Beginning Day Two of TRLD

Yesterday was embarrassing on so many different levels.  The biggie was going into my workshop yesterday, prepared for an all day session, and discovering from the attendee that it would only last for three hours.  I got it all in, but not nearly to the depth that I had hoped.  The response was still positive, though I must admit some apprehension from the fact that long-time blogger, Ann Davis was in the audience.  It “made the workshop,” though,  being able to draw from her experience as a teacher of blogging students.

At the end of the session, as I was giving podcasting way to little time, I went around the audience asking, “Having learned a bit about Web 2.0, what does School 2.0 mean to you?”  One person said that in School 2.0, students will have the freedom and opportunity to learn through their strengths.  Differentiated instruction becomes differentiated learning.  I’ve been calling this the Technology, Reading, and Learning Disabilities conference.  I’d forgotten that they’ve changed the name to Technology, Reading, and Learning Diversity conference.  I like that better.

Another attendee came up to me in the lobby as we were waiting to get into the Ellin Keene keynote.  She said that she didn’t know anything about Web 2.0 at the beginning of the workshop, but that she and her colleague had met during the afternoon, and now had a plan to have the students they work with at the university level blog about their experiences as students with diverse learning styles.  It’s a story that’s not really been told, but one that’s talked a lot about here at the TRLD conference

I must admit that I walked out of the keynote unimpressed.  However, it is an A.D.D. thing that you’ve got to get things rolling around in your head before you come to fully understand  something.  It’s what woke me up early this morning, all that rolling in my head.  Ellin Keene talked about just that, understanding.  The title of the keynote was “To Understand.”  A very good story teller, Keene shared some experiences that she had implementing a literacy program in the nations poorest school districts (first grade teachers shot by drive-bys, children having to spend the night in the gym because they can’t afford to bus them both ways, 40% of children without electricity at home, and 4% graduation rates).  She told a story of a girl who apparently erupted in class at being asked one to many times, “Did that story you just read make sense?” 

She said, “Everyone asks me, ‘does this make sense?’  Why don’t you tell me what make sense means?”

Keene said that this question changed her professional life, because she could not answer that question.  What does it mean to understand something.  Our answer, as educators, is, can you answer questions about it or can you retell the story. 

She said, “That’s not understanding, that’s assessment!

I felt like a rock hit me in the head when the implications of that statement finally coalesced.  We seem to have completely lost sight of what it is that we are doing.  We aren’t teaching for understanding.  We’re teaching for testing.  Well that’s not news to any of the readers of this blog.  But the enormity of the waste and the enormity of the insult to our very bright children is mind-boggling to me at this moment.

Now, the reality of it is that many teachers are most definitely teaching for understanding.  A number of conversations I’ve had with teachers and education leaders in the past couple of weeks have served to remind me of what a rich and nuanced act it is to teach.  It’s humbling to me to be reminded that what I concentrate on, is only icing.  It’s important icing, but its only one very thin layer of what it takes to be a good teacher in the best of times ——– in which we are not!

Day One at TRLD

It’s early in the TRLD conference, and I’m teaching a Web 2.0 workshops. We are starting off with Blogs, and I’m writing this one to demonstrate the ease at which you can post each blog article. The writing part, of course, is the hard part.

Most of the audience is awake, and wish that they were attending Learning at a Distance; or Click! Create! Communicate! Cameras, iPhoto, and Comic Life; or Funding your Dreams: Grant Writing in the Information Age, or any of a number of other pre-conference workshops taking place today.

But we’ve just gotten started.

One tip, however, and I wish I could remember what commenter mentioned this, but in many cases we would prefer not to have our students names in their blogs. This reader suggested using a anagram generator to create pseudonyms for students, based on the letters of their names. The site that he uses is Wordsmith’s Anagram tool.

So here’s to you,

It was Adrian Bruce, educator and photographer in Australia, who shared with me the use of anagram generators to give our young writers their very first pseudonym.

Hello from San Francisco

Brenda and I landed in San Francisco a little late yesterday, after one of the planes we were riding did something kinda quirky on the tarmac, like it started dumping its fuel all over the pavement.  As it turned out, the problem was a natural reaction to the sub-freezing temperatures, and after the engine warmed, the leak cured itself.  We moved into our very nice room at the Hyatt Regency, and set out to walk, what Brenda later calculated as five miles.  Please bare in mind that five miles in San Francisco is something difference than five miles in most places in the U.S.  My legs are still spasming a bit.

We found a fantastic Italian coffee shop in North Beach (see right) and had lunch or dinner, depending on if you are figuring California time or North Carolina time.  It was our last meal, except for the stop we made on Pier 39.  It was a chocolate shop, with display case after display case of hand made chocolates.  Brenda and I both selected a piece, whose name and description included three references to dark chocolate.  The young man behind the counter asked, “Do you really like dark chocolate?”

Brenda and I both nodded our heads vigorously.

“Then,” said our tattooed and body-pierced helper, “I recommend our Dark Chocolate Decadence.”

We each bought one, and headed back out to Embarcadero before partaking.  I literally had to stop and hold on to the nearest sign post, I was so overcome.

It’s the next morning now, and I’ve been up since 3:00 (pst), and Brenda got up at 4:30.  work begins in a few hours with an all day workshop on Web 2.0.  I plan to finish it off with a podcasted discussion about what all of this means to schooling — about school 2.0.  But you never can tell what the day will bring, especially in this mystical land of Northern California.

2¢ Worth