Friday, April 24, 2009

Reunions in the Facebook Age

I just went to my 20th reunion. I will not bore anyone with my ruminations on age.

What was fascinating was the difference I felt in connection to those people I had virtually friended in the last couple of years. I've seen pictures of their kids and know a little ,about their day-to-day lives political views, and maybe favorite books.

My university (Duke) has a pretty far-flung alumni base, so many people fly in without kids/spouses. So, when I encountered people who are friends on FB, we didn't have to have the "so, what have you been doing for the past 20 years. . . " conversation.

Even better was the connection to people I have kept more close contact with over the years. Even when you do your best to talk periodically and email, life can make it hard to feel close to someone who lives three thousand miles and a few time zones away. Facebook can make it easier.

I know this isn't the way the young whippersnappers use Facebook, but it works for me. There are no wild parties portrayed on my college friends' pages (well, mostly not). Instead, there is a lot of political commentary and many pictures of children.

Social Networking helps strengthen bonds that were already there and reconnect those that have been stretched thin.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Too many books, blogs, and tweets!

I may not have written a blog entry in a month, but. . .

I've tweeted, Ning'ed, live-blogged, chat roomed, and even been interviewed for (geek alert here: EdTechTalk's 21st Century Learning) a podcast. I also wrote two papers and took an exam, btw.

What does all this mean?

It means I've been so reflective about my personal practice that I'm not sure I can stand it much longer. Right now I feel like a total sham as a teacher and an integrationist.

Why? Well, one of my papers was to fully transcribe a one-hour lesson. Now, I've known I talk too much all my sentient life. I can't remember the first time someone said to me "can you just NOT TALK for a little while?" Ironically, I was a shy kid, so I did all my talking around my family who just wanted a little peace and quiet. All this goes to say that I was trying so hard during my recorded lesson not to talk too much. After listening to the recording and writing the transcription, guess who had the most to say during the hour? Yep, yours truly. I've got to find and buy one of those posters that says "the one doing all the talking is doing all the learning" and hang it somewhere prominent in the classroom. Sigh.

Here's another reason I feel like a sham. I gave an assignment that didn't work out. Not an epic fail, where grand lessons were learned, just a whimpering, pathetic failure. Why did we (my students and I) fail? Because, after all these years of knowing what happens when I wing it, I still failed to plan thoroughly! (See the above re--papers and exams.) We tried something new, Comic Life, as a way for students to demonstrate their understanding of any aspect of medieval life by making a comic book. It seemed so appealing, so 21st Century, so cool. Surely they would get it. Did I have examples? Did I have a thorough instructions? No and no. Guess what I got back? Stick drawings with no discernible medieval connection, just some sketched in blood, gore, and fighting.

And for the final entry, we'll go to the "you really only learn something when you teach it" category. I've just written my steps to successfully completing a writing assignment in the technology rich classroom. Now, I really like these steps. They're good. So good, they are worth their own post (soon, maybe tomorrow since I can't imagine I'll want this post to be the front page for long). I'll be presenting this list in a couple of weeks at a workshop, and therein lies the rub. I've never written this down before! Seriously, it's just the looming, ahem, approaching workshop that has made me reflect enough to pull together documentation of what I believe to be most powerful about the writing teaching I've done. Sigh yet again.

Actually, I'm writing this post tonight just because I can't bear the thought of going a whole month without a post. Maybe it would have been better to just let the month go by, but I don't think so.

I'm looking for a great closing now, but none is coming to me, so I'll just put in a plug for one of my other blogs. If you have children under 6, I've been keeping a blog as a class assignment. My premise is that you don't need to feel guilty for not getting a Leapster, Tag, whatever electronic gadget that will teach your kid to read. There's a lot you can do with your child to promote reading and reading readiness besides the "just read to your child" that we hear. So, check it out if you have time, I welcome comments, suggestions, ideas, etc.