Monday, December 24, 2007

Before the Conceptual Age can Arrive

My wife and I decided to take some quality time to visit one of our local educational centers, The Roberson Museum and Science Center. While there, the Edwin A. Link Exhibit really spoke to me, so much so that I went to get a piece of paper and pencil and copied down some of the quotes around the room. Here is one:

Americans have long been fascinated by speed, motion, and any kind of vehicle that can explore new places.

We also have a recurring, if not constant belief in progress. The latest technologies often seem to have the potential not just to make life easier but solve large social problems.

The first half of the 20th Century these two themes - the romance of motion and belief in progress through technology came together in the idea of the airplane, and created an exciting concept.

The Air Age would be a time of peace and prosperity made possible by this new technology.

Before the Air Age could arrive, pioneers would have to explore and improve the technology, making it safe and demonstrating its usefulness.

There are many educational pioneers of today exploring and improving the technologies of the 21st Century, in order to make it safe and demonstrate its usefulness. We are fighting virtually the same battle today instead this time it's over a different kind of technology and with a different social problem.

Who are the pioneers of today?
  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Administrators
  • Parents
  • Business Leaders
  • Politicians
  • Community Leaders
Perhaps there are others but I would imagine that to be a true pioneer in the midst of these exciting times that not only do you recognize the urgency and need to change but you act on them as well. The pioneers will blaze the path and the rest will follow in time. Unfortunately, it will take time and unfortunately some will take a fall.

According to Daniel Pink's, A Whole New Mind, we are transitioning from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Many times transitions and times of change are marked with distinct dissidence, fear, and radical behavior. So it seems to me that before the Conceptual Age can truly arrive, todays pioneers will have to continue to explore and improve the technologies of the 21st Century, making it safe and demonstrate its usefulness. It would appear that history is repeating itself.

A book called Who Moved My Cheese talks briefly about different personalities and how they deal with change. According to Dr. Spencer Johnson, author of Who Moved My Cheese, there are three stages of change:
  1. Stage 1 ~ Preparing People for Change
  2. Stage 2 ~ Gaining Change Skills
  3. Stage 3 ~ Achieving a Change
A true pioneer, David Jakes, has put together a nice foundational plan for schools to begin dealing with this transition into the 21st Century. His plan seems to follow these three basic stages of change and outlines how school districts can begin to handle the transition effectively and in such a way that the staff will feel safe and find usefulness in the tools. Wesley Fryer, another who continues to blaze the path focuses in on very specific points in our educational system that needs to change.

During such times I would like to think that I am on the side of the pioneers handling the change in a way that will help blaze the path. I gotta tell ya though, I am riding on the coat tails of many others through this journey. I certainly feel that I am living and teaching during exciting times, and I look forward to the next year of growth.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Life is Good

Gavin and Daddy
Originally uploaded by Watch Dog
Need I say more?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wobble Wobble

Life for me is so much about balance. Here we are steam rolling our way into the holiday season and I feel like the guy who is spinning the plates on the end of those rods and needs to keep them spinning so they don't fall. Wow, careful, get that one, quick that one is starting to wobble. You get the picture.

Is every teacher running frantically to keep the plates spinning? I would love to know the secret so I can be an effective 21st Century Teacher, Husband, Father, and Learner.

Ahhh, quick that one is getting ready to fall, spin, spin, spin.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Writer's Reflections

1. What insights have you learned about yourself as a writer since participating in the blogosphere?

Writing forces me to slow down in the midst of the storm of information. A year ago I would not have even considered myself a writer outside of the daily grind of teaching. Sure, there were lesson plans, writing comments on report cards, creating a to do list, or writing out the bills, but never a time for true reflection. Reflection happened on the drive home, not on paper and surely not on the infamous W.W.W.

At this point, I truly reflect on my teaching by taking the time to write, and boy does it take time. The act of writing forces me to think through my thoughts succinctly, which has never been a strength of mine. It is a challenge but going through this experience I find myself being a much more effective teacher of writing.

2. How has participating in the blogosphere changed your perspective about your own writing?

I think deeply about my writing and take a great deal of pride in what I post. Do I think of myself as a professional author? No way! But, I do feel that I can contribute to the conversation at some level. At this point, I at least view myself as a writer with something to say where before this experience I don't think I would say that.

I have learned that this could be more than a one way form of communication, although when I first started posting on this blog I felt that I was talking to myself.

3. What are some ways that I am currently helping my students be meta-cognitive reflective writers?
  • Conferencing ~ Using the language of a writer "What are you working on as a writer?"
  • Modeling my own struggles and successes as a writer through Think Alouds
4. What are new strategies which I could implement to help my students be more self reflective about their writing development?
  • Student Blogs ~ focus on one aspect of writing (Mini-lesson daily or weekly)
  • Have students journal about the purpose of conventions as well as their own struggles and accomplishments.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Conversation Between Me and Myself

"Now wait a minute young man, this is not a race the Web 2.0 is not going anywhere!" The little voice said.

"I know but I am so excited to be able to begin a global project with my students, you don't understand." I responded with great enthusiasm.

"Well, you have completely immersed yourself in the ways of preparing our students for the 21st Century and I can sense your obvious excitement. How will you begin your blogging project?" The voice asked.

"Thanks for asking, first I will get parents involved by sending home a letter explaining how the program will work and hopefully they will sign the permission form. Then the immersion will begin," I said with great confidence.

"I see," said the voice skeptically. "Let's not forget about safety because you know that will be the first issue that you will have to convince the community about. Have you thought about how you will handle this very important concern that parents will most likely have?" The voice spoke with grave concern.

"Absolutely! Blogmeister has a nice addition where all posts and comments come to me first before they are posted online."

The voice interjected, "Oh, excellent."

I continued hardly able to catch my breath. "Yes, safety is an important issue and we want to protect our children however, in these noble efforts of protecting our students I think part of my job is also to empower students to make their own educational decisions, to help them realize that learning can take place far outside the four walls of our classroom, that they too can contribute to the global conversation and begin to see themselves as part of a global learning community which will hopefully ignite a passion for learning that I completely lose control over."

"Wow! You have really thought this through, " the little voice said with amazement.

"Actually, everything that I have mentioned has been said before by people much smarter than me, it's just that I have begun to develop my own personal learning network."

With a look of bewilderment, the voice said, "A personal what?"

"A personal learning network. This is where I am able to learn from folks who contribute to the global conversations and the beautiful thing is that I am able to learn when I want because I am not limited by time or a physical space. Learning can take place 24-7-365. Pretty cool huh?" I spoke as if I just scored the winning run in the big game.

"Ok, so what your saying is that not only are your students realizing their learning potential but you are too?" The voice spoke with a little twinkle in the eye.

"Hey, I am a teacher and a learner. We need to own this new way of learning for ourselves before we can ultimately help students through this process."

The voice was hooked, "Ok, I would like to participate in this learning adventure with your students, how can I begin?"

"Follow me, let's go check out our blog."