Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Special Assignment: Mr. McClung's World

Doctor Strange (photography)Image by ZHEPER Studios | TJ Czeizinger Jr. via Flickr1. In the construction of his blog, Mr. McClung has been very thorough in providing cool details, and yet also necessary components for visitors. His running tally of blog visitors and their locations is neat and I like it. The entire appearance of the blog is neat and orderly, which makes for a pleasant visit and aides in people of all ages being able to navigate the blog. He welcomes visitors and comments (on his Welcome page) and that is a very nice touch of warmth to the often cold world of the internet.

Everyday I try my best to bring high energy to my classes. I keep students engaged through a variety of teaching strategies that focus centrally about team/partner work. I believe that it is hard for every student to learn from traditional teaching methods (eg. notes, lecture, and homework nightly). I try my best to keep things as fresh as possible and FUN for my students.
I encourage all visitor to browse around our class blog and check out the variety of media that we have available, and as always, please feel free to leave us a comment….we ALWAYS enjoy hearing from our audience.
That is a quote from the page titled Mr. Clung. It's obvious he cares deeply about making learning fun and open for everyone to experience. Which is awesome and highly commendable as qualities that a teacher should have. He encourages visitor participation, which should in turn encourage student participation. It's a fairly well-known fact that giving attention to someone is a great way to ensure that they will try to improve or to further impress you. By putting his students on a larger stage and showcasing their work, Mr. McClung is actually encouraging them to do their best and be enthusiastic about learning.

3. Mr. McClung's first rules came as I expected them to be. They're very general rules for a classroom. 1) Be enthusiastic in class. 2) Don't just sit there, communicate. 3) Listen actively. Those rules are pretty standard and I know they'll be the first things on my syllabus when I'm teaching. But in addition to the basic rules Mr. McClung has additional rules, or rather, behavior modifiers. He requires his students to follows directions quickly, raise hand to speak, raise hand to leave seat, make smart choices, and to keep him happy. Those five are also rather simple and necessary in the long run for a successful classroom.

However, it is Mr. McClung's other classroom quirks in the form of procedures that gave me pause at first glance. Gestures? Class-Yes? Teach-OK? Hands and Eyes? Scoreboard? They seemed like silly additions compared to the first rules he laid out, but after I digested them for a moment and my brain recovered from the stun, I realized that the things he proposed to institute in his classroom were perfect for a middle-school classroom. They give order to a crazy existence, while still making it fun. Kids secretly want rules. I was once a kid, and I was relieved to have the rules as a script for how to act in certain situations. Upon second look, Mr. McClung's rules about using gestures to talk and to "teach" other classmates about what they've just learned is a great way to keep the kids active and engaged. It's so easy just to write something on the board and make them write in their spiral bounds notebooks, but as Mr. McClung has already made clear, he doesn't want to stick to the boring same-old same-old. He want to actively engage students and make learning fun. His Class-Yes and Hands and Eyes procedures require students to pay attention so that they are never left behind in his high-energy classroom. Plus, the Scoreboard part allows kids to participate and work for rewards. It's like a game. A learning game. That's wonderful.

4. Everyone needs a planner. I'd be lost without mine. I've been using a planner since I was in high school, and back then it was the center of my life. I once thought that I had lost it, and I freaked out because I knew it held my entire life between it's plastic covers. I think that the planner should be the first thing on any student's list. It should actually be their first purchase when preparing for the school year. It's best to start each school year with a new, fresh planner so you can begin with a seemingly clean plate. It's like a new page in your life. Using planners takes practice, but once you get used to it, you will make life so much easier on yourself. It's easy to forget about things when we have full schedules with school, practices, church, home, etc to worry about. We don't really know how busy we can get until we forget something because we didn't write it down. It's very smart of Mr. McClung to require his students to keep a planner. These days I use the planner on my iPhone, but sometimes I find that it just helps to actually write my appointments, classes, meetings, etc down in a traditional paper planner just to get them out of my head and somewhere that I can see them and not worry about forgetting any of them.

5. Mr. McCLung's policy on late-work seems fair. It's pretty standard for what is expected from most of my college classes. Homework assignments should be turned in on time, since you have so much time out of class to do them. Getting them done shouldn't be a difficult task. However, forgetting the assignment despite having been reminded about it and being told to "write it in your planner that I require you to keep" seems a little irresponsible and the consequences that Mr. McClung lays out are what I consider to be fair. Especially since he tries not to give homework in the first place.

Compared to Dr. Strange's late-work policy, I'd say they're about even (except Dr. Strange like using bold and italicized exclamations of "You will get a D or an F if you fail to turn in one assignment on time.") We're required to honestly record when we turn in our assignments and we are given an entire week to do them. We have the entire resources of the lab and lab assistants as well as Dr. Strange for help and guidance, so turning in assignments late is more of a personal issue I think. Our class is mainly web-based, so we need to have a certain amount of self-motivation and consequences to propel us to do the work on time. I have no problem with the policy, to be honest. I like it. But then again, I also like following set rules. Maybe that's just me. I also like the thrill of danger I get when it gets close to the deadline of midnight Sunday and I just posted my last blog post Saturday night. A whole day ahead. Yes.

6. Mr. McClung's World is his method of "driving" education and providing a visible link between students, parents, and other teachers on his journey through education. It's part forum, part exhibition, part outreach, part news, part update, part resource, and a bunch of other things, but mostly it's a way to connect all of these different things into one whole that can be enjoyed and used by a large number of people.

In my future teaching position, I hope to employ some sort of technology (most likely a blog) to make the learning experience more enjoyable for not only myself and my students, but also for the parents. Many parents feel out of the loop when it comes to how their children are doing in school and the only connections they have are newsletters, report cards, progress reports, and sporadic PTA meetings. A blog like Mr. McClung's provides a channel for parents to participate and not feel so alienated from their children's education. If I was a parent of one of his students, I'd feel appreciative of him for access to the blog. That way I wouldn't have to stalk my child on Facebook. (Yes. I'm talking to you, Mother. Love you.)

7. For the Useful Links page, I was naturally drawn to the more English teachery links like Plagiarism Checker (love that link!) and OWL: APA Formatting website. Both of those are something that I feel very strongly about and I applaud Mr. McClung for including them in his Useful Links. Everyone should have these bookmarked. I do! Basically, with the Plagiarism checker, students or teachers can copy and paste the selection of text or an entire essay they wrote, and find out if anything is directly copied, aka plagiarized. Of course, there are going to be exceptions like for quoted text, but if those are attributed correctly using AP Style like shown on OWL, there shouldn't be any problem despite the checker saying so. The OWL website is handy dandy for the essay and research paper besieged student. High school English teachers require that students learn or at least know how to use AP Style guidelines when writing research papers, and since it's a little tricky to remember everything, this website is perfect for quick references. The fact that these two are included in the list if further testament to Mr. McClung's desire to make his blog a place where learning is top priority.

8. Internet Safety is of top priority when dealing with children and students in particular. If you are going to be using the internet for classes, you have to protect the students because you are liable for any danger they are put in because of it. Mr. McClung's rules are very thorough and I think they cover the variety of issues that can come up with great aplomb. I can't really think of anything else to add to his rules, but I do think that he was right in laying down rules in the first place. We all know that just like the world, the internet is a dangerous confusing place, even more so for naive teenagers or preteens. Not giving personal information is a great preventative for identity theft and for stopping "bad guys" from being "creepy." It's best to err on the side of caution when mixing young people with the internet in a classroom setting.

9. The post I was assigned for C4K was filed under the Main Page, and the other posts included the videos for the talent show and Mr. McClung's return to full-time teaching after his student intern left. Returning to something after a hiatus is always the worst, but I'm sure he'll get going soon enough like he said. He described it as getting back on a bike. And you know the old saying: It's like riding a bike. You never forget how. Anyway, I thought it was nice how he was looking forward to getting back in front of the classroom with his students.

10. Humm. Edublog does seem pretty nice. Mr. McClung's World is a great blog and I like the way it is set up. Everything is easily found and I especially like the search feature. I think I'd like to have that on my blog as well, since lately it seems like I've been posting tons of stuff. It'd be nice for visitors to be able to find certain posts without looking at the entire selection if they don't have the direct link to the post they are looking for. Although, on Blogger, the archive gadget that we have is pretty good at navigating through the posts by title and month. If I ever have a blog as massive as Mr. McClung's though, I would definitely want the search gadget.

11. I think I may have already answered this question in a few of my other answers, but I guess I can just recap and reiterate what I've already said. The blog I've been describing in a fair amount of depth is contrived to be a tool for not only students, but also parents, other teachers, administrators, and visitors to enjoy and experience easily. It hosts a list of links, and acts as a sort of exhibition of the works of students and Mr. McClung in the field of education. It's a one stop shop for all of the above and more. It's entertaining, helpful, and informative. All three of those things together makes one heck of a blog. The best my blog can claim is possibly entertaining and maybe informative. I don't know about helpful. (Cue laughter.)

12. Some of the other blogs I've visited seemed to be more student centric, if that makes any sense. It was more of an outlet for students to post weekly responses to prompts or the like. There was some information about the teachers and the schools and each student, but unlike Mr. McClung's, they didn't have much more than that. Mr. McClung's blog is more of a website plus the journal aspect and the posts are mostly done by himself. There is the section of Student Work, but it is only one aspect of the blog site. There is so much more to it than that, and that is what makes the blog so interesting: the diversity. It encompasses a great deal which is why it's a good resource for students, teacher, and parents.

13. I took into consideration the fact that Mr. McClung has only been teaching three years, and I find that I'm seriously impressed with what he's been able to accomplish with his classes and his blog. However, while exploring his blog I did manage to find a disconcerting amount of grammatical errors. If he would like me to detail them for him, I will, but otherwise, since he's a history teacher, I'm sure his audience will forgive him. I did. It would be different if he were an English teacher. Then I would question things. As it is, the offer still stands for the grammatical read-thru.

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