Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What If?

My name is John and I am a teacher.

Questions to Ponder
  • What if Public Education were to become extinct by the year 2050?
  • What if my students did not need me to learn?
  • What purpose would I then serve?
In an effort to plant seeds among my fellow colleagues I frequently share interesting Web2.0 videos, articles, or blog posts via email. I have also been known to print off articles and place them on the tables in the staff room. Last week I emailed Will Richardson's blog post Meet the New Story Same as the Old Story to a colleague and below is the response I received. I asked the individual if it was OK to share and was granted permission.

In a discussion... last night we mulled over local BOE's and how long they will last. He opened my eyes by indicating that by 2050 there will probably be no public education. There may be no need to worry about boards of education and contracts because the entire industry may be eliminated due to its lack of function and ability to meet the needs of the next generation. It is not that the end is coming, it is already here in some ways. We will be absorbed, passed, or fossilized by the speed, adaptability and usefulness of a plugged IN digital native form of education. The tar is already around our ankles and rather than get out of the pit we wax poetic about the difficulties of our occupational existence and sulk about the obstacles we face. The proof he used to illustrate his point was college online courses. Nearly every University has entire curricula that can attain a degree without setting foot in a classroom. Ten years ago we were skeptical of these degrees. Today they are an expectation. Neural interface is here. By 2050 we may not be able to distinguish between the operation of a computer interface and the workings of a human brain. What if your students didn't need you to learn? What purpose do you serve?

I vote to get out of the pit!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Charlie Rose interviews Malcolm Gladwell

Charlie interviews Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, Blink, and the Tipping Point. I highlighted a few of the key points of this enlightening conversation about the elements involved for someone to achieve success.

4:15 ~ "How long does it take to be good at something?"

Expertise is only reached after 10,000 hours of practice which roughly translates to 10 years. The first in a cohort to reach 10,000 hours has a huge advantage.

6:00 ~ "Deliberate practice. Focused, intensive practice with an eye to zeroing in on your failures. Constantly thinking about what I am not doing well and why I am not doing it well."

7:52 ~ "How do we help people achieve their potential?"

You give them opportunities to work harder. Kipp Academies, charter school, extend the school day, extend the school year through the summer, have school start at 7-6 p.m., and open on Saturday's. For kids that want to work harder will be given that opportunity.

9:50 ~ "That slight is of incalculable importance... that slight is the added psychological ingredient."

11:22 ~ "...it is all because I wanted it more, I worked harder, I focused more, I sacrificed more, and more importantly I had a deep passion for the thing...they never loose it, and it is their best friend, their very best friend..."

13:00 ~ "there's a huge difference in performance between Asian kids and Western kids on Math tests. They are not genetically better at it. They work harder. Patterns of agricultural practice.

"If a culture engages in that kind of intensive work for 1500 years it doesn't go away."

26:00 ~ "Meaningful work is one of the most important things we can impart on children. Meaningful work is autonomous, that is to say where no one is looking over your shoulder. Work that is complex that occupies your mind. Work where there is a relationship between effort and reward. For everything you put in you get something out..."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What's In Your Toolbox?

Let's consider the tools for a moment.

I know there is a seemingly endless sea of Web 2.0 tools but the ones listed below are the tools that I use pretty regularly, both personally and professionally. Honestly, I find myself getting lost in it all from time to time, but I am a work in progress. Here's the thing, I think once you learn how to use one tool really well your capacity to figure out others becomes much easier. The trick for me was to figure out authentic reasons for me to use them and then determine ways to leverage it as a way to learn or stay connected.

How can I make these tools work for me instead of against me?

Because I have several ADHD qualities many of these tools are a total distraction to me while I work. I am not speaking so much during the school day but after school when I begin grading papers or planning for the next UbD Unit. I might have YouTube videos playing, chatting with family and friends, or uploading photos to my Flickr account, and it forces me to be meta-cognitive so I can make effective decisions that will maximize my time on task.

How can I use some of these tools within my classroom?

I am to the point where I know there will be a different tool designed tomorrow that will out date the ones of today and I am o.k. with that. I think that if I am to keep up that I just need to jump in at some point, get comfortable with constant change, and enjoy the ride.

So, look out below...ahhhh...splash!

Google Reader ~This for me is the first place I go to after I triage my email. Honestly, I don't really have the time to go find all the really great work that is being done out in the edublogsphere so I try to subscribe to a variety of folks that keep me up to speed with what is going on.

Delicious ~ The tool of choice for me! If you do not have a Delicious account, stop reading and go get one today, right now...see ya. It's a way to save all your bookmarks online and organize them according to tags that you assign plus a great deal more.

Twitter ~ The micro-blog that keeps me in the circle of the know...I am more of an observer of what is going on than a contributor. I do contribute from time to time by sharing links to great resources or interesting articles.

Facebook ~ This is the one tool that connects me to just about everyone I know ~ family, old friends, colleagues from work, and friends I have made online all use Facebook.

Blogmeister ~ The blog interface I use for my fifth graders.

ePals ~ my students and I have used this as a great way to make email pen pals all around the world. I have also used this on an individual basis to speak with other educators around the world to gain a deeper perspective of the educational systems outside of America.

Technorati ~ I get a bit frustrated with this tool. I am pretty sure my blog is sync'ed up with technorati but I have had some technical difficulties with this. Basically, after you get a blog up and running you would claim it within Technorati and it then becomes part of this blog search engine. There are over 1.5 million blogs registered with this service and seems to be one of the first go to places for folks when searching blogs.

Friendfeed ~ another way to stay up to date with all those you want to keep up with.

StumbleUpon ~ a neat way to spend 5-10 minutes.

LinkedIn ~ I have setup an account but that is about as far I have gone with this. Perhaps this will come in handy if I ever need it for future contacts or future professional adventures.

PBwiki and Wikispaces ~ I have never really used a wiki with others but it has proven to be a nice way for me to organize a few class projects and other professional work that I have done.

Blackboard ~ the website of choice in our District.

Flickr ~ I have a Flickr account and upload many photos there but I need to spend more time with this to be able to take advantage of all that Flickr has to offer.

Flickr Storm ~ a nice place to search through photos that can be used through a Creative Commons License.

Video 2 and Video 3 produced by David Jakes

~ I find photobucket much easier to use than Flickr. There are many preloaded bells and whistles like remixes and slideshows that can be made very easily.

Last fm ~ A social network for music lovers...aren't we all lovers of music? I use it but again I am not taking full advantage of all it has to offer.

YouTube/TeacherTube ~ Love it ~ I have given up television for YouTube. Music videos, how to instruction, old comedy stand ups, inspirational videos...the list for me is endless. I have an account and have started adding videos to my "Favorites." I have recently discovered "Playlist" feature. Type in John Mayer then click Playlist and you will get preloaded lists of videos of John Mayer...too cool.

GMail ~ I know GMail is loaded with features but honestly I just haven't taken the time to play around with all that it can do to fully appreciate it. I do love the chat feature built in and sometimes it's the only way my wife can get ahold of me while at work.

Google Doc's ~ I no longer have Microsoft Word and completely use Doc's. Not having Word posses a problem when I try to open a link that is a Word Doc. but otherwise Google Doc's does just fine.

Google Notebook ~ recently been working on some research for a side job I have been working on and have absolutely fallen in love with Notebook and the share feature that makes all my notes into a link to share with others. Too cool.

Google Calendar ~ calendars frustrate me...I have way too many and I have tried to consolidate and go completely digital last year and it failed miserably. This year I have a little green calendar notebook I use, the calendar loaded on my Mac, and Google Calendar. Do you know what? They don't all match either...still working on this one.

Feedburner ~ it tells me I have 7 people subscribing to this blog. If you are one, "Hello there, thanks for subscribing."

Google Maps/Earth ~ I have a couple projects on the back burner that I would like to work out with our ePals but otherwise it's just a really cool tool that my son and I love to spend time on.

Upload ~ after I create a little song using GarageBand, upload allows me to "upload" that which in turn creates a weblink to the uploaded song so I can then share with others.

iTunes ~ Love it! I download podcasts, songs, and spend a a good deal of time on iTunesU poking around for teacher related material. I have recently discovered MIT and their OpenCourseWare program and will probably be spending more time there than iTunes.

Ning ~
I have recently been asked by our ELA Committee at school to find a tool that we could use in our small group where we could share our thinking online about the book that we are reading. The Ning has fit that purpose nicely.

Skype a video conferencing program that is free and allows you to chat, send files, or use a web cam to talk with folks. A nice way to stay connected with friends and family.

UStream ~ this for me has been a way for me to save and organize my guitar licks that I discover while playing. I will pick up my guitar for 1o minutes and come up with a really cool chord progression or lick that I don't want to forget and so I fire up Ustream and record myself so I won't forget it.

Jott ~ when I have an idea or something I don't want to forget I jott myself and an email is sent with my recorded voice to help me remember. I am all about writing down To Do lists, ideas, great words, phrases, or anything that catches my attention. When I write it down my mind is now free to think of other more creative ideas and solutions to problems. Jott helps me achieve this goal.

Ultimately, I consider myself a work in progress and I am just trying to keep up, or better yet simply stay in the "circle of those who know," which I guess we are calling our Personal Learning Network.

What tools do you use?

John ~
husband, dad, teacher, learner

Friday, December 19, 2008

Slow Dancing in a Burning Room

A business man, after a long and tiring day, is sitting on the Metro ready for the lengthy southbound ride home when another gentlemen and his three young children enter and take a seat. The slow and mundane ride continues and within a few moments the three children are up and running around being incredibly loud and obnoxious. The business man, exhausted from his long day, looks at the father waiting for him to discipline his children but nothing is said.

The annoyed man restrains from saying anything to the neglectful father hoping that someone else on the Metro ride will. Several minutes pass and the children are still being disruptive and so he finally turns around in his seat and aggressively says, "excuse me sir your children are disrupting every one's ride here, could you please tell them to take their seats?" The father responds somewhat dazed and confused and gently says, "ahh, sure...you're right, I'm sorry. We've just left the hospital - their mother has just died and I guess they are not quite sure how to deal with the loss yet. To be honest, neither am I. I am not really sure what I am going to do now."

The business man turned back around in his seat and didn't say a word for the remainder of the trip.

How do you think the business man felt after finding out such news? Do you believe he had changed his way of thinking toward the father and his three motherless children?

My question is what will it take for the System of Education to experience a swift and dramatic change in thinking in order to prepare students for this Century?

After I read Will Richardson's, Meet the New Story, Same as the Old Story I let out a big sigh, and then thought of my own children. Will goes on to say:

"...is it any wonder that we've stopped dreaming of what can be? Of all the teachers I've had the privilege of speaking and working with in the last few years, I doubt that many of them can even now really dream of a different way, one that celebrates learning and connections and independence in the ways that many of those networked classrooms we see. They might be able to visualize it, but I don't think many see it as a potential reality in their classrooms, in their schools. There are too many reasons why it can't happen. Too many obstacles. Too little vision. (I would be happy to be proven wrong, btw.)"

Then Richardson goes on to quote Ira Socol:

"It is time to stop hiding and start dreaming. It is time to reject what we are doing now: hell, that's easy, we know it does not work. And it is time to reject all the "tinkering around the edges" which wastes our energy and accomplishes nothing. We have to say no to everything that is not sufficiently transformative, which does not change what education is, and put all of our energies into ideas which will transform."

I think one major obstacle that we all face is an ingrained way of thinking, and collectively we will need to experience a paradigm shift, like the business man and the motherless children, if real change will occur. There are far too many people comfortable with the status quo, far too many people that don't completely understand the magnitude of our time (myself included), and I am guessing that until the pressure on the outside becomes greater than the resistance on the inside this shift in thinking will not occur on the massive scale that is needed. Hence the grassroots movement that we are seeing within the edublogsphere and the rally call that Richardson puts out there:

"So, we'll have to continue changing one parent at a time, one teacher at a time, one classroom at a time, one school at a time, connecting the good works and finding a wider and wider audience for the conversation. And we have to continue to create that compelling new reality of what's possible, post by post, tweet by tweet. And, we have to continue to dream it."

I respect this call to duty and accept the challenge but it sounds more like Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.