Friday, February 26, 2010

Social Media: Darren Draper ask me what impressed me about Will Richardson's presenteations at the Literacy Promise conference last week. First, Will’s enthusiasm for how his own children (ages 10 and 12 I believe) are connected to so many intelligent people throughout the world (with his oversight and rules) caught my attention. Second, he demonstrated how he uses Google Reader for his RSS, and how he manages what could be an overload of information. I watched what he does and said, “I can do that!” Third, his emphasis on ethical and safe practices, and the concept of having hundreds of people reading and filtering information, writing articles and reviews, and communicating directly with authorities in your fields of interest startled me awake to the possibilities for classroon use. I started thinking how nice it would be for all the students at my school to have Google accounts they could use at home and school.
I'm sorry, I didn’t feel that way when Darren presented the list of 24 social medias to the district teacher librarians with a deadline to become familiar with 20 of them. I looked at the list and could only count seven that I had already done. Exploring and using 13 more in two months was like throwing more piranhas into the pool. Richardson stated at one point in his presentation: “Part of literacy is fixing mistakes.” So I am now attempting to fix that mistake. I still don't think I want to twiter, but I did add texting and internet to my cell phone , and I am texting (to my daughters' amazement). I signed up for RSS immediately and subscribed to Richardson's blog, wiki, and Powerful Learning Practices web site on Google Reader. I want to jump into the rest, but I am the kind of learner that likes to see it demonstrated, usually while I am following along, so that I don’t waist time slogging through on my own making tons of mistakes. Fortunately, says Richardson, there is a plethora of YouTube tutorials on many of the things I want to do. I don’t know if this addresses Darren's question, but it is too late to be brilliant. I like this quote from one of the articles I read at Powerful Learning Practices:

"Gaining confidence is extremely important in using new tools in the classroom. I notice that I usually have two options, roll it out and the class learns with me at the same time or I need to find a group of teachers to play with.
Either way I still find myself with no skills and don’t want to look foolish. Let’s see if we can work this out here. …We are going to help each other to learn how to use these tools in our classrooms."
“Gaining Confidence” Brian Licata, quoted in “We Are Going to Help Each Other Learn” by Lani Ritter-Hall .

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm Back to Writing Again

Social Media: Thursday and Friday last week, the 18th and 19th of Feb., I went to the 2nd biannual Literacy Promise conference in Salt Lake City. I am alway energized by going to teacher conferences when the sessions are so well done. The high light for me were the two sessions by Will Richardson on the use of social media in increasing one's own learning and creating children who are independent learners. Even though I consider myself to be a life long learner, a Renaissance man, the older I grow, the more desperate I become as I see so much that I do not know and want to know; so much that I have not learned and want to learn. My favorite quote for many years is by Eric Hoffer: “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” (I sometimes long for that world that no longer exists.)

Evenso, I have been cautious about jumping into social media, though I do have this blog (which nobody reads), several e-mail accounts, too many listsevr subscriptions, and a Facebook account. Darren Draper, Dir. of Technology Servicess for Canyons School District, Sandy, Utah, has strongly challenged the librarians in the district to become conversant with and use 24 types of social media. I have been reluctant and a bit resistant to the idea because of the time involved in gaining even cursory familiarity with them. I have so many people clamoring for my attention and time every day that I feel like I am swimming in a pool of piranhas. I also could not see an educational value to most of them. Will Richardson certainly opened my mind to the educational possibilities of social media, if not directly for the classroom right now, certainly for my own personal learning right now. I started Google Reader for my RSS today, and tomorrow I might investigate wikispaces.

During my 37 years as a classoom teacher and a librarian, I have been saddened and frustrated when I have had to deal with children, more than a few, who vigorously demonstrate that they don't want to learn; or those who seem more than content to know very little. Yet many of these same children demonstrate knowledge and expertise in technology, both harware and software. I have had a couple of these electrified students help me with computer problems and have used free computer time as an incentive for other students to improve grades.I can see some applications of social media as a tool for helping these wired types of reluctant learners become connected learners within and outside the educational institution.

I taught for many years with Lloyd Naylor who said that the way to get a horse to drink the water to which you have led him with love and care, is to salt the oats. I contended that there will always be a "horse" or two willing to shrivel up and die of thirst rather than accept the fountain you offer, regardless of how much you love and care for them. My mind is now opening to the idea of incorporating social media networks into classroom instruction and research projects as a way to reach reluctant learners and expand the resources of those already excited about learning.  Lifelong learning is probably in the mission statement, goal statement, or DRSL of every school and every district in the United States. But, we cannot measure lifelong learning in our students without following them around for the rest of their lives. We can, however, measure the skills necessary to become a lifelong learner, which skills we strive to inculcate into our students. Maneuvering around the internet is now one of the necessary skills of lifelong learning. Students are using and will use social media for good or ill whether we like it or not, whether we guide them or not. I don't know how or what can be done to minimize the real dangers of life on the internet for the young and immature (of all ages), but the potential for harm must be addressed before we fully embrace the electronic biome in our schools. Will Richardson has written some interesting observations on social networking on his blog.
Ballet West: Friday night after the conference, Chris and I went to Ballet West's new production of Swan Lake. This is my favorite ballet among all the other ballets I really like, and I have seen it at least six times. Our daughter Rebekah has sesson tickets with us, but she had a conflict and decided to go to the other activity. Emma went to the ballet in her place. We had a lite supper at Siegfried's Delicatesen and arrived at the Capital Theatre ten minutes before the curtain went up. It was a stupendous production, but Chris was disappointed that we didn't see her favorite principal artists Christiana Bennett as Odette/Odile, and Christopher Ruud as Prince Siegfried. Bennett is a tall, gorgeous dancer with beautiful red hair, and is Chris' favorite as is Ruud. We saw Katherine Lawrence and Thomas Mattingly. She was very good; he was a little weak. Christopher Sellars did a fine job as the prince's friend and would have made a stronger prince. Sellars is from Huntington Beach which I claim as my home town, because I spent my teenage years there. The production had all the popular standard dances, but new choreography for some parts, which we enjoyed very much. Especially impressive were the finale changes in act IV.

Hale Centre Theatre: On Monday we went to see Fiddler on the Roof at Hale Centre Theatre. It was a good, but not great performance. Evenso, we enjoyed the evening. The singing was strong and the dancing was adequate. I am always impressed with the way this theatre company utilizes the in the round stage.
This has been a very "theatrical" weekend considering that Chris and I also went to see the Percy Jackson movie on Saturday afternoon.