Would You Want a Japanese Chin?

Have you ever seen a Japanese Chin? If you’re thinking of if you’ve ever really examined a Japanese person’s chin before, the answer is no, you haven’t seen the type of Japanese Chin that I’m talking about. The kind I’m talking about is a breed of dog, and its ten times better than whatever you thought a Japanese Chin may be!

I first found out what a Japanese Chin truly is when I was ten years old. Bright-eyed and in love with every puppy I saw, I bounced to and fro “Quality Canines,” desperate for a puppy, finally. I was set on a Yorkie, one of the more popular toy dogs; however, I was still overjoyed to see all the sweet faces around me. This joy dissipated as soon as the shop owner told my father that there were no Yorkies under $800. He told us to look around at the other dogs, which he promised were just as great. He pointed towards the small cage with two gremlin-like dogs inside that I had never seen before in my life. An eager child, I had studied many of the dog breeds: Yorkies, shih tzus, pomeranians. Japanese Chin was a breed I hadn’t heard before, though.

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“Those two are only $500,” I heard him say, and I felt the lump in the bottom of my chest fade, and my hopes began to soar. My dad asked more and more questions, and the only things the shop owner seemed to say were good things. Even as a ten year old, I was confused. It was too good to be true. How could these dogs be so great, but so cheap? Something had to be wrong with them.

 

Turns out that there is nothing wrong with them, once you get past their truly unique looks. The shop owner persuaded us that they were only inexpensive because they were rare, as opposed to the Yorkie, which everyone and their mother wanted– and still does– want. I gained my best friend when I turned ten, and Suki has been there for me ever since. When my sister and I had finally had our own money years later, we knew what would be the best ‘bang for our buck.’ Another chin, of course! After all, chins are like potato chips; You can’t eat just one! I now feel it is my duty to share why these little, rare, gremlin-like dogs are so very special with the rest of the world.

 

Why Own a Chin?

  • Small– perfect size for an apartment, but of course, as with any animal, the more space the better!

  • They don’t bark, typically (usually only for a guest that comes to the door, or something out of the ordinary)

  • The Chin Spin, chin singing, and chin head tilts

  • Incredibly loyal to their owners

  • Relatively inexpensive– check out the listings, here, for great breeders, who sell their pups to promising homes inexpensively

  • Rare– I can almost promise you that you’ll be the only one walking a Japanese Chin in your local park

  • Low maintenance coat (brush twice a week)

  • Comes in three different color shades: black and white, brown (red) and white, lemon

  • Historically speaking, they are the pets of royalty

  • Cat-like, so if you like cats, Japanese Chins are the dog for you!

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Blogging in English Class– Is that even possible?

This semester as part of my class’ assignments, we were directed to make a blog and post weekly. Instantly I was excited. I had always really wanted to blog, but never knew what to blog about. This was different though—I needed to blog weekly to get the grade I wanted in the class, and because I had a topic assigned to me, which was all things education, I was able to narrow down the long list of things I could potentially write about.

BlogMy experience, overall, was incredible. I received great feedback from my classmates, and I’m passionate about continuing blogging in the future, even after this class is completed. As English teachers, we want to get our students excited about everything they write about. I can’t imagine why our students wouldn’t be excited to create a blog of their choice and write about stuff that actually interests them for other people worldwide who share their same interests.blogsites

While this semester comes to an end, I am asked to design a genre study unit plan for one of my future ELA classes. It should come as no surprise, then, that I have decided, out of all the possible genres, to design a unit plan for blogging. I want to do interesting things in my classroom and engage my students, and as an engaged student that participated actively over the course of this semester as a blogger, I can only hope my students would feel the same way.

Designing this unit plan, I am having my students read a wide variety of quality blog posts. Students will be exposed to sports blogs, entertainment blogs, and even educational blogs, such as this one. Students will learn from these examples, all of which will have been written by exceptional and prominent bloggers. In addition to piquing my students’ attention and getting them excited about the project, I am also providing them with quality direction as they come to learn more about the conventions of the blogging genre. This way, students won’t feel alone in this overwhelming and often unfamiliar territory. I am even planning to explicitly show my students how to start up their blog on WordPress, to eliminate confusion, and share my knowledge of web 2.0 tools.

Designing a genre study unwhy-blogit on blogging could prove to be quite a challenge for ELA teachers due to its unconventional nature; however, the benefits far outweigh the challenge. Ambitious teachers that wish to captivate their students should think critically about incorporating blogging, if only for a limited period of time, in their classrooms. Students will be writing, revising and editing, and publishing, all of which are transferable skills that they can use in their later years as well as on their state exams, as well. Take some time and listen to the students, they think blogging is a great idea, too!

Pop Quiz: What’s the Best App for Finals Week?

If you’re an English major like me, during finals week you will most likely be spending your time camping out in the library with your laptop and your all mighty charger, banging out paper after paper for each one of your classes (or in my specific case, unit plans). However, if you’ve got regular finals, where you have to cram a bunch of cumulative material from across the semester, you might want to use the technology you have available, such as your computer, iPad, or phone to the best of your advantage.

There are a variety of apps out there to help students looking for effective studying strategies. One particularly helpful site, which has since been turned into an app, is Quizlet.

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Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 10.27.38 PMAfter downloading the app, one can study anywhere, even when they are without Internet connection. With more than 20 million sets of study guides, which look very similar to that of flash cards, ranging from language and vocabulary, standardized tests, math and science, history and geography, arts and literature, and more, students are bound to find materials they are studying in class all ready made. And in the rare case that they haven’t been made yet, students simply have to create their own quizzes.

Quizlet also allows students to join a class, so that they can share and learn together. As a future English teacher, who plans on incorporating vocabulary and grammar conventions in my curriculum, I feel that this could be an invaluable tool in my classroom—and perhaps yours, too! If incorporated effectively, students can engage in a friendly competition together before actually testing in the classroom.

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If you’re thinking of using Quizlet, watch this quick tutorial to learn how to use the site/app quickly and easily:

A Foreign Proposal

Just the other day my classmate Molly asked me if I heard about the buzz going on in the Modern Languages department about the new proposal targeting a reform in the foreign language requirements for a BA degree. This proposal would lessen the requirement for all BA degrees from proficiency at the 202 level to proficiency at the 102 level. Molly and I were immediately interested in learning more about this proposal. Molly had studied French with Madame Ponterio at our school, and flourished in her studies. By the same token, I had started out in SPA 201 with the lovely Professor Martinez de la Vega. While she admired my passion to teach English, she encouraged me to study Spanish further, even after I completed the required 202 level course. Perhaps what persuaded me most was her conviction that I would be an even better English teacher if I were to further develop my skills in Spanish. It was then that I had decided to add a general Spanish major to my all ready dense course load, in an attempt to certify myself to teach Spanish, as well as English.

Foreign Language Picture

As an English education major that plans to teach in New York City after graduation, I can’t imagine not knowing at least a good amount of another language. In my opinion, one of the most valuable general education courses and requirements I’ve fulfilled during my time at SUNY Cortland was undoubtedly Spanish. Maybe it was because before I came to college I had worked in an afterschool program with many Latino children and parents, translating for them, often times, in the little Spanish I knew. However, I’m not sure that without proficiency at the 202 level I would be able to offer such help. Sure, I might be able to mumble to a student’s parent; “Hola, soy maestra Petrosino, Cómo estás?” however, the conversation would most likely end there. With a 202 level knowledge, I know for sure that I could practically use Spanish to benefit student learning in my future classroom.

At a faculty meeting that Professor Colleen Kattau invited me to that aimed to open a conversation about this proposal, the entire Modern Language department came together to defend the need to keep the requirements the same. In their defense, many professors suggested that the main difference between the 102 and 202 levels in foreign language seem to be a qualitative matter of survival versus conversation, respectively. From the standpoint of a future educator, I know that I do not only want to survive with my students; I want to talk to and with them. Mecca, the director of Latin studies here at SUNY Cortland related to this in her own experiences as a teacher, stating, “talking to a person in their own language goes straight to their heart.”

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This proposal, if passed, would have severe implications for many majors with a BA degree; however, none more severe than the field of education. Department Chair and Professor, Dr. Gascon advocated for the necessity that students meet the 202 requirement, suggesting, “we lag far behind the rest of the world when it comes to foreign languages and understanding other cultures.” If we want to be cultured teachers who ask our students to examine the world critically, as well as understand various other perspectives much different than their own, we must keep language, a bridge that connects people worldwide, and many teachers to students, alive.

Turn Up This Radio Show, “Hit the Lights”

The past two weeks I’ve had the   radio_mike privilege of working with two of my classmates, Molly Robinson and Paula Rubino, on a radio show project for my “New Media Literacy and ELA” class. I have to admit, the idea of making a radio show with two classmates I had never spoken to really scared me at first. However, only fifteen minutes into our first meeting, my uneasiness was settled. Although none of us had previous radio show experience, nor experience with audio programs/ voice recording, we were all very eager to dip our feet in and get started.

As we sat down in The Bookmark, our school’s café, we decided we really wanted to do a radio show that spoke about something of importance in the SUNY Cortland community. This was a place that we all had in common, and could speak very easily about. Also, in turning to examples from the last year’s class, we all really loved one radio show, entitled “Cortland Creeper Status Radio Podcast.” This radio show seemed effortless; the hosts were quite obviously having a great time and had a lot to say. We brainstormed ideas for our radio show and came up with the idea of “Hit the Lights,” a radio show special dedicated to the SUNY Cortland blackout of 2013.

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This year the SUNY Cortland campus was affected by a series of blackouts, and Clark Hall even experienced “a small electrical explosion in an underground electrical vault in front of the main entrance.” All three of us had different experiences, and imagine that the rest of our campus did, too. We couldn’t wait to sharing them with each other and our potential viewers, as well as the other things that happened during this time that interested us as well. Brainstorming we decided that we wanted to talk about tweets and e-mails that were sent out, as well as pay homage to both the noisy crows that unfortunately populate our campus and the construction crews that wake us up early in the morning as they build the new hall that will open next year.

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Honestly creating the show was a lot of fun, however, it did prove to be frustrating at times. No matter how well you planned everything, the technology did not always follow suit. As the designated tech person, whenever I couldn’t get something quite right, I felt bad for my other group members. I didn’t want to let them down! I tried my best though, and they were more than supportive of my first time working with Garageband. At one point, I had lost a good two minute long track that Molly had recorded. I searched all throughout the project, but because we didn’t save it when we recorded it, it was evident that it was lost forever. I felt terrible, but we had to just move on, rerecord, and hope that the second recording would turn out even better than the initial recording. Ultimately, I think it was just as good, if not better! Having a team to laugh with, that helped you move on and ‘get over it,’ made it that much easier to do just this.

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No matter how much we read up on radio shows and Garageband, or how many examples of radio shows we watched, we still were trying to get the hang of things and were hoping we were doing it all right. It took a while to get the jist of how to record and split tracks, as well as how to add sound effects and music at just the right time. By the end of the experience, however, I feel as if I could create another radio show in perhaps half the time if I truly felt like it. And no matter how frustrating, Paula and Molly helped to keep me sane and we shared more than a few laughs along the way. All in all, even though there are a few kinks, and things didn’t always go as smoothly as planned, my experience was positive and one that I would do again. My group members and I are very proud of the final product, (which we uploaded to Soundcloud to make available to the public) and I think I speak for all three of us when we say that we hope you enjoy it and have a few chuckles.

A Space for Students Online

As teachers begin to teach with technology as a resource for learning, one popular move they are making is using sites, such as Google Sites, for a class homepage. Here, it is commonplace that educators are uploading course content, homework assignments, additional sites of value, as well as spaces for the students to create, as well.

It makes sense for teachers to do this, seeing as though teenagers walk around connected to the Internet by way of smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Many students must type up homework assignments anyways, so sometimes it could be easier for them just to pull up the webpage. While students may not always have their notebooks on them, chances are they are in a spot that has some sort of access to the Internet at their disposal. As long as they are able to find their course site, they can instantly find out their homework assignments, and anything else they may desire that the teacher has provided for them.article-1146029-0387EBC9000005DC-122_468x330

While more old-fashioned people who are less likely to use technology argue that this is creating students that are lazy and encouraging them to be lazy, as teachers, we would simply be providing them the content necessary for them to succeed. Lazy is when students know what the homework is but do not do it. And lazy, in the context of teaching, is not going above and beyond to make sure your students have what they need in order to receive excellent grades in your course. If you remind them of their homework in class as well as upload it on the Internet, as teacher, you have done your duty to encourage your students to engage in and submit all the work you ask them to do.

One popular choice that is being used by many teachers is Google Sites. In a comprehensive two-hour session, Eric Curts has developed an entire presentation dedicating to explaining his rationale as to why exactly educators should use Google Sites, and how they can set up their own site for their class.

Benefits of Google Sites

  • Students can have access to editing the site, and these rights can be individualized per page (good for projects)
  • Web-based; it is not necessary to install a program, CD, etc.
  • Easy to use but powerful; there is the opportunity to make your website more fancy or complex as long as you so desire
  • You can create as many sites as you want on one account
  • Pages can be public or private; you can control whether or not this is solely for your class or co-teachers if you wish

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In the recent years, the amount of classes I’ve used Google Sites in has increased greatly. For example, just a few weeks ago my class worked on a Google Site dedicated to media literacy, in which we all had our own page within the site that we were able to edit. This site proved to be a great space where my fellow classmates and I could share and view our projects with not only each other, but an authentic audience.

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 9.40.18 PMI’ve been excited to see high school educators incorporating sites such as Google Sites for their classes. My amazing host teacher handed me out her link a few weeks ago, and since, I’ve been able to track the students’ homework assignments in each class, despite the fact that I am unable to attend classes every day. Whenever students do not hand in assignments on time and begin to give her an excuse, she counters with, “Did you check the website?” When they answer no, she asks why not, and typically, they do not have an answer. My teacher shares the assignment with students in class on the board, aloud, and online, and so therefore, if students do not do the work, they only have themselves to blame.

“To This Day” We Collaborate and Create

It is nothing new that bullying unfortunately persists in schools. As educators, it is our job to work against this, to nip it in the bud and never allow it to enter into our classrooms, which we have so carefully tried to create a welcoming, positive environment for our students.

student_bullyingAs English teachers, we can go even further in our attempts to raise awareness about bullying and its affects in our schools especially, in addition to other equally important messages for adolescents. Expression can most certainly be released through writing, however, with the addition of a new world online, we can show our students how to express themselves even further, beyond their words, as teachers of English.

Considering how to self express with technology in mind, it is clear the benefits are numerous. By now, the majority of us have watched quite a few of the It Gets Better videos, a movement created to give hope to LGBT youth about the potential of each of their lives. Shane Koyzcan, spoken word artist, has created a project aimed to “to further explore the profound and lasting impact that bullying can have on an individual.” Shane attributes his inspiration for this project to his experiences with violence in schools, and writes, “[they] still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways.”

The adaptation of “To This Day” into visual form was brought together by several collaborators in order to create a cohesive, beautiful video to give image to the message behind Shane’s words. By incorporating music, visuals, animation and voice, this poem and its meaning was transformed beyond just the interpretation that words can give. For visual learners, this message is strengthened. One could close their eyes and simply listen, one could choose to follow the animation, or one could soak in the experience as a whole.Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 6.05.43 PM

The motion artists and animators involved each created a twenty second segment that was later pieced together into a whole, but without knowing this, one would never suspect such a thing. In fostering collaboration with our students in projects such as these, I would argue that this would be the goal of every teacher; having a unified and cohesive end product that plays to the strengths of each and every individual student.

Of course the success of this collaboration could not have been possible without the keen use of technology. The final video was uploaded on both video sharing sites Vimeo and YouTube, and embedded within blogs and newspaper articles. In piecing together the segments, collaborators uploaded to Vimeo, producing a total of 90 videos on the To This Day channel.

In a unit such as slam poetry, it would be a great idea to model a project such as this to students in order to show students the success of incorporating both technology and multimodality to their writing. Students will be able to see that there is indeed an authentic audience for what they have to say, especially when they consider the opportunities the online world offers.

A Flippin’ Awesome App

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Whenever a friend of mine gets a new iPhone or iPad, I recommend they download the app, Flipboard, which has been a personal favorite of mine for quite some time. Originally an iPad app, Flipboard recently became accessible for both iPhone and android users.

Flipboard is an app that allows the user to pull their accounts and interests into one visually appealing and user friendly place. Flipboard’s mission is “to let people discover and share content in beautiful, simple, and meaningful ways.” Isn’t this, as educators, the experience we want all our students to have with learning? We are constantly thinking of ways for we can help our students make meaning of the array of information available to them. Using Flipboard in the classroom would certainly be one way to allow students to have educational information right at their fingertips, just a few swipes away to seemingly limitless info.

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What exactly is Flipboard?

Flipboard is a personal news magazine. Upon downloading, each user subscribes to topics they are interested in, for example, sports, entertainment, and technology. Talk about personal learning environments! If the topic you are interested in is not featured, you can search for it and subscribe to updates. For example, when I search for edtech, Flipboard generates suggestions of twitter users, tumblr blogs, facebook pages, facebook groups, and RSS feeds that mention or tag ‘edtech.’ All I have to do is hit the plus icon to add it as a separate board to your Flipboard.

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Flipboard also allows users the option to flip through their social media accounts. We all know that managing these accounts is sometimes hard to do, or involves one too many tabs in our browser of choice. Flipboard is an aesthetically pleasing, intriguing, and user-friendly way to stay connected, educated, and always stimulated.

How exactly can we ‘flip’ our education, you ask?

  • Students can subscribe to many different feeds about a specific topic. Articles, tweets, etc., are refreshed at the flick of a finger, constantly providing a student with more information.photo copy
    • Research paper, anyone?
    • News boards (Huffpost, NBC News, The New York Times, just to name a few) for current events reading or video watching.
    • Education on personal interests (music, education, sports)
  • Students can stay updated with all of their different social media accounts in one neat, clear space.
  • Students can subscribe to boards for certain hash tags, for example, a class hashtag, such as #307eng to stay updated specifically to one topic.
  • Integration with Google Reader, allowing students to stay connected with blogs and other sites they follow. Below are examples of how beautifully my classmates’ blogs I follow in my Google reader appear  on the Google Reader board of my Flipboard.

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60 Minutes of Heavenly Informational Bliss

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 11.41.13 PMThe other day I had the privilege of observing at PS 46 in Harlem, NY. The teacher I was observing was a vivacious sixth grade teacher with ten years of teaching under her belt. She explained her teaching style as strict yet caring, and told me she thinks it’s most important to have discussions about things that matter with your students.

One way she was able to engage her students about such things was taking them a few doors down to the computer lab. Instead of having them read, she said she was going to let them have some computer time. I must admit, the inner future English teacher in me was freaking out when she told me her plan. That is until she explained that her students were allowed access to one website only: 60 minutes.

She rationalized that she began this break from reading when it became increasingly clear to her that her students were missing out on key current events and news. In light of this, they now have about thirty minutes or so most days to take a break from test prep and other subjects to sit behind the vivid, glossy iMac screens with headphones around their ears, listening to the informative but entertaining news stories.

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 10.53.36 PMAs I walked around the lab, I saw that each and every student was on the website. No student clicked out of the web browser; no one tried to sneak away into video game land or check his or her Facebook. Each student was wrapped up in an exciting story that the were learning from, whether it was about the NYC Ballet, texting during a terrorist attack, or a gospel program for Harlem teens. Peering over their shoulders, I could tell what these students were interested in, despite only meeting them just two hours ago. The teacher called to me from the other side of the classroom, “Look, Cassandra’s learning about capitalism. If I could get just one of these guys to voluntarily click on a video about capitalism and learn something from it… well, that’s all I could ask for!”

When we got back into the classroom, the students were asked to share with their classmates the name of the video they had watched and a few interesting facts they had learned. The details they recalled were truly remarkable. In that moment, I understood why it was so important to the teacher to sacrifice some reading time for time in the computer lab. Just one website unlocked a world of opportunities that appealed to all students, regardless their gender, nationality, or home language.

I learned that you could do aScreen Shot 2013-02-12 at 10.54.18 PM lot with just one website, with just thirty well-spent minutes behind a computer. I learned if you understand the benefits of technology, and advocate for it to be implemented within your classroom, there is nothing stopping you but yourself!