Reflecting on TTT, Preparing for CEE

It has been a long day of travel from East Lansing to Chicago and now a bit further north to Lake Forest, where the CEE Leadership and Policy Summit begins in just a few minutes. Just a few quick thoughts on last night’s Teachers Teaching Teachers and what I will be doing for the next three days here at Lake Forest College with my CEE colleagues.

There were many things that came up in last night’s show that I will have to really re-listen to be better able to offer a reflection on it.  One thing that I will note is the idea of teachers developing their own online skills before working with their students. In the context of talking about Dawn’s experience creating podcasts with her students, Paul invited Dawn into the Youth Voices work, and we got into an interesting side conversation about how and why teachers would want to join online communities, create their own content, and generally engage in the processes that we are advocating happen with students related to digital literacies. Long story short, it has to be personal. I want to think more about that, especially in relation to all the institutes I will be involved in this summer.

The other thing going on — and starting in about 15 minutes –  is the CEE Leadership and Policy Summit happening this weekend. I am a part of the strand exploring doctoral education for English educators. This proves to be an interesting topic for me personally (as I am almost done with revisions to my dissertation) and professionally (as I will likely be working to develop a PhD program at CMU once I get there next fall). So, I am looking forward to the weekend and hope to blog about some of the general sessions and other ideas that come to me. More soon…

Teachers Teaching Teachers, 5/30/07

Please join Teachers Teaching Teachers for a special show this Wednesday.

Our guest hosts will be Troy Hicks and Dawn Reed from the Red Cedar Writing Project!

As podcasting has become a part of our language arts classes, we have seen firsthand the ways in which it gives students an audience for their work. By its very nature, podcasting is an oral phenomenon and while it involves the writing process, examining the production of podcasts as a speech act also merits our attention. We, Dawn Reed and Troy Hicks, have been interested in how podcasting — because of its ability to record, edit, and revise oral language as well as to time-shift content — can be used as an extension of speech class in high school.

Our project this spring attempted to engaging students in responsible, ethical, and productive composing activities through blogging and podcasting. We set out to study how creating and publishing a podcast modeled on NPR’s This I Believe essays could change the composing process for students. In so doing, Dawn’s students created and published their own podcasts, and the two of us discovered a few things about our own technology skills, the school infrastructure, and students’ ability to rise to the occasion that we would like to share with you.

Also, we would like to discuss three ideas that we began our project with and think about how these were actualized:

  1. To understand how blogging and podcasting can be considered a part of Michigan’s new “online experience” for high school students and, rather than take a class fully online, teachers might incorporate elements of digital writing into their regular classroom work.
  2. To consider themes that emerge from a project like this and how a K-12/university research team can better understand those themes through collaboration.
  3. To reconsider how teaching “speech,” a curricular partner to composition, changes when the media for production includes podcasting. In that sense, we will discuss how purposes and genres change, as well as the affordances and constraints of podcasting, both from technical and pedagogical perspectives.

Join us in the conversation!

Join us live!
Wednesdays
9:00 pm Eastern
at EdTechTalk

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Blast from the Past (Or, the More Things Change…)

Earlier today, an RCWP colleague – Marcia – invited me to lunch to celebrate my graduation. She also brought me a unique gift: a collection of four books ranging in copyright date from 1888 – 1918, all a part of her personal collection of antique educational artifacts.

There is a guide to the district schools of Michigan from 1908, a “Teachers Manuals No. 9: How to Train the Memory,” and “The Vitalized School,” written by the state superintendent of Ohio. The fourth book is the one that is most interesting to me, and is one volume in the International Education Series (which includes, among others, Froebel‘s Pedagogics of the Kindergarten) called Teaching the Language-Arts: Speech, Reading, Composition by B.A. Hinsdale.

While I can’t go into a complete review of the book here (as I have not read it yet), I have skimmed and found some interesting quotes to note:

On composition: “While we may cheerfully concede that the great writer, like the poet, is born and not made, we need not hesitate to say that the ordinary writer is made and not born. It is a matter of practice rather than of talent or genius.” p. 115

On examining literature: “It is so difficult for many minds to believe that any valuable educational work is being done, unless it can be measured out in examination papers!” p. 139

On teaching Language Arts: “… to teach English successfully requires a combination of cultivation, taste, judgment, and practical skill not found in the common teacher.” p. 199

There are many more gems in here that I look forward to reading about, especially the chapter on rhetoric. Yet, I though just a taste of the field from over 100 years ago shows us the foundations of where we are at now. I would have to read this more closely to get a full understanding of the argument that he makes about what ELA is and how it should be taught, but it seems pretty progressive at first glance (although I could be wrong once I read it more closely).
All the same, this is a great gift and begs the obvious question: Would Hinsdale have ever imagined that a book review of his work, or a digital copy of the book itself, would be available over 100 years later? And, more importantly, that the discussions he was engaged in then still engulf us now?

Thanks, Marcia. What a thought-provoking gift!

Teachers’ Online Personas (Discussion from My Dissertation Defense)

Today was my dissertation defense, and I am happy to say that I passed with no major revisions. Hooray! There are still some minor things that I need to touch up, but that is to be expected. So, my hope is that I will have this all wrapped up and turned in to the grad school in the next two weeks.

(Sigh of relief) 🙂

Now, on to the more interesting aspects of my defense. What I found very compelling was the discussion that ensued with the audience and my committee once I got done talking. I would say that the topic of the half-hour discussion centered very closely around issues of teachers’ online personas, expectations that schools/colleagues/administrators have of those teachers to develop online personas, and the power relationships embedded in those identities.

We talked about issues of read/write web technology, access to student work vs. privacy concerns, infrastructure and access in schools, the role of technology in one’s day-to-day teaching, and a number of other issues that make it difficult, if not impossible, for some teachers to develop or maintain an online persona.This was a far-ranging discussion, with implications for K-12 teachers hoping to help students develop digital writing and think about how to distribute it, both technically and ethically, as well as teacher educators thinking about how best to inform their own teaching practices.

We also talked about the ways in which newer technologies could/should allow teachers to become more political about the infrastructure and access issues that they face in their schools. For instance, is it a good idea for a teacher to blog about how bad the technology is in her school? Who is the intended audience for a blog like this and what would its purpose be?So, there are many ideas that came from this discussion, and I thank my writing group colleague, Jim, for capturing many of them in his notes. I think that all of these issues are ones that I can pursue in future work — some of which will be happening tomorrow, when I finish up interviews for the podcasting project.

And, more importantly, I am almost done! Thanks to all my friends, family, and colleagues who attended today, both in person and in spirit. I appreciate your support.

Reflections on “Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops”

While there are many things on which I could comment in this article, I want to focus solely on the image that readers see when they first view it. Take a look at this for a moment, and then think about the implications of this image on school laptop programs, regardless of the discussion following it in the article.

Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops – New York Times

So, there are at least two reactions that I could have to this. One reading could be to look at it the way in which it was intended. The second gives me more pause.
The first reactions is, of course, to just look at the headline, read the article, and say, “yup, laptops are a waste of time.” Any kid who is more worried about drinking and Godsmack must be doing something bad with his laptop, right? These kids are having too much fun with this laptop to be “learning” anything (at least, what most of us envision “learning” to be, as associated with school). Also, the young lady in the picture has the look of “Oh, what are they doing now?” Combined, the composition of this pictures suggests lewd and, if not illegal, at least immoral activity going on with these two boys and their laptop escapades.
Granted, the caption of the picture does mention the fact that these students are at lunch, which implies that that should be on free time that they can use in their own way. But does that really matter? Given the headline, it is clear that the rhetorical affect of this image supports the conclusion that laptops are a worthless investment.

The other reaction is to simply, “Yes, you are right. The laptops are a waste of time indeed.” Now, what makes me say that. Well, despite the interview with Mark Warschauer, author of “Laptops and Literacy: Learning in the Wireless Classroom” that shows up on page two of this article — and all the potential positive effects that laptops could have, the article ends on a disappointing note.

But in many other classrooms, there was nary a laptop in sight as teachers read from textbooks and scribbled on chalkboards. Some teachers said they had felt compelled to teach with laptops in the beginning, but stopped because they found they were spending so much time coping with technical glitches that they were unable to finish their lessons.

So, concluding that school hasn’t really changed much in the past 150 to 200 years, and that laptops are bound to have technical glitches that keep them from being used as tools in the classroom, we conclude that they are worthless. Beyond the issues of teacher professional development related to technology that I could talk about (and is mentioned in the article), what I want to suggest here is that part of the problem is that the reason so many computers are broke is because students aren’t expected to take care of them.

Could it be that the reason they are being broken is because the students aren’t taught how to download, install, and update virus and spyware protection? Could the reason that they are being broken is because students are leaving them in their lockers and book bags more than they need them in class? Could the reason that they are being broken stem from the fact that kids try (and succeed) to do everything to subvert filters and locks that they ruin the computers in the process, rather than be put in charge of properly maintaining them?

I feel that this article — as well as the issue of laptops in schools — is being explored from a one-dimensional model of schooling where the teachers/administrators are supposed to prevent all disruptive behavior before it starts and that kids, essentially, don’t have to take responsibility for their learning. These are issues bigger than just professional development and advocating for School 2.0, although those are definitely part of the discussion.
Instead, I think that we need to consider talking to students about how to take care of the technology that is supposed to sustain them in school. We don’t like gum under desks or scribbles in textbooks, and we teach students not to do that (and, if appropriate, discipline them when they break those rules). Is it possible that we are not teaching students the ethos of computer ownership, from taking care of hardware to being a good online citizen? Perhaps that is a side of the issue that we could look into more fully in future research.

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Walkin’ That Walk


MSU Graduation 2007

Originally uploaded by hickstro.

Well, the day has finally come…

If I haven’t been blogging lately (which I know I haven’t), it’s because I was getting my dissertation in good enough shape to feel that I could do this — walk across the stage in MSU’s graduation ceremony tonight – Hooray!

I am nearly done with the dissertation, with only minor revisions in my final two chapters to go before I submit a draft to my committee. I aim to defend it in late May and then, finally, I will be Dr. Hicks.

So, I am getting close(r). Only a few more steps and then this part of the journey will be complete.

Thanks to everyone for your support, encouragement, and suggestions on my writing. I’m almost there.