Mission Statements

I'm not big on mission statements. I know that they are not going anywhere anytime soon, that any organization I work for will have these statements somewhere in a school/company handbook, and that i should be familiar with both statements so I am familiar with the purpose of the organization. My problem is not with the multitude of people who spend copious amounts of time on drafting the perfect one or two sentence statement that encompasses all the beliefs and values of the organization, no, my problem is with what happens (or more often what doesn't happen) once a mission statement is adopted. Reading Viki Davis' latest post on her frustration with school not allowing technologies like skype and videoconferencing into the classroom struck a chord. Currently we are having similar discussions at Carol Morgan School that many other schools are having, specifically how long can we keep out Web 2.0 applications from our classrooms. Things like youtube and skype are not permitted for students to use, actually, teachers cannot use them either. I find this quite contrary to our schools mission statement and here is the rub. A mission statement that reads something like "...to educate students by integrating technology to produce students with a multicultural world view..." flies in the face of reality when students are denied access to experiences in technology that transcend the walls and halls of the school they live and work in. I bet, most of the international school community have mission statements very similar to this.

Vicki make s a good point when she discusses tools and their uses. She writes...

"This is proof that it is not the tools that are inherently good or evil but rather the use of the tools.

    • A hammer can kill someone but it can also build a house.
    • A nail can be driven through a hand but it can also hold the roof over your head.
    • A fist can hit but a fist can also be clasped in your hand in love.

We do not outlaw hammers, nails, or fists -- we teach people to use them properly. "

I like this. It seems to parallel my argument as of late that how do we practice what we preach in our mission statement if we cannot skype directly from our classrooms to meet other teachers, to get involved in cross-cultural tech. integration projects that are happening out there if we are not given the tools by which to do so. How do we expect to broaden our kids world view when wee do not give them the "window" to see out of? And, lastly, and this one is my biggest issue, how do we teach tech. responsibility when we do not give the kids the opportunity to be responsible. I will be the first to admit that the Internet is a scary place especially when you teach elementary tech. and need to keep kids safe, but it is my opinion that i would rather have kids exposed to the Internet, skype, what have you in a controlled environment where they are supervised and where conversations can take place within a group setting about what responsible use really is; what is looks like. Otherwise we are simply putting blinders on to the fact that our kids will go home to their computers, possibly their own computer in their bedroom, and will be exposed to all the Internet has to offer-the good the bad and the ugly, with no idea of what responsibility is when it comes to being online, and to exploring the Internet with little to no adult supervision. How long can we continue to say that we do not want to be the place where sometimes kids screw up and access an inappropriate page or website so that we can displace our role of teaching responsibility to someone else. It is time like to admit like Brian Crosby says, "Learning is messy". Teaching with technology will change how we educate our students, we are seeing it now. Look at Brian's Blog and what he is doing right now with skype in his inclusion video. This was never possible to us as educators before today, and who knows what will be possible tomorrow. One thing is for certain, if we do not take that big step and admit that it is our responsibility to instill responsible use of technology in our students then we cannot fairly expect someone else to do it either.

Multicultural world views do not come about by isolationist practices in the classroom or school. They come about when we as educators empower our students with responsibility and the correct tools and guidance with which to explore our mission statements.

The ball is starting to roll a little faster...

Lately I have been working closely with Kathryn Wagner the ESL specialist in the middle school. She teaches a literacy skills course once a semester and last time we were sitting on the beach together a few weeks back in Bayahibe, DR (I swear to you we sat under this very palm tree staring out at the ocean) we started talking about ideas that she could use in her class that would get kids writing and reading, and doing it for enjoyment more than just another tedious assignment. I suggested that She try podcasting and we started talking about what that would look like. While she had only listened to one or two podcasts in her life, she was intimidated by the idea to say the least. As I mentioned that her kids would have to compose what they would say and would be doing authentic writing and communicating, her interest peaked and she began to see the value in this, especially when I reminded her that they would be able to listen to the stuff on their iPods and that we could also host it on the schools website for the school community and beyond to enjoy. However, like a lot of teachers I work with, when I started to mention using sound editing software (in this case we used audacity) and that maybe she would need to set up a website or a blog to host the podcast on, I could see the excitement drain from her as dread took over. I reassured her that I could help her and this would be a great learning experience for her and her kids, that she would learn while her kids learned and therefore they would learn together. I assured her, "It will be awesome...trust me."

Fast forward three weeks and I have a podcasting lunatic on my hands. Kathryn is now convinced that she is ready to hit the airwaves or should I say "net"waves with her own podcasts. Her anxiety about using audacity has faded and has been replaced by excitement as she uttered those familiar words all tech facilitators crave to hear from thier staff, "that is so cool, and it's easy." Kathryn and I set up her blog-SharksCast, and we made a sample podcast together that we put on the blog as well. Today her students actually recorded their clips for their first official Sharkcast. Kathryn and the kids are editing it down and it should be ready soon.

I don't know about you, but these episodes are the greatest part of my job. Whether it be a student or staff member, I love making them stretch their boundaries of comfort and seeing them grow and learn in the process. Yes, it is cliche teacher stuff, but it is true. Anyway, have a look, cheeck out the blog and send Kathryn an email or better yet comment on her blog. As they say, we'll keep 'ya posted.

Ok, I admit it

I have a confession to make. I am a Dead Head. There I said it...God it feels good. I realize on an educational blog that this can be a dangerous admission, but hell I can't resist. Why the new found pride in my Devotion to the GD? I'm not sure why, but after a rather long break from listening to Jerry and the boys, I have come back in the last week. And then, as if on cue, my Friend Jon Pitale who is now teaching in China (What school Jon?), send me this miracle link this morning. If you like music please check out Internet Archives collection of downloadable music. it is free and apparently legit as well. So I looked through all these bands that had music archived on this site, mostly all live shows and then I saw it. The Grateful Dead with over 2,000 items that have been archived. The smile on my face when listened to Scarlett Begonias told me I had been away too long and that there are a lot of other people out there who are still listening.

I'm not alone and the wheel keeps on spinning.........

I've tried 'em all

Alright, how do i put a picture behind my blog title. You know where it says "goundswell"? It is just blue but I have the perfect picture and would love to personalize my site a little bit, can you help?

Thanks in advance.....

An Intersting Week Indeed

Last week was one of those weeks where I left school with a bit of a headache. No, don't worry, it was not a medical issue and I was not hungover, but I appreciate your concern. Actually it was the kind of headache I used to get back in my College days when i would be cramming for a test or working on a big project. I used to call the "brain aches". Anyway, with the help of my Netvibes reader, I am subscribed to a number of educational blogs (see my blogroll) and as such, I fill my mornings now, at my computer, with a hot cup of coffee and my list of sites to peruse. I am blown away by the quality of good educational blogs out there and the dedication many of the blogs I subscribe to are putting forth. Specifically, I urge you to visit Kim Cofino's Blog. We actually met when I joined Clay Burell's 1001 Flat World Tales Project. Interest in this is taking off and I am happy to one of the first few teachers taking part of this. I kind of get that feeling about this project that it will develop into something really big and memorable. Needless to say, cheers Clay, way to pull this all together and provide so many of us with this opportunity. I have already been contacted by Terry Smith in Missouri to get our kids together and collaborating and I look forward to working with his kids as well. There is just so much good stuff going on out there with teachers and the Web 2.0 stuff that it is hard to keep up with, synthesize, digest, reflect on, etc.

Back to Kim for a second, she has also taken it upon herself get a wiki going for Middle School teachers and tech. facilitators to post projects and ideas they have for integrating technology into their respective curriculum. Check out Tech in the Middle here and throw your ideas into the mix if you haven't already. Even though I am the Elementary Tech Facilitator I think I will throw some ideas in there that can easily be adapted to the middle grades setting. Besides, I was a middle school teacher for 5 years before moving to the tech world. This is just up and running and once again, thanks to having feeds to all these incredible ideas has led me in many different directions in the last week alone.

My brain ache subsided over the weekend as I kind of steered away from the computer and focused on playing like a kid with my two kids. It gave me time to reflect on the massive amount of information I looked over last week and enabled me to focus a bit. The respite was needed and Aidan (my 3.5 year old) and I had a blast at the pool and coloring his Power Ranger coloring books-he is getting good at staying in the lines. Randomly bringing me to this revelation while coloring in a motor cycle with him. In coloring books we value staying "in the lines" yet when it comes to education, we are now encouraging our kids to scribble outside of the lines, to explore, to think out side of the box, to ask difficult answers and then come up with the solutions. Essentially as Educators if we are embracing these new technologies into our curriculum and classrooms then aren't we also "coloring" outside of the lines? Toward the end of one coloring session, Aidan was kind of over it and started to scribble, I put down my marker, watched, and smiled. Coloring outside of the lines suddenly seemed more rewarding as staying confined within them.

After much consideration, hesitation, and some anxiety...

Ok, I’ve finally embarked on the start of what I hope will be beginning of an illustrious blog. Alright, I’ll settle for hopefully being somewhat interesting to read. While this platform will serve to illuminate my teaching experiences as an Elementary School Technology Facilitator at the Carol Morgan School in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. it has been lately through reading of many blogs that I have realized that feel like I know less now about teaching and education than I did when I started teaching middle school science 5 years ago. Specifically, lately I have been swept up in the many conversations and blogs covering the emerging technologies and pedagogy surrounding Web 2.0. I feel like right now we are on the cusp of an incredible events in education and culture that will forever serve to shape our futures and our students’ futures as well. Needless to say, at times I find myself overwhelmed, intimidated and at utterly confused by what I know, what I thought I knew and how much I still have little knowledge about. Anyway, it is late so check in for my rantings, ravings, admissions, confessions, the occasional life blog and or surf/kitesurf entry. Somehow it all fits together…well at least in physics right?