Saturday, September 15, 2007

English, Social Studies, Social Networking, and Technology

My blog entry that expressed my frustration about technology at the beginning of my school year mushroomed faster than I ever thought possible. It also gave me great insight and ideas. It catapulted my learning about blogs! The power of the blog is amazing!

This week has been an interesting week. I am truly enjoying learning to teach Social Studies and English. We are currently working on the geography of America and I am planning a couple of lessons in Google Earth. Because I am an English teacher that teaches one Social Studies class a day, I have not asked for maps or a globe. I am not sure I need those things when I have 25 computers in the room. I really think the kids are going to like these lessons.

I am not asking my students to do any assignments that I am not doing as well. I am enjoying doing journal entries and we are working on heart maps to prepare us for the upcoming poetry unit. These are so much fun. I feel certain I will do a new one every year I teach this! I got to explain my heart map to my students this week and I was completely amazed as I told stories about the things in my heart and every one of my 8th graders sat and listened. 8th graders listening? Who would have thought! They are all working intently on their own. I will be taking many pictures this week and will post a few. I am working hard to learn to teach English, but I can promise this is a change I needed. I need a challenge!

Now to the technology: First of all, I have been given the green light to offer a monthly social networking class. I plan to have parents and students come in and discuss sites like Bebo, MySpace, and Facebook. I will have the students log into their accounts and show them to to the parents. The parents will be the ones helping their kids make good decisions. I will then encourage parents to open their own accounts to monitor their kids. Now I hope this is well received. This is another one of those things I am passionate about, but I don't know if I can get our parents to participate. It is a great idea, but who knows?

Secondly, we had a meeting this week about the new Information and Communication Technology Curriculum (formerly the Computer Curriculum.) I started on this committee last year when I was a computer teacher. We have had a number of very loud conversations about the topic, but were told in the spring that we were simply to align the new state standards with the curriculum. We weren’t happy, but did as we were told. When it got to our Instructional Counsel for what should have been its second reading, there were others that weren’t happy. They wanted to see it go further. That elates me. We have a new curriculum director and on Thursday night I actually heard him utter the words that now is a good time for us to become more cutting edge. We have another meeting this coming Wednesday to discuss what that could look like. We are to come with ideas. I am overwhelmed. I am still not getting my hopes up too high (easier to avoid being crushed), but I have some hope. Now all of the sudden I need to figure out what cutting edge is!

So, for all of you in the blogosphere that have been so helpful, I really need help. What do you do in your schools to make you be cutting edge? Do you teach some cool stand-alone classes at the high school level? How do you integrate technology into the regular classroom? What districts are shining examples that I can hold up in this meeting? I figure I won’t get everything I ask for, but now is the time to ask for the sky!

Thanks in advance for your help. The connections I have made via my blog and Twitter have moved me forward in amazing ways and the support has been phenomenal!

1 comment:

Carolyn Foote said...


One thing we did was go visit some other schools to see what other things they were doing.

Some course ideas we came away with from that visit that we are trying to implement--or are implementing at our high school this year--

A digital imaging course
A digital film course
A robotics course
A biotech course(not sure we will be offering this but we are investigation)

Journalism is also investigating an "online" newspaper.

We do have access (unfiltered) to some social networking sites and web 2.0 sites for teachers anyway, so we can show things to students or discuss them, or use them.

We're working on getting Skype installed on some teacher computer stations.

The overall thing that has changed is that we are doing a kind of involved staff development model where teachers are participating in Book Study and also a weekly staff development training(this is because our schedule has been changed to accommodate this).

One way we got started? Last year our new principal started a Vision committee. It included teachers, students, administrators and parents. We met twice a month, and shared articles, videos, and links in order to determine what we thought a 21st century graduate should look like. That committee led to the site visits I mentioned earlier, and some other initiatives

I think that committee's time and thinking has really helped move the discussion forward. We presented our vision to the board, and to the campus, to parent meetings, and I think it really helped! I also think having a guiding philosophy or mission makes a huge difference--not just the technology for its' own sake.

The model I look to is at schools like Arapahoe (Karl Fisch) and Science Leadership Academy (Chris Lehmann).

I know we have a long long way to go, and many things to work on, but I just wanted to share some ideas! Good luck and I'm glad things are looking up!