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Why Do You Ask?

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

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Celest Goes to Class - in person!

Brian Crosby at Learning is Messy has kept the world informed about his class, and an inspirational student named Celest. Read and Watch the story here, here, and here.

I also wrote about Mr. Crosby's earlier in the year. Celest, was not expected to be in a classroom in person this year, but she did it! Check out the announcement.

Mr. Crosby posted a photo with Celest face on the laptop, as the Skyped her in for the class picture taken in January 2007. Another photo from May is posted too, and Celest is in the picture - in person!

Cancer is such a weird disease. Just a few weeks ago Celest was in California for special treatments. Many of us following the story prayed for Celest, and sent her an eCard.

Mr. Crosby is moving to 5th grade with these students next next year. Hopefully Celest will get to be in the classroom more frequently.

It's not about the technology, it is what the technology allows you to do. In this case it was about helping a student become a part of a peer group, learning the material in an unconventional way, and most importantly developing the human network. "No man is an island" nor should one be forced to become an island. Technology helped a person who in many places would be forced to be an island, but thanks to Mr. Crosby and his class a potential island became part of the mainland. Inclusion, education, teaching, and learning at its best.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Imagination - Einstein & Adams

Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Let's assume he is right...he usually was :^)

Scott Adams - The Dilbert author - also writes a blog. His May 15 entry was on imagination. Remember, Adams is a humorist. He categorizes the entry under "General Nonsense."

Adams's says:
My hypothesis for today is that a person’s need for social interaction is inversely related to the quality of his or her imagination. In other words, if you have an excellent imagination, you might enjoy people, but you’re equally happy to be alone with your thoughts for large stretches. To put it bluntly, you fascinate yourself.
I find this fascinating. I think he might me on to something. I happen to believe, simply from observation over the years, that imagination is not very prevalent in schools. When everything is standards-based, and multiple-choice tested, there is little need (or desire) for imagination. If you are an imaginative child, you may not fit in to the norms that standards require.

Adams's thoughts may explain the "need" for the younger generation to be attached to their friends through MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, and texting. Without imagination, they really do need their cell phones for survival. My new favorite commercial is with the mom and daughter promoting the Cingular/AT&T texting service. Daughter is sending 50 text messages a day to her "bff Jill."

Do you think that people feel the need to have all their virtual networks because they have no imagination? I remember when I was a in school, the kids with the great imagination were the ones I wanted to hang around...they had great stories, and the trouble they concocted was creative. This usually meant the punishment was worth the crime. [It's one thing to cut in line and get your food 30 seconds sooner - not worth eating last the next day. It's another thing to get your food 30 seconds quicker because you could have sworn there was a mouse near the teacher's table - causing the students to avert their attention so we could sneak by. Totally worth eating last. Good times, good times.]

I hope that kids are not missing out on developing their imagination. I doubt they develop it while they are at school. And that is "snf."

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

David & Gary - What a conversation

I have been reading blogs for about 5 years. On occasion I will find something that really challenges the current trends of educational thinking...like when Will said his kids may not need college. Great stuff. I have an 18-year-old son who does not need college either (but he is going), and is about to work on an advertising campaign for a major national DIY home improvement chain. This is beside the point.

During my blog reading, I infrequently find anything so earth-shattering that it really makes a difference. Do not misunderstand, I still find things interesting, perhaps innovative, even intriguing. But seldom is anything life-changing. Wikis are cool and offer collaboration and a different way to work in groups. SmartBoards are neat, but it may only provide a hook to gather the attention of the ADD classroom. [I'd be ADD in today's classes too - "powering down" once I got to school.] In the world of "pick your battles" the only thing I have chosen to fight is what I call "modern-day book burning" -- internet filtering. I still don't think many people get it, and opt for the non-thinking, less work, "we must protect our children" diatribe. [BTW - has anyone else ever noticed that when we patronize kids we say "children," as in - "think of the chiiiiillllldren."] So I fight silently, and tell kids to learn things on their own, because schools will not be able to help them much with what they truly want to know. It's a loss of the ideals upon which our country was founded, but there's not much sparkle in that debate.

TODAY though, I went back to revisit David Warlick's comments about the NYT article about "computers don't make a difference in education" post. The comments were up to 25. That means David struck a nerve. David made the comment...
Sadly, we are a generation who was taught how to be taught — not how to teach ourselves. It’s one of the many reasons why the experiences that our children have in the classroom must become much more self-directed, relevant, and rich. They/we need to learn to teach ourselves. Teachers shouldn’t need professional development. They should be saying, hey, I’m going to teach myself how to do that this weekend. It’s about life long learning. Not about a life of being taught.
Brilliant! Correct! Shameful that this is the truth. [Reminder of Ken Robinson]

Then Gary Stager enters the conversation in the comments. I'm not familiar with Mr. Stager's work, but I will look up his contribution to the world. Stager ruffles some feathers in his comments to David. [You can read them for yourself.] But one comment really struck a chord...
Many young teachers figured out that teaching is the only career that doesn’t require electricity. Perhaps we should start recruiting in Amish country.
After I chuckled, I thought about the truth of his statement. Now, while I think "the children are our future, blah, blah, blah" I believe Gary's statement needs further review. I happen to think that it will be 10-15 years (I hope) before education communities will look at today's "struggles" with a hearty ha-ha, and wonder why we had issues with filtering, blogs, wikis, student email accounts, etc. BUT Gary is making an important statement here. If our new generation of teachers are continually being denied the opportunity to use new technologies, one of two things is likely:
a) they will eventually quit trying technology, or anything different that might work (Gary's point, I think) or
b) they will move on to a different career (like they already do before they are up for their first re-certification).
If the new teacher opts to continue teaching, they will develop habits of comfort in their teaching practice. I don't care how many professional developments, mandates from the District Office, or new opportunities come along, once a teacher no longer needs to think on the fly, they will not change just because someone says they have to change. We need a dose of human psychology reality if we think otherwise. Sure, they may "try it for a while," but when they don't see reward for the new effort, the new thing will be devalued. There is a small window of time (under 5 years) to capture teachers and get them to change the way they were taught, and the the way they will teach.

I can hear it now, "But I was teaching for 12 years, and I changed..." You are the exception to the rule, which proves the rule. Be honest, you know teachers are not going to truly change their philosophy after they adopt a philosophy with which they are comfortable.

Using a computer/projector and SmartBoard or computer to TV, to do the same thing I did on a whiteboard with dry erase markers, that others did with an overhead projector, that others did with a blackboard and chalk, that others did with a slateboard, that others did with a stick in the sandbox is not advancement of pedagogy. Different does not mean progress. Sometimes it just means more money.

I can't believe the number of people who are still not aware of the New Bloom's Taxonomy and the role that Creativity can play in student learning and development. But that is another story, for another time.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Hero in the Hallway video

I have posted this video on bullying on our Media Center blog, Classroom 2.0 at Ning, and now here. Several bloggers are mentioning this video, but I first saw it from Steve Dembo at Teach42 this morning.

The thing that really made me follow through with posting and promoting the video is two-fold:
  1. The comments on the YouTube page demonstrate the video's power on people who were bullied.
  2. It was created by two guys (are they brothers?), Kyle Barrett (University of Illinois) & Bobby Barrett (Cary Grove High School). I am assuming they are students, although they could be professor, high school teacher. I want to find out more about them, because they are good at their craft. (Secretly, I hope they are students.)
The video is being used as a promotional video for The Spirit Desk, LLC. It does appear that the creators of the video are students. As I clicked through the Spirit Desk web site, there is a mention of a Cary Grove student receiving a Hero Award.

Bullying is something students face everyday...in every school. It is a part of growing up...an unfortunate part, but real nonetheless. There may be differing levels of bullying, but it is bullying nonetheless. Some incidents may be more obvious than others, but students go to school intimidated by someone else...everyday...in every school... Some kids are being bullied, but they may not realize this is what is happening. Taking a pencil, cutting in line, name-calling, shoving, the stares of intimidation, the jokes... "Oh, we are just playin' around," they say. But are they? Where might it lead?

No I don't have statistics, but you know what??? Some things don't need statistics to be true. Sometimes it takes only a moment to observe students in the hallway between classes, and if you are honest, you will know you have seen bullying sometime during the day. Let me know if you think I'm wrong. I can take it.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Change is Inevitable - Growth is Optional

All I can say is WOW!

I read this from Amy Kearns at Library Garden. She is discussing a conference in New Jersey. What a great motto, and as Amy puts it...
I saw that someplace recently and it really, really strikes me and stands out to me as the motto we should all adopt at this very transitional time! Change is difficult and can be traumatic. But it is going to happen whether we want it to or not; whether we like it or not; whether we try to stand still and let it roll over us; or we embrace it and hop on for the ride!
Interestingly, you cannot read her ideas while within our school due to the filtering policy. Blogs with a blogspot host is considered "a bad thing." Oh, the education we are missing at school.

I wish for the days when the adults will be today's kids, and we'll all have a good laugh at the things we think are uneducational today. Blogs, wikis, SmartBoards, iPods, podcasts, self-created online videos, educational networks, and other "2.0" tools are not fads. They may not be used in the future, due to future technologies yet to be considered. Perhaps in these days to come, we might be able to unblock the "evil" sites of 2007.