Saturday, March 28, 2009

Back off

I've had just about enough teacher bashing the last few days.

First, from Congress, to Arne Duncan, to media, it's open season on teacher unions. Clay Burrell has pointed out the free swings everyone seems to be taking at teacher unions - as the supposed cause of problems in the US education system.

Then there are those who just blame teachers directly. This one really bothers me because it lays the blame for failure to use new technologies in classrooms at the feet of teachers.

This incredible article in Education Week reports on a study - and leads with this - that teachers are the reason new technologies are not being used in our schools:
Teachers, for the most part, are not taking advantage of the tools that middle and high school students have widely adopted for home and school purposes,....
Wrong. We teachers are, by and large, not allowed to use new technologies in our classrooms. Good grief, people, look at school district policies. They are set by administrators and school board members, not by teachers.

Guess what, they're not set by teacher unions, either.

So I say back off, and get to work fixing what's wrong. Do not start by trying to fire teachers. We are not the problem. That's like trying to pin the world financial crisis on bank tellers.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 10:20 PM   6 Comments

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Staying even

Lately it's been difficult getting around to posting here. Part of it is the increasing load at school, and part of it is that Twitter and other social networking forums, like Facebook, also allow me to publish my thoughts. Shorter posts, for sure, but it's so much easier and quicker to say something or make a point.

Not only have my ways of expressing myself changed, but my thoughts are read by different audiences. Here are some real modest personal stats:
  • A little over 300 follow this blog via rss (as far as I can tell, as there is more than one feed)
  • 270 people follow me on Twitter (went up by 7 while I wrote this)
  • I have 135 friends on Facebook
It would be impossible to tell how much overlap there is between those three groups. My best educated guess is that 30 to 40 people are on all three of those lists. Easily 90% of them are educators, I am pretty sure. Would like to see a Venn diagram right about now...

What's the point of all this? Well, I've been reading lots lately about social networking, much having to do with Facebook.
And Twitter seems to be making headlines of its own:
What does all this mean to this third grade teacher trying to teach and prepare his kids for the rest of their lives?

Not sure, except to say that if I do not at least try to stay even with the kids I'm teaching, in terms of understanding the technologies so entrenched in their lives, I don't have a prayer of providing a meaningful or relevant educational experience for them.

And as their teacher, I should be doing a lot more than just staying even with them.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 4:45 PM   0 Comments

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reasons to be in a place

There are reasons we move to a new place, and then there are the reasons we stay. They are often not the same. I moved to Seattle in 1973, right out of college. This is a big part of why I stay:



I'm sure this hits me so hard now because of family, so very far away. I just sent a birthday gift to my brother in Connecticut, and flowers for my mother-in-law's funeral in Kansas.

And then this beautiful little video comes along. Take a minute (literally) and watch and listen. It's nice in full screen mode...

The power of a place. It makes you wonder and think about all sorts of things.

Credits: Video by Christopher Boffoli, with thanks to the West Seattle Blog for pointing it out.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 3:20 PM   0 Comments

Friday, March 13, 2009

For you, Barb

Barb, we miss you like you can't believe. Like the kids say, please come back.



For everyone else; Barb Bailey is the music teacher at our school, and she is fighting valiantly to regain her health. She has taught across the hall from me for many, many years.

Whenever I open my classroom door, I miss the beautiful sound of children singing.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 7:44 PM   0 Comments

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Missing Our Moms

Today my wife's mother passed away. Sarah Jean Currier was a beautiful woman, and she will be missed by many.

I sit here in Seattle, shaking my head, while I think about losing my own mom three months ago.

Janeanne is now there with her family in Kansas. I know the grief she is going through. It is painfully fresh in memory.

All I can think at this point is to be thankful for having had such wonderful moms. We were both pretty lucky, I think.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 9:11 PM   1 Comments

Monday, March 02, 2009

Information flow

I thought about titling this Information Overload, but the issue is not simply one of amount - but of access. Whenever I log on to a computer, which is several times a day, on up to three different computers, I start these apps:
  • email - I use Outlook, have it configured to access 4 accounts
  • rss - I use Bloglines, monitor 159 feeds
  • Twitter - following 183
  • Facebook - 115 friends
Four different applications, with Twitter and Facebook at very modest levels of involvement. I get different things from all these of course. I should mention I am on several email lists (Edtech, wwwedu, classblogmeister, ednet, tictech, ahptsa). Then there are the work emails: "All Staff" and "Teachers" lists for my school.

So this is a lot of information, sure. But I have managed it fairly well, until recently. These days, I don't know where to start. The usual sequence was: email, rss, twitter.

Now there is Facebook, and it's #2, right after email. And I am spending a LOT more time there.

I'm sure this happens to people all the time - an infatuation or fascination with the latest application. So now it is Facebook with me, but it feels different from past experiences with other applications. Here are some past "flashes in the pan" of my attention:
There are some obvious reasons for the ascension of Facebook in my Hit Parade.

When I built my network of first 100 or so Friends, it was made up of educators, musicians (related to my wife's career), and local folks.

The RivalsThen somebody brought up my high school rock band from the 60's. One connection led to many others, and all of a sudden I'm making contact with a group of people who are about to have a 40 year reunion. Many of them are new to Facebook. Then there's the rock and roll band scene - on the other side of the country. The lure of that is hard to explain, but it's undeniably strong. I went to school in Manchester, Connecticut - some 2,500 miles away from Seattle, where I have been since '73.

Why is Facebook working for me where other apps fell short? Well, it's a very good aggregator of my work. My Twitter posts appear there automatically. Same for my uploads to Flickr - and posts to this blog. Then there is the the ability to follow the activity of all friends right on Facebook or through Bloglines. Tonight I just had my first chat on Facebook - somebody dinged me. I wasn't even sure how that would work. It was pretty easy, actually. I fully expect to have video chat, skypelike, in the near future (is it already there?).

The other reason it works so well it that it's the current hot social networking application. Can't remember what Clay Shirky had to say about it last year, maybe I need to go back and take a look... Myspace, Diigo, and Nings are great, but their time as a useful tool has come and gone - at least for me.

I will not be surprised if Facebook fades soon and something else comes along to take its place. But for now, it is #2 on my Hit Parade of apps I open whenever I start up one of my computers.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 8:06 PM   1 Comments