I've Officially Lost Control...

I've officially lost control of my Computer Science elective class (i.e. learning to program using ALICE). I've never taken a CS or a programming class before in my life, so I thought I could just stay one step ahead of the class by reading through an ALICE textbook and everything would be OK. I could fake it :-)

Well, after much reasoned conclusion (and lack of time..our dishwasher is on the fritz and I've been tasked with the time consuming duty of hand-washing), there is no way I can keep up the charade any longer. So today I bit the bullet and officially announced that the class is smarter than Mr. Jacklin and from here on out, we'd be learning together!

OH, the look on their faces! I got several looks of disbelief. Several, "OMGoodness, did he just say that out loud?" looks. Finally there were those kids who have been past me for quite some time now making video games, interchanging object parts, and generally "owning" ALICE. They looked at me with a gentle smirk, saying with their eyes: "It's about time! Tell us something we didn't already know!" I couldn't snow these kids even if I tried. It was if I was at an AA meeting and just announced, "Hello, I'm Mr. Jacklin and I don't have anything else to teach you about ALICE."

So, to make a long story short, we'll be learning together. I will learn from them as much as they will learn from me. To be honest....it's very liberating and...I'm OK with it. Not being the expert is a position that is quite uncomfortable for me, but it's a posture that we will all take on sooner or later as teachers.

I've come to understand that my role as a teacher is not one of "expert," but one of mentor, facilitator, and leader. These kids aren't "empty vessels" anymore (if they ever were). They have a depth of knowledge in some areas that surpasses mine.

The one area in which I have an advantage over them is that they don't know what to DO with the stuff they know. That's were I come in! As teacher, I can help them order and interpret their world; help them put together the pieces of a chaotic information, knowledge landscape.

Now that...I feel comfortable doing!

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Time to get Going!

It's been a while since I've last posted! Time to practice what I preach!

The only problem is that there's so much going on inside my head that I don' t know what to write about first! So, we'll just start...

Had the great privilege of taking our entire faculty to METC this year. With a tight budget, the LEA Convocation was a little too expensive for us (not conference itself, but the travel, lodging and all that stuff). So the next best thing? Take them all to a technology conference. METC was a wonderul compliment to our technology focus this year...and it was "easy on the eyes," in terms or our budget!

The great thing for me was that our staff finally got a chance to see first hand what kind of "crazy-foolishness" I've been filling my mind with, and trying to sell them, these past four years! I kept telling them, "Just keep drinking the Kool-Aid."

No really, it was a great experience. I have a hunch, that many of our staff were really forced to consider their own teaching practice for the first time in a while. We also tried to impress upon them that a lot of educational reform is coming out of the ed tech community. Technology tools enable teachers to easily create a classroom environment where learning is diffferentiated, collaborative, connected--nationally and internationally, and interactive. The ed tech community is forcing teachers to return to student focused teaching. My gut-feeling is (only because I know from experience) that many Lutheran school teachers rely way too heavily on textbooks to define curriculum. Technology tools are helping redefine what curriculum is and also redefining what it means to be an effective teacher. Curriculum isn't as much about content knowledge as it is literacy skills (a topic for a different post).

Teachers are comfortable with knowing that they are the only person in the room with all the knowledge, and it's their job to "impart" that to students (What Dave Warlick aptly labels as the "gravity method." Knowledge flows from the top down). Image taken from Dave Warlick's presentation slides (slide23) on the "Flat Classroom" Wiki

Many teachers aren't comfortable not being the expert in the classroom.
Will Richardson blogged about some students who wanted to help repair the wing of a monach butterfly they had found only to be told by their teacher that it COULDN'T be done. Not missing a beat the kids said that it could indeed be done and pointed the teacher to a YouTube video showing him how!

Will does not go on to tell the reaction of the teacher AFTER watching the video, but you can imagine the excuses given about why he wasn't the expert on that one. What makes you as a teacher the expert in the classroom? Is it content? Why are you valued as a teacher? Are you valued because of the amount of content knowledge you have? Are you valued for your ability to lead, manage, mentor, and facilitate? Are you valued for your inventiveness? Creativity? Willingness to take risks?

Check out this digital story from Marco Torres' Cine De La Gente site about what one NY school looks for in great teachers. What suprises you the most about what adjectives are used to describe great teachers? Do those words fit the bill of your staff?

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Things you SHOULD let your kids do!

I'll let this TED video speak for itself! I'm planning on showing this to our 8th graders to generate discussion. The logical extention of this video would be things like where kids should go on the Internet. Outside of bandwidth concerns, should you let you students go to YouTube? Should we encourage kids to be part of a social network? These are just thoughts.

I won't forget about teaching kids self limiting skills. Kids don't have the capacity to say no yet, so teachers and parents don't ever go away, but their role becomes more hands-on.

What do you think?

METC 2008--Tuesday

Another conference...another day of great conversation. Had a wonderful dinner with some colleagues, making the conference extend beyond the walls of the convention center. If you'd like to follow the blogs from METC check out Dave Warlick's Hitchhikr site.

For me the big idea has been about networks. Not necessarily social networks, but people connecting with people. The unofficial theme is "how many Web 2.0 tools can you fit into one sectional."

During Warlick's sectional helped me reach the conclusion that what Web 2.0 tools do is connect people. The biggest issue I hear from people about sites like Wikipedia is, "Can you trust the people who edit that encyclopedia?" Interesting, that the arguments start out with objections to the content, but eventually are left with wanting to know more about the author.

When it comes to the information landscape, we are so used to not having to question the veracity of content that it didn't matter who the author was. Did you ever wonder who the author of the Encyclopedia Brittanica was?? But with everyone and their "cousins uncle" producing content these days, discernment is the key to successful research and online living. Reinforcing the idea that Web 2.0 is simply and plainly about people and their connections to each other. We can pretend it's about information, but we are brought back to the "social" nature of the web.

This was kind of a revelation to me today after listening and reading a couple of resources earlier in the week:

Each of these sources within themselves are individual topics for a blog. They've begun to inform my view of how our world is being put together online.

by ~Aphrodite (Creative Commons License: Attribution, No Derivatives, Non-Commercial) http://www.flickr.com/photos/57054262@N00/66231929

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