Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Second Life..."Copy Cats!"

I just wanted to take a minute to address the whole supposedly "Wow" factor behind Second Life. We had to create a Second Life avatar for my Paperless class and I totally understand the idea behind setting it up, for the same reason we have our other social networking stay in touch with all available resources out there. However, I think that this site took away some of the immediate enjoyment. One, I think it's a "SIMS" low-budget knock off, and when you first pick your avatar you cannot even customize it. Mine faintly resembles me, but that's only because he's bald, black, and has facial hair. I feel more impressed by my "Yahoo" avatar. And it makes my computer run slow...


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why do I teach?...Why do you teach?

Does that title sound aggressive enough? <Laughing> No, that was not to ruffle any feathers, but that question has been in my mind a lot lately and you know what, I don't stumble or hesitate with my answer.

My goal in life was to always 'help' people, whether it was through researching the latest biomedical therapies for Alzheimer's disease, kicking down doors to arrest the man responsible for beating his wife, or what I have found to be the root of a lot of the problems facing today's society; children (our students) not having consistent role models. Teacher's make a great impact on students and it can be either positive or negative, and they have a lot of time to make that impact. Teacher's spend approximately 7 to 8 hours with there students, I would say we spend the same, if not more awake time with our students than their parents spend with them. So I would say that it is a piece of our responsibility to help create productive, respectable adults out of these young men and women.

I think that it's time for our teachers to stop taking things so personal. And not necessarily with the kids, I have seen some of the best teacher's in a lot students lives leave schools because of a personal issue with another teacher or an administrator...SELFISH! Just as a reminder we are adults, and we are not here for other teachers or the administration, we are here for the students and the students only.

So, to answer the question: "Why do I teach?" Well, it's actually very simple...,but first let me say this, I am the product of a broken home, raised primarily by my father. I'm not from the city, I'm from a county suburb. However, I have spent a lot of time in the city growing up visiting with family and my college is in the middle of East Baltimore, where it gets pretty real as soon as you step off of the side walk. In addition to that I have seen a lot and done a lot all across the country, as well as having enriching careers that have taught me a lot usable physical and critical thinking skills. And that little tangent <laughing> IS actually why I teach and where I teach, because I know first hand what lies before our inner city youth; and because they may not have a male figure in there life to share those experiences so they can have a good idea of how to handle things (and have a conscious) to guide them through life and provide an education at the same time. Huh, and you know what? I will now and forever take that role.

So, why do you teach...?

Respectfully yours,


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Give them enough rope to choke themselves...or maybe not...

So, this year I have taken a new approach to teaching, and "my kids" know what that approach is (I never keep anything from my students)...I am giving them a lot more responsibility. I told them from day ONE of this school year, I'm not chasing them around for their work and you are going to be solely responsible for completing and turning in quality work. I even went against my own rules and told them that they have a pinch of my trust, so don't "JACK" it up.

I have a combination of (2) classes this year general 8th grade Science and Science Technology, also for my 8th grader's. So I immediately delegated out the responsibility of them having to email their first assignment to me because I know they all have a genuine interest in computers, and I got 100% participation (I was surprised). That was truly a good demonstration because once they had my email address they began emailing me about other assignments so that they can receive help at anytime about anything.

Now we are working in the classroom for several days in a row to make sure they can keep that ball rolling outside of the tech lab. It truly lightened my heart when I saw my students carry over their habits from the tech lab in to the "lecture/lab" class. It ran like clock work: they get a demonstration, they get a guided assignment where they can "shoot" me all sorts of questions, then they get their assignment and they are working, period. Something new that I am glad that I am seeing this year (I taught these students last year too) is that they are helping each other without me having to mandate it, and they are really learning from each other. It sometimes even evolves to an open discussion amongst themselves with me only acting as a facilitator.

I'll tell you what, I hope this lasts throughout the school year because if it does I can predict a lot of higher learning and critical thinking going on. We will see, they are either going to choke themselves out with all this responsibility, or they are going to use that rope to take that responsibility and pull themselves to the "next level" with it!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Shocking discovery of students take on Social Networking in the Classroom

So, it's Friday morning...maybe about ten minutes or so before the end of class. A few of my stellar students have finished with their assignment and as much as they try to hide them I still manage to see their cell phones out! As I walk over to them, they notice that I see their phone so they prepare to lose their phone for the rest of the day (I taught these students last year, so they already know that I take phones). To there surprise, I come over and say "Let me see your phone?" I told them that I don't want to take it, I just want to see it. I asked them if they could get on to the Internet, and they were like "Of course!" I told the young lady to get on to for me, as she was doing that I was explaining to what became a small group of students about what we were doing and trying to accomplish in my Paperless Class at Johns Hopkins University. I was explaining that we could use this tool for participating in class so that students that usually don't participate can put their ideas out there without the fear of "being wrong..." And the kids immediately chimed in on that. When I logged in to twitter from my students phone I was able to show them what I was talking about exactly, and they began to see the reality of the idea and I wasn't just "bluffing" them. With what I was able to explain to and show them it opened to a class discussion. So the first thing that a student mention was that what if everybody doesn't have a phone that can get on the Internet, so one of my other students shouted out, "well if enough people have Internet phones, we could share, type on to the screen: then what they have to say after." I was very surprised to hear that and even more so everybody agreeing with the idea. Then another student took it to another level with another suggestion, she said that we could twitter questions and comments for students while they were doing presentations to be asked and as a form of participation & notes. I was very impressed with scholarship and maturity of that comment. With the district's filtering system on the school's Internet and the administration's choke hold on cell phone being on school property, I don't know what the next step is for these students and the use of a Social Network in the classroom. What I do know is that when we do get to that next step I have a good amount of students that will be ready!