Well - maybe jog!

While I am all for using Web 2.0 tools in our classroom and engaging students in a manner that makes sense (i.e. is relevant to them), I am a bit concerned by Ray Kurzweil's latest predictions for the future:
Actually, we'll hit a point where human intelligence simply can't keep up with, or even follow, the progress that computers will make, according to Kurzweil. He expects that non-biological intelligence will have access to its own design plans and be able to improve itself rapidly. Computer, or non-biological, intelligence created in the year 2045 will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.

While I'd like to live forever (maybe) and never have to worry about a cold - two other predictions in the article - I'm not sure I am crazy about having my computer be smarter than me. There's just something about losing my personality, my creative juices, my ability to tweak something that leaves me a bit cold. Even though I might be predictable to some, I'd like to think that I am not that predictable that a computer could replicate what I do (only do it better!)

Hmmm...need to ponder more of this one!

Run, Don't Walk to Web 2.0

I had the honor of spending Pie Day at G-Town working with Physical Education teachers on the tools of the Web 2.0. It was one of their superintendent conference days and although I normally take that day as vacation, my tremendous respect for Kim Mortiz and her leadership got me to say “yes!”

What a great day we had!! While I had the day mapped out – as usually, technology and enthusiasm for learning took over. Once the teachers discovered YouTube and the physical education opportunities there, they were hooked!! I saw more wrestling moves, basketball drills and football plays to last me a lifetime!! I had never really thought of YouTube in that manner before (I personally use it more for fun) but this group really opened my eyes! Check out how Amy integrated video into a blog she created for an upcoming fundraiser.

Many of the teachers were excited by the prospect of videotaping their own kids doing drills or parts of games/practices to put online and reference for the kids (think of saving papers from previous students to show them your expectations.) We had a healthy conversation about parental permission forms, what to tape and not tape, and how the world is changing when we need to do these types of things to keep our kids safe.

We ran into some technical glitches along the way with blogs and wikis, but I think the group has a firm idea of where they would like to go. (And thanks Fritz for fielding our phone calls!) We worked out way through Technorati and Bloglines trying to find PE sites that would inspire them and I threw out the challenge that G-Town should become the first and best PE blog out there!! (I had already done some searching and didn’t find much out there beyond information pages.) There was a great deal of commitment to the profession in that room and I was duly impressed!!

It will be interesting to watch the development of their wiki over time so see what they are able to put into practice. We didn’t have much time to work on wikis at the end of the day and I suggested they think about what they might like to include, get it into some sort of electronic format and we might be able to meet again to put the pieces together. Each teacher will have their own page and we discussed posting current health articles for kids to read along with the written response guidelines, posting coaching and other permission forms, and other information for parents. Some teachers discussed creating a wiki with proper weight lifting techniques and sample exercises (No Rob, I will not be trying that ab move you demonstrated for us!!)

These teachers inspired me in my fight to show that blogs and wikis are more than educational phenomena – I can’t tell you how many times they referenced the fact that their students or children had referenced many of the sites we visited and now they knew what they were talking about. They might be “digital immigrants” (as noted by Coach Footy when he lamented not having typing in high school) but they were brave enough to start the journey…..are the rest of you?

What's Your Mindset?

At a recent inservice date in my district, a comment was made by a teacher that students haven't changed in the 37 years he has been teaching. Hear! Hear! Shouted a voice from the back of the room - they are lazy and unmotivated!!

The other 20 participants turned to look at me for a response - and I was torn. First, I wanted the other teachers in the room to jump in and debate that point. Second, I was trying to figure out the point that the teacher was trying to make with that comment. Third, I was stunned that someone who felt that way was still in education after 37 years.

So I've been thinking hard about who is called to the teaching profession and who just shows up expecting a hefty paycheck and summers off. What does that have to do with my current ponderings on blogs?

My Director recently shared the Motivation Matters blog with me and I am hooked! This one in particular caught my eye:

Dweck, who served as a featured guest in August for an Education Week chat, "Student Motivation: What Works, What Doesn't," writes about how children or adults who operate under the fixed mindset see success as confirmation of their innate intelligence or creativity and failure as proof that they are not smart or creative, according to the review. Those who are growth oriented, on the other hand, see success as confirmation of their progress or improvement and failure as a learning experience.

The conflict between these two mindsets gets at the very heart of what motivates people...I think most of us prefer to operate under the growth mindset, but are often held back by the fixed one.

The teachers that supported the "students haven't changed" opinion are fixed - those who are willing to challenge themselves, take risks, and learn from the inevitable mistakes will grow. Those are the ones who will take Web 2.0 tools and run with them - will see that they need to change as our students have changed. Those are the folks who when they are asked to reflect on their practice and are pushed to think about how they do things, can articulate changes they would like to make. They accept that life in not about constant kudos and pats on the back, but about putting yourself out there as a learner. These folks can articulate why they were called to the profession - and these are the ones I want teaching kids!

Second Wave

From my last post, you can see I am a bit fired up but I take some solace in knowing that I am not alone!! I agree with Kim over on G-Town Talks that I spend a great deal of my time reading what others have to say on their blogs - much more time than I spend on writing my blogs. For me - other blogs act almost like mentor texts in writing - giving me something to chew on and sometimes, to model in my own writing. I think that is one reason that I love the new "playlist" feature of Bloglines! Now I can focus my reading according to my playlists when I have a quick moment...

I've found a new blog to chew on recently - and I apologize that I can't remember who gave me the lead. Full Circle Online Interaction Blog, "a place to capture and share ideas and links about online interaction, community, distance learning and distributed COPS (Communities of Practice), is a blog by Nancy White who seems to be thinking about the same things I am right now. Her post on Second Wave Adoption has prompted some interesting comments. One in particular has helped me to understand why some educators might be reluctant to adopt blogging as a part of their practice. Michele Martin wrote:

Many organizations still exist within a command and control, closed communication loop. Their institutional practices and relationships to stakeholders are built on this model. But Web 2.0 breaks that wide open, expecting a focus on process, on transparency, collaboration and openness that is simply not a part of the daily culture of many, many organizations.

Well - doesn't that describe traditional education in a nutshell? Don't we always talk about wanting to break down the classroom doors, having teachers become more reflective practioners, utilizing the wisdom of practice that resides within their schoolhouse? Why not use the Web 2.0 tools to start building that professional community? As Kim posted in G-Town:

It’s professional reading, reflecting, and responding. It’s thinking about my audience and what I want to say that potentially can influence thinking or serve a purpose to another educator, student, or parent. It’s about learning. My time spent “blogging”, and by “blogging” I mean reading on-line sources including blogs, writing, and reading comments left on my posts, is all about my own learning. It’s free, it’s accessible 24/7, and it’s what I choose.

Here is the Rogers Innovation Adoption curve that many utilize to determine how they will enact change in their organization:

Isn't it funny that this time our students are the early adopters?

Blogs: Phenomena or ???

A person I respect and admire has challenged my thinking about blogs recently. That challenge sat at the back of my mind for a week now and it took an in-service in my district to pop it out to this blog.

I led a group of teachers through the first day of a literacy strand on Thursday. The goal was to create literacy competencies in various subject areas so that we could take a step back from what our students are reading/writing to see the individual components that make up reading/writing and then address those areas that needed support with strategies (that comes with Days 2 and 3). The conversation veered substantially just before lunch………to student motivation.

The conversation bothered me on many levels – but the one that is most relevant here and to the challenge to blogging, is the sense of some educators that students haven’t changed. School isn’t meaningful or engaging to them and that, I think this is what I heard, they are just plain lazy if it doesn’t interest them.

Watch this and tell me students haven’t changed since you were one of them:
(Thank you 21st Century Collaborative!)

Now watch this:

(Thank you Fischbowl!)

I have come to believe that educators (and in fact our entire concept of education) is where the change must happen. Our kids are bombarded by information from lots of sources – we need to teach them to be discriminating consumers of that information. The world has given us MySpace and Instant Messaging – we need to teach students what is appropriate information to put out to the public and the appropriate words to use.

I’m not advocating that students write their essays in IM language – the real world still demands complete sentences (and words!) but we do have a responsibility to recognize that our kids are living in a different world and IM language is a literacy competency they need to have to have power in that world. You don’t need to embrace it – but you do need to acknowledge it.

And so – I think – it is with blogs. Blogs are more than online journals. They can be used in powerful ways by teachers and can engage students in the content we value using a medium they value. So why aren’t more teachers using them? Why aren’t they a part of each and every classroom across this globe?

Lots of reasons, or at least I am told. Here are some I have heard:
1. They are not safe – don’t you watch Dateline?
2. My school blocks all social networking sites.
3. Real life requires pen and pencil, not just a computer. Sure they can type – but they can’t type their state assessment.
4. I don’t have the time to have kids blog when I have content to cover.
5. I don’t have time to learn how to blog so I can teach my students.
6. I don’t blog because I don’t have anything to say – why should I have my kids blog? (Followed by – It’s just an on-line journal!)
7. Blogging doesn’t create real relationships – I want my students to discuss things in class.
8. Blogs are another fad in education– don’t you remember whole language and the damage THAT did?

I have learned so much since being introduced to the Web 2.0 tools this summer. And I have learned it from other educators who have put their experiences out there. As a result, I am bound and determined to make sure blogs aren’t a fad – and I’ve tried with the community of educators that I thought could push the envelope with this blog. So far – it is Blogging 0, Tradition 1. But I’ll continue this investigation and report back here.

In the meantime, I’d love to know…..what’s your excuse?