Guys Read

So this site speaks to a growing issue with today’s young males, they don’t want to read…

The Guys Read website offers suggestions on books that guys might actually enjoy.

I thought it was worth passing on.


Technology is not longer an option, it’s the means. What cheep paper and pencil where to the twentieth century, the personal computer and Internet are for the twenty-first century.

But schools are lagging significantly behind the curve. Adoption of technology into every classroom is still focused on teach-centric tools like teacher computers, projects and document cameras. SmartBoards are just beginning to give students more opportunities to interact with technology, but even these are still primarily being used by teachers. Students need access to computers.

So what’s the hold-up?
Is it fear of what they will (and won’t) do with technology that is holding us back? Is it ignorance of the power of these tools to transform not teaching, but actual learning? Or is it simply a lack of funding?

Change Agent
What will be the “change agent” that will overcome these obstacles? Will change come from demonstrated student growth in the classrooms of pioneering teachers? Will pressure from the private sector like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills final grow large enough to force the change? Or will it take political reform, like Maine’s 1 to 1 initiative that was spear-headed by the Governor be necessary before meaningful change is achieved? Is it naive to think that public demand will ever be strong enough to shape education?

Regardless of where the change agent comes from, the issue of how to fund new technology must be addressed. In these times of shrinking government budgets, many are looking to private sources of funding as the answer. But I say we need a more stable, dependable and recurring funding source to support ongoing tech adoption. No a flash in the pan grant opportunity has ever fixed a problem long-term.

So I ask you, what role do you play in changing the system? Do you really have an option not to become a change agent yourself?

So, I’m slowing coming to the realization that I just might have something to say. I’m not certain that I have anything new to say. Not yet, but I do feel like what I have to say is worth repeating. It is time that I join the drumline. I do believe that what I have to share is worth hearing. So it’s time that I start banging my drum and draw the attention of anyone willing to listen.

With that say, my new intention with this blog is to not just capture my own thinking. I hope to use this space to collect good ideas I come across, whether they’re online resources, tools, or just simply ideas.

For now, let the cadence begin.

Reviewing the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ website, I appreciate that there are people and organizations advocating for the necessary changes at the right levels. If the policy makers aren’t engaged in the discussion, there is no hope for improving the system. However, the information presented in this website, is very big picture almost theoretical in nature. There seems to be a disconnect between the ideal and the reality of a classroom and building environment. Honestly, there is very little on this site that I find useful or enlightening as a classroom teacher.

I was surprised to see McGraw Hill listed as one of the partners. From my experience, publishers are often even further behind the curve than many classroom teachers. Given that published curriculum often (too often) shapes what happens in the classroom, it is essential that they are on board in this shift if it is going to be successful.

I also appreciated the multi-prong approach the partnership is taking: addressing standards, assessment, curriculum and instruction, professional development, and learning environments. But I also think that the professional development must be more on-demand, just-in time profession development rather than the traditional “drive-by” workshops and trainings that is the current norm for professional development. Teachers need more online learning community settings that allow them to come back and ask questions as they implement and explore new skills in their actual classrrom. Teachers need easy access to seeking help and guidance as their knowledge increases and their skills expand.

Furthermore, funding for technology can no longer be dependent on unstable local resources. States need to step-up and take responsibility for funding the infrastructure necessary to allow for 21st Century technology to be seamlessly implemented in the classroom (not just computer labs). We can no longer accept the delusion that slow outdated computers are an adequate solution to meeting the learning needs of our students. Organizations like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills is obviously making a meaningful impact in this direction.

I came across this thought in David Warlick’s recent blog post “the world has become a lot more interesting”.

I would love to see a study that determines if test scores would have predicted the extraordinary accomplishments of the creative, resourceful, dedicated, and relentless women and men who ushered in the digital revolution. Were they all high achievers in their schools. I would suspect that many of them were the guy in the next row, who often didn’t complete his homework, because he simply found something more interesting to spend his time on.

As teachers it’s pretty easy to get caught up fussing about whether our students did the “learning” or at least the assignments we ask. What would change if instead of asking why homework wasn’t completed our response was, “Well then, what did you learn?” What if we actually started honoring the learning that students choose to do everyday. Think of the power this type of insight would give us. You now know what makes that kid tick, motivate, engage. Think how you could use this information to then attempt to draw connections with their passions and interests with what you’re asking them to learn.

Sometimes I wish I could teach a class for independent learners. A class where my job wasn’t to deliver content or even determine the subject. What if my only job was to support and encourage students in learning about the things they wanted to learn about.

I recently got a chance to watch a 6th grade student’s book report project in which he did several claymation videos to tell the story. I suggested that he should combine the clips into one movie and add voice over so we could post it online. His eyes lit up and he now spends his homeroom time in my class working on this project (not for a grade, but because it’s fun). FYI- I teach 7th graders. This student isn’t in any of my classes. I just had the random opportunity to recognize passion and offer support.

One of my actually students was slowly establishing himself as the class clown and getting in increasingly more trouble throughout the building. I was beginning to feel like we were going to spend the year butting heads until one day I came across his state assessment scores. This student had earned a perfect score on the test last year. Suddenly I realized, he’s clowning around because he’s bored out of his mind. During conference week I was able to acknowledge his success and praise his intellect. I also suggested that perhaps some independent studying might be a more meaningful use of his time. Since then, he’s been a different kid (at least in my class). He’s highly motivated to learn more about things he’s interested in. All I’m doing is facilitating the learning cycle and ensuring that he’s challenging himself and growing.

Is this approach feasible with 30 kids all at once, probably not. But maybe. Given the chance, I’d try it.

Unlike science or even math, reading and writing have been a rather static discipline for the last several decades, if not centuries. Not much has changed in the way we write, print and read. One could argue that the use of technology has increased the use of things like text features and in the last 20 years literature has grow increasingly more illustrated with pictures and graphics, but by and large not much else has changed. At least not until the Read/Write Web became prevalent five to seven years ago. Now hypertext, easily embedded pictures, and even the increased use of video content have all changed the way we “read” and write in the 21st century.

So how do I incorporate this new genre of writing into my 7th grade Language Arts/ Social Studies classroom? As Will Richardson illustrates in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classroms, the opportunities are truly endless. My first step will probably be just to do things differently and have students create learning logs in the form of a Blog. I’m a strong believe in the importance of reflection in the learning cycle. If students aren’t required to reflect on what they have learned, what it means, and how it applies to their lives, the learning is often lost.

In these learning logs they would be asked to regularly reflect on their learning and draw connection to real world applications. Although this is only truly doing things differently, I think it’s appropriate first step for teaching students how to use the technology.

Although this type of reflective journal is a good introductory step for students, the real goal is to begin to do different things. Once they are familiar and comfortable with the blogosphere I will take them to the next level by asking students to respond to anticipatory questions early in the week and to extrapolate on application questions towards the end of the week. For example, as an anticipatory activity for our study of Greek mythology, I would have student explain which superpower they would want to have. Then, after exploring the various myths, I would ask students to explain the role mythology played in the lives of the Ancient Greeks and challenge them to identify similar elements of our own culture.

After students are using deeper level thinking to explore more complex ideas, I’ll begin to have them respond on each other posts: supporting other’s ideas, asking clarifying questions or even politely disagreeing and posing counter arguments.

The whole purpose here is to get students engaged and talking. Sharing their thoughts and ideas. The great things about blogging is that everyone has to contribute. Unlike a class discussion where a few eager hands gain most of the floor time, blogging allows all students an opportunity to contribute thus enhancing the learning for all students.

Although these blogs would definitely showcase their thinking, I’ll use other formats (like student websites) to create a portfolio that showcases their work in a more formal way.

(I thought this was posted last night, but I must have done something wrong. Thank you LaWanda for pointing out that it wasn’t online. Guess the lesson learned is to double check that the post actually appears on the blog after I hit publish.)

I just stumbled upon this group of videos that explain all of the different kinds of social media (blogs, RSS readers, social bookmarking, etc.) in “Real Plan English.” Granted, the presentation isn’t flashy. But I thinking the simple explanation is easily understood by just about anybody.