Tag Archives: IPhone

ORIGAMI HATS AND A HOUSE OF CARDS

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Sunday morning.  In the half light of dawn I awoke to screetching tires and a muffled thunk and an anxious silence that should have been filled by my car alarm.

Newspaper Guy takes the corner at the end of our street on two car wheels and races by our house with the urgency of a man on a singular paper routemission.  On most days he has a partner who leans out the window and fires the morning paper across the lawn and into our driveway, slicing of a row of agapanthus at the bud.  Newspaper Guy is not a 14 year-old kid with a paper route.  He is a full grown adult who drives a Cooper and delivers his morning news with a cold disaffection for how it is to be consumed.

We are the last house he delivers to so when he finally lets the San Diego Union-Tribune fly toward our driveway, it’s for all he’s worth.  Today the thick Sunday paper hit my Armada square in the tailgate at full velocity (plus additional “english” generated by  the forward lean of a speeding Cooper).  

It should have set the car alarm off but it didn’t.  If you hit my car hard enough with softball it will go off.  Hit it with the morning newspaper it won’t.  And I think I know why.   Here’s my theory:  there isn’t enough weight in the daily paper to do any damage; there isn’t enough substance. It’s air.  You can throw it in the rose bushes if you want to.  Throw it against the hummingbird feeder. Throw it right through the freakin’ window for all I care.  Nothing breaks. 

At my house, none of us actually read the morning paper anymore.  But we subscribe to it… for three totally practical reason:  first, it comes with a rubber band wrapped around it and those are always handy devices for binding stuff. Second, it comes inside a plastic bag which I use when I clean up after our dogs. And third… it is an effective way to stoke a fire in our fire pit (though, quite honestly,  I am gradually moving more to the Duraflame firestarters.  Less ash.)

The morning paper definitely has some utility but what is not so good for is news. Not anymore.

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Just two weeks ago, for example, I followed the development of the Iranian uprising– from the very beginning– on Twitter.  [It was dramatic to follow events unfolding in real time.  Many of the contributors to the Twitter stream were front-line participants in a moment of history.  It was a day and a half before the story really picked up in the SD Union Tribune. Was there some fiction in the Tweets? spin? hyperbole? false reporting? sensationalism?  Of course. But no more so than one might find in the editorial section of any local newspaper!]

And I haven’t replaced the morning newspaper with Twitter alone.

To follow President Obama’s daily challenges or to sample a cross-section of American culture I read the  Huffington Post.

To follow the very latest events in K-12 public education, especially with charter schools,  I subscribe to Education Week on-line and read from my laptop.

If I missed an event like an epic, come-from-behind win by the Padres… I download the replay of the most significant plays on You Tube. The rest of the scores I get from MLB.com,  with the depth and details of teams I am most interested in.

If I want to read opinions from regular, everyday folks I read their blogs.

If I want some good, honest feedback and recommendations about books I might want to read, I browse through reviews written on Amazon.

If we want to publish “accurate” information about an event at my school,  we don’t call reporters and wait for them to come cover the good things we are doing anymore.  We just place the story on our school’s Facebook page.

If we want to include additional photographs of that same school event, we publish them on Flickr.

If I want tomorrow’s weather, or the local movie listings, or the stock market trends I find them all instantly on my I Phone.compare-iphone-3g-screen

If I want to read today’s edition of a credible newspaper that is simultaneously being read by people, literally, from around the world–  I download the NY Times onto my Kindle.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not a techie or a gadget snob. I’m not even particularly computer savvy.  I just want the information I want.  And the morning newspaper has been replaced as a conduit for information, by tools that are faster, more portable, more accessible… more accurate. Five years ago most of these tools didn’t exist so I would go out of the house in the morning and pick up the paper and read it cover to cover.  If it was late or soaking wet from the sprinklers I would be pissed.   Now I don’t count on the newspaper as a source of reliable and real time information anymore so I don’t really care if it is late or wet or missing the sports page or written in Italian.   

Ironically, I pay for my annual newspaper subscription on-line, so it is kinda hard to cancel.  Out of sight out of mind.  Besides, I can’t bring myself to totally discontinue the service.  Even if I don’t read it.  I know it’s there on the driveway.  I know that the ink and the thin newsprint and the smell of the presses and the photos and the banner headlines are all good for something.   The morning newspaper is like an art project.  A slice of Americana. Nostalgia.  A link more to the past than to the current events that are so symmetrically displayed in shaded boxes and neat columns of formulaic print.

And it still does things my IPhone and Kindle and laptop can’t do:

newspaper hatFor example, we can still use it to line the parakeet cage or paint bookshelves on the garage floor.  We can use it to make paper mache Kachina dancers. We can recycle it. We can lay it down in the garden and fight off the weeds. We can make origami hats with it.  We can use it to pack up our glasses and dishes and move away. 

Newspaper publishers realize (I think) that their industry has not kept pace with the demands of consumers:  

The New York Times has had to sell part of its recently constructed headquarters, the Boston Globe is said to be worth barely 20 million dollars, the Rocky Mountain News has closed, the San Francisco Chronicle  could be next. The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, have all filed for bankruptcy protection.  

The San Diego Union-Tribune, like other newspapers all across the country, has experience massive job losses and drastic cost cutting measures.  Meanwhile, universities report high interest in their Journalism Departments and Facebook welcomes 700,000 new users every day!

The morning paper hasn’t kept up with the news.

The conventional publishing industry sorts and packages the news and charges consumers for it as if it were a rare commodity– and that is not a game that is working anymore.  Like the auto industry and the railroads before it, the newspaper publishers now run their presses on borrowed time.  They are an anachronism in the age of technology;  a sacred cow gently grazing from room to room in a house of cards.  

 

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50 QUESTIONS

“We are looking at schools that are producing genius… collaborative, gregarious, brave children who care about stuff  like their culture. Around the world people are testing out the ingredients of what makes that work and those ingredients are being assembled into some stunning recipes in different places.  It is a very exciting time for learning. It is the death of education but the dawn of learning and that makes me very happy.”

Stephen Heppell, CEO Heppell.Net, Ltd., UK from the video:  “Learning to Change– Changing to Learn”

2cIn 1985  I bought my first personal computer– an Apple IIc with the chicklet keybpoard and alien screen.  It seemed almost portable enough to carry around like a briefcase.  Or maybe like a computer that could sit right on your lap.  Compared to those old green Kaypros and clunky Apple IIe’s, it was revolutionary. I had a milk crate in my living room and that’s where I put the screen.  I wrote my entire dissertation on my Apple IIc and stored every chapter on a box of labeled discs.

I envisioned a whole classroom lined with Apple IIc’s.  I taught writing and the whole “word processing” phenomenon appeared– in the mid-1980’s– as if it was going to stay.  In fact, when the old grey-haired English teachers bitched in the faculty lounge about “word processing” and how it would never replace the pencil and paper and that it would only make children intellectually lazy because it insulated them from the rigors of real writing (which, to my knowledge, none of them had ever successfully  done)– I refused to join the debate.  I just went back to my classroom, wrote more grants (on my Apple IIc) and lined the walls with the computers that seemed to engage children in writing in a way that few other strategies could.  

mac-floppiesThen a teaching colleague named David Mika pulled up to Muirlands Junior High School with his new Macintosh thing.  You could actually manipulate the cursor right on the screen and “Oregon Trail” evolved accordingly.  And the discs were smaller and made of hard plastic.   They just fit in your pockets better.  They didn’t fly as well as the old floppy discs though.  (I could flip the old discs halfway across the playground.  Digital frisbees. They could put your eye out.  But soon enough they were replaced by CDs which sailed three times as far as the floppies so I startted to feel better about where the technology was headed.)  And so I upgraded my classroom with first generation Macintoshes while still making the best of the now-antiquated IIcs.

Then we could MacDraw and add art work and graphics on color screens.  Then there were internal operating systems.  Then they added audio.  And the high-techpersonal computer wars between IBM and HP and Compaq and Apple and others resulted in business disasters and technological wonders.  Marketing pitches tapped into a nation’s fears about losing our humanity.  IBM’s signature advertising campaign featured Charlie Chaplin in black and white, approaching the PC on a table adorned with a vibrant red rose.  “High TECH”, said John Naisbett, “demands high TOUCH.” And thus, the rose.

Soon enough computers were creating more computers.  The technology was showing up everywhere– from our watches to our automobiles.  And then the internet was born.  And then DVD’s and scanners and document cameras. Then IPods and IPhones and Kindles and Wordles and Wikis and Facebook  and Flip cameras and Wii and Prometheon Boards and Blogs and we know we are only scratching the surface of innovation that our economy and environment will inevitably demand.  Progress is insatiable.  That’s why it is called progress.

And that’s the history of computers in schools.  25 years in a nutshell–  from the Apple IIe to MacBook Pros on every desk and I wonder:  Why are we still not seeing a technology-driven transformation in teaching and learning?  And lots of other people are wondering that too.  In fact we have never seen a complete technology-driven transformation in our schools.  There always seem to be a few tech-savvy teachers on each staff– like David Mika. Eventually they end up in High Tech Charters or become district technology coordinators who advocate for the infusion of computers into every classroom.  They go to tech conferences and write Technology Plans and sometimes they get so comfortable in their knowledge and their favorite strategies that the tech wave crashes over top of them just like it crashes over everyone else and they don’t even know what hit them. 

The knack for integrating technology and effective pedagogy,  it seems, has to come from within.

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So on Friday we had our weekly 15 minute staff meeting at Mueller Charter School.  The teachers were asked to watch the video “Learning to Change-Changing to Learn” on You Tube and to write a compelling question inspired by the video that no one else is likely to ask.  Create the $64-million question and bring it to the meeting. And so they did.  And in the space a of a very short time frame, 50 questions were generated that encapsulated all the fears and cynicism and pragmatic reticence and wide-eyed possibility that technology brings to the tough work of teaching children.  

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Our teachers get it.  The world is changing.  The needs of our children are changing and you can see the themes reflected in the Wordle above.  Toffler said:  “Schools must not just prepare children for the future… they have to prepare them for the right future!”– one of  relationships, community, connectivity, and access.

i-poddiesjpeg1In the range of “50 Questions” there are the understandable doubts about techno-distractions and gimicks and silvery sirens that are more toys than tools.  There is evidence of the constant numbing pressure from standardized tests and unattainable goals of NCLB. Yet somehow there is also that awful realization that the video is right: that our “children are exposed to a much more rich and stimulating environment outside of school than in school.”  

And these teachers– most of whom belong to Generation Y; most of whom were raised and schooled in the post-Macintosh world when the light switch for the internet had long since been flipped on… most of whom have Ipods and text daily with friends and update their Facebook page in between prepping for another challenging week at El Milagro– these teachers still stretch to find the application. 

So my epiphany, humming like the IIc  with its ET-head monitor– lead to these   “5 Tenets for Integrating Technology at Mueller Charter School”: 

TENET 1: The mission of our charter is still to get 90% of our children to grade level as measured by the California Standards Test; 

TENET 2: Since the standards and competencies required by the CST are not enough, we must also help children develop the behaviors, attitudes and skills that are appropriate for the 21st Century: critical thinking, entrepreneurialsism, innovation, collaboration; (“I’m calling on our nation’s governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity.” –President Barack Obama, March 10, 2009)

TENET 3: There are multiple pathways  to mastery of these standards– but every pathway  requires that we ENGAGE our students in their own learning;

TENET 4: The “tools” for engaging learners may include pencil and papers, books, teacher charisma and other conventional methods–  but they include technology as well. (“Every turned off device ,” the video warns, “is potentially a turned off child.”)

TENET 5: The more IMAGINATIVE our teachers are in using technology, the more likely they will use the right technology in the right way for the right outcomes… and the more they will heighten student engagement… and inevitably, student achievement.

We are not short on imagination.  Nor are we lacking in resources or information about the latest in tech trends.  We only needed to pause between our own texting and Googling and downloading music to examine our teaching practice and assess the degree to which we use all of our tools to inspire and engage.

dsc019863Now that I think about it, every outstanding teacher I have met since  propping up my Apple IIc on a milk crate in 1985 seems to possess that common gift of Imagination.  They all have an ability to integrate the use of new tools, new strategies, new technologies to heighten student engagement, and to engender extraordinary learning. They are willing to stretch and take risks. To imagine.

I listened on Friday as our teachers discussed their 50 questions.  It was the sound of still another generation of teachers learning to change– yet desperate to maintain their humanity.  

 

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