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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Revisiting Reading & The Internet

Recently I have been reading research and articles about Reading and the Internet. Is the net hurting reading is the main point being asked and researched.

I'm no researcher. I have been using the Internet and computer technology in my English classes since 1983. I have been a Chapter One coordinator and developed a course called CyberEnglish. Since 1983, my classes have met in a computer lab and I have used those computers nearly everyday to deliver instruction. All of my scholars did all of their reading on the computers, either from DOS programs I created or from the Internet. I have used this data in my Masters work and in my PhD work. My comments are anecdotal and not based on classic research strategy. I did one or two research projects, but they are minor.

What I do know about reading is that it has to be modeled. As a parent I read to my children and in front of them, too. They see me reading and children imitate their parents. The same holds true in the class. No matter what age our scholars are we should read to them. We should also read when they read. Now does it really matter what we read? As a teacher, it does. We all have a curriculum to get through be it English, math, science, history, physical education, health, foreign languages, art, music. In the end we seem to read to collect information more than not. Even when we read a novel we are reading to learn about ourselves in a classic text to self mode. Another interesting phenomenon that dates itself back to Socrates is how one generation belittles the following generation, worries about he youth, questions their intelligence and more. Ironically Man has continued to become progressively smarter and to adapt to new situations and opportunities. In short Man has survived quite well, in spite of these foreboding thoughts.

In a recent Literacy Debate article in the NYTimes by Motoko Rich, the value of reading on the Internet is being evaluated. I wonder about the criteria of the assessment and who is making it based on what rubric. Essentially I see old values made by an older generation judging the next generation's methods of learning, in this case reading. We have had these value judgments each and every generation back to Socrates when he lamented the youth and writing. I am reminded of my grandmother's lament over my mom's love of the radio, and my mom's lamenting my love of the television, just as I lament my children's use of the Internet. Maybe we all should just lighten up and realize each generation succeeds the next admirably. It is up to each generation to adapt to how it will survive, learn, and in this case read, in order to gather information. I am also not concerned as I have seen my daughters teach and they are better than I am. I have seen new teachers come into schools and do very very well, better than we did. We are in fine shape.

A couple of things I noticed about this article and the debate is the tactile love of holding a book. Fine for some, but not for all. Does that really matter? Now some of the things I hate about books are the weight, the poor font choice, the size of the font, and the color of the pages. With the computer, I can change the colors, the font sizes and styles. Some like digits other like atoms, does it matter as long as we are reading? Consider the evolution of the columns of print. Many years ago, print went from margin to margin. We have discovered over time and research column width is an important issue in reading habits as we have seen in the evolution of newspapers and magazines and their constant struggle with column width. During the early years of webpage development the issue of column width became important as screens got wider and screen resolution was so varied. bad design was to have text go from screen edge to screen edge. Hence the development of tables for columns, blockquote, and the ul code in HTML.

Michael Agger addresses this issue in a funny piece he calls Lazy Eyes for Slate. He uses a variety of publishing tools and hypertext links. These hypertext links are perhaps one of the reasons I love reading on the Internet, I can go to another place and gather more information relevant to my understanding the reading I started reading. Is speed reading really that important or is it about the content? I believe we may be different kinds of readers now and from the previous generation. We certainly read more kinds of genre than before. We have access to more media online.

Then there is the classic argument: "Reading from paper versus screens: a critical review of the empirical literature" an article posited by Andrew Dillon in 1992. That's sixteen years ago and look at what has happened in that time. Consider what people younger than 16 are doing with the digits and the toys associated with the digital age. We have come a long long way since this ancient research. Now this brings me to one of my favorite quotes from a movie. The movie is MIB, Men in Black. The scene has "J" (Will Smith) and "K" (Tommy Lee Jones) sitting on a bench after J has just encountered aliens for the first time and he is asked to join or not join the MIB. K speaks these lines:
1500 years ago everyone knew the Earth was the center of the Universe.
500 years ago everyone knew the Earth was flat.
15 minutes ago you knew people were alone on this planet.
Imagine what you will know tomorrow.
After reading Dillon's 1992 paper, the MIB lines rang out. Ted Nelson's quote of 1987 from the paper was even more prescient: "the question is not can we do everything on screens, but when will we, how will we and how can we make it great? This is an article of faith - its simple obviousness defies argument." As we see more and more print media adopt a digital presence, books become ebooks, and the Library of Congress almost digitized; reading will change and so will we, otherwise we won't survive and that is a ridiculous notion. As I look around my classroom, I see it happening with the cellphones my scholars have and what they can do with those machines. Nelson's words haunt me as I watch it happen right in front of me.

So it isn't a matter of print or electronic, it is how are we growing? How are we adapting to our new environment? Yes, reading has taken on a new dimension and it isn't about us, it is about them, the next generation.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Me, Myself, and I

The other day I was asking myself, "Self, why do these scholars always use "you" and not "I"?

The reason, I discovered, was that they were taught, told not to use "I." Why on earth would they be told that, I wondered. In conversations with teachers, I hear "I don't allow the use of "I" in essays. They have to use the third person." I understand this argument when the author is writing about another person or a character in a piece of literature or non fiction. The third person has its place as does the second person. However, the forbidding of the first person is astonishing especially in a personal essay, an essay about the thoughts, beliefs, interpretations of the writer upon the subject, topic of said essay. So what do I see more than I'd like to talk about is the abuse of the second person.

What is wrong with the first person in an essay? I am reminded of what Montaigne has told us about the essay, it is personal, it is written from the first person point of view. No wonder our scholars are confused when they are forbidden to use the first person and then on the other hand instructed to provide their thoughts, ideas, beliefs in their own words in their essays. Certainly when a scholar is reporting about another person or character, the use of the third person is appropriate and correct. When the scholar uses dialogue the second person is correct. When a scholar is writing an essay, the first person is appropriate to express personal opinions.

I am reminded by Zimmerman and Keene's Mosaic of Thought about the seven habits of a proficient reader that includes "Text to Self." The reader is asked to assess how the text relates to the reader. What does the reader bring to the text as in prior knowledge and what does the reader learn about self? As the reader reports on this, using "I" is obvious and necessary. When I consider reasons why we write, I consider that we write to learn what we know and to communicate with others. In both cases the use of "I" is necessary. I am confused why teachers would not allow the use of "I" in their scholars' writing. I encourage my scholars to use "I" when they write.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Giving 100%

We are at a crucial juncture in summer school. A couple of struggling scholars came in and wanted to know what they had to do to pass the class. We went over what was required and they assured me they would give me more than 100% to pass the class. I had to point out that it was impossible to give more than 100%. What I needed them to do was to come to class on time, give as close to 100% as possible, and not to give up. Then I showed them something I have taped to one of my closet doors:

Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%?
We have all been to these meetings where someone wants over 100%.
How about achieving 103%? Here's a little math that might prove helpful.


is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

19 5 4 1 7 15 7 25 = 83%

8 1 18 4 23 15 18 11 = 98%

11 14 15 23 12 5 4 7 5 = 96%

1 20 20 9 20 21 4 5 = 100%

On the other hand:
16 15 12 9 20 9 3 19 = 103%

2 21 12 12 19 8 9 20 = 103%

So, it stands to reason that pedagogy, hard work, and knowledge will get
you close, attitude will get you there; and politics and bullshit will
put you over the top. But,look how far ass kissing will take you.

1 19 19 11 9 19 9 14 7 = 118%

So the next time someone asks you to give more than 100%,
you know what is required of you.

I don't know where I found this fun chart, but a quick GOOGLE search of "giving 100%" yields the same chart on many sites. My scholars concluded that all they needed was a positive "attitude" to be sure they could pass the class. I concurred.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just Play

All work and no play makes Ted a very dull boy. Sometimes we need to play. Play is all around us actually. Consider some of the phrase we use when we need to get some work done.
Let's play with the idea.
Let's bat these ideas around to see what we come up with.
Think about some to the verbs we use when we engage in a work activity like: putter, toy, dabble, cobble, a pitch. These are play verbs.

I have been introduced to three fun programs that provide fun and learning.

The first program is Free Rice, which is a vocabulary program. The object is to select the correct meaning of a word from the four choices. The fun part is for every word the user gets correct, the sponsors donate 20 grains of rice to the UN World Food Program, hence the name, "Free Rice." The user can change the difficulty level of the words chosen from easy to harder. It can be a very competitive activity as the scholars compete with each other to donate more rice. All this fun and humanitarianism while improving their vocabulary.

The second program is one word. On this site the user has sixty seconds to comment on simple words like sombre, scarf, and everyday words. The object is simply to write your first thought the word suggests. In a class, this is a great exercise to have the scholars respond to and then share the responses, because the user can then see what other people have written. This is a great lesson in perspective and point of view. How each scholar responds to each word becomes the vocabulary exercise in class. This is another fun program that has deep implications in vocabulary appreciation.

The third program is Wordle. This program is phenomenal. The maker calls it "a toy that creates a 'word clouds' with our own text." So I put in the poem, "The Road Not Taken" and was stunned at the "word cloud." The "word cloud" shows the most frequently used words than others by simple size. (Click on image to see more) By taking a passage and submitting it, the key words are bigger than the others. This is a great pre reading exercise for all readers. It clues them into the key words of what is about to be read. Take your favorite poem, or scene from a play, or short piece of prose and create a "word cloud." You will be stunned. Another neat trick is to take an article from the newspaper and create a "word cloud" to see the words that pop out.

When something is fun and educates, we need to pay attention to it and watch the results.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A doable Challenge not mission impossible.

Who doesn't love a challenge? Heck when we do something, someone always asks us, "Why did you do that?"

"Because someone dared me," might be the response.

It is part of our nature I think. "Oh you can't do that," someone might say to us, and before you know it we are trying to do it.

Recently, I listened to the 27 minute DC Environment speech given by Al Gore on July 17, 2008, who challenged us to power our nation on clean energy in ten years. He cited President Kennedy's challenge to get a man on the moon and back within ten years. We did that in eight years and a couple of months. Gore's challenge: "America must commit to producing 100% of our electricity from cheap, clean renewable energy sources like solar and wind within 10 years." He spelled out the problem as "over reliance on carbon based fuels as the core of our environmental, economic, and national security crisis. We must end reliance on carbon based fuels." Simple, isn't it, and it can be done.

Now I considered what he said and realized the correlation to education. We have become over reliant on the standardized tests made by companies not associated with our schools. The results of the tests, drive our curriculum and educational policy. In order for us to be rid of these odious tests, we must develop a solution. I have studied and practiced such a solution as have other teachers. One I proposed to Vice President Gore when I was fortunate to have had a few minutes with him when he was running for President. I suggested as a means of fostering Authentic Assessment, we have the scholars produce web pages that are public and can be peer reviewed. The work of the scholars can be digitized and copied to CD's, DVD's and flashdrives. A national clearinghouse could be established for archive purposes. They can be sent to colleges as part of the entrance application. They can be used when a scholar moves from town to another across state lines or within a state. The work of the scholar tells us more than any test score ever will. We didn't make the test, we don't have the answer key, we don't grade them, we can't use them as ways to inform our instruction because the test makers shred them after collecting the data they need.

The challenge is simple and very doable right now and for the future. All of our scholars are producing work. They may already be using a word processor, presentation program, or database program that are digits. The scholars than prints these digits to make atoms for the teacher to read, write on, and assess. The scholars could video tape a science project, a play, a performance, or any project for any class. They can do an podcast. Pictures can be taken of work. In short all the work of all the scholars can be digitally captured and then archived. In a short eight years a scholar could have eight CD's of hir work to show another teacher in another school. Now the teacher has benchmarks, work that shows the capability of the scholar and data that informs future instruction. Then who needs these tests? Not us.

Sure bugs have to be worked out like security, but that is simple and cheap compared to what we do now with the tests, the amount of time used in preparing for them, and the angst involved with the whole process. Were we simply to digitize all the work, we would now have it for evaluation, analysis, and an informed instructional plan for each scholar based on hard data and not abstract data the tests produce. This can be done now because of the advances in technology. Schools would need a Cybrarian, a person or persons responsible for overseeing the archiving of each scholar's work and then sending it to a secure national data base for other schools, colleges, and employees to access as needed. Lots of technology would not be needed. This is very doable now.

So the challenge is to begin constructing local databases of the scholars' work and then generating CD's, DVD's at the end of the year so the school has a copy of each scholar's work for next year and beyond. And if the scholar should move to another school, the archived digits can be forwarded. Now each school would begin establishing a database of each scholar for future use within the school to assist teachers with each scholar via the hard data collected and archived. Colleges would now have access to better data to determine acceptance. It is better for the scholar, for education, and for learning.

And we don't need ten years, this can be done now. Good luck. This post will not self destruct in 10 seconds.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tower of Babel Revisited

I have long been fascinated with the symbolism of the Tower of Babel, from The Bible. As a citizen, as a father, as an English teacher this tower permeates my world.

In the technological world, The Tower of Babel is ubiquitous as seen in an article titled, "The Babble of Computer Languages." We have Linux and then two basic types of computers, the Mac and the PC. Each has a separate and unique operating system and language. Programs that run on both platforms, have different key strokes to perform basic functions like copy and paste. When it comes to software we have many word processing tools and Internet browsers. In my life now I have 16 Dells and 16 IMacs in my classroom as well as a collection of PC and Mac laptops. At home I have a laptop of each. With all these differences the result is that a user communicates with another user.

What I find ironic about this dilemma is that people around the world are communicating better than man ever did without this technology. In my classroom, scholars change the language of their computer to their mother tongue or any other language the the default English. The pages still appear and now in another language then the one in which it was written. Suddenly I am communicating with many other scholars in another language then English, WOW! So let me understand this. I can continue to write my pages in English and scholars who wish to view with it another language can. In time perhaps that translator tool I saw on Star Trek is already with us in the form of our current technology.

Go to the dashboard of Blogger and play around with the Language tool and change it and have fun.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Using Quotes

One must learn by doing the thing.
For though you think you know it,
you have no certainty until you try.
Sophocles (BC 495-406, Greek Tragic Poet)

How often have we encountered a poignant quote at the beginning of a chapter in a book we are reading, on a billboard or public transportation ad, in a Chinese restaurant. Good quotes ignite thinking, spark a conversation, introduce an essay question in Task IV of the New York State English Language Arts Regents Exam. Many speakers begin a speech with a joke or a quote that will be used to introduce the contents of the speech. A good quote is also used at the end of a speech as an aphorism or truth the speaker wishes to impart upon the audience. Quotes come from religious texts, ancient and modern philosophers, writers from all ages. Many quotes are well known, used often, and always appropriate. The Sophocles quote above heads my Class Webpage. I want to encourage the scholars to try anything that will help them in life, especially the technology. They may say they understand something, know something; but until they speak about it or write about it, I'm not convinced they do know it. It's like me when I watching a sporting event, I can do that. Then I try and realize I can.

"Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see."
Benjamin Franklin

As a teacher, I use quotes often. Our scholars are inundated with information. I can't count the number of times a scholar has told me that they were taught something or told to do something in a certain way by another teacher when I suggest another way or method. In my class we use the Internet more than books. In both cases I have to remind the scholars that they need to verify the information they are finding. Just because it is in a book or in Wikipedia, that information is NOT necessarily true. We need to do further research and verify, verify everything. Franklin's quote is very useful and a constant reminder to us every minute of the day to pay attention and to be alert.

Imitation is Suicide.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo 1803-1882 American Poet Essayist

One of the worst plagues we have as teachers is plagiarism. It is the scourge of scholarship. Scholars have always been tempted by the quick and easy method of copying someone else's work so as to finish their own. We also see this in a manner of dress in our scholars. Ironically in their attempts to be unique, they often imitate others to create a uniform. As scholars create their own digital pages, I am constantly reminding them of NOT copying. I use the Emerson quote as a model in an assignment about quotes.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Lao-Tzu (BC 600-?, Chinese philosopher, founder of Taoism)

This classic Lao-Tzu quotes helps justify what we do in schools everyday. The scholars understand this one real fast. They know it whenever a teacher doesn't provide an answer and insists that they look it up or find the answer themselves. We are constantly helping our scholars learn how to learn. The fishing metaphor is useful and quickly understood. They may not like it, but they know it to be a great truth.

At least one day every week I use a quote as Do Now to begin class. I will do this as a Blog post or simply provide a quote on a piece of paper and ask the scholars to explain the meaning of the quote and to provide an example of how this quote has applied to them, a simple text to text application.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
Buckminster Fuller

In my email signature I have this Fuller quote. I love the reaction I receive from it as I correspond with others. It is an appropriate quote for me because it is all about CyberEnglish, CyberSchool, and my practice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thai Visitor

Cynthia Sinsap visits from Bangkok, Thailand.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Growth in Online Classes

After graduating from high school, I enlisted in the US Army, and spent some time in Vietnam, before going to college. During those fourteen months in Nam, I discovered Shakespeare when I read Troilus and Cressida. I also took a few correspondence courses to prepare myself for college. Now some forty years later, the concept of correspondence courses is finding a new place in the recent increase of enrollment in Online Classes. A recent article in the New York Times, "High Cost of Driving Ignites Online Classes Boom" by Sam Dillon, speaks to this phenomenon.

When someone was too far from a school to attend school, we created the correspondence course. As new technologies evolved the correspondence course morphed into the Online Courses. I have been involved with many Online Courses over the years as both as a student and as a teacher. The need for Online Courses is pretty obvious. Time and distance from a place of education, access to programs geographically impossible to surmount, conflict with work, family, age, health, and other situations; provide the justification for the need and use of Online Courses, at all levels of education. Currently, higher education is the main user of Online Courses, not K-12. We have seen a growth in Home Schooling over the years, but not Online Courses at the K-12 level that equals the growth of Online Courses in higher ed or of Home Schooling.

Online Courses in K-12 are far and few between, because schools depend on seat time and live bodies in the schools for their budgets. An archaic use of lunch applications determines attendance and therefore allotted monies to the public k_12 schools. Over the years, with the growth of the Internet and programs like BlackBoard, Moodle, and the Google toolbox; schools can provided substantial Online Courses for their K-12 scholars.

Why would we need them? I'm in a transfer school now. It is a school for students who already have some credit for high school but not enough to graduate. They need to complete high school, and returning to the high school in which they started is not possible for a myriad of reasons. For many of my students, access to Online Courses would be perfect as they balance work, parenting, and living. It isn't that these students are incapable of doing the work, it is that many of them don't have the time. Yes, they got themselves into a bad situation and now we need to help them right themselves so that they don't become bigger burdens on society in the future.

I was reminded of this the other day. A student arrived at summer school on the last day of our second week of a six week summer school. She had been ill, her baby had been sick, and she couldn't make it to school. She had all the notes verifying this dilemma. We admitted her and provided her a schedule that included my technology class and would allow her to makeup work online from home. I have always been an advocate for the Online Course in a K-12 environment. I recall I had a young man in the mid 90's who had AIDS doing all of his work from home. He attended about 25% of the classes. His work was brilliant, the best work in the class. He earned an A in the course and my supervisor was livid that I had given this student an A and he was absent so many days. I showed her his webpage and then some webpages of the other scholars in the class. She concurred, and yet begrudged the A. It stood and I was admonished about my behavior and told not to do that again. Well, here I am in 2008, in a school with a great need for such Online Courses and I have a principal supporting the notion. We are working things out on a case by case basis, we have a CyberSchool, and we are assisting our students who find themselves in waters over their heads and who need some compassion, assistance, and a helping hand to become fruitful, useful, good citizens, rather than bad statistics.

Technology use is the future for education.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Music in the Classroom

Some people whistle while they work, and many people have music playing while they work. As we move through the day and walk into different stores, we are introduced to some music to accompany us as we shop. Companies, like DMI Music & Media Networks, do studies and program certain kind of music for different kinds of stores to accommodate the musical tastes of the customers. Music research in retail is big business. Music is everywhere from sporting events to gyms to public transportation.

Music is just about everywhere, except schools except in the music rooms. In fact we ask the scholars to put their music devices away and turn them off. This is another instance where schools do something contrary to what is prevalent in the real world. Of course we do this so the scholars can hear the teacher. In my classroom, I often play music to accompany the work being done in the class, since I am not dominating the class. I may speak to the class for a few moments before I let them loose to work. I play lots of different music.

I usually play the classics: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and others. I love Bach's music because it is such a great complement to typing. Piano and violin concertos are superb as well. The popular symphonies are recognized by the scholars and that excites them.

Whether it is "Music tames the savage beast or breast," is immaterial. The key is it works in taming savagery. I know after the initial moaning and noise from the scholars about my classical music choices, they get used to it. In fact, after a few days, if it isn't playing, someone always asks for it by approaching me privately by saying, "It is too quiet in here." Or just asking for some music. I tell them who is playing and after weeks, they begin making requests or even telling me they found a certain musician at home or bought a CD. I feel in a computer lab where all the scholars are working, some are collaborating, and I'm walking around that constant source of music provides a healthy working tone to the classroom.

I play the music low enough so that if I have to speak to the class or someone needs to ask a question the music doesn't interfere. I also turn the overhead lights off and have a few floor lamps in the room to provide an even more tranquil atmosphere. I have a wall of windows facing north for natural light and then lamps on the south wall for fill. The computers provide enough light. Music and lighting help me provide a more suitable atmosphere and tone for learning. The scholars like it and respond accordingly.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I don't know, let's find out

Not to be a smartass, "I don't know, let's find out" is one of my favorite responses to the scholars in my class. It took me years to develop this tact.

I used to fire off the answer to a spelling question, a grammar question, a question. Oh was I smart. Wrong. I was so dumb. The scholars weren't learning anything and I was enabling them. As I grew, I had the dictionary, the grammar book, the reading book propped up against each computer. If one of those questions came at me, I parried with "look it up in one the books next to your computer." Not as effective as when I would come over and help them find the answer in one of those books, or any other book I had in the class library. Soon I modified my harshness with a more compassionate, "I don't know, let's find out" approach. As I grew so did the Internet and as Yahoo, gave way to Alta Vista, and finally to Google and Wikipedia; my scholars and I can actually find the answers together. I'm using my skills of solving problems to help them learn these skills and they are finding the answer to a pressing question on their own more often now.

Now I just have to help the scholars learn not to yell out the answers of questions from their peers in class and instead shout out, "I don't know, let's find out." This is similar to when I have to remind the scholars not to touch someone else's keyboard or mouse. Instead they should use words to talk the scholar through a process. "Don't do it for them, tell them how to do it," I suggest.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Success breeds success

Watching my scholars work this summer, reminds me about how useful technology is. This is our fourth day of summer school and we are still getting new admits. I've got scholars at all levels of development. They all have different degrees of the number of days in attendance and the amount of work completed. The scholars who have been here and have blogs, logged in and continued working on existing blog posts or started a new one. The new scholars had to set up their blogs. I worked with those five new scholars to get them started. The scholars were collaborating in a productive way on their existing posts or new one. They were helping each other with layout tips, how to add an image, sound, and more.

A very important aspect to this class is that it is growing and maintaining its attendance, rather than losing scholars. This is a humid summer in NYC. They are all engaged on a project and it is theirs. This has always been the most important aspect of using technology, the level of commitment by the scholars as opposed to non tech classes I have taught. Their learning increases, their attention increases, their retention increases, their skills increase, their confidence increases. They are doing this on their own terms and at their own pace. Rarely do I ever see a scholar give up when working with technology. Success is the most common outcome. Success breeds success.

In my earlier class, the scholars are using some old CAI software that I created in the 80's. In is old DOS. In this class the scholars are reading a short story, then do a study guide application, followed by a quiz. The final step is to write an essay. Again, the scholars are at all levels. Some take more time to read and do the study guide work. Others do this faster and complete their essay before the class is over. I have the opportunity then of conferencing scholars as they read, do the study guide questions, do the quiz, and write the essay. While they are working at their pace and on their terms, I can move around, observe, inject, and encourage. Tomorrow when all are finished, we will have a useful and comprehensive class discussion about the story and about the essays. Once each and every scholar has invested some time in a project, they are more likely to engage in a conversation in class, because they have worked through their ideas. I also have seen what they have written and can now encourage the reluctant speakers to speak, because I know from their work they have something to offer. By having the discussion after they have worked makes for a more productive conversation.

Once again I am seeing the value of technology and how it levels the playing field. The scholars are succeeding and success breeds success.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Students make great teachers

Now I'm not talking about student teachers, I'm talking about students as teachers in their own classroom.

The other day I was reminded about how great the young scholars are such good teachers. We were setting up blogs for our summer school class. It was the second day and those scholars who were present the first day were ready to move on, while the scholars new to the class had to do the work from the day before. After getting the new scholars on task, I instructed the group of scholars making blogs how to create their accounts and to start their blogs. When it came time for the second group to make their blogs, the first group taught the second group. They were typing in the work they had done prior to setting up their blogs, I am poems. When they were done they immediately wanted to know how they could see the other scholars poems. I told them they could find them from my blog. When they saw mine they asked about pictures and changing the layout and more. When they read another scholar's poem they asked if they could comment. "Of course, that is your next assignment. Have fun and be respectful, kind, and generous," I replied. As the class wore on I saw some were making another blog, others were adding another post containing another poem. I am always amazed at the excitement of scholars when they are constructing a webpage, a blog, a wiki. When they are actively engaged in producing they are engaged and when they know they can share this with more than their class they become very very serious.

The number of times they asked if they could do something, could they do this at home, can they put up other work; to which the answer was always "yes." The excitement, the engagement was exhilarating on this beautiful summer day in summer school.

When one scholar said this was better than MySpace and a few others agreed, I was on top of the world.

On the third day I had to speak to them about safety issues like controlling comments and other matters like the correct procedure for peer review. The same procedure happened on the third day as new scholars were admitted and the scholars from the earlier days assisted the new scholars, while I worked with old scholars on their new project. Technology is a beautiful thing. All the scholars are engaged in what they need to do. It is a more engaging environment then a non technology environment.

Now when I say technology I'm talking about the interactive technology of the Internet and especially the web 2.0 tools. This is a much different technology than previous technologies like television, radio, overhead projects, and the like; this technology is interactive. The older technologies were and are one way, whereas as the Internet is two way communications. There is interaction among the users. It helps us help our scholars to be in charge of their own education and to become independent learners.

Is this a good lesson about Independence Day or what?

Happy Independence Day!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Internet Safety

What are your children doing online?

A recent report suggests we don't know. ESchool News reports that parents are clueless about their children's Internet usage. Along with the clueless parents, we also have too many clueless teachers and administrators. Adults generally speaking are too unaware of what is happening between our children and the Internet. The children are so far ahead of us, we only catch up when tragedy strikes and we have done too little to help prevent it.

There is just not enough Internet safety being taught in schools. The best way to teach Internet safety is to actually show the children how to use the Internet correctly. We are not showing, we are telling. We can't show, because we do not have enough classes in our schools using the Internet correctly. Too much is blocked. We can't use the sites our children use in or out of school, because of the filters. The children get around the filters, while teachers cannot. This is a tragic Catch 22. We need to have access to the Internet in schools to show the children how to use the Internet to their advantage. Instead the children are on their own learning and developing bad habits while not learning the good habits of correct Internet usage. If the children were taught how to use the Internet correctly in our schools, we would not have this technology gap between child and adult. We would see better use of the Internet by our children for the advancement of themselves and of Man.