technology, teaching, time

And, we are learning about technology again. It’s too bad that teachers only get this sort of thing in one day snippets. I feel as if there is no way to get anything really accomplished when people have time to really explore and then come back and ask questions.
One of the greatest things about teachers is that they are (usually) eager to learn new things. One of the most difficult parts of teaching as a profession is that the amount of time teachers are given to learn new things is effectively—none. Which means, of course, that teachers need to use their free time to keep up with what is going on–creating a constant tension between work and, you know, the rest of life.

What does this have to do with technology? Technology has the potential to free up some of that time, to create some knowledge, to make the search for knowledge quicker and more accurate. It also, of course, has the potential to waste enormous amounts of time, but so does television and reading wikipedia and education blogs must do a little bit more for your mind right?

Teachers know that their students need time to learn, time to engage and think about what they have been exposed to, time to question and figure out what is going on. Teachers need that same opportunity; they need to have more time to learn the new stuff, and, of course, this needs to be an acknowledged part of their job, valued and supported, not a choice that pits personal necessity against teaching commitment.

I love teachers…

I love to read and write. I love learning. I think it’s out of sight. I love the kids I have. And the ones I’ll have next year.(boom de yadda)(boom de yadda)(boom de yadda)(boom de yadda).

I love that Discovery ad–if you haven’t seen it, it’s here. I think videos like this showcase one of the most positive aspects of you-tube and other sites like it–their ability to pass the positive and people’s responses to the positive around the world.

I like using resources like this (sometimes, obviously, under the radar of those who block useful websites) in my classroom. They are inspiring and invigorating and uplifting and fun to imitate. We’ve done our own versions of the Obama “Yes We Can” video–written parodies of various “teaching” videos, watched the Challenger tragedy and responded to it and generally made writing part of the experience of watching. It’s amazing how inquisitive students are (and how much easier it is to teach analysis) when they hear the world “you tube”. I don’t let the technology take the place of the lesson, but I certainly love using it as a tool. (plus, of course, a whole class of eighth graders quietly humming “boom de yadda” while they write their poems/stories/responses is not to be missed.)

labels…

I have always had a difficult time with labels. I am quite resistant to them when it comes to books, even more resistant to them when it comes to my posts, and totally impossible when it comes to my students.* I suppose it’s because the only reason I can see for a label is to describe something accurately, and I’ve never actually met a label that does.
I’ve stuck my blogger labels in the sidebar though. While I was debating that move, I went through all of the labels I already had and realized they were hitting ridiculous numbers. In my effort to describe everything accurately, I had split so many hairs that the connections between posts (which I think are the real purpose behind the labels, the groupings) were non-existent. So I went back and edited any category that had only one entry.** I tried grouping some posts together; I tried piling labels on to certain posts that seemed to cover a lot of ground, and I took a hard look at the trends that I saw coming out of the process.
The result?

I do a lot of talking about reading (not surprising), not enough about writing, and hardly any at all about Social Studies. It was interesting because I’ll freely admit that, except for a bit more about writing, I bet this is roughly how my energies are divided, and I need to do better than that.
I need to think and write and research more about writing. I need to spend more energy on Social Studies (and not let the textbook get me so frustrated). I need to keep my ideas and enthusiasm about reading translating into my classroom.
This sort of reflection is one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. It’s interesting to see it in practice.

*I think this is because so many of our labels in schools are…limiting (“below grade level”, “ELL”, even “Advanced” miss so much of the complexity that is what makes middle school such a unique time in a child’s education.)
**okay, I kept one label (organization) that only had one post. I really, really need to get more organized. I figured it would be a good reminder.