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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

YouTube Revolution

Gil Scott Heron claimed that, "the revolution will not be televised." I agree, but this assertion was made well before YouTube. The democratization of the media has made it possible to broadcast the revolution. Though GE might not make a habit of informing the masses about abuses by the man, a video of police brutality can reach millions almost instantly and force the hand of the mainstream media. In St. George, MO an officer was caught on video threatening to jail an individual on false charges. Once posted to the internet and pick up by local media, an investigation was initiated.

Granted there are still many hours of useless video residing at YouTube (I should know I have posted some of it), but since its purchase by Google is has been gradually inching its way to legitimacy. In conjunction with CNN it has become a part of the 2008 election campaign. Users were invited to pose question via YouTube and the best of those questions were posed to the candidates.

Why then do a majority of schools still block access? For any tech savvy teacher there are ways around this problem. There are web tools that will allow you to download streaming video and free converters to allow you to put it in almost any format you desire. However, as we all know, the number of teachers with the expertise, patiences, and time to do this is limited.

I have long advocated web access to almost all but the most obscene sites. How are we to teach students to be citizens if we deny them access to the community? YouTube is only the beginning. Open the playground and let the experimenting begin. Denying students access to the web is not just annoying, but it is criminal.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

The shrill cry of a hawk and the even shriller cries of the birds it was preying upon greeted me as I left the house this morning. The smaller birds escaped the and hawk surveyed the terrain of brick homes and apartment complexes. Its keen vision unable to spy any other victims; it remained perched in branches of the pine tree across the street. In Missouri you will often see hawks along the interstates carefully watching from light posts and billboards, but it is fairly rare to see them on the residential streets of St. Louis.

I thought it odd enough to run inside the house to get the camera, but wasn't really that concerned about it. It was neat, but that was it.

The memory safely stored in the camera I returned to my car and headed to work. About a block from the house I am driving down yet another residential street and a red fox darts across the street and into the playground of a neighborhood school. Now if a hawk is rare, then a fox is an experience tartar. It was at this point that I realized that I was experience some sort of prophetic vision. The spirit world was sending me an email.

As a slightly less than spiritual being I had to do some research upon my arrival at work. I found a site with descriptions of Zuni animal medicines. The hawk often signals an omen. It tells the individual to pay attention like the hawk constantly scanning the horizon. So the hawk was just letting me know that the fox was coming.

The fox is a trickster, a creature that lives in the borders of the village and the wild. He lives in the twilight surviving using its cunning and adaptability. Fox medicine warns us not to give away to much and to exercise discretion. These are two qualities that I frequently forget, and perhaps the fox was sent to remind me.

More than likely it is coincidence.

One final thought. Perhaps they were running ahead of some sort of disaster such as the New Madrid earthquake or an impending storm. If an earthquake happens, then I want to be on record as predicting it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Name Recognition

First day back from Winter Break and I have been spending most of it remembering the names of my students. I have always been bad at names unless that name would help me win a game of trivial pursuit. So if you were a member of the cast of Gilligan's Island, then your name is etched on my cerrebulum. Thank you very much Alan Hale jr. However, if you are a person of only casual accquaintance or a relative more distant than cousin, then your name may only be recoverable through hypnosis.

It is a sign of a great teacher that they build close bonds to his students, but since names elude me like a squirrel on crack I can only assume that greatness is unattainable. I've heard tell of teachers that make seating charts with photos and then diligently study them at home. This of course would require a level of dedication and organization that I am incapable of.

I have become adept at covering my disability. At parent conference if the student comes with their parent and I am expected to know who that child is, I will ask to see their report card to check their other classes. Not only do I look like I care, but I can also surreptitiously get the studnet's name.

Context is of the upmost importance in recall. Seeing a student in class is relatively simple. When the student is ecounter in other evirons the recollection process is impeded. Forturnately, most of my students have jobs in which they are required to wear a name tag or have it embroidered on their shirt. The same circumstances that result in the wearing of name tags insures that I am unlikely to have chance encounters at the Art Museum or the symphony.

Early in my career I thought that perhaps I did not care enough about the students. I have come to find out that I care just enough. In order to be a good teacher I can't be their friend or parent. Like the doctor that knows everything about you after studying the chart outside the examination room, a teacher needs to have a certain amount of detachment in order to best treat the student.