Saturday, November 10, 2007

School technology vs. School 2.0

The push for technology in schools is the overwhelming theme in schools today. I am not quite sure that the emphasis is on the proper tools. Using online databases, LCD projectors, streaming videos, information tutorials, and educational sites is not enough. Most teachers can use these tools. Who am I kidding... most teachers don't use these tools. That is another topic though.

The problem with pushing technology is that it has many ill effects. A while ago, I wrote a blog about our district and its building of a planetarium. This is put under the false pretense of creating a digital classroom. The Superintendent of our school system is caught up in the hype of being a leader in technology in Maryland. This building will be stationed at our new highschool and will be finished by 2011. As of right now, I can go to Google Earth and switch it over to Google Sky. Any constellation and star can be seen for free. I can project this with my LCD projector in my classroom right now for free. I do not know how much this planetarium will cost, but I'm sure it is not going to be free. I am sure that they will have a huge opening ceremony and our Superintendent will get high praise. But should he?

How many computers could we have bought with this money?

My point...

I think we should be focusing on 1 laptop per child, and school 2.0 literacy training for our teachers. Once we have a laptop for every child, we can start focusing on the literacy aspects. As of right now, my school has a laptop cart with 24 computers. A teacher travels around on the cart having the students use "old technology". This is not the direction we should be heading. We need to prepare the students for a life of using these tools not only to gain information, but to add to the information. I feel if we continue in this direction, our students are going to fall far behind those in which are exposed to web 2.0. We need to stop hiding being a facade of recognition, and start preparing students.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What are we teaching our students?

With hours spent over the past few days getting grades finalized, I began to really think about this question. Often times, I have had students break down in tears because of a grade they have earned in my class. What is the driving force behind these emotions?Is the student truly upset at the fact that they believe they didn't complete work to their full potential? Do these students think that getting a certain grade on their report card reflects them as a human being? What reactions to these parents have when they see the grades on the report card? These are all important questions.
The system went wrong somewhere. The emphasis is always on the grades that students are assigned. From the time students begin school to when they graduate college, grades are the motivating factor... grades, grades, grades.
I have students ask me all the time... are we going to be graded on this assignment? I usually reply by saying... does it matter? Of course it matters to the students. They think they are in school to get a grade.
Who learns more?
The independent learner that gets straight A's every quarter, or the student that constantly struggles to get C's?
There is probably an argument for both cases.
The problem...
Teachers, parents and peers who emphasize grades... grades on report cards, grades on standardized tests. Students are constantly rated with a false sense of comfort in a "good grade". Motivation becomes an issue. We motivate with rewards that are extrinsic... candy, parties, extra recess, paper awards, money (parents giving money for good grades). These rewards go away. After you eat the candy, it is gone. When extra recess is over, its time to do work. When you spend the money, it is gone. It only leaves the child ready to ask for more.
Why should they learn? Why should they come to school? Why should they exercise their brain? Why should they even think? What would happen without these extrinsic rewards?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Packaged Limitations

I have written before about media in our schools. The talk recently has been about the school library being a hub in today's schools... the library being the focal point of media, information and collaboration. I couldn't agree more! It puts a smile on my face when I see media specialists that actually get it. They do not let written text limit their overall goal in the library.

On the other hand, I don't necessarilly agree with limiting students to packaged online databases. These packaged databases have limitations and expected outcomes. The information that students find is within a box. We need to also think outside of this ordinary box.
Collaboration is the route we need to be taking. Students need to see that they do not have to only find information, but they can also add to it. Anyone can find information, but it takes a higher level of thinking to edit and add to this information stream.
Any thoughts and ideas about how we can do this would be greatly appreciated...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Taking a breath

I received a great phone call the other night. One of my buddies called to tell me that the Rock Fish (Striped Bass) were biting in abundance in the Patuxent River. This is great news because when the fish are biting, it's always a good time.

To me, there is nothing more relaxing than dropping a line in about 25 feet of water. Waiting for that bite and reeling in a nice fish. Usually, we throw the fish back, but if we catch some stripers, I think we will keep a few this time.

The phone call was just in time. I have been non-stop. I have all of my grades completed, and this week was probably one of the busiest weeks in my life (post business ownership). I can't wait to get the boat started and head out around noon. Hopefully, pictures to come.