Monday, July 30, 2007

Time


"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable."
-T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot (1888–1965) Burnt Norton (Four Quartets)

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
...A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance..."
-Ecclesiastes 3 (King James Version)

"Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire."
-Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986)
“A New Refutation of Time,” Labyrinths (1964)

"Time, you old gypsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?"
-Ralph Hodgson (1871–1962)

"A moment in time but time was made through that moment: for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning."
-
T.S. Eliot,“Choruses from ‘The Rock’"

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
-Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson] (1832–1898)
Through the Looking-Glass, “Tweedledum and Tweedledee” (1872).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Primary Knowledge of Computers

"In September [1964], the General Electric Company sponsored a Digital Computer Course...Twenty-five students and seven faculty members attended the twelve weekly sessions of ninety minutes. Under the direction of E.D. Reilly, manager of the Digital Computer at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, participants gained a primary knowledge of computers and the field of programming."

Reading the caption under a yearbook photo, I am stunned to realize the opportunity that I had let slip by. Because of my aptitude for Math, I was among the students chosen to participate in this programming class, surely one of the first in our region. I remember being warned "garbage in, garbage out" as we worked in teams to construct a logical sequence of commands. I remember the cards with punched "slots" that recorded our instructions in a computer-readable format. I remember the computer, worth a million dollars or more, filling the entire basement of a building at Siena College. ONE computer!

I didn't touch a computer again for over twenty-five years. I wasn't ready, didn't understand the possibilities.

Over the past year, I've had an epiphany of sorts. Three decades later, I'm ready to "see something wonderful".

"I do not regret my not having seen this before, since I now saw it under circumstances so favorable. I was in just the frame of mind to see something wonderful, and this was a phenomenon adequate to my circumstances and expectation, and it put me on the alert to see more like it."
-Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist

The Thread That Runs So True

"The needle's eye/That doth supply/The thread that runs so true/Ah! many a lass/Have I let past/Because I wanted you."
-Traditional game

As a teenager, I read The Thread That Runs So True, Jesse Stuart's account of teaching in rural Kentucky.

I recently revisited this book, examining it from the perspective of an educator in the digital age.

Stuart's central analogy is that the teacher is the "needle's eye" and "the thread that ran so true" must be play: the teacher "should make them [the students] think they were playing while they learned ..." This is a concept that resonates with modern educators, many of whom attempt to instill the element of fun in their lesson plans without sacrificing necessary content. The discussion of Second Life as a vehicle for simulated learning environments is a modern-day variation on the theme.

Some of Stuart's methods are no longer either permissible or desirable, the constant violence troubling (he asserts that "not any knowledge I was trying to give them, not anything I could do at Lonesome Valley, would give me the reputation this fight gave me" after he defeats a bullying student in a fistfight).

But overall, we are left with the impression of a man who cared deeply for education, for character, for poetry and beauty, for the mountains and people of his native Appalachia.

In a Preface written for the 1958 edition of the book (originally published in 1949), Jesse Stuart reminded readers that "the interest of all America is focused upon America's schools and their importance to our survival as a nation". He concludes by saying "...I am firm in my belief that a teacher lives on and on through his students. I will live if my teaching is inspirational, good, and stands firm for good values and character training. Tell me how can good teaching ever die? Good teaching is forever and the teacher is immortal."

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Global Village


"The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village."
-Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)
The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962

"Ours is a brand—new world of allatonceness. 'Time' has ceased, 'space' has vanished. We now live in a global village ... a simultaneous happening."
-Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980)
The Medium is the Massage, (1967)

An exciting conversation is taking place on Anthony's blog - and it's only two days old!

Patrick Higgins has suggested that the teacher/bloggers who posted comments on The Paradigm Shift set up some type of collaborative social studies project involving their respective students. Since Patrick is based in New Jersey, Anthony and Clay Burell teach in Korea, and I'm a teacher/librarian in upstate New York, we could certainly consider ourselves "global" in outlook.

I'm not sure how this will work - our schools may have vastly different resources - but it will be fun to experiment. If nothing else, we will start some interesting conversations: among ourselves, within our districts, and, most importantly, with our students.

"In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future."
-Eric Hoffer (1902–1983)
Reflections on the Human Condition

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Of Dryads and Beowulf

"That thou, light-wing├Ęd Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

Singest of summer in full-throated ease."
-John Keats (1795-1821)
Ode to a Nightengale

In Greek mythology, a dryad is a female tree spirit, more specifically, the nymph of an oak tree.

"Beowulf" is an Old English epic poem, in which the title character heroically battles three monsters, Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a dragon.

At least, that's what I was taught in college.

Now I find that these words have acquired new meanings in the digital age:
Dryad "is an infrastructure which allows a programmer to use the resources of a computer cluster or a data center for running data-parallel programs. A Dryad programmer can use thousands of machines, each of them with multiple processors or cores, without knowing anything about concurrent programming"
while Beowulf is "a design for high-performance parallel computing clusters on inexpensive personal computer hardware."

Will I ever use this knowledge; do I even need to be aware of these terms? Probably not. But it does remind me that language, society, technology, the world is constantly evolving.

"Change is the only constant. Hanging on is the only sin."
-
Denise McCluggage (b. 1927), U.S. race car driver

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Building Things

"When I say artist I don't mean in the narrow sense of the word - but the man who is building things - creating molding the earth - whether it be the plains of the west - or the iron ore of Penn. It's all a big game of construction - some with a brush - some with a shovel - some choose a pen."
-Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)

Today I attended a podcasting workshop given by Ballston Spa Social Studies teacher Rick Hengsterman. Rick described a number of projects he has done with his high school students and offered practical advice on how to incorporate this tool into any curriculum. Since the necessary startup equipment is relatively inexpensive, podcasting would appear to be an excellent introduction to web 2.0 for teachers with little experience in the new technologies.

Rick's students have also created some music videos connected to social issues that they explored in their Sociology class. Believe celebrates some of the heroes of September 11, 2001; Stereo(teen)Types deals with cliques - and how to survive them; Apathy is a stark view of some of the forgotten people of the world.

All of these videos and podcasts make powerful statements and express the student voice that Clay Burell, Carolyn Foote, Sylvia Martinez and so many others, remind us is an essential element of authentic learning.

Rick Hengsterman is helping students construct knowledge by using the tools they enjoy and exploring issues that matter to them. I submit that Rick is an "artist" in the truest sense of the word, a builder and creator.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
-Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I "rediscovered" Wallace Stevens today, scribbled his name on a torn envelope to research later.

Ah, yes, the insurance salesman! What a tag for the complex man who sat quietly behind a desk composing poems that are characterized as "exotic, whimsical, infused with the light and color of an Impressionist painting."

In Of Modern Poetry Stevens writes:

...It has not always had
To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
Was in the script.
Then the theatre was changed
To something else. Its past was a souvenir.

It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place.
It has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time. It has to think about war

And it has to find what will suffice. It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage...

It occurs to me that this description might serve as a metaphor for our education system, which could once "repeat what was in the script" but now needs to "construct a new stage" and to "find what will suffice".

If only we can.


Monday, July 23, 2007

The Book's the Thing

Can't blog now - I've got to read!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ball Game


Annual Family Trip to Yankee Stadium
July 21, 2007





Take me out to the ball game,
take me out with
the crowd.







Buy me some peanuts
and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,














Let me
root, root, root
for the
home team










If they don't win it's a shame.







For it's
one, two,

three strikes you're out,
at the old ball game.





Jack Norworth (1879-1959) Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Friday, July 20, 2007

Another Strand to the Web

A comment was left on one of my postings today by Eric Vance, high school Principal, husband, father, beginning blogger. Eric attended the F.I.E.L. conference where he was inspired by Will Richardson's presentation on technology and the changing world.

Many of us have been discussing the nature of education, why and how it needs to change, is changing.

Christian Long recaps a BLC 07 session where what was happening in the audience was as important as what was happening on the stage.

In "Four Convergences, Two Views of Education, and One Future to Choose" Clay Burell again questions the "infantilization of our youths" and continues his advocation of meaningful project-based learning.

Is there educational value in virtual communities? Judy O'Connell believes that social collaboration will emerge as an effective tool for teachers and students, blurring the lines between "real world" and "school world" communication.

Carolyn Foote reminds Library Media Specialists that libraries cannot operate in isolation. They must be "purposeful and made for authentic learning experiences and connected..." to other libraries and to the teachers and students the Library Media Centers serve.

All of these bloggers are writing from their own educational perspectives, yet all have shared ideas and information that have value for Eric and other administrators.

Imagine a faculty meeting or professional development day where Skypers and live bloggers interact with each other and presenters. Consider how much easier it would be to implement project-based learning or virtual learning communities in a school district if the principal already understood and supported the concepts. Think of the effectiveness of an information literacy curriculum that has the strong backing of a committed administrator.

We need to welcome Eric, to read and respond to his postings, add another strand to our web.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Cat May Look at a King

"'A cat may look at a king,' said Alice. 'I've read that in some book, but I don't remember where.'"
-Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Carolyn Foote very kindly offered to help me get started on Skype, so I decided to take a peek at some of the chats taking place at the BLC in Boston. Many of the educational bloggers on my Google Reader feed are participating in these conversations and I was looking forward to sharing their thoughts in real time. Luminaries like Will Richardson, Ewan McIntosh, David Jakes and others maintained a constant stream of comments, insights and links. Amazing how they managed to convey so much meaning in so few words! Some of the Skypers are providing transcripts in their blogs. For the more methodical thinkers, like me, reading the discussions in a more static mode is much easier than trying to follow along.

Although "a cat may look at a king", I'm not sure if a cat may converse with a king.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Riders on the Storm

"Riders on the storm, into this house we're born, into this world we're thrown"
-The Doors, (1965-1971)
Riders on the Storm

What images does the word "storm" suggest to you: power, majesty, energy, exilaration; or fear, destruction, uncontrolled chaos?

Will Richardson asks "Why is it so Hard for Educators to Focus on Their Own Learning?" while Clay Burell is troubled by "an education system blindered beyond the school boundaries, and educators largely unwilling to reflect on that."

The tools are available. Most of them are free. Is it lack of time or motivation, or something deeper and more irrational that prevents so many of our colleagues from harnessing the power of the storm that is the digital evolution?


"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thru' narrow chinks of his cavern."
- William Blake,
English engraver, illustrator, & poet (1757 - 1827) "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Voices, continued

I've read of many fine local projects to record the stories of World War II veterans, and American Memory, from the Library of Congress, includes an extensive audio collection.

Now there is another type of archival voice: graduates of the College of New Jersey’s education program have compiled oral histories of veteran teachers to preserve advice about how to handle first-year teaching challenges.

Think of the possibilities: podcasts of older students advising younger students on how to succeed academically; adults recording anecdotes touting the value of an education; graduates returning to leave a message about what life after school - at college or in the business world - is really like.

"Past experience, if not forgotten, is a guide to the future."
-Chinese proverb

Voices

"voices and voices calling for ears to pour words in"
-
Carl Sandburg (1878–1967) Manual System

Although our discussion of "student voice" is a critical one, there are other voices that also need to be heard.

Jennifer
Macaulay, a graduate student/blogger is an advocate for distance learners.
Greg Farr issues an eloquent call-to-action for principals.
Clay Burell expresses teachers' concerns with
curriculum and professional development .

So many Voices, waiting to be included in the complex conversation that continues to define our educational system.

"for I have found nothing mightier than they are,
And I have found that no word spoken, but is beautiful, in its place."
-Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Voices

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Bloggers

Abby
Bowllan
Christian Clay Colleen
David Deborah and Diane Diane Doug B. Doug J. Doug N.
Jo Joyce Judy
K.G Karl Konrad
Renee
Sarah Scott
Will

From Web to webs
strands of thought
drifting
in asynchronous harmony
settling
forming reforming
drifting
into infinite variations
touching mingling
altering
drifting

I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing

"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me."
-T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

In a Free Range Librarian post, K.G. Schneider quotes Michael L. Kamil, a professor of education at Stanford University, who insists that "children need to learn to read for information, something they can practice while reading on the Internet, for example.” Schneider's obvious scorn for this perspective is echoed and expanded by David Rothman, who warns of "Babbittry". He reminds educators "why narrative counts" even in the business world, that good authors display an understanding of human nature which is valuable for interaction in all areas of life.

The love of literature and language, it seems, is to be largely replaced by factual data and statistics, with, perhaps, a few perky IM abbreviations thrown in. AWHFY (Are We Having Fun Yet?)

Is there room in our world for Gerard Manley Hopkins' imagery and sprung rhythm?
"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name"

Poet Mary Oliver celebrates "An Afternoon in the Stacks"
and remarks on the power of literature:
"When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move."


Should all the richness of symbolism, allegory, allusion
be supplanted by the cold, clear voice of logic and rationality?


We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown
"
-T.S. Eliot

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nature's Peace

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn."
John Muir US (Scottish-born) conservationist & naturalist (1838 - 1914)
Joyce Valenza writes of spending time in the Poconos "to get away, to think, to write, to plan, to veg." She then proceeds to list all of her interactions via the internet. Joyce is a gifted Teacher/Librarian, author and lecturer, and it would be a real loss if her "voice" were silenced for an extended period of time. However, I am no Joyce Valenza, and time away from the siren song of my trusty Mac is not only pleasant but necessary.


Yesterday I visited a small local park, Hovey Pond, to spend a few hours in the sun, enjoying a bit of natural beauty. The only twittering was from the birds, with counterpoint provided by the twanging of the green frogs. There was one family picnicking near the play area, a couple sharing an impromptu lunch al fresco, a few strollers in the botanical garden. No cellphones, no laptops; only the soft whir of my digital camera marked the occasional intrusion of technology.


A young bicyclist lazily dropped twigs from a footbridge into the quiet stream below. I wondered if his parents had ever read Winnie-the-Pooh to him as a child, if he knew the game of poohsticks. Perhaps all he cared about was the freedom of early July and the joy of a sunny day after a week of rain.



A particular delight at Hovey Pond is the 5-acre Wetland Restoration Project.
A 200' long wooden walkway allows visitors to closely observe the marsh aquatic life. A red-winged blackbird kept a sharp eye on my progress from the safety of a cattail perch. I avoided the dilemma of a road not taken by wandering down both forks of the walkway; my diligence was rewarded by exquisite views of a lily-lined pond worthy of Monet.


Halfway Brook ,which feeds Hovey Pond, was the site of ambushes, skirmishes, and massacres during the French and Indian War. There are no restless spirits here, just "Nature's peace".

I must confess that I took a few notes on a crumpled bit of paper, reminders to perhaps steer some of my students towards local projects like this one that might personalize global environmental concerns. As Barry, Carolyn, Doug, Clay, Sylvia, Scott, and so many others have pointed out, the Big Picture is more like a mosaic, with each person or group contributing a piece of the whole.

But lesson plans and RSS feeds are for later. Now belongs to sunlight and flowers, birdsong and frog chorus: a day in the park.

Anything You Want

"You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant"
-Arlo Guthrie
Alice's Restaurant

"Anything you want, you got it; anything you need, you got; anything at all, you got it, Baby"
-Roy Orbison
You Got It

The internet has added a whole new dimension to the art of searching for information. Yes, there is a lot of "junk" out there: untruths, half-truths, opinions, biases presented as fact. But it's amazing what you can find, if you know how to look...

A teaching assistant wanted to know the precise time of the Summer Solstice. Not a problem.

More challenging was the request of a principal who had received complaints from a parent that a mural in the music room showed the group KISS. Could I please verify that the acronym did NOT stand for "Kids in Service to Satan"? This was a bit trickier, since even the band members didn't agree on the origin of the name. We finally went with the statement from drummer Peter Criss, who flatly states that it means nothing. (But you can hold to the "Keep It Simple, Stupid" alternative, if that works better for you)

Search skills also come in handy in private life (if anything is truly private these days). When I spent a summer at Oxford, my Welsh-born college roommate advised me to bring home a sixpence for my wedding day. With all the changes in currency, these coins are no longer used in the UK, but I've managed to find a few to give as shower gifts, so that the new bride can carry:
Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe.


My younger brother used to play the tape of a baseball-themed song every night at supper time until the entire family had the lyrics memorized. He was quite impressed when I tracked down the words to "D-O-D-G-E-R-S (Oh Really? No, O'Malley)". To be fair, it was kind of catchy when sung by Danny Kaye!

A final, sweet success: my Irish mother rocked me as a baby to a little rhyme taught to her by my Italian father. I couldn't find information about it anywhere, until I came across a posting on a Fairy Tales Discussion Board. The author seemed to be familiar with Ya Ya Baccala, and after I finished reading her comments , I knew why. It was written by my own daughter, leaving a little memorial to a dearly loved grandfather.

In the words of the immortal Mick Jagger:
"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need"
-Rolling Stones
You Can't Always Get What You Want

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

To Demonstrate Their Competency

"Authentic assessment tends to focus on complex or contextualised tasks, enabling students to demonstrate their competency in a more 'authentic' setting."
-Wikipedia

In a more perfect world, students would learn for the love of learning: exploring, experimenting, and moving at their own pace. Alas, this is not the case in most areas, particularly in my home state of New York (with its "rigorous" State Regents exams).

The State, the Board of Education, the Administration, the Students themselves, all require grades.

How can I adequately assess student progress in an largely paperless, technology-enabled class? Obviously, some type of authentic assessment is required.

A little cyber sleuthing led to a number of relevant sites. Jon Mueller's Authentic Assessment Toolbox includes information on standards, rubrics, and examples of e-portfolios. The University of Wisconsin-Stout has assembled "a hand selected index of authentic assessment resources". Blogger Helen Barrett shares her NECC07 presentations on E-Portfolios for Learning; Australia's Cindy Barnsley discusses constructivism, analyzing her students' culminating projects and how they were assessed.

To do list:
  • decide on the Essential Question
  • construct a framework for the course
  • review my del.ici.ous bookmarks and align them with the outline
  • decide on the initial assignment; have a few alternatives in mind, in case modification is needed
  • be sure there are copious examples of each type of tech tool discussed
  • use an existing rubric or modify one for portfolio assessment (include a "visual" or "auditory" rubric, an example of an exemplary student video clip or podcast)
  • explore wikispaces and Pageflakes to decide which might work better for my class
  • talk with our District Technologist about our network capabilities; check in with the Guidance Counselor to get names, numbers, and room assignment; touch base with the Superintendent and High School Principal; see if there are funds available for necessary hardware
  • keep trolling Google Reader for ideas and inspiration!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Student Voice

Wikipedia defines student voice as "the individual and collective perspective and actions of young people within the context of learning and education."

There has been quite a discussion taking place lately in the blogging world about the lack of "student voice" at NECC and everywhere else.

Karl Fisch noted that, although there were some students present at NECC, "overall, it was a bunch of adults talking about what’s best for students". Acknowledging the difficulty - and expense - that bringing some of his own students to the conference next year would entail, Mr. Fisch is working to implement changes in his home district, encouraging teachers and administrators to include students in lesson planning and professional development opportunities.

Clay Burell thought his classroom assignments were connecting his students to the "real world" but realized that "it was still just homework. Nothing WorldChanging, nothing that taught them that they have the potential to affect this world for the better. Nothing that encouraged their empowerment. Nothing that gave them the opportunity to apply their learning to something that mattered to them, or to discover that, if only schools would let them, they could learn about the limits of their own power to make change in the world." In comments to Scott Schwister, Burell also points out the lack of true collaboration between adults and students.

In response, Schwister lists some suggestions for "elevating student voices", ranging from reading and responding to student blogs, to participating in forums like Students Speak Out.

Carolyn Foote offers a number of potentially empowering policy changes and concludes by asserting "When we seek first to understand our students and the meaningful contributions they can make, that conversation can transform our campuses into much deeper learning communities."

All of these conversations have led me to reconsider some of my plans and strategies for next school year. I had intended to encourage students in my class to share their projects with our Board of Education, both to demonstrate what they've accomplished and to advocate for more technology tools being made available in the district. But if I, as teacher, choose what they present, is this truly "student voice"? Should I let them decide what to request and how to do so?

Jean Piaget said that "The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered."

Our students need to find their voice, and we need to learn how to listen to it.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Music and Libations


Seen on Broadway, Saratoga, NY, on July 6, 2007
Sign me up!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Fleeting Beauty

"The Greek had no need to journey into far countries to learn the vicissitudes of the seasons, to mark the fleeting beauty of the damask rose, the transient glory of the golden corn, the passing splendour of the purple grapes."
-Sir James George Frazer
(1854–1941). "The Golden Bough"

My daughter took this striking photo of a Luna Moth on a recent hike in Lake George, NY. Intrigued, I turned to the internet to discover more about the pale and lovely insect.

Named after Luna, the Roman goddess of the moon, the mature Luna moth has a lifespan of about one week and does not feed as an adult; it has no mouth.
Dried adults, live eggs, larvae, and pupae are highly prized but “unfortunately for collectors... this species is not as vibrant in death as it is in life. Dried specimens fade to a pale yellow, leaving only a faint shadow of what was once a dazzling, luminous green.”

In "Luna Moth", Cecily Parks muses
If only you could teach me
survival without sustenance, unworried
love, how to find oneself at a window
one morning and think nothing of what happens next.


Pulitzer prize-winner Mary Oliver observes in "Luna":
It was beautiful.
It was silent.
It didn’t even have a mouth.

But it wanted something,
it had a purpose
and a few precious hours
to find it,
and I suppose it did.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A Fine Wind is Blowing

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me! A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
-D.H. Lawrence, "Song of a Man Who Has Come Through"

Searching, saving, reading, pondering - now it's time to begin constructing a new curriculum.

The Horizon Project 2007, a collaborative global project based on Friedman's "The World is Flat", seems like a natural starting point. I can use its resources to introduce the techtools - wikis in particular - that I hope to use in my Current Events class, and the Student Resources sidebar includes rubrics, a code of ethics, and a variety of "important" links. There are many other valuable sites saved in my del.ici.ous account, now (I hope) specifically labeled for quick retrieval and incorporation into lesson plans.

If I get approval for student e-mail accounts, I'll have to send parent letters and AUP forms next month. I'd like as many applications as possible to be up and running on the first day of class. Another "to do" is setting up a wiki for the students and checking in periodically on the RSS demo I started (probably has hundreds of unread postings by now!).

Note to self: never forget that the tools are meant to support the content, not vice versa.

The winds of change are in motion: "The trees may wish for quiet, but the wind will not subside." (Chinese proverb)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I spent some productive hours reviewing and relabeling my del.ici.ous items. The new tags will guide me to specific lesson plan components and professional material.

You're welcome to visit my site and copy whatever might be useful. As I've said before, Librarians are Gatherers and Sharers by nature.

Everything I Need to Know About Teaching I Learned from Knitting

My mother taught me how to knit when I was 8 or 9 so that I could help her make mittens for the family. Since she herself learned this skill from my grandmother, I would estimate that I'm displaying techniques that originated at least 100 years ago, a living legacy of sorts.

I've recently picked up my needles again to join a group of school staff members who knit caps for local chemotherapy patients. I love choosing the yarn colors and textures, the item is given to someone who might need a boost in spirits, and the activity itself provides blocks of time for quiet contemplation.

So what do my hobby and my professional calling have in common?

knitting /teaching
patterns /lesson plans
low-tech tools /high- and low-tech tools
creativity (in colors & pattern variations)/ creativity (in presentation and learning activities)
practice required /practice required
uses critical thinking skills/ uses critical thinking skills
final product is a useful object/ final product is a useful citizen

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Glorious Fourth

Independence Day was once a noisy celebration: church bells rang, guns were discharged, firecrackers popped in every backyard and alley. Politicians gave stirring speeches to appreciative crowds, and aging veterans proudly squeezed into their service uniforms to march in parades.
Our modern fireworks shows and cook-outs seem to lack the patriotic fervor of those earlier days.

Voices in the blogosphere convey various messages: Colleen Mondor, of Chasing Ray, ponders the universal manifestations of "bravery"; Nancy, the Journey Woman , shares some patriotic poetry; and for those who want to touch the minds of our founding fathers, Resource Shelf links to some primary documents that shaped U.S. history.

Is it possible to retain our national pride while becoming global citizens? Information, communication, and collaboration tools are surely necessary to prepare our students for a Brave New World.

Global Literacy

In 1987, E. D. Hirsch's "Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know" became a surprise best-seller, and drew charges of "cultural elitism" for attempting to list a core knowledge that informed citizens should possess.

Twenty years later, in the July 2-9 issue of Newsweek, John Meacham introduces a Special Report entitled What You Need to Know Now in order to "start a conversation about what we are calling Global Literacy—facts and insights about the world (some objective, some subjective) that we think are worth knowing." The accompanying 130 question Global IQ quiz covers 13 subject areas ranging from Art to Faith, Politics, and Technology.

First tag in my revamped del.ici.ous bookmarks: LP-culturalliteracy (Lesson Plan - cultural literacy). This quiz should spark some interesting current events discussions! (and I wonder if I can figure out how to make one of those globes covered with pictures...maybe Jane Austen's portrait could link to the different settings of her stories; there might be a trailer from a movie adaptation of her works; an audio clip from an Austen classic...)

Tagging

Although I have a del.ici.ous account, I stopped using it for a while because I seemed to be saving an exorbitant number of sites and had to scroll through dozens of entries to find what I wanted or needed. The problem, of course, is that I was too general with my tags: links for my Current Events class were getting lost in a sea of "web2.0" and "education" items. So my goal for today is to review all the sites I've e-mailed to my school account and group them according to very explicit labels, such as "RSS-LP" and "cyber-ethicsLP" before tagging them on del.ici.ous. I'll keep narrowing my focus, and refining my tags, until I have a useful, lesson-specific tool.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Connections

Family connections:
I went to my Godmother's 85th birthday celebration yesterday. Her reminiscences are my connection to my late father and our common history. (Unlike many WW II vets, my Dad wasn't content to stay stateside. His job as a GE engineer took him to England, France, Germany, and Japan. One of my favorite books as a child was his well-thumbed copy of Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels. My Mom, who saw service in France and England, was a reluctant traveler and turned down a trip to Sweden because she could see all the snow she needed at home.)

The cousins I spoke with came from the Albany, NY area (our home base) and further afield: Las Vegas, Sedona, Houston, New Orleans. We shared stories of visits to Montana, Wyoming, and of one couple's journey to the Italian village from which our grandparents emigrated in the early 20th century.

I think we inherited a predisposition towards the global perspective, without recognizing or naming it as such.

Professional connections:
I've "met" dozens of articulate, knowledgeable librarians, authors, and IT bloggers through my RSS feeds. Their experiences and insights have expanded my horizons considerably. Each day I add more ideas and links to the Google Document which will serve as the backbone of my new Current Events class. I could have taught such a class in the pre-digital era, but it would have lacked the depth and texture that are now possible.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while I was in high school. Our American History teacher had us assemble scrapbooks with newspaper clippings and magazine articles. Imagine the project students could create now, using the visual, audio, and collaborative tools available in a world 2.0!