Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Teacher Responds

To My Students,
You took on a new challenge this year, unbeknownst to you. I imagine this summer you never thought you would be starting this school year in a laptop classroom. I mean, learning with a laptop computer? Who would have ever created such a crazy notion? I myself doubted at times whether it would all come together by the beginning, and thanks to an amazing leader and friend, Mr. Fisch, you and I were presented with an amazing opportunity.
This opportunity has not been easy on some of you. I understand and hear your struggles in the blog. I am glad you are struggling with this because change is not easy. It is so easy to become complacent and feel safe in doing education the way it has always been done. But if my teachers would have been complacent when I was in high school, and their teachers would have been complacent with the way they were taught, would society ever advance?

I struggle as well, but with the implementation of quality in your learning, not merely adding quantity. Anyone can shove information down upon her students, asking for them to simply regurgitate it back in the same form that the teacher lectured. But is that building understanding? Is that creating learning? Should I be teaching the same way it has always been done? Or instead, should I be showing the passion for reading, literature, learning, and life that I feel I possess? Please understand, I am not saying that lecture and teacher directed learning does not have a place. I believe it does. Basic information and background knowledge need to be established so students can grow and learn. However, what I am trying to do instead is allow you to have a greater part in the learning process.

At the beginning of the school year, I was asked to develop my philosophy of education. Here is part of it:

• The teacher is a facilitator, coach, mediator.
• The teacher is seen as student as well as the students are seen as teachers.
• The teacher is there to build bridges between the knowledge and skills to link the students to understanding.
• " the teacher is a coach, providing scaffolding where needed, tailoring mini lectures to clear up confusion or if things are going well, simply moderate discussion and allow students to figure out things on their own."

When I read this quote and thought about what I wanted my classroom to look like, I decided I want my students to have a say in their education, to be able to challenge themselves as learners and push the boundaries of education. I want to provide that scaffolding that is necessary for you to grow and to instill in you a desire to be a life-long learner. At times, I want you to recognize that I too am a learner: creating questions, analyzing texts, wondering what I can do to prepare you to be ready for the 21st century. You have heard me say it numerous times, but I firmly believe it: THIS IS NOT EDUCATION AS USUAL. I challenge myself everyday to think critically about the work I am giving you and to see if it is meeting these standards. Reflecting back on how I have previously taught, I recognize I was largely successful; however, I know I am able to do much more for my students because the possibilities for your generation’s learning are limitless. Why simply use the standard previously set when I can raise the bar for both myself and for you?

You might think that my goal with you is to expose you to as much technology as possible. Guess what, you’re wrong. The technology is simply a tool to help you and I become a better and more efficient learner. It enables you to interact with the text and produce ideas like I have never seen before. You are creating questions and making connections that are so impressive. Do you see this in each other? Do you see how you have already grown in your learning and desire to know more? I want you to look at the world in a different way and with an informed mind that knows how to be a critical thinker. You are becoming producers of information, not consumers. You are not allowing others to produce ideas for you, but instead you are standing confidently on your own – this is my goal for you. Additionally, I want for you to see yourself as part of this community of learners who are all growing, struggling, learning, and challenging one another to be their best. Don’t become complacent with your education and let it happen to you, instead I challenge you to make your education happen. This year, you have been given an opportunity to start fresh, to use physical, mental, and technological gifts to transform our learning – show yourself, show me, show your peers, show the school, and show the community the possibilities.

Smith

12 comments:

JoanneH said...

Ms.Smith,

I don't have any concerns with you personally; all my concerns are with the teaching methods you're using. I'm simply using you as an example because there are no other teachers avialable to me to use. If I were in other laptop classes, I would use those teachers as examples, too.

Recall also that there was a misunderstanding on my part. I thought we were also required to use the laptops, an impression on which my classmates quickly corrected me. I'm sorry if you took my words another way, and thought I was using the blog instead of discussing my frustrations with you personally.

I have frustrations, however, and your letter has made it clear to me that you fully believe in what I've been advocating against, which is probably why you felt you had to defend yourself. I will be more careful in my attacks, making them against the system rather than against you. I may cite things you say in class, and I will continue to make observances and use them in my fight against this system, but I will not say them in such a way as to make you sound like a poor teacher. I have concerns, but not with you; they are with the system of teaching you are implementing.

BenH said...

Well said. And I guess there is not a lot more I have to say to that than that I agree, and am glad I have this opportunity.

Lane C. said...

I'm with Ben.

EmilyL said...

To Mrs. Smith,

I will admit that at times the laptops have not been my favorite tool. I do very much apprecate how ever the fact that you have tried your best to not let the technology take over our learning. We still have class dicussions and not everything we do is laptop based.

I would also like to thank you for letting us as you said have say in our learning. It is nice to know that we can dictate some due dates and perameters for porjects. For example, deciding that we can get two days on papers, and having some say in the amount LOF reading we have.

Moreover, as much as my stubborn will hates to admit it I have learned some things about computers like how to edit on Word.

~Emily

erinl said...

I am with Ben and Lane. I think that this class has been a great opportunity to get to use the technology that is part of our society. I don't think that our learning has changed all that much except for the basic tools that we use. I still enjoy English and I feel that we still do anything that any other English class would do except that we take our notes on a computer and present our projects in PowerPoint. Thank you for this great experience. I am really enjoying it.

sarahc said...

Thank you Mrs. Smith for teaching us so well in this new environment! I personally feel that I learn better and my creativity can progress when the use of laptops is available. You have taught me so many new things about the computer that I would have never known! Thank you.

Shelby B. said...

I also agree with Ben and Lane. I really appreciate the opportunity that we (our class) have been given, to learn on laptops. I enjoy all the neat things we are getting to do and learn.

~Shelby

Mphair said...

Ms. Smith,

I am personally not a computer tallented person and I personally try to stay as far away from new technology as possible. Yes, I know I am completely different from the majority of others my age.

One of the best lessons I have ever learned in my life is that even if I don't like something totally passionately, that doesn't mean that there isn't something good comming out of it. I feel that this lesson is again being proved with the laptops in my case. I cannot always stick with what I am comfortable with and with what I know. I have learned how to edit on word without having this complicated and complex key of what different highlitings meant. I have now learned how to use a USB drive, and I think that they are totally awesome.

When moving into the 21st Century, we must make steps and leave our total comfort zone. For example, how would one read some really good stories, if they never tried to read some new and harder author? We would still be reading those Bob books that create no love of reading because they are so boring.

However, I totally agree with you that laptops cannot work in every class...math for instance. So far though, I think that we have made a pretty smooth adjustment to using this new technology in your class.

Thank you,

Michelle

BenH said...

There is not much new for me to say here, but mphair: I am glad that you are willing to take steps in a new directiong, to at least try it. That is the only way we can better ourselves.

paigen said...

Ms. Smith, I just want to say that I think you have done a fabulous job incorporating the laptops into the classroom without taking away from the discussions and other such things. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you to have to come up with everything basically by yourself and to have a bunch of very important people always watching you to make sure that you don't screw up. That must be some extreme pressure and I am one very impressed with you and two I am honored to be able to be in a laptop classroom.

christa s said...

Ms. Smith,
I also want to thank you because although I am not always fond of the laptops and I am somewhat technologically challenged, I realize that their benefits outnumber their negative aspects. I appreciate how you don't completely eliminate traditional learning and we still have class discussions and are not ONLY using the blogs to express our ideas.

Thank you for committing your time to adjusting your methods of teaching for our new ways of learning.

Hikingout said...

TIME OUT! TIME OUT! TIME OUT! TIME OUT! TIME OUT! TIME OUT!

Hope I got your attention, this is very IMPORTANT.

I have an URGENT message. Today in AP Gov, Meyer brought up a very interesting bill called the DELETING ONLINE PREDATORS BILL, despite the nice title, the bill will destroy what we and the Arapahoe High School staff have attempted to create. Please research this bill. The gist of the bill is that all access to chat rooms, BLOGS, myspace,and perhaps even simpler pages that might allow students to display any kind of personal information will be denied to students.

This bill will be extremely detrimental to the education, will destroy everything we have worked hard to establish, and eliminate the benefits to internet in the classroom that many of you enjoy. THIS BILL PASSED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES BY A VOTE OF 410-15. Our time window is incredibly short to take any kind of action against this bill before it is passed by the Senate and it WILL be passed. We must take action now, IF THERE IS A WAY TO ORGANIZE A MEETING FOR CONCERNED STUDENTS I WOULD BE GRACIOUS FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO GET A ROOM AND ANNOUNCEMENTS.

Any strategies on how not to get this bill passed would be greatly appreciated, I have a few, but I would prefer one in which I don't have to be suspended or expelled :).