Archive for March, 2006

TB and the real story (and teaching our kids to think?)

Friday, March 24th, 2006

I listened to a story on (oh, here it comes) NPR this morning about drug resistant tuberculosis.

This particular story struck my interest after reading Mountains Beyond Mountains : The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder. This book blew me away and opened my eyes to the story behind the story about the multiple drug resistant tuberculosis problem around the world. It turns out that, according to Farmer (who has dedicated his entire life to not only changing policy, but working one-on-one with those in need), the problem is caused by sloppy treatment and overpriced drugs that are very cheap to produce. Farmer goes so far as to reverse the impact of MDR TB in a community in Haiti, demonstrating to the World Health Organization how it really can be done right.

You may be wondering where I am going with this (or you may already know ;) ). If you listen to the NPR story and then compare what you hear to what Paul Farmer tells you, it is a very different perspective. NPR’s report tells us that it looks bleak, that there is not much known about why this is happening or how to fix the larger problem. Farmer says otherwise. This was a good reminder for me that, while I love NPR, it too has many limitations. It is always important to listen/read/think with an open mind and open ears.

I guess this is a theme in my life. I firmly believe that this is a higher level thinking skill that we should focus on when teaching our students. Youth of today will be faced with problems and challenges that we can not even imagine. This is nothing new - the world is in a constant state of change, and while we do not know where that change will specifically take us, I do believe that approaching global change with an understanding of different perspectives is imperative to a better quality of life on this planet.

That is where the left lane ends for me - where the path gets exciting and we all start to think.


Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Ah…it’s SO good to hear someone say this!!!!!

… We just used new tools and techniques. There are no excuses when it comes to teaching. There is always a way to improve. There are so many free tools at your fingertips. They will revolutionize and change your classroom in ways you cannot imagine. They will make you a better teacher. They will help your students learn more.

You can check out the larger context regarding Vicki’s quote on her blog, Cool Cat Teacher.

It’s kind of funny - I was trying to communicate this concept to our long range technology planning committee last night, and I am not sure that I got my point across. For me, THISis what information literacy is all about! Being a digital native (or at least acting like one) means that we are willing to stand up and say ‘no more excuses!’.

Love it…thanks Vicki. Watch out for that sign - the one that says ‘Left Lane Ends’…

Amazon in the classroom?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006 has some really great resources, and I have been tossing around the use of some of them in a classroom environment lately. I’ll just outline some thoughts - nothing polished (is anything anymore?).

  • Wishlist :: I LOVE the wishlist feature on Amazon’s site. I keep a list of books I want to read and add to it all the time. Often times, I’ll be driving down the road (probably listing to some show on KERA or one of NPR’s broadcasts) and I’ll grab my phone to record a book title that I want to dump into my wishlist. The best part of this feature on Amazon, in my opinion, is that it uses the evolving principles of social connections to recommend other book titles based on what you read. This is simply one more way for me to develop connections that I never would have known about before. So, what if a teacher had his/her kids do this and select a book title based on their topic of interest?
  • Book Reviews :: The book reviews are great on Amazon, and this seems to be a pretty easy integration. Why not have students start by reading reviews and tying that into a classroom lesson, and then posting/adding to the reviews that are currently online?

I’ll start there and leave it at that. …just some rough thoughts that need polishing and addition of thoughts. But I figured I better get them down before I run off the road.

Gizmos and improved curriculum for open source OS in education

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Miguel - you’d be proud. I’m actually writing about open source…kind of. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the way to go, but it typically just isn’t at the top of my interest list…

I read an article yesterday from SlashDot (a geek’s paradise) that was a VERY well balanced review of the three major OS’s. If you are interested in a review that doesn’t just bash one or the other, this is a great read. I didn’t think much of it after that, and went about my day.

This afternoon, we’re sitting in a presentation from Explore Learning that is about their product and the variety of ‘Gizmos’ that they have in their system. You may have seen things like these Gizmos - simple Java or Shockwave applets that allow you to play with different parameters of a concept and see the results immediately. Check out an example on NCTM that demonstrates this concept.

I’m trying to keep this one short, so I’ll get to the point. Explore Learning has fleshed out a variety of these little applets with curriculum correlations, lesson guides, etc. They are very well put together and allow for manipulation within Office type software as well. My thoughts ran back to the OS comparison article from yesterday, and one of the main negatives listed about the Open Source (Linux) OS is its lack of education/curriculum resources. I’m not saying that Explore Learning is THE way to go, but it certainly demonstrates a cross platform (they test a large number of browsers across all major OS’s) solution that would break down some of the Linux barriers.

Granted, paying for a solution goes against the whole concept of open source, but the quality of these applets is significantly better than others that I have seen online - and their library is quite a bit larger. On top of that, I would argue that a large number of teachers who struggle with technology integration would be more apt to integrate a more usable, complete system like this in a classroom environment. The few who ‘get it’ on a campus aren’t enough to get us to where we need to be.

Maybe I’m stuck on the highway here, but the concept of cross platform educational resources seems to be growing - and that is certainly a plus for the open source movement.

And the two become one

Monday, March 20th, 2006

So, I had my first occurrence of online interactions meshing with the real world…hmmm…

I became passionate about ,wakeboarding a few years back (I really don’t like sports, but absolutely LOVE wakeboarding - this video will give you a general idea of what it is) and have been posting on the DallasWakeboarding site recently. Someone asked if anyone had a video, and I popped up with ‘yes’. Me met halfway a couple of days later and exchanged DVD’s.

I know. NOT a big deal. But it was still weird for me as it was a new experience. Kids are different, though. The funny thing is that when I asked who all had IM accounts in our church youth group the other night - they ALL raised their hands! I’ve mentioned this before, and David Warlik talks about being digital natives, but I was simply reminded of my immigrant status.

Online communities provide an avenue not possible before - connections with people we never would have met. It baffles me how these communities can be local or international, but still connect people in a way that we hadn’t even thought possible ten years ago. So, I’m not sure if this is where the left lane ends, but I’ll at least chalk up another experience and hopefully have a new buddy to throw down some tricks with…

Tommorow Will Be a Better Day

Friday, March 10th, 2006

This is an incredible essay that I thought was very moving. It gave me some hope…

NPR is doing a series called ‘This I Believe’. It is well worth listening to. You might even get hooked and sign up for the ‘This I Believe’ Podcast!

Smart Kids…

Friday, March 10th, 2006

I loved this post titled ‘Nonlinear Thinking’ from Clarence Fisher on his blog, Remote Access.

Maybe you’ll get a kick out of it too!

A group of grade seven girls who are doing a podcast on things happening in our school asked me this morning if they could interview me for their piece. I agreed, but said that I couldn’t do it during class time as I was working with a few groups who were struggling with timing their music to edited vlogs. At the end of the class the girls asked if I could answer their questions at lunch time so they could get on with their editing after school. I said I could do that and asked them what time they wanted to meet.

“Oh, we don’t need to be there,” they told me, “we will just give you a list of the questions, you can answer them and then we’ll insert your answers later into the podcast. It all doesn’t need to be done in order you know.”

Smart kids….

Global warming and why we have to ’suck it up’ as educators

Friday, March 10th, 2006

So, I was listening to KERA yesterday (our local Public Radio station) to a program produced here in Dallas called ‘The Talk Show’. Rather, I should say, I was listening to a podcast of this show (while running - I LOVE on-demand content!) which was about global warming, the polar ice-caps and many topics related. The guest was explaining that Global warming, to scientists, is not theory, a doctoral dissertation, or hypothesis. It is fact. The evidence is solid. Global warming is happening, and we are causing it.

This is not what surprised me, however. What surprised me was that the audience that listens to KERA and calls in to these shows is typically very educated and well versed in being balanced when looking at an issue. What shocked me was that most of the callers to this particular show were playing devil’s advocate, asking questions that clearly demonstrated their mistrust in the issues revolving around global warming, and seemed to be (in large part) in denial of a problem that is clearly not in question.

It baffles me that, in a world where information is so prevalent, a society can be so ill-informed (i have a post in the queue directly relating to this!). This show simply reinforced my belief that we must teach our kids to think, to search out information, to DO something with it, to inform themselves and to search out other perspectives. It has become SO easy to do this in today’s world - why do we resist so vehemently!?

David Warlick , in his blog ‘2 Cents Worth’, states:

I believe that it is time that we stop hiding behind our immigrant status, and start acting like natives. We need to stop making excuses and start leading. We are teachers, after all. It’s our job to lead, not follow. Sure, we’ll never be able to keep up with our kids in lots of ways. They have the luxury of time and their brain cells are fresher. But it is our job to look into the future and then plan and lead the way for our children.

You may say, “but who’s going to teach me to do that?” That’s an immigrant question. Natives teach themselves. They work with each other to grow their knowledge and skills. We’ve got to figure this out!

The answer is not an easy one, but it IS clear. Read, learn, develop yourself, take initiative, be passionate and dedicate yourself to a path of hard, grueling work.