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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Plan Schman: Teaching in the Digital Classroom

I have recently been pondering my teaching style because I have been rudely forced out of it. During summer school I have a single computer in the room with Internet access, no printer and if I want copies I have to submit a request to the administrative assistant. Though I have a general outline of the events that will take place in my classroom, I have never been a fan of having a daily plan. As long as I know where I want to go, the specific route is of little importance. I will dub this style "Of The Moment" teaching. I am now going to claim ownership of this phrase since a google search resulted in very little information. Most of the sites it brought back add the word spur to the phrase.

Teacher accountability currently demands that teachers turn in syllabi and sometimes even daily lesson plans. If the syllabi is a general outline I see no problem with it, but I don't trust a teacher or curriculum that knows exactly which page of the text the class will be reading on October 12th. Lessons should change according to what was in the paper that morning, detour to answer a questioned posed by student, or emphasize a connection that has been revealed after the 4th time teaching a prep.

For of-the-moment teaching to succeed it needs to virtual and high-speed. Access to information needs to be instantaneous. Ideally each student would have immediate access to this data either on their own computer or through a hand-out printed during class. It also requires a teacher that is not afraid to admit ignorance. In fact the teacher should celebrate ignorance because it is an opportunity to learn. Students that challenge a teacher will make of-the-moment teacher even more successful. Learning is the successive destruction of old ideas and construction of new ones upon their ruins. So a challenge will either make way for innovative thoughts or point our the strengths of the current ones.

Insight is non-existant when you are using tunnel vision. Obviously certain skills need to be instilled with in the students, but of-the-moment teaching allows a teacher to find new pathways to the mind in order to place them there. Traditional methods will always work for some students, but traditional methods have also traditionally missed a good number of them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Top Career Choices For High School Students

1. Obvious Observational Meteorologist

Successful candidates must be familiar with the phrases: "It's hot/cold as a mug," and "Hey it's raining. All observations must be intuitively obvious to the casual observer and exaggerated to grand proportions for emphasis.

2. Hypochondriacal Urologist

Must be willing to diagnose bladder infections for any individual who has been forced to "hold it" for five seconds or longer. In rare cases urologist may reference diagnoses of fictional doctors or extremely knowledgeable family members that at some time previous has told them that they "have to use it."

3. Broad Interpretation Constitutional Lawyer

Though the interpretation may be broad almost all litigation will be focused on the first amendment and only a portion of it at that. A successful lawyer will steadfastly maintain that freedom of speech covers all speech, including, but not limited to, foul language directed at a teacher. Applicants will be occasionally called upon cite the separation of church and state as just cause for refusal to do an assignment. They are also fond of phrases: "I can say whatever I want", and "That's against my religion". (see Vague Theologian)

4. Logically Flawed Defense Attorney

A willingness to defend the downtrodden and mentally unstable is a must. All cases must be argued from the viewpoint that if more than one student has committed the offense then the act is excusable.

5. Corrupt Evidence Locker Attendant

Those filling this position are apt to "lose" documents of great importance and then proceed to produce a series of witnesses claiming that they indeed saw said documents in possession of the attendant.

6. PlayStation Sports Athlete

Scouts can recognize potential PSAs by examining the ration of self-reported skill to actual skill. PSA will detail feats that are only possible in a virtual world with a faulty physics engine.

7. Deconstructional Hair Stylist

Ideal candidates for this job are capable of removing synthetic hair from her own head thus creating plenty of work for real hair stylist.

8. Succinct Cultural Reviewer

This individual is always first to something "sucks." (note "sucks" can be replaced with the appropriate regional vernacular)

9. Vague Theologian

Can misquote the Bible at will and condemn others to hell based on this misinformation. However when questioned about the actual contents of the good book have little knowledge of what is writ within. They are also apt to say, "I'm not a Christian, I'm a Baptist."

10. Summer Vacation Planner

The most popular package amongst planners is a 5-6 week stay at a learning academy. While at the resort vacationers can expect to do pretty much they had done for the previous 9 months.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Concrete vs Virtual,Street vs. SuperHighway, Dirty vs. Nerdy

"They see me rollin';They hatin'.Patrollin'And tryin. to catch me ridin' dirty."

Much has been made of the digital divide. That's because of poverty or lack of education a certain segment of society doesn't have an on-ramp to the information superhighway. For some this is true, but for a vast majority of students that aren't on the digital fastlane it is because they are "ridin' dirty." The "tint" of the windows doesn't allow them to see the access roads. They roll right past more interested in keeping it street, pounding the pavement, and keeping it real.

"They see me strollin', they laughin'And rollin' their eyes cause I'm so white and nerdy"

Weird Al's parody of "Ridin'" has become an anthem for the white and nerdy mainly because most of us recognize ourselves in some portion of the lyrics. Though it does so humurously, it validates aspects of our lives by letting us know that there are others out their with similar nerdy tastes. The same can be said for Chamillionaire's original version. Students listen to the song and are comforted by the fact that their lifestyle is legitimized. I am not about to go out and learn Klingon because the narrator of "White and Nerdy" is fluent, but I can take comfort in the fact that there are others out there that debate the merits of Kirk and Picard. So "Ridin" is not going to inspire anyone to run out and get a revolver for their right hand and a 40 oz. for the left, but it will confirm that there are others that "got warrants in every city except Houston."

As ironic as "White and Nerdy" is it still falls into the trap of assigning skin color to a cetain behaviour. I am not offended by the song. I have no problem making fun of white people or any people for that matter. However, most of the students I have had at the alternative program, the long-term suspension program, and in summer school believe that in order to keep it street then they can't be overly successful in school. Those that are successful are seen as selling out or acting white. By extension Chamillionaire can be seen as providing a schematic for black behaviour.

A vocabulary quiz drawn from the lyrics of these two songs would most likely have results that would break quite nicely along racial lines. Obviously education is also a determining factor, but it is a fact that black students are underserved by our education system. Number one. The word "oak" as in "I'm grippin' oak" most nearly means. A: a deciduous tree B: a popular drug C: a wooden steering wheel D: the city of Oakland. Number two. A keyboard design for the maximum physical benefit of the user can be described as. A: Aesthetic B: Ergonomic C: Economic D: Chronic.

I wouldn't be so concerned if I detected even a tad bit of irony or if I had the feeling that students would grow out of this like any phase of adolescents. Statistics show that most of my students don't have the luxury of growing out because they are going to be gunned down or locked up before they get a chance to.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer School Thus Far

My class size is now manageable. Today there are only 22 students in class. Other than excessive talking, they don't seem like bad kids. I still haven't seen anything to justify the horror stories that I hear from the high school. Granted when there are a few thousand students in the building it could get more chaotic. My philosophy is to teach whoever is in front of me. This goes for students in the hallway too. If I see a student, and all people are students, I endeavour to teach them.

The second period class has shown signs of apathy. I start off each class with a "30 Second Mystery" and they usually last about 10 minutes. Even after the time has elapsed a number of students still refuse to turn in the answer. They may be getting frustrated with the questions so I have been trying to find easier ones to ask.

Only 12 days to go. Grades aren't looking great, but I am relatively positive that most of them will pass.