Waiting For Superman

Many of the educators that I follow have been talking about the movie, Waiting For Superman, and Oprah’s recent shows on the topic and Education Nation. I have sensed a lot of frustration in the messages in my Twitter feed and wanted to see the movie myself before I made any judgment on it and how it portrayed the problems and the solutions. This afternoon, I headed down to Hollywood and saw the 3pm showing of it.

There have been a lot of reviews already written about the movie and Larry Ferlazzo has a good list available on his blog so I am not going to try to review the movie in the traditional sense. I am just going to share some of the thoughts that went through my head as I watched it:

  • I wonder where the statistics in the movie came from? What is the spin on them? Have I mentioned that I tend to be cynical about things at times?
  • Charter schools are not the be all & end all in the solution to the education problem. There are great charter schools and lousy charter schools. There are great neighborhood public schools and lousy neighborhood public schools.
  • The pouring information into kids’ heads cartoon was somewhat creepy and so not 21st century learning.
  • I agree we need good teachers but how do we judge what makes a good teacher? Typically, the film seems to indicate it’s all about the test scores.
  • How sad it was that the one private school in the film was so heartless. I am glad that the private school where I work does not do this.
  • Why must someone or something be vilified in order for something or someone else to be good? Is there really a black & white here?
  • On a positive note, it’s nice to have most of my ticket price refunded in the form of a DonorsChoose Gift Card. Cynically, I wonder who’s funding these?

In the end, I mostly felt rather sad …

I’m not sad for the students highlighted in the movie. I believe that they will be fine. They have parents or guardians who care and who will fight for them. They have goals and want to succeed.

I’m not sad for my students. I work in a small private school. The parents are involved and care very much about their child’s education. The students want to learn. Our teachers care about the students and work in partnership with the students and their parents to help each child succeed. The opportunity is there.

I am sad for those students who do not have the support at home. So often, they’re lost before they even start. They can’t apply to the charter schools. They don’t know how to work with (or against) the system to get what they might need.

I am sad for our nation. We have the resources to provide the best education to all of our children. They deserve it and as a nation we need to do it. I am afraid that the discussions around the film could end up pitting teachers against teachers, parents against teachers and schools, our government against schools and teachers. Who would that help? Don’t we all just want what is best for our children?

Have you see Waiting For Superman? What are your thoughts?

Making Connections

Last night I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time talking with Amanda Marrinan who is an amazing educator from Brisbane Australia. Having been unable to attend ISTE 2010 in person, I had missed out on all of the connections that happened there so I was thrilled when the last part of Amanda’s adventures landed her in Los Angeles. Her students do amazing things and make connections with other classes around the world. I had been inspired by Amanda, Maria Knee & Kathy Cassidy’s ISTE 2010 presentation, Let’s Do It: Planning for Technology in Early Childhood Classrooms, and in person I was again inspired by Amanda and her description of her inquiry based classroom and her enthusiasm for technology in the classroom.

Get your twitter mosaic here.

My connection with Amanda led to a personal teaching moment with my daughters. When I told my younger daughter, who is 14, that I was going to go meet Amanda who I had only ever met online she said “but Mom you told us to never meet people we’ve only met online” and my older daughter, who is almost 18, tweeted this:

Hahaha! my mother, a computer teacher who teaches kids not to meet someone they only met online, is now out meeting someone she met online.

My younger daughter and I had a conversation about how it can be okay to meet people we’ve met online if we know who they are based on:

  • how we meet them online
  • how long we’ve “known” them
  • what they post

We also talked about how we should always first meet in a public place and how, as a teen, she should always make sure that an adult is with her if she’s meeting someone that she’s only met online.

All of this led me to wondering about what and how I teach Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship. I had reflected on some of this before in my Building Digital Citizens blog post but this has now become about the tools that I’m using to teach. Almost every one of them stresses to never meet someone offline that you’ve only met online yet I have some amazing friends that I have made and met that I first met online over a common interest. So, how do I teach that sometimes it’s okay? At what age does it become okay? If I say it’s okay sometimes will that give a potentially at risk Middle School student permission to go meet that person they shouldn’t be meeting?

For those of you who try to teach Digital Citizenship, what do you teach about this issue? For those of you with children, what do you teach them?

Reflections on 7 Days to a Better Edublog

7 Days to a Better EduBlog run by Stephanie Sandifer at Change Agency has just ended and I wanted to take a few minutes to:

  1. Finish the Day 7 assignment which I have been thinking about for the last day & a half
  2. Reflect on the process & what I learned
  3. Thank Stephanie for all the work she put into her mini course.

Day 7: Setting Up A Blogging Schedule

I have always been a when the mood hits me kind of blogger. I have come to realize that if I really do want to build an audience for this blog I do need some kind of schedule so people have a reason to come back. I’m just not ready to commit to blogging every day. I may get there but I know if that’s the schedule I try to set that I won’t do it and I’ll just feel guilty about it. I have decided that I am going to try to blog at least once a week. During the school year, I will post what worked and what didn’t that week in the lab. I also plan to post at least some detailed information about projects as each one ends. I can’t put a time on that because it will vary but I can post something every week. During holidays and summer vacation, I know I can find something to blog about every week and I intend to do it. I’m not sure which day will be best for this – I’m leaning toward Mondays – but I’m not making that decision  just yet. Once school has started again and I see what my schedule is going to be like – not only for school but for my mom duties too since my youngest daughter is starting high school this year – then I can decide which day of the week the blog will definitely be updated.

Final Thoughts on 7 Days to a Better Edublog

  1. How did I model these best practices in this mini-course?
    Some of the assignments were not really natural to me at least as a required exercise. Looking back at my previous blog posts, I see that I already do a lot of what was discussed during the course. I do think all of the assignments have value and they all add interest to a blog, but I had to stretch to actually do the assignment sometimes. Like I said I’ve been a when the mood strikes me kind of blogger so it was good thing to stretch and create a post even when the mood wasn’t really striking me. Things like setting and keeping a blogging schedule and engaging with media and discussion questions will help to draw in readers for my blog. I need to remember that I shouldn’t be a sage on a stage here any more than in the classroom!
  2. What strategies did I incorporate to encourage participation and a more social (engaged) learning environment?
    I tried to do incorporate all of the suggestions (except new pages since I already had the ones I wanted) as they were made but doing them once won’t suddenly make my blog more engaging or encourage better participation. I think for me the biggest strategy that I need to incorporate is blogging on a regular basis. I also need to make sure to not only read other blogs (you should see my reader – it’s out of control!) but to comment on them too.
  3. How might you incorporate everything you have learned in this mini-course in your own edublog — whether your audience includes students or other educators?
    My plan is to start NOW and to blog consistently once a week about something related to technology in education and to make it a point to comment on at least one other blog a week. During the school year, there really is plenty to blog about – then it’s about making the time to do it. During the summer, I can spend more time finding current events and things that I think will be interesting to use as subject matter for my blog.

And finally, thanks to Stephanie for putting this together – it got me to blog regularly at least for 7 days and it made me think about the things I should be doing.

Building Digital Citizens

All of my students from Kindergarten through 8th Grade have a series of lessons and projects about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship. I try to build on knowledge from each previous year and use a variety of different web sites to create lessons and engage my students. Some that I’ve used in the past and that I plan to continue to use include:

I have also found some additional resources that I am reviewing this summer and may incorporate in to some of the grades. My goal is not only to stress safety but to teach my students how to establish a positive digital footprint and how to be good digital citizens. I wonder if I am doing all that I should in this effort – this is where my dilemma comes in.

At school, my students are not allowed to use their full names on anything they post online and they can never post pictures of themselves or other students at the school. We also do not post student pictures on our school Facebook page to insure that students are not tagged in photos. This all seems logical to keep our students safe. However, these same students are going home and joining social networking sites using their real names and uploading photos of themselves and their friends. This means that their digital footprint is being established from their Facebook account or their YouTube account or other social networking accounts and not from the work they are doing and posting online for school. We all know that some employers and colleges look up students online. My students typically apply to private high schools. I wonder when the high schools will start looking up their applicants online or if they already are.

In this video, a teacher explains the guidelines that her school has established for online sharing by students which look very similar to our guidelines for our Elementary and Middle School students.

As you can tell from the video, at this school, students can start identifying themselves online by their real name in the 11th grade. I wonder if this is too late. My students already have an online presence in Middle School (and some even earlier) but it does not include schoolwork. What do you think? Are the guidelines in the video appropriate? When should we allow our students to showcase their online work for school as part of their digital footprint?