Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Freedom Writers and the Ron Clark Story

I read two blog posts showing disdain for teacher movies, Freedom Writer and Ron Clark Story in particular. I agreed with the bloggers, these movies depict teachers who are super human and work unrealistically hard--forsaking family friends and even personal health. But I see things differently, I like teacher movies---I think the viewer should be encouraged at how well they themselves are doing without neglecting other parts of their lives. I look at Erin Gurwell and Ron Clark as examples of teachers who chose to spend 100% of their time for their students, but I do a heck of a good job with my students working 40-50 hours a week. I raised 3 sons to adulthood, maintained a 36 year marriage, and put a hot meal on the table each evening while my kids were home. I swim, walk, go to the gym and read. I have a good life and am a good teacher.

I am sad that Erin didn't stay in the classroon but Ron Clark still works with kids.....

It is what it is--we do the best we can.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Responses to a Twitter Discussion

I got involved in a discussion over at http://weblogged-ed.com about Twitter. Since I don't twit, I knew I was the perfect person to jump right into a conversation on a topic I know nothing about (which is something I often do) Here are the discussions I was involved in with Darren, Wendy, Steve, and they contain some of my current thoughts--

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 20:17:28
I’m old, I’m getting ready to retire, and I am 100% tech savvy…that said this whole conversation (I read most of the 80 commentors) makes me sad. There were only rare mentions of thinking,learning,teaching,scholarship, students…you are talking (IMHO) about something that makes no difference to the students we are trying to teach and to most of the people in the known world. Talk about preaching to the choir—this conversation is only relevent to the people who are having it in 140 characters.
Someone mentioned all the “great ideas” they got while lurking on Twitter—does anybody beside me see a problem with this type of the thinking….it reminds me of the old days when presenters would hand you a list of 300 websites with no annotation. What are you going to do with all these tidbits of info? Compile them into a master’s thesis? Plan a year long curriculum for your student? Write a book?
Do any of you teach real students? Has anyone used a tool that has changed the life or learning of a real student?
I’m sad that so many people are in love with the tools and not with the teaching and learning.
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Comment by Steve Ransom
2008-07-17 20:42:17
Wow… the echo just died here. Thanks so much for a much-needed perspective in this conversation, Nancy. However, for some, tools like Twitter DO provide useful and helpful bits of information that DO (hopefully) trickle down to students at some level. I don’t think one can be so quick to write off any tool. You are correct though, I think, in suggesting that the tools we choose to use professionally should be valuable at the student level for those that are teaching. There is no time to waste with tools that distract, annoy, or entertain for most teachers in the classroom.
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Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 20:53:19
It’s not about the tool, it’s about what you do with it. There is a lot of mindless fodder on Twitter. But, let me tell you a story about the real power of Twitter as a social networking tool. Last year, a fellow Tweeter posted a link to his 8th graders’ Darfur blog. I posted a tweet back that sent him to my third graders’ Darfur website. From that, a collaboration between two teachers grew into a major project that included 677 students from around the country.
http://manyvoicesdarfur.blogspot.com/Don’t underestimate the power of Twitter as a launch pad for more important conversations. You just have to know when to move on to a more appropriate forum to make the most for your students. There are many thoughtful teachers here who care very much about student learning. I lurk on Twitter from time to time. Sometimes, I contribute to the mindless fodder. But, I also build lasting relationships with amazing educators that spill over into my teaching and impact my students’ learning. When I found out that I would be teaching AP Human Geography, I posted a tweet asking if anyone knew other APHG teachers would would be willing to share resources. Within one hour I had five contacts who provided various resources from which my students will benefit greatly. I use Twitter as a professional tool to connect with colleagues. When I need to have a deeper conversation, I move to the blogs or other avenues for deeper discussion.

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 21:30:03
Wendy, I do not Twitter but I read about the Darfur project on a blog…I’m sure there are miraculous collaborations made on Twitter. I’m in a different place than you are, career-wise. I’m looking back over my career while you might be looking forward to your future…many this is a time for reflection for me… but how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with the teachers in our buildings and districts? how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with neighbors, with old people in our communities? how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with our students and their families? or for that matter how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with our own children, spouses, and family members?
It’s not really twitter per se that is bothering me–it’s IMHO the whole focus on the Web 2.0 tools–I guess I want so much more for my students than knowing how to use the calculator on their cellphone or filming a fight in the girls bathroom.
As I mentioned I use tech tools in my classroom all the time but they are used doing real work, in a real work environment. We present rich and relevant content (like the Darfur project) to an authentic audience. The tools are not doing the teaching and the tools are not doing the learning.
But, this too will pass–within a couple of years 90% of the “new” gadget sites will be out of business and the other 10% will charge a fee!(Comments wont nest below this level)

Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 22:24:56
I certainly cannot argue with anything you’ve said about making valuable connections at home. All of these human connections are important to us and our students. Technology is not a prerequisite for authentic learning opportunities. As far as Web 2.0 tools go, a colleague at my school and I created a site to help teachers sift through some of these tools and determine which ones might have educational value, depending upon how they are creatively used in the classroom. I would be very sad if anyone thought that those tools were all I cared about from a teaching perspective. My students experience learning from many different perspectives. I reflect on all of them to determine what works well and what doesn’t.
I respect your thoughts and personal reflection. I am actually well into my teaching career, probably one of the older teachers here, and I believe that reflection is important throughout my career. My real point here is that you can not make assumptions about people based on their participation or lack of participation in social networking tools like Twitter. There is more to these teachers (at least the ones I know) than the 140 character post in Twitter. Bottom line, and I hope this is what you are saying, is that we all must have balance in our lives such that we can be good examples for our children and our students. We must also help guide them so they can do more with technology than use the calculator on their cell phone or film a fight in the girls bathroom.

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 22:40:28
I am one of those people who has opinions about everything and don’t feel like I am articulate (in writing) as many writers are–I certainly didn’t mean to offend. I just wonder if some people didn’t spend all their time chatting with like minded people (online or at conferences) they might have time to come up with the next Darfur Project or Flat World Project.
I heard Carol Tomlinson say, at a differentiation conference, “you can’t differentiate FOG.” So much of what people see as education-changing tools are in my opinion, FOG.

Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 22:51:39
No offense taken at all. I think you offer some important points for all of us to consider. It’s been a refreshing conversation that inspired me to think a lot harder about what I’m doing and squint a bit more to see through the FOG. That is always a good thing. Now, I must get back to my face-to-face life. (smile)

Comment by Darren Draper
2008-07-17 21:44:56
I love you, Nancy, but I’m already married.

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 21:54:50
Sorry to be a wet blanket. hehe I’ve read several things you’ve written and agree with much of what you say, you are much more articulate than I. I’m the only person in the world that has 3 blogs and hates to write!
I don’t want to give the impression that I am a luddite or “old school”. I presented at NECC and around my state for 5 years–I’ve integrated technology into more projects than most people who have commented. You can see some of them here
http://anotsodifferentplace.blogspot.com/2007/07/where-is-all-your-stuff.html When I retire I will leave a legacy of thinking and learning.
I cannot marry you, I’ve been married to same guy for 36 years–too late for a change!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Thought

I posted this rambling comment over at Learning is Messy. I don't write articulately enough to clearly make my point but here it is.

I spent ten years presenting (as a full time teacher) around my state and district. I also presented for 5 years at NECC and IMHO I was very good at it, bringing hundreds of examples and projects from the classroom to share with the participants. I then suffered from tech overload and frustration because, no matter how much they "oh-ed" and "ah-ed" at workshops, I saw little technology integration in the classrooms throughout my large district.

I did not go to NECC this year but from all I have read I get an idea of what it was like. I just had a ridiculous thought, after reading your blog and comments--a big part of these national conferences seems to be the people who are "in" get to see all the other people who are "in" and discuss stuff that has already been discussed in blogs, other conferences, Twittered, etc. Many of the presenters don't go to sessions, they just present. So who's in the audience? What if the audience was mostly tech trainers who are not able to reach kids and teachers who may or may not use the stuff they hear about.

Preaching to the choir? What if the choir hears but does nothing? Is the whole technology push much ado about nothing? Why don't we give the resources, money, time and equipment to the teachers who use it and just forget about the rest. If a teacher is interested he/she will seek out the knowledge or work with kids to use the technology in the classroom.

I use technology of all kinds all the time in my classroom and for the most part I've taught myself everything I know about webpages, blogs, wikis, online courses, Moodle, Blackboard, desktop publishing, robotics, graphics, copyright, digital cameras, whiteboards, and on and on. You can see some of our projects here.
Luckily I retire in a year or two---don't want to irritate too many more people. N.