January 2010

I went to a quick lunchtime workshop this week where teachers were introduced to the many features of a Smartboard.  Mostly I went so that they would let me use a Smartboard in my classroom, but it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d seen one.  I couldn’t help but grin while the others were owhing and awhing over this “new” technology they were going to have in their classrooms.  The first Smartboard I played with was in 1999 while I was student worker at UC.  Design students were using it to present their portfolios to reps at different companies, and it was paired with videoconferencing.  It made me wonder again what exactly the relationship between technology and public schools in the US is.

This is the second week of evomlit, and as always, I’m having a bit of a time keeping up, and keep sinking a little further into my patano of technology, where I get stuck playing with new tools and never get around to commenting on them.  I’ve been using iGoogle for a while now, and sometime in late 2008 finally figured out that Twitter was a useful tool.  Last week I started using Diigo.  Thinking about the technological lens, I find it more challenging every day to try to filter out what technologies might work with my students, what my school will actually allow (before I get too excited about using something that I actually cannot), and equally more frustrating to try to understand what a “21st century” skill really is. In From Blogs to Bombs, Mark P. makes a point that I live every day as a high school language teacher:

“Effectively, our whole culture has moved into perpetual beta, where changes happen so quickly, and are contributed to by so many diverse people and groups, that everything becomes provisional. There’s real potential here for doing things a new way. But there are also lots of people, from parents to politicians and despots to democrats, who find their worldviews unsettled.”

I find it unsettling that my students’ worldview is upset as well.  I believe that they need to know how to use the tools that make up such a large part of their lives in a way that benefits their education.  I understand why so many things are filtered out on our computers, but then how do I teach my students to sort through what’s good and bad?  What’s real or not?

I had more written here the first time around, then managed to erase everything!  I do want to spend some time going through Mark Pegrum’s wiki this week, http://e-language.wikispaces.com/.

This video struck a chord with me. I recently returned to the US after four years of living abroad in El Salvador and Colombia, and teaching EFL. Having picked a bad month economy-wise to come back (July), I ended up taking a job teaching high school Spanish in Eastern North Carolina. I was hoping to find an ESL position, but it didn’t work out, and I love Spanish as much as I do English! The school I’m at made a huge pitch to me that included lots of support for using technology in the classroom, which is for me, an essential part of teaching today.

I started working with my students halfway through the semester, and have run into many walls not only with technology, but with resources and curriculum in general. These are not yesterday’s students…they’re today’s. Although the students are classified as “poor” for the most part, the majority walk into my room with at least a cell phone, if not also some kind of MP3 player or video game system. Or more than one! Problem is, they can’t use them, but they’re allowed to have them (which means they’re going to use them).

Many of my students have problems concentrating and are easily distracted, and listening to music does help (they’ve shown me that). But, we can’t do that. Many of their phones can connect to the Internet (but we can’t do that either). There’s 5 computers in my room, plus a laptop and dataprojector, which I was excited about at first, until I figured out that almost anything I would want to use is blocked. All audio and video material is supposed to be board-approved before it is used as well. I understand why, but at the same time, don’t see that as realistic. Content changes every day, which my students and I know, but others seem to not. Students also have no way to email from the school, which means that setting up accounts

I’ve spent the past 9 weeks surviving, trying to adapt content to encourage communication and interest, to incorporate ways to use the language to create, but feel that I failed.  But I’m not close to being done trying, and can’t wait to get my hands on some new ideas that will actually work!  There’s so much more that I have to say about my students, but…I just realized that this is the seventh year I’ve participated in EVO sessions, and the first where I haven’t been actively involved in teaching ESL or EFL. I think that there’s a lot that I can learn from this session, Multiliteracies and Collaboration and am really looking forward to it!