Monday, January 24, 2011

Teachable Moments

I just listened to (and read) the conversation regarding teachable moments
The irony of the first half of the talk was that it was an actual "moment" about which they were attempting to discuss--they couldn't get the audio to work and then it was in and out--was fun to listen to :)

 This has always been a topic that grabs me. I'm always afraid I'm going to miss out on such moments with my own children. I taught 6th grade in the nineties, and had a student share that her dad was in the service and had to leave for an assignment.  The questions started flying--"why does he have to leave?" "why do people fight?" "if they don't want to fight and we don't want to fight--what's the point? Can't they just talk it out?" And I felt overwhelmed--I could have grabbed that "moment" and really gone with it--but I was so scared I would say the wrong thing. One of the women in the recording mentioned that some of her best "teachable moments" were when she didn't have a clue about the answer, and they would research it. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but what a great moment I missed! I remember being in HS when the challenger launched--then exploded. We were watching it live. We were all scared and upset and some of the teachers (I found out later) really went with it. They talked about the scientific side of it, the possibilities about what might have happened--some allowed their kids to come up with ideas about how to help support the families. One teacher just had a talk session about how it made them feel. My algebra teacher asked us to pass in our homework and prepare for our quiz. I remember my hand was shaking so badly that I could barely hold the pencil. I can't remember much else about that day, but that I knew the kids of the people on that ship weren't doing math. That anniversary is upcoming, and it still hits me hard. Other such topics were discussed such as 9/11 and Haiti...I haven't taught in so many years, but I can imagine it takes a sensitive and wise person to be able to grab such an issue and run with it.

I had a bit of a teachable moment with my son this week. He's got Asperger's, and really can only focus on one thing at a time. One of his favorite pastimes is creating characters on his Wii, the computer, or even pencil to paper.  I told him about the avatar assignment and how I was scared to try it because I'm no good at that kind of thing. He said "Mama--of course you can do it. You won't do it as good as me, but that's okay. It takes practice". I was blown away at this--number one, those words have come out of my mouth so many times, and he was listening! But he grasped that I have insecurities too, and sometimes it's GOOD to relay those to kids!

I feel there are many levels of such moments--from the weather patterns and why it's snowing so much this year, and a pet fish dying when overfed to the enormity of the catastrophes mentioned above. I love that it's okay for me not to "know it all"! My three year old asked me a question last week about who God's mom was, and I answered with "I don't know..." and she gave me a sly smile saying, "You're a GROWN UP!" implying that I should know everything. I'm glad that isn't the case. I'm hoping to be able to grab more and more of these teachable moments that come my way--and get over the fear of approaching topics I'm insecure about--and being more open to learning instead of always "teaching" :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Digital Nation...Reflection

"We are consumed by that which we are nourished by"~~Shakespeare
The Frontline showing of "Digital Nation" was amazingly informative and interesting. I never knew it was such a hot topic! I am one of those oddities who does not have every technical gadget with me everywhere I go. I just returned from a weekend away where I didn't even think about email, texting, or even my cell phone. I totally enjoyed it! I realize we have to just embrace it all, but for me, it is something that is mostly a necessary evil. I want to at least be on the same wavelength with my children and students--but I don't want to jump in fully. I still believe in the art of letter writing. My three kids each have 3-4 penpals across the US--no email! However, I must say, like the woman who stated on frontline, my son learned to read from gaming! It started with educational games, and then went to webkinz, and on and on--now he is an expert at anything he attempts, and he's only seven. It's tough to know where to draw the line. The study stated that children of today spend up to 50 hours a week with digital media. One of the educators in the study stated that he was concerned as a child's brain is not yet developed, and too much digital media can be detrimental to the learning process. One of the things that shocked me the most with this documentary was the reality of digital rehab! Watching the mother and son relationship where he lost his interest for communication with her, and it seemed any social skills he may have had was heart breaking. When he went to the camp (REHAB) for ten days with no connection of any kind to the outside world, I was blown away. The fact that this is a necessity is truly a sad statement about where our children are spending the majority of their time. I realize that we need to learn to embrace it, but shouldn't it be limited too? Where is the balance? It seems we are creating a world where our kids are not required to remember things, as it is readily available for them. I used to sit and try and figure out an actor's name, or where certain places are in the world--and now I just pop onto IMDB or pull up a world map. Isn't there still value to thinking without assistance? I did like what was said about children being forced to create quicker now that some of the "thinking" is being done for them. Maybe it helps us to learn in a different fashion? The statement was made that "technology is like oxygen--would you ask a child to stop breathing?" I do agree in so many ways, but again--it's about balance.

Some of what was said confused me. For one, the principal who came in and took over a school after several other principals had failed was a good story. He wanted every child to have his own laptop and really embraced what spoke to the school as a whole. It was stated that there was a significant increase in scores and especially in math. Then the next guy who was interviewed called this "instant gratification education" and said that everything was too short, and kids were more likely to be bored. It was also stated that we are creating the "dumbest generation" due to lack of critical thinking, and laziness.

Everyone seemed to either think they knew--or was questioning--what is the best way to teach? There are always gains and losses with anything new, and memory loss is a big negative in this technological world. We are in an informational overload. We seem to be adapting, and open-mindedness and the excitement of exploration helps! But there are dangers as well. The blurred distinctions between reality and virtual reality are frightening. I play a game on Wii with my son called ANIMAL CROSSING. I sometimes find myself thinking about whether or not I put my character (Audrey :)) to bed! The studies done when they told the children they'd been swimming with two whales, then showed them computer created videos of this activity--the kids believed they'd done it!! When my son is crying about one of his characters on WEBKINZ needing to be fed and I made him stop playing too soon, I know it's time to take a break!

I can understand both arguments regarding the Army's gaming rooms for digital youth. There are certainly children who may take it one step too far. Viewing the game they are playing, I can see how they can feel completely immersed! I watch my son more and more to ensure his understanding the line and attempt to help him balance it all out. He has Asperger's, and doesn't know how to do imaginative play much, and doesn't understand how if he sees it--sometimes it's not real. When I speak to him about it, he asks about 100 questions before I think he's okay with what I'm trying to tell him. On the other hand, it continues to amaze me at how easily he figures things out on the computer, where if it's on paper (a book, for example) he really struggles. I can relate to the school who teaches through gaming. My own child THRIVES in that sort of learning environment! If I can find something to keep his attention for any amount of time that actually teaches something valuable, I will definitely grab it. I want to learn, if for no other reason, for him. 

"Technology isn't good or bad, it's powerful and complicated--take advantage, but pay attention to what it is doing..." The goal is to find balance.

Have already recommended this video to several for my friends in the field of education--am so happy I was forced to watch :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Little ole' me!

I grew up all over the deep south. I grew up with terms like "fix'n" and "big ole'" and my favorite, "bless your heart". I met and married a "vill'n" (man from Somerville). Windham was about as far from the city as he'd venture. We have three amazing children, Cailyn Grace- 8, 3rd grade. Evan Scott-7, 1st grade. Aly Kate-will be 4 next week. We are a fairly typical family. I teach first grade Sunday School and volunteer whenever possible. My husband is VP of technology at a firm in San Francisco--so he keeps strange hours. When he talks about work, it's is truly a different language for me! I will never understand what he does, exactly, but he puts out some pretty cool stuff! In the past I have taught as an extended-sub in first, third, fifth and was a full time sixth grade Language Arts teacher. I have been a teacher aide in an emotionally conflicted classroom in both an elementary as well as a middle school setting. I was also a learning support aide for the 8th grade. My last year of teaching was I'm way out of the tech-loop! I just celebrated my 41st birthday in December...and am ready to get back into the classroom again! I started the process of getting a dual Master's in reg/sped last semester--this turns out to be an amazing move, as my son was just diagnosed with Asperger's last Friday. I am more motivated than ever to get through this process and be someone who can help and support others who are going through what our family is at this point.
This is me in a tiny nutshell...hope it's enough for now :)