Monday, November 23, 2009

Learn or be learned

I just spent three days at a teacher's convention... to be more precise, it was a leading and learning conference.  I quite enjoyed it for the most part, but it seemed that other than a lot of new catch phrases, not much was new, but then, if the old hasn't been mastered I guess there is no room for anything new.  Before it sounds like I am slamming the conference, teaching, and learning, let me make it clear that all teachers are at individual places when it comes to teaching.  Some are hip-to-the-scene-daddio as far as technology is concerned, while others are up on cutting edge instructional techniques.  However, no two teachers are at exactly the same place, which means that conference's like these are necessary.

What did I take away from this conference?  I have decided that technology is the focus I want to make in my classes, specifically podcasts, vodcasts, etc.  I have already started and the kids have taken to it like... well, let's just say that they have taken to it. 

When I went to school, the big thing for us was being able to watch a video in class, or get handouts that didn't make your fingers turn purple.  It has been said that kids today have no clue how blessed they are techologically speaking, but I believe that the same thing was said when I went to school and I don't want to sound like someone I used to make fun of.  The truth of the matter is that no matter what kids are doing in school today, the kids of the future will be blessed with even cooler ways of doing the same thing, and someone will most likely say that kids have it easy, and don't get how hard things were for their parents, etc when they only had cellphones, laser printers, smartboards, and HDTV.

I, personally, won't complain.  Since some of the things that kids are doing today are much cooler than the things I was doing, and I hated doing what I was doing, then it would be somewhat hippocritical of me to suggest that things were better before, when I would have given my canine teeth to have been able to do some of the cooler things then that are being done now.

At the end of the day, the things kids do in the classroom need to be in line with what they are doing outside the classroom.  If teachers and parents aren't teaching them how to use the technology that is at hand then who is?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Playing with buttons...

I just imported an old blog to this one, and guess what? It worked. If you want to see the results you'll need to go to the older posts and see what was added. It was my first attempt at blogging before I started 'Life's like that...' Check it out and let me know if I should've left it hidden away...

Technology has come a long way since I was a kid, (Damn! I'm sounding like my dad... and his dad...). Things have changed a lot, even within the last decade and one of those changes is that playing around with things doesn't always break it. Before the modern computer, buttons, switches, teletype, etc. was the cutting edge, but the edge was very dull compared to today's standards. There were lots of moving parts, messy inks, and bulbs, tubes, etc. Back then playing with something, ie. messing around with things you don't understand, often lead to bangs, smoke, and tears. Now, if you mess up, you can usually take a step back and start over again, no harm done.

This obviously doesn't apply to all new tech. There are plenty of things out there that can still be bollixed up by the unfortunate neophyte, but I honestly believe that you almost have to try a lot harder to screw things up than you did when I was younger.

Anyway, I enjoy playing around with new programs, computers, PDA's phones, etc. Not only is it fun, it makes me look like I know more than I actually do, and that helps when you are trying to impress the most important people in your life... your kids and your significant other. I may be a faux techie, but if it helps me to stay in the saddle as the white knight for a little while longer, I will gladly keep up the facade...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I'm writing this post from my phone as an experiment. I want to see if the tool that I use to write determines anything about my writing. Will I write more? Will I write less? Will my writing be the same quality, will it suffer, or will it improve?

I used to use pen and paper to write, and then I bought a portable typewriter, which I used extensively until I came into contact with a then new apple computer. That changed everything. I could cut and paste without scissors or glue. I could write many different versions of the same story, just by making little changes and then saving them under a different title. The list of things that I could now do goes on. The point is, that as technology has improved and progressed so has my writing. I will say that sometimes I miss that old typewriter of mine. Will I ever use it again? Probably not. Will I ever get rid of it? Not in the hyperbolic million years. My means of writing has changed over the years, but I don't forget old friends. I may eventually think my words onto a screen, but I will still have my pen and paper drafts, my typewritten pages, floppies, and thumb drives to help me remember how I got there.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Long, boring, stupid, nonsensical stuff...

One of the wonderful thing about being a teacher is that your students have an incredible way of keeping things in perspective for you. One of my favourite poems is 'Ulysses', by Lord Alfred Tennyson. It is a long poem that is chock full of big words and archaic sentence structure. As my students would describe it, long, stupid, boring, and nonsensical. They were quite shocked to hear that I had actually wasted time to memorize the whole thing. Wait until we get to Shakespeare...

The whole point is that when I forget that the whole world doesn't share my tastes, or my interests I have about 50 kids who will gladly remind me. Now, I know that my students' interests are going to be very different from those of most people over 25; however, they still bring me down to earth a little and make me realize that even though it's okay for me to be interested in long, boring, stupid, nonsensical stuff, it's not okay for me to think that they may, for even a slight moment in time, be just as interested in it, at least at this point in their lives.

The trick then becomes, how do I turn them onto this long, boring, stupid, nonsensical stuff.

Well, that trick is the holy grail of teaching in any subject.

It's kind of ironic that as I write this I have Supertramp telling me in the background that the answers are easy to find... I guess I'm looking in the wrong places.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The past, the present, the future...

I may have already said this, but I am very platonic in my views of life; let me explain. Plato believed that we are the sum total of all of our experiences. In other words, we are who we are because of all that has happened to us, for us, with us, etc. I believe that all of that experience is wasted if we don't stop and review, reminisce, and recall our lives, our memories, our hopes and dreams, and all the other things that make life what it is, and make us what we are.

I don't necessarily think that we should focus on bad, or unpleasant memories, even though they are a part of our lives and are part of who we are, I think it is important to look back so that we can understand ourselves.

I lived in England for a couple of years and that experience has left an indelible imprint on me. In some ways, I am still trying to figure out how. I often feel the need to validate that experience. Why? You ask. We all need validation, even if it is internal. My being in England was and is something that changed my life. However, it appears that I am the only one who seems to recognize the magnitude of that experience, and that is alright. I have come to realize that the only way this experience will probably receive the kind of validation that I feel I need is to write about it. So, I have decided to write about my experiences in England. Will it work? I think so. Someday, I may realize that it doesn't matter if anyone but me cares about my experiences, but that will be okay. In the end this is all just for me. Even though I feel it is important to touch other's lives for good, and we all have something to share, it is important to remember that unless we can see our lives, and know our lives clearly we may not be able to do for others and for ourselves all that could be done. So look back, reflect on who you are, what you stand for, and why you are here, and know that there is good in the world, and part of that good is you. Socrates stated at his trial that the unexamined life is not worth living, and I am convinced this former student of Plato had it right.