Archive for August, 2009

Psst! Pass it on…

August 19, 2009

Parenting is hard. It’s also incredibly amazing.

I can truthfully say that at the end just about every day.

Every so often, I see something that speaks to me as a teacher and a parent, and feel compelled to pass it along.

So here it is, from the Zen Habits blog. Check it out: http://bit.ly/2dK6Ih

Toys

August 11, 2009

It’s a familiar sight during the holidays: wrapping paper strewn about the floor, children shouting with joy as they open each of their new presents. It’s exciting to remember what it was like to be a kid. Imagine all these new toys. What do we play with first? How can we possibly decide? How great it would be to play with all of them all day long.

It’s also a familiar memory just after the holidays: About a week after the joy and excitement comes the apathy. Most toys go to the corner of the room, the back of the closet, under the bed. Somehow all of those amazing, wonderful discoveries of a week ago have lost their luster.

Not that they’re bad toys. Not that we couldn’t have fun playing with them. But there are so many things that compete for our focus. There are toys, games, instruments, stuffed animals, sports – not to mention all of the electronic media which beckons for our attention nowadays.

Which brings me to my point. While I have to be careful *not* to call technology tools “toys,” I can’t help but draw comparisons. Each great new site, each cool new application makes me feel like it’s the holidays all over again. I get so excited when I see the cool stuff I can do now. I get giddy with each new skill I learn.

I e-mail. I facebook. I wiki. I moodle. I wordle. I scratch. I diigo. I deli.cio.us. I RSS feed. I voice thread. I google read. I blog. I chat. I tweet. I Jing. I podcast. I ning. The list goes on.

With all of these incredible tools (and more!) my attention becomes more and more fragmented. No sooner do I catch on to a new technology and start loving it than something new comes along to take my breath away.

For a classroom that can be good, in a way. I can keep up with the latest tools and tricks to create a collaborative community of learners.

At the same time, I have to be careful not to let my focus stray too far. If our class has begun blogging, we need to keep it up, even when there are other great sites or applications we can spend our time on. If the students have created a wiki, they’ll need to pay attention and nurture it, even if their attention is drawn to online textbooks and moodle discussions. I owe students the opportunity to keep their focus on a project, even when there are many tech tools competing for their time and attention.

New is fun. New is good. I owe it to my students to keep up with the latest trends. At the same time, I owe it to my students to provide the most meaningful experiences with technology, not just the newest ones.

So bring on the wrapping paper and the ribbons. I’m up for opening up the latest round. Still, I’m keeping the stuff I’ve got on the shelf.

The Most Important Thing

August 3, 2009

How often does life reward us for being the smartest one in the room? TV trivia show prizes aside, how many things in life come to us because we know more than anyone else?

Will it assure us entrance into a good college?

Will it find us a life partner?

Will it advance our career?

No, no, and no.

The fact is, intelligence alone is almost never the measuring stick for success. Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to be smart. We need quick learners and strong thinkers in this world. But the ones who go farthest in life are those who can work with others and communicate their ideas clearly. That can be hard news for a kid who’s labeled gifted or talented, or “GT.” After all, if I define myself by my intellectual ability, where does that put me once it’s no longer such an big deal?

While it’s an adjustment, this shift in attitude is also a relief. Without the pressure to be the smartest one in a group, children can take risks and make mistakes. It also eases the feelings of competition that often surface when “GT” kids are placed together. Students can focus on creating partnerships in a learning community. As a teacher, I take the job of teaching concepts very seriously.

But life is about so much more.