Archives For Tech

Today was, on the whole, a good day.

We had the first proper presentations of an invention project I had my kids do in class. Not as brilliant as Joel’s weekly invention exchanges on Mystery Science Theatre 3000, but since the kids were learning about the Industrial Revolution I thought it might be a good idea to have them research proper inventions like the telegraph, rockets, and even Segways. (We learned what “ironic” meant when one presentation erroneously stated that the inventor of the Segway died by falling off of his and down a cliff. Tomorrow we get to learn what a “retraction” is.) One student built a homemade telegraph machine that actually worked. I’ll get a picture of it for later, because it’s incredible.

While I wanted the kids to learn about inventions, the project was really assigned to gauge their adeptness at technology, research skills, and public speaking. And it’s interesting to see what they know and what they don’t know. Now that tablet computers and smartphones are (increasingly) the only digital device kids use, their knowledge of how to run desktop PCs and software like Word and Power Point is really starting to decline. Which may not be a bad thing. Do I really want to train kids to just give presentations? I’m not trying to train a generation of market analysts, you know.

After the end of a long day I got to spend a couple of hours catching up with a former student from my last class. He’s a seventh grader now, and we hadn’t had an opportunity to tell stories and crack jokes in a long while. He’s a great kid, and one of those students I’ll probably keep in touch with for a long time. Now that he’s older he’s into Doctor Who and Arrested Development, so it was a mad quote-a-thon for a while. (“There are dozens of us!!! DOZENS!!!!!!!!!”) Right now he’s obsessed with the Freemason mythology that has surrounded American history for a while. This is one cool kid.

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He’s admittedly not much of an artist, so he enlisted his sister (in my class this year) to do some drawings for him.

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Before I close, I should really just embed this Invention Exchange and let others enjoy it. I’m so thankful for YouTube’s treasure trove of MST3K-related videos.

Is it wrong that I credit Joel Hodgson as one of my main influences, as far as teaching goes? That might explain my tendency to (gently) mock and (slightly) distrust most things I come across.

What do you think, sirs?

The Fourth T

October 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

If you look up at the tagline of this blog, there is a fourth T that has gone largely unused since I started this thing. Right now I’m obviously focusing on the Theatre and Travel side of my life, with occasional mentions of the Teaching thing. But Tech hasn’t been mentioned much. If you had me as a teacher over the past few years, you’ll know that it’s a topic that I’m quite passionate about. If this site continues after I return home from my travels and my studies, then I imagine I’ll focus much more on tech-in-education.

One of my major areas of focus this past school year was on BYOT, or Bring Your Own Tech. It all started shortly after Christmas, when a lot of my students came back after the break eager to use their new Kindles, Nooks, iPads, etc. We enjoyed a brief period where the kids were allowed to bring their own devices to school, but the official word from administration was NO. Leave them at home. Too much liability, too many questions about bandwidth usage, too much to discuss and decide before just opening the floodgates and allowing kids to bring in their own stuff.

We spent most of the second semester campaigning to administrators and school board members about the viability of allowing kids to bring in their own tech, but the school year ended with no clear victory for our cause. It was a bit heartbreaking for me, because I was continually blown away by the articulate and effective arguments my students put forth. They made their case, and they made it well, but we had too many nervous administrators who weren’t sure how to solve the potential hazards of the issue.

Since I’m on leave for this school year, I haven’t heard anything about my district making final decisions about the issue, but I was very excited to hear that our neighboring district is starting to allow their students to bring in their own devices. (You can read the article here.) Now THIS is a step in the right direction, and it is my sincere hope that my own district is in the process of starting this practice as well.

Because for me, it’s a no-brainer. Let ’em bring their own stuff to school. Yes, not everyone has their own digital reader, or smartphone, or tablet. We can’t create a digital divide in our classrooms. I get it. But instead of a blanket NO response to this question, we should instead be focused on how to solve the potential problems, and how to make these devices a central part of student learning. If we don’t, we run the risk of creating a larger divide between those that “get it” and those that don’t.

The kids “get it.” This is second nature to them, and if educators and administrators just say no because they can’t figure out how to incorporate a smartphone or a tablet into daily learning, then we don’t deserve to be called educators. We’re just dinosaurs, and it’s just going to add to the gulf between older educators and younger students.

In Dublin

August 15, 2012 — 7 Comments

Friends, family, students, actors, and random people stumbling across this thing: Welcome, I says!

So…I’m living in Dublin now. Most of you knew that already, but for those that had no idea I had left my job teaching fifth grade (or the other one running a theatre company), um…yeah. Big changes, right?

I’ll spend some time detailing exactly how I came to the decision to pack up one life and start another in future posts. For now, the short answer is this: I’m taking a year’s leave from teaching and will be attending University College Dublin to get a Master of Arts in Directing for Theatre. I’m hoping to do more theatre education in my career, and I felt it was time to add some tools to the toolkit. And, you know, actually study theatre for once instead of just making it up as I go.

I’ll be writing about four main subjects on this site: teaching and theatre, travel and tech. In whatever order I want, when I want.

My students wanted a way to keep in touch with me and follow my travels, so that was the beginning of this site. Some of them will be reading this, some may even comment, so we’re keeping things nice and clean on here. No angst-ridden tales of sorrow, no political rants, no swearing. And that goes for the comments as well, so keep it nice and positive, people.

Students: remember your internet safety lessons: don’t put your full name OR your email address in the comments if you happen to leave one. “Liz H” or “Mike A” will suffice. I’ll know who you are.

The site is pretty bare-bones right now, so sit tight while I tinker and add some cool stuff. You can subscribe to it via email or RSS, depending on how tech-savvy you are. I don’t know how often I’ll be updating, but I promise I’ll do my best to be fairly regular about it.

For now, feel free to say hello in the comments, and stay tuned for the next post.