Saturday, April 22, 2006

Web 2.0: How do we move them out of MySpace?

I am becoming interested to understand more about how I will guide my students into the wealth of social networking and collaborative scholarship that Web 2.0 encourages. What is the role of education in this ever-changing digital blogosphere and more? On one hand there are the teachers who are not even aware of the ways of Web 2.0 and the wealth of work being published lately. They do recognize the Web as a resource and will ask their students to simply search the Web for material (See Alan November on information literacy). On the other hand, there are the kids who are out there interacting in social spaces like Xanga and MySpace. In the middle somewhere are teachers like me tip-toeing along a rugged path that lies between the two; we are exploring this new universe and posting our own blogs and adding to Wikis, posting to Delicious, Flikr and the like. Some of us are even trying out Writley and pondering the added value it brings to ordinary word processing. See my colleagues' blogs-- Connie You's blogs for English 10 and 11 at BSGE and Ken Stein's blogs on the trials and tribulations of teaching social studies and more at Satellite Academy.

One of my 6th period (that's code for a new NYCDOE mandate for 37.5 minutes of small-group instruction at the end of the day) students made a Spring Break homework calendar and stared at it for a long while before adding anyting. When she did it was shocking to me. She placed a colorful big block letter in each box, one for each day starting with Sunday and ending on Saturday. It spelled M-Y-S-P-A-C-E. Clearly my students are in the Web 2.0 world, but what they do there is of concern. How do we guide their passion for social networking to more scholarly persuits? Where do we beging? I begin with this blog and will see what I learn about myself, my pedagogy, and my ability to interact in this blogosphere.

When I asked this bright-eyed 12-year old if her if her mother knew she had a MySpace account she said that she did. I know many of my middle-school students have MySpace and Xanga accounts and with their parents' blessings have made settings to keep stranger out. "So, what will you do there in MySpace all week?" I asked. She said that she will prbably mostly look in on her friends, look for new ideas and fix up her own space. It's kind of like marking. It's clearly a way young people are finding their identity and making a place for themselves during this limbo period in their lives when they are neither babies nor adults. They are finding their way.

As teachers, aren't we supposed to be guides? Where shall I guide them? Is Schools Wikicities the way? Where do we start? Please comment.

Approaches to Learning: Managing School Work over the Spring Break

Is Spring Break a "break" from the norm? One father put his 12-year old son on a flight to Munich, another parent packed bags and took her daughter on a car-trip to North Carolina, and another family, after two nights of Passover dinners, caught a flight to Montreal. We teachers gave all of our students various assignments, some small, some large. What do the children (and their families) make of this time? How is it managed? What do we know? As educators, we are trying to keep the momentum of what we started in class going over a long period of time. Families have varying agendas, some cherish having the extended time with their children and plan trips, some have religious obligations and others carry on as they normally do by going to work and need to leave their children home. How do all these different agendas work out? How are we managing? Teachers? Students? Parents?

The day before spring break I met with a small group of 7th graders for our daily 37.5 minute tutoring session. My goal was for the students to develop a plan for managing their homework over the extended 11-day vacation and as a consequence to take ownership of their work and time.

When they entered, each routinely took out his/her agenda books (hate to tell you how long it took for that to become routine). We went over the assignments and each compared notes on what was expected from each teacher. I proceeded to draw a table on the board that represented the two-week period that the vacation spanned. On the table the students found colored markers, rulers, and 11" x 17" paper for making their own time-management planners. I instructed them to first plug in all the family obligations they knew about and then to map out when they would be working on their school assignment. I recommended using pencil because they might have to make modifications as the week progressed.

I observed as K.P. as he made a calendar in the center of his paper, quickly filled in family obligations and trips, then plugged in his various assignments. He finished the work so quickly I wasn’t sure how much thought he gave to his choices. When I asked him about how he would do a project when he was traveling, he explained that it would be no problem because he scheduled his Spanish project work for when he was with one of his relatives who is fluent in Spanish. Observing F.L., I was less then enthralled at first. She was making this task an arts 'n crafts project. While K.P. completed his calendar she was meticulously filling in the lettering for the title of her calendar and headings for her columns using alternately purple and lime green markers. Ultimately, she completed here calendar with consideration of all her assignments. The puzzler was T.K. She had made a table for her calendar and stared at it for a long while before adding a big block letter, one for each day startng with Sunday and ending on Saturday: M-Y-S-P-A-C-E. When I asked here about any family plans, she was uncertain about what was coming up. Clearly, she saw the upcoming break as time for hanging out in the ever popular Is this all my students know of Web 2.0 technologies?

What do I make of this? I wonder about my students and Web 2.0 technologies. I worry about what they are up to in myspace. I wonder about how Web 2.0 technologies will change my teaching, change my students, change my workload. I wonder how my colleagues are taking to the shift in the use of the Internet.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Technology What ?

Q: What is this course in technology?

A: At B.S.G.E. (The Baccalaureate School for Global Education) it's NOT a computer course; although it may include units in computer technology, it is more. Throughout the course of study we follow three brances: systems, materials, and information. The design cycle--investigate, design, plan, create, evaluate--are stages in the process we use when approaching projects. And, each of these stages of the design cycle frames the criteria by which the students' work is assessed. When planning, the areas of interaction--environment, health and social education, community & service, homo faber, and approaches to learning--function as lenses that help determine importance and focus our units.

At BSGE, IBMYP Technology is taught in the 7th through 10th grades. I teach 7th and 8th grades and Shantanu Saha teaches 9th and 10th grades.

I invite you to leave your questions and concerns or make additions via posting comments.