Earth Day=Everyday

23 04 2009

Looking out on the greening pastures, seeing the smoke of irrigation ditch fires awaken the soil, and preparing for the new growing season, I can’t help but to feel my connection to the cycle of life.  As we enter into the regeneration of our land, trees, plants, soil, air and water, through the process of life and death, and Spring’s reminder of the infinite cycle, it is important that we as teachers separate ourselves from our content to focus on the investment of sustainable living.  I encourage you as an educator to toss aside your content for a day, or a lesson, forget about your focus on testing or district demands or even the requests of your administrators, and teach the children to listen to the subtle needs of our Mother Earth.  Whether you  lead a discussion on Carbon Footprint or plant a tree, students will engage in this because it is impossible to disconnect from the connection we gain from our dependence on Earth.  There are plenty of online sources to aid in your discussion.  And don’t worry if the April 22 Earth Day passed you by already, April 24 is Arbor Day and in reality Earth Day is everyday.

Here are some suggestions to help you lead an engaged and thought provoking discussion of our roll in the bigger picture and our place on Earth:



We Can Solve It

Redefining Progress

The Sopris Foundation

The Hopi Prayer, a message from the Elders, read this before watching the HOPE video

HOPE, a video message from the Elders

You won’t find this in any state approved curriculum, or on any standardized tests, but these ar the discussions that matter most. In fact, it is through these discussions that I as a teacher feel the most complete and find my students the most engaged.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.


Letter to a student’s mother….re(Motivation)

23 04 2009

Dear Adair,
I want to know how to motivate a 14 year old boy as well!!!  I don’t think
there is a simple answer to that question.  To be honest that is a bigger
and more concerning issue across the board as educators than an issue
facing just Sean.  I in fact have this at the center of my mind as I muddle
through the work we do.  Engagement and curiosity are difficult to spark.
What I’m finding is that when we meet students at their interests they
engage.  Which is why I altered my course to be a thematic driven course.
I try to allow for choice on major assignments and research.  I am trying
to get more technology in the classroom.  I know they really enjoy games
and those can be very educational.  I would encourage him to use
technology for class as much as possible.  I think he has one of those
iTouch devices, right?  Get him to use that in class to keep notes to
himself on, use a calendar to keep track of his work load, find ways to
research homework on there or online.  I am very open to these ideas and I
am even trying to figure out how to use cell phones for learning.  SO,
anyways, these are some tricks I’m trying to use to get interest sparked.
There is a level of intrinsic motivation in each one of us, and that can
only be determined through self interest.  What are Sean’s goals?  You
talked about your goals for Sean, but what does he want?  Where does he
see himself in four years? ten years? twenty years?  I try to do a lot of
goal setting with students.  I do this on a semester, weekly, and even
daily basis.  This grade of a C may in fact spark him to try harder.  It
is not a permanent grade either, FYI.  So he has time to pull it up.
Another practical suggestion I can offer is, have Sean check in with me
himself.  Have him ask me what he can do to improve his standing.  Maybe
the two of you should come in and we can all three talk about these
things.  I would also suggest that he bring in his papers to have me proof
them before the deadlines.  I suggest that he use you to help proof.  I
suggest that he use reach time for reach, not playing video games and
chatting with friends.   He is a bright kid when he chooses to be but I
see him choosing to accept less of himself and tune out when he should
tune in.  For some kids like his buddy Giulio, that works, but that
doesn’t work for Sean.  I hope this wasn’t too long winded.  Some times
I just get going and can’t help myself.  Let me know what else we can do.
If you want to stop by with Sean next week after class, that would be
great. Thank you for making the effort to connect.  You are a huge help to
Sean even if he doesn’t know it.


Seann Goodman

Social Studies
US History and Leadership

Ethics: A basis for cellphones in class

17 04 2009

Many folks argue that cell phones don’t belong in the school setting.  In an NEA article, teachers are surveyed about their opinions of cell phones in class. Most opinons in this national survey are very biased and narrow minded.  These apprehensive teachers are not only unaware of the advantages to cell phones as a learning tool, but they themselves seemed threatened.  Certainly we can all make a list of reasons to ban phones from class use but how many can come up with reasons to support the use of this Web 2.0 tool?  Among many cell phone applications available for free online, their are some life long lessons that cell phones can help educators convey to their students.  Schools and teachers who support the use of cell phones in class comes down to a matter of teachers pedagogical attitude towards using technology.  The greatest lessons that I teach as a an educator deal less with content and more with life lessons.  Lessons regarding decision making, moral attitudes, and ethics are the ones that leave students engaged, inspired, and thinking..

“Why would you give out your phone number to students?  Why would you invite students to text to other students in class?  Aren’t you worried they will use this network to cheat?”

These questions are fair to ask in this debate.  However, the discussion that can be followed with students in class regarding ethical use of phones is a much greater discussion.  How can we use these tools to our advantage?  These are the questions teachers need to focus on.  Otherwise we run the risk of being another stick on the mud.  Advocates of cell phones in class point out the benefit to schools tech departments, when you consider 4 out of 5 students have cell phones, this increases the number of computers available to students instantly.  Leaders of schools who use cell phones in class have created rules that students can agree to and learn by.  Kipp Rodgers, Principal of Mary Passage Middle School in Newport News, Vrigina, “developed an acceptable use policy. They are not to send text messages to anyone outside the building during class hours. They are not to take photos. They are not allowed to upload anything to YouTube or other Internet sites not approved by the school.”  These rules create a sense of right, which students need more and more in this ever dynamic technology society.  Students engage in learning, feel connected to the real world, and adopt a fair use policy.  In my own classroom setting, I find that kids are aware of all the negatives that teachers and parents fear about inapproriate use of the internet and technology.  When we open up the discussion with kids, instead of dictating our our bias’, we create a world of self-awareness and community.


9 04 2009

“It’s about relationship, it’s about community, it’s about connectivity, it’s about access.” -Greg Whitby

How many teachers today would agree with this statement in regards to education?  The number one hot topic of choice for most employers when hiring deals with relationships.  When I was hired for my first job as a teacher, my principal said, “it is clear that you and I will get along because you are so focused on building relationships.”

I gotta admit, building community and relationships are the reason I got involved in teaching and the same reasons I still teach today.  In order to properly build relationships, it is vital to connect with your audience.   For myself this exchange evolves constantly.  A more recent tool I’ve implemented in my daily routine a school is to greet everyone of my students at the door with a handshake.  This simple gesture builds a connection very literally and at the same time gives students a chance to check in with me on a personal level and creates a sense of belonging, or community.  And if my students are late, they don’t get access to a hand shake that day.  Seems simple, but this tool for engagement, motivation, and accountability carries a lot of weight.  Now if we apply this same model to students ability to access the new Web 2.0 tools, social networking sites, and empower our students through “edutainment” it seems like we have a formula for success that no one would disagree with.
In the same video mentioned before, Learning to Change Changing to Learn, another gentlemen Stephen Heppell, describes the new space that learning takes place in, “nearly now.”  This is the space that exists in texting, twitting, and Facebook.  It is a space that is non-synchronous but nearly.  It allows for multiple ideas to be shared all at the same time.  It allows students to work in a non-judgmental, pressure free, no time limit environment which fosters a softer approach to learning, a true 21st Century value.  It allows for students to engage, evaluate, research, create, and share.  Where a traditional education approach doesn’t draw on student to share very often, this “nearly now” space gives students that opportunity to respond when there ready.  As teachers we talk about “wait time.”  Wait time is the time you must wait to allow students proper time to evaluate, remember, and synthesize a response to a question.  “Nearly now” is essentially wait time.

So, if these tools exist, and our children’s future ride on the idea that the careers they will enter likely do not exist today, then how can we as educators be so limited in our approach to learning?  How can we ban cell phones in schools?  We didn’t have these phones growing up but we are “Digital Immigrants” living in a “Digital Native” world. (Prensky, 2001).   Most arguments in regards to immigration eventually lead to a discussion about assimilation.  Well, how come we spent nearly 45 minutes of a staff meeting talking about repercussion and consequences for students carrying cell phones at school?  And why do we then punish students for building community?  And is it that we are afraid that they aren’t paying attention?  Or are we just illiterate to the world in which students are now living in?  Why do we build firewalls that block information?  Are we afraid that too much information is a bad thing?  If we refuse to adjust to these tools are we then choosing to fall to the way of the dinosaur?

As educators we need to put away our old notions of simply learning from the book and lecture style.  We may not exactly have the key to this problem or even know how to unlock the possibilities, but by embracing the revolution we will emerge stronger, more prone to learning in a non-linear fashion, and filling a reservoir of hope instead of fear.

I love the way Heppell puts it.  This new paradigm in learning represents, “the death of education, and the dawn of learning.”

Learning to Change Changing to Learn Advancing K-12 Technology Leadership, Consortium for School Networking(COSN)


Prensky, Marc. (2001). On the Horizon; Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants .  MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5

Drip, Drip, Drop Goes the Blog

6 04 2009

So I say, bloggin in a material world….. With all said and done, it’s time to float down the rapids of change.  Sink or swim?  ride or fall? breathe or suffocate?  Where are you at today?  In this blog world I find myself bobbing along trying to come up for air and yet just when I get my head above the rapids, in comes a wave to knock me down again into the swirling depths.  It is safe to say, I am still wet behind the ears.  With all the emergence in technology, I am still finding myself slow to the literacy of this Web 2.0 world.  RSS Feed?  Meta? I couldn’t figure out what these things are or do… but thanks to some ingenuity and a little help from a friend, I think I am learning.  It’s interesting though, we have this sort of implied knowledge that exists when it comes to Web 2.0.  and yet sometimes I feel like my brain has swiss cheese holes in it.  My parents would argue that as we acquire our understanding of these tools, it must be a “generation thing.”  In other words, my 60 year old parents believe that all this stuff comes easy to someone 30 years younger just because as they say, “I grew up with a computer.”  In fact, I took some computer classes in 7th and 8th grade.  This was all before we had a computer at home and the internet was still just an idea.  I remember the computer teacher teaching us about icons, buttons, and homepages; a very low level of literacy as compared to where we are today.  But the next learning lesson came to me when my Grandmother bought me a computer for my 13th birthday.  My dad, completely illiterate to the DOS system and with no computing knowledge at all, handed me the DOS book, an old handwritten address book of family contacts, and instructed me to get the addresses on the address list in the computer.  READY….. SET….. GO!

I was lost.  Here’s a 13 year old boy who doesn’t have any need for an address book.  My closest friends lived down the street or if I wanted to contact them I could recall their phone numbers from memory.  This was a struggle for me to stay focused on Dad’s instructions and to stay motivated.  My motivation was more towards the Flight Simulator Module on the computer.  That was fun.  But, Dad insisted I load the address’.  So, I did.  I learned to software, and I added each name one by one.  Figuring it out as I went.  Then, I showed my Dad.  He was impressed.  But that was just the start.  Next, came QUICKEN, the check book accounting system.  He said, “GO!  You learn it then teach me.”  Again, what does a 13 year old know about check books?  I learned the software with hesitation but the real struggle came next as I gave Dad his tutorial lesson.  He was so overwhelmed, and would easily become flustered.  This was the beginning of my long struggle to teach my parents about the computer.  Eventually we would go through all sorts of arguments and tempers flared and feelings were hurt.  I got to the point where I actually spoke up for myself and told my parents they would just have to learn like I was learning through trial and error.  This is the same mantra that I think we are all still living by today.

As educators in the media and technology abundant world, we are all going through this struggle of trial and error.  As we learn these new tools such as blogging, social networking, or rss feeds, it is up to our creativity to figure out how to best utilize these tools.  I can’t say I even understand all these tools but if I refuse to get my feet wet, I will never learn.  So, I trod on.  I listen and watch others.  I ask questions.  The ideas that we are working with are so new, there is no telling where we are headed and how these tools will be used.

And if you are still reading this, please help me with any suggestions that I should add to this Blog page….  Does it look ok?  Is it friendly?  My feet are soaking wet, and there is a slight chill in my bones, but I know these rivers lead to warmer waters.

To blog or not to blog?

3 04 2009

Like a stick in the mud or log in the spring floods? . . . that is the question.  Today, I choose to create.  My spring flood is on its way.  The waters are waiting in the winter snowpack, with the promise of April showers and sunny days.  And so I build my first blog.   I hope to ride this flood from sea-to-sea and into the winds of change, and the tides of the universe.

At the crux of our shifting paradigm we find two emerging figures.  One who is holding on to the past and another looking out into the future.  It seems almost generational at first glance.  But the reality is that the youth will indeed be the ones adopting the world of blogging, tweating, myfacing, wikis, and applications yet to be written.  We are living in exponential times.  Clay Shirkey brings all this to light in his book HERE COMES EVERYBODY.  Shirkey draws on the value of social networks, hyperlinks, and hierarhcical orginaizations.  All of these are designed to allow our world to grow more connected while at the same time shrinking our walls.  Michael Wesch, explains the shift towards shared knowledge and open sources of knowledge as shifting from simply compiling downloadable material to actually participating in uploading.  Uploading means to create, analyze, evaluate, and design knowledge of all sorts based on personal experiences.  Now we are talkin…. this is why I teach.  To bring students experiences that will give them power.

So, here I am at the edge.  Still unknowing, and uncertain about the realm of possibility… but sure of one thing, if I choose to be a stick in the mud, I will be buried by the avalanche of ol man winter.  But if I find a nice piece of balsa I might actually rise to the occassion where I know there is to be a log jam of others floating by, and with their help I may even find the otherside.

Shirkey, C. (2008).  Here Come’s Everybody.  New York; Penguin Press. (70)

Wesch, M. (2008, June 17). A portal to media literacy.
Winnipeg: University of Manitoba. Video retrieved from the University of Manitoba web site:

Hello world!

2 04 2009