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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wake up American educators

I was reminded many times last week why we are so behind in education in America. It centers on one word, "TECHNOLOGY."

First, I'm watching upheavals in the world because of WikiLeaks and because of social networks as protesters in countries use these tools to conduct revolutions. This is huge and we should be paying attention.

Obama gave a rousing SOTU speech on education and spoke about the new technologies as being the leaders in helping to repair the economy. So why aren't we connecting the dots between technology and education?

And yet for the past week, I have witnessed the NYState Regents exams which are pen and pencil on paper. No technology involved. Our schools still lack adequate technology. We still follow the 19th Century school model with the "sage on the stage." Our classrooms are getting more filled and our young teachers aren't bring technology with them to the classroom. The biggest problem is our children use technology which teachers say is distracting so they spend too much time trying to stop the technology instead of trying a Zen concept of using that technology power to their teaching. We are shooting ourselves in the foot in our classrooms everyday. Teachers spend too much time squelching the technology instead of embracing it and using it for the success of our students. Teachers haven't been taught how to use technology in education yet. When our students leave the classroom they are not prepared for college let alone work or the military where technology is embraced.

Then we are humbled by the Chinese Mom and then the scary story from people like Susan Maushart.

America is actually a very traditionalist country and loves the status quo, yet when things go bad, they blame teachers and look to the past for solutions, while the rest of the world moves forward. We shouldn't teach as we were taught, we should teach for the future.

Until we start using technology in our classrooms, we are not going to find our future as shiny as it ought to be. The Googles and Facebooks of the world are lovely examples of success, but they don't employ that many people for the amount of money they make. We need more tech jobs and more people working and producing. Americans are still merely consumers and not the producers they need to be. By filtering, blocking, and forbidding the use of technology in our classrooms we are sending the wrong message and not figuring out how to use technology in our classrooms. Both the Chinese mom and Susan are great examples of just how backwards America is when it comes to education. Since we don't understand the power of technology and we fear it, we do what the Chinese mom and Susan do, we forbid it. Schools have done the same thing for decades with new technologies. Rather than figure out how to use them they forbid them while the rest of the world excels and passes us by.

The early discussion by Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance about his traveling couple's fear of technology is as true in 1974 when he wrote this classic as it is today.

I sure would like to see a Technology Revolution in American Education. Technology is the one word that can solve many of our problems and technology in education is key.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A heart attack snow

This is a dangerous 19 inches of wet snow. At 4AM I woke to find the backyard inundated with another blanket of snow. I got dressed to shovel the steps and clear the snow off the plastic shed protecting the bikes and access to space under the steps for the cats. I was very surprised at how heavy and sticky this snow was. This is dangerous stuff. I call it heart attack snow. I cleared a simple path down the steps and the plastic. I stopped shoveling and walked to the pond to check on the pump which was just fine. I cleared some snow from around the pump. I stomped the snow to the pond and cleared snow from the hanging planters and chimes. This was all I was going to do for now. I don't have too many more places to put this snow.

I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and take pictures. I walked the block of 5oth and 49th between 10th and 9th Aves. The plows were moving in threes and only doing the avenues. No plows had done these two bus route streets, 49th and 50th. Lots of private plows doing the ConEd facility, a school, a UHaul rental. Some supers were out doing their sidewalks and some storefronts were cleared. Some cars were stuck and spinning their wheels. People were walking in the streets in the places where dump trucks and private carting trucks have packed down the snow. Only high four wheel vehicles are moving. Low riding wheel vehicles can't navigate streets as I see a taxi stuck and a Mercedes spinning its four wheels. As I head home, three people are waiting for a bus that won't be here for a long time and then I'm passed by a bike delivery guy.

When I return home at 5:30AM, I learn there is no school, no bus service, and very limited subway service. Only emergency city agencies are open. I learn the weather is going to get colder, and more snow till Saturday. The snow this January has broken all records for snow in January and more is coming, cool.

Bad news, Tweed offices are open, so I walk Heather to the R train and take in the sights to and from the train at 49th and Broadway. No busses, the streets aren't plowed but the avenues are. There are still cars on the road that shouldn't be, especially some cabs driven by drivers who have no clue about driving in the snow. Then we have the macho SUV driver who demonstrates arrogant and obnoxious behavior indigenous of that kind of driver in that kind of car.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nation Builders

President Obama's State of the Union impressed me because he put teachers first. Literally, teachers were the first point of his speech. He informed us that South Korea calls its teachers, "Nation Builders."
Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Wow. This is the first time I can remember when any president ever put education first and foremost in such an important speech. I also agree that we need a system that helps us cull those not suited for teaching. His emphasis on not only completing high school but also college is crucial to fuel our future. Everyone always speaks about our future but rarely couple it with the function of education in that role. It was very obvious to me that we as a nation we must put education first so we can better our infrastructure, our economy, our military, and the state of the union. It made me proud to be a teacher, a son of teachers, the brother of two teachers, and the father of two Nation Builders.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew speaks with Brian Lehrer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Viva la Revolution

What is happening in Tunisia is taking the world by storm, but not in America. Why do I love this? I'm always encouraged when the people take control. Tunisia is small enough to make it happen. Iran is too big for it to have happened when it tried. China is also too large. The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia is secular, not religious but it is happening in an Arab nation which can serve as a model. It is cyber, it is about the youth, just like some of our elections in America. The Internet is the center of this movement. How much WikiLeaks can be considered in the movement is unclear. The embassy posts are revealing. What is important is that Arab countries are watching and in those totalitarian nations better wakeup and pay attention and listen to the people otherwise, they will oust you. What will the ripple effects be in Egypt, Iran and other nations? Tunisia is the result of years of tyranny and it finally exploded. Its size is important, as I have said. I love the excitement of the people. I wonder where the visitors from Tunisia who visited my class years ago are in this change. I hope they are part of it. Even though the USA supported the ousted dictator, I wonder how we will respond. It is certainly better than sending in our troops to fix a country. It should be fixed from within. Bravo people of Tunisia.

I'm lucky to have some people to speak to about this at my school. Our head custodian is from Yeman and a politically active student from Lahore, Pakistan. In addition we have to read from sources outside the US like Egypt, AlJazeera, and other Arab nations.

Now we will watch with baited breath to see how this all turns out. What factions will lead? How will the rural and city commingle and cooperate? Will Islam play a role? Now we will watch another experiment in government by the people, but this time on the Internet.

From a local radio show in NYC:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

This is America NOT Pakistan

I'm stunned by the recent events in Arizona. I'm scared when I hear the words of some radio and tv hosts who promote violence and say deadly things about opponents to their views. Violence will never get you want you want, it does the opposite, always. Use words and ballots, America and do the right thing, live with it and let others as well. Violence will separate you from a civilized society, so use words, not bullets.

A quick GOOGLE search for "sarah palin's facebook page" revealed these horrible results. This page is the kind of page we Americans need to be concerned about and aware of. This is an unhinged man, a delirious man, a dangerous man. Be careful, people, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

I am sorry for the victims in Arizona and for us and what we have become.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blended Classes

We are hearing more and more noise about blended classes. NYC has its typical pilot blended classes. CyberEnglish has been a blended class since 1993. Nothing new or earthshaking from these researchers that we didn't see and hear 20 years ago. During the 1990's many teachers were practicing CyberEnglish and other forms of digital and blended classes with some notice, but not taken seriously. We posited many and more points made by this august council. Many of us have written extensively about the process, our findings and observations, and our recommendations. How long will it take for the council and others to catch up to us?