Friday, August 31, 2007

Goodbye Pluto, Hello Google Earth

When using Google Earth, the user can, from high above, zoom in and in and in on a chosen location.

In my state, in my county, in my district, in my high school, is my room, 218. Zoom right on in, if you so choose.

And the original idea was when anyone entered room 218, she or he did everything in room 218. Read, write, think, collaborate, share, and misbehave.

But now, my classroom is 'Reverse Google Earth'.

Zoom out, out, out.

Students entering room 218 now refer to it as the launch pad; from this spot, they travel the world.

They explore the world.

They deepen their understanding of the world.

And they are validated for living a life spent connecting to the world in a place that is visible from Google Earth.

The Anti-Post

I've made a secret pact with my blogging self that I would avoid the creepy and pseudo-esoteric practice of demonstrating my level of literacy by finding inspiration for posting from someone else's post, but today I must break my word.

Dan Meyer writes a model for assessment in his most recent post. It is thorough. It is impressive. I will share it with my faculty. But I find myself caught in a moment of intellectual trepidation.

Project-Based Learning and Differentiated Instruction have a tough time co-mingling with today's Standards driven "high-stakes" testing and NCLB, but the goal of what I do is teaching (and yes, I've read Integrating: Differentiated Instruction + Understanding by Design, by Carol Ann Tomlinson & Jay McTighe).

And here is a response I sent to Dan and I feel it conveys something that is neither 21st Century, Web2.0, or edtech-centric.

Dan, It goes w/out saying that I really enjoy and value your voice. I just finished reading your entry entitled "The Presentation" (10/22/06). At heart and training, I am an English teacher. Although I'd argue that I am more of a people teacher than anything else. You stated in your post today that people invariably forget everything and I totally agree w/ that concept.

Former students contact me and since these students tend to be the ones who want to contact me, their feedback usually conveys the message of, "I really enjoyed your class." When I poke and prod (subtly, as not to indicate that I might actually enjoy the ego-massage), I learn that they never enjoyed the novels. or the vowels, or the alliteration, or the vocabulary, but the atmosphere I created and sustained that made the semester-long course relevant and meaningful in their lives.

The most profound compliment I ever received came from a former student named Tiffany. Tiffany wrote me a letter just before her graduation. In that letter, she recalled a moment from days earlier where she and her mother were sitting on the couch watching a sit-com. In the show, one character made an allusion to 'Hamlet'. Tiffany laughed out loud, and her mother, confused, turned and asked what was so funny. Tiffany's letter ended by stating that my course has allowed her to understand the little jokes on TV.

Perhaps I belittle my own profession by claiming that the aforementioned anecdote serves as the best example of my ability to teach, but I really think Tiffany made a profound point. Understanding and appreciation of learning, and for that matter, learning itself, occur in odd moments and odd places.

I'd argue that your blog is Project-Based Learning. I'd argue that you serve as a wonderful model for the value of non-traditional assessment. I'd argue that your blog has empowered you to inform your own instruction, engage in metacognition, and most importantly, demonstrate your learning. And therefore, I'd argue that something like a blog can work in any subject area.

A new assessment model surely might need to be created. Maybe I'll work on one.

"School is silly. Learning is important." The best teacher ever, Mr Ralph Maltese, taught me this when I was a student in his class 20 years ago and he reminded me of this point three months ago. Thanks for taking the time to read this. As my district prepares for a possible strike, I have found myself thinking, a lot, about learning, instruction, and all that good stuff.

I wonder what we're doing. You know, the why of it all. How to measure, really measure, learning? I don't think it always fits on a graph or a spreadsheet.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All Warm & Fuzzy

So our school welcomes a new Principal, a new Assistant Principal, a new set of security procedures, and of course, the anticipation of a new year mixed nicely with a high probability of a job-action.

But here's the amusing part. Or the comforting part. Or the surprising, reassuring, interesting, and sugar-coated part:

I think it's going to be a really good year.

Okay, so the aforementioned sentence is platitudinal (word???) and a really weak thesis statement, but I do have proof.

More like a positive harbinger.
  • Our new Principal unleashes the following theme for the year: SELF STUDY.
Let's get this straight. No research, no diversity, no tuning protocols. Instead, choice. A belief in the professionalism of a talented group of educators.

Now, it's not recess. There are clearly delineated requirements. There's even a rubric, although it's a tool for reflection, not evaluation. I repeat, not evaluation. Phew!, right?

We are to ask ourselves a question and spend the year developing an answer. Much like Action Research, we are supposed to gather 'data' from our teaching, from our class, free from thrilling readings about pedagogy and methodology.

So, anyone have a question I can use this year?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Skrbl like there's no tomorrow

Okay, so here is Skrbl @ work. Below is a graffiti board. You can/should add something to it, like, oh, your tag or perhaps an idea for integration in the classroom.

Have fun! Remember: ethical, appropriate, etc..

Friday, August 17, 2007

Speak the Speech

Hamlet would be a great advocate of ed tech. He would attend every conference. He would attend every workshop. He would 'speak the speech' and the mob would adore him. All theory, whiz-bang, and un-conference.

To blog or not to blog, that is the question.
Whether tis nobler in the blogosphere
to suffer the comments and links of outrageous readers
or, by opposing, delete them.
to twit, to wiki
to tag, perchance to collaborate
but in that sharing of ideas
what lessons may come when we have shuffled off this ed tech ideology
must give us pause.

What would Hamlet really create?

Now, Othello...well...give him a set of classroom laptops and a room full of students and any one of the following would most assuredly occur:
1. A vibrant lesson plan that is aligned with state standards
2. A wiki free of links, but full of real lessons, replete with activities and student-created content
3. A strategic attack upon Cyprus
4. A nap-time tragedy

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Battle! A War!

"Internet threat! Internet threat!" screams the student as he flees from the computer; running for his life.

The teacher states, "Children, you've heard of stranger danger, well these images you see, these links you can stumble upon, your misspelled Google searches, they are why we have instituted the following amendments to our district's AUP:

1. Cell-phone detectors at all entry points. Obviously, the possibility of a corrupted soul using this rocket in their pocket...hey, no giggling...

2. ED-SEL - a new search engine filter that blocks all search engine searches. Our district is not so reactionary that we would block your ability to get to Google.

3. QWERTY - Questionable Words Eliminated Regarding Township Youth. Some words pose too much of a risk. Take some of our recently eliminated words: hoof, codpiece, and slide. And yes, teachers will be adjusting their units...hey, no giggling...and our maintenance staff is already in the process of removing the slide. Remove temptation.

Thanks, Kristin, for the inspiration.