The Polliwog Journal

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Pleasing paradox

September 6th, 2007 · 3 Comments · CyberEnglish

It was the third day with my new CyberEnglish students, and while I recognize that a honeymoon period exists and it is hubris to attribute too much glee to a happy honeymoon, things are going very, very well and I like my new students–a lot!

So I was helping them reset their email passwords and showing them how to use the email program by having them send me an email message, something short, something about how they feel about being in CyberEnglish.

Megan wrote:

I think this class will be better than most classes because you don’t have to write a lot; you do most of it on the computer.

This is my reply:

Hah! Megan,

You’ve just expressed one of the most interesting paradoxes of CyberEnglish. Students think that they aren’t doing much writing because it’s on the computer. But we actually do a LOT of writing.

I get this every year. We don’t do much writing in CyberEnglish. I suppose there could be two interpretations there. 1. A student who loves to write thinks he’s being shortchanged. 2. A student who hates to write is pleased. Although, now that I think about it, I bet that student number one is going to recognize that typing is writing.

I had other messages, too, such as “I’m bad at computers (filled with trepidation)” or “I’m no good at English.” But mostly, there was only joyful anticipation, students excited to be in an English class with COMPUTERS.

I wish I could publish them all. They give me motivation to keep going when the going gets tedious, when the bureaucracy gets me down, when it seems like it’s an uphill battle to push the techno envelope.

Today was great. When the bell rings and we close the door, it’s just them and me and the whole world to discover.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Mary Stilwell

    And again, my best inspiration is from your pages. I listened and watched with a mixture of pride and absolute joy today as my students worked through their first CyberEnglish assignment. Following your lead, I had them email me and was blown away when a student wrote,

    “It is good because most teenagers our age spend all of their time on the computer, so this allows us to use tools that we know how to use to improve our work.”

    Isn’t that what it’s all about? We’ve been fortunate in our district to have had David Warlick at conferences twice in recent months and really, that recognition that we have to meet the students where THEY are resounds in his work.

    The availability of your research, your work and your encouragement to others really does offer those of us who are just starting out such a major step up. Many thanks!!

  • Dawn

    I mentioned you and your students in class today, saying that as you explore CyberEnglish, it is very likely your students may take a look at my students’ sites. I wanted to reinforce the idea that their sites are public. I think we need to talk about some kind of collaboration–across time and space–as only the Web can make happen.

  • Mary Stilwell


    Funny how sometimes the obvious comes last! Of course we should collaborate! I am working with a teacher who, although new to using technology, is as keenly willing to jump in as I am. She and I have also partnered up with education students from a nearby universtiy so we may be able to integrate those students as well.

    Or … we might want to wait until Semester 2, after Stephanie and I are feeling a bit more steady in our roles. I am fascinated with the Living History projects your students do; we might want to look at something similar but with more of a regional/cultural theme that would allow students to show-case communities.

    I think we’ll have something really exciting to offer our students.

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