Archive for November 2007

Don’t Blog – Pick up the Phone!

November 17, 2007

telephone.jpgI think that blogging has the potential of falling into the same sticky territory as email does with misinterpretation. Often, when one is passionate (frustrated, angry, disappointed, excited…) about a topic, it is advisable to pick up the telephone and talk to the person rather than email them. As we all know, tone is often not readily apparent and subject to interpretation. Body language is non-existant. And, the opportunity to question/clarify one’s position is seriously delayed.

What made me think about this was all of the hot discussion going on surrounding the Vision of Students video by Mike Wesch. Gary Stager offered his take, others rebutted or supported it, and, as the discussion continues (which is great), Mike Wesch finally has the opportunity to respond and clarify things. It just seems to me that the medium of blogging has stirred up a whole lot of dust for nothing here. Had Mike and Gary just picked up the phone and had a good old synchronous discussion, things may have not transpired as they did. And, I don’t really see any new ideas come out of the discussion, as was part of Gary’s criticism of the video, too.

I think sometimes in the medium of blogging, we are trying too hard to defend or justify our positions simply because of the limitations of the medium. And, at times it feels (to me) like the professional bloggers are circling like vultures, ready to show their stuff.

Anyway, I am just venting a little here. Disclaimer: I am NOT against blogging nor stimulating discussions that blog entries may generate. [I put this in here in case you blogging vultures are hungry :-)] I do love the following statement from Mike’s clarification:

“But while teaching has not changed, learning has. Students are learning to read, navigate, and create within a digital information environment that we scarcely address in the classroom. The great myth is that these “digital natives” know more about this new information environment than we do. But here’s the reality: they may be experts in entertaining themselves online, but they know almost nothing about educating themselves online.”

He goes on to write that they may be digitally saavy, but are still naiive learners and that learning has become perhaps more complex in this highly interactive and connected digital age. I would agree. As Mike writes, our challenge has always been to make learning relevant, to inspire our students, to help them question and wrestle with information, to evaluate, to produce, to become active contributors rather than passive, half-present and highly distracted bodies filling seats. I don’t think the good ‘ol stand-and-deliver lecture can achieve this as well any more… even with PowerPoint! Disclaimer: I am not saying that lectures are worthless or are never the best choice of pedagogy. Our world is highly connected and wired (or wireless). Students are looking for a new degree of relevancy and purpose – new opportunities to express, create, produce, contribute… Let us just not put these desires ahead of being learners who seek truth, who think critically and hard, who evaluate at high levels, who produce more than just eye candy, and who make meaning that is not so relativistic or shallow that it is silly.

All this discussion is good, I know. But in the end, I blog for myself. It others are stimulated by my thoughs, I guess that is a great by-product. If others think that I am silly or wrong, that’s fine, too. I wouldn’t expect otherwise. But the minute that I begin blogging to impress the blogosphere, I’m done. And, I should still use the telephone where appropriate. Disclaimer: Don’t take all of this too seriously.

Wii Are Nuts!

November 11, 2007

wii.jpgWell, this morning I did something that I swore that I would never do. I got up early and lined up at a local Target store to try and get a Nintendo Wii for my sons for Christmas. It has been sold out everywhere and virtually impossible to get. We are not a big video game family, although my kids are more interested because they are growing up with friends who are steeped in the video game tradition. I am so thankful that my kids love to read and play and sing… We just felt that they could actually use a good bout of video gaming and the Wii provides a great experience.

Anyway, I heard it through the grapevine that a local Target was getting a shipment to be released Sunday morning. Those waiting in line would be rewarded at 7:00 AM with a “golden ticket” (it was pink, actually) that would guarantee them a Wii any time until 12:00 noon. Well, not being a fanatic about this, I woke up at 6:00 A.M and was outside of Target by 6:40. There were only 7 people in line. I could not believe it and was totally prepared to turn around and go home at the sight of a huge line-up, some who had probably camped out all night! It turns out there was only a couple – grandparents at that – that got there at two in the morning and were quite annoyed that no one else was there. They had woken up to make this pilgrimage for nothing! So, they went home and came back again at 3:30 A.M. only to find that they were still the only ones there. It was funny to hear their annoyed tone as they recanted this tale to those of us in line. I was eighth in line. A few more folks arrived and by the time the Target offical came out at 7:00 to pass out tickets, there were perhaps 15 of us in line, all shivering as it was a cold upstate New York morning. The guy beside me (ninth in line) was worried that there would only be eight tickets passed out. Apparently, this was his third try to get one of these. I assured him that this would be his lucky day.

Well, once we had our tickets (it turns out they had 57 units to sell!), we all left for coffee or something. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Tim Horton’s, quite proud of my accomplishment as a early morning line-up capitalistic greenhorn. I came back just before eight to see about 30 folks all mobbing the front door. As they let us in, they all went running to the electronics section. It felt as if I was running with the bulls in Pamplona! I was just hoping I would not be gored. I felt quite giddy as I let everyone rush past me – as I had a ticket. They did not.

They made us form two lines. The line to the left was for ticket holders. The line to the right was for those found wanting. Now I felt like I was living in the south a hundred years ago with one bathroom for african Americans and one for us whities. Not trying to make light of serious history here, this whole thing was very strange, indeed. Oh, the looks on their faces as they fretted and whispered to one another and pointed to us in the ‘good’ line. We had it made.

Well, to end this story, I bought the Wii console and an extra controller with a charging station and went home to my wife and kids, feeling like I had conquered something of significance. I had to tell my kids that I went out for a newspaper and coffee (which was true), as they were quite curious why I had been gone so long and so early on a Sunday morning. What do I make of all of this? I’m not sure. It feels like I have sold my soul somehow. I had only seen such craziness on the news and chuckled at those ridiculous people. Now I am one of them. I will have to reflect further on this and post more later. Merry Christmas, kids.

Integrate or Integral

November 1, 2007

keyboard_book.jpgI recenlty read a great post by David on his blog and it struck me that in our efforts to help teachers see and discover the great learning potential in new technologies that we sometimes get frustrated with them for not seeing things our way… that integration is not good enough… that technology use must be integral to everything they teach. I totally agree with him that it should not be seen as an add-on and that really we should be learning specialists who understand the potential of technology rather than technology specialists who are helping teachers teach with it. However, sometimes I think we have been guilty of not understanding where teachers are in their pedagogical beliefs and have not brought those beliefs into the equation. What teachers believe about teaching and learning directly impacts how they will leverage new technologies. For example, does technology help facilitate collaboration or problem-solving? Does technology supply tools that help amplify thinking, spark creativity, or visualize ideas? Does technology empower students and facilitate self-directed learning or the pursuit of unique interests?

Or, in along more traditional lines: Does technology help me generate worksheets, create puzzles, assess quantitatively, present information, create displays, find resources for my lessons, communicate with parents…

We have to understand the pedagogical framework that teachers are working from rather than impose our ideas of how technology use should look if it is integral to learning. What kind of learning? I think that the real issue here that drives technology’s integral role is how we view learning. Because let’s face it – for some, technology is just a pain in the neck and they use it as if they were putting a square peg in a round hole. They use it to please their superiors. Or, they try their best to steer clear of it altogether. So, I think the work that still needs to be done is to help bring vision back to teachers who have lost it, to help teachers no longer excited about learning new things find that spark, to rekindle their desire to connect with students, to help teachers take risks and to make failure safe, to reward collaboration and innovativeness, to foster a community of practice… I think THIS is where technology becomes integral. Any less, and technology, at best, is integrated. At worst, tolerated.

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