I know I am a Google fan and I know I say that with a critical eye because I worry that at any moment, Google could turn from being my techno friend to my techno enemy. For now, though, I like Google. Here is an example: I love to create my own iGoogle homepage and change it all the time with new widgets and new themes.
I need change to keep me happy. A new friend in my Twitter network who also integrates comics into his classsroom noted something about new themes for iGoogle using Comics. Well … now you are talking my language and there are a load of new themes for the homepage. Just click and you have recreated your homepage with new artwork. Amazingly simple.
I chose a new comic book that my four year and I just love — Robot Dreams — and made that the theme of my homepage. I can’t wait for him to see it!
I had two experiences with Skype this week that reinforced in my mind just how powerful the connective tools of Web 2.0 really are. It’s not a new revelation, yet both were so interesting and both, as it turns out, used Skype as the connector tool.
First, I spent the weekend with some good friends of mine from the college days. We have known each other for more than 20 years now (wow) and although we are scattered geographically, we still find room in our calendar to come together once a year at one of our homes (wives and children often scatter). Two of our friends are in the military and it is sometimes the case that one of them is overseas. Three years ago, one of my buddies was stationed in the Middle East as a patrol guard, searching beneath vehicles for bombs. This year, my other friend who flies helicopters is on a year-long tour just outside of Baghdad. So, obviously, he could not attend the weekend here. So, what did we do? We skyped him and had a long conversation using webcams and laptops and wireless connections to see how he is doing over there (so far, so good). The ability to talk to a friend in Iraq during the war …. that is pretty amazing.
Then, last night, I Skyped my way into a graduate level education class at Columbia University, where the future teachers had been using our book — Teaching the New Writing — as a class text, generated questions for myself and another editor (Charlie Moran) using Web 2.0 tools, and then peppered us with outstanding questions about writing, technology and more for about an hour. Just think how cool that is: to be able to converse with and ask questions of the writers and editors of a text that you are using in the college classroom. It was a great conversation for both us — the producers of the content — and them — the readers of the content — and it really shows how technology is changing the relationship of how we interact with text, don’t you think?
Scott McLeod at Dangerously Irrelevant is once again holding a blogging Leadership Day tomorrow, in which he asks folks to blog about advice or help for administrators.
This year, I decided to write a song that tries to capture the idea of administrators and leaders getting out of their offices and into the classrooms to talk to students about what they do and what they need and what they hope for. Also, I want to say again that technology should be integrated into the curriculum, not the old model of “drop my kids off into the lab for a planning period” kind of integration.
You Gotta Listen to the Kids (by Kevin Hodgson)
Here’s what I fear
Tech won’t disappear
It’ll still be apart from the whole
When everybody knows
that kids will grow
when they connect their school to home
‘Cause kids are gonna text
explore what’s next
but they need us as a helping hand
So listen up, leaders:
we need you as believers
and support us any way you can
You gotta listen to the kids
’cause they’re gonna show you the way
You gotta listen to the kids
they’ve got some things to say
None of us knows
where this all goes
so the tool doesn’t matter much
But if they can explore
it’ll open up doors
and the world will be right in touch
You gotta listen to the kids
’cause they’re gonna show us the way
You gotta listen to the kids
’cause they’ve got some things to say
I’ve been asked by my school principal to join in a conversation on Monday about literacy and Language Arts in our school district. Our district focus next year will be to revamp our Language Arts curriculum, or at least move in that direction, and the administration is trying to bring together some teachers to discuss what literacy should look like in our schools.We’re planning a two-day Literacy Event for our district in the fall, too, and they want to get ideas from us.
I am trying to articulate what my own ideas are about Language Arts before that meeting and so, true to my nature, I am using this writing as a way to process some of my thoughts. Bare with me and please feel free to add your own ideas.
We write to learn. This is a central tenet in my thinking. We use writing to understand the world, to make sense of information and to reflect upon our own experiences. Writing gives us private inroads into making sense of things. When we write, we organize, articulate and explore the things we know, the things we want to know, and the things we don’t quite yet know.
Language Arts is all four spheres. Yes, we focus a lot on writing and reading, but listening and talking are also important elements of literacy. I wish we did more in the areas of listening (I try to work that in to as many lessons as possible) and speaking (beyond just oral reports).
A “Stakes Approach” to writing provides multiple opportunities for expression. I stole this one from my friend, Bruce Penniman. The Stakes Approach is built on the concept of tiered writing opportunities, moving from low stakes (journal writing, writing for the self, etc) that is not necessarily shared with anyone to mid stakes (collaborative writing in the classroom, informal projects, etc.) that is for a comfortable audience to high stakes (published work, performances, etc.) that moves into the bigger world. This spectrum of writing allows students to try on different hats and use different voices and concentrate on different skills. (See this Google Doc for my own organization of Stakes Writing).
Writing across the Curriculum is a key to learning. We need to integrate Language Arts more into all curricular areas so that writing is not just stories composed on paper, but thinking put into words. Math, in particular, gets short-changed with our fairly rote district-wide curriculum. It’s mostly drill and kill, and not the reasoning. For me, this has meant writing prompts connected to social studies, and digital projects connected with Science and Math. I’m not doing enough, but I am aware how important it is. (Note: my colleagues in the other disciplines do a lot of writing with the students, too, so it is not a vacuum.)
Technology and multi-media should be components of Language Arts. Students are highly engaged and very aware of audience when they start using technology for showcasing their knowledge and understanding. They rise to the occaision when they realize that they are in the high stakes field of writing — the web is the world. The Web 2.0 opportunities opens up many doors for collaboration, integration of resources and multiple angles for students of all diverse learning backgrounds. Even the NCTE has come out strongly in favor of this kind of literacy. Given the world today and the world unfolding for tomorrow, to ignore this possibility to help show students how to “create” and “compose” (a better term) with technology would have terrible consequences.
What do you think? Am I on the right path? What am I missing?
Long ago, when I first started this blog, I added a tagline quote from Charlie Parker. I thought carefully about that tagline and wanted it to capture the concept that this would be a place where I would explore the intersections of writing and technology myself so that I could consider the implications for my students in the classroom.
Thus: “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”
Yesterday, I was asked by my friend Christina to explain what that tagline means. It is going to be used for a book by the National Writing Project on the topic of digital writing in the classroom (exciting!) and it only took me a few minutes to write out my response. The response came quick because I think about this idea all time when I am tinkering and connecting and doing my odds and ends on this blog.
Here is what I wrote to her:
This quote means a lot to me because it captures the concept that you have live the world in order to understand it. As teachers, we don’t often spend enough time exploring technology and writing ourselves before bringing it into the classroom. But I would argue that this kind of exploration is the key to understanding the possibilities of learning and critical thinking of our students.
I am also a saxophone player and as a kid, Charlie Parker was a musician that I idolized (not for his drug use, which I learned about later). His focus on his own vision of music and his creativity and imagination, and the way he brought the world into his music and his music into the world, touched something in me in a way that has remained with me until this day. My friends had pictures of athletes and rock and rollers on their walls; I had Bird.
A few years ago, at the Hudson Valley Writing Project, I sat in on a session where folks were using Photostory to create visual poems. I drove home that day with my own poem for Charlie Parker in my head and when I got home, I created this:
I love the creativity of the late Jim Henson. His work transformed entertainment for young people (and their parents) in ways that still affect us today. He knew you didn’t need to talk to down to kids. You needed to reach them in meaningful ways using powerful characters, sense of humor and lessons that did not hit you over the head (unless you were being chased by the Swedish Chef). Puppets provided the outlet for Henson and his crew, and that energy is something I try to bring to my classroom of young writers and performers when we do our own puppet unit each year (see the Puppet Website from this year).
I found this neat video that I needed to share:
We got ourselves a new dog. Some of you may remember that we put down our old dog, Bella, about 18 months ago and we have pined for a new one since then. So, we “rescued” this lab/hound mix and he is such a sweetheart. His name is “Duke” and he is about 9 months old. The boys just love him and he is loving them right back.
Peace (in dogs),
PS — this is my submission to the Photofridays project for this week. Come join us!