Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hats off!!!

This is a self reflection post and it is keeping in line with the title of this blog. There are no links to other posts or articles because this is all me, for whatever that is worth.

I am still thinking about this today, a full day after the experience. Part of our job as educators, or should say most of it, is the ability to put on many different hats during the course of the day. Let's face it, most of the time the hats are changed during the same conversation with a student. As an administrator, the hats I put on and the ability to change the hat at the right moment in time is crucial when talking about reaching a troubled 13 year old.

This particular instance still has me thinking about whether or not I changed the hats successfully. The student has been in a downward spiral for quite sometime now, to the point of threatening some unhealthy scenarios on more than one occasion. (Forgive me being cryptic, but the web is permanent) I have dealt with many of these situations before and I am not sure why this one is sticking with me, but it has me wondering what makes us qualified to change my hat so many times? I do it now without even thinking about it, change my hat I mean, and I it often happens in the heat of the moment with student. To go from teacher, to administrator, to parent, to psychologist, to doctor, to friend is exhausting and dangerous sometimes.

It is a necessity in my profession and I just hope that I continue to make the right judgements and put the right right hats on at the right time with the right student.

Image Credit: MShades' photostream

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Share the Wealth

The nice thing about blogging is that it's okay to take a hiatus from posting to read other people's posts. The people that I have been reading have provided me with insights into a plethora of topics that I might not have otherwise stumbled upon. I thank the blogosphere for that opportunity and I hope to contribute back in some small way. It is so exciting to be involved in learning during this time of incredible change and shift and I am doing everything that I can to keep up.

Something dawned on me over the Thanksgiving feast with my family and I have been thinking about it for the last few days. The power of connectivity that Web 2.0 provides is contained somewhat to those in education. This is just my opinion so correct me if I'm wrong, but aside from knowing the terminology (blog, twitter, wiki, etc...) not many people in my family understand the potential nor do they get as excited about the possibilities. I have many different occupations represented in my family and I found myself trying to justify the uses of these tools. It made me wonder if my massage therapist brother understands the impact that connecting with potential clients using WEB 2.0 tools would have on his business.

I guess I am wondering if these epiphanies that I have had over the last 2 years could be shared with a different demographic. For instance, having a parent workshop at school to introduce social networking, social bookmarks and blogging. It might give them an advantage when helping their kids with schoolwork.

My mom has gotten on twitter lately, but for her it's just a way of keeping in touch with me, she enjoys reading the family blog that I keep and viewing the pictures I put on Flickr, but it is a big step for her to branch out and use those tools in other ways like sharing her own pictures with her friends.

I do know that there are many, many blogs out there on any topic you can think of, but I still wonder if most people still use them as static, informational sites. For me, and other like- minded people I speak to, its the communication and the connectivity that is important.

Just thinking out loud.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thinking shift...yet again

There was a great post on "dare to dream" today that struck an interesting cord with me. When we think about learning in schools today the same things come out in the conversation. We hear about managing data and research and making it work for the student easily. We hear about making connections to prior experiences and we hear about collaboration to solve problems. We hear about being active readers and life-long learners and we hear about understanding the concept and applying past experiences to the new learning.

We hear about all of these things and when we throw the Web 2.0 angle into what learning is all about, we have ways to extend that learning and those collaboration experiences to anywhere the student happens to be.

Barbara's post, for me, spoke to the need to let students think and work through things for themselves. Most of the time we as teachers find these tools for the students to try and set up the parameters with which they need to use them. If we are really teaching self-sufficiency and trying to give students the tools they need to success in a world that is really just evolving, do we need to present them with a task and have them come up with the best tools to use? Are we being counterproductive when we give them the tools ahead of time?

Is it like spoon feeding the students? The tools are out there, and most of them are free, so maybe the focus should be on teaching the skills necessary to find the appropriate tool.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Educating Andrew

I have been such a slacker when it comes to blogging. Thee are so many other things that have gotten in the way. These things, (see previous post), have been a little more important. This post is related to those other things, though.

My son asked me the other day to help him do his homework. He is four so he doesn't have any homework, but his idea of homework are these worksheets he does at his daycare that come from this big book of activities. The gist of most of these is matching or rhyming or helping the bunny find his way through the forest to his family. Homework, for him is pure pleasure.

As we sat I started thinking about the skills he was practicing. Matching-Analytical, Rhyming-Auditory Processing, Mazes-Problem Solving (what do you do if you run into a tree?)

So what is education going to look like in the future for Andrew? Will he still be given the freedom to do all of these things and still be taught or [figure out for himself] ways to manage and use massive amounts of data?

I hope so because there is something that happens in school that causes kids to stop seeing homework and schoolwork as pleasurable.

This talk by Sir Ken Robinson speaks to just this point.

All the technology in the world is not going to make kids like their homework again- that job is in the hands of educators. You, me and everyone who is fortunate enough to be in education these days.

What it's all about!!!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

It's all about discipline!

As you can see by my previous post, it has been quite some time since I have last written. That's not to say that I haven't been reading, however. In fact, my google reader is constantly overflowing and, some days, it is all that I can do to keep it current. Hence the title of this post. For me, keeping current with educational issues and technology (these to things always go hand in hand) is extremely difficult. Given the current state of education and the paradigm shift it is constantly seeing, staying current is almost as bad as falling behind. What I mean by this is that in order to function these days you need to be a couple steps ahead of the game and be able to see things coming before they pass you by.

Take, for instance, wikispaces. It is a wonderful tool for anyone who wants to connect with people in their immediate workplace of across the globe. My school has just started using wikispace over the past two years and I fear that by the time most people feel comfortable enough to implement this tool into their teaching, something new will come along and the frustration levels will soar even higher. This continues to happen and people continue to get disenchanted with these tools and refuse to buy into them.

SO how can teachers move ahead without getting completely frustrated with everything that is available and able to sort through the good, the bad and the ugly?

For me it starts with discipline. This is ironic because, as an assistant principal, discipline takes up a big part of my day. I have decided to look at things from a different prospective. It's kind of like curriculum development in that I look at the big picture. I look at things conceptually. The idea behind something like wikispaces is that people should be able to contribute the the space and include their own resources instead of a static "web page" that is there strictly for the taking. Wikispaces give people the freedom to create content as well as take content, in a sense it gives people the freedom and the opportunity to have dialogue. This then is the concept I take in. To me it doesn't matter what you use to create that dialogue, as long as it is started and encouraged.

The discipline that I try to have is that I don't let myself get overwhelmed with the magnitude of "cool" things available but rather the magnitude of possibilities these "cool" things will allow. When you think about it all WEB 2.0 tools have one thing in common and that is that they are about sharing information. It is not practical to wait for the structure of our schools to change (although it is certainly going to happen in not to distant future) so we need to find ways to work around the limitations of the 40 minute class and give students (and teachers) tools that they can use to continue the discussions beyond the walls of the classroom.

As school is about to start next week here in NJ, I am hoping to get back on some sort of schedule that allows me to balance my life (professional and personal) and really concentrate on moving forward.

Here's looking forward to the next "cool" thing.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More questions than answers

Do kids today have too much available to them? What is the parent's role in making sure that their kids are not abusing themselves or others using today's technology without really thinking about what they are doing to themselves or what they are doing to others? What is the school's role in making sure that the technology is used only for good and not for evil? What is evil? What is good?

The dilemma I have is that all of this is uncharted territory. As school employees, though, we are expected to know the proper lessons to teach and the proper course of action to take when kids make mistakes. No longer is the mistake cheating off of someone's homework or test, however. Now it's how many millions of people saw the video footage of some poor kid's teeth getting knocked out on YouTube. The mistakes made these days last forever. My fear is that all common sense has left when our students log on. Even when the student is spoken to about the common sense aspect of using social networking sites I sometimes get the feeling that they don't understand the ramifications. Does it take the experience of a embarrassing picture being sent all over school to make kids see? Where are we lacking when a student does not know enough by middle school to help the kid getting beaten up instead of worrying about videotaping it for YouTube?

As these issues become more and more prevalent in our school systems there will be more case law to refer to. It is and has to be a very sensitive issue when words like bullying are thrown around. If bullying that isn't physical was hard to detect before, it is a million times harder to detect and prevent today. So in an effort to be proactive and begin to examine some definite steps to take on an everyday basis I am asking for some guidance and some thoughts.

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