Sunday, January 18, 2009

Do You Still Enjoy Teaching?

When Christopher Columbus set sail there were certain circles of educated Europeans that knew the world was indeed a sphere not because of personal experience, rather this knowledge was based on their studies and intellect. However, the vast majority of the population believed the contrary.

So, in 1492 when good ole Chris headed west he took with him a worthy crew, his trusty astrolab, ample supplies and those intangibles that I am imagining were more precious than gold itself: courage, passion, faith, and a sense of direction.

What does Courage Mean to You?
As a digital immigrant, traveling through the uncharted waters of the digital landscape does indeed require a certain amount of bravery. When we as teachers step out of our comfort zones we place ourselves at risk, we are exposing our weaknesses and underbellies. We are forced into a position of humility and for a teacher this will ultimately require a shift in thinking.

Do you still teach with a sense of urgency? Do you continue to believe that ALL children can learn? Do you believe that you are making a difference in the lives of children? Do you still enjoy the "job?"

We as teachers have to get comfortable with letting go of control if we are truly going to engage and motivate all students to reach full potential. This is clearly easier said than done and goes against the grain of everything we have ever known about teaching and teachers.

Sense of Direction
What are the essential questions that underpin all the lessons we design? What is the reason for teaching a particular lesson? Please don't say because it's in your curriculum...we need to find the purpose and the direction in all that we do and then lead our students to do the same. I invite the students to ask, "Why do we have to learn this Mr. Howell?" and then help them answer that on their own.

In closing, I wonder how it became common knowledge that the world was indeed a sphere? It certainly took time and mass diligence on the part of many, but ultimately it was through Columbus' continuous efforts that led others to follow suit. I believe that as more and more schools, teachers, and students continue to navigate the uncharted territories and find their own way through the digital landscape that others will do the same. The journey will no doubt be filled with plenty of challenges but we have a worthy crew, we have the needed navigational tools, and we have ample supplies. We now need to call upon those intangibles that will help guide us to the safety of the welcome shore.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Yet Another Pebble on the Pile

I have been reading Here Come's Everybody written by Clay Shirky and have thoroughly enjoyed the brain stretch. In an effort to Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood I have collected a bit of information on this book and Clay.
  • Here is Will Richardson's collective work about Clay Shirky that dates back as far as 2003.
  • Here's a collection of videos of Clay Shirky using the Pixsy Search Engine ~ I especially enjoyed the Colbert interview on Comedy Central.

I am going to stop there ... this is a fine example of information overload.

Oh yeah, the book - after spending a great deal of time sifting through the links above I wonder what else there is to say? If I can't say anything worth linking to maybe I shouldn't say it at all. Nah. Let's put just one more pebble on the pile ~ a line I lifted from Merlin Mann's quote found on page 94.

I read with pen in hand and write all over the pages and my copy of this book is a mess. I circle phrases that are interesting to me, circle great words and words I don't know, write questions in the margins, make connections to other texts and to myself. I am basically having a conversation with the author as I read, of course it's a one way conversation but it keeps me focused and is easier to recall powerful points that I refer to in the future.

Here are but a few of the sections I wrote over:
"We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race."
"Owning a television does not give you the capability to make TV shows, but owning a computer means that you can create as well as receive many kinds of content, from the written word through sound and images. Amateur production, the result of all this new capability, means that the category of "consumer" is now a temporary behavior rather than a permanent identity."
This really reminded me of something I heard Marco Torres say: "The laptop is my stage where I can perform for the whole world."

A few more:
"A wikipedia article is not a product but a process."
"It's when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen, and for young people today, our new social tools have passed normal and are heading to ubiquitous, and invisible is coming."
Reminds me of Chris Lehman when he talks about technology needs to be ubiquitous like oxygen, you don't think about until there is none.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

7 Things You Might Not Know About Me(me)

After reading Mike Sansone's 7 Things You Didn't Know About Me(me) and being tagged by Steve Ransom I have decided to jump in and give it a try.

U.S. Marine
most folks that know me can't believe I was a Marine but I served for half a decade honorably. Oorah!

Can't Read a Note ~ a music note that is. I grew up listening to my dad play the guitar and piano and I would sit down after him and figure out what he was playing which trained my "ear to hear" the music. I did take lessons for awhile but it never worked out so ultimately I can't read a single music note. I can play the guitar, drums, piano, accordion, harmonica, bass, and the spoons.

Waterski ~ I lived on Waneta Lake for much of my childhood and during that time I spent the summer months behind the boat and on top of the water. So much so, that after graduating high school I decided that I would go to waterski school so to become a "professional." I quickly realized that I was a small fish in a big pond and headed back home to New York. I did manage to ski the perimeter of Keuka Lake, a 72 miles non-stop journey, to raise money for the United Way .

First Car ~ My first car was a very used 1975 Chrysler Cordoba that had the colorful word "Whiplash" painted on the back. I bought this beast for $150.00 which lasted me through my senior year in high school. Unfortunately, the heating unit broke which made those early morning winter drives to school in Upstate New York a challenge. So, I would give my friends blankets as I picked them up and I would sit on one of those heating pads farmers use when they sit on their tractors.

Roller Coasters ~ can't ride 'em. Nope, won't do it and you can't make me. Long story made short: When I was 5 the largest roller coaster in the world was the Rebel Yell at Kings Dominion in Virginia and my dad convinced me to ride this monster. Of course, just before the lap gate dropped closed and locked my dad jumped out and left me in the roller coaster car. Even though my mom was still with me I was pretty well traumatized for life. What was Dad thinkin'?

Bill Cosby Himself ~ Probably the funniest stand up that I have ever seen. I was 12 when I first watched this and I haven't been the same since. Here are few samples to get a flavor of this show.

Needles ~ At this point, I just joke with the nurses and let them know that before you give me that shot I should be laying down on a table because for some unknown reason I can't seem to stay awake for them.

Tag, your it!
Deb Renner Smith
Jeff Lewis
Matt Riccione
John Howell no I am not tagging myself.
Mathew Needleman
David Jakes
Brian C. Smith

If you are interested here are the obligatory rules:

Link your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.

* Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
* Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
* Let them know they’ve been tagged