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Yesterday I attended the Illinois Association of Teachers of English 2013 Fall Conference (the first day of the conference anyway). Last year was my first year that I had attended this specific conference and I had gotten so much out of the experience. As for this year, well the same holds true. (And this morning there’s even more to come – more for me to learn!)

It’s an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many of your colleagues and to hear of their experiences and to exchange ideas. What I always find amazing is that no matter what type of school another high school teacher works at, or where it’s located, we seem to have common ground and find that we have similar struggles or circumstances with our students.

Not only am I learning about others in that sense, but it’s great to hear what other English teachers are doing in their classrooms and what types of responses they have seen. The ideas that are generated always get me excited to get back into the classroom and try new things with my students. In some cases, I’m not even looking to try new things but simply to revamp a lesson that I’ve already done or add in new features to a unit that I’ve already taught.

With an ever changing world, it’s important that educators keep up to date on, not only what resources are out there for us to use, but also what keeps our students involved and what they’re interested in. Last year and this year I’ve noticed a very large increase in use of technology in the classrooms at other high schools and they have had great success with it’s use, especially in the English classroom. Through the use of blogs, students are become more comfortable with their writing and they begin to realize that they are writing for a larger audience. The students learn that as they blog about books that they have read, they can influence the choices that their peers make as they choose their next book. These students also realize that many times the authors of books will read what is being said about their works and will reply to those students. Writing becomes something much bigger than simply an assignment for class. All of a sudden, there’s a type of accountability that wasn’t there before and it’s an amazing process to watch.

My hope is that I too will continue to learn new things and that I will be able to bring them back to my students. As of right now, I have so many great ideas on how to expand into the digital world, but unfortunately (for now) for students that I work with, the district that I’m in doesn’t have the technology available to use. One day this will change, but until then we will continue to write for each other and expand our creativity in other directions. I do believe though that digital writing is becoming a skill that is in great need of development as we continue to move forward in this technological world.