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February 14, 2008


Karen Janowski

But put yourself in the shoes of the struggling learners in your class. Those who need time to process before they can participate (orally) in class or who have expressive language issues or additional learning style differences. They need other ways to demonstrate what they know (Universal Design for Learning - Multiple methods of engagement, representation, expression).
Allow them opportunities to build upon their strengths. That's what read/write web tools allow them to do.
(I know when my own son was in 10th grade, he was consumed with fear throughout the entire year that he would get called on in English class - wonder how much he actually learned? Wish his teacher had recognized his strengths and supported his learning style. When I talked with her at the end of the school year about using other methods, her response was that he probably should have been in a lower level English class. No. The learning disability was in her instructional methods. She never knew my son actually tested in the superior IQ performance level (non-verbal, and she didn't seem to care either).
These tools remove the barriers to learning for many kids. Keep an open mind.



While I value and appreciate the story you shared about your son, I'm confused as to the reason why my post sparks the "Keep an open mind" response. I say this with respect.

My 'thesis' -- if there needs to be one here -- is less about the tools, and more about the compulsion to 'go global' on the blogging backs of our kids. I'm not talking about the tools nor about access nor about alignment with a wide array of learning styles. I'm talking about something else quite entirely.

I'm not sure that my post implies nor states a reluctance on my part to support the unique learning styles of each of my kids. Likewise, I'm not sure that my teaching style (or anything associated with it) would ever be described in the way you defined the behaviors of your son's teacher.

You'll have to enlighten me a bit on the connection you're making.

Laura Deisley


There is so much in this post that I've been noodling over it for days. You've boldly positioned what I have wondered and pondered in my silo for some time now.

What happens when one tastes "power", "popularity", and "attention"? Is it about me or is it about them...

Great post to push the envelope...


Karen Janowski


I get that you are talking about something else entirely. But to me, it's always about the kids first and their learning. What I gleaned from your post was that your cynicism prevented you from seeing what was best for the kids in your classrooms, considering their unique learning styles.

you said, "'cause the more time I spend in the classroom these days, the more I'm wondering -- not in the tech-or-not-to-tech question actually matters kinda way (psst...it doesn't!) -- if we've all become like shaky heroin junkies unintentionally pawn-shopping off the raw intellectual evolution of our students just in order to feed our own latent middle-school popularity fears..."

From my perspective, the tech or not to tech question matters a great deal.

The tech supports the kids who are unable to participate in classroom discussions but who have a great deal to say otherwise. A blog or other tool or strategy levels the playing field for them and allows them to demonstrate what they know. Many students don't do well in a lecture/class discussion/paper based school.

I know your point is about using students to gain credibility within a larger, global audience. But I feel that focusing more on that point may prevent you from seeing the advantages of using the read/write web to nurture the best in each one of the students in your classroom.

To reiterate, I understand your point. But my belief is that too many educators are missing the value of the new tools for struggling learners. That is why I wanted my son to speak with me at Educon 2008, to offer a too often ignored perspective.

Forget our egos - it's always about the kids. They are why we do what we do.

It's getting late and I'm not sure I'm articulating my point well enough here. Would love to have a phone conversation instead.

Christian Long

Laura -- Sorry for the late reply. Here's what comes to mind now: "Dead Poet's Society". I recall watching this film as a 17 year old...and to be honest, being influenced enough by it that it was a chief inspiration for my later teaching career. Took me a long, long time to realize that the Robin Williams character is utterly corrupt in a) his ability to get his kids out on the front lines but b) failing to equip them with the skills to manage the public reaction. I fear that much of our collective 'wisdom' calling for going 'global' with our kids (blogs, et al) is less about them...and more about our egos. Even if the kids are kosher with having their blogs linked. I may be overstating the case, but its the gut feeling that runs through my mind more and more these days.


Karen: Truly appreciate you taking the time to write back, especially something so thoughtful and in-depth.

I have many failings, but fortunately I haven't shown a propensity to fail to find ways for all my kids to learn in multiple ways. Whether they always want to learn is quite another thing, but I am pretty nimble afoot when it comes to prompts and access points for my kids.

BTW, my first experience ever teaching was with disabled kiddos who spanned the gamut from only being able to 'blink' words to mainstreamed Downes kids, etc. I learned early on that the 'context' in which they can explore and create is vital...and that the 'by any means necessary' is a mindset that is non-negotiable.

As to the tech-or-not-to-tech comment, it's not, IMHO, whether it allows kids to do amazing things (or just have 'access'), but whether or not we are by default falling prey to the tech just for tech's state. And I'm still -- even after a great deal of success peddling the 2.0 party line for a few years -- a bigger fan of face-to-face conversation over every other possibility (even as I blog comment with you). And if you could throw in a camp fire, I'm even a bigger fan.

Additionally, you wrote:

"I know your point is about using students to gain credibility within a larger, global audience. But I feel that focusing more on that point may prevent you from seeing the advantages of using the read/write web to nurture the best in each one of the students in your classroom."

I'm not -- still -- certain how my discomfort with we well-intentioned adults peddling our kids in order to further our own professional arcs suggests that I am "prevent[ed]" from "seeing the advantages". That side comes easily, to be honest. But having the ability to also pull back in order to preserve the sanity of your kids' experiences? Well, I think that we oughta be putting some time into that as well, esp. for those of us very comfy-cozy with the 2.0 paradigm.

As to egos? I'm not sure the "for the kids" bumper sticker is universally shared, or much more than the "right thing to say" when push comes to shove. Heck, babysitters can make the same claim...and last time I checked, that's not what I signed up for. I do believe that ego is very much at play in the edu-blogosphere...and I'll be the first to admit that when the paychecks afforded me the excuse, my own grew as fast as my Technorati rating.

If I'm the only one that admits that, well...I'd be a bit surprised (he smiles).

But again, thank you for taking time to send in the 2nd reflection. A very sincere piece to engage tonight. Thanks!

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