Driver’s Ed

December 20, 2007 § Leave a comment

I had a very interesting conversation with one of our Tech Apps teachers yesterday.  I was in her lab installing updates for Google Earth and we started talking about her job, college, the holidays, just your usual small talk kind of stuff.

She mentioned during the course of the conversation that she was pretty much clueless about the technical side of things, to which my first reaction was (quietly, to myself, of course) really?  How can you be clueless about how computers and networks work, but still be the tech apps teacher.  She also said that when people came to her with problems (as they are wont to do when you are the computer teacher) she would either forward those things to the campus tech person, or forward it to my department.  When we email back, we always copy her, so she’s learning as she goes.

I started thinking about her lack of knowledge of technical issues.  I remembered back to when she was hired, and the principal gushing about how she didn’t talk at all about teaching the technology, but how she would use the technology to teach the core curriculum.

She’s a young woman, so she’s used to using technology, but since she’s grown up with it, she is in that generation of people who are users, but not necessarily “tech heads.”  It’s an interesting change to see happening.

The analogy that hit me this morning was Driver’s Education.  I seem come back to automobiles a lot when I think about computers and how we use them.  They just seem to fit perfectly when you really start thinking about it.  New technology at the beginning of the 20th century vs the end of the 20th century.  People who know the inner workings are seen as miracle workers when they fix something small, because the inner workings are seen as a complex mess by most of the general public.  People tinker with them to get them to run faster.

So, here’s why I thought about Driver’s Ed.  When I was in Driver’s Ed, I learned how to drive the car.  I learned how to put it in gear, how quickly to accelerate, how hard to break, the rules of the road, remembering to check my mirrors, put on my seatbelt, how to hold the steering wheel, and how to react when the car started to get out of control.

I never learned how to change the oil, flush the radiator, change the air filter, rotate the tires, change the sparkplugs or any other maintenance.   My teacher wasn’t an auto tech teacher, he was a Driver’s Ed teacher.

So why is it that we insist our Tech Apps teachers know all about the inner workings of the computer?  So they can fix it when it breaks?  Don’t we have technicians for that?  So they can troubleshoot when there are problems?  Again, aren’t our technicians supposed to do that?

Wouldn’t it be better if our Technology teachers were teachers first, and technologists second?  Wouldn’t that whole dynamic work better if the teachers of technology just happened to be the best teachers that used the technology the way it’s supposed to be used?

And wouldn’t it help our other teachers to maybe see that technology isn’t a mystery, something to be afraid of, but something that is useful, and that is expected of them?


On Being Santa…

December 19, 2007 § Leave a comment

Just a quick story to tell you about the power of the web, and of how a little recognition goes a long way. I’m probably relaying this wrong because all of my emails about it are at home, but I think you’ll get the point.

Santa visited an elementary school in San Diego this week.

A former professor of mine has a sister who works at this school.  A wonderful teacher who left a “good” school to go work with kids who didn’t have very much.  Kids who the system had let down.  Last year, she (my professor) made arrangements for the students in her class to receive gift certificates to purchase things for themselves and their family.

These are your typical “rough” students.  Their parents sometimes work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and the kids have hard lives.  Education isn’t a priority.  But the kids have been working hard and the all important test scores have risen.  Having a caring staff helps.  There has been a change in the attitude of many of the students at the school since the current administration and staff have come on board.

So this year, my professor put out a call to all of her current students and alumni to “be Santa.”  These people, all over the country (and world for that matter) put their brains together and figured out a way to gather money, get gift certificates for every student in the school, and have it delivered with only a very few people at the school knowing about it.

After all, being Santa isn’t just about giving.  It’s about giving without the need to be recognized.

I have no idea who or how many contributed.  I felt sad that I could not contribute, as all of the prep was already done by the time I received the emails (I had gotten behind in my email reading for a couple of weeks), but it’s inspired me to “be Santa” in other ways.  Ways that I don’t want or need to be recognized for.

The students at this elementary (and I’m purposely not telling you the name of the school here, because it’s just better if everyone involved knows that Santa brought the gifts) were skeptical at first, thinking that the teacher bought the gifts.  When she had them do the math (a-ha! a bit of education thrown in for good measure) they realized that there was no way she could have bought gifts for every student in the school.  One student piped up, “Maybe someone just recognized that we were working really hard.”

The kids get it.  It’s time for us as adults to step it up.  So please, be Santa for someone this holiday season.  There are so many ways to make a difference, especially with all of the technology available to us today.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!  I’ll see you after the new year.


December 18, 2007 § Leave a comment

Anglea from the Academy of Irving (Texas) has asked on her blog for help judging Media Fair entries.  What a great opportunity to show these kids from Irving that the world is paying attention.  Judging will be open until January 7, 2008.  Please see her blog (Musings from the Academy) for more info.

You can see the entries here.

Learn something new

December 12, 2007 § 1 Comment

I received one of my Christmas presents early this past weekend.

My wife never knows what to get for me, and even if I give her ideas, she wants to know exactly what type, what kind, etc., that I want, so it’s almost never a surprise when I get a gift from her.  This was another example of a non-surprise gift, so she told me she was going to get it, and when she got home with it, I couldn’t wait to try it out.

She got me an acoustic guitar.

I was a band geek in high school, so I know a bit about music, but I almost failed my music theory class my senior year because of a bad case of senioritis.  I also had my dad’s guitar for years (and never learned how to play it) before my sister took it because she wanted to learn how to play.  At the time I was just too busy with learning other things – networking, Macs, grad school, whatever it was, I just didn’t have the inclination to learn to play it.

Over the past few months, though, I’ve been longing to learn something new.  I saw a guitar at Wal Mart when I was shopping around one day and the thought hit me that it might be fun to learn.  I really enjoy listening to music played on acoustic guitar, why not learn to play one.  Then when my daughter and I went to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween, there was a kid there, picking away on his guitar.  It had such a beautiful sound, and it made my daughter dance, right there in the middle of the pumpkins.  That was it.  I was going to learn to play.  It had been too long since I’d learned something out of my comfort zone, and I was determined to do it.

I wanted to do something that didn’t have anything to do with computers.  I spend my entire day on a computer, when I come home, I pop open the laptop.  I take digital pictures and edit them on my laptop, then upload them to flickr.  My entire life revolves around technology, and I wanted to get away from it.

So what was the first thing I did when I took out my new guitar?  I tuned it using a website I’d found that had a tuner on it.  Then I started learning chords from various websites.  Yesterday, I printed out the chord progression for some songs that I’d found on another website, and started learning the songs in my garage, and recorded myself using Audacity on my laptop.

And so I’ve learned that, really, there is no escape.  While I’m sure that the things I’ve found online are no match for lessons from a real person, at least they’re a good start.

Technology is just too much a part of my life to let go.

But it is helping me learn something new.


December 7, 2007 § Leave a comment

After school yesterday, I assisted with a PowerPoint training for elementary teachers. It was amazing.

I think with all the web 2.0 stuff out there, we (and by we I mean techies) forget that there are still an awful lot of teachers out there who are at a very basic level.

And I think that in my office in particular, since three of us are secondary folks, and only one comes from an elementary background (OK, so I have a degree in elementary ed, but I’ve never taught below 5th grade, and really? Fifth grade is the stepchild of elementary education anyway) we tend to gear a lot of our trainings toward the upper elementary/secondary level.

The teachers were eating up the training last night and begging for more. It was great to see, and especially to see all of the things that are still very valid uses of PowerPoint.

I think that we forget that as well. We’re on to bigger and better things. PowerPoint (to us) is so 20th century…like rotary phones. The thing is, rotary phones still work, and so does PowerPoint.  So do a lot of the web 1.0 technologies, and even non-web technologies.  We’re all about interaction, but teachers who aren’t there yet still need a buy in.  Learning to use some bit, ANY bit of technology in their classroom will start that buy in process.  While we need to provide training for the more advanced folks, we can’t leave behind the people who are willing but afraid, either.

So that led to a discussion about gearing more of our trainings to lower elementary, which we really need to do.

Now we just need to figure out how to get our secondary trainings to be better attended.

Big Brass Ones

December 3, 2007 § 2 Comments

I don’t know Miguel personally, but I’m very familiar with SAISD, since I worked there for 5 years. I’m also very familiar with the dynamic in large, urban school districts, having worked for two over the past 12 years.

I have to say, what Miguel has done, essentially calling out the stagnant folks in his district takes some serious courage.

I ranted on about things at NEISD while I was there, then decided to quiet down a bit because even though I wasn’t entirely happy with my job, I needed to keep my house. Of course, I was in a peon position there, whereas Miguel is a director. I’m still not quite sure if that makes his post more courageous or more stupid (from a keeping-your-job standpoint).

Like I said, I know how things work in his district. I know how political it can be and how members of their school board like to raise a ruckus in the press. But he is lighting a fire…one that has needed to be lit for a long time, and by doing in a public forum, I’m sure it will raise some eyebrows, but it might just get things to change a little more quickly, too.

I hope things work out the way he wants.

Update: Miguel has been revamping his website, and the post I referenced his disappeared. I’m wondering if it got lost in the shuffle or if it was intentional.

Updated update: I found the post in my reader and sent it back to Miguel.  He’s posted it again, and it’s re-lined in the body above. 

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