Monday, March 30, 2009

Spread the Word

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
~ Anne Frank

Laura Stockman lives Anne Frank's words. Her blog 25 Days to Make a Difference never fails to inspire me to do more for others and our world. Her most recent challenge, a blog carnival on the r-word to promote Spread the Word to End the Word. Blog about the r-word. Tell how it makes you feel and how you will help put an end to it. Leave a comment on her blog with a link to your post and you may win a Flip video camera.

If I were caught up with my reader and feeds I wouldn't have missed this chance with my students, but we are on spring break this week. I can't have them add their voices to my own, but I know how the r-word makes me feel.

Stupid. Idiot. Moron. What are you a re...?

Stop! Don't say it. Language makes a difference. Language can divide or it can unite. The r-word, when I hear others say it, makes me feel awful inside. The meanness and judgment is palpable in the word. In my classroom, students, even in jest, are not allowed to use the r-word or any words that belittle someone's thinking or abilities. It's mean. It's abusive and I don't tolerate it. I tell students that using those words can and will result in disciplinary action. I let them know that abusing their peers or others with those words will result in a referral for harassment. We can not build a learning community in our classrooms, much less a humane community in our societies, if we use the r-word or let others use it around us.

Stop using the r-word. Take the pledge today. Share it with your students. Don't wait a single minute --do something to make a difference today.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

ASCD: From Pen and Paper to Wireless

I'm spending the weekend at ASCD in Orlando and already I've noticed a difference in the conference and in myself as a conference attendee. First, the wireless, free and reliable. Compared to NCTE's conference in San Antonio, the wireless here is an awesome amenity. This is the first ever ASCD wireless conference, complete with live streaming of general sessions. In addition, ASCD has added a Technology Corridor which I'm excited to explore later. Sitting in my last session, I was tickled to discover that a few of the folks I follow on Twitter are here. Incredible the network bloom.

As an attendee I have certainly changed. Over the past 18 months, I've noticed how web 2.0 tools have affected how I process information. I used to journal every conference--black sketch books, colored pencils and sharpies my primary tools. I took notes. I drew. I illustrated. I color coded. I connected--but only to my own ideas, only to my own background knowledge. I have shelves and shelves of big black sketch bookes whose spines record years and conferences.

Now I use my laptop. Taking notes on Google docs instead of merely journaling. While I'm taking notes, I can tweet, check in on tweets labeled by the conference hashtag. I can go immediately to websites presenters mention like Pieces of Learning from this morning's session on flexible grouping. Wireless lets me look up and tag research cited, so that I can read it later. The richness digital tools brings to my experience as an attendee is hard to describe.

I'm stuck to a plug at the moment, one side effect of my new reliance on digital tools. I'm sitting on the floor at the back of the general session which is just about to begin! But I'm wondering how digital tools have changed your behaviors at a conference? What do you notice about your own learning in the connected space of the wide and wonderful web?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ning, Ning

The best part of this project is that it has dissolved the kind of competitive learning that can happen in schools. Let me clarify, rather the subtle form of Social Darwinism that happens in education: the fit, the ones that know how to play the school game, succeed, and the rest, well, they often become the fodder for faculty room talk or worse. This was truly a project where everyone could shine. I also saw the spirit of community rise in our classroom. Tech savvy kids helped others who had less computer experience; better writers were willing to work with beginning writers, helping them craft clearer biographies; and most of all, these kids were having fun learning. A classroom of diverse learners truly became "We, the People."
I don't want my students become faculty room fodder. I can't Ning in my own district. Can you?