Friday, December 26, 2008

Starting to ask questions...

So I posted this comment after reading Stephen Downes' blog dated December 26th, 2008.

Re: We Have the Ideas and the Technologies - What Changes in the System Do We Need for Open Education?

Okay. New to this idea of removing testing from teaching. All for it, by the way, but not sure how one will assess the students...

Yes, not having my grade twelve students write a diploma exam that is worth 50% of their final mark, a diploma by the way that covers very little of the 60 odd outcomes I am to teach, is appealing, the notion of accountability seems an issue that must be address. How do you propose to do this?

I also agree with your home page mission statement. But, and yes I am not a fan of that word, how do you envision the realities of my world as a front line teacher? What will I teach and how will I know if the student's are successful?

Just trying to get a handle on this idea,

Thanks for your thought provoking writing,

So, there, ...I have taken the next step for me, asking and hoping someone answers!!!



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Passionate Duhs!

Right then, this is what I know this morning,

Yesterday I came across the blog entitled A Signature Cadence, by one RandsInRepose, read through many pages of material and thought to myself, um, this guy can write. I shared this blog with John, and put it behind me. So I thought…At about 3ish this morning as I was stoking the wood stove, a joy to be sure at that hour, I realized that I had been thinking about the aforementioned blog all night. Okay, that is not quite true, as I had also been trying to watch the Bears win a game/lose a game/finallllly win a game, while wrapping gifts, while running out of the house with a flaming pail of ashes, but I do believe that the seeds of a thought had been germinated by the excellent mind of one RandsInRepose writer.
I knew there was something I liked, apart from the obvious well written yet quirky, (is that word allowed when discussing the writing of one of the ‘magic ones’?) style found on every page of the website, which includes, by the way, a very accurate representation of my two older brothers, who are both, with out a doubt, Nerds, in the form of a very nice Handbook, which I have linked and forwarded on to both their present and ex wives as a early Christmas/save your relationship because you really should have known/should know this information gift…glad I do not have this condition, as I am a teacher and therefore able to focus for long periods of time without…but I was not clear as to what it was that I connected with, what made me keep thinking about this article.
Anyway, RandsInRepose was absolutely correct in his understanding of the perfect coffee cup and the use there of, as I realize that I also use the pause/sip/think/continue strategy
As I began, yes I will return to continue and complete my thoughts about the RandsInRepose conundrum, to sip my morning coffee and read the Reader, I opened a note from John and followed the link to his blog and the comment posted last night to his latest entry, and looked at the latest update to my classroom’s tumblr…this seems wordy for some reason… and then it hit me, OUCH, one must not become something one is not!
Simple really, but then so am I some days. I realized that what I have been missing in the last few weeks as I have joined the ‘New World Order’ in an attempt to morph into this Web 2.0 21st Century Teacher was that I must adapt but not lose my voice, or as a student so eloquently stated in a reblog to a previous posting last night, my Passion:
“So I wrote this a few months back on my other blog. I guess I was just frustrated with how people were acting and such, and this was a way to express my feelings freely. I feel like when you read this, you can tell that I’m really speaking with my voice (or conviction), with passion. Like, I wanna do something. Like I want to change things, not just sit around and let them pass by. I want people to know, WHO I AM, and not just what they claim to see. So that’s why I’m putting this on here now. A) Cause I like how I wrote it, B) cause it shows how I can really speak with a voice, and an opinion.”
(Posted by a student of mine, and yes, we are working on the conventions of grammar, like, well you know, the things that need to be fixed, cause, like…anyway…)
The point here is that as I read through many postings, blogs too numerous to count, and listened to podcast after podcast, I became disenfranchised from the argument, removed by the overwhelming number of responses to the idea that technology must and will change the classroom. What I am now beginning to see is that the baby does not have to be thrown out with the chalk board, so to speak. Again, duh, and apologies to all those who are light years ahead of me in this mind set. I finally understand that after reading RandsInRespose I can keep my sense of elocution, my verboseness, my understanding of humour, and retain that which makes me a human in all my contacts with other humans; that being my passion for learning and my respect for the humanness of others. Whew…
I will endeavour to catch up to the rest of the world in terms of utilizing the newest technology, and will continue to impart the latest lingo to my learners, but will also strive to maintain the good teaching practises that I use everyday. I will venture to understand the why I am using the technology and the how it relates to my curriculum. (This idea was first introduced to me after Ferguson shared a blog by from his The Thinking Stick site, but only became clear after a few days worth of cogitation!) And I hope that I can do this without loosing my voice, my sense of self, the MEness, (is that a word, and is that a question that an English teacher should be asking?) that I use everyday in the classroom to engage the students as willing participants in the learning paradigm. I do want my students to use technology but not at the expense of their human voices, nor do I want my students to simply learn to write hamburger essays, or make a bunwich” as MW stated in his comment to John, essays that lack conviction but somehow satisfy some Diploma Marker hidden away in the Ivory Tower that resides within the nebulous world known as the Department of Education!!!( !!! = dum dum dum, delivered with ominous tones…)
I am stoked to continue to learn, as evident by the fact that I am about to begin a Masters Program. I am excited about coming to grips with the new philosophies out there in regards to how the educational system must change. However, what I am really excited about is to start putting good teaching practises together with new approaches in education and getting better as a front-line English Language Arts Teacher!
So new, yet so far behind. So old, yet so willing to catch up!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Something I understand...

This blog started as a reply to a posting by Cindy Putnam on Tech Tools. As I hit post comment, I realized that I understood the issues presented in her article. I have struggled as of late with the overwhelming amount of information I read everyday and it was a relief to come across a text that I could 'get'. It is good to know that I am not outside looking in, rather I believe that I am inside a crowded room, along the back wall, struggling to hear what is being said, but still inside with the masses!

What follows is the original posted comment:

I completely agree with the comments made by Lauren Rosen above. The teacher in the first passage seems to be confusing classroom management with technology integration. A few of my colleagues and I use an assortment of technology in our rooms and have found that the students respond favorably, as they see the 'Old' attempting to embrace the 'New'. Yes, the leaning curve for both teacher and student is and will continue to be huge for the next while, and yes we both have and will continue to make mistakes, but I do not think shutting the door and pretending technology will go away is the answer. I allow those student's that struggle to write quickly, or for that matter write legibly, the opportunity to use their camera phones to capture notes written on the board. I do insist that the student must transfer the images to another medium for future reference. I believe that the student then feels empowered, as they can listen and partake in the class discussion rather than becoming frustrated with their inability to keep up with their peers.

I do agree also with the second set of passages, but to somewhat a lessor degree. Yes, we as educators must teach the students how to use the newest technology responsibly, however I do not believe that I and my fellow teachers are the first stop on the learning train for students. I observe students teaching each other every day how to use the latest widget, or what the newest gadget is able to do. Conversations by students about technology happen in and outside of the classrooms, in the hallways, and on the buses, during the regular school day. Of course using texting to manage 'separation by distance' is a must for any 'sure thumbed' student today. Rather than be the facilitators of knowledge as to what the technology can and cannot do, I believe that our role is to help educate the users as to what should and should not be done with the technology. We must continue to provide the framework for teaching responsible Digital Citizens.

A collaborative network of student learners already exists; we as educators need to help the 21st Century Learner become a viable and willing participant in this new era of education.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Newbe speaks out...

Okay, this bog started as a result of reading a post on OLDaily, that lead me to an article entitled Fluid Learning, on the blog entitled The Human Network, which led me to Michael Werner's interview of Stephen Downe on the Halfanhour blog. After reading these two articles, I came to the following conclusion: I know so little as to be dangerous!

I realize that I am new to the web 2.0/21st Century Learner era, and that indeed the ‘curve’ is out of sight for me, but the more I read lately the more I am confused about two things: who decides what is taught and where does all this technology and new philosophy fit in with the curriculum that teachers are supposed to teach?

Please let me explain before I am shown the door. The ideas put forth in Fluid Learning are quite similar to many others I have read in the past few weeks. The main thrust seems to be that the ‘concept of education’ needs to be overhauled. This I do agree with, but I must admit that the future vision of what this world would look like is somewhat blurry. The Fluid Learning seems to believe that all we need to do is remove the issue of control and simply post the ‘lectures’ and ‘lessons’ online, as MIT and others have done, and students around the world will be able to log on and presto, education in the new model! Yes, I do firmly believe that students can learn in what we now refer to as non-traditional environments, this is not the issue. Who decides what is posted is the issue! I will return to this matter later on.

The article in question continues on by outlining the steps that are required for the new education paradigm to be successful. Included in this plan is the remaking of the teacher into, well, some sort of web page librarian, one who knows where to point the student to get the information. “The instructor can not know everything available online on any subject, but will be aware of the best (or at least, favorite) resources, and will pass along these resources as a key outcome of the educational process.”

Fine, I can live with this individual’s vision of the role of a teacher. As I can also live with the concept that only in hands-on subjects, such as “engine repair”, will students ever have to be in the same room as the teacher, or “Lecturer”. The next step seems to be that students will teach students and that the world will come together to teach each other. Again, okay, nice sentiment, and one I try to embrace as I strive to move my students into this world of collaboration. The writer then outlines four steps that will ensure the success of the new ‘school’. Simply video capture the lectures, share everything that teachers, or rather Lectures, produce, be open (in terms of software, devices used, and non-filtered networks), and finally connect the students to instructors. This last step implies that students should be able to contact instructors at anytime as well as have access to peer to peer or ‘“crowdsourced” learning” ‘. Once again, I am in agreement with the sentiment put forth, that being that the philosophical nature of education must change to embrace the way the world is today! Yes, I am in total agreement with the many blogs I have read that shout the same message – Change is needed sooner than later!

However, it was not until I read the interview of Downe that I realized what has been keeping me up at nights. Downe talks about empowering the student by removing the barriers that block the student’s ability to access “real world activities”. It was here that I began to understand what was missing from the numerous blogs I have read, that being what will be taught and the how, as in the practical side, as in the ‘here, use this tool’ to teach these outcomes from the mandated curriculum. I take great exception to Downe’s simple assessment that all that needs to happen is for teachers to give over control of the classroom and bang, nirvana!

The first issue that I struggle with is the curriculum, known as the Program of Studies in the jurisdiction that I work in. This document is well thought out and supported by a large number of educators as being representative of basic knowledge that all learners should possess upon completion of a set amount of time. (12 years for high school/4 years for a degree…)I cannot imagine that anyone would support the notion that education could exist without some sort of ‘cannon’ to adhere to. There must be some set of information required in order to post it online, or to lecture, capture and share with the world.

If it can be accepted that a curriculum is needed, my second issue is simply that of implementation of real world solutions. I have a responsibility to attempt to teach the students in my classroom a set of specific criteria that has been approved by the government that I work for. It is all well and fine to express the need to change the system, but there needs to be some accounting for those of us who must endure the transition period. I am no so young and naive as to believe that this transformation will be quick and painless.

As with previous professional development that I have encountered, I find that many experts preach to the converted. In the case of Assessment for Learning, I discovered that many lectures contained the same basic message – AFL is good! Yes, I got that the first time, was onside and ready to go, but found very few authorities lining up to provide me with hands on real world this is for you to use today solutions. I am aware that many new technologies are available for use in the educational setting, and yes, as Downes suggested, I try to use and learn a variety of these applications in my daily life, however I am still looking for the prophet who will 'show me the way' in terms of combining the new applications with my current curriculum. Yes, twitter is a useful tool, but how can I use it to teach one of the 67 specific outcomes I am to cover in less than 90 classes. I am being buried alive by the philosophical approaches that I have been reading for days now, but what I really want/need is to stumble across someone that is putting two plus two together and finding out that it equals a real world solution, one that I can insert into my classroom tomorrow morning.

I will be the first to admit that I have not read anything close to all that is out there on the web, but I have spent many many many hours reading excellent blogs that detail the need to change the education system. I will concede that perhaps what I am facing is the newbe (I am sure that there is a new word these days for what I am) experience, where one is overwhelmed by all that is new…I will also concede that this rant is without a doubt a call for help from one who is lost.

I am not without hope, just hoping others can find me…


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Excellent reaction to comments I hear daily!

So, after reading the latest blog from Warlick, his response to a writing by Rodd Lucier, I was thrilled to see his advice given to dialogue I encounter frequently at school. I believe that I have heard each one of these moments on more than one occasion, some almost daily it seems!

I am thank full that my PLN at school seems to be growing as it does tend to slow my angry comments. I am off on Monday to the Board Office to have a discussion with the C&I team and the Head of Technology, a discussion centred around the idea of what can the IT department do for us! So, having read Warlick's response, I find myself writing this blog and a a letter to the IT Department at the same easy feat for a guy with only limited resources!

What I really liked about Warlick's reply was that it was in the positive, a plan of action rather than a quick retort. It is good to read another's reactions to the difficulties that all technologically progressive teachers face...a good reminder that I need to keep thinking before I speak, good advice always!

So, a couples of minutes reading this morning and I am off with a plan for the day.

Coffee and a plan...A great start indeed.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Digital Immigrants

Just finished reading Mark Prensky's 2001 essay on the changes that learners have undergone in the past generation of students. I came across this text as a result of reading Kathy Schrock's Kaffeeklatsch blog. Very interesting concept, that of the digital native, the generation that have grown up with technology, and the digital immigrant, those who entered the digital arena from a previous era.

The concept that those who came late to the game bring with them set patterns and approaches is certainly relevant. Without doubt some struggle with this new literacy, as the rolling of the eyes of students attests to. The idea of quick paced multitasking within a classroom seems to be impossible to some educators, especially those who still hold to the "I am the repository of Knowledge and I shall release this Knowledge when and how I choose" teachers.

I am not sure though that I completely agree with the position of Prensky that all who came before must be viewed as immigrants. I think I am more in tune with Kathy Schrock and her insistence on being termed a Digital Pioneer. Yes, I grew up with technology too, and as it 'grew' so too did I. The fist computer I held was a Texas instrument Sr-52 programmable calculator.I also had the latest Atari 800XL computer, complete with metal spring loaded doors for the game cartridge! And the newest version of the Star Trek game!

The idea that only the latest generation of students, K to College, have the ability to learn using technology is not a truth I chose to believe in. I am surround by members of my PLN that prove this image false. I think first of using the net before I will look to a hard copy source for almost any information I may require, and I am certainly not intimidated by any of the new apps out there. I do know how to do a "restore."

Creativity and technology know no age limit.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Now it begins..

Yes, after much discussion, I am formally jumping into the realm of the bloggers, late perhaps but in I go.

I am excited about being able to post ideas about my classroom that may elicit a response from other educators from around the globe. A terrifying idea but also a fascinating one.

I currently am teaching three high school level ELA courses; one academics and two 'applied' streams. I find the challenges most interesting, and am consistently amazed by the 'thoughts' of these students.

I trust that the literacy that I put forth regarding the 21st century leaner will make a difference in the lives of my students, regardless of what the naysayers say!

Ciao for now,