Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One of the Lucky Ones

I truly am one of the lucky ones. I have been in education for what will be my 34th year this year. On top of all those years, I have even been at the same school.

Recently I have been haunted with thoughts that I couldn't quite pinpoint and then today it hit me. A post by Ryan Bretag back in May of 2009 which you can read here, struck me then and for reasons I could not understand was haunting me now until just recently. While Ryan was talking about how we need to honor those who go before us, I have been thinking about the ones who leave us. This past year I had a wonderful young man who worked with me in the tech department, helping teachers, helping them understand things like podcasts, why we do some of the things we do and how to do it even better. Kyle Stevens did a lot. However, the biggest thing Kyle did was let me throw new things at him to try and he was off and running. He was good with the faculty and would do his best every day. Understand I am not here to nominate Kyle to sainthood but I use Kyle as the example that we all see happen so many times, someone really good leaving our school.

Kyle left us this year. Like the post that Ryan had about the wisdom and the knowledge that these veteran educators brought to the classroom, I have been linking his post to my thoughts about what do we impart to those people like Kyle that decide to leave? Kyle, in my humble opinion left for all of the right reasons. We tried to get him to stay but he still left. He would have a chance to bring his talent, wisdom and ability to so many new young men and women.

My thinking about this was the fact that I hope I was able to impart the importance of the traditions of Bishop Dunne and the importance that they play in not only my life but the life of so many other people especially those who bring their children back to be educated by us as another generation begins walking the halls. How much of what Kyle learned here, or any of the other Kyles at all of our schools, how much have we taught them about the importance of the students they will be in charge of and the future they will be bringing to those next generations?

I feel comfortable knowing that Kyle will take a lot of Bishop Dunne with him as well as a whole lot of "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" as well. But I also think it is important that the time we do get to spend with our new teachers is time well spent, so that if they do decide to move on, they continue to take a little bit of our traditions and spread them around for others to learn from. It is our job to help these teachers grow so that they may also leave the nest to help others grow as well.

I am one of the lucky ones. I was taught well by what I would call a lot of old school folks, but that tradition does get passed on to those who are willing to take the time. I just hope I am making enough time and being open enough for those who are new here at my school.

Thanks Kyle and thanks Ryan and thanks to all those who have gone before me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

School and Social Networking

On one of the listservs I am on I received this the other day:

“I am on a mission to find out which, if any, school districts allow student access to any or all of the following during school hours: 1. Facebook or any other social networking site 2. Twitter 3. YouTube Also, do you provide student email accounts either on your domain or through a service like Gaggle. Thanks for your input!”

More and more schools are exploring the possibility of using these types of media tools for educational purposes. I was however amazed and somewhat saddened to see the responses from directors of technology that came back with what struck me as almost emphatic NO’s for the response. I could almost hear “We are not allowing that on MY network.”

A clean working network is a great thing don’t get me wrong, but what will it take for some folks to see the benefit of the tools that are out there and available being used for instructional purposes? I also know that nothing beats great teaching. However, are we using our great teachers to connect with our students where they are and in a way that they communicate or are we merely breaking their spirits to conform to our standards? I also know that we need to leverage what we do with what is sustainable. What if one of these free tools that we sink time and energy into goes away? We have to make sure that we do not lose more time with that happening. I also know that we don't need to use "tools" just so we are able to say we are using tools.

I would imagine that if we were to ask those same directors of technology if sites like Delicious and Diigo were open or whether Wikispaces, Wetpaint or PBworks were available for collaboration the answer would probably be a NO as well. I thought the whole idea with education was just that education. How do we show proper use of tools and ethical use of sites and the Internet as well as collaborative ways for students to work with others and learn from others if we don’t allow them to experience things through the virtual worlds that exists via the Internet? Our faculty members also need to have the opportunities to learn in educational settings because I can imagine that most have a social networking site and before long we will hear, if we haven’t already, about someone getting in trouble for what they have posted because they don’t use them properly. Is it the students we are afraid of or the adults?

At our place we have opened up Facebook, Twitter and are exploring the best options for YouTube. We also have access to Discovery Streaming, Diigo, Delicious, Wetpaint, Wikispaces, TeacherTube, and we are even allowing our students to bring their own connectivity as we have gone wireless on our campus. Do I expect there to be some difficulties, sure I do. But I work at a school where we educate and the way we educate is not just what is contained in the curriculum. We educate the whole person in as many ways as possible. What I also expect more of are the chances for our students, as well as our teachers to do their best to shift the way they are taught as well as the way we teach and sometimes there needs to be a little push. My hope with a more open network is for the students to help with that push and then we get the benefit of teaching the ethical use as well as proper modeling of what is truly available out there to help our students prepare for their future.

I feel that if we truly believe in what we are doing we have to make strides in the direction of being more open with our students, with our parents and with our networks. Sometimes it is hard to let go, yes it can be a scary world out there, yes I want to protect my students and I do everything possible to make that happen, and yes we do teach online safety across the board, but I also want to share what is available, open the eyes of my students and teachers to all the possibilities and hopefully help to make them successful for their future.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Year New Worries

So can someone tell me where the summer went? Tomorrow we have a small orientation for new faculty members and my hope is that we do not overwhelm them with "stuff." I am glad it is short and sweet.

This summer I have been busy overseeing a wireless project throughout our facility. All of the campus buildings will have wireless capability and we are planning on allowing the students to bring their own device to connect. Some are asking about netbooks, some are aksing about their own wireless notebooks and on and on. We use Edline and the students have storage in the cloud.

So far the only recommendation we have made is that the antivirus software be up to date, that the equipment is insured in some way shape or form and that they have a long life battery available to them. Students also have the option for e-books, yet, not all titles are electronic, or regular bound books. Where I see the struggles coming are with the teachers and their ability to be flexible and teach to many different levels. But I believe this to be an additional flexibility that they will need to achieve this year. It will also give us the chance to start bridging that divide of the haves and have nots or at least seeing if we can.

My current worry however, is the delivery time from the manufacturer. We are waiting on our WAPs - wireless access points. All the wiring is installed and tested, our new switches are here for the backbone upgrade and now we need the WAPS. I am looking forward to a busy and fun year. The full faculty comes in on Monday and the Students begin their orientation camps the following week.

Here we go, plenty of new things to share.