Sunday, March 30, 2008

Letter to the NYS Board of Regents

"Excelsior: Ever Upward" -Motto of the State of New York

Chancellor Bennett, Regent Cohen, Dr. Sullivan, and members of the Regents Steering Committee,

As you stated in your March 19 news release, the revision of New York State Learning Standards is "critically important...Meeting the standards should ensure that students are prepared for college, work and citizenship. " You have requested recommendations from a variety of stakeholders, including educators.

I am a certified School Library Media Specialist and have taught in New York for more than 20 years. My concern is that our students are not acquiring the technical skills necessary for success in school, work, and daily living in the 21st century.

Many districts struggle with budget deficits and classroom teachers work tirelessly to prepare children for mandated testing. There is little time or money for curricular add-ons. However, technology should not be an add-on; it is most beneficial when embedded in all curricula and accessible to every learner.

Unless our standards endorse necessary communication and collaboration tools, like student email accounts, blogs, wikis, and podcasts, individual districts will continue to block them and teachers will have little incentive to pursue professional development training in these areas.

Your recommendations will affect education in the State of New York for a decade or more. We need to ensure that the final product will be as comprehensive as possible. Please give our students the tools they need to acquire, manipulate, create and communicate information.

In addition to mailing my comments to the Steering Committee, I am posting this message on my blog to encourage others to enter into this dialog about our state Standards.

Thank you for offering us this opportunity to work for change.

Comments and recommendations to the Regents Steering Committee for Standards Review may be sent to:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Confederacy of Dunces

"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." -Jonathan Swift

The genius part is easy: Al Upton, in Australia and Jabiz Raisdana, in Qatar each used blogs as a tool to extend and enrich their students' classroom experiences. Both men were successful on a global scale, as people from around the world responded to, commented on, and emulated their projects.

Al Upton was served an Order for Closure by the DECS (Department of Education and Children’s Services - South Australia), which required that he shut down the miniLegends while the agency evaluated "risk and management issues." Jabiz Raisdana was forced to resign because of parental concerns about content on a personal site which was not directly linked to the school website.

Then, who are the dunces?

The DECS, Doha school officials, and parents in both countries acted in what they believed to be the best interests of the children involved. This certainly would not qualify them as "slow-witted or stupid person(s)."

Hundreds of educators responded to the situation with blog postings and comments. Is every single one of them "backward in book learning; dull or weak in intellect; a dullard; a dolt"?

The word "dunce" was originally applied to the followers of John Duns Scotus
. These scholars were scorned as being opposed to classical learning. Dunsmen or Duncemen eventually came to symbolize those opposed to any type of learning, or to one slow at learning.

Perhaps we are all dunces in the latter sense, slow to recognize the need for change, reluctant to move into uncharted territory, hesitant to commit to the systemic evolution/revolution our educational system needs to function well for our modern students in their modern wo

In the words of the immortal Pogo, "We have met the enemy...and he is us."

"The History of Five Little Pigs" from Project Gutenberg

Friday, March 21, 2008

How Much is Your Blog Worth?

Thanks to Twitter friend Miguel Guhlin, I found yet another cool online toy to play with. When you enter your blog address into Dane Carlson's aplet, you receive an estimate of the site's value based on Technorati's API.

My results weren't too embarrassing, but I don't think I'll be cashing in any time soon.

My blog is worth $35,001.48.
How much is your blog worth?

Now if I could just legally change my name to
or better yet
I might have to take the money and run! Looks like my dearly beloved blog is safe for now.

I didn't want a permanent button, so I copied and pasted the results into this posting. Visit Carlson's site to see how your blog would fare on the open market.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” -Shel Silverstein

While the adults continue their discussion about the Australian Order for Closure of Al Upton's miniLegends blog and the forced resignation of Jabiz Raisdana, the Intrepid Teacher, students have begun adding their voices to the conversation.

From Jabiz' Students in Qatar:

We will all miss you in our own special ways. Even if we don’t cry on the outside we will be crying on the inside.
I will continue posting on my blog regularly. You won’t be able to read my posts, but they will be inspired by you. -Natasha

You’ve opened my mind to a whole new world and perspective I never looked at. You were the only teacher to knew and understand me well. In my head, I felt all of what happened was unfair, but I knew it was for the good of….umm…something I don’t really understand at the moment.
Humanities was a class I really looked forward to in the beginning of the day. Global Issues Club was something I became very passionate in. Everything you taught was something new and interesting to learn.
Most of all, Thank You for teaching me and believe that we could do anything if we put our minds into it.
I believe that you deserve a second chance..We all do.. In my will always be the inspiring, kind, caring and fun teacher you are… -Nabila

You made Language Arts class more fun, and more interesting. We didnt sit there and read text books, or memorize vocabulary… you taught us about life. And how to educating ourselves is the most important thing. I want you to know that you have taught me alot. And even though you are not teaching at our school anymore, i will always think of you as my teacher, no matter who they replace you with. -Kelly

Out of all of my language arts classes ever, I truly and sincerely think I learned the most from yours. You didn’t teach us about grammar and puncuation. You taught us something more important, how to learn, and how to be a better person. -Randa

When I first saw you I thought that you were some loony computer guy that was inspired about how cool programs are on the computer, but now I look at you as a man who didn’t care about grades but on how we could succeed throughout life, a man who encourages growing awareness on all the world, someone who knows that everyone is ignorant including himself but tries his very best to find out more, a person that strives for cooperation, not competition, and last but not least a man that knows exactly who he wants to influence people. -Will

From Al's Students in Australia:
When I found out that our blogs were closing down, I felt confused, sad and angry. I felt really sad because I felt that all Al had taught us had gone to waste. We had a vote on a name for our new forum. The new name for our forum is Article 13. It means Rights for the Child. I felt better with my blog in many ways.
>Writing and reciving comments.
>Cammunicating with other people.
and lots of other reasons. -By mini22

Hi Al when I heard that the blog was closed I was sad because the blog was like everything in my life . But now it is closed so we just have to do samething that is like the blog . The blog was great and fun I loved my blog it was like my home . And I like are fourm name. -mini2

when I found out my blog was shutdown
I was so so sad.
I did not feel safe at all .
I really wont to have my blog back.
I love geting new friends on my blog.
I Love the work i did. I love geting dots on my map. -mini27

I felt very sad and unhappy and it was horbl and was it’s save and sabe .and it’s is fun and it is not fun with out my blog and it is horbl when you need the thing you need. -mini3

Mr. Crosby's class, Sparks, Nevada, offered some cyber safety tips to the miniLegends:

Al: When my 5th graders heard about what was going on with your class they really wanted to help. Most of my students are second language learners … originally spoke Spanish or Vietnamese so blogging is a great opportunity for them to work on their English. I hope they kept their comments on a positive encouraging note and that in some way their words help with your situation. -Brian Crosby
I heard they blocked your blogs, that is too bad!!!! That has happened to us for like eight hours. But the reason they did it is because they are doing it to keep us safe and keep bad people away from our information. We can learn many things from blogging like getting better at your post because you find the mistakes, learn how to write stories, find mistakes and learn where people are blogging from. I have improved in writing my stories, reading comments and editing my writing. Be safe by not putting your information like not putting your last names, where you live, don’t put parents name, don’t put phone numbers and don’t put what school you go to OKAY!!!!!We hope you guys get your blogs back so we can blog. -Karla

I know that your class and ours can’t blog no more but we could try to vote for blogging I know that your kids are disappointed but you just got to tell then to not put there last name in there story or they will be endanger. They are not supposed to tell in there story want time there friend get out of school or how they say with or want is there phone number is or there friend last name. Like one of the kids put the first and last name of someone in the class and that can tell some bad guy some information and if they see him they can tell him thing that are not true then the bad guy or woman can kidnap them and that’s why I think they block blogging. -Victor

I think that your blogs getting blocked is not cool but I think your blogs got blocked because people worried that somebody was going to find out stuff about you. I think that your blog should have not gotten blocked because it helps you in alot of subjects like reading, writing and punctuation. -Everth

I’am a 5th grader in the USA I have something to tell you so here I go. People want your kids to be safe on the internet. People want your kids not to give away any information. I think your kids should have a right to blog because they will learn how to read, write,spell and what ever you wanting right in front of them and you are taking that chance away from them.
PS. As third graders I hope you get your blogs back because you might never get another chance like this. -Jazmin

You can hear the passion and commitment in the voices of these pre-teens, as they honor a teacher who "didn’t care about grades but on how we could succeed throughout life" and discuss their newfound ability to connect and communicate with other people while still having fun.

One young mini cuts to the heart of the matter when he/she comments "when I found out my blog was shutdown I was so so sad. I did not feel safe at all .I really wont to have my blog back."

Safety was supposed to be the crux of the matter, the overriding concern that compelled parents to demand that steps be taken to ensure the welfare of their children.

The American students have obviously been carefully taught "not to put there last name in there story or they will be endanger." Yet their responses contain the town and state where they live, their first names, grade level, and teacher's name. Does this increase their online vulnerability? If, as many studies suggest, the real danger is not from adult cyber stalkers but rather from cyber bullies, does this, or any, type of identity screening offer adequate protection? What do children need to learn to remain safe while becoming competent, confident Internet users?

Mini3 says "it is not fun with out my blog and it is horbl when you need the thing you need." Jazmin notes "As third graders I hope you get your blogs back because you might never get another chance like this."

Adults are depriving these students of the chance to learn and grow. We can't shelter them from every danger, but we can help them to acquire the knowledge they need to protect themselves. Schools and parents should become partners in cyber safety education. Otherwise, we leave our children confused and vulnerable, unprepared to function in the world that they already inhabit.

"Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time."
-Chinese Proverb

"Oct_06_085" by heymarchetti

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Heavy Armor

"Suspicion is a heavy armor and with its weight it impedes more than it protects." -Robert Burns

In response to parental concerns about online predators, Australian teacher Al Upton has been given an Order of Closure by the Risk and Management/Special Investigations Unit from the South Australian Education Department. Mr. Upton's 8- and 9-year-old students will no longer be able to continue their hugely successful miniLegends blogging project, which has run for five years without incident.

Many educational bloggers have already responded to this action. Fellow Australian, Sue Waters, says that Upton would prefer that we
use this opportunity to inform/educate parents and Education Departments of the value of blogging for learners and to discuss the true realities of cyberstalking /bullying.

Anne Mirtschin listed 20 reasons why students should blog. SkyDaddy is too angry to reply in that vein at the moment, but he refers readers to a thoughtful post by Nancy White concerning the benefits of student Internet use.

A few days ago, Wesley Fryer summarized research done by the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. He concludes
The message of these studies and this article is similar to mine in workshops and presentations I share on Internet Safety and online social networking: There ARE risks associated with online communication, but in many cases the media has overblown them and we need to take a more balanced, realistic approach as educators, parents and community leaders.

Many school-aged children spend unsupervised time on home computers. Conscientious parents are alarmed by stories of online predators and cyber bullying but don't have the skills or knowledge to instruct their children in digital safety. The classroom is the logical place for students to receive safety instruction and participate in guided practice.

Our children and teen-agers must have fluency in communication and collaboration to be successful in the world they inhabit. Rather than encase them in armor, we should arm them with knowledge.

*Update: Sue Waters has collected Blogger and Twitter reactions to the Order of Closure here.

"There is only one good - knowledge; and only one evil - ignorance."

"Metropolitan Museum of Art (10)" by maggie loves hopey

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Was Expected

"From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much — the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry I did not live up to what was expected of me." -Eliot Spitzer, on resigning as Governor of New York State, March 12, 2008

My husband came home from work on Monday and remarked, "Well, another Democrat bit the dust!" When I told him I had no idea what he was talking about, he turned on his computer and showed me a video clip of our New York State Governor, Eliot Spitzer, tersely admitting,
I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family. I will report back to you in short order.

News networks were quick to fill in the details: the former state Attorney General, applauded for his "passionate pursuit of justice," the man Time magazine Time Magazine named “Crusader of the Year” in 2002, was involved in a prostitution scandal and under investigation by federal officials.

Obviously, this is a huge issue in the news. My morning paper detailed how local teachers were handling this "teachable moment." Since my high school Current Events class hadn't met since last Friday, I decided to see if the students brought up the subject themselves. The first boy in the room (it's an all male group) informed me that the Governor was scheduled to make a statement at 11:30 a.m. EDT, which is 20 minutes into our class. Out went the lesson plans; we talked about what had happened, put CNN live coverage up on the screen, and watched history unfold.

I asked the boys to write a reaction to either the entire situation or to the resignation statement itself. These are some of their responses:
  • I think he should be prosecuted severely, especially if he used our taxes.
  • Everyone makes mistakes, but he's the governor, he shouldn't act like that. He would be the first person to say it's wrong if just a citizen does it.
  • I think it's very good that Spitzer is resigning. Being part of a prostitution ring is despicable. Being the governor of New York should hold him to higher standards. I do not think that you have to be perfect to be a politician, but you should be held to a general set of standards.
  • I think that he should resign because you shouldn't be doing things like that when you are in office. I know that he is only human, but when you're representing something like a state, then I don't really think that it [this behavior] is really appropriate.
  • I think that he was dumb to do what he did. He is a hypocrite; he was arresting people for prostitution rings and then goes and does it himself.
  • I believe he shouldn't resign. He's human; we all make mistakes.

Spitzer acknowledged
I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work. Over the course of my public life I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct.

When he took office a little over a year ago, Eliot Spitzer proclaimed
In a Spitzer administration, the road to responsive and responsible government will begin on Day One. It is a promise based not on false hopes or foolish pride, but on a simple notion of government that has been lost amid the bickering and partisanship of the last few years: the idea that if we work to give everyone the same opportunity — that if we ensure everyone plays by the rules — there is no limit to what we can achieve as a people.

Eliot Spitzer was elected Governor of the State of New York in November of 2006: what was expected of him was integrity and justice.

The end came, on March 12, 2008: what was expected of him was his resignation.

"New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer" by Red Carlisle

Monday, March 10, 2008

To Know The Nature of Joy

"Where there is joy there is creation. Where there is no joy there is no creation: know the nature of joy." -Veda Upanishads

I just began an online course, "Learning and Teaching with Web 2.0 Tools." One of our first assignments is to create a blog, then write a posting "about how you would want to use a blog for educational purposes in your classrooms, schools, or districts." Because I've been blogging since last June, I asked the facilitator if I could use Journeys to share my ideas, and she agreed.

I'm hoping to fill in some gaps in my tech/tools knowledge; my online explorations certainly affirm that there are a LOT of things I want to learn, don't know, didn't even know I didn't know.

Still, I have made some progress. The required readings for class include articles and postings by people I interact with daily on Twitter or follow in my Google Reader. Wesley Fryer, Will Richardson, Steve Dembo, Miguel Guhlin, and the Students 2.0 contributers are all old friends, even though virtually. I could easily suggest another 20 or 30 outstanding edubloggers to add to the list.

What have I learned from this distinguished company? They have helped me to understand that
  • learning must extend beyond classroom walls
  • students have a Voice that needs to be heard
  • safety means education not isolation
  • teachers should be co-learners
  • collaboration expands and enriches curriculum
  • even in a 2.0 world, tools are secondary to content
A friend and colleague in South Korea, Clay Burell (whose wedding on Saturday was UStreamed, blogged, twittered and virtually attended by people from around the world) posted this reminder for bloggers:
I’d suggest this: if you think you have nothing to write about as you face the blank screen, remember these people, and their fine gestures, and consider, instead of thinking, simply feeling. And create from that. Create some new form of kindness. Let your education “lead you out” - from yourself. Let it pull you to engage the world from the tip of your nose to the opposite pole.

And that is the best lesson I've learned, to use blogging as a connector to others around the world, and by so doing, to discover joy.

"Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one's identity as a being of worth and dignity." -Rollo May

"tay0403" by jwfarmer10

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Way of Progress

"I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy." -Madame Marie Curie

Patrick Woessner began an interesting Twitter discussion the other day by mentioning that he was helping his son study for a quiz about the Amish. He commented
I spend much of a snow day helping 8 year old study facts about Amish culture...interesting but relevant to him how? Lots of time spent helping [son] study for quiz on the Amish...I'm about ready to toss the computer
When I pointed out the irony of using a computer to study a group famous for their policy of rejecting all labor saving technologies, he responded
Not to worry...they were old fashioned drill and kill worksheets

This exchange started me wondering why his son was studying this particular topic: as part of a unit on world religions; for a discussion of attitudes towards technology; in relation to local history? "Drill and kill worksheets" don't sound like inquiry-based research.

Is it possible that one source of digital inequity in our educational system is an Amish-style attitude towards technology and change? Just a thought.

"Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change. Education is essential to change, for education creates both new wants and the ability to satisfy them." -Henry S. Commager

"Out of time" by Sleestak66

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What Do They Do All Day?

"The suburban housewife -- she was the dream image of the young American women and the envy, it was said, of women all over the world. The American housewife - freed by science and labor-saving appliances from the drudgery, the dangers of childbirth, and the illnesses of her grandmother had found true feminine fulfillment." -Betty Friedan

In many ways, School Library Media Specialists are like stay-at-home Moms. Their skills keep things running smoothly but often garner little praise. Everyone assumes that they're available at the drop of the hat because "you have so much free time".

No one sees the behind the scenes stuff: professional readings, collection weeding, book ordering, online research, Inter Library Loans, etc. Collaboration is difficult because of fixed scheduling: classroom teachers' planning time is covered by library instruction time. Since the Library Media Specialist is frequently the only librarian in the building (or district, in a K-12 school), chances for professional interaction are limited.

This is not the situation in all schools, but it is the situation in my school, and in many more. Like the stay-at-home Mom, I look for ways to advertise my worth, connect with others, demonstrate that my time is filled with meaningful employment. And I make sure each day that I step out of the "kitchen" and into the world.

"Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?" -Neil Gaiman, The Sandman (Line spoken by Lucien, Librarian of the Dreaming)

"1937 Kitchen" by
Todd Ehlers