Annotation Exploration with PaperPort Notes and Crocodoc

This week, our English IV classes have been studying Macbeth. Since we’ve been focusing on marking the text and other critical and close reading strategies, I didn’t want to stop working with reading strategies because we were reading a play, but critical reading strategies are often difficult and boring when using the regular text book. But no worries because last week when I was reading the Twitter stream, I discovered the Burlington High School High School Help Desk Blog,Top iPad Apps for PDF Files. One of my colleagues and I had been looking for a free pdf reader to use with the iPads, so we were really excited about the prospect of using

with our students. So far, the app has worked great! Those students who prefer to use the laptops instead of the iPads participate similarly with

and I use crocodoc to model the process of annotating and marking on the big screen as well.

Here is how I model the process for students using crocodoc:




And here are some shots of student work using the PaperPort Notes app for iPad to read and annotate the play…






And here are students’ thoughts about the process…

Overall, the initial use of the app has been successful, so we’ll keep at it and let you know what we’re up to next. And special thanks to for the full text pdf of Macbeth!


What’s New with Service Learning?

Students have been working to complete interviews with experts, but a couple of groups have decided to encourage other ECHS to get involved with their causes by donating items for care packages for Sea Haven and local veterans.


The students pictured here wrote a proposal to the principal in support of their efforts so their work could be featured in the weekly announcements and November newsletter to parents. See proposal below.


Considering Digital Footprints, Interview Appointments, and Renaissance Monarch Projects

Wordle: English IV Wordle 1
Considering Digital Footprints

This has been a busy week in English IV. Throughout the week, students have been reading and reflecting on Stephanie Buck‘s article “12 Things Students Should Never do on Social Media.” Here were some of their thoughts on the importance of your digital footprint and how this information can be used to improve their use of social networking tools…

Chelsea says, “Based on the blog post “12 Things Students Should Never Do On Social Media” I can improve my digital footprint by using actual & realiable information, citing where I found my information, being professional, and not trash talking anyone or using inappropriate language. I can promote my blog thruough Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc, but it must be up to date, professional, and realiable. Post pictures, videos, etc to make it more appealing.”

Timmy says, In the article, “12 Things Students Should Never Do On Social Media” by author Stephanie Buck, I’ve learned about the safety of posting on the internet and social networks. I’ve found that you should never post anything that’s unethical to your blog, such as, bullying, profanity, plagiarizing, or anything that’s inappropiate. I also found that I should cite my sources like the videos I have posted so that I may give the credit that’s due to the publisher of the video. This can help my blog by showing that I am responsible by citing my sources and being mature in what I post.”

Anthony says, “Based on the article I can improve my digital fooprint by thinking of everything I do as public. Whatever I put on the internet can follow me anywhere. I need to be responsible with what I post on my blog. There are many ways to show responsibility and not post innapropriate material.”

Tia says, “I can improve my digital footprint by being more cautious of what I put on the internet. If I post inappropriate things on the internet, then that can follow me for the rest of my life. If I am responsible with what I post, then I won’t have any problems when it comes to my blog.”

Miya says, “Based on the article, I can improve my digital footprint by making sure that everything I post online isn’t harmful to myself , my reputation, or others around me. Whenever I’m posting on my blog, I need to be cautious of how it will look. I need to be a responsible person when posting anything online.”

Based on these and other responses, my students understand the importance of what they post on their blogs, and hopefully, these skills will begin to take effect in their personal social networking endeavors as well.

Interview Appointments

In addition to thinking about digital footprints and the reputation we build online, students had to set up interviews with experts in their service learning areas this week. While some students are interviewing the experts who are overseeing their community service, others are broadening their research perspective and interviewing other experts in the field. Students have made contact with the City of North Myrtle Beach concerning trash pickup and recycling, Anderson Oaks regarding the elderly, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority in respect to recycling, a local psychologist and teacher to determine the impact of mentoring on children, and one student hopes to interview a local newscaster who has done research on homelessness in our area. Their final interviews must be completed by next Friday and be added to their service learning blogs. These interviews will be included as one of their sources in their upcoming problem solution paper.

To continue following their work with service learning, Check out student blogs at “Warning: Websites Under Construction.”

Renaissance Monarch Project

As part of our study of British Literature, students spent the week learning more about the monarchs of the Renaissance Period and reading primary sources like Elizabeth I’s Speech to Her Troops. We also compared the Queen’s speech to William Wallace’s speech in Braveheart and practiced deep reading with text dependent questions and the SOAPSTone strategy. To continue practicing research and presentation skills, students worked in small groups to collect research about the monarchs of the period and had creative control over the presentation process. While some students used standard PowerPoints to communicate the information they learned to their classmates, others used the free version of the PuppetPals app and Prezi. Here are a couple of examples:

Tecia and Tyler’s Prezi on James I

Ayeshah and Isabelle’s Wix website


Reflecting on Learning

This week our service learning blog work has centered around how to build an audience and reflecting on the service students have completed so far. We spent a class period reading and reflecting on how we could use the ideas Larry Ferlazzo discussed in his article “Eight Ways to Build an Audience for Your Blog.”

Here were some of my students’ thoughts on the subject…

Twitter is a good way to gain support and followers world-wide. I plan to also ask teachers and other students to share my blog on their pages. -Tecia

I have already put my blog on Facebook and I will continue to do the same on other social media such as Twitter and via email. -Ayeshah

From the article, I realized how serious topics are to people and bloggers need to make sure their information is reliable and reasonable to their blogs. -Caroline

The blogging process that we went over in class has helped me improve my blog to attract more audience to view my page by adding more information every week so that there is a fresh mind and information for my followers to look at.-Timmy

A couple of students reviewed another of Larry Ferlazzo’s articles, “The Best Sources of Advice for Teachers (and Others!) On How to be Better Bloggers.” Heather said she felt “Warning: Do You Recognize these 21 Blogging Mistakes?” would be a good article for our class to review together to make further improvements to our blogs currently in progress.

This week we’re going to read and discuss Stephanie Buck’s “12 Things Students Should Never Do on Social Media” in an effort to improve students’ digital footprints.

In the area of community service, some students are off and running with time spent and efforts made while others still have a great deal of work to do. Here are some of their thoughts on the subject…

I have 6 hours and 40 minutes of service learning. I have been serving with the Early College High School recycling club. I gather up all the bags from all the recycling bins from all over the school every Thursday and then take them to the recycling center. -Tyler

October 12th, I plan to get my 1st few credited hours of community service after school. -Justin

So far i have spent every Thursday after school going to the Recycling Team from 2:30-3:30. Last week, we just completed our first activity in the community by cleaning up the campus; picking up mostly cigarette buds and recycling bottles and cans. I did a little research around the campus by asking the average smoker how many cigarettes they smoke in a day, because we found more cigarettes than trash on the campus. I found that an average smoker uses up two and a half pack of cigarettes a day. This is very dangerous to the environment because cigarettes are non biodegrade-able. Maybe its best that people create a solution to recycle cigarettes also, not just plastic and metal. -Timmy

We’ll keep working… Check out the progress on the blogs here, and let us know what you think…

Authentic Audience for Research: Are Blogs the Answer?

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Students Only Audience or an Audience of One?

When I became an English teacher, I had delusions of grandeur when I thought about the wonderful research papers my students would submit to me. If I have had a shortcoming as a teacher, my ability to successfully teach my students the research process would have to be the biggest. Every year, I have reinvented the wheel, but the proverbial tide began to turn last summer when I saw Michael Clay Thompson in Charleston at the Gifted and Talented conference. In his presentation, he discussed giving students multiple, short opportunities to practice the research process if we wanted them to be more successful. While I pondered, I considered how this statement alone went against most English teachers’ perceived notions the research paper. “Get rid of the Beast? The back-breaker of students (and teachers)? The make or break of the year?” Absolutely. Could it be that easy to throw in the towel? Yes. But how would you structure it? How would you make the process meaningful for students?

I left that conference and spent my summer pondering. I went to AVID. I pondered some more. Finally, after all my summer learning, pondering, and staff development, I decided that I would completely revamp the research process in my classroom. The process needed to connect with the real world and offer students choice in their learning. The kids should interact with the community and incorporate our school wide outcomes (personal responsibility, social responsibility, critical thinking, and communication). And so the English IV service learning project was born. Students would research and write a service learning proposal. They would participate in community service and gain experience with the issues/needs they saw in our area. They would interview an expert in their field of study and write a problem solution paper. Then, they would create an argument project to draw more attention to their issue and try to have it published. Finally, they would present the whole body of their work to the world in a blog as well as to an audience we bring together at school.

And since last fall, this has been our process, but each semester, I tweaked, trying to provide my students with the most authentic audience (yeah, I used that buzzword) I could provide for all their beautiful, passionate hard work and effort, and so far, I haven’t succeeded. A handful of students have had letters to the editor published in our local newspaper (which is nice), they love to share their public service announcements via YouTube, and their blogs are nice (they love to see where their viewers come from) but receive no feedback, so who are they really reaching?

George Couros, author of a piece titled “Authentic Audience,” believes teachers can help provide their students with this elusive audience by tweeting their work for the world. One of his students received feedback on her writing from the author her class had been studying. What a powerful motivation tool and how affirming that response must have been for this student! So this week, I tweeted links to a list of student blogs, but who am I really reaching when I only have 46 followers?

Andrea Hernandez addresses whether student blogs provide an authentic audience in a guest post on Langwitches Blog. She questions how the writing experience using blogs can be authentic if the writers have no audience and are receiving no feedback.  When she addresses the need for quality work, she states, “There are only so many people ‘out there’ who want to read poorly written, lacking-in-passion posts with titles like ‘Journal #5.'” I agree. This is why my students conduct research, complete community service experiences, and write and revise before they blog. This is why I’m modeling the process for them. But for all their hard work and passion, they still have no audience. Then, she says teachers should get connected, so I am. I tweeted out my students’ blog urls earlier this week; then, I discovered #Comments4Kids yesterday and tweeted their blog urls out again. Then, she mentioned that there should be conversation, so I asked for her help, and she responded,

@ReneeAtk Great! Please join the discussion at

So I’ll continue to study… And I’ll continue to read…

Eight Ways To Build An Audience For Your Blog.

The Best Sources Of Advice For Teachers (And Others!) On How To Be Better Bloggers.

And I’ll join that conversation, Ms. Hernandez, because now it’s time to stop talking so I can listen and learn how to build the best audience for my students.

Warning: Blogs Under Construction

Here is a list of websites currently under construction by students in English IV at Early College High School.