Monday, November 27, 2006

Life begins at ...

I was reading over an old post at Creating Passionate Users and ran across this quote from Doc Searls:
"Nearly all of what I'm known for I've done since I was fifty."
Being past the 50 mark myself, I had to stop to think whether or not I could say the same. Not that I would even dream of putting myself in the same category as Doc, but I think that the same is pretty well true of me. In the last 6 years I have changed tremendously, grown tremendously. I have done things I would never have imagined I could / would do.

Another big milestone for me was 30. The change then was more personal and private but even more amazing. I literally became a different person. (I like to think a better one, too.)

Life is about change. It doesn't have to stop. It shouldn't stop. If we're lucky and work hard, the change can be positive growth rather than just getting older. It is exciting to think about what the future may hold. I wonder what I will learn once I am 60, 70 and beyond. Life doesn't begin at any particular age; it begins again each day. As Kathy said in her post,

It's never too late to be creative. It's never too late to make a difference. ... And remember the quote from the 90-something woman who, when asked about her regrets said, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken up the violin at 60. I'd have been playing for almost 40 years by now..."

Monday, November 20, 2006

My students and technology

My friend Angie commented on my last post, and I started to comment on her comment. Then I decided that I was writing enough to warrant a whole post.

My students usually have very limited understanding of technology. Part of what I do is teach them how to create PowerPoints, how to use library databases, etc. I take this part of my job very seriously. We are using Moodle this year to do hybrid or blended classes because it is important that they learn how to do more with computers than email and games. I feel good about the fact that my students leave me with the computer skills and experience they need to succeed in their other classes.

I try to give my students options; tomorrow one student will be showing us a movie he made. But another is creating his first PowerPoint. I encourage them to stretch themselves and their technological expertise. And they never cease to amaze me.

Angie talks about consulting the students about how to achieve the goals of the class . That is something I don't do enough of. I would like to try to change that this next semester. My students, even though they are adults, are not used to making any decisions or having any real input into their education. This sometimes makes it difficult for them to think about it deeply. And that is my biggest frustration. I have been doing a lot of "writing as thinking" with them this semester in an attempt to get them to go a little deeper, but it has not been tremendously successful. That does not mean, though, that I should give up on it.

I would like to get them excited about writing, and I think technology could help us do that. But not if the basic assignments are not exciting. I would like to experiment with having them produce alternatives to the research paper, for instance. Maybe a wiki. Maybe a blog. Maybe webtexts that are written for the Internet rather than print. The important thing is that the students learn how to do the research, how to think critically about the information they find, and how to write about it. The format doesn't matter. Could I offer a variety of options? Could each student do something different? Why not? I am the only thing keeping us from doing it that way. Am I up to it? Why not?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

No, I guess we still don't get it.

Clarence has once again pointed out just how little we get it. He says, in part:
First of all, we still don't get it. We are still trying to appropriate the literacy practices of youth culture, and co-opt them for our own means. We use hip - hop to teach grammar. We use blogs to nitpick the ultra fine points of novels and to teach grammar. We don't honour the literacy practices of the people in our classrooms for what they are. To many teachers, they are not legitimate on their own. ...

Second, we still crave control. We are willing to give kids the experience of blogging, if they are responding to a list of prompts. We are willing to use video if the videos are a series of X number of shots, each lasting no longer then X number of seconds. ... Are we still doing old things in new ways? 5 paragraph essays in video form?

The more I think about my use of new technologies, the less sure I am of myself. I don't want to do the same old thing in new ways. We need to truly revolutionize education to meet the needs of our students today. But how? It is hard for me to think so far out of the box. But at the same time, as an older experienced teacher, I can be creative, take chances.

At any rate, I am thinking again about the next semester. What can I do differently? Not for entertainment value but for learning. Not old things in new guises.

If you haven't read his post, check it out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Blogging next semester

I've been thinking about next semester and have decided to try blogging again with my writing students. I plan to have students write their early drafts of papers and post them to Moodle and then, when they are satisfied with them, they will post them to the blog.

When I do that, I know that I have to build an audience for them. Since I will probably only have two students in that class, we almost can't be our own audience! If there is no audience and there are no comments, there is no reason to blog. I guess I will make an appeal to anyone who happens by here to go there (wherever 'there" is) to read my students' blogs.

So be prepared to be invited and encouraged to comment on my students' posts next semester. Don't say you weren't warned!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Adult Literacy Education Wiki

For more than I year now I have known about the Adult Literacy Education Wiki, but it was only recently as I have gotten to be more comfortable with wikis that I have taken a real interest in it.

The wiki is a great resource for anyone in the US or probably Canada (and maybe other countries as well) who is interested in literacy at almost any level. The wiki is divided into a number of topic areas including Basic Literacy, Classroom Practices that Work, Professional Development, Technology and Young Adult Literacy.

I am currently the topic leader for the ESOL area. I am not sure yet exactly what that means, but I guess I will find out.

I would encourage any of you who are interested in literacy in any way to check this wiki out. It is filled with good information.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Another presentation fraught with problems

Yesterday I made a presentation at the LaTESOL conference in Baton Rouge, LA. I wanted to show the participants some of the cool tools that are available online. It started off well. I had set up a wiki with links to a lot of things and wanted us to look at the ones they were most interested in. I could access the wiki fine, but we were unable to access all the sites. It wasn't that they were blocked -- just a connection problem of some sort.

We talked about many of the tools and I was able to answer many of their questions even though I wasn't able to actually show them the tools. So on the whole, I was pretty content. I felt a little stupid every time a new site didn't open, but they seemed to take it in stride.

It is so much nicer to do an internet based presentation than a typical "slide show". But when they don't work, it is a problem. I had most of the presentation in an OpenOffice Presentation, but I didn't want to do it that way. I couldn't have individualized the program nearly as well. But I have to think about how I an do this in the future. I don't want another technology problem in a presentation on technology -- It's hard to win converts that way!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


A year or so ago Bud got me interested in JotSpot, a wiki site. I started a wiki there but never really did much with it. Now I probably never will. Google has just acquired it to add to its "stable". As they did with Writely, you cannot get a new account there until the migration to Google's system is complete. You can, however, sign up to be put on the waiting list here. If you want to, that is.