Monday, August 22, 2011

Facebook Locally, Tweet Globally!

It's Sunday evening and like me, teachers everywhere are working on lesson plans and preparing materials for the upcoming week. As I reflected on my first two weeks with 1st graders I realized that I need to tighten up my literacy block - I had too much transition and lag time between activities as well as not enough movement for restless 1st graders.

In the process of reflecting and planning for the upcoming week, I sent out a Tweet asking for opinions on what I felt was slow progress in our Read to Self block. Immediately (like within 2 minutes!!) I received super helpful feedback from @qldteacher in Australia as well as from @MsHoughton in Seattle. Both were encouraging and informative. I tweeted back and forth with @qldteacher for a few minutes and she reassured me that her experiences had been similar with her first graders in Australia.

After sharing information with my Tweeps, it hit me how wondrous it is that when I have a question any time of day about anything I can simply ask and, more often than not, get immediate help and encouragement from a real person. Seriously amazing!!

In response to people who are resistant to the idea of using Facebook and Twitter, I offer this metaphor. Think about your kitchen. You probably have a spatula and a whisk. You could use these items for some of the same tasks - there's a little overlap in their usefulness. However, you wouldn't flip burgers with a whisk and you wouldn't beat eggs with a spatula. Facebook and Twitter can be used in similar ways, just as spatulas and whisks can be used for some of the same jobs.

Personally, I use Facebook for keeping up with people I know in the flesh. These are my close friends and relatives. These are the people whose vacation pictures I'd take a minute to look through and care about seeing how much little so-and-so has grown. I also have a group for former students so that I can continue to reach out to them even after they've left my classroom.

I use Twitter to know what's happening in the world. It's more of a professional learning network as demonstrated in my situation today. I follow a wide array of people on Twitter, although a majority of them are in education.

(Another striking difference is that when you're home sick for a day, Facebook is pretty boring because all those people that I'm friends with are at work like I normally would be. Twitter is still a happening place though! I've got friends in my Twitterverse from all over the country and several from other parts of the globe.)

I urge you to consider using both. What about you? Are you involved in more than one social network? Feel free to share your amazing experiences and uses in the comments!

My philosophy is: Facebook locally, Tweet globally!

PS: A huge "THANK YOU" to @qldteacher & @MsHoughton. If you don't follow them on Twitter, please do so now! :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jobs of the Future...So What?!

How did his parents prepare him for a job that didn't even exist when he was in school??
I've been bothered by something for a while. I've seen several YouTube videos (this is just one example) featuring clips of students who hold up whiteboards stating all these facts and figures about their technology usage and how teachers need to engage them and how they spend hours and hours reading electronic material and finally how these children are being ill-prepared for jobs of the future 'that don't even exist yet'. 

And that's where everyone seems to get hung up - the idea that kids today need to be prepared for jobs that we can't even comprehend or imagine.

What kind of message are we sending teachers with these sad videos? "Give up, you don't even KNOW what these kids are going to face??" 

My thoughts? Get over it. For hundreds of years society has been preparing children for jobs that didn't yet exist. 

Think about it. Did George Washington's parents and teachers realize they were preparing him to be President of the United States? The job of President didn't exist yet. 

Benjamin Franklin's parents wanted him to join the clergy, but he ended up working as an apprentice printer. He then went on to start the first public library, organize a volunteer fire department, experiment with electricity, and serve as a diplomat. How on earth could any teacher prepare a child for such an assortment of jobs?

Oprah and Bill Gates weren't specifically prepared for the amazing jobs they created for themselves. How can you prepare someone for their own company based on their own inventions and creative content?

Of course these people are huge, unique mega-stars, but what about common people? The best example of someone who currently holds a job that no teacher could have imagined is my husband. He works for an automotive marketing company. His job includes research, writing, training others, creating drive courses, surveying sites to determine their usefulness, logistics, human resources, ....and countless other tasks. 

He was prepared for this job in public schools in a small town in Western Kentucky. Throughout his years in school he sat in desks (with the seat attached to the desktop) in rows. He used paper and pencil for everything. He read from basal reading series and happily completed pages and pages out of the accompanying workbooks. He memorized times tables, colored pictures of the state bird, flag and flower. His classes were tracked and bad kids were paddled. His high school installed a DOS computer lab during his senior year. Before the computer lab was installed, he had typing class using electronic typewriters. Just before he graduated, the high school won a grant from somewhere that installed televisions in every classrooms - and he thought that was cool! All of this seems so backwards to us today....and yet...he is a successful, well-adjusted person.

This is not to say we should return to the past. I do not condone the use of basal reading series, nor do I think we should level all of our classes and return to the days of endless worksheets. 

What I do want to say is that we should not worry so much about whether our kids will be prepared for the future. Haven't they always been prepared? If the human race wasn't doing a good job of preparing its young for the future we wouldn't be here now.

I don't think about the specific JOBS I'm preparing my students for. I'm thinking about preparing my students and my own children for LIFE. I think that if we, as parents and educators, focus on raising responsible, respectful, creative, curious, intelligent, cooperative young people, then they'll fall into place where they are meant to be. Even if it's a job no one has ever heard of or imagined. 

I'm not giving up on students and I'm not going to be led to believe that I can't adequately prepare them for the future. Yes, we should embrace technology. We should expose students to the most current ideas and resources. We should challenge all students and help them discover their strengths and interests in the world. We need to step up our efforts in math and science so that our children will be able to compete globally. We can do it! 

Maybe I'll create a short video about all the awesome things we can do...