Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Inventing the new paradigm

At a recent TED event, school technology leader Scott McLeod admonishes the current educational establishment for sticking its head in the sand and failing to adjust to the digitally and globally connected world.

In this video, McLeod describes 21st century classrooms that look nearly identical to the classrooms of 1890. He calls for a rethinking of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and states that every kid needs access to a computer.

"It's a digital world. We're going to have to stop pretending that it's a paper and pencil world in schools," McLeod says.

As currently constructed, school environments are set up to prepare kids for the last 50 years, not the next 50 years, McLeod observes. He says schools are failing in their three essential functions, which are to develop students who are socially functional, economically productive, and able to master the dominate information landscape of their time.

"We can see quite clearly that we have some disconnects that cannot continue to be maintained."

I happen to agree with a lot of what McLeod talks about. It is for some of these reasons that I chose to go back to school for a master's degree in educational technology.

As I wrote about recently, it's made for a full year. In the end, though, the effort will pay off, as it will help me provide my students with a 21st century education that's relevant to their lives, needs, and the world they will inhabit.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Power outage

At around 4:00 in the morning, we lost power. Last night was an evening of fierce winds and pounding rain, and eventually the electric lines in my neighborhood surrendered.

No power meant no leisurely Sunday morning hot coffee. The blender that usually prepares a berry smoothie sat silent and forlorn. The pile of laundry in need of washing waited idly in its basket. Because we get our water from a private well - whose pump depends on electricity - our faucets were dry.

Rather than sit around and panic, my wife and I did what any other couple would do in our situation. We went out to breakfast.

We hoped that upon arriving home, power would be restored. Alas, it was not. When we finally received notice that we'd need to wait until evening, we settled into non-electric tasks. For me, this meant finally reading the stack of old newspapers that had gone neglected on the coffee table since January.

Periodically I kept hoping the power would come on earlier than expected so I could catch the Celtics/Cavs game. Fortunately for me, a man who bleeds Green, I wasn't able to tune into another disappointing loss for what's quickly becoming an embarrassing team.

Being without power isn't so bad, but on a day like Sunday when you need it for a myriad of tasks, it's quite an inconvenience. I say this with a grain of salt, though. I thought a few times about earthquake victims in Haiti and Chile and quickly regained perspective. I live a charmed life, with all the comforts and amenities one could ask for. I have shelter, health, and family. My choice occupation brings stability and a sense of purpose.

While going without the things we rely on can be a hindrance, there's a renewed appreciation that awaits when what was missing is finally restored.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sylvanic scurryings... and basketball

This afternoon I went for a jog through the woods behind my house. While this certainly isn't groundbreaking news, in the larger scope of things it signals that spring is on its way, as the snow was all but melted. I am ready for longer and warmer days, and ready to recommit to an exercise regimen.

It's tough. Many of us make New Year's resolutions to improve our activity level at a time when nature's creatures are dormant and the weather makes it easy to stay inside and lounge. Aside from personal health, another more pressing motivation for me to stop slothin' around is this Thursday's student/faculty basketball game. Yup, I'm playing. I hope to score a few points, make a couple stops on defense, and not completely embarrass myself.

It's likely the students will beat us, although, who knows? I've heard some of the faculty members have game, and if a couple of us get hot, anything's possible. If the students push the ball and run every time, they'll likely have an easy victory. But it we can get them to play slow-it-down basketball, we have a chance. I really don't care about the outcome of the game. What's more exciting is the chance to interact with some of my colleagues as I attempt to relive those glorious days of my high school rec league.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Poetry and promise

Shorty I will be leaving to attend the Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud semi-final event in Springfield, where one of our students will represent our high school in the annual recitation contest. Three years ago I brought Poetry Out Loud to our school. While participation in the event hasn't been as robust as I would like, each year we've been able to field a competitive contestant.

Not only will my morning be filled with poetic recitations from some of the areas brightest high school kids, but the sun is out and temperatures may creep into the 50s. I'm looking forward to getting outdoors later, maybe to shoot some hoops, go for a jog, or explore the rail-trail behind my house. Winter for most of us here in Mass has been - for lack of a better word - weak. When other parts of the country were getting pounded with powdery blasts, we either had rain or nothing at all.

I wouldn't mind experiencing one solid winter storm before officially yielding to spring, but at the same time I'm also ready right now for the regenerative spirit that comes as the earth rotates toward longer and warmer days.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oh boy

Midterm grades to compile and enter. Course work for my Master of Educational Technology degree to complete. An interview tomorrow to help develop and pilot a Massachusetts Online Curriculum. It's already been a 12-hour day, and there's still much to do.

This, of course, is in addition to daily lesson plans that need to be created, parent e-mails and phone calls that require timely response, and ongoing student work that must be read and evaluated. And then there's special education forms and field trip forms and writing assessment forms and other forms whose names escape me.

Oh, but surely you must have time in the school day to do these things, right?

I have 55 minutes to make photocopies, clean my boards, write the new day's agenda, write the new day's homework, organize handouts, and use the bathroom before a bell rings and students begin to fill my room.

In education, there are essential things that MUST get done each day. What you don't accomplish in your 55 minutes becomes a responsibility that has to be completed on your own time. While I love the work - it's engaging, rewarding, fulfilling, and stimulating - I sometimes wonder if it's burning me out. Since my graduate classes started, I haven't had time to maintain my New Year's Resolution of jogging consistently. At some point, I'm going to need to give more consideration to my health. And if my wife and I decided to ever have kids, I have no idea where I would find the time to be a father given my current schedule - something would definitely have to give.

If we had kids, our children would need to be at the top of our priority list. As a teacher, you see what happens when children are neglected and their parents aren't there for them, and it's trying and sobering. Life is hard stuff, and children need mindful ambassadors to lead them through its peaks and valleys. If your parents aren't responsible, nurturing, and involved, you're at a distinct disadvantage.

Being an adult is about being able to juggle many things with finesse, dexterity, and care. It's about meeting multiple priorities and finding balance. Right now that balance seems elusive, but I'll eventually muddle through and find equilibrium.