Archive for May 2007

Disappointed again…

May 23, 2007

The Irving ISD school board met last night to revisit the idea of allowing seniors who have earned all credits for graduation but who have not passed all sections of the TAKS test to participate in the graduation ceremony.

With all the discussion in the news the last couple of days, I thought the board might reconsidered their previous decision…

But unfortunately for the 199 seniors in the district who still need to pass TAKS, they didn’t.

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Conglomeration

May 22, 2007

The end of the school year is busy… we all have a lot to do and little time to do it.  On my campus we are getting ready to take semester exams, collect laptops, finalize grades and graduate.

I am working on laptop collection procedures, end of year grade guidelines, freshmen orientation, and staff development plans for new teacher training and beginning of next year.  It is a lot of planning.  In the midst of all of this, I haven’t been writing on my blog, reflecting or reading my RSS feeds nearly as often as I like.

I have, however, come across some things I would like to share, so here goes…

NPR – Schools Reconsider Laptops as Educational Tools – This is a 30 minute clip from Talk of the Nation.  It includes some pretty negative perceptions about 1:1 laptop programs. (On a side note, you can read what Left Lane Ends thinks about this here).

Making it Happen – This is a great clip about the $100 Laptop from 60 Minutes (and Yahoo).

Podcasting Resources – Some great podcasting resources (and other resources) from Darren Wilson (my new ITS partner).  Check it out!

Hopefully, I will be able to write something a little more in-depth and reflective soon, but until then maybe the links above will tide you over.

A Lot

May 17, 2007

I just haven’t been able to muster the strength or take the time to write the last couple of weeks.  Too much has happened in such a short amount of time – a tragic unexpected snowball of events gathering steam over the last month…

  • My friend lost unexpectedly lost her father
  • My husband’s grandfather passed away
  • We lost a student
  • A storm blew down two trees at my house and took our power with it
  • My ex-boyfriend’s father (and ex-colleague’s husband) passed away
  • 22 of our seniors will not graduate because they did not pass a section of the TAKS
  • One of our beloved teachers and friends passed away

It has been a lot to deal with… too much too soon.  The teachers on my campus are tired and ready for the summer… we need a break. But however saddened and stressed we are individually, we are a team and we have pulled together and supported each other. I am happy to be a part of such a great staff.

Laptops In Schools Are Bad…

May 7, 2007

Well, maybe not, but that is the gist I get from reading the New York Times article Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops.  If I hadn’t taught in a school which embraces a 1:1 laptop program for the last six years, I might believe the article.  But I have, and I don’t.

I absolutely LOVE <love being used very sarcastically here> the opening paragraph of the article.

“The students at Liverpool High have used their school-issued laptops to exchange answers on tests, download pornography and hack into local businesses. When the school tightened its network security, a 10th grader not only found a way around it but also posted step-by-step instructions on the Web for others to follow (which they did).”

Am I to believe from this paragraph that none of these problems existed before the laptops came in to the picture? That the laptops were the cause of this behavior… I am sure that students did not cheat before the advent of technology, and that none of the students involved ever looked at pornographic material before they received their laptops… right?  I am by no means condoning their behavior, but lets not blame it on the laptops.  Instead, make the students responsible for their behavior and teach them to make better choices.  Also, it might be nice for the media (outside of the educational community) to focus on some of the things students are doing right with laptops for a change… because they are doing a lot of things right.

What irks me even more about the article (than the negativity of the opening paragraph) is the continual assertion that the implementation of laptops has not improved student achievement which is measured traditionally through standardized test scores… hmmm… okay.  I don’t even understand why this point is continually brought up.  It isn’t logical.  The purpose of implementing a 1:1 laptop program is to allow students to learn in different ways, to access information not available otherwise, to assist students in preparing for the world as a global society… so why are we assessing their growth with these machines in the same way we have for the last several decades?  I don’t get it.

Although I don’t know anything about the laptop program in Liverpool, New York, except what is represented in this article, it seems like the heart of the problem is evident in the following statements…

“Such disappointments are the latest example of how technology is often embraced by philanthropists and political leaders as a quick fix, only to leave teachers flummoxed about how best to integrate the new gadgets into curriculums… But in many other classrooms, there was nary a laptop in sight as teachers read from textbooks and scribbled on chalkboards. Some teachers said they had felt compelled to teach with laptops in the beginning, but stopped because they found they were spending so much time coping with technical glitches that they were unable to finish their lessons.”

If your teachers don’t buy-in to the program and do not receive the proper training and support, then I don’t see how your laptop program can be anything but doomed.  If teachers do not want or are not willing to change the way they teach to better prepare students for their futures, then what is the point of giving the students laptops?  If students are simply using the laptops to do the same thing in the same way then they are not going to see the relevance of using a laptop versus paper and are more apt to use the laptop for off-task behavior like playing games and chatting. 

INTRODUCING LAPTOPS IN THE CLASSROOM IS NOT A MAGIC BUTTON.  They will not automatically increase test scores, make you a better teacher and make all your students behave.  You, as a teacher, have to change the way you present information and allow your students to learn.  You have to give up some control and let students teach themselves and each other. You have to allow communication with the outside world so students can see how school is connected to the “real world.” You have to teach students to monitor their time and to use the laptop appropriately.  No one said it would be easy, but if we are going to prepare students to be successful in today’s workplace, don’t they need to know how to use technology effectively?

“Where laptops and Internet use make a difference are in innovation, creativity, autonomy and independent research,” he said [Mark Warschauer, education professor at the University of California]. “If the goal is to get kids up to basic standard levels, then maybe laptops are not the tool. But if the goal is to create the George Lucas and Steve Jobs of the future, then laptops are extremely useful.”

I am going to end with another interesting quote from the article…

“The art of thinking is being lost,” he said. “Because people can type in a word and find a source and think that’s the be all end all.”

Hmmm… Yes, getting information via the Internet is much easier than going to the library to check it out, but the THINKING should occur when students/teachers evaluate the information for accuracy, bias, etc. and choose the appropriate piece for their research. Again, this skill requires training for teachers as well as students.

I love teaching in a 1:1 school, and I think my students have benefited immensely.  Have their test scores improved because of the laptops… I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care.  Their work has improved, their collaborative skills have improved, their research skills have improved, their technology skills have improved. Do they always make wise choices? No, but that is one of the reasons I am there… to guide them and teach them.

I would love your thoughts on the article.  Leave me a comment if you like and follow the discussion on 2 Cents Worth and Learning.now as well.

 

Join the Differentiation Discussion

May 6, 2007

Jig-Saw History posed some questions about differentiation the other day and there has been a great discussion taking place over on his site.  Other people have started to join in the conversation too… check out the responses on Change Agency and Teaching Mr. Belshaw.

Take a minute to share the ways you differentiate in the comments below or over on Jig-Saw History.

No Power = No Technology

May 4, 2007

Seriously… none. 

Since the storms came through on Wednesday evening, I have been without power at my house.  I have since realized that I take electricity for granted because we use it for almost EVERYTHING.

In fact, here is a list of things that I have been unable to do because of the lack of electricity…

  1. Wash/dry laundry – I was right in the middle of doing this when the power went out 😦
  2. Pay my bills on-line – Something else I was right in the middle of doing when we lost power.
  3. Watch television (or TIVO shows to watch later)
  4. Talk on the phone (I have a cordless which requires electricity)
  5. Use the Internet
  6. Read (after about 7:00pm)
  7. Charge my iPod or cell phone (I had to purchase a car charger for my cell phone yesterday)
  8. Vacuum
  9. Dry my hair, straighten my hair and/or see to apply my make-up well (candle light just doesn’t seem to do it)
  10. Iron my clothes
  11. Cook ANYTHING… but since ALL of our food has spoiled, I really have nothing to cook at this point 😦

I could go on and on, but the point is… I do these things EVERY day and I never think about how lucky I am to have electricity.  It certainly makes life easier.

I will say that I am ECSTATIC to still have hot water (our water heater is gas). 🙂

Hopefully, I will have electricty when I get home today, and I can rejoin the 21st century.