Tuesday, November 1, 2011

3rd Graders Rock!

Yesterday, I got the greatest letter about Erin Hunter's Warriors series--typed in business letter format--from one of my 3rd graders! He wrote:

To: Ms C
From: JR
Re: Original Warriors Story

Dear Mrs. C:

I like Warriors. I thought I would write you this becausee you are a great person and to thank you for getting the Warriors books to be enjoyed by Erin Hunter fans of all ages.
Thank you,

He then went on to summarize the Warriors book he just read and enjoyed--and he IS a fan! What a genuine, heartfelt, typically 3rd grade thing to do! I do love my students! 3rd graders rock!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Just What Are Our Brains Capable of?

Look at the amazing infographic below! Makes me wonder not necessarily what my brain is capable of, but rather what the brains of our students, sitting before us learning to take multiple choice tests, are really capable of. Aren't we running the risk of dumbing them down, anesthetizing them, to the point that we lose--or distort-- all that brilliance?

As a new school year begins to rev up, I hope to remember--each and every day--how amazing each of our kids is. Lofty goal, but worthy.

Superhuman: the Incredible Savant Brain.

Infographic by Smarter.org

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chris Lehman's Keynote: ISTE 2011

I am almost never able to listen to a presentation by Chris Lehmann without crying. He is such a powerful speaker and leader, and every time I get to see him--so far only virtually, but one day I'll make it to a conference--his message touches me. There's an overpowering sense of optimism in his work, and he always makes me think, plus, I come away feeling encouraged and energized.

Below is Lehmann's Closing Keynote at ISTE was posted yesterday, and I just spent an hour enjoying it, taking it in. He is preceded by his school's Slam Poets (at about 31 min) , and, as he said in his blog post yesterday, they were breath-taking too. They--the kids--are really what this is all about, aren't they? We lose sight of that in most of our schools, in the thick of things. The kids are the reason that I wanted to do this with my life.

Opportunities to hear keynotes like this one, and to take part in discussions on twitter and in web chats, etc. are truly brain-changing! That's why I value my online network so much--I learn from, and sometimes with, so many people who are so much smarter than I am! :)

My notes--nothing particularly deep--just some points that resonated with me:
  • The greatest lie of education: You need to learn this because you will need it some day. Why aren't we helping kids to think and act relevantly in the world!
  • Must develop kids' hearts, minds, tools and VOICE.
  • From a student: I don't need a network. I need a family. I need brothers and fathers and mentors. (how true)
  • A theme that permeates so much of Lehmann's work: Our goal is not, as so many would have you believe, to create the 21st Century workforce. That is far too low a bar. All of our goals should be to help our students become the 21st Century, and beyond, citizens that we so desperately need.
  • Lehmann wants his kids to come through it all being thoughtful, wise, passionate & kind. A much more worthy goal than most mission statements I've seen.
  • Great quote of the day: If the best we can imagine these tools to be is the next greatest flash card, better way to test our children, we will have failed.
Thanks Chris. Amazing as usual.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Doug Johnson @ TEDxASB

How did I miss these TEDx Talks? Guess I had my head down "in the trenches" when they were posted, but I truthfully don't even remember reading about them!

In March of last year, several of my favorite thinkers spoke at the American School of Bombay, and the resulting videos are posted at the bottom of this page as reference. The theme of TEDxASB was Identity, and (one of my professional heroes) Doug Johnson's 18 minutes are embedded below--he muses about how our "digital natives'" identity must change what we do as educators.

The part that resonates with me is near the end of Doug's presentation, when he recounts Clay Shirky's story about bringing home a huge new LCD TV for his family. His young daughter, rather than being impressed, immediately asked, "Where's the mouse?"

Engagement rather than entertainment is what our students demand from schools. Johnson's challenge to us is that we all create a environments in our classrooms, libraries, schools that foster engagement--active interest. Our kids deserve that.

I wonder if my library program is engaging to all my students. I don't really think it is. I know for certain that it isn't for some students--especially those who are so thoroughly unengaged in the entire school experience.

What does that look like in an elementary library with a fixed schedule? I'd love to hear from others what they think!

Here are the other great TEDxASB presentations. They are all very much worth your time and thought! These are some amazing people! Engaging and entertaining! :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cell Phone Usage

Today, the indomitable Angela Maiers posted the following infographic and asked what was most surprising to us. While not exactly surprising to me, I find the stats to be amazing evidence of the fundamental changes that are occurring in society and with the behavior of young people--and people in general. Changes that most schools are not only failing to properly acknowledge, but are in fact denying entirely. Take a look:

Cell Phone Usage
Via: Online IT Degree

If average teens are texting over 3300 messages per month, and are capable of texting blindfolded, probably in their own pockets, then it stands to reason that a considerable percentage of that texting takes place at school--whether we adults like it or not. Whether we're ready for it or not!

In my experience, with a few notable exceptions (none of them local to me), schools are a) spending a great deal of time and brainpower trying to figure out how to justify and fund the purchase of technology for student use, and b) spending a huge amount of time and effort trying to figure out how to keep kids from using the computers they're already carrying around in their pockets! The districts in my area confiscate cell phones and then charge parents $15 to pick them up. However, a colleague and friend of mine at a local high school told me that most teachers in her building just try to ignore when students have their phones out because the "problem" is so widespread that there is no way to stem it. She hates cell phones, and thinks we should ban them all and take them away from all her students. No discussion. But her own middle school student has one that is well-used and -loved! Is this not a huge disconnect between school and life?

My question is why are we fighting the wrong fight? If we stopped pretending that students are not going to have cell phones in their pockets and instead, concentrated on harnessing that incredible and ubiquitous power, would we not be serving our students better? Are we not doing them a disservice by failing to help them develop work-appropriate habits and skills for the modern world? Could we not use these devices to the advantage of the school "machine" rather than throwing resources at trying to eliminate them?

And don't even get me started on luddite faculty members who have no idea what an app even is...that's another post for another day...::big sigh::

I'd like to know what other people think--especially secondary school faculty. Are your schools doing anything to acknowledge that the world is changing in this way? Am I totally off-base? Is my friend right? Is it just too big a nightmare to deal with cell phones in a huge modern high school?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

President Obama State of the Union 2011

  Wordle: President Obama State of Union 2011
Above is a Wordle representing President Obama's State of the Union 2011. As I look at this, I can't help admiring the prominence of words like new, America and future. A fresh vision of the future is what drove me to vote for President Obama 2 years ago.

I am saddened and disappointed that words like schools, students and children are all but invisible in the overall vision, however. Our children need decisive leadership that encourages talented and caring educators to spend their lives enriching and changing young lives. How will that happen? I wonder if it can in the current system, current atmosphere.