Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

preparing for the 21st century classroom

Tools and Beliefs

another conversation about CyberEnglish(CE) from a list of english teachers.

i agree with both ryan and chris.

ryan: "the tools aren't the point -- it is the values and beliefs held true. That is why CE will be able to evolve"

chris: "My point is that the tool and the belief have a symbiotic relationship. They feed off each other; they inspire each other. They co-exist. So, while the tools are not the end all be all, neither are the beliefs. They both promote progress; they both help the other evolve."

this reminds me about a conversation i had with a former colleague who is now a principal of a high school in philadelphia. we were both teachers in nyc public schools messing with CE. we had these conversations and tried to resolve if it was about the tool or about the belief as you two have come to. we created a wiki called "practical theory" in 1997. the tool was cool. we tried to see how it would work for us in our respective classes. much like the school in the washington post article, we failed. the tool was beyond us. we weren't ready. see that early wiki from i believe the creator of wiki . anyway we abandoned that tool for the time being and stuck to the web. eventually we both evolved into it. so yes, it is symbiotic, neither matters on its own, but together the dynamics are incredible. it is like walking: left right left right left right....

then chris asked:
"Unless of course by CE we simply mean student-generated work on the Internet (or is it just about a wider audience, not even the Internet?). Is that what we mean?"

now chris has hit the mark here for me. CE was a response to pre-computer days when selected work was published in yearbooks or literary magazines. not all scholars were represented. it was also a step for me to scholarship, which IMHO, had been lost somehow in schools. for me there was a huge amount of loss in that too many students were invisible. so before 1993, i was using the technology to share work within the class with these neat buttons that allow us to control computers in a lab. i loved it. you see before that i'd have to use a copy machine to take student work and make acetate copies to display or to use the seldom found projector that would let me project student work on a screen. talk about labor intensive. work also went up on the wall, like martin luther, but rarely read. publishing was the key, but how. well when the www came along in 1993, WOW. so here the theory precedes the practice. it wasnt until the www could i realize the theory. then as the technology changed, then CE evolved. a new tool added dimension, but did it create new theory or merely a way to realize theory? have the the tools of web 2.0 really changed practice or has it provided another way to practice our theory? i think that we select a tool that will allow us to practice our theory and not the other way around. that is why a school like TC Williams in alexandria failed. the teachers dont have a technology theory before being given all the toys. it becomes about teacher theory and having some ideas about how the technology will work and then trying it out. i dont think the old adage of teaching theory "sink or swim" works in a school with technology without training. when that adage worked teachers were able to rely on how they were taught to become teachers. now teachers who want to and need to and have to use technology were not, i repeat, WERE NOT taught by teachers using technology and that is a huge difference in the evolution of CE. we dont have a history yet.

what paul speaks about and what dawn speaks about is where we are now: fear from the administration level and the high stakes tests of NCLB. what dawn has just done when she spoke to the wisconsin group and what paul is about to do when he speaks in arlington is what needs to be done over and over again.

then ryan asks: The question: is the learning environment really different?

for me the answer is a resounding NO! and that makes me very very sad, cause we still have too many classrooms that resemble teaching from the the last 2 centuries. we still teach the way we were taught and when we try to do it differently we are judged by the wrong criteria and in the wrong way. we continue to be hindered by the wrong politics of fear and ignorance. schools are still not for the scholars, they are still for the adults and until that changes, nothing will change for the advancement of learning in the schools of the US in the 21st century.

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