21st century learning blues

This post is pure whine and moan.

I want Ipads for my classes!  I recently treated myself to an Ipad 2 and am overwhelmed by the number of uses it has in the classroom.  It is pure frustration to have spent hours researching ways to use it in my classroom and then to know it will never happen.

Are text messages any different than passing notes were years ago?  I try to convince myself that this is true, but something is keeping me from truly believing it.  At least if you caught a student passing a note, you could confiscate it and read it later-of course I would never  do that!



Knew 2 mi-Edudemic.com

In most of the U.S., today is an extraordinarily hot day.  Living in New England, we only air condition the bedroom and that is usually adequate.  But the last few days have been very hot and humid with today being the worst.  So I have spent most of the day in my bedroom, on my laptop reading education blogs.  There are so many!  I have my favorites that I view daily. But  I found an exciting page called  edudemic.com.  It is more than a blog, it gathers the latest news stories about education and technology.  There are how to guides, top ten lists and reviews of the best WEB 2.0 resources.  Articles range from how collective bargaining impacts student achievement, ways that students can use social networks to increase their academic performance and what a teacher needs to know about Facebook.  Check it out at edudemic.com.  

More Than A Feeling

Arne Duncan our federal Secretary of Education has disappointed with the lack of implementation of the ideology he contends to support.  Despite this, I really connected with the following quote:“The center of a classroom is not a test, a textbook, or the posters on the wall. It’s not a state or district policy, and it most certainly is not a federal law.  The heart of the classroom is found in the unique relationships between students and teachers. In the same way that a family turns a house into a home, a physical and emotional transformation takes place when teachers and students work together in community to reach common goals. We see it in the trust, the expectations, the experiences and the knowledge of every person in the class.”  Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education,  in a letter for the July, 2011 Virtual ConferenceThose of us who have been successful as teachers know the above to be true.  While it is nice that it is officially acknowledged verbally, until the perspective is used to formulate policy, there is little value to the statement.  Teachers’ relationships with students mean everything.  It affects student attitude, student motivation and student engagement.  How often have I been offered guidelines or insight as to how to use this fact to facilitate good instruction?   NEVER!  So it comes down to you have it or you don’t.  Mastery of the innuendos of  productive student/teacher relationships are not fostered.  Academia spends much time and money exploring what traits a “good” teacher has.  These skills are teachable but ignored.  Priority is given to restraint training and how to deal with safe handling of blood.  Metaphorically, many of our students are bleeding,  We have a chance to reach them.  Ensure that all teachers are trained in the how and why teacher/student relationships are the keystone to student success.

The New “3 R’s”

How has the internet affected teaching and learning?  For years, teachers were purveyors of fact.  This is no longer necessary.  “This mass of gigantic information readily available on the internet has clearly resulted in the fact that education in no longer about teaching facts and data but about content-based learning and the skills to use that content.” states Manjula Pooja Shroff in her article “Educating the Facebook Generation”   As educators we need to let go of teaching content and focus on teaching our students to make the best use of the information readily available to them.

What does this mean?-A new version of the three R’s-




These are the new parameters that will direct a student’s learning.  One of the major challenges that today’s students face is sorting through an overabundance of information that is available at the touch of a button.  Is this piece of information relevant to my learning challenge?  Is the source of this information reliable?  How does this information reflect the the goal of the learning challenge I am working on?

Dance with the Devil

Yesterday I got an email with an incredible offer. Would I like 10 desktops hardwired into my classroom? Well yeah!

The offer came from our technology liason teacher. I have worked with her for many years through the good and bad. Last Fall, technology at my school was in tough shape. So bad in fact that the science department had a protest “march” for the district technology director. (we stood in front of the principals office with cardboard signs) We probably didn’t do more than aggravate this administrator who held our technological fate in his hands. It made us feel better. Our Principal and VP had gone to bat for us many times with frustratingly few results.

Our Internet went down daily at random times. We were waiting for power cords requested in June until January. Battery life on our precious 5 year old laptops were deemed to be to “industry standard”. The batteries lasted about an hour and took several hours to fully charge. Problem was I had three 85 minute classes in a row, so without power cords the laptops were rendered unusable. I offered to use my own money to buy some inexpensive generic power cords, but was informed we could only use the brand name cords, which cost about $50 more apeice.

Many sites were randomly blocked. Searching one day for “tooth diagram” my request was blocked due to questionable content. Many of my online lessons depended on flash to run. The IT guys couldn’t get the program to stay on the computer. This took many weeks and several images to correct. We also did not have software to play DVDs on the laptops. Only IT staff could put software on the Laptops, as they were in “deep freeze” and erased all nonofficial programs every night.

So with 10 poorly functioning laptops and 30 students in a class, I was encouraged to embrace “21st” Century Learning Skills”. Keep in mind that this is not a poor inner city school, but the only high school in a suburb considered by many to be “the” place to live.  SO having been in the 21st Century groove since about say ….. 2000,  many of my lessons are technology dependent.  So back to the devil–I know there will be days that I regret saying yes-but wish me luck because if I can make it work it will be awesome!!!!

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” – Thomas Carruthers

Sometimes I feel like I don’t work hard enough during class-toward the end of the semester I wonder if I am getting lazy.  Students don’t seem to need me as much.  Same thing happens at the end of a unit.  I hope this is why.

I tell my students half  jokingly that I do not teach, I provide learning opportunities.  I found this quote on a page loaded with quotes about the nature of teaching and learning.  You can find it at Quotes to Inspire Teachers and Learners of English.  Find your favorite.

Just Sayin’ Persistence

Having read Larry Ferlazzo‘s blog today, this quote caught my eye (and mind).

This comes from Dr Kathie Nunley’s Educator’s Newsletter: “…task persistence in young adolescents is extremely predictive of their income and occupational levels as adults.  In males, it’s actually more predictive than even intelligence. Researchers measured task persistence in 13 year olds and found that high task persistence predicted higher grades throughout high school and higher educational attainment in adulthood.

Andersson, H. & Bergman, L. (2010).

Don’t you love when someone spends years and mucho bucks to “discover” what we

already know as teachers?  The role of persistence in education cannot be underrated.

How is persistence factored into  grades?  Should persistence be considered as

important as intelligence in the classroom?  Can a student’s ability to be persistent be

honed and improved?  What role or responsibility do teachers have in this task?

I feel that persistence has long been underated in the classroom.  It is one variable

that students can change.  It is also the variable that can lead to improvement of other

academic skills.  I feel that teaching the value of persistence falls within the teacher’s

domain.  Designing grading systems and curricula that honor and value persistence

is a good first step.