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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New, Out the Old - In with the

It is January 1, 2007. It is a time of reflection and a time for looking ahead. So I will take a quick look backward.
  • Probably my most fond memory is earning my Ed.S. degree in Instructional Technology from Valdosta State University. I still say it is the best kept secret for educators in Southeast.
  • I began a new position in my school as the 2nd Media Specialist. It has been a great move for me. I needed the "change of scenery," but still enjoy the diverse student body of DMS.
  • I also began teaching online classes for Axia College of University of Phoenix. I did my internship from August to October by teaching 2 courses with a coach "by my side." Since then I have taught 4 more sections, and have 4 more waiting to begin on January 15 & February 12.
This is also the year when I became a daily reader of nearly 100 blogs from educators, librarians, and others. I use Bloglines as my aggregator, and I can attest that I have learned more from my year of reading, reflecting, and writing my own blog(s) than I have in any of my graduate courses I have taken. I mean no disrespect to my alma maters, only that I view my rss feeds as a lifeline of current, critical, and valuable information that is quickly influencing my development as an educator. This is both a blessing and a curse: A blessing because I have not been surprised by anything new the teachers or administrators in my system begin discussing. Not to sound conceited, but I am usually on to newer things by the time our system has had anyone mention anything "new." I heard for the first time in September 2006 from an adminstrator at our Central Office use the terms "digital natives" and "digitial immigrants." It was also about this time, several bloggers began to discuss the limiting features of the terms I first read from Marc Prensky in early 2002. Don't get me wrong, I am actually excited that anyone from our CO has heard of these terms. However, I am still not convinced we (as a system) know what to do with these terms as a manner of educating our students. I think, at this point, the terms are new to most of our people, so they sound cutting edge. I think it was Mark Twain (or some other cynic) who said, "To make yourself sound intelligent, use words others don't know." We do this frequently in education.

I do not want to be understood as being negative at this point, because I really am going somewhere with this...

As a new year begins, we all hope for a positive future. It's kind of odd in teaching though, because our new year is in August instead of January. And so, I begin with 7 Hopes for 2007:
  1. I hope I do not use unfamiliar words as a means of sounding more intelligent than those around me. I also hope that I am prepared enough to produce information for teachers and students who are ready to move beyond our basic approaches to teaching and learning. In other words, I'll know the vocabulary and how to put wings (as Marco Torres describes it) on the ideas of others.
  2. I hope to develop a large online presence of Video BookTalks done by our students and staff. One reason is because it is fun. Another reason is because it is valuable to our readers at the school. But primarily because it is a tool that helps our students read with a purpose, and create for a large audience.
  3. I hope to influence policy by having students and parents so involved in online projects that our system will have to make changes in filtering and technology policy.
  4. When policies change, I hope I can influence pedagogical changes. I am convinced that our students want to learn, but the presentation of information does not fill their needs. As I have said for at least 8 years, "We all learn what we want to know." The educator's job is to present material students may not normally want to know in such a way that the students don't know they have learned it until the lesson is over. Covert Education :^)
  5. I hope to truly make the Media Center THE place to be in the school. I want to train students to do the "basic tasks" of the library. I want students publicizing THE MC throughout the school building. Perhaps in the next school year (but still in 2007) beginning a book club for students, teachers, and parents.
  6. My biggest dream is to make THE MC a Web 2.0 hotbed. This requires the changing of system policy in filtering and communication. I believe all students should be required to have email accounts they can access at school. My belief is they should be Gmail accounts. I believe we should move away from proprietary software (MS Office, et. al.) to web-based applications where students have their own accounts within Google to type their papers online, and email them to their teachers for grading. I believe we should be using pictures and videos in an online setting to tell the stories of our school and community. I believe, with the international flavor we possess, that we should be a leading school in the nation in international collaboration with other schools. I believe we have been made to believe that technology is a dangerous thing, that only a few can understand. I guess that is enough...although I could go on.
  7. My final hope is that our school (and system) has the courage to take risks in teaching our students. I have been with the system only 11 years, but my observation is, although we are quick to try new programs (we are a bandwagon system), the programs are repackaged under a "New and Improved" label. Insanity, it is said, is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different outcome. It leads me to recall David Warlick's sentiment that never in the history of our educational system in America have we better prepared our students for the 20th century than we did in 2006. This final hope is really out of my hands.
Update - I read David Warlick's blog entry today, and he mentioned a superintendent from South Dakota made the following statement: "We are asking too many questions that require an answer, when we should be asking questions that require a conversation." I may have to make that part of my byline...OK...I just did.

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