Tuesday, December 20, 2005 

Blogging and the Educational Imperative

Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous"

Since my recent introduction to blogging, I've been blessed with the opportunity to read from a wide variety of offerings, some of which have obliged me to adjust a few of my long-held positions about education. Rubbing up against the minds of others, after 35 years in this field, provides me with a rejuvenated sense of hope and subsequent expectation.
There is always concern expressed, in education, that things are "...not the way it used to be", that somehow education and its "clients" have changed. I consider that to be an astute observation rather than a cry of exasperation.. I am thankful every day that it has changed, that it continues to evolve, that it morphs to better meet the needs and challenges of our young people. The French author, Paul Valery, once observed that "....the trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be"!
The Educational Imperative hasn't changed. The methodologies and tools may have....as they should, since the advent of technology has moved the learning paradigm and continues to do so in quantum leaps. I share the concerns about blogging that many of my fellow administrators and teachers have amply expressed in these pages, but the overall benefits that I have observed this past year with our students far outweigh the pitfalls. The ethics, the etiquette , the respect for others' opinions that our teachers have taught their students as part of their blogging lives will transcend the vast volume of knowledge that they will access. The Educational Imperative continues to be in good hands.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005 

Why blogs in school?

"It is good to rub and polish your mind against the minds of others"
( Michel deMontaigne)

Blogs as a learning tool for students, when done right, are powerful opportunities. As more and more teachers seize upon this tool as part of their methodology, the greater the liklihood grows that reflective thought will occur. Students....especially those who feel disenfranchised from their schools and teachers...now have a "safe" vehicle with which to learn and express themselves, an opportunity devoid of the social anxieties of the classroom. The interaction between student and teacher, between student and student that many curricula require, is now placed on a more "equal" plane. A positive comment from a teacher or classmate further engages the student and spurs them on , contributing to a greater sense of belonging and mastery.
I've just returned from a presentation by Dr Martin Brokenleg, a well-known child psychologist who emphasizes the importance of establishing a climate of belonging for young people as part of a learning culture. Teachers know this instinctively and struggle daily in their attempts of inclusivity for their kids. "How can I reach this one?He's so withdrawn/hyper/bad....! I'm not sure that he's learning much." It's a question that good teachers ask themselves daily.

One of the observations that one of our "blogging" teachers made, recently, was that as a result of the use of blogs in all his Math courses, a number of students, ever so conscious of individual help, are blossoming in their understanding of what goes on in class. Even those students who will not be passing the course choose to stay in the class. Why is that? Certainly they are not gluttons for punishment, as it were. More likely, they feel a connection to the group and to the teacher, a connection which they wish not to lose. They "belong" to Mr K's class.
At the other end of that continuum, students eager for more knowledge and greater understanding end up "pushing" their teacher academically and intellectually. From what I've seen from a variety of postings from many different teachers in various parts of the continent and beyond, this appears to be welcomed and indeed encouraged. As Martha Stewart would say..."It's a good thing".......isn't it? Isn't that what we teachers do? We teach kids to think and to problem solve. The bar keeps getting pushed higher. We need to be in a position to respond.
Educational and classroom blogging is but one tool and should not be viewed as a panacea, but what a tool it is!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 

Fear of Blogging?

"A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle."
( Father James Keller )

I've been following with interest the conversations between Darren, Miguel and Bud the Teacher in regards to the question of ethics as it applies to opening up blogging to all students and school systems. I especially enjoyed Bud's podcast of Nov.11 on the subject.
Regardless of anyone's position on the topic, I am especially enthused by the mere fact that teachers all over the continent and beyond are looking at this issue with all its complexities and possibilities. I am excited about the passion that I see daily from teachers seeking new ways to expand our students' awareness and knowledge. I see their efforts translate into passionate students, students who feel a connection with their teacher(s) and to each other. Where there is passion, there is hope! Is not our function as teachers to provide opportunity and guidance in the same way that a judicious parent would want? Do we, as parents, not take it upon ourselves to encourage opportunity and the searh for personal excellence in our kids? Do we not teach our children how to be" safe" by teaching them how to be discriminant users and observers? If our function is to prepare our students for the future, why would we insist on teaching them in the same way that we were taught 20, 30, 40 years ago? Blocks and filters don't keep our students safe (actually, they are more for our own benefit, that we are allowed to feel safer.... most of these can be circumvented anyway). I find the position just a bit short-sighted. MSN chat lines and text messaging, quite honestly, are of greater concern to me, both as a parent and a school administrator.
Good teachers find a way to teach and to reach each student. Great teachers are also able to see what lies ahead and to lead those students (and sometimes their colleagues) in that direction, replacing fear and apprehension with passion, curiosity and confidence. Can we accept anything less? We are blessed with visionary teachers at DMCI. May they continue to dream and to share their light!

Monday, November 21, 2005