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!

Just a tool…grrr

Lately, I have found myself wondering about something…I even made the mistake of bringing it up to Jeff, and you know how he likes to talk about everything and anything to do with technology!

Often in our face to face classes we have the discussion around why we are using technology, to what purpose and what gain. Over and over again I hear teachers argue against the necessity of using technology because “it’s just a tool.” At first I bought into that same idea, it is just a tool that you can use to enhance learning and/or engage our learners. For years I agreed with that idea, even used that same argument myself from time to time. Recently, however, I find myself bristling when someone says “but it is just a tool!”

At some point, and I’m not sure when, technology became more than ‘just a tool.’ A tool is something that you can know how to use but maybe you don’t need to know how to use it and you can still live a full, successful life. When is the last time you heard an intelligent, successful individual convincingly argue that in this day and age, technology learning can be voluntary for students? A tool is something that helps us and makes a job easier, and yes, technology does do that (well, most of the time for most of us anyway!). So it IS a tool…but it’s not just a tool. When did that last ‘tool’ you learned to use completely change the way you thought, the way you saw your world, the way you interacted with others? Did those other ‘tools’ demand a paradigm shift in thinking? Did they inspire movements and a call to redefine what teaching and learning mean?

So no, I don’t buy that anymore, that technology is just a tool. I only have to look at my students to know for sure. Their parents can yell at them, ground them, punish them in all sorts of creative ways-but if you take away their ‘connections’, their cell phones and computers, life suddenly comes to a screeching halt. Living without their technology is unfathomable. And interestingly, I had a father tell me his daughter was grounded the other day because she left the house with out her cell phone…so much for ‘just a tool.’