Nov 232008

My mind is fresh from a weekend of intense PD with Jeff Utecht, who fervently shared his philosophy and expertise with me and my colleagues at UNIS Hanoi.  It was, in all, a fast-paced but much needed weekend full of tips, tools, and tidbits to think about and implement. I am sure all of who attended Jeff’s sessions had some big take-aways from the weekend; one of the big ones for me was the concept of the community in the 21st century.

What role does the community play in education this century?

The answer, I think, is complicated.  Jeff talked about how the community has to be built first, and how sometimes we as educators don’t get to choose where that community is — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, SecondLife, or ClubPenguin.  But I wonder: Don’t we as educators have a responsibility to create that community?  Of course we should tap into communities already in place.  But when it comes to the “New Learning Landscape“, I think teachers do have an embedded and non-negotiable responsibility to build the community with our students.

One of the challenges we face at UNIS is that our digital, online community is currently quite closed. While I have argued before that this is not always a bad thing, that the walled garden can be a great place to learn tools and play with ideas, I do think that there comes a time (particularly at the HS level) when the community must branch out.  The fact that our students in grades 10 and 11 all have tablets (the first stage in our 1:1 roll-out) means that their community instantly was widened when they received their tablets.  Having that tablet in their hands means they can reach out all the way across the world if they wish — they are connected. And why should we stop them?  Not only does this new technology broaden their contact base and therefore extend their community, most of our students are third-culture kids who have lived in 4 other countries and are already part of an extended community outside our school doors.

If we are going to commit to the new literacies of the 21st century, we should enable our students to reach out to those communities, to find their authentic audience, and create their own learning environment.  To deny them of this is irresponsible.

I’m grateful for Jeff’s ideas this past weekend and I think it is a great start for the journey with our students down the intertwined road of communities and literacy.  Jeff got us thinking in the right direction, and armed with our wikis, blogs, Twitter accounts, and Nings, I daresay that our teachers and students are well on their way to embracing communities both within and beyond our doors.

And speaking of the community’s role in education, I happened across The KnowledgeWorks Foundation (courtesy of Lindsea, a member of my PLN and a contact of one of the KnowledgeWorks founders).  The KWF is an educational philanthropic organization with some philosophical golden nuggets that make it stand out as an organization.  The trademarked motto of KWF is “Empowering communities to improve education.”  How fab is that?  And if that’s not enough to get you browsing around their site, check out their Mission, Vision, and my favorite, their Values Statement:

Fanatical belief that all students have a right to a great education

Wow!  Finding the KWF was a great way to end my weekend, and I look forward to seeing what their community initiatives in education will bring to education in the USA and elsewhere.  You can also follow them on their Future of Ed blog.

All this excitement about communities, Web2.0, and literacy has made me very excited, but I’ve been so busy that the engagement has also made me rather ill — I have been fighting a nasty cold for about a week now.  So as I sign off this post, tea in hand, I hope that my community of learners and colleagues will understand if I’m “below the fold” for the next little while, laying low while I recover.

Photo1 by ortica*
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Photo2 by Librarian by Day
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

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May 072008

So, I’ve been reading a few things about blogging. And I’ve been reading a few things about writing. And I’ve been reading a few things about both blogging and writing, and I’m starting to think I’m missing something. Or need clarification, at the very least.

I’m going to keep this philosophical, much like my assessment post a while back.

First, a question:

If (text-based)1 blogging is a kind of writing, then aren’t all bloggers writers?

And now, the statements:

  1. I (foolishly, perhaps) believe that all my students can become good writers2 of some kind.
  2. I therefore believe that all my students should try their hand at blogging, just as I believe all my students should try writing poetry, maybe a short story, a personal narrative, an e-mail, and oodles of other writing types.
  3. I do not believe a great writing teacher needs to be a great writer; he / she simply needs to “know the ropes” and be great teacher, period.
  4. I therefore believe a great blogging teacher does not need to be a “master blogger”, but that he / she just needs to know how it works, and be a great teacher, period.

And finally, more questions:

  • Those of you out there who use blogs with your students, how do you use them?
  • Do you assess them? If so, how?
  • And if you don’t use blogs with your students, why not?

The background

I am changing (quite drastically) the way I use blogs with my students for the remainder of this school year, and next. And so, I’m looking for ideas and anecdotal feedback… errr.. feed-forward… from those who have walked this path before me. :)

1Of course, the visual-types of blogs aren’t really writing, but a different kind of communication

2I define the term “good writer” as one who creates “good writing.” And for the definition of “good writing,” I turn to one of my most influential mentors in both teaching and writing, Carl Leggo, who once stated, “Good writing gets the job done. It works.” I should also note that I have different definitions of “great writing” and other comparative terms.

Photo credits: You can almost see the grass grow by aussiegall; How to Grow a Blog by teachandlearn (licensed under CC 2.0 Generic)

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 7 May, 2008  Posted by at 10:44 pm Assessment, Education Philosophy, Writing Tagged with: , , , , ,  7 Responses »
Apr 102008

This article from the lovely Creative Commons Blog caught my eye today, particularly because the forum aims to look at “how digital technologies and new media are changing the way that young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life.”  Definitely cool (and no surprise that it’s being hosted at Stanford, either).   However, I am rather curious.  They say that proposed topics include:

  • Teen Socialization Practices in Networked Publics
  • Understanding New Media in the Home
  • Hip Hop Music and Meaning in the Digital Age
  • New Media from a Youth Perspective
  • (emphasis mine)

    I feel like this is one of those segments on Sesame Street:  “One of these things is not like the other.”  Socialization and networks – OK.  New media in the home and from a youth perspective – OK.   Hip Hop Music and Meaning – huh?  This stands out rather unusually to me.  My questions:

    • Why hip hop?  Why not other genres of music?  Or maybe there is another topic:  “Classical Music and Meaning in the Digital Age: from Chopin to Garage Band”?
    • Why only music?  Why not video, television, and podcasts? (although perhaps these are the other “new media”)

    Anyone else?

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