Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fourth Graders Are Blazing the Way with Destiny Quest

My district upgraded to the newest version of Destiny Library Software on May 11.  On May 12, I discovered the ability to submit friend requests in Destiny Quest and showed it to a motivated fourth grader.  Since then the use of Destiny Quest has taken off, with students teaching their peers how to create Destiny accounts, how to request friends and how to recommend and request books on the database.  This simple demonstration to a fourth grader has done more to promote database use than anything else I have done in the past four years.

I see this being useful as a virtual book club where children can read and discuss books.  Teachers can and should participate in this forum and can recommend their favorites to their students. 

Post-National Board Depression

I have been feeling a bit down this year.  I call this Post-National Board Depression.  Last year, I was fully immersed in the National Board process, and that immersion provided me with drive and focus.  I completely believed that I would continue working toward certification this year. When I found that I had achieved certification on my first attempt, I was thrilled, exhilarated.  And then, lost.  What is to motivate me now?

I have decided to fully evaluate Brookhaven Elementary's Library Media Program and to set yearly goals in each of the four domains of the library media specialist.  For 2010-2011 my goals are as follows:

As a teacher: 
  • I plan to devise and implement a cyber safety curriculum for all grade levels in 2010-2011.  The county uses the iSafe curriculum, and I plan to incorporate this with other web-based resources to best meet the needs of our students. This will take place September through April.
  • I want to continue working on research projects with Mrs. Henderson (explorers, Native Americans), Mrs. DeLawder (scientists) and Mrs. Lowe (energy).  I would like to co-teach possibly two other projects as well.
  • I would like to run Writers Club during the 5th grade RTI period.  I feel this would allow children to participate in the club without sacrificing a much needed recess.
As an instructional partner:
  • I will attend monthly collaborative planning meeting with all grade levels in hopes of better serving the needs of all teachers.
  • I will continue to develop the AskMrsMartin webpage to include resources to support learning units.
As a technology integration specialist:
  • I will update the Brookhaven Technology Center site on a regular basis with informtion and trends I have discovered through my personal learning network.
  • I will conduct to staff development sessions per month on items of interest to the faculty.
  • I will test and determine the usefulness of mobile presenters.
As a program administrator:
  • I will communicate my program monthly via blog, wiki update or the school newsletter.
  • I will develop a library handbook.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wired from the womb: “We are looking at a generation that can’t not text.” | Get Schooled

Wired from the womb: “We are looking at a generation that can’t not text.” Get Schooled

Here is a blog post that incited a lot of passionate responses from readers. The blog reported on a new book based on the research of psychology professer Dr. Larry Rosen. In a nutshell, Dr. Rosen has proposed strategies for classroom teachers to allow students to access their personal technology in a classroom setting. Some ideas included allowing a five minute break during class time to permit students to catch up on text messages. His premise is based on the assumption that students today cannot not text and that their rewired brains are capable of handling multiple tasks at once.

There are a of points in this article that resonated with me, starting with the blogger's mention that Rosen's daughter was a class valedictorian who attended to television, web surfing and text messaging while doing homework. My contention lies in the suggestion that multitasking is something new. It is not. I fondly recall lying on my living room floor doing homework to the reruns of the Big Valley. I was not class valedictorian, but I did graduate 31st of the 178 in Washington Irving High School's 1978 class. . If I wasn't watching television, I may have been listening to the radio or my eight-track player. I may have been talking on the phone as well. My two points are that multitasking is not new, however expanded, and that multitasking can be done successfully.

The second point that caught my attention is the assertion that teachers are not comfortable multitasking. Hello? Teachers always multitask; how else could they operate three reading groups while runnung stations, make last-minute accomodations for 20 children's dismissal plans, or provide modifications for a wide range of needs? While I get both the author's and the blogger's points about the telecommunication needs of the 21st century student, I get the impression that because of the technology itself the authors are thinking that children are fundamentally different. I don't think so.

In 1978 and the years preceding I could not carry my television program or my eight track player to school with me. I could not text my friends in class, but I could - and did - pass notes. I also doodled and wrote poems while I was listening to lectures. I was multitasking with different tools than our students today. I think it is the same today as in 1978; the only difference is that the implements of distraction are now electronic rather than scribbled.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How Do Social Media Affect Friendships?

An article in the Sunday New York Times asks us to consider whether or not the use of social media such as Facebook strengthens or compromises a child's ability to form in-depth face-to-face relationships with his peers.  As you might imagine, both sides of this debate are passionate about their positions and what it might mean for the adults of tomorrow.

Those who feel social media may detract from the formation of traditional friendships worry that the ability to communicate with peers 24/7 may cause children to be disinterested in face-to-face interactions.  However interviews conducted by ethnographer Danah Boyd suggest that childrem and teen prefer face-to-face interactions with their peers but that today's hectic extra-curricular schedules and other life conditions limit the opportunity for kids to get together.

Others feel that the continual access to friends can strengthen the relationships.  Studies cited in the Times article show that kids send an average of 50 text messages daily.  However, it noted that children seldom call their friends. 

(From my point of view, texting is much more efficient than calling.  How many of us remember being tethered to the telephone by a call from our love interests, in which no one is saying anything.  In the days of corded communication, this was a huge time waster, even if it was comforting.)

In my participation in social media, mostly Facebook, I have befriended many of our former students.  Frankly I have been impressed with the breadth of the friendships I have observed.  I wanted to cry with pride as former students were speaking out against those who were cyberbullying a peer.  I am impressed with their discretion in posting sensitive items.  I have seen diversity among the friendships that I did not observe when the kids were here in school.  Granted, Facebook friends are not necessarily "friends," but children are making the choice to interact appropriately with a wide range of individuals, more than they likely could handle interacting with in person.  I cannot help but think that these interactions will help children be more tolerant members of society.

Still the question remains if the brief interactions children are experiencing will stifle their development of deeper interpersonal skills necessary for marriage and parenting.  I would hope (naively, perhaps) that the face-to-face nurturing that children receive from the adults in their life and the connections they make in the many extracurricular activities our children are experiencing will compensate for any deficit brought on by social media.