Friday, November 16, 2007

Failure Rates

I just received an email from our outstanding office manager with a list of students who had been withdrawn from school for truancy (etc.) There was a list of about 20 kids which is only a small fraction of the 650 or so left here. Each of the kids were listed with a withdrawal code next to their names. This comment was at the top of the email:

"I'm sending a list of students that have been W/D this past month. Please look over the list to see if any of them are on your class list..... It should be good news for your failure rate."

I was immediately struck by the last line which was emboldened in the original email too. Why should teachers care about their failure rate more than the fact that these kids are losing an opportunity at life? Why are we reducing human life to numbers like wd codes and failure rates? Our school is usually a last chance stop for at-promise students and when they are withdrawn for truancy, they don't make it back to HS. They are done.

Now, its not our office manager's fault for the language she used (although I did send her a biting response). She only reflects the language of the instructors here. If we are more concerned that our student failure rate is low rather than a student's humanity then something is really wrong.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reflections from Beyond BlogWorld

Its been a week since the opening keynote at the Blog World Expo and some really cool things have begun happening as a result. I attended a session called Building an Online Community and picked up a valuable lesson; if you want to build a community of people who you correspond with then comment on their ideas. Now, I read a lot of blogs. I just never comment on them. I have been reading blogs to learn about education and some technology tools that will help me help my students but I figured most of the learning comes in the reading part, never thought about the commenting part. So, this week I started commenting on blogs and tracking my comments using an awesome program called coComment.

Here is why I love coComment. It helped me start a conversation with Louis Schmier. He writes an edublog called Random Thoughts. Some of his best posts, the posts I connected with the most are about his humanistic approach to students. For those of you who don't work in a high school you might think, well aren't all teachers humanistic, don't they all value kids, isn't that why they are teachers in the first place? No, no, and no. Thats one of the saddest enlightenments I've had in the past year, most teachers at my school don't really like kids. Sure they like the good ones, the smart ones. The ones that have failed and are labeled failures are still failures in the minds of many and the steps needed to give them the confidence to begin succeeding are rarely taken. Random Thoughts puts this a lot more eloquently than I do, and I thank coComment and Blog World for giving me the insight and confidence to start making thoughtful comments on thoughtful blog posts.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Day I Almost Unofficially Met Mark

Cross posted at The First Day of Kindergarten, a teacher-to-student blog

I almost got to ask Mark Cuban a question today. If I would have, that means we might have almost unofficially met. He looked right at me...... I got nervous, but I was ready...... I thought for sure he was going to call on me....... but at the last second he passed. Off to the next man with his hand up. I don't feel sad, don't worry. I am a little disappointed though. He seems to know a lot about the internet, and I really wanted a quote from him to share with you, my students. Here is how the story goes.

I was attending the Blog World Expo which is the largest gathering of bloggers on the planet. DONT STOP READING NOW, this isnt all geeky. So anyway, I was sitting with 500 or so other bloggers at the closing Keynote address listening to internet guru Mr. Cuban (also owner of the Dallas Mavericks) about authentic blogging and something struck me. I wonder if he has any visions for education? He knows a lot about business, a lot about basketball, tons and tons about the internet, what about education? A lot of our modern pioneers have visions for changing education to bring American students into the forefront of the information revolution and help them escape from the industrial one (see Bill Gates). I wonder if Mr. Cuban does too? So, I thought, phrased, and garnished the nerve for 10 long minutes to ask him this one question:

Considering that the public education system is light years behind the real world and blogging is almost nonexistent in schools, do you see any role for blogging and Web 2.0 in high schools?

My question is still out there to you Mr. Cuban. My students would love to hear your answer.

Blogworld - NewMedia w/ Leo Laporte

New Media in the Internet

Leo Laporte: TwitTv

Note: Please excuse the quality of writing, liveblogging.

Came from mainstream media so he knows the old way = Your grandpa's media. In the old media if you wanted to have a voice, you had to have money to get it heard. In mainstream media, it was usually one guy telling you something. Now its changing, its in networks. We get to talk back now. We are creating media using blogs, podcasts, that dont cost any money and are influenced by our audience.

He started 'This Week in Tech' which is the #1 tech podcast on the internet. Uses Skype to interview for his shows but for the most part does this out of a cottage. He had 1/2 million in ad sales last year, doubling this year. This is a podcast folks. An mp3 or video recording put up online and sent out through a feed.

Its all about the conversation. No longer about one person directing the entire distribution of information. Its about people sharing. Sounds very much like the Socratic method in education. The conversation is directed through questions and answers from the community.

Video (and TV) appeals to your monkey mind, the non-rational, non cerebral part of your mind and is designed to stimulate emotions. Look at the comments on Youtube, they are moronic.

Blogging is good for the rational part of the mind. Comments are often thoughtful and part of a conversation. Sometimes the bloggers personality doesn't show through completely so their ideas are at the forefront.
Audio is intimate. You are talking into the mind through the ear. Audio is very good at abstract ideas because it doesn't rely on pictures to get a message across. Audio allows you to promote your personality along with your ideas.

Think of yourself as creating content. Not a podcaster which focuses on the medium of delivery, but as a content creator.

The Babble Objection- If "everyone" is blogging and "everyone" is podcasting, who is listening? Turns out a lot of people are according to Leo.

We can all be our own solar systems. Our goal shouldn't be to get on CNN. Our goal should be to be a hub of our own world, our own community. ex. If you do a show/blog about woodworking, you should strive to be a hub about woodworking. Then use your acquaintances to branch out to other hubs that are related and then will draw people into your system. Its all about dialogue, and community, and connections.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Blog World 07 Opening Keynote

Note: This is live, please excuse the quality of writing.

I'm sitting here at Blog World Expo with about 300-400 people listening to Ed Sussman interview Matt Mullenweg the founder of Wordpress as the opening keynote session.
It's pretty cool how the world has changed and geeks are really cool now. At least in my world, but in a lot of other people's also.

PhotoMatt is Mullenweg's blog.

Q: What makes a compelling blog?

A: Passionate content. Uniqueness.

What Matt loves about blogging is when he says something dumb someone tells him. People don't tell you face to face, but he loves the comments section of his blog because people are frank and it gives him perspective.

If people make an interesting comment on his blog, he will often go back to that person's blog. If you comment, it helps your work get noticed. This is news for me because I only comment on one blog. If I really want to get my ideas out there than I need to comment and get better with my labels.

Talking about why he likes the Craigslist model. He asked Craig why there was no advertising on his site and Craig responded "Because the users didn't ask for it." That's a really interesting comment. If you can run something with user influence as the main source of reasoning, that's fantastic.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

VSS 07- First Presentation

A small group of teachers from my school presented at the Virtual Schools Symposium this week. We discussed how we are using Social Networks and Web 2.0 tools in our courses. The presentation went pretty well, check out our wiki below if you want to see it. That was the highlight of the conference for me, many of the sessions were vendor driven and since I dont make policy decisions, or influence purchasing at my charter school there wasn't a lot of sessions left that fit for me. Note: Remind me to get some sleep the night before my next presentation.