Archive for November, 2009

Blogging for Better Behavior

From the psychology 101/”self-help” files:

Two years ago I blogged about my attempts to change an undesired behavior of mine using some pretty basic behavior management techniques.  This evening, I’m going to come at this from another angle: increasing desired behavior through blogging.

“Journaling”, or writing down reflections & analyses of one’s own behavior, is one of the “go-to” tools of the cognitive-behavioral therapist.  It helps make one more aware of one’s behaviors and consequences, and also allows for reflection on the emotional and social impact of those behaviors, both on oneself and on others (Ullrich & Lutgendorf, 2002).  In some cases, it may also have a general therapeutic effect beyond simple behavior management (Fritson, 2008).  It’s both a motivational tool and coping mechanism, and it can work as well for adults as for children.

I’m using journaling to support a new behavior I’d like to see continue.  After a false start last week, I started the P90X workout program this past weekend, and it is without a doubt the toughest workout program I’ve ever done.  I’m used to lifting very heavy weights with decent breaks in between, but this program has you up and moving, lifting, breathing, and sweating constantly for about an hour at a pop.

My cardio fitness level is not where it used to be, so this is pretty challenging for me.  In order to a) keep me mentally focused on the benefits and b) make myself accountable an audience (real or imaginary, I’ll grant you), I’ve started microblogging my efforts here.  It is my hope that this will help “keep me honest” and committed to the full 90 days of this workout program.  It will also help me track my progress as I (hopefully) gain strength and endurance throughout the program.

Other folks in the edublogoblahblah have done something similar, only as a group, regarding their running efforts, and I seem to remember (but can’t locate) yet another example of a similar group of educators rallying online around their weight loss efforts.

Do it in a group or do it on your own.  Do it online or offline.  Do it on a blog or do it in a notebook.  Journaling is a tool that can help you reach a behavioral goal you’ve set for yourself, whether it’s running your first 5K, losing that last 10 pounds, or even more long-term goals like surviving your first year of teaching or finishing that grad degree.


Fritson, K.K.  (2008).  Impact of journaling on students’ self-efficacy and locus of control.  InSight, 3, 75-83.  Retrieved from

Ullrich, P.M., & Lutgendorf, S.K.  (2002).  Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression.  Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), 244-250. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2403_10

NJEA 2009: Teach > Tech

It’s been over a  week since my two-day presenting stint at the New Jersey Education Association‘s annual statewide teacher’s convention in Atlantic City, and I have to say that, my crippling sinus infection notwithstanding, it was an incredible experience.

Credit must be given where it’s due: I think the organizers of this year’s High Tech Hall really got it right in terms of how to provide participants in such a huge setting (we’re talking attendance estimates in the tens of thousands) access to tools and meaningful uses thereof (as meaningful as you can get in a giant convention center, anyway).  Presenters in High Tech Hall were given round tables (approx. 6′ diameter), 32″ LCD screens, and 8-9 chairs.  We hooked up our own netbooks, laptops, speakers, and whatever other peripherals we needed, and conducted “drop-in” sessions where we could talk with small groups of people (see photos) about our respective topics (I did 4 hours on wikis and 4 hours on developing learning networks).

Having given both large group lectures and small group drop-in sessions, my favorite type is by far the small group setting.  I really enjoyed being able to talk with the folks who dropped in, find out what they knew and what they needed to know, and learn about their specific professional circumstances.  I was then able to tailor my presentation to their individual needs and help guide them where they felt they needed to go, not necessarily where I wanted to take them.

Toward the end of the day, I was talking with a resource room reading (I think?  sorry!) teacher who was thinking that wikis might somehow be encouraging to her students.  After explaining the basics of the tool, as well as listening to her background, we agreed that a wiki probably wasn’t going to be of much use to her students.  Due to the small setting, however (she was the only one at my table; this was about 10 minutes before shutting down for the day), I was able to sit and brainstorm with her for a bit, and I showed her Audacity, a free program for digital audio recording.  We talked a bit about teaching reading, oral fluency, listening skills, and self-monitoring & self-evaluation, and after some further discussion and an impromptu demonstration, that teacher left with at least another idea for helping her students.

It didn’t matter to me that a wiki was not in her immediate future because that would not have helped her students.  I liked being able to go “off book” and use what knowledge of tools I have to help her brainstorm some ideas for activities (aided, not driven, by technology) that would suit her students’ needs.  We do all our students a far greater service by letting their needs drive the choice of technological tools (or the choice to not use technology), rather than the other way around.  As I have said in the past, when you add a wiki (or a podcast, or a blog, or a Voicethread) to a poorly designed lesson, it doesn’t magically become a good lesson – it’s just a bad lesson with a wiki.  Folks who attended the High Tech Hall sessions were exposed to dozens, if not hundreds, of technological tools, along with ideas for classroom implementations.  Speaking as one who knows all too well how easy it is to get swept up in shiny new things, it is my hope that they balance their enthusiasm for their new tools with a very clear picture of the pedagogical benefits they offer (or don’t).

NJEA Convention – High Tech Hall

This Thursday and Friday, I will be presenting at the New Jersey Education Assocation’s statewide conference in Atlantic City.  To be sharing presentation time with folks like Kevin Jarrett and Lisa Thumann is a bit humbling, and if I can get through the whole thing without spilling anything on myself or tripping over a computer wire, I’ll consider it a success.

If you’ll be at the convention, stop by High Tech Hall to see Kevin, Lisa, me, and a slew of other folks speak about (and, more importantly, show examples of) using various technological tools to enhance teaching and learning experiences.

On Thursday, I’ll be discussing “Exploring Online Personal Learning Networks” from 9am – 1pm (supporting wiki), then from 1pm – 5pm, it’s “Wikis, Wikis, Everywhere” (supporting wiki).  These presentations are both condensed versions of multi-day PD courses I conducted when I worked at Hunterdon Central Regional High School.

On Friday morning from 10:15 to 11:15, I’ll be running a shorter, 1-hour version of “Wikis, Wikis” in Classroom 2, where participants will have access to computers and have the opportunity to create and explore along with me (computer access is limited and first come, first served, so get there early!).

Hope to see you in Atlantic City!