Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teachable Moments- EdTech Talk

Listening to the EdTech Talk discussion on teachable moments, it was very interesting hearing teachers bounce ideas and lessons off of one another and explaining in depth their lesson plans. Lisa saw an idea on twitter about using the anniversary of the earthquakes in Haiti as a teachable moment and she and Sheila mentioned how a lot of climate change issues bring up a lot of teachable moments- flooding in Brisbane, mudslides in Brazil, all of the major storms lately that present incredible teachable moments- why are these happening? How often do things like this happen? What can cause these storms? Using current events or anniversaries of important events to allow students to research, ask questions, discuss and stay informed about relevant issues is so important.

What becomes challenging about taking advantage of teachable moments it, as Sheila and Lisa said, that they're not necessarily things that fit into curriculum but they are things that are still so important to discuss. Students realize that horrific events happen and teachable moments are about discussing human nature and exploring compassion. With the recent shootings in Arizona, being able to get correct information and have a safe environment in which to discuss, ask questions, etc. is so vital in making kids feel informed, safe, knowledgeable and again, compassionate. I follow the Dalai Lama on my personal twitter account and almost daily the tweets are about compassion. In my opinion, instilling a sense of compassion in students would solve so many problems like bullying, class/country/religious/political segregation, and general taunting that goes on in schools. What better ways to explore compassion than by trying to understand other humans better whether fellow classmates, or by skyping to a classroom abroad, or by using current events as ways to see both sides of a story.

At the same time, they discuss how as a teacher, when you know what is going on in the world and the sadness that can exist, how much is appropriate to share with students? Students often hear of things anyway, so why not use teachable moments to answer their questions and talk to them about real issues that exist and are important? It is also hard having to deal with parents- kids want to know more but sometimes parents want to shelter their kids to an extent or have the opportunity to tell their kids what they think.

They also brought up a great question that I was thinking about- "Do you think more teachable moments happen with more experienced teachers because they feel more comfortable with their class and know they can get through the content and won't feel like they are being judged and know that they can handle parent feedback?" Both ladies definitely agreed with this- I cannot imagine my first year in the classroom branching off and having a discussion about shootings or something so difficult to tackle. It is risky and scary, you don't know how the students will react or how the parents will react. That being said, it is important to explore things that are not necessarily involved in your curriculum for the day- lots of important things happen!

Technology was discussed in regards to how much it has enhanced teachable moments- it is a great way for students to access information, find out about current events, and to research and navigate information to draw conclusions. I really liked listening to this- it was interesting to hear stories of what happened in other peoples' classrooms, they way they handle situations, how to address student concerns. I think that EdTech Talk is a great way to bounce ideas off of other teachers that may have completely different students, resources, etc. at their hands enhancing what you can bring into your classrooms and the ideas that you have.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Digital Nation

While watching "Digital Nation", ironically enough I was instant messaging myself the points that struck me or that I found interesting. I have always been technologically inclined, I've had a twitter account for a year or so, I blogged when I went abroad to London to study abroad my junior year of undergrad and when I went to teach in South Korea post-graduation. I'm also an extremely social person, I'm chatty and outgoing and love to feel connected whether personally or via the internet. My first grade report cards detail that I'm a bright girl but overly social, I believe she told my parents if there was a mouse in the hallway running by, I'd talk to it. I've always argued to my teachers from middle school up that I could talk to my peers and learn at the same time. I told them that I was a social learner and learned through discussion and communicating, though my discussions and communication were not always pertaining to what was being taught. Thus I related to the MIT students claiming their ability to multi-task. Though once I decide to start writing my paper I usually try to stay away from distractions, it takes me a while to get there and I certainly do take breaks to check facebook, twitter, instant messager, I have to get in the zone before I can start writing a paper.

Before getting in the zone, I spend goodness knows how much time multi-tasking, looking through everything, avoiding my work until I suck it up and get to it. Now that most work is done on computers, it is hard to avoid all of the social-networking fun that exists at our very fingertips. Sherry Turkle made a brilliant point when she said after fooling around on email/calendar/networking site all day, "I haven't thought about anything hard. The point of it is to be our most creative selves, not to distract ourselves to death." I find this so true in my own life. As a nanny for twin 19 month olds, I have a sold 2-3 hours a day of glorious nap time. Recently I started reading the trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson and I got so into them that I read all three of them in one day each. Reading during nap time rather than mindlessly floating about cyberspace has been so rewarding; I in no way feel like I've done nothing with myself during my precious free time during my 10 hour work day. I often spend the whole time talking to friends online and looking at facebook or twitter. I get bored of it after about 30 minutes, but I keep doing it even though nothing is changing and it's far from interesting. It is so under-stimulating but at the same time has a certain element of addictiveness for me. I want more and more even though normally not too much is changing and I know I should be using my brain in a much more powerful way.

The same goes for the Korean students- when I taught English there all of my 3rd graders had smart phones. I couldn't believe it. When we talked about our hobbies, all of the boys and a lot of the girls told me that their favorite activity was going to the "PC-bang." I went into the PC bangs a couple of time and what the showed on the documentary was no over-exaggeration. I certainly think it is a national phenomenon to which some students are addicted. The rehabilitation camp was fascinating- that they had the children play outside, set up tents and do normal childhood things brought forth some of the worries that I have for my own children. I hope my kids play outside, feel a connection with the earth and nature as well as a connection with other human beings.

I also enjoyed the phrase "fluent in technology." I would certainly consider myself fluent in technology, I love new technology and am able to figure things out in little time at all. My mother on the other hand uses technology as a 5th or 6th language. She is seemingly hopeless in the most endearing of ways. She has an iPhone but calls me and asks me to look stuff up for her on my computer when she's out and about. She doesn't know how to install virus software on her computer and her emails are incredibly basic. That being said, she didn't grow up with any of this technology, it all came about when she was in her 30s after she was very set in her ways. I can certainly see how seasoned teachers would feel overwhelmed by what exists out there and the unfamiliarity with it all.

The last two things that struck me were the army simulator which I personally loathed and my shared worry about the ability to "power down" and have discussions and critical thinking without technology. I hated the army simulator because I don't agree with letting 13 year olds look at the experience of war as a game. War is anything but a computer game and having it be so one sided does not present the consequences and hardships that come with fighting war. I think it is a misrepresentation though I understand the Army's desire to try to effectively reach younger generations. Lastly, as much value as I see in technology and as much as I love my iPhone, kindle, laptop, ipod, etc. I also love having heartfelt, meaningful conversations beyond the realm of google, blogs, twitter and facebook, and I hope my children will share that ability and that love as well. As much as can be gained through technology, I do not want to be lost in a personal human connection.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Little Bit About Me...

Since I can remember I've been playing school and I've wanted to be two things- a mother and a teacher. I love laughing, reading, spending time with my friends and traveling. My goal is to get to every continent- I only have Antarctica and South America left. I grew up in New Hampshire and went to college in Vermont. After majoring in Elementary Education and Theatre with a minor in Religious Studies at my undergraduate institution, I went to teach English in South Korea for 6 months. I taught grades 3-6 and had an amazing time. I always say that I would do that job forever if only it could be in the United States. Living in Seoul, South Korea was an amazing experience but it's just about as far away from home as I can get and I missed my family and friends.

Upon my return to the United States, I moved to Boston with a bunch of my friends from undergrad and began nannying for a source of immediate income. I've remained a nanny because of the joy I get from seeing the progress of the twins I work with and partially because of my limited career options. Though I majored in Elementary Education and took both Praxis I and Praxis II, I didn't receive my certification because I was unable to student teach.

Through my year and a half nannying, I've considered the many career options I might like and all involve children. I considered getting my MSW, my Master's in Child and Family Therapy and going to study educational law but after much debate and many times changing my mind, I realized that teaching makes the most sense for me. So here I am to get my Master's Degree and certification in Elementary Education. Learning through technology is my first M.Ed class and I'm excited for the journey to continue!