Thursday, December 24, 2009

I just came from the movie theatre, having experienced "Precious." This film, based on the book "Push" by Sapphire, is devastating yet inspirational. It is hard to believe that anyone who lived through the physical and emotional torture of the heroine could survive, let alone flourish.

Precious Jones endures verbal and physical abuse yet has the courage to keep searching for herself. And she finds, within, a young woman of strength, a loving mother, a literate person, and happiness. Education and learning are the keys to unlocking her future and sealing away as much of her past as is humanly possible. As a teacher, Sapphire's story shows us the importance of an individual in changing the world. The teacher believes in her student and continually supports her efforts, often providing spiritual and physical shelter while pushing Precious to higher levels of achievement. It is the support of her individual teacher that helps Precious to learn to love herself and keep expecting more of herself. It is Precious' individual strength that pushes her to learn how to read, to love and raise her two children, to become a part of the society that shunned her but now must appreciate her gifts and her worth.

This time of year people look for or remember miracles. We search for meaning in our lives and new ways to move forward for the next year. We make resolutions that we hope will improve our own lives and the circumstances that surround others. I think it is the best time to remember the importance of the individual. One individual can make a difference; imagine what many individuals can do!

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Friday, December 11, 2009

21st Century Tools.. for Everyone?

This isn't about equity of access to technology. Not that equity isn't a very important issue, because it is. Rather, this post is about whether or not everyone should be using current technologies in their daily life. I love getting new ideas from Tweets. It's enjoyable to keep this online journal called my blog, even if I'm the only one who reads it. Living day to day without access to Google or another good search engine is torture. Contributing to other people's wikis and blogs is something I don't think twice about and I do it almost daily. Creating wikis and blogs for my students seems essential. I'm envious of my own kids' smart phones and look forward to getting one. Google docs and sites have saved my life! I'm a member of professional Nings and understand how valuable it is to collaborate. This year my school has begun video conferencing and it's very exciting to plan virtual field trips to museums, zoos, and other classrooms.

All that being said, I do see friends and colleagues who are afraid of this maze of tools. They are truly afraid they'll get lost in the middle and not be able to find what they value in their lives in the process of "upgrading" how they live. There is a hesitancy that is more than just fear of learning new technologies or a time management concern. There is an overarching question: "Do I really need to ... (fill in the blank with a Web 2.0 tool or tech toy)? What's wrong with the way I do things now?"

My first impulse is always to steer people in the direction of a technology device or web application that can open their world. Sometimes their response is skepticism rather than welcoming the exposure. I've heard people say they are perfectly happy keeping their ideas and notes on paper; why use a blog or a wiki? I've heard that email is fine for keeping in touch; why would they want to join a Ning or open a Twitter account? I can counter with something about expanding their community and reaching more people, or allowing lots of individuals to comment and share ideas simultaneously. But, there are email groups and 'reply to all' does work. What is it that makes a Wiki better than that?

I am still in a cellphone world without texting. Most people under 25 would tell me that email is too old fashioned. Texting is essential to them. Yet I am resistant. Am I afraid to get into the maze, too? I'm blaming it on the cost, for now. I think I'll have to do a little more soul searching before I recommend the next technology tool to anyone else!

P.S. - Great blog post on social media burnout and how to avoid it.