Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ramblings of My MInd

I am forgoing the usual attempt at a coherent post. My mind is a jumble of thoughts, and I am going to spill them. Isn't that my prerogative??
 (sung to the tune of It's My Party... -- It's my blog and I'll ramble if I want to...)
Good things about today ---
1. The BEST thing about today was that my 5th grade class skyped with Laura from 25 Days to Make a Difference. We have been working on our own blog for a difference, 17 Chances to Help. The kids love Laura's blog and they have been having a bit of a back and forth exchange with her via comments and posts. It was one of my students who asked if we could skype with her. I really haven't done much skypeing with my students at all. In fact today was only the second time I have used skype in the classroom and the first time I have used it in this way. Laura was so adorable and sweet. My students were so excited and kept asking her the same questions, like, "How did you get the idea for your blog?" over and over. All in all it was just cool.
2. A friend at work made me lunch. How nice was that?

Frustrations for today...
1. I got a not so nice, "anonymous" comment on the 17 chances to help blog. I think it was from a student in the class. I'm not sure of the motivation for the comment, if it was a passive-aggressive way of complaining about the project or just a misguided attempt at being funny. I don't know if he/she didn't realize the comments were moderated. I don't know. I have heard that a few of the students have complained about spending so much of our lab time working on the blog, but when I asked the whole group about it, I got a positive response, even asking if they can continue in next year. 
It really hits a nerve and illustrates, for me, a piece of the issue of digital citizenship that is being discussed so much lately, especially after the appalling videotaped beating of a teenager last week. Every little aspect of digital citizenship needs to be taught. Here I am, a teacher, used to students complaining about this and that, and a little comment (which was not even THAT bad) really felt like a slap in the face. There is something cowardly about posting anonymously. I would much rather hear students complain directly, and I told them that.
Now this same group will also be working on a collaborative writing project, using google docs to collaborate on a story using the pictures from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I am really interested and even a bit worried to see how they handle the collaborative aspect of the work. 
2. I am a bit disappointed in the aforementioned group blog project. It was helpful "talking" a bit to Laura's mom, Angela, and reading her post about Laura's blog. I want to do so much more than I am able to do in my 45 minute per week sessions. I can't seem to get the kids to go as deep as I would like them to go. They have a "mitzvah club" as part of their Judaic Studies, but it seems to me that something is missing. They seem to be going through the motions, but not gaining a real understanding of what they are doing. Their writing, their thoughts, even their answers to some of Laura's questions, really make me wonder how our school could be doing a better job of teaching. I don't know if my expectations are out of line for 5th grade... I don't think so, I used to be a 5th grade classroom teacher, but maybe I've lost my sense of the age group? 

Final thoughts:
•I don't know how to address the 45 minutes a week dilemma. I like being the tech resource at the school, even with the limitations. The Judaic Studies teacher who does the Mitzvah Club with the students has no interest whatsoever in integrating tech. She didn't even want to see the blog. I hope to get a grant to continue and expand the project. If I am lucky enough to win a grant, it will give me more options. Maybe I will take it to the afterschool arena, as I did with my student blogging group, the Tech Explorers. I would like us to actually DO some things to help out in our community. I want the students to experience the power of helping and giving, as well as their own power to create, connect and make good things happen.
•As to the issue of teaching digital citizenship, there is a wave building. Talk about using the power of technology to harness the good...I have jumped on board and am expecting quite a ride. Only a few days old, it is called ad4dcss (advocates for digital citizenship, safety and success) and there is already a lot of action afoot.


Lisa Parisi said...

I love reading your ramblings. Glad you're a part of The Harris Burdick Writing Project. Your partner is a teacher in my school and is very excited to learn to use Google docs and Skype and collaborate. I also love the ups and downs you describe. Isn't that was learning is all about? The kids will come through. And you will reach more teachers as you keep going. That's how I got your writing partner involved. She saw what we were doing.

Anonymous said...

"Every little aspect of digital citizenship needs to be taught." Andrea, you hit that right on the head! I saw that you joined ad4dcss and I think you have SO much to add, especially with this insight. Looking forward to working with you on future projects!

Anonymous said...

Andrea--Laura had such a wonderful time talking with you. It is ALL she has spoken about tonight. It's so interesting to read your thoughts here too. I feel uncomfortable at times with the "big deal" that is made of L's blog because like your students, she really doesn't reflect on what she is doing with much depth. Any detail that you see on her blog is what I pull out of her often, and I really do struggle with the whole learning side of this. As a PD provider, I work with teachers who see the same thing. Even though promoting the tech piece is such an important thing, content area teachers don't want to lose the content. We are all grappling with similar issues--how do we hold them accountable for quality work, higher level thinking...I don't know, but I think everyone is trying. It's all so new. At the same time, my husband was blown away witnessing the chat this morning. He couldn't believe how effortless it was, and he wondered aloud why more teachers aren't using these tools with kids. He and I are both grateful to you for your efforts. There has been little use of these tools in Laura's own classroom--what she gets, she gets at home. And she does have fabulous teachers.

Andrea said...

Thanks so much, Lisa, Kate and Angela. It is an amazing feeling to be able to pour out my thoughts and feelings from a day at work and have people respond with true understanding (and encouragement). Such is the value of digital citizenship.

Angela, I am thrilled to hear that Laura enjoyed the skype as much as we did and that your husband thought it went well. I had a 5th grade parent who also teaches at the school stop by and listen to some of the conversation, and afterwards she expressed disbelief that Laura was only in 5th grade. She was so articulate (while being bombarded with questions from 17 eager students).
I also really appreciate hearing your thoughts on these issues of learning and using tech in ways that truly fit with the content and enhance/deepen the students' engagement.
I am a teacher, first and foremost. I taught for years with little to no tech integration (cause I am just that OLD). But I am committed to the tech because I truly believe that it has an important place in the classroom, in motivating students.
I am really getting long-winded here. I guess I should go leave a comment on your blog!