August Think-About: Why Did You Become a Teacher?

Fire and WaterI became a teacher because I love sharing what I learn with other people. And I LOVE TO LEARN!!

As early as 1st and 2nd grade, my classroom teachers used me as a peer tutor. While I’m guessing their intentions were mostly to benefit the students I tutored, they might not have had any idea how much they empowered me! I learned more from helping others learn… and a fire was ignited inside me for life! [Image Credit- peasap1]

I left the classroom 10 years ago to teach adults. As a classroom teacher (secondary vocal music), I could maybe influence a few hundred kids a year. As someone in professional development now, I hope that I can influence that many teachers or more… who will then go on to influence their many students. I miss being in the classroom, but I know that what I do is very important.

What made you decide teaching was what you wanted to do? Do you have that fire in you? Are your students reflecting that fire?

Several edubloggers have posted this video (I saw it at Free Tech For Teachers), but I thought it was worth sharing, too. From Apple Teacher Institute:

1peasap. “Fire and Water.” peasap’s Photostream. 25 Oct 2007. 15 Aug 2008.

If You Can’t Imagine It, You Can’t Make It Happen

I sat through a meeting the other day, listening to educators discuss the merits of not accepting zeros on missing or late assignments vs. “it’s too much work to follow up with kids, so I’m giving zeros anyway. Plus, I have to teach them to be accountable.”

Regardless of how you feel about this “hot topic” or any of Ken O’Connor’s work, I think it’s important to look more carefully at WHY kids aren’t doing their work in or out of the classroom. Personally, I feel a lot of kids aren’t just behavior problems. I think they’re bored. Bored out of their ever-living minds.

When they walk in the door of their school, they are required to “unplug.” How many classrooms still look like the straight, orderly rows that existed 10, 20, 30 years ago? Even if the classrooms aren’t orderly, how many teachers are willing to give up their role as “knowledge provider” and become the guide that assists the students in their self-directed learning? As soon as those kids walk out the door of their school and go home, they plug back in. They become creators. They become developers. And they learn in spite of what happens at school.

I’m not saying that all schools are like this… or even every classroom. But I do think there’s a huge dilemma in American education where the almighty test score reigns, and teaching to the test has become the rule. Kids who know how to play the “game of school” will perform adequately, but imagine what they could do if given a chance to move outside that game. And those kids who don’t play that game very well could wake up to a whole new world of learning. That’s really exciting!

Will Richardson just posted “Waking Up With a ‘Cognitive Surplus.'” Read it. Then go read Clay Shirky‘s book and book blog. Everything my measly little brain has tried to express in the last two years is right there.

I really think that we, as educators, are smack dab in the most exciting and phenomenal of times. Think about the possibilities! Imagine where you might be able to lead kids… or even better… where they might be able to lead you! If you’re not excited about this, I’ll be blunt. Maybe it’s time to consider another career. Our kids can’t wait for you to catch up or buy into what they are doing. They need our guidance. They need boundaries. They need to know how to be safe. But that other stuff we think we need to teach them? They can find that in about 10 seconds. Help them analyze, evaluate, synthesize it. And then allow them to grow with it. Can you imagine it???

I hope so.

NETA 07- Day Two

Alan November was the keynote this morning, and he talked a lot about Web 2.0. I’m thrilled to see that he is sharing much of the work we do in our Net Detective/Net Savvy and Digital Literacy in-service sessions! I learned a few new tips from Alan to add to our sessions as well.

My favorite part about both sessions I attended with Alan November is that he almost begs educators to be more open-minded about Web 2.0. Of course Wikipedia shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all for resources, but we shouldn’t discount the information it stores just because some “expert” hasn’t blessed it. He notes the “power of the collective” is something our students understand, but our teachers have yet to grasp. Most importantly, November notes that we need to teach our students to be responsible users of technology… we can’t just block them from everything. I wholeheartedly agree, but I think he may have been preaching to the choir at NETA. The majority of attendees feel the same way, but aren’t able to make much progress back at their schools.

If you want to know more about Alan November, check out his site… he’s over in the Blogroll, too.


Another noteworthy session today was led by my good friend, Dan Schmit. Dan’s session was titled, “You Can Do That?!” Dan introduced a lot of fun, new technologies that are available via the web.  Rather than recap it all here, I’ll just point you to his pbwiki page, You Can Do That?!— where he’s listed and briefly described everything he discussed in his session.

I’m off to more sessions… probably won’t post anymore about NETA 2007. I will say, though, that this has been one of the more enjoyable NETA conferences!

NETA 07- Day One continued

Tony Vincent’s session, “I Didn’t Know You Could Do That With An IPod” was very well received. Tony always does such a great job of helping educators find new and interesting ways to use technology tools.

Much of his presentation is contained on his website, Specifically looking for the iPod ideas? Check out his iPods in Education page. Tony has some really great ideas for you!

One other tip Tony shared with the group is the Vixy beta site: If you want to convert a YouTube or other similar video to a file you can play on your computer or iPod, you can use this tool to do the work for you. By pasting the embedded video code into the site, you can choose to convert the Flash Video File (FLV– format of most uploaded videos) and change to mp4 for iPod, mov file for Mac, avi for Windows, and 3GP for mobiles.

Engaging 21st Century Learners

As noted in the previous post, I often work with educators who feel that the things that interest their students (blogging, gaming, IMing, social profiles, etc.) are not worthy of adults’ attention. These students are “wasting” time or “need to get a life.”

Marc Prensky is an educator who has the vision to see past the typical brush-off that most adults give kids today. He’s been added to the blogroll, but please check out these two articles Marc wrote:

“Engage Me or Enrage Me”Educause
“Today’s kids with computers in their homes sit there with scores of windows open, IMing all their friends. Today’s kids without computers typically have a video game console or a GameBoy. Life for today’s kids may be a lot of things—including stressful— but it’s certainly not unengaging.
Except in school.
And there it is so boring that the kids, used to this other life, just can’t stand it. “

“BackTalk/On Being Disrespected” – in ASCD’s Educational Leadership
“…how do we inject mutual respect—rather than mutual disrespect—into our classrooms? We must foster the important message that each of us, whether adult or kid, teacher or student, is every day a learner in some areas and a teacher in others.”