Monday, December 31, 2007

Football Games

The guy that caught this action was sitting next to me yesterday at the Redskins / Cowboys game. It's somewhat of a shame that this is a regular occurrence at the games. Too much liquid courage and too little problem solving skills. These lovely gentlemen were both Cowboys fans at Redskins Stadium arguing over a seat. There were actually plenty of empty seats in the area.

Be prepared when taking small kids to these games. I have been to 3 games this year and have seen a total of about 15 fights. Not a very healthy environment unless you pay the big bucks to watch the game in one of the $250,000 boxes at FedEx Field.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Regulation without Education

Reading through my aggregator last night, I was pleased to see a new post in added in one of my favorite blogs as of late. Students 2.0 has a unique perspective being from students across the globe writing for education reform. Sean "The Bass Player" ...

To me, this begs the question: if someone of such a high stature can adapt with the times, and incorporate the technologies found around us in to something that has done its job over the past 50 years then why do these technologies not have a place in our classrooms right now? Why are the schools the only places left that don’t seem to want to adapt?

Sean talking of the Queen's Christmas broadcast being posted on YouTube. The comments are taking a great turn. This is a conversation that needs to happen between students and teachers. Some educators get it and some don't. The ultimate problem will not be solved by issuing a regulation or a law against this Internet content. Of course some students, if given the opportunity, will find inappropriate videos/pictures/content. The problem lies with teachers and students. Irresponsible teachers and students should be punished.
Many problems in our society have been bandaged by making a quick law that makes the action illegal without solving the actual problem... (guns, drugs, immigration). Make the gun illegal, there becomes a black market = more crime. Make the drug illegal, there becomes a black market = more crime. You "should" get the point. It is surprising to me that some people just don't get it. When something becomes illegal it also becomes glorified.
Back to the point of the post...
There are some interesting videos that I wish I could share with my students. These videos just happen to be posted on a site that is blocked by my district. Why not let teacher discretion decide what is appropriate for our students? Oh that's right, we are not trusted to make decisions. This is why all the decisions are made for us. This is sad. It also sounds a little like the relationship between teacher and student in our schools. We don't trust them, so we create most of the work for them... they just need to fill in the blanks.
The theme of a nation...
This happens in all aspects of our society. To name a few... (seat belt laws, helmet laws, food labels, drug laws, gun laws) These laws are created because the government does not trust "us" to make the right decision. They create a law and say "we did our job, you can't blame us".

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Flat Classrooms

Scratch, originally uploaded by wdelauder2002.

I am currently rereading The World is Flat by Friedman. There are some new Chapters and insights that are updated. Each time I read the book, a take a little more with me. This book should be on everyones must read list.

This leads me to think about how Flat our (some of our) classrooms have become. Some teachers still rule with an iron fist and direct the lives of the students each day. All I can say to this type of teacher is... Read this book and you will have a whole new outlook on your teaching strategies. Friedman does a wonderful job at making you think while staying neutral with his opinion. What a great book!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Science Project Reform

Woody's Pictures 225, originally uploaded by wdelauder2002.

The Science Fair Project idea seems so mechanical to me. The idea has lost some of its focus. After days of putting this together, I realized that we need to make some changes.
Next year, I would like to give students some options for their Science Fair Projects. They would be able to complete the normal investigation with 3 or more trials and data graphs, or they can produce a project that is web 2.0 based. This will keep the projects interesting and unique to create.
Students creating wiki's, blogs and social networks with a focus in mind is the ultimate goal.
The problem:
The web 2.0 based projects will not be considered in the judging process unless we change the entire judging criteria on the County and State level. This will be a hard shell to crack. We all know that school systems do not necessarily embrace change. They are comfortable in doing the same activities each year. It's easy.
I want to create more work, and I am ready for the change.
Any ideas or input on this topic would be great :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tis the Season...

to not fight traffic and overcrowded malls. It's amazing to me that so many people still do most of their shopping for the holiday out and about. Most companies offer free shipping during this season and ship within a few days. Driving around Waldorf (the definition of urban sprawl and excessive business glorification), there seems to be more traffic lights than cars. Name a business, and it's there.
I think most people are traditionalists. They enjoy fighting the traffic, waiting in long lines and the Dog and Pony show that most businesses put on for the holidays. I would rather click a few buttons and wait for the item to come to me.
I still will never understand the phenomenon of waiting in a long line at 5:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. When they open the gates, animal instinct takes over. The people remind me of animals hunting a kill in Africa. It is actually a disturbing anarchy. All I can ask is...Why?

Photo Credit: Jim McKeeth's photostream

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Santa 2.0

My first time volunteering to play the role of Santa at our yearly Polar Express Literacy Night was an enlightening experience. Students asked for anything from basketballs to money. The overall theme of gift wishes came in the form of the ipod. About 75% of the students that came up to me wanted to get their hands on an ipod. One 3rd grader even wanted a digital video camera so "they can post video to YouTube". Some students asked for a laptop. Some students went the gaming route, asking for the Wii. One student even asked for a job, so they could help their parents pay for the bills. Overall a great experience.

Kids are using these technologies. Even if they aren't at the moment, it seems as if they would like to. I think back to items I used to ask for for Christmas, and boy they have changed. I only hope that parents embrace their kids want/need for these new types of literacy's.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Is Cloning Legal?

As I walk through school every day, I wonder how we get away with what we do. A fourth grade teacher reciting words in sentences for a spelling test... A third grade class in a straight line waiting for a bathroom break... A fifth grade teacher having their students work on a word find while checking their e-mail... a Kindergarten teacher spending hours after school cutting out shapes (I guess students can't do this anymore)... Instructional Leadership Teams having meetings about the best way to teach to the test (shhhh... were not supposed to say that)... Administrators more worried about you having your Emergency Substitute Plans turned in than how you may be involving your students in the learning process.

These are just a few of the mindless/arbitrary/innate activities that occur in an elementary school on a daily basis. This leads me to ask the question... What are we teaching our students?

While our world is going through the most fundamental changes that have ever occurred in regards to how we receive and relay information, our education system is stagnate.

We are creating student clones with minimal creativity, old technology use and 200 year old methods. Students are left to wonder (why?) they attend school. I often think of a similar question... why did I have to go to college to teach?

The majority of educators want to do what is best for the students. I know I do. Teaching is my job. This is how I make my living. I try to separate my personal life from my profession. Somehow, it always leads me back to this blog and the many other blogs that I read. I have actually found a road that is paved with the knowledge of learning, sharing and creation. The knowledge growth and reflection that has taken place in my life since I have been exposed to web 2.0 tools, surpasses any college education that I have received. We need to expose students to this world. It's a world they are already exploring without any guidance at home in their personal lives. They need guidance to make sense of the new literacy's that are available to them on the Internet.

Some questions to ponder...

1. How do we as teachers change the lives of our students?

2. What changes can we make to provide optimum growth in creativity?

3. As teachers/students, HOW do we learn?

4. As teachers/students, HOW do we teach?

5. How can we make a difference in our education system?

Saturday, December 15, 2007


One fact I love about blogging is the speed at which ideas and thoughts can be shared. Finding new forums to share thoughts is an ongoing process.

The students at Student 2.0 are engaging in converstaion that needs to happen. Having a student voice in the edublogoshpere is making the puzzle more complete. Sometimes I feel as though we are preaching to the choir. However, for the longest time, the choir felt as though is was incomplete. It's like we were putting on a concert without the lead singer.

The reason I am blogging is to reach a global audience for the purpose of education reform. When I say education reform, I am talking about making changes that benefit the student, and actually prepare the student for a future that we know nothing about. Not an easy task.

Kevin Walter's Post "Arrogance, Perception, and Mistakes" brought on an interesting conversation in which proved a point. I am not relying on statistical data. I did not count the comments and create a Venn Diagram or a bar graph. I read the post and the comments and realized that Kevin's point was made by the commentors. Teachers are still trying to tell him what is wrong with his views. They tell him what he may want to do next time. Instead of listening to his cries for reform, they jump on the fact that he did not use scientific data for his comments.

The fact of the matter is that students "the majority", if given a choice, would rather not come to school. When they are at school, they say what they think teachers want to hear. One of the only motivators in school is to get good grades, which label these students. They go through the motions on a daily basis. Waking up, getting to school, standing for the Pledge, sitting quietly, raising their hands, standing in line, learning about facts that don't interest them, reading boring textbooks, writing reports, and moving at the sound of a bell. Who wants to do that?

Being in an elementary school setting, I try to prepare the students for a future in which I know nothing about. By the time they are in highschool, I can only hope that they use the tools in which I have made available to them. Hopefully one of my students will create new tools in which I will be using.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Learning how to think

Using the ultimate tool available to us is becoming a lost art in our schools. As I go about teaching every day, I am confronted with this epidemic. The majority of the students that I have contact with have lost the ability to think for themselves. Creativity, uniqueness and independence have some how disappeared as fast as the car phone. I don't know if these characteristics and abilities were ever present.

I witness many trends that may cause this in our education system.

1. Teachers spend entirely too much time preparing for lessons with the wrong approach. Instead of spending time thinking of ways in which they can help the students discover ideas on their own, time is spent cutting shapes, copying worksheets and preparing most of the work for the students. The students just need to fill in the blanks.

2. Our school system is still teacher directed, with every move (even what to say) mapped out for every lesson. Some teachers do not fall prey to this monotony, but the majority do out of fear of reprisal from the administration.

3. In the average school day, too much time is spent on wasteful activities... bathroom breaks, discussing rules, needless assemblies, and parties for behavior that should be expected.

4. The use of outdated textbooks and what "they" call LEVELED READERS has become the norm. These books couldn't be more boring. They are all the same size. They all look the same. They have the same ridiculous questions at the end of the story. The students are not interested in any of the topics. How can we expect the students to enjoy reading?

5. The majority of educators still do not use web 2.0 tools in their teaching. The power of Wikipedia alone is overlooked and thought of as not accurate enough to use with our students.

Our students do not have the chance to think. I use the analogy of playing a sport. To be a successful athlete, a person must practice the sport in which they are interested. The practice time put into the sport should, over time, improve the persons ability to play this sport. This is analogous with the sport of thinking. If students do not practice the process of critical thought, how can we expect them to improve their thinking ability?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Rethinking the Textbook

Motivated by a fellow blogger, I have decided to discuss a topic I feel passionate about. Textbooks have been a life-long problem for me. I never enjoyed buying, covering or reading them. In fact, I can't remember one that I have read. However, I do enjoy reading.
Along with being boring, textbooks are also outdated. Taking on average 2 years to create, by the time they are published, the information is ancient. Using textbooks presents another problem with the whole learning process. Students read and retain information for a short period of time. Is this really learning? What would happen if students were asked to create their own textbooks?
Students with the power to create their own textbook in the form of a wiki would have stake in the information. The information could be edited on a daily basis. The students would have the power to create, delete, and edit information. The creation process provides the student with a road to pave with information and creativity.
The independent learner would strive in this environment. This leads me to my next discussion... creating independent learners.
Until we as teachers let students make their own decisions as to how they learn, students will continue to depend on their teacher to guide them through the learning process. Welcome to a downward spiral of a stagnate education system.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Building Bridges

I haven't had much time to blog as of lately. I have been working on launching a website geared towards networking my community. The website is is collaborative and will be used for anyone in the community to post and share information of importance. The boundaries have not quite been defined. Hopefully this will be done by the community. My goal is to launch the site June 1st, 2008. Creation of the pages and database is my overwhelming goal at this time.

As for talk in the blogging world. I have been reading, with not much commenting. Interesting conversations, but I haven't had the time. Talk of blocking sites in school, interesting ways to use technology in schools, and keynote conversations all interest me. I could write for days on these topics. Days, I do not have. Sometimes taking information in without adding your own insight is relaxing. Hopefully with the break coming up at the end of the month, will come some time to add some insight.