Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Tools of the Future

One fact that rattles through my brain constantly... we have no clue as to the technology that will be available to us in 10-15 years. When I think back to what the world was like 15 years ago, I am amazed of the changes that have occurred.

Then...Cell phones were only owned by people with money, the Internet as we know it was non-existent, most homes did not have a PC, music was available at the record store on tape and limited Cd's, and MTV actually played music video's.

Now... 5th graders have cell phones, the Internet is a world of publishing and creativity, most homes have multiple PCs, music is available at the touch of a button, and MTV is unwatchable.

Many more changes have occurred. One fact will remain the same for the remainder of time... we do not know what is coming next! We can assume and make predictions, but, the technology of tools is moving at an exponential rate. This sometimes can be quite frightening. To think of the future and the new literacy's we are faced with as teachers makes me wonder... As an education system, are we ever going to catch up? When will we start to recognize, as a whole, that kids are learning in an entirely different world.

One example is our publishing capabilities. I grew up in the 90's. This was a short time ago. Being "published", meant you had to go to school to be a writer. Then, by a stroke of luck, you had to write a great book that people would buy. Then you would take this book and pitch it to a publishing company. If the book had potential, they may write you a book deal.

There were many "ifs" in this process. Now, there are many online publishing tools that can be used on the Internet. Publishing is as simple as having a creative idea and creating it with software on the Internet. You then click a button that says PUBLISH, and there you go. I created a 52 page book of pictures with commentary in a few hours, and had it on my doorstep in a week. It was a great alternative to a boring picture album. Now, I have a published book of my own pictures on my coffee table at home. I'll have to admit, the book was published with professional quality. It is also available for anyone to buy. The possibilities are endless with tools such as lulu and blurb.

What tools do you think will be available for us in the future?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fearing the Unknown...

I just read a great post by David Warlick. Check it out! The report can also be found here. This report shines a little light on what parents actually know about how their kids are using the internet.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

MEDIA Specialists?

Standing outside yesterday loading our daycare vans in the rain, I began a discussion with a fellow teacher about students and their hobbies. The conversation ended up becoming somewhat of a debate. The quote she added... "Kids today only care about sitting in front of the television with a bag of chips or playing video games". I began by adding my opinions on the differences of the 2 activities.

Watching television is a passive activity. It doesn't take
much thought to sit down on a couch and watch a television. One positive attribute of watching television is that one can gain a little knowledge of the world around them, if they are watching intuitive programming.

Playing a video game is an active activity. A child constantly needs to learn, create and rethink their actions through the course of a digital video game. Problem solving techniques are constantly being tossed about. A child doesn't only watch, they have to constantly think of their actions, learn from their mistakes and try new strategies to reach a different outcome.

The teacher, being a Media Specialist, didn't necessarily agree with me. I thought it was quite sad that this media specialist is so disconnected from the students that she teaches. Shouldn't all forms of media be her forte'?

This leads me to believe that we need to look at the function of a media specialist in our schools. I have read posts from other bloggers describing media specialists in other areas of the country. I am aware that there are media specialists that are turning to digital means to teach in their libraries. As the information revolution changes the way we use media, shouldn't the job description of our media specialists change? Has it changed already? If their job descriptions have changed, then why havn't they changed with it?
The only changes that I have seen occur in libraries is the computerized system to check out a book. This is the only change in 20 years. I do not want to generalize, but this is what I am seeing.
There needs to be reform in our libraries. We need to get the media specialist on board. Now, I ask the question... what is your media personnel doing to engage students with the tools of the information revolution?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Can we ever get it right?

A great post from a great blogger has prompted me to chime in on the topic of curriculum. Curiosity begs me to ask some questions...

Who is writing our curriculum?
Do they actually care about the outcome?
Are they concerned for our students?

Across the board, I feel the answers are concerning. I feel as though they do not have the best interest of the children in mind. If they aren't thinking of the children, who are they thinking of? I can't answer that question. The theme is one of more is better. The more curriculum that we can possibly fit into one school year = better educated students. Being a product of this system, I feel slighted.

Why can't we get it right? Why are those in power blind to the fact that we teach to educate the student, by the best means possible. By definition, this means we give the student the best possible tool to complete the task. We give the student every opportunity to have rich experiences to reflect upon. The current system sets students up to fail. We don't give students enough time and experience to master anything. There is just enough time to be exposed to the information. We expose students to information and expect them to be masters. We wonder why the majority of students would rather be at home on the computer or watching television than be at school. Of course, they have mastered these tools!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If you don't want the world to know, then...?

Sitting in staff meeting yesterday after school, our community police officer gave us the normal talk about drugs, gangs and violence in our neighborhood. Being in an elementary school, he skipped most of his normal talk because he feels as though we don't have to deal with all of these problems in our school, yet.
The officer went on to tell us a story about how the County Police arrested several gang members near or around our school. He asked us... "How do you think we caught these gang members?". It was a baited question of course. He just clicked on his next slide to show us these students MYSPACE pages. These students published pictures of themselves on MYSPACE in front of large amounts of illegal drugs and guns in their hands. Needless to say, these students from a local high school were wanted for a number of offenses and were arrested when the officer recognized them on the Internet.
Some people would say that this story is quite laughable. Everyone laughs at the bad guy when they are responsible for getting themselves caught. I think there is a television show about this very idea. I did not laugh at the story though. I think this story scratches the surface of what we as a society are up against right now and in the future. Kids growing up today have to be guided as to the amount of personal information they share with the world.
I know that my school district has a whole team that sits behind computers at the Board of Education Central Office that scrolls through MYSPACE pages all day long. They use these pages to find out about trends in schools, fights that may happen, and illegal activities that may be done by students. They have been very successful at preventing many occurrences from taking place in the past few years.
This gets me to my point. If information is put out there for the world to see, it will be used. We need to teach kids at a young age that if they don't want the information known by the world, don't put it on the Internet. Some get it and some don't.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

What a great video about how 21st Century students spend their time learning. Interestingly, it seems as though they are spending less time watching television. They have figured out that there are more interesting and meaningful means of acquiring information available today.

How can we expect students to continue to validate attending institutions of learning, when they can seem to do all of the learning on their own with tools in which they already are proficient?

Friday, October 19, 2007

SCRATCH me some...

The challenge was to teach SCRATCH to a group of 4th and 5th graders. What happened after an hour of giving the students the basics was amazing. Giving the students the remaining 20 minutes of our meeting to "play" around with the program, they were teaching us.

This was a powerful moment. With the possibilities endless as to what they could accomplish, the students found ways to incorporate their own voices and make seemless moves with their sprite's. The goal is for this group of students to create a collective presentation using this program for an upcoming MESA competition in April '08. The ultimate goal for me is to expose these students to a world of creativity and collaboration to reach a collective goal.

With laptops in hand, headphones and mics on head, and smiles on their faces, these students used their creative minds to explore the program with no boundaries. The feeling after the meeting was one of hope and expectation.

After I become more familiar with the ins and outs, I will begin to incorporate SCRATCH into the Science curriculum. This is a true example of collaboration in our education system. Believe me... these students will teach me everything there is to know about SCRATCH. I am looking forward to learning.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


When thinking of the conversations that have been taking place for years, I often wonder why progress is too slow in our education system. Reading through my archived articles in the New York Times, I came across an example of what is slowing the progress. Margaret Spellings, our nations secretary of education is blinded by the hype of "Every Child Pushed Along Act".

The first river that needs to be forged is one of complete and ultimate reform. This "Act" is doing what it is intended to do. The children in our education system that need the most help get pushed along to make our National Report Card appear great. I see this happening every day. We can't continue to lie about the success of our education system. The current protocol is not working.

Our task at hand for educators is to TEACH children. We need to find anything and everything that will motivate these individuals to learn how to learn. Right now, we are teaching children to memorize. We are teaching children that the grades they get, reflect what type of person they are. We teach them that the most important reason they are in school is to pass a test in the Spring. We push them along, even if they do not understand the information we are teaching. The results are accumulative. The students are learning how to be helpless. We make decisions for the students, because we don't trust them to make important decisions on their own.

This effects the students that are the most vulnerable in schools. Until the people that understand the task at hand have positions of power, this will continue.

I am not claiming to know the ultimate solution. I am claiming to be able to recognize the fact that their needs to be a solution, and fast.

The list of students that currently have ADD or some other type of Attention disorder is growing at a staggering rate. Many times I wonder if this problem would still exist if we as teachers could find ways to keep their attention. I know the answer is not constant memorization, boring worksheets, time fillers, and days spent studying for a test to beef up our nations report card.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

No time!

I can't seem to find the time to blog. I have been mixed up between teaching 14 different classes, organizing a Science Fair, parent conferences, running our schools MESA club, grading the labs of my 14 different science classes, feeding and taking care of 2 birds, 2 aquatic frogs, 557 guppies, a red eared slider (turtle), and 2 Jack Dempsy's (fish), and trying to keep up with reading my feeds. Some where in between this I have managed to start a concrete job at my parents house and have been closing pools on the side.

I have some reservations about heading the mandatory MathEngineeringScienceAchievement club at our school. It feels as though it is another attempt by our government to make themselves look like the hero. The mandatory DVD we had to show was filled with the glorification of government jobs. It even came with a complete section of Math Raps about the importance of these jobs.

I don't know how I feel. I will have to get further into the guts of the operation before I form an opinion.