Tag Archives: teaching

Fire Writing

Lia Fire Writing
Lia Fire Writing by naturalturn 2008 https://www.flickr.com/photos/naturalturn/
I don’t think I’ve ever heard the expression “fire writing” before, as mentioned in this Edutopia article, New Teachers: Inspire Your Students to Write, Write, Write. However, it is exactly how I got things going with my PhD dissertation. I just wrote. And I didn’t worry about how it looked or sounded. It was messy and chaotic, but I cleaned it up later. First I dumped my ideas out of my brain and onto the page as quickly as I could. Then I went back and ruthlessly edited. I cut out huge chunks that I loved and was left with the essence of what I was trying to say.
Another great idea from the Edutopia article is something I first read about years ago in Zinsser’s classic book, Writing To Learn. Students tend to write for an audience of one – the teacher. They need to stop it, and we as teachers should stop encouraging it. Zinsser suggested writing letters to a friend or family member about the day’s learning.  I think it is a great approach. Instead of getting hung up on perfect mechanics, get to the main ideas, reflect and write about them. Quit worrying about what you think the teacher might want, and write the important ideas in a voice that someone who loves you and cares about you would recognize as you. If it comes out wrong, you can always improve and revise.
I teach a class that includes a lab activity and requires lab reports. I wonder what those might look like if they were composed in the form of a letter? Right now, I have a prescribed format that I’ve been using since I first started teaching the course. I inherited the report structure from the person who taught the class before, and haven’t ever questioned it. Perhaps it is time for me to take a closer look at that important writing assignment.

What is a Personal Learning Network or PLN?

For many years now, I have been developing and enjoying the benefits of having a “Personal Learning Network” or PLN. Some of the best teachers I’ve ever seen are out there freely sharing their best stuff on teaching. This normally happens in the form of blogs and through social media. Over the years, I’ve received enormous benefit from my self-directed efforts at professional development in the form of the PLN, although over the past few years things have slowed a great deal for me. As we enter the new year of 2016, I am looking towards renewing my PLN learning with new vigor. In fact, this QUEST group could absolutely be considered a PLN. But I would like others to be aware that there are amazing possibilities out there to be discovered.

For now, I will share two of my favorite resources.


My original Techintersect blog includes some of my favorite writings on teaching. I changed to this new Billgx.com Techintersect blog and while it hasn’t had as much love and attention yet, I hope to change that in the coming year.

You don’t need to have a blog to benefit from the blogging phenomenon. You can just visit the blogs of other blogging teachers and begin the conversation there through the comments.

Social Media

I follow a number of educators on social media that I admire. This is an important topic by itself, but to get started I recommend searching for people with similar interests on Twitter. Just go to search.twitter.com and enter terms you are interested in. Once you find someone who seems credible (lots of users, lots of interactions, great ideas) look at who they are following and follow those people as well. Building a PLN on social media is an ongoing process.

Another idea is to connect through social media with educators you already have met in person. For example, I follow a good number of people on Facebook whom I’ve met at the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching.

Well, that’s it for now. These two are great ways to get connected with amazing educators out there that can keep you busy with new ideas for your entire career.

Finally, a question for dear readers – Are any of you doing either of these things? How are you using electronic communications to stay in touch with other educators? Any tips or advice on things that work?

First Day Thoughts

Tomorrow is the first day of school. It can be an awesome, but for me it is sometimes a stressful day. I have often read the online posts of teacher friends and colleagues writing about the excitement they feel in preparing for a new year of classes. The planning, the preparations, arranging the room, even the  smell of new school supplies gives them great joy.

What really interests me is meeting the students. That’s what I love most about my job – working with people, helping them to grow and improve themselves. But this is a bit of a paradox, because I can tend to be sort of introverted. Isn’t that strange? I love people, but first encounters can be awkward. It takes me longer than I think it should to learn names, and even after I’ve learned names, I’m still nervous about calling someone by the wrong name (it happens more than I care to think about.) It is frustrating, but I do my best.

This year, I plan to work harder at connecting better with my students. I think sometimes I project a withdrawn, uncaring image but it is mostly just my inner introvert taking over. (Also, I’ve been highly distracted the past several years, and a big part of that is now resolved and out of my life, thanks to a successful Ph.D. defense!)

I’m envious of those who don’t have any  issues of connection and rapport, but I’m still willing to work on and improve in this area. I’d be really curious to hear from teachers who have struggled and made improvements in this area.

Welcome back to school everyone!