Just to let people know, my blog was created to fulfill a requirement for the COETAIL program. If you look back to my first post, I commented on how I didn’t think I was going to be a ‘blogger.’ And as time has passed, I have to say I was correct! I have started a blog with my counseling partner to send out information to our students, ultimately it’s something we’ll also gear towards parents too. But as far as a regular blogger about my thoughts and life…well, I think I’ll leave that to the original blogger in the family! Have at it, Jeffrey, the blogosphere is all yours.

Magic Wand

This article tweeted out by a friend, made me nostalgic. Again, I find it amazing how far and fast we have come. The 21 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade

The Stylus-I remember my first Palm, how excited Jeff was to get one for me. He had a friend pick it up in Hong Kong as a surprise. That thing spent many an airplane ride and a beach bumming hour keeping me entertained. It was my first introduction to learning to read a book in a digital format. I was sold once I realized how many more books I could bring on a trip! I kind of liked the stylus…weird to think this was only five years ago.

Land Lines-Interestingly, we are not hooking up the land line in our new condo and because the line is in such an awkward location (design wise) we’re considering taking it out and patching the area with some sheetrock. Even my mother is realizing how easy it is to just use the cell phone-she’s finally grasped that she can call my sister long distance from her cell and it doesn’t cost her any more money. Unfortunately she still is unable to retrieve her voicemail unassisted!

VCR-I find it absolutely crazy to think that it was just in 2002 that DVD players outsold VCRs…and yet I barely remember using a VCR. Funny to think that “Be kind, rewind” no longer has meaning today.

Boundaries-I love the idea that “boundaries” have become obsolete! This is something that I’m constantly dealing with when working with Middle School Students. I’m not sure boundaries are completely obsolete, but they are definitely needing redrawing and rethinking.

I then followed another link to a post entitled “21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020.” As I read through the author’s list, I found myself first chuckling and then wishing that was truly what the future would look like! From the first item, Desks, to the last, Paper, I found myself nodding in agreement. Although, I do think some of the items might be a little ambitious to think they’ll be obsolete in 10 years. So far, I have found education to be slow to change. The idea that the landscape of learning will be so altered that we can all shift our paradigm of education to incorporate a fluid, individual idea of what school could be…well, like I said, maybe a bit ambitious!

Some of the items on the list, though, are things I’m seeing a slow, tentative movement towards. Number 11, for example, talks about the change needed in IT departments. I do think this is something that a few schools are realizing and they are trying to make that switch. I think part of the problem is, though, that schools think the answer is to move the traditional IT person into the role of innovator and change agent…maybe not always the best fit. Just because someone gets hardware, doesn’t mean that person gets the bigger picture and/or can effect real change in a school. I have had the lucky privilege to work with some of the “IT” people that the author writes about-true innovators who ‘get it’!

I did enjoy this post-I’m hoping that the author had a crystal ball and could see the future when writing it. Ten years for all of this change to take place, that I can deal with…my fear is that it may be much, much longer. If I had a magic wand, I’d use it!

The Hole

I’m constantly amazed at how fast technology is moving and how quickly life is changing for all of us. Time and time again it is brought home to me how our lives have begun to revolve around these gadgets and how we feel as if we’re missing an appendage when they go away!

I have never appreciated the beauty of today’s technologies more than in the last year for sure. Some of you may know that Jeff and I became homeowners on October 1st, 2009. We’d been tossing around the idea of purchasing real estate for quite some time, but hadn’t really committed to the idea until about February of last year. We began researching location and options and quickly fell in love with the idea of owning a condo with a view in Belltown (downtown Seattle, WA). Long story short, we were able to find the crummiest ‘house’ in the best location! Our condo (The Hole as it will forever more be called) was in a short sale situation and was unbelievably trashed. But, the building was fabulous, the views divine, and the layout exactly what we’d been hoping for. And because we had the best real estate agent ever, we were successful in purchasing our first home-from the other side of the world.

From the moment we began researching condos for sale and trying to understand what the buying process entailed, we were glued to the Internet. All of the condos we looked at, including the one we bought, we found online. We left Seattle in July still not under contract. Yet we were eventually able to get our offer accepted, have the inspection and appraisal done and shared with us, and sign all relevant loan documents and scan them and email them back. All from Bangkok, Thailand (and at one point Jeff was having documents signed while he was in Brussels, Belgium as well!). That was all the easy part. Now began the massive cleaning and remodel of The Hole…

The idea of remodeling a kitchen is daunting, but throw in being thousands of miles away and it seems almost impossible. Yet, that is exactly what we’re doing. Our best friend is project manager and takes frequent iPhone pictures and sends them our way to keep us updated. My sister is personal shopper and sends text messages from her cell phone to my email account to keep me in the loop and to get any questions answered. The other day we had to coordinate plans for the countertop install so we Skyped our friend on his computer. We realized we needed my sister involved, so he called her at work on her cell and put her on speaker phone. The four of us then coordinated schedules and details-morning for us in Bangkok, our friend at home in Seattle eating his dinner, my sister from her work in Bellingham. I found myself shaking my head in wonderment.

So far we have purchased all of our appliances online, we’ve researched on the Internet green products to use in our new environmentally friendly ‘Hole’, and we’ve set up online bill pay to fund all of these purchases-even down to our HOA dues each month! We’re heading into the home stretch and the prospect of seeing the final product in a few weeks is exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.

Of course, having fabulous family and friends is what makes it really possible-my mother is super cleaner woman, her best friend has an eye for design and gets things done (she wins the award for tackling the dirtiest jobs, miraculously getting stuff clean AND surviving!), my sister is an expert shopper who finds amazing deals and the coolest stuff, my brother is a perfectionist that has his own flooring business, and our best friend is a detail oriented project manager with contractor connections…how lucky are we?

So while I know that technology made our dream possible, it really is our friends and family that did the hard parts! My most favorite thing about The Hole? That it is all of ours together, created with everyone as a part of the whole (Hole!).

Thanks family and friends from the bottom of my heart-you will never realize the depth of my gratitude. See you at The Hole in June!

Murky Waters

I was having a conversation yesterday with some of my sixth grade students and the topic of copyright came up. Not sure how much their teachers and parents had been talking to them about copyright, I started doing some digging about their understanding of what it meant.

Quickly I realized they knew, more or less, what copyright was. It also rapidly became apparent that the way they applied that knowledge varied dramatically. We were specifically discussing music when one student made the comment, “Well, in American they really don’t care about what songs you use, America doesn’t really care that much about it.” Wow…that certainly is a misconception that needs straightening out!

Another student tried to explain it to the group (she’d obviously been having serious discussions with someone about this) and she used the words “Yeah, but you’re stealing their passion!” She went on to explain that sites like LimeWire are illegal but more importantly they are wrong-because it allows people to steal a person’s passion.

The first student still wasn’t convinced, and was struggling to understand how you are ‘stealing someone’s passion.’ We tried to explain it as something that would hit closer to home. Using the analogy of him creating a film (he loves video making) that he had spent months and countless hours on making-then having another 6th grade student from a different school download his video, using his ‘passion’ for his or her own gain or credit. All without acknowledging (whether monetarily or otherwise) the actual creator of the stunning film. He was quiet for a minute, gave a quick nod to the group and said, “You have a point there.”

After we had this discussion, I found myself thinking about this for quite some time. I think copyright is an area we all struggle with understanding. I wrote an earlier blog post that touched on this as well. I found myself in murky waters when it came to explaining to my students what we could and couldn’t use on our new student site we’re creating (my new final project). So how do I help kids understand that there is potential for them to cause trouble if they use the music performance video if the group didn’t have permission to perform the music in the first place…and is that even an issue? And how do we know if the videos we’re using are following copyright laws, how can we tell? Since there doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule, how do we help kids make sound decisions?

As we’re trying to wrap our heads around all of this and make sense of it, I also find myself really feeling my kids’ pain and frustration with this issue. This is the generation of collaborators, of believers in Google Docs, Wikis, and Open Source. They don’t understand that just because it’s there on the Internet and I can click on it, download it, put it in my presentation-it doesn’t make it okay to do so.

In light of all of this confusion and murkiness, I found the sliver of light shining through. When I asked my students if they knew what Creative Commons was, all of them were aware of it and what it meant. I introduced them to search.creativecommons.org and they were excited (though one of the students asked if they had songs like ones Michael Jackson sings…had to burst that bubble a little bit-they weren’t going to find the top downloads from iTunes BUT they would find good music that they could use without breaking laws).

As I said in my earlier ramblings, I think we are going to have to rethink what copyright means in this day and age. We’re going to have to find a way to clear these murky waters for us and for our kids.

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Facebook Workshop

Without going in to all the details of why, let me share with you about my experience with a group of students doing some ‘Facebook sensitivity training’ as the HS counselors called it! I chose to refer to it as a ‘Facebook/Online Profile workshop’. I’m sure the students didn’t enjoy all of it (they weren’t really meant to after all) but I will say that I thought it was an incredibly worthwhile 4 hours.

Initially we began the day with just talking about Facebook. We looked at how it works; we examined and discussed the privacy settings (which most kids were unaware of) and even gave the kids time to go in and put some settings into place. As we were chatting as a group about Facebook, one student said he hadn’t worried about ‘getting into trouble’ because he wasn’t ‘friends’ with any adults on Facebook. Suppressing the urge to grin, I looked at him and asked him if he was ‘friends’ with any of the other 20 kids in the room. He confirmed he was ‘friends’ with just about all of them. I then asked the group to raise their hands if they had adults as friends on Facebook. Every single hand in the room went up but this boy’s. As we had just finished discussing the privacy settings and how friends of friends can see what you write…he was smart enough to put two and two together and sheepishly nodded his head saying “okay, I get it.”

Eventually I gave the kids some time to research Facebook, Privacy on the Internet, and/or Cyberbullying. We then came back together as a group to share what the kids had found. They were shocked at the information they found-the lack of privacy and the way information was being used to fire people from jobs, evict tenants from their rental homes, and deny students admission to universities. This was a major eye opener for these kids…and that is what has me worried! Why was this information new and unknown to these students? The events they were reading about have been happening with more and more frequency-yet it was all news to these 20 sixth, seventh, and eight graders. And what about the rest of the kids that weren’t a part of this workshop? How much do they know about all of this? Who is talking about this stuff with our students…?(more to come on this in a later blog post-hopefully it will be good news about the direction we’re headed in due in part to our Facebook fiasco!)

On a side note-I established from the outset that I was far from against Facebook, if anything I was a pro-Facebook believer. It was perfect that while I was working with these kids on understanding the negative power of social networking, at the same time there was a huge rally happening in our neighborhood that demonstrated the positive power. An environmental studies teacher with his class started a Facebook group to ban plastic bags in Thailand and at that point had over 7,000 members! They advertised the rally on Facebook and had over 1,000 people attend. Now that is power in connections.

As part of the workshop, the students had two ‘assignments’. The first one was to write an essay on some of the things they had learned from their time together. They could write on anything from Facebook to Privacy to Cyberbullying-it was their choice. The second assignment was also a choice-they could create a list of “Dos and Don’ts” for Facebook or they could create a collage of words/pictures representing who they wanted to be in this world (we had spent some time discussing this around Online Profiles and Cyberbullying earlier). This is where something remarkable happened.

One of my students, Gina (who is one of the coolest 8th graders I’ve met), wrote an excellent essay about Facebook and privacy. She posted it on her blog and I shared the link with Jeff, who then twittered it out to his ‘peeps’. Gina quickly found herself in the limelight with people from all around the world reading her essay and asking if they could share it with others-teachers were requesting her permission to share it with their entire class of students. Here’s the goosebump moment-Gina loves writing and has written some stunning poetry. She really has a gift…and in her collage, she had written: “I want to someday be…writing things that make people think about their lives.” Well, Gina, as an 8th grade middle school student, you’ve managed to do just that. But please don’t stop writing-there’s a lot more thinking people need to do and you have just begun accomplishing your dream!

Gina's collage

In following up with each of the students in the workshop, I asked them what was the biggest thing they took away from their ‘training’. Almost all of them answered without hesitation “There’s no such thing as privacy on the Internet!”

Mission accomplished.

Heavy Burdens

So, it’s been quite a bit of time since I last wrote on my blog. I guess a true testament to whether I really am a ‘blogger’ or not. Seriously though, one avid blogger per family seems good to me!

Trying to get back into the habit of writing on my blog is not something that comes easily or naturally. As I made attempt after attempt to force myself to initiate my mandated posts for this last class, I found myself even more reluctant than usual. As per my habit, I finally stopped to analyze what was making it even more difficult than in previous classes.

I kept coming back to an interesting event that took place quite a ways back. While for some this might not seem very significant, or it may be confusing as to why it had such an impact on me, I’ll try and explain.

Part of my job involves interviewing new students and families and ensuring that our school is a good fit on both sides. Initially I was not too excited about this aspect of my job, but have since come to appreciate that first contact with students and parents. Some weeks ago now, one particularly enjoyable family interview was significant in my ‘blogging’ life.

As I was chatting with a prospective student and his mother, we came about in conversation to discussing blogs. The mother shared with me she had read a technology coordinator’s blog from our school. I guessed it was my husband’s and she confirmed that it was. She then paused in conversation and said, “Hey, you have a blog don’t you? I’ve read your blog!” She went on to describe some of my posts in detail to leave no doubt she was indeed talking about my blog.

I’m sure the look on my face went rapidly from astonishment, to embarrassment, to panic and finally culminated in stunned amazement. This was a pivotal moment in my life…

Now let me explain why. First of all, let me say that this woman was absolutely lovely and incredibly positive and complimentary of my writing. She’s actually asked me a couple of times about why I haven’t written more recently (so here you go, Lilian, this one’s for you! More to come soon). So this shouldn’t bring about the extreme reluctance I’m feeling, right?

And it can’t be because someone who I didn’t know had read my blog. I’ve actually had a couple of strangers leave comments; I’m aware that at times my quiet little blog is actually getting out there in the world.

So exactly what is it that was pivotal about this encounter? After much thought, I realized this was my first experience with meeting someone who knew about me because of my blog before I knew them. It was…strange. Not bad, but definitely different. It made me realize that what I put here on this blog is really representing me. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t consider that fact before, but it just didn’t mean as much as it does now. This is going to be, for some, their first impression of who I am. This is huge, major really. Now when I blog, I am feeling a heavier burden than before-which is not necessarily a bad thing. Isn’t this what we’re trying to get our kids to understand? This is what the world is seeing as representative of who we are, we must always remember that. I just had it brought home to me in a powerful, and surprising way!

Fingers crossed…

And I forgot to put up the last blog post with the link to my project outline! Too much else going on I guess…

So here’s the link to my project outline (Perception in Communication and Problem Solving). As with most of my outlines, I highly doubt that when it comes time to ‘put it into practice’ that it will actually look like this! I was always the student who wrote her outlines after the fact (I hated the classes that required me to turn in the outline for my paper first, that just has never worked for me).

So I am anticipating-hoping-to begin some classroom guidance activities with my students next semester. This is a perfect excuse to ‘borrow’ a class of students for a little while. One of the reasons this outline will likely change is that I plan to collaborate with the Humanities teachers and make my lesson not only meet the Counseling Standards and Benchmarks (ours at ISB are slightly different than ASCA but not by much-we are also in the process of reviewing them), and TAIL standards, but also the Humanities outcomes…this is an idea that I have come to embrace based on Melanie Smith’s work at Concordia International School. The idea is that the classroom guidance lessons presented by the counselor tie into the other standards and benchmarks so it is not an additional or separate lesson concept, but one that reinforces and works with the lessons already being taught but also meets the counseling standards. A true integration if you will. Melanie has created a program that utilizes this concept. I believe it is one of those things that gets us closer to our ‘ideal’ in how a counseling program can be integrated into the regular educational program for all students-she’s brilliant in my opinion! I am excited to put this into practice and ISB and hope that it will become a regular part of the MS Counseling Program. Fingers crossed…

Brilliance or blasphemy?

Hmm, cell phones in the classroom-brilliance or blasphemy? I think I’d have to vote on the side of brilliance…now, I am as irritated as the next person when in a meeting someone’s phone starts obnoxiously blaring out Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ (oh wait, that would be my phone!). So bringing cell phones into the classroom has to be done thoughtfully and intentionally. Yes, cheating is a concern…and if students can text in their pocket without looking, on some level you have to be impressed by that skill. Students still have to slide the phone out of their pockets to read the message however, much like they might slide a cheat sheet out of their pockets too. This is definitely an issue to be aware of along with many others.

Iphone and Filippo  - Dave Hill Effect

My vote for brilliance, however, comes from my observations with my students. We provide each student with an agenda/planner at the start of every school year. The expectation is they will bring this book with them everywhere; it is to become their lifeline to school. So our digitally connected, tech savvy, always plugged in kids are supposed to rely on a good old-fashioned spiral notebook to keep them organized and planned. Sure, that’s how it works of course…which is why every day lost agendas turn up in the office. Many of these agendas show a valiant attempt at regular usage, others look almost brand new, like they’ve yet to be cracked open. And of course the kids who need the most help with organization and keeping track of assignments, are the ones who can never ‘find’ their agendas. Guaranteed they can always find their cell phones! And the ratio of cell phones showing up in the office to agendas…well, it’s not even worth comparing. I also had great intentions to model appropriate agenda use, and I did just that-for about one week. Did you know that I can schedule things in my computer calendar and it will pop up and tell me what I have to do and when? If I had a cooler phone (no Jeff, I don’t want an iPhone) I could even sync with my computer and have my calendar, or agenda, with me at all times (yes, that’s because I’ve never lost my cell phone either). So much for appropriate modeling…

I had one of our Intensive Studies teachers (special education) approach me and ask if I thought one of our students should be allowed to try using his cell phone as his agenda. I was in full support of that-this kid lost his agenda more than he found it. Unfortunately, many of his teachers were leery of the idea of giving this new strategy a go. One main reason given was “but then all the kids will want to use their cell phones for agendas.” Works for me, saves paper and resources and guarantees they will always have their agendas on them. How do we know unless we try it out? So cell phones in the classroom? Absolutely, I think we can make it work!

Creative Commons License photo credit: mastrobiggo

Molecules in the air-managing laptops in the classroom

A question even I get asked as a school counselor; how do you manage laptops in the classroom? Good question, and one with out a solid, universal answer I think. Managing laptops in the classroom environment is just another (albeit challenging) aspect of classroom management. And as we all know, those of us who have been in other teacher’s classrooms or tried some team teaching, every one of us has a different management style, approach, and level of tolerance.

As with general classroom management, I don’t think there is a more right or wrong way of doing things-everyone has to find out what works for the individual AND the particular group of students you might happen to find yourself working with. I know that there are certain classrooms and groups of students that require me to alter my management style-this is not really different for managing laptops in the classroom. I also feel it is about a personal comfort level, too. For example, some teachers use the ‘lids down’ approach when there is direct instruction happening. Others feel that the level of attention they get from their students with ‘lids up’ works for them. Again, find what works for you and your kids.

Another strategy I find myself using is borrowing from the experienced! Just like we do with other classroom management issues, we ask those that have figured out how to make it work. Every time I see a teacher using laptops in the classroom I learn from it-whether it’s what I want to do when I’m using laptops with students, or it is what I don’t want to do!

The iPod Book
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Lane Winfield Moore

For those that are concerned about students being ‘off task’ and not using the computer for what they are supposed to (i.e. on Facebook), I don’t find it to be that major of a concern. I mean, really, that’s not much different than the student who is always hiding her novel inside her science textbook during class (hey, I WAS reading classic literature some of the time). I was able to still do pretty okay in my classes. Whereas Eli, who sat next to me, managed to distract himself quite well with just the molecules in the air-and he did not do so well academically. So having laptops doesn’t seem like it changes things that much. The kids who can be off-task and still do well, will. Those like poor Eli…well, computer or no computer, his teachers had an uphill battle! Maybe the laptop could have actually helped distracted Eli…

Where IS this plane headed anyway?

The NETs for teachers and administrators are a great place to start. To truly have a school that embraces technology and philosophically understands what teaching and learning should look like today, that school’s teachers and administrators need to be on board.

To not have administrators on board with where a school needs to go, it’s like having a pilot that doesn’t really understand how to fly the new fangled airplane or knows where the passengers are headed! Having the NETs for administrators gives some guidelines for what those ‘pilots’ need to know. This is incredibly important…having been the imprisoned listener of an often frustrated technology specialist over the years, I definitely understand how vital it is that the administrators of our schools learn what they need to fly that plane.

The same goes for teachers-using the plane analogy, why are they on the plane if they don’t know where it’s going and why? By default, an administrator with the understanding of technology and its role in teaching and learning today should only hire faculty that can accept and believe in a shared technology philosophy. Jeff and Andy worked together a couple of years ago to formulate some interview questions for prospective teachers to get at just this-have the candidates made the pedagogical shift necessary to work in this school?

I don’t think the NETs are the be all and end all of technology standards, but they are a good place to start your thinking and planning for your individual school/teacher needs. I quite like that at ISB the stunning tech team (who happen to be grading us in our COETAIL courses) created our own set of technology standards, tailored specifically to our school, teachers and most importantly, our students needs. I’m sure they’d be happy to share, though!