Um, well, okay, I know I said that last one was the LAST ONE, but well… December 8, 2012

The Last One…really, this just has to be the last one…please let this be the last one…

This virtual fieldtrip assignment is certainly coming at the right time for me, as I am beginning to plan the Intercultural Studies course I am teaching for the first time next semester. This course is open to any of our students, but really is meant for those 29 students going to Europe this April. And yes, I am one of the fortunate chaperones.

One of the main components of this course is the desire to understand without issue the cultural norms of different societies, to begin to look past differences as bad or wrong and to move toward a place of tolerance and acceptance. Our students are for the most part extremely sheltered from the word as a whole, so this course, and of course trips like this one, are most necessary for the enlightenment of all participants.  Gardner instructs us to respond sympathetically to differences between individuals and groups, to seek understanding and to extend this beyond tolerance (p. 157).  However, he also states throughout his work that each step must begin with a few small steps.

This class will discuss the idea of respect over and over again, as indicated in the virtual fieldtrip assignments. From looking at something as simple as whether or not to tip a taxi driver to asking for clarification when one’s accent is not understood, these teachable moments will not be overlooked.

The journal work we are asking for affords the student that time for reflection, as Gardner states we should be striving toward good work and good citizenship (p. 158). Through this reflection it is hoped that all students begin to experience, pause and look back with new eyes, to see the value of the sober second thought that journaling can impart.  As An ELA teacher, I know firsthand the understanding that can occur after one has had time to sit back and examine the why behind what they felt, the what that caused the feelings recorded in the journal. Only after a process of this kind can one move then towards attaining that place of compassion and true understanding that ultimately results in good works and good citizenship.

This Google Earth trip will be expanded and added to as we move through the semester. It is hoped that the students themselves will add pins to the project. Some before we go, those “I really want to see X” and after our return, those “Man, I loved X” type of posts. I do believe that this type of project can really give the students a valuable insight into just where they are going and perhaps prepare them for some of the differences they are bound to experience.

Stephen

P.S. Okay, this really is the last blog, really it is…I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself here…

P.S.S. Right, the link to the Virtual Fieldtrip: http://ge.tt/51HjsBT/v/0

Gardner, H. (2008). Five Minds for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

THE LAST WILKES POST EVER!!!!! December 6, 2012

I have spent the last seven weeks tearing into Howard Gardner’s 5 Minds for the Future, digging deeper and seeking answers, discussing the nuances of his work. I guess the only question remaining to be asked is how do I continue to develop my and my student’s 5 minds?

I ought to start with the easy answer by saying that I should identify the rocks, those truly important topics or concepts, as Gardner (2008) calls them and insure that all lessons are approached in multiple ways, by paying attention to the various learning styles and multiple intelligences that make up all classes (p. 32).

I should answer that I would pay certain attention to the four ordered components Gardner (2008) states are at the least a minimum required to attempt to achieve synthesis (p. 51). Furthermore, in order to help get students to synthesize, I should get them to learn to turn the tap down, to quit drinking from the fire hose, and to begin to see the connections between the seemingly divergent and vast amounts of information found on the Internet today. I do know that if I were to instruct the class on Gardner’s 8 kinds of synthesis, I would end up focussing on my favourite kind -Narratives (p. 47 -50). Yes, I am an ELA teacher at heart.

I would embed a plethora of creative methods, giving all learners the opportunity to prove their understanding in a manner that suits their own unique needs and wants. From glogsters to blogs, from 3D posters to essays, I do know that not all project based learning must include technology, but must remember to always offer digital tools as a possible path to success. Creativity should never be stifled, ever. This I do know!

I could answer that I will insist that the value of respectfulness remain a corner stone of my class rooms, as Gardner states “it is necessary to confront directly the value of respect, the cost of respect, and the infinitely greater costs of disrespect (in the long run) (p. 114). Or I could spend class time teaching the four M’s, the signposts one should invoke when attempting to achieve good work: Mission, Models, Mirror test-individual version and the mirror test – professional responsibility (p. 149).

I would, could, should answer this question this way…but I am not going to, rather I am going to say with absolute certainly what I know am going to do to continue to develop the 5 minds within our school.

I will continue to talk with all staff members about what I have learned here at Wilkes, not just in this class but in all the classes taken over the past 2 and a bit years.

I will continue to infuse the knowledge gained into all staff meetings, all Instructional leadership discussions and as many hallway chats as possible.

I will continue to fight for funding that allows our school to continue providing the best technology possible, for our kids are worth it.

I will continue to push the boundaries of all technology policies that seek to limit the freedom of the front-line teacher in their quest for new and innovative methods to teach critical skills such as problem solving and digital citizenship.

I will support all staff members, regardless of where they are on their own journeys down the technology pathway.

I will insist that all technology being offered comes with professional development, PD where the staff talk, play, learn and then take the knowledge back into their own classrooms and begin to use the technology the next day.

I will continue to learn learn learn

Stephen out!

Air (1995). Kelly Watch the Stars, from the album Moon Safari, 1998. Virgin Records , Paris, France.

Gardner, H. (2008). Five Minds for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Change brought on by Technology: consequences to think about… December 1, 2012

Reflect on Julene Reed’s article and post a blog entry that presents an idea for using digital media as part of a project, activity or lesson in which you aim to develop students’ respectful and ethical minds.

As an Administrator in a rural K-12 school, one of our major obstacles to developing a respectful and ethical mind has traditionally been the fact that we are a rural K-12 school. Simply put, generations of like-minded families with little immigration, coupled with the factors that are associated with isolation, has, in the past, lead to a dominant stagnation, in terms of understanding the perspectives and values of ‘those from beyond’.

It must be understood that the values and perspectives of the school’s communities are not in question, nor judged in any manner by the above statement. Rather, the steadfastness has occurred as a result of conditions that remained fixed for several generations. The length of time required to transport grain or cattle to market necessitated careful consideration, as road conditions were, until recently, most difficult for many farmers. The trip to market was once a six day trip for Grandpa in his prime, then a 6 hour trip for the father, and now is a 45 minute drive for the son.

This geographic isolation was also mirrored in the intellectual spectrum as well, as mail often was delivered once a week, if conditions permitted, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s television signal was subject to weather conditions, such as ice storms or solar flares caused by the northern lights. This window into the larger world was once the only source of information for many people in this community.

How does this historical preamble relate to the question posed? Simply put, the times they have changed. Roads are much improved, the internet has brought the world, warts and all, into almost every home and as sons and daughters have moved to the city in search of work many new people have moved into the community.  However, as times have changed, mindsets of the older generations have not necessarily evolved at the same speed as, say, technology.

What this leaves the rural front-line teacher in our school is a classroom filled with a generation of students raised with traditions resulting from previous situational demands combined with knowledge of a greater world beyond the borders of the home farm.

An interesting, if difficult dichotomy, to say the least, one that screams for teaching focused on respectful and ethical minds.

It is true what Robert Fulghum wrote; kindergarten indeed teaches us everything we need to know about respect and ethics. Too bad too many forget these crucial lessons as they grow up. High school is a great place to reinforce the ideas once common in the younger grades, and technology is a powerful tool to aide in this goal of reinforcement and remembrance.

Howard Gardner, (2008) clearly illustrates the need for purposeful thought behind any lesson on respect and ethics. His four signposts, Mission, Models, the two Mirror Tests (p. 148-149), must be viewed as necessities when designing any class that incorporates technology. Anyone can use any of the tools suggested by Reed; Skype in the classroom, have pen pal emails exchanged with another school, or set up a classroom blog, but to what purpose?

The school must as a group be purposeful with the infusion of technology into the classroom, aware that certain beliefs will be held onto with a firm grasp, that change will not be accepted by all members of the school community nor will questioning of long held assumptions be welcomed with open arms. All staff must talk about the goal of teaching respect and ethics, so as to have an understanding of the realities of the small rural school and its community.

The Internet is full of teaching sites with hundreds of examples of how technology can be used to foster an understanding of proper codes of conducts for students to follow. A classroom teacher is limited only by their own willingness to try, to venture out on to the limb of creativity and see just where technology takes them. What really matters is the why, not the how.

As previously stated I have used dozens of tech tools in the classroom over the past 5 or 6 years. I have Skyped, team-taught and opened the classroom to the world. However, until recently, never have I considered the ramifications of those actions upon the school as a whole community. Staff meetings have not been included in my planning sessions, and that really is a disservice to all learners in the building. How can the entire staff model respect towards all and support good works when we have never engaged in those deep, hard, messy conversations ourselves? Never have we been asked to reflect upon the message we give to the students, and their parents, to question the change in attitude that the ‘new’ may have upon Sunday night suppers. We take the kids out of the classroom, into the word beyond, but never ask what the impact may be outside of the school walls. These questions must be asked, as it is our professional responsibility to understand the consequences of our actions.

Skyping is easy, understanding the ramifications of those tech infused sessions are not always so. I shall never forget one gathering between our grade 12 class and a South Carolina group of A.P. students. After completing the ‘reason’ we were together, the Q & A portion began. Once the usual ‘what kind of cars, movies, music do you like’ queries completed a young lady from S.C. asked if we had any minorities in our school, or was this just a class where we did not allow minority students to join in. Utter silence greeted that question. In fact that simple, honest question reverberated across the school and community for many days, as we struggled to find a common answer that was acceptable to all. Yes, disrespect and racism surfaced as did tolerance and kindness; however, in the end there really was not a satisfactory resolution for any one.

This administrator has reflected often upon that event, without ever really understanding why the result bothered me so much. Gardner has provided the answer. We were not ready as a group to deal with the resulting shifts in attitudes and perceptions that accompany changes to the status quo. We did not have a unified approach to the community when asked about that particular episode. We had not asked those reflective questions of ourselves nor each other.  We had not examined through open and free dialogue the implications of our own actions. And as Moliere tells us “We are responsible not only for what we do but for what we do not do” (p. 149).

Stephen

All I Really Need To KnowI Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum

– an excerpt from the book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about
three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put thing back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

Fulghum, R.  (1990). All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. New York, N.Y.: Villard Books.

Gardner, H. (2008). Five Minds for the Future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.