Monday, December 1, 2008

New Literacies

I just finished reading the Fall issue of OnCUE, the publication for CUE, Computer Using Educators, Addressing the 21st Century Literacies. This issue is about the New Literacies. Wow! This issue was like an answer to an age long prayer. I have been rambling on to whoever will listen about the obsolete processes and requirements of the current educational system.

Chris Fitzgerald Walsh's article Wiki Racing and the New Reading looks at the ways we get our information. It no longer is comes from turning the pages of a book. The New Reading consists of podcast, You Tube, text messages, Discovery Channel, learning that easily accessible and quickly absorbed. Most of the books, fiction, that I read or rather listen to are audio books. I can do this while driving or cleaning and organizing. Oprah did a 10 week web cast on a Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. I have not yet read the book but have a sense of it and do quote from the parts that I know. I can have a meaningful conversation about this book and not have read it.

We need to broaden our definition of Reading and literacy. Depending on what source you reference, after the commonly known definition of "ability to read and write", the third definition is "a person's knowledge of a particular subject or field". This is what Chris Walsh was referring to. My students and I can get tons of information about Sharks from Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

This reminds me of a question posed to a group of administrators a few years ago. If reading, as we know it, decoding, blending and comprehending the written word becomes obsolete what would we as educators do? The thought sent waves of fear around the room. What will we do? It was truly inconceivable that reading and it's importance might wane. Why do we read? For enjoyment and to acquire knowledge. Can that be done without sight sound correlation? the answer is yes. So, how long will it take educators to learn how to deal with the change.

More next time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prepare for Halloween

Anyone who knows me knows I loath Halloween. Halloween, as a national holiday my have surpassed Christmas as the most popular. What does this say about our nation? Anyway, the reason I loath it so is because I work in the public school system. This day have everything to do with family, friends, candy, costumes, fun, silliness, scaring, one-ups-mans-ship, craftsmanship and many other things that are not a major part of the public school.

So many people love it. And no matter how much we try to redirect the energies of the day to honor characters in literature or theme the costumes to a period in time, the whole day becomes trying to make sure everyone is safe and no one gets hurt. Safe from terrible people who might want to harm children. Safe from other students, who in their exuberance harms someone else with their costume. Safe from feeling left out because you don't have a costume and really want one.

What does this have to do with a public education? The good folks at Common Craft and boiled my thoughts on the subject to a very clear plan. Thank you Common Craft. Preparing for Zombies is how I feel at times. Enjoy your Halloween.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hamsters, Trains, Chairs and Black Holes

Conversations with Kindergartners can generate some interesting topics.  On the first day of school, a Kindergarten teacher asked her class, "What do you want to learn in Kindergarten?" "How to buy a hamster!" exclaimed one, "How to drive a train."  shouted another and "How to make a chair." finished the third.  This kind of  enthusiasm and excitements held by these four and five year old boys and girls is rarely matched at any other time in a life.  

As a group of these same age students were sharing their recently dictated stories with me, some how we ended up on one student's understanding of black holes.  He explained to me, in a broken English, "that, not now but in long time, black hole will take all of earth in it.  In a time when there are no more people."  I said to him, "That's right.  In the future, the sun will turn super nova and then collapse into a black hole."  Of course I know, but he's five.  He looked at me and just shook his head up and down with a look on his face that said, "Lady, that's what I just said."  Needless to say, these questions and probably many others won't be answered this year in Kindergarten. 
What is the point to all of this?  The point is that these little ones come to us full of curiosity, knowledge, a connectedness to what's around them and just a lively different perspective on the world we live in.  Many American public schools don't seem to care about what these students come to school capable of doing or knowing.  We treat them like empty vessels to be filled or a puppy that needs training.  This negates all that thee children are and are trying to become.  

Our school district, along with many others, have returned to basics.  What that means, is Kindergarten is the new first grade.  The curriculum standards that are required for Kindergarten, a little less than ten years ago, were the expectations for First Graders.  The thought being that since these children need retraining or filling, it is perfectly okay to raise the bar and expect all students to meet it.  We just need to give them more information sooner.  

A saying I heard during when I was getting my teaching credential back during the last century. The saying was, Children come to school like and exclamation mark and they left like a period. Unfortunately, we are starting that process and ensuring that it happens earlier and earlier in the life of children.  Many times that is shown to us by our drop out rate.  These students are finish and moving on often times ill equipped for life.   Charter schools are pulling away students from the public schools like a slow hemorrhage.  These are all in response to what public schools are doing and not doing.  How can we stop these madness?  

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Second Day of School

As the new school year begins, I have these big overarching questions hanging over me.  I ask myself and anyone that will listen, What are we doing?  Why are we doing it?  What are we doing it for?  

Big and general yes, but what good are small and specific questions.  These questions came about the second day of school as I was sitting and consoling a crying Kindergartner.  She wanted to go home, normal for immature students.  Because there was only about 40 minutes before the end of the school day, I was going to sit with her and stay until the parents are here to pick her up.  So, is the case with criers, you have to distract them from why they are crying with miscellaneous familiar conversation, What is your brothers name?, How old are you?, Who brings you to school?, etc.  

Over the course of the 40 minutes, this five-year old, on the second day of school, was able to tell me the names of most of her classmates, what students were doubles, two of the same names, who the smart kids were and who weren't so smart.  She came forward with the truth on a few lies she told earlier during her emotionally distressed period, "I lied, I do have friends."  Then the full blown conversation comes forth about family, friends and anything else that comes to mind.  Also, during this conversion, the student says on at least two occasions, that she is bored.  This is the statement that makes me ask the above questions.  

A students, at the age of five, who, on the second day of school has assessed the class and her classmates says she is bored, I have to listen and ask those questions.  Some of the other reflective  questions I ask are, How do we capture and maintain the interest and intelligence of this five year old?  Why is it that students like this in Kindergarten don't have the same kind of verve in the subsequent grades?  What do we do to them?  It reminds me of a quote "Children come to us, in schools, as an explanation point.  And they leave as a period." 

I come full circle and ask those big questions, What are we doing?, Why are we doing it?, What are we doing it for?  Please help me answer these questions.  It is a big dialogue, and I need as much input as you can give me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back to School

It's August.  

Being a third generation educator, August is Back-to-School season.  It is a time to wind down the summer.  A gradual feeling of the beginning of the end, of long days, of late nights, of flexible schedules and of sleeping until you feel like waking up.  Some of the minor joys of being an educator and sharing the youthful schools-out-for-summer feeling.  But August, Back-to-School season, is also a time to mentally prepare for the next school year.  As an elementary school principal, I'm back at the school site making preparations and plans for the coming school year. Talking to potential parents about the new school year, to contractors about finishing up to have a school ready for students and a few other odds and ends.  

This year I have focused on book that I bought last year but just have time to read, Reinventing Project-Based Learning.  Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the digital Age by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss.  I was bitten.  This book is the reason I started the blog.  The book spoke to me as an educator.  The idea of collaborating with others to develop a project or learning was something I have been starving for.  As an administrator, we are more isolated than teachers.  My first thought was I must do this with my staff.  My thoughts were on how to roll out this book in the limited time we have for Professional Development.   I'm the type that likes to build additions to the ship while we are sailing.  My staff, as a whole is not.  So, I've had to slow down and soak it up myself before sharing this.  

So, I will be blogging my thoughts and invite comments and suggestions on them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My First Try

Well, I've stayed away from blogging because I feel writing is not one of my strengths.  I thought I'd podcast but, I'd have to write a script for it so am back to writing again. 

So, here I go.  What is constantly on my mind is what public education is not doing for students that are forces to attend them.  One of the largest reactions to public school is a wild variety of private and charter schools.  At best they provide an excellent education as measured by standardized tests and a haven from some of the environmental behaviors that exists for some students. And at worst they provide a rudimentary learning experience and allow an elitist mentality to flourish unchecked. 

As a public school educator I do not disagree with private school, charter schools or even home schooling is doing.  There are many marvelous examples of out there.  My concern is more with public education is not doing to keep up with the social outcry. 

We are all competing for the same students.  With more options available, the local school is no longer the draw.  The first choice is always to move into the neighborhood with the best schools, but charter schools have become fashionable.  So names like Green Dot, and UNO to name a few, are cropping up in everywhere.  Let's face it, all of these forms of school are sprouting up from the lack of change in public schools.  All of these schools are in reaction to what public education is not doing, which in meeting the needs of the students that attend it. 

I'll stop here because I will begin to ramble, so please comment and share you thoughts.