Found in A Cyber-Place

The song, Too Much Time on My Hands was playing on the radio as I left my friend’s house. Yes, a Styx song gave me perspective. During this holiday break, I have spent many hours doing human things like reading, writing, and spending time with friends. I even made fried chicken. I have also spent time attempting the triple word-triple letter score on Words With Friends. 

I’ll begin with my enlightening thoughts on WWF. I began playing the game because a persistent friend signed me up so that she could defeat me. There are secret social rules to the game. I have competitive thoughts about my opponents as I am playing. But, when we see each other, we pretend that the word war is a non-event. I have this odd, clandestine relationship with fourteen WWF people. It is a very different relationship than the real ones we have. Face-to face interaction is vastly different from iPad to iPad communication. There are even reminders on Facebook when it’s your turn to play. I will find my way out of this obsession. I’m thinking the two graduate classes for which I so willy-nilly registered will bully WWF out of my life.

Somehow WWF made me think of the T.V. show-Lost in Space. (I don’t try to analyze my connections anymore.) If you are unfamiliar with the show, I suggest that you YouTube a few episodes.

I remember watching the show and thinking that the future would be a great place where we wear noisy, silver jumpsuits. The most interesting part of this picture is that it was someone’s vision of the future. The show was created in the sixties. It was supposed to represent 1997. Well, they were off a tad. Here is Dolce and Gabbana’s futuristic line in 1997.

Notice that in the Lost in Space picture, there are no Apple products. If they did update their walls, I imagine they would be:

“I love Robot. He saved me from giant attack plants.” Will Robinson

“My New Year’s resolution is to have a larger vocabulary. And maybe a new name.” Robot

“O.K. everyone, I need your advice. Should I keep my bangs?” Penny Robinson

But, the Robinsons didn’t blog. They didn’t Tweet, text, or Facebook. They had conversations-with each other.

The education connection is about to happen.

When I took online classes, I imagined my teacher watching Friends reruns and cooking dinner, while grading my assignments. Although I appreciated the absence of the nonsensical prattle, I missed the discussions and the physicality of learning.

If you have ever been in an engaging classroom, you may have noticed that students do odd things as their brain synapses fire. I have seen children bounce, hold up signs, clap their hands, and illustrate the concepts. Conversely, do you remember a class where the drone of the teacher left you passed out on your desk, creating drool puddles? The first thing I notice when I’m teaching is students’ body language. As a result, I am aware of my personal body language, which has been an issue for me in the past. (I tend to make faces.)

We have a program at school where students bring in their technology. This includes iPads, iPods, Tablets, and lap tops. I am excited about the program.  I know how important it is for students to be technologically savvy. But, the thought of the impersonalization that would result from the technology program bothered me. Students were responding to instruction with a blind tapping of letters on various devices.

I am all for the use and expansion of technology. I always have my iPad, iPod, Andriod, and laptop at arms reach.  My ability to tune out my environment with these apparatuses, surprises me.

Who needs to talk when we can send my messages through cyberland? It is a black hole into which we easily fall. The lack of personal connections exacerbates social awkwardness issues. By the time people meet to visit, they already know every minute detail of each other’s lives.

“I got a new car.”

“Yah, I saw the picture on your FB post. Oh, I have this great new Coldplay song I would like to share.”

“Oh, someone posted it on my wall today.”

“Oh, I’ll be right back. I need to go to the bathroom.”

“Didn’t you just Tweet that you went?”

“Yes, actually I did. By the way I received your Evite for the party. I read your blog about your new baby-congrats. I will get back tot your text about our cyber book club meetings.”

“Ok, well it was great catching up.”

It isn’t such a farfetched thought to have students taught by videos. It is a horrendous idea, but one that could happen. I have said the following things to my students:

“I am not a Wii game. I will never be a Wii game.”

“My name isn’t Ms D.S.”

“Bleip, Blong, Brip. Do I sound like one of your games?”

I can use this humor with older students. They understand what I am saying, and they laugh.

Moderation is a great thing. I’ve said this before. Maybe, I’ll get off the computer and go talk to someone.

Happy New Year

K

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Forty Three and A White Christmas Tree

Sometimes, this blog veers from the education theme. This shows that I have a life and that I am not fully velcroed to my job. It has been a year since I began this endeavor. This year has been challenging, to say the least. I am dealing with many changes, some of which I have met with success, others became horrible failures. I will say that throughout this turbulent year, I am reminded of my blessings.

I have two beautiful daughters. They keep me on top of things because they are smart, and they question the world. We want our children to be independent, and detached from the storm clouds. I am honored to know them.

I have friends whom I consider family. They listen, console, make me laugh, travel with me, make me holiday meals, and trust me.

I love my job. Working with children humbles me. I say this often. But, I truly mean it. There is no room for pride or ego in front of children. Teaching is about relationships. It is also about the curriculum (and testing) and that will never go away. I spoke to many parents of former students today as I shuffled in and out of holiday parties. I had a few tell me that their children were doing well, but they miss me. Of course, I immediately discarded that notion. But, I thought that the reason they miss me, or the school, or 5th grade in general is because of the safety and trust they felt. It isn’t about the single teacher; it is about the way they felt when they made a mistake, or when they did something really cool. My epiphany today brought me to the big idea of education. Kids don’t leave elementary school with algorithms and impressive lists of literary devices. They leave with either a love of learning or a fear of it.  But that idea can be transferred to any other life experience and at any age.

Last Friday, I was teaching my first grade gifted class about complete circuits. The activity was supposed to be about light and spectrums, but like most Friday science explorations-it went to a very different place.  I was happy to see a tiny motor in the kit I purchased from Hobby Lobby. I attached the battery, the conductors, and a cardboard circle colored with the spectrum of the rainbow. I connected everything, and the motor spun the circle so that the colors blurred to white. There were fifteen children hovering over this tiny motor (and yes, they were in my bubble) squealing WHOAS and AHHS, because the motor worked. So, they requested that we make toy cars. I don’t know how to do this, but I said, “Yes, of course we can make toy cars!” I’ll figure it out. But, they inspired me to learn something new. I couldn’t get that in a cubicle.

The theater has given me a place to find refuge from this year’s remnants. I’m writing again. I performed for the first time in YEARS. Of course, I doubted every ability I ever had the days of the plays. I’ve never felt so sick or nervous. But in a twisted way, I enjoyed every minute.  Drama club is up and running, and we are performing: James and the Giant Peach, Sleeping Beauty (musical), and Macbeth Junior. We are in over our drama-club heads again. How will I create a giant peach? I will save that experience for its own blog post.

I’ll be forty-three in a day. I still round down to forty, so I’m good-for now. But, I see this as the page-turning year. We’ll see.

Last year, I talked about the white Christmas tree with which I was obsessed. It is up and glowing again. For some reason, it looks different.

Maybe, if our lives change, so should the artifacts in our lives? I usually dislike the word ‘artifact’ because it is overused in education discourse. We have to post artifacts to the incredibly horrible on-line portfolio system that rhymes with JIVE TEXT. Shouldn’t an artifact be old?  Or should it be an object that reflects a time and a purpose? Yoda will be here any moment to explain my artifacts to me. They are piled up everywhere. Do they disappear with the dropping of the Peach? We should be so lucky.

Happy Holidays.

K