Since the begin of the 2014 academic year I have been in a limbo stage of sorts. During the first few weeks of class I had unlimited access to the internet and of of its resources. My family and I purchased a home and were plunged into the near primitive existence with only marginal internet access during my planning and lunch times. If my family didn’t live in a cellular black hole, I would have likely forked over money for a digital cellular plan.
Life without internet while taking and teaching digital reliant classes is just shy of impossible.
Anyhow… Here is some of the knowledge I have gained and tried these past few weeks. I will combine them on this blog to allow for quicker reading/recapping.
First, as taking an online class is difficult when technology doesn’t cooperate, so is teaching a class dependent on technology. My students do about 95% of classwork, tests, and quizzes on technological media. Google Docs and Edmodo usually combine for a nice platform for assigning work and assessing student progress. However, when there is a fly in the ointment even the best planned lessons quickly fall apart. What I have learned form this is to always have a back-up plan. Teenagers are impatient with spinning wheels as they wait for a Google Doc to load and tremendously quick to give up entirely if they cannot be handed something to do while they wait.
Another thing that I have learned is that students need one on one time to develop as writers. This is an ongoing thing for me. Nancy Atwell discusses several times in her book, In the Middle, that students learn more through support and conferencing than through traditional repetition.
More to follow…
In honest hindsight, keeping up with your first weeks as a teacher seems impossible for the likes of Superman himself. If you are lucky enough to take on coaching position in the Fall in conjunction with your first year of teaching, getting out of bed seems somewhere far beyond the galaxy of the former planet Krypton itself. Days bleed into each other. You begin to wonder to which class you have taught what, and on what day, or was it just a dream, or did you just get hit by a stray ball on the sideline while trying to coach a new skill? The concept of “up” seems difficult.
Just when you think you have everything under control one of the many meetings you are required to attend makes you ask… WHAT????
Though completely understanding and trying to help, the other teachers confuse you more with jargon and acronyms too long familiar to them for them to understand your deep confusion.
“You need to ignore the GE on STAR summary because it indicates the lowest score of that grade level last year and not the actual achievement of the student. On the MAZE the students in the green and Red will continue to be monitored until they progress to blue. “
“Based on the numbers I would like to see student so and so removed from the 180 program due to the increase in the Lexile measurement.”
Has the world stopped spinning? Did I somehow travel back to a time where a Saturday morning was at the forefront of my bigger problems? Being somewhat sure that you are in a Peanuts cartoon listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher, you decide to ask. “What are we looking at?”
About now your administrator looks up from her papers with a razor sharp glance that suggests you should have paid more attention in school. Slowly the sting fads and a smile emerges on her face.
About now, though everyone is staring at you, you begin to recognize the sympathetic looks from your peers and feel the relief of not being the first to have slept through this class in college.
“We are trying to determine which students should be retained in the Read 180 program and which should move out of the program based upon several different test results we took in the first weeks of class,” says the voice you recognize as your principal.
In the end, there are many things for which you large debt of student loans has not prepared you. There are meetings about meetings, there are home comings to plan, sports to coach, lunch duties to cover, buses to load and unload (always with invisible kids to find), there are teachers that you just ate lunch with and cannot for your life remember his or her name, there are so many students that you think there must be millions, and there is the vague remembrance of how organized you thought you were, how prepared you truly were, and how excited you still are to be doing what you love in the chaos of it all.
After my first few weeks, I wish you all the best of luck.
In thinking about the consistency of digital literacy I must admit I am a tad frazzled. During my life, I have seen the rise and fall of technologies like VHS and cassette tapes. Likewise, video games have grown from the simplistic Pac-Man to complicated worlds found in Call of Duty: Black Ops or Star Wars: The Old Republic. Cellular phones now have the ability to compute data faster than the giant computers of yesteryear.
It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
According to Moore’s Law, every two years transistors double on computer boards increasing a computer speed and ability at a blistering pace. As technology advances at an incredible rate, staying on the cusp of socially and academically preferred technology is a daunting task for some. Falling behind the speed of technological advance is not uncommon. While some are in a state of free fall others see opportunity for exploitation. Likewise, some technology, by nature, lends itself to deeds which can be abused by both ends of the technological-know-how-pool. One end of the technological pool can manipulate others too naive to recognize which end of the pool they stand upon nor do they understand the consequences of their actions in a digital plane.
Despite seeing the birth and rise of the modern technological world I have fallen behind the wake of progress and now I ponder what it means to be digitally literate and upon which shore of the pool I stand.
In my thinking, I have arrived at the conclusion that the word Courage singularly summarizes the utmost requirement for being digitally literate. Courage is needed to traverse the digital world that stands ready to lend a helping hand while grasping to pull others into the vapid maw of simulated reality. One must possess courage in order to be a responsible learner, to distinguish between the truths and lies in information available. Courage is needed to resist the temptations offered by those trying to manipulate and exploit others. Courage will lead us to our own enlightenment.
Along the road to enlightenment we must bear the consequences of our actions and assume the responsibility of our own education. We must look within. Honest self-reflection is key to growth and the ultimate form of courage. We must therefore heed the advice of Kant and, “Have the courage to use [our] own understanding!” and grow through the responsible use of technology.