has been on my fridge ever since. The poet was only 16 when he wrote this and in 2001 he was acknowledged by The Poetry Society as one of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year. In these busy end-of-the-schoolyear-days I felt it was worth sharing:


* Found a pink wet thing

like a prawn on my pillow this morning

felt it, smelt it, looked at it under the microscope

and I could see memories, rumours and dreams

scrawled in my handwriting over the surface.

I keep my bit of brain in a jar, feed it marmalade, call it Fred.

* Frightening to think what might be missing -

unexplained chunks of life.

(I can't find the remote). Tonight

I sleep, orifices stuffed

and my ears glued to the sides of my head.

Luke Yates

Monday, 13 April 2009

Getting started with a project

The easter break is almost over and one of the first things on our schedule in English is to get an individual project going. One of the goals in our curriculum plan is that pupils are supposed to "choose an interdisciplinary topic for in-depth studies within his or her own program area and present this." Quite a tall order, if you ask me. A majority of my pupils feel most comfortable when they are told more or less exactly what to du. This project, however, is supposed to be about a topic of their own choice and they can choose to work on just about anything. Since exams are coming up, I will advice them to choose a topic that somehow relates to the world of English, but that doesn't really narrow it down much. An important objective of this project is to avoid papers or presentations where the pupils simply present the contents of an article from Wikipedia or similar. Somehow the pupils should be inspired to investigate and think for themselves. Therefore, we ask our students to make a thesis question their starting point. In addition to inspiring independent thinking, we hope that this will help them towards a narrow focus since almost any topic can become too extensive when you really look into it. Here's a couple of pages that can help pupils get started with similar projects: How to work with projects and Writing texts (Photo: Ideas)