First, I apologize to everyone for setting my blog to "moderate comments," I didn't realize that it wouldn't allow people to post without my "approval." I just thought it would send me emails about comments when they were posted. Anyway, I have that part figured out now.
Thank you smb (Stacey) for your comments, I think you make some great points. I have definitely decided that while I will have the students find some good and bad examples, I'll also bring in some of my own (and yes, handouts are good--my thought was that PowerPoint would give me point and click access to the actual web pages--I may do both). I use PP a lot, so it wouldn't be a big deal for me. I just think that it makes a huge difference to be able to show kids pictures and videos to support the things I'm trying to explain, so I use it at least once or twice per semester (plus I make the kids design and present them too, they're already amazing at it, it works great with honors kids). I know PP is already outdated, but that' s what we have, so that's what I use.
On spelling: I'm afraid that when I said that I am an unusual English teacher I wasn't kidding. I seriously do not see any value in spelling at all. As long as the first and last letter of a word are correct, research has shown, people know what you are trying to say. Why are we so hung up on spelling in this country? Our language is not phonetic, which is a huge problem for our students and for all English language learners. If we switch to "thru" and "nite" we are reducing that problem by making our language more phonetic--that is a good thing in my opinion.
This is a whole post in itself--I'm going to put it on my "other" blog because it's a bit out of place here. Check out Letters from Today for more on why I don't give spelling tests, believe in teaching spelling, or think that spelling is an important skill for twenty-first century students to learn.
More on my learning curve: My district, in its infinite wisdom, does not allow blogging (hey PSD teachers, wipe that smug look off your faces!!!!! ;-) However, I talked to my tech guy and he said that I can let them post things if certain conditions are met. They have to have parent permission slips (no sweat--already written, ready to be copied in concert with the t-r permission slips that I have to give them anyway). But more problematic, they can't enter their email addresses at any point, ever, which means that blogspot is out.
I know that there are people here who have solutions to this problem, so please let me know what I should do next. My first thought was to set up a ghost hotmail account, then use that to set up a blogspot account, then give the students the ghost email and blogspot password so that they could post. This would be a disaster, though, because then they would all be changing the format and messing with everything and well . . . you get the picture. So, what now?
I still strongly believe that there is a difference between good and bad web writing (btw, txt tlk doesn't necessarily signal "bad" to me), and that good web writing is an important skill to learn. I'm thinking that for kids who don't have home computers, this is a really crucial opportunity for them to gain net literacy, while for the others it is a chance to show them why it is so important that they learn how to write well. The question now is, how?