There’s Been a Whole Lot of Learning Going On

Teaching in the Reading/Language Arts Masters Program

photo of Julie Niles Petersen & Dr. Erica Bowers

Congratulations on the
Outstanding Contribution to Reading Award, Erica!
You are a phenomenal mentor!

My first semester as a professor is quickly coming to a close. The only thing I have left to do is grade my students’ final papers (due by midnight this Saturday). After that, I should be able to invest more time on the TWRCtank until the next semester begins on January 20, 2011.

Teaching next semester is not a guarantee. However, if all goes well, I will continue teaching READ 508 – Teaching Reading in the Elementary Classroom in the spring. I’ve been co-teaching it this semester with Dr. Erica Bowers (pictured above right) and there is a possibility of co-teaching another course with her next semester. (Yes, I’m keeping my fingers crossed–she has been a phenomenal mentor to me over the years and I would love to co-teach with her again.)

Since these are online courses, I really needed to learn some new technology. Thankfully, members in my Twitter PLN have kept me current on the many different technology tools they use in their classrooms. Had it not been for them, I would have been completely overwhelmed. Google Docs is one tool I had heard about for a long time, but never took the time to learn. Finally, I jumped on the Google Docs bandwagon and I am in awe. The collaborative nature of this tool is perfect for online teaching! We only used it for a few projects this semester, but I have already dreamed up more uses for it for next semester. (This was the first semester that courses in this program were offered online.)

I also had to familiarize myself with how to use Blackboard as a teacher. Unfortunately, the university will upgrade to the newest version (or switch over to Moodle) meaning I’ll have some more learning to do. In Blackboard, we had weekly forums to discuss such things as videos we watched, required readings, and teaching reading in general. Students were required to start a thread by Tuesday and respond to two of their peers by Saturday. I stayed out of the conversation (for the most part) until Sunday. Then, I wrote up my TWRCs about the learning unit. Much of what I wrote will eventually show up in future blog posts. :)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I also learned how to make screen cast videos. They are so much fun to make and are a real asset in the online environment. One assignment also required students to make a Wiki. I hope to incorporate that more in the future, too.

If you have recently taken an online class or you teach online, I would love to hear your thoughts–pros, cons, and suggestions on how to make it more interactive.

The Orange County Reading Association

photo of Erica, Julie, Freddy & Megan at OCRA's 47th Annual Fall Conference

Dr. Erica Bowers, Julie Niles Petersen,
Dr. Elfrieda H. Hiebert & Megan Sommers
O.C.R.A.'s 47th Annual Fall Conference
October 23, 2010

My presidency for the Orange County Reading Association will also be coming to a close soon (May, 2011). Our fall conference is our largest event and it was a great success. Our keynote speaker was Dr. Elfrieda (aka Freddy) H. Hiebert. I have heard her speak many times and I honestly believe her session at our conference was the best I’ve ever heard. She never fails to push my thinking while making me laugh at the same time. Thanks a million for everything, Freddy!

photo of @teachingwthsoul @TWRCtankcom & @flourishingkids

@teachingwthsoul @TWRCtankcom & @flourishingkids

Not only was I honored to introduce Freddy, but I also had the opportunity to meet two very passionate educators from my Twitter PLN in person–Joan Young and Lisa Dabbs. I was delighted they also presented for us. I just wish I was able to attend their entire sessions and spend time with them after the conference. Being the president, I had to make sure everything ran smoothly which it did thanks to so many of our wonderful OCRA volunteers.

Other people who so graciously volunteered to speak at our fall conference included: Amy Adams, Ron Boren (the inspiration behind my blog title), Dr. Linda Clinard, Kim Hanley, and Karin Foster. Although I did not get to hear their entire sessions either, I heard great things. A big thank you to all of you! Click here to find all available presenter handouts from OCRA’s 47th Annual Fall Conference.

Our second big OCRA event will be held on March 24, 2010. Our keynote speaker will be Kelly Gallagher. I have heard him speak once before and he was amazing. I can’t wait!

After learning all about Google Docs for my online course, I also created an account for OCRA. I spent numerous hours converting and organizing all the Microsoft documents I have compiled for OCRA over the years to Google Docs. Other volunteer members are doing the same. Although this project is nowhere near completion, it has already proved advantageous and I am so excited for the future. It should save us so much work and let us collaborate much more effectively. Thank you, Google Docs!

Attending Dr. P. David Pearson’s Inaugural Webinar

photo of Sharon, P. David Pearson & Julie Niles Petersen

Sharon, P. David Pearson & Julie Niles Petersen by the Golden Gate Bridge
(Photo taken on 06-07-2006 during a Comprehension Institute at the
University of California, Berkeley)

On October 5, 2010, I attended P. David Pearson’s inaugural webinar, “Reading Comprehension: The role of talk, text, task.”* I have learned so much about reading comprehension from Dr. Pearson and have been one of his fans for many years. This webinar didn’t disappoint me, but it disappointed him that his videos wouldn’t play. He informed us that if we wanted to watch the videos, we could watch them in a video of a live presentation he recently gave at the University of Wyoming, “Rich Talk about Text,” because it was basically the same presentation. Although it is over an hour, I highly encourage you to watch one of them because they are fantastic!

You can find more resources from Dr. Pearson on his website at

*Thank you International Reading Association for making so many great resources available to us! Another thank you to Dr. Pearson for sharing his wealth of knowledge with us!

The California Reading Association’s Professional Development Institute

photo of Dr. Donald R. Bear at CRA 2010

Dr. Donald R. Bear at CRA 2010

On October 15-16, 2010, I attended the California Reading Association’s Professional Development Institute. I went to Regie Routman’s keynote speech, “Accelerating Achievement for All Learners: What Does It Take?” I also attended sessions by Lori Oczkus, Dana Grisham, Donald Bear, Shane Templeton, and Elfrieda Hiebert and loved each of them. I may write more about the sessions at a later date.

Wouldn’t you know, I ran into another person from my Twitter PLN, @Cathy_Blackler. What a treat! Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time at CRA. You can click here to access all available presenter handouts from the California Reading Association’s Professional Development Institute.

CRA: Thank you for putting together such an intellectually stimulating PDI and for compiling these great resources!

The TWRCtank and Future Endeavors

First, let me just say that if you emailed me through the TWRCtank or Twitter and I did not get back to you, I apologize. Not only was I overwhelmed with OCRA and learning how to teach online, but I was also going through a cancer scare. I realized I could not do it all and I had to let some things go. I’ve saved your emails and will get back to you once I finish grading my grad students’ final papers. I hope you understand.

Next semester isn’t that far away and I’m guessing I’ll be less active on the TWRCtank during that time, but I hope my absence won’t be as great. However, if I end up co-teaching the second course, I know there will be a lot of learning going on with that one, too.

Overall, I think I really like teaching online–especially since READ 508 was my favorite course when I was in the masters program. On the other hand, I have to admit… I really miss working with struggling readers–especially in one-to-one or small group situations.

I have continued looking for a full-time reading specialist position to no avail. Our nest egg is shrinking rapidly and my health insurance through COBRA is running out so I’ve had to do some serious thinking about my plans for the future. Here are some things I have been considering:

  • Tutoring via Skype. I really love tutoring and had considered tutoring full-time in the past, but I didn’t like that the hours coincided with the time I normally spend with my husband. If I figured out how to tutor online, that would no longer be a problem because I could tutor English speaking students all over the world during daytime hours. If you have ever tutored online, I would love to hear about it.

  • Consultations via Skype. This would probably be with people who are concerned with a struggling reader. I know I’ve helped parents by giving them suggestions in parent-teacher meetings, so imagine I could do the same thing via Skype.

  • Products. I’ve considered selling things like pencils, stickers, and mugs with the TWRC acronym, but I’m not really sure how to go about doing this. If I did this, would you consider buying them?

  • Sponsors. I’m not sure how I would go about finding people who are willing to sponsor this blog, but it could be a viable option. Are you interested?

  • Monetizing this blog. I will probably add an Amazon store and Google AdSense ads in the near future.

  • Donations. I will probably also add a donation button just in case someone is feeling nice. :)

Any thoughts on my ideas or suggestions for things I haven’t considered would be greatly appreciated. I really love teaching reading and hate to think that due to the economy and education budget crisis, I might end up having to give it all up to go back to the world of business.

Finally, one thing I plan to change on this blog is to add a new page for my resources. I recently attended a webinar on easy technology tools and learned about I think it will be a really nice addition. Have you ever used it?

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  • Llkoenig

    All the best!