Saturday, December 25, 2010

Out of Sight, Not Out of "Mind"

So, here I am at the end of my fourth month of retirement and enjoying my free time, not stressing about incorporating technology into the daily lives of students. Oh, right, they're doing that without any help, and I'm still thinking about it, aren't I? Technology remains an integral part of my own life, whether it's my smart phone, or my Facebook account, or keeping up with people I respect on Twitter, or worrying about the blog posts I'm not posting. I'm finding that you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can't remove her interest in what goes on there.
To keep up with technology in education, I'd like to recommend some of the most interesting and useful blogs that I enjoy reading every day. Many of these are well known to you, and for good reason. Others may be newer and for each one of them there are at least ten more out there not yet on my RSS feed. Here are some of my current favorites:

1. Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne
A recent post contains 7 videos every teacher should see. I enjoyed all of them, even ones I've seen before. For fans of The Office, don't watch the last one until you've watched the first six!
Free Technology has inspiring suggestions almost every day and I wouldn't miss one.

2. Angela Maiers
Angela Maiers is a well-known speaker and consultant and she covers lots
of issues, including the uses of web technologies in education. I found particular interest in her recent conversation about Grant Wiggins' proposal to ban fiction from literature classes in favor of more non-fiction. You can read Angela's response and others' who read Wiggins' blog. Fascinating and provocative.

3. Teach Paperless, Shelly Blake-Plock
Recent post about how "teachers shouldn't be guide
s; they should be travel agents" was very interesting. Blake-Plock is a teacher, a writer, and a musician to name a few occupations. He has discussed the need for and uses of homework, when to use paper in a paperless classroom and many other challenging ideas.

4. Upside Down Education, Amanda Dykes
This one's new for me and I find it more philosophical than other blogs. I enjoyed Dykes' recent conversation about the now ubiquitous interactive white boards in classrooms. Other recent topics of interest were "Do you share?" and "What's Your Empowering Word?"

5. Langwitches Blog, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
The author of this blog has international credentials and includes, among her interests, global learning connections and digital story telling. Recent blog entries include: using social bookmarking in schools, Richard Byrne's Super Book of Web Tools for Educators (to which Tolisano is a contributor), and "What do you have to lose?" (about sharing yo
ur writing with others).

6. dangerously! irrelevant, Scott McLeod
The author is on
e of the creators of the original Did You Know? (Shift Happens) videos and is an expert on technology leadership in education. The Anti-Creativity Checklist and Athletics or Laptops are recent entries to this blog.

7. Not So Distant Future, Carolyn Foote

The author is a librarian in Austin Texas and her blog talks about issues concerning libraries, technology, and schools. A recent blog entry is about why teachers should be Time magazine's "Person of the Year." She has also discussed Kindles, and the shifting paradigm for libraries and librarians. Foote also links to a great list of other blogs to explore.

There are other blogs (my goodness, how many?!) to explore and I'll share them as my year goes along. I hope other people will share their favorites with me, too.

Keeping my mind on technology,

(Cartoon originally seen on "Innoblog"
Other graphics from and

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At the Crossroads: Searching the Internet

Selective searching... Is it a good thing? As the school year unfolds, many students will be learning how to use search engines more effectively and many teachers will be guiding their classes toward child-safe resources and even specific websites. I've always followed this technique as a path to wiser, more purposeful, Internet use. A recent radio report on religious search engines (covered on Yahoo News and other online news outlets, as well as Toronto's Star) made me think about this form of filtering the Web.

Jeannette DeMain, in her blog on September 21st at, crystallized what my mind has been playing with since I heard the item on NPR. She remarks that
the so-called moral search engines filter out views in opposition to those held by each of the religious groups affiliated with them. Therefore the user is isolated from diversity of ideas and opinion, with little need for original thought. The Internet is supposed to broaden our horizons, helping us to understand the similarities AND differences of people all over the world. Ms. DeMain's "Moral Search Engines - A Squeaky Clean Internet Experience!" is so well written that I'm annoyed with myself for waiting so long to write my own post. I recommend her column, if you have confidence in your own higher order thinking skills!

It's easy enough for any adult to find Internet news reportage from like-minded people. Sad as I think it is, people can certainly choose to read only the opinions and "facts" set out by conservatives, liberals, specific ethnic, gender, and religious groups.
If we do not look or listen to what others think, though, we will have a very narrow view of the world. If we do not challenge anything that's presented to us, on the Internet or in other media, there is little hope for better understanding and peace.

Use of moral search engines seems to not only "protect" specific groups from particular points of view, it shows little trust in the ability of individuals to think, make good choices, make mistakes, and to learn. I think I'm still in favor of guided searches for younger children as they navigate through Internet crossroads. They need to learn about proper choices and how to find accurate information on the Web. Adults, though, need to take the informational reins into their own hands. A well-educated grownup should be able to stay on the horse, or at least figure out how to get back into the saddle to get where she needs to go.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What's It All About?

Summer is half over; I'm newly retired but still dreaming about schools. A friend, five years into her retirement, told me these dreams will probably continue for awhile. I'm sure she's right because she knows a lot of things. Recently, she shared an experience with me that was not only awesome but also exemplifies exactly why we went into the teaching profession. What happened to, or for, her makes me so proud of my friend (let's call her Jane) and of all the good teachers I have known!

Jane worked in an economically depressed urban area for almost four decades. She loved her students and often confided her concerns to me. Students had emotional problems, uninvolved parents, poor nutrition, lagging skills. The school had security issues, overcrowded classrooms, lacked supplies, and even had some burnt out teachers. Not Jane. She seemed to work harder to compensate for all the deficiencies around her. She got more degrees, matured, and continued to love her students and give them the best educational and experiential foundation she could provide. Jane prepared her classes for field trips, photographed their school adventures, amassed collections of ideas and activities, and shared her love and knowledge before gifting her students to their next teacher.

Over the years, Jane saw many programs come and go in her urban school system. Some were good and some were... not. She went "with the flow" but fought for the things she knew were most important for her students. After decades of hard work and emotion, Jane thought it was time to retire from her profession. She was proud of the work she'd done, the things she'd accomplished, and her school was sad to see her go. Jane's story doesn't sound so unusual, does it? She's a true and dedicated professional. Most of us who are or were teachers probably recognize something of ourselves in Jane.

Now, enter the awesome magic that all of us wish for and only some of us actually experience. A group of Jane's students found each other on Facebook. Let's hear it for social media! Their class was one in the early years of Jane's career but their love of that time together and Jane's impact on their lives was never forgotten. Using Facebook, these students arranged a reunion. Several of them called Jane to make sure she welcomed the idea. Of course she did! After crying over their touching memories they decided on a date. There were young (?) men and women at the reunion. (Jane remarked that they were all older now than she was when she taught them!) Their own careers and lives had taken diverse paths, from the military to plumbing, but they all shared a love for Jane and for their time in her classroom. Some of their classmates took wrong turns and were remembered with sadness. But this core of people were changed by their teacher. They were changed by her love for them and her love for teaching them. They reveled in the photograph album Jane had preserved from so long ago. They even took photos of the photos so they could keep their remembrances alive and vivid. Jane made a difference in their lives and now they were making a difference in hers.

For every Jane in education there are many more of us who won't experience a fond reunion with students. Deep in our hearts, though, we must know that we touched many lives in good ways and we are remembered fondly for doing so. Let's all celebrate the "Jane Moment," students and teachers alike. It's what teaching is all about.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

End Of An Era

Wow! I can't believe I haven't been opinionated since last December! That's not entirely true, but I surely let work and family situations get in the way of writing. And now we're at the end of another school year, a very poignant period for me. This is the last June of my teaching career.

For 25 and a half years, most of it spent in a computer lab, I have watched kindergarten students grow up and their tech skills develop from grade to grade. From Atari to Apple IIgs to colorful iMac to elegant Intel iMac, our computers have grown up as well! I still remember early years when first graders lined up with sentence strips so we could demonstrate how the "delete" key works!
Children definitely come to school with many more technology skills in the 21st century! Our first Apple, the only one we had, was connected to a telephone modem and we "chatted" with other schools by text only. We even "met" Rosa Parks! It was an old fashioned system for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How amazing it is to have Skype, Twitter, and blogs at our fingertips in 2010!

In my present day computer lab I have a shelf filled with digital cameras that have come and gone as the technology changed. I like to think my own skills and understanding of technology tools have evolved over the past quarter century, rather than going extinct along with those cameras. I know so much more about how children learn; I've lived through so many curriculum revisions! There are endless lists of projects and activities; some of those were one-hit wonders and some have become perennial favorites. The workshops and conferences probably number well over a hundred. I've attended, I've presented, I've evaluated, I've received professional development credits. More importantly, I've been inspired and rejuvenated. I can't say enough about a good conference! The colleagues have come and gone. A few have been with me all along, but not many. The younger teachers are poised to assume responsibility for maintaining the school's balance of friendship and academics. They are a wonderful group of teachers and administrators and I'll miss them as they continue the adventure that is education.

In the next few months I'll have to come up with a new name for this blog. I'm sure I'll still be "Mad About Technology" and I'll probably do some sort of teaching in less formal settings. You can't change a person's interests or talents overnight, and I'm not sure I want to change mine. New opportunities are welcome, but for now I'll hold onto the skills and lessons I've learned in the last 25 years and see how they can be put to use in my changed world. Maybe I can learn a few more as I forge ahead.