You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2008.

Just for fun! It’s like a commercial… 
(Thank you to “Angela Maiers” for the tip on Animoto)

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This time of year is always a little bittersweet for me. I love spending time with my two children, going to the beach, staying up late, reading books together whenever the urge strikes, unhampered by homework or papers that need correcting. The dishes can sit in the sink until the next morning because we have to play one last game of flashlight tag before bed. Yet it also brings great excitement and anticipation, the entry of twenty or so new children into the next ten months of my life. And of course 2008 is no exception.

I have spent the better part of my summer reading, but mostly writing and reflecting as I haven’t done in quite a while. That is all thanks to a two day conference and and an ability to publish my thoughts and ideas. While my entries are not many…yet…not all of my writing is online. The point is, when I found something that was meaningful enough to pursue and a tool that gave me a voice beyond myself, I could not help but immerse myself in every aspect. This mindful pursuit and thirst for more knowledge is what I hope and aspire to for each of my students this year.

One of my colleagues had the rare opportunity to participate in mindful pursuit of knowledge at The Teacher’s College this past summer. When sharing her incredible experience with us this past week, she made mention of how read alouds were done. The teacher reads and thinks aloud and no one interrupts. This struck me as odd. Isn’t reading a form of communication? Don’t we need interaction to boost comprehension? My colleague said that she felt the same way, until she realized that through “turn and talk” there was lots of interaction…just not with the teacher. Had I not heard this and been forced to look at it in that way, at that particular moment, my thinking and therefore my educational practice would remain unchanged. However, as serendipity would have it, I have been thinking all summer about real conversation, in a larger arena than a single classroom, and rereading To Understand by Ellin Oliver Keene this past week. 

I do not want my students simply regurgitating answers to a text chosen by someone else and learning vocabulary words out of context. I want them to have conversations with each other and their peers who may not necessarily be in the same physical space without it flowing through me first. I want them to think and feel deeply, to remember, and to take action for causes of their choosing. I want them to know that they can have access to teachers that are experts in every field, and that these teachers come in all shapes and sizes and ages. And perhaps most importantly, I want them to know that they, too, can be teachers.

Happy School Year 2008-2009 to all educators, who I know are thinking and wishing these exact same things for their students!

Well, not literally on the go…yet. In actuality, I’m sitting on my sofa, in my living room testing WordPress for iPhone, a new, FREE app from the App Store and marveling at its ease. Not only can I post, but I can also include photos, as well. This has major implications for educators. For the past two years, we have been trying to maintain a class webpage. It’s all systems go initially, lots of content, lots of media. But, as the year progresses and the plate fills, one of the first things to go is inevitably the webpage. With this app, I can jot off a quick update and post it in a few minutes. No need for a computer. No need to wait until the kids are abed. All I need is some inspiration and my trusty iPhone! Now if I could only add some links, this would be perfect…

While scrolling through my google reader earlier today, I found a very interesting article by Maggie Shiels of the BBC News entitled Say goodbye to the computer mouse. Touch screens and facial recognition devices are becoming more and more popular due to the popularity of gaming, resulting in innovations such as the Nintendo Wii. Of course, another perspective is presented by Logitech’s senior VP, Rory Dooley, who says that sales of mice and keyboards have continued to sell.
As an avid iPhone junkie, I love the ease of navigation using a touch screen. Moreover, with the introduction last week of 2.0 and the App Store, I feel like we are just scratching the surface! (More than a few times my six year old and I have used PhoneSaber over the past week to have an impromptu lightsaber duel!)
This also brings to mind the elimination of the traditional keyboard. The iPhone, of course, integrates its keyboard into the touch screen, and, though advanced, this is far from exclusive technology. (Any Walmart shoppers use the self-check out?) Just for fun, check out these keyboards that were “dugg” earlier this year!

I’m beginning with a disclaimer that this (1/2 book) review of The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman is only my humble opinion. I don’t pretend to be an expert by any measure, particularly on a topic lived and breathed by a three time Pulitzer prize winner. In actuality, I’m writing this because I am on page 290 of a 566 page book and I am struggling to keep the momentum going. Truly, if others have differing opinions, or have different insights that would help me continue in a different vein, I would love to hear them.

As highly recommended as this book came, I was expecting new, groundbreaking ideas, patterns that I had overlooked, trends that I had missed. Unfortunately, after a captivating introduction, (While I Was Sleeping really set the tone) the book became a metronome, tick, tick, ticking away the same message, neither speeding up, nor slowing down. In fact, all of Friedman’s ideas addressed in that first chapter are repeated, again and again, for the next 150 pages. Perhaps the most revolutionary thing I learned that I hadn’t picked up from paying minor attention to business news, was that UPS is now a supply-chain manager. Who would have thought that there are Toshiba-certified technicians working for UPS? Perhaps a little more subtlety, and trust that Friedman’s readers would find the connections between his ideas would have made it more palatable.

Perhaps my next gripe has nothing to do with the book itself, but is shaped on my own personal thoughts. Throughout my reading, I felt a vague sense of discomfort, not the discomfort that comes with new ideas or the discovery or another point of view, but the discomfort that comes when a remark that is decidedly non-PC is made in casual company. Various occupations seem to be ranked in a hierarchy, not simply blue- or white-collar, but something seemingly more judgmental…well-educated vs. low-skilled. I worry about the portrayal of Indians as willing and eager to work for what basically amounts to peanuts in the United States. And it really bothers me that there is, throughout the half of the book I’ve read so far, that same sense of western-centric ideals that has gotten the United States in some very hot water over the past 50 years or so. But I digress.

I really wish that Friedman had explored the options of the people who will lose their jobs and livelihoods to outsourcing and supply-chaining. There is a very human element that must be addressed because if nothing else, it was made clear that this is the tidal wave of the future. The one comfort that was given is that society has met the technology challenge head on, and somehow, everything works itself out, mostly for the better. One such example is that of agriculture. We no longer need as many farmers; we have other sources of food. But what about the farmers who are no longer needed? I seem to recall an event called Farm-Aid in the mid 80’s specifically put on to help farmers who were unable to make a living anymore. Is this what will happen to others who are outsourced? The message given, throughout the book, seems to be “the end justifies the means.” Don’t worry about the people of today, because the people of tomorrow will benefit.

Again in closing, I hope there will be people who will respond to me, be it, “Right on! I’m thinking the exact same thing!” or “Are you crazy? Here is what you missed…” In the meantime, I will continue to read through the last half of the book, albeit at a slower pace than normal, and try not to take too many breaks…I still have four or so more books on my reading list!

I’m continuing to work on adding the podcast to this page, but, for now, I’ll just add a link to my page at podbean.com. Anyone interested can check out the podcast there!

The Last Game Podcast

Help! I guess you can skip the drumroll for my last post. I am having technical difficulties or “digital immigrantitis” getting the player to embed. The podcast is hosted at podbean.com. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas for how to post the podcast, please comment!

Drumroll, please…Here is my newest experiment…podcasting.

I know, I know, lots of people have already done this and published that, but podcasting has real potential for classroom communication. One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is keeping that open line of communication with parents, not because teachers don’t want to, but because the real focus, the real consumer, is the child. Ninety-nine percent of my energy (and I would hazard to say that most teachers are quite similar) is spent planning, creating, facilitating, and reflecting on instructional delivery. This leaves 1 percent, give or take, to apply towards report writing, cadre work, faculty meetings, and the numerous other duties teachers fulfill, of which one is parent education and communication.

Weekly or monthly newsletters typically fill the communication void. In fact, many creative teachers have been able to relinquish newsletter duties to their students, thereby merging their duties and making efficient use of their energies. Unfortunately, as an upper elementary teacher, I’ve found that many times, these newsletters end up in the black hole of the child’s backpack, emerging only once a trimester when the backpack is cleaned. Podcasting is taking the classroom newsletter to the next level, where students are responsible, engaged, and creating content that is not only necessary, but readily accessible (assuming parents have an internet connection or are willing to access one elsewhere, perhaps at a public library).

So in an effort to prepare myself for the upcoming school year, here is my first attempt at an enhanced podcast. Many thanks to my six year old, who acted as a willing guinea pig, and narrated a “micro-mimi” slideshow of shots from his last teeball game. I understand that it is best viewed in iTunes, otherwise you will hear the narration, but not see the pictures. Here is the link for the free download for Windows (I believe most Macs already have it installed, if not, the Mac version is also available for free on the Apple website).

iTunes Download

Powered by Podbean.com

Simple, beautiful, and so much fun! This word cloud was created at http://wordle.net in literally 5 minutes. It would have been shorter, except that I was playing with the fonts and colors. There are 3 ways that you can create a word cloud: keyboard or paste in your tags and/or “key words,” enter the URL of any blog, blog feed, or web page that has an RSS feed (I chose to use this option by linking to hoopili), or enter a del.icio.us user name to use his or her tags in the word cloud. Voila! Instant success!

Since the inception of this blog, I have been doing lots of reading and listening, thinking and reflecting. Through it all, I feel a sense of discord and unease, but take comfort in the fact that it is a sign of new learning; my newest mentors being the words of Marc Prensky, David Warlick, Will Richardson, and Thomas Friedman, just to name a few. Of course, great teachers such as Dewey, Freire, Gardner, and Montessori are not supplanted, but rather juxtaposed, and their ideas carried forward into the 21st century. I am continually amazed by the connectedness of it all.

And so, you may ask, what does this have to do with the “bibliophile” referenced in the title of this post? Despite the lack of speed with which I post, I have created yet another blog, one specifically for the reading classes, and thus the bibliophiles, I teach, at edublogs.com. Again, an experiment in motivation, in the need for people to have conversation, good conversation, about inspiring words and ideas found within the pages of a book, be they physical or virtual. Perhaps this will allow the student who reads voraciously, to comment as much as he wishes. Perhaps the student who sits quietly, yet thoughtfully, and needs more time to formulate her opinion, will be given that time. Perhaps the relative anonymity (despite an online name that classmates will be able to identify) will create a comfort zone for a student who is afraid to share his ideas in class, face to face. If education is the great equalizer, then technology is surely his tool.

July 2008
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