Learning is Change

I’m not sure if this is a good idea.

I was reading some of the articles on Karl Fisch’s del.icio.us account. I found this one and I was caught by some strange version of inspiration. It basically talks about how kids can be so innovative to post answers to tests online. I’m not a big fan of this particular act, but I find the idea of innovation in finding answers to be full of possibilities.

Here is my idea:

I will develop a quiz on new technologies that will help my students throughout the year (blogs, wikis, rss, podcasts, thinkfree, glypho, etc.). They can either follow the links and find each of the answers individually. Or they can search and follow their own path to a file (or website) with all of the answers to the quiz in one place. I need to work out the logistics, but I can imagine finding a way of hiding the file (or website) so that my students will still have to use all of the skills that they are being quizzed on.

Do you think that this is possible or a good idea?

Change in the L.A. Department.

I’m trying to create an atmosphere of change in my Language Arts department. Now, I knew that there would be resistance from a few teachers, but I thought that the passion and purpose of what we (my co-chair and I) are doing would convince these teachers that we are not trying to hijack the department with an anti-basic skills agenda. That was until I talked to a veteran teacher in our department. I realized then that universal buy-in is going to be nearly impossible. After this “illuminating” conversation, I started thinking the opposing viewpoint of this complex dilemma. I really wanted to distill the differences between the two ways of thinking about a department so that I could get a hold of what I was up against. Obviously, I have some bias in this debate, but I tried to eliminate as much inflammatory language as possible. Ideally, I would find a way of bringing both visions of a working Language Arts department together so that all voices can be heard. Perhaps my optimism is too expansive, but here is what I have come up with so far.

These are the assumptions about the two competing orientations of Language Arts department:
Anti-Change Orientation:

  1. We are a leading department in the district and we are doing the best that we can.
  2. The main objective of the department is to follow the directives of the district and the school administration.
  3. Reflection is touchy-feely and therefore unnecessary.
  4. There is no time in the regular meetings for talking about the specific lessons and resources we are using in class.
  5. You must go through drudgery and organizational hoops in order to accomplish anything worthwhile within the department.
  6. Striving for change is either a hopeless endeavor or completely unnecessary.
  7. All issues involving students and teachers can be looked at through a black and white lens and are therefore easily solvable without debate, nuance, or further research/intervention.
  8. When you find something that has worked in the past, there is no reason that it shouldn’t continue to work in the future.
  9. Technology is simultaneously unnecessary in the classroom and too hard to learn to make the effort worthwhile.
  10. Young teachers cannot add significantly to a department until they have had sufficient experience and have adopted the teaching styles of veteran teachers.

Pro-Change Orientation:

  1. Unnecessary social and pedagogical differences hold us back from really fulfilling our roles as master teachers and supportive colleagues.
  2. The main objective of the department is to create a unifying voice of all of its members so that we make sure that all students can learn in all classrooms.
  3. Teachers (members of the department) know what is best for the classroom (in terms of assessments, lessons, programs, etc.).
  4. Reflection leads to a greater depth of learning, higher retention rate, and greater buy-in from all participants and is therefore an essential part of the department.
  5. The only way to make sure that our department stays student-centered is to bring the classroom into the department via easily digestible, highly engaging lessons that have worked well with our population of students.
  6. Striving for change is courageous, filled with promise, the inevitable result of looking at where we are and where we need to be.
  7. Passionate ideas, candid discussion, and a safe environment that allows teachers to freely mentor and seek help can circumvent most of the unpleasant tasks and red tape associated with the process of creating worthwhile/useful materials.
  8. There is nothing that works so well that it should never be revisited, reflected upon, or bettered somehow.
  9. The student issues surrounding reading and writing and teacher issues of development and interpersonal clashes are inherently complex and should be met with understanding and appropriate action to bring about lasting resolutions.
  10. Technology is an integral part of any classroom that aims to engage our savvy student population and prepare them for a 21st century world.
  11. Young teachers should learn as much as they can from veterans who are continuously improving their craft. These young teachers should not have a qualified voice in the department because they are the ones who will either continue teaching if they are fulfilled by it or leave teaching if they find that serving students has taken a back seat to logistics, assessments, or tradition.

I’m not sure how I am going to bring these two viewpoints together, but I think enumerating these viewpoints may lead to some good discussion amongst our department’s members. I have visited the Classroom Change Wiki, and I think that a lot of these ideas are congruent with the ones that are already there. It may be of use to the Edusphere to start another section of the Wiki devoted to change at the department level. Please let me know what you think about any of these ideas. I am particularly interested in refining these points so that we can discuss them as a department and not have people throwing chairs at one another.

I’m back, sort of.

The wiki has been keeping me pretty busy. Version 1.0 of idiosyncratically useful websites will be ready in a couple of weeks. I plan on actually letting people know about it then. I am still struggling, however, with all of the excess great ideas from other people. I wish that I could clip things directly from other people’s blogs into my bloglines clip folder. It would make things easier. Recently (over the last day or so) I have been finding a lot of things that may help our Language Arts department in this coming year. This idea I couldn’t furl or clip in bloglines, so I thought here would be a good spot for it.

Wendy, a co-chair of our department, and I have been talking about different ways of reflecting after/during meetings. Karl of Fischbowl fame had his fellow teachers answer to these five categories with his own examples:

Continue reading“I’m back, sort of.”

My new Wiki

I now have a Wiki. I will use it to help annotate all of the great resources I have found for both teaching and existing in the 21st century. I am really looking for others who share the same passion for this kind of work to help me expand this Wiki. Please explore it for yourself, and then let me know if you want to help. Go Here!

The amount of research…

I have been doing a rediculous amount of research while my wife has been at her mother’s. I have been looking into a lot of areas of technology in the classroom. These are the coolest things that I have found, and I hope to expand these areas on this blog when I get a chance.

1. Wikis and wikibooks
2. One to one learning
3. Digital Storytelling
4. Web 2.0 and social networking
5. Podcasting

Looking at this list, it seems that these topics are a little hokey. They are basically the buzzwords for the last few years. I feel, however, that I have gotten beyond the buzz. I hope to prove this with the following posts. If you get anxious, please go to my furl site. Search for these categories.

I turn 23 tomorrow.

It sounds so young, even to me. Perhaps it is the CSAP in me that has got me thinking about my goals, but I have some enormous expectations for myself. Right now I can’t think of any other way to be.

Expectations before I turn 25 (not hopes, not dreams; things that I know will happen):
1. I will have a child.
2. I will have a master’s degree.
3. I will have a book published.
4. I will have a salary that makes my family’s life comfortable.
5. I will have a cd pressed.

Sitting In Class

When we talk about definition we are implying its opposite. I find that to be a comforting idea. We are never so far away from our antithesis that we can’t see it. We understand that everything is new and old, green and gold. I like dealing with a thought and its opposites. Neither can be more true than the other. This is the theory of Paradoxism. A theory of complete inclusion. This theory is relevent because students are always so certain. They believe what they believe. But, their beliefs are so different, so opposed. Every classroom implies both order and chaos. There is no balencing act that bridges the two. Both are always present. I like that. The bubbling over of engagement and boredom simultaneously. The rutheless questioning and apathy for invitations. The great wisdom and stupidity of choice that my students exercise each day. I embrace it all because I am both student and teacher, both hider from and seeker of learning. I still want to sit in the back of the class and create “situational comedy”. I want to engage in deep discussion that actually goes somewhere. I love this contradiction. These wants are so opposite that they simply scream to co-exist. By this logic, I can honestly say that I both love and hate teaching, and hopefully not sound trite.