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February 24, 2008


Laura Deisley

Love it. Sounds like you are up to something really good...

I chuckle with a similar experience/response last week. The 8th graders(my daughter is one) are coming up with a version of "Stacey's Mom" which reflects on my blogging, wiki-ing, twittering life. They are fascinated by my discussion of being "clickable"and the wide, and diverse network I share--which I temper with a discussion of the huge responsibility I feel to a) be online who I am offline, b) support my network by feeding it not just sucking it dry, and c) modeling it for them and balancing my online and offline presence. (They ask Caroline if I spend my evenings online--her response reminds me that I need to keep it all in check.)

Keep pushing that envelope, sharing the stories, retooling, rethinking...good stuff.

Dean Shareski

Clarification needed:

Is the remark of the student suggesting that the student feels the internet isn't a place for interactivity or is the shock that a teacher of any sort would be smart enough to figure it out? Sorry if I didn't pick up the intent. Would have been interested in more from that student.

Christian Long

Dean: Thanks for the Q. Knowing the student pretty well, his statement is 100% about being surprised that ANY of HIS current teachers would actually develop a class project that is web-based. And we're talking about an independent, college-prep school that is very respected and that has 100% college acceptance rates for its student body...but maintains a very traditional approach to what 'school' means. I say this NOT as a criticism; it is simply an accurate definer of the program and culture.

He and many other of his classmates have sent replies to me about this project stating that they think the blog we're using is the "most innovative" project happening in their school, that other teachers should follow suit in other classes, and that they love, love, love that they can actually do work in a more fluid manner throughout the week rather than just submit paper worksheets on a nightly basis.

Do I -- or do you, for that matter -- think that a blog is really that innovative? No. But given that every assignment they have is book/paper-based (other than the one project I've given them), it may be in relative terms for these students.

BTW, the student who I quoted is NOT an IT-type kid. Cares very little for the tech under the hood, so to speak. Just was surprised that someone was actually doing ANYTHING via the web that would be a) graded and b) be focused on what is being discussed in his class.

Finally, the rest of the student's response is focused on specifics that would fall outside of your question; what I offered above is the key. Hope this helps.


Laura: The "clickable" comment is one that I always use when my colleagues wonder about the "value" of blogging outside of school. Like how you're using it within your discussions with the kids, too.

I continue to be intrigued by the idea of kids developing their "learning brand" (with the help of mentors)...although I do not use that language as much as I did because I am a bigger advocate of the relationship being front and central (but the term implies it can be done solo).

Dean Shareski

Thanks for the clarification....it was as I thought.

Also, I'm glad to see more folks softening their attitude towards the perceived luddites/traditional teachers. Not that you in particular were not soft but I am appreciating the time it takes for anyone to fully wrap their heads around the why questions of publishing and connecting. I don't claim to have all the answers but even thinking back to our ancient conversation back in Beantown this summer, I think those are the critical conversations to have and they aren't lightly entered into it. My experience tells me it takes a combination of gentle prodding, experimentation, reflection, and obviously time.

I've enjoyed following your journey this year and in particular the careful way you've introduced things to your students and am also curious to hear about your interactions with staff...I'm sure that will come.

Laura Deisley

Christian and Dean,

Bringing change to a TRADITIONAL K-12 independent school "visioning", "applying", "considering", "experimenting", "pushing the envelope" after years in the business world is a challenge. And I have to say that I am digging deeper within myself and my own thinking these days about what this shift is, why it is important to understand it, and why what we keep discussing needs to happen.

There seem to be two key points that keep rolling around in my head. (At least, these are the two I was pondering on my 5:30 run in the hail storm this morning which tells you how un-profound these will be.) We have a digitally wired generation that likes to create, connect, communicate--yada, yada, yada--with these online tools. And, there is something rather "cool" (from a student's perspective) about the teacher who lives in that world. (Can't you recall those teachers who could relate and live in your teenage world--as opposed your parents who totally didn't get it?) Then, there is this sense we get that world is changing because of this technology. And, even if we can't point directly to widespread adoption of the tools, ways of doing business, the absolute necessity to create/produce digital content, and to collaborate around the world (etc), we know it is an important to develop certain skills/habits of mind (Gardner) that our future lives will require (we think) and our current lives to some extent demand.

As I work with teachers who have been teaching, and some of them quite well, for years I keep growing and modifying the pitch and the practice that I hope will bring them "over". Trying to offer vision and tools--and some need more of one than the other--is a constant balancing act. And I keep trying to uncover in my own mind and heart "what" it is we're trying to change. Is it a full-scale sweep to a constructivist, inquiry-driven, project-oriented learning model (won't happen overnight and certainly not wholesale unless you get to be Chris L. and do it from the ground up)? Is it the use of the tools by the teachers so they move into the digital age with relevance (they got the tools)? Is it being able to build the work skills and methods to educate future "free agents" who can work in a matrix structure with anyone at anytime around the world?

You're getting more than what you were after in the post, CL. But, your little snippet and my student's responses and the teachers who are seeing just "tools" and not what is going to change, got me pondering early and it's stayed late on my brain today.

What are we really "after"? In the case of our traditional, independent schools where every kid goes to college the hot button with parents isn't if their kid is going to college; rather, the question is "where?" And, those we're-paying-you-$20,000-a-year-private-k-12 parents aren't often 'visionary'...they are footing the bill hoping to get multiple APs and high entrance scores. How do we present the vision and justify what it is we are after?

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