Thursday, July 31, 2008

Digitally fluent, but I still have an accent.

I was reading through my blogroll recently and saw a title that piqued my interest, David Warlick’s 2-cents worth post, “r u Reading Across a Generation Gap?” It was an interesting look at the current debate over what really constitutes literacy in the digital age, but what I noticed most was the title, specifically the “r u” part of it.

I’m sure everyone immediately identifies this as text messaging shorthand, ubiquitous among teens and young adults as they txt, IM, even comment on one another’s MySpace pages. Now, I’m not getting involved in the debate over the decline in the adherence to grammatical conventions by students or the value of this type of communication; I’m just acknowledging its prevalence and confessing that I can’t bring myself to use it. Maybe I’m old-fashioned with regards to my written expression, but I have to use capital letters, correct punctuation, and spell complete words when I text or Tweet. I know, it sets me apart from many others using this technology, but I can’t lose my digital “accent,” at least not without conscious effort. Oh, I may drop in a “where r u” or a “do u want me 2” every now and then, but to me it feels, I don’t know, just wrong.
Fortunately for me, I don’t correspond with students over txt or IM too frequently, so my awkwardness with this new language isn’t too apparent. (It has been commented on, though. “Wow, Mr. C, you write so formally! Yes, child, I know.) And, while it may take me a few extra seconds to send a message, I don’t feel like this malady has really impacted me in any negative way. Hey, maybe it’s not a bad thing, after all. Maybe I can be the spearhead of a new, Luddite-esque linguistic movement, in the same vein as an older family member of mine who refuses to surrender her rotary telephone!
Seriously, I don’t think my digital accent is really a bad thing. What would be a bad thing is if I didn’t use these tools, if I refused to make the attempt to learn this new language, even if I never learn to speak like a native.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Now for something completely different.

A teacher asks her students if they're Yankees fans. All of the hands go up except for one student.
"Okay, Bobby. What team are you a fan of?"
"The Red Sox."
"Why's that?"
"Well, my parents are both Red Sox fans, so I'm a Red Sox fan too."
"That's not a good answer, Bobby. If your parents were both morons, would you be a moron too?"
"No, that would make me a Yankees fan!"

Monday, July 14, 2008

An Existential Crisis (Sort Of)

I had an interesting conversation with my wife the other day about "THE FUTURE."
Now, it wasn't the kind of conversation you might be thinking, where she confronts me, a la Twisted-Sister-video-adult-"what-do-you-want-to-do-with-your-life?" This was more of a, "So, what's next?"-type of thing, and it raised some questions within myself.
First, a little background: I was a classroom teacher for 9 years, and while my colleagues and administrators might have described me as excellent or outstanding, I never really felt like I was that great. Sure, I knew my subject matter, I like kids, and didn't have huge classroom management problems, but I always felt like I could do better. I don't know if that's a result of insecurity with my abilities, low self-esteem, or an awareness that one can always improve, but I never fully felt comfortable with the praise of others.
During my teaching career, I earned a master of arts degree in educational technology (from a school where I really felt like I worked for the degree and deserved it, not a pay-for-advancement-on the pay-scale kind of place), and started providing tech support and some staff development at my school site. I received a stipend for this service, as well as spots on school- and district-level leadership committees. I felt comfortable doing this, and thought this might be the direction in which my future lay, a "tech guy" at a district, or even county, office.
A few years passed, and my classroom teaching experience began to decline. I was getting burned out, and didn't have the mental energy to devote to innovation in my teaching. Fortunately, I recognized this condition before it was too late, and knew I had to make a change, to get out before I became toxic to the kids and to the school as a whole. I went back to school again, and earned a masters in educational leadership and administrative credential. I felt that I could still make a positive impact on the lives of kids without grinding myself down in the classroom, a place I was no longer happy. I hadn't given up on the idea of a "tech guy" position, and in fact felt I was becoming more qualified be getting site administrative experience.
The doubts began to creep in, though, as I followed edubloggers, people like Bud Hunt, Kathy Schrock, Eric Langhorst, and others, who were really doing ed tech, who were innovating in the classroom and teaching others how to do it. "Do I belong with these people?" I asked myself. "Is this something I am really capable of doing?"

"Is it where I belong?"

What do I really have to offer as a leader in educational technology? Well:
  • I have a familiarity with what's "out there" because I keep up with trends and developments.
  • I understand how schools work and what teachers need, because I've been there.
  • I have a "big picture" point of view from my experience as an adminstrator (not to mention my experience as the husband of one!)
  • I have, according to my wife, anyway, an ability to explain technology to non-tech-y people.
But, I haven't really done a lot of the things that are big in ed tech now. Web 2.0 wasn't really in existence when I got my first MA, and by the time it was around I was in the throes of burnout. I used a classroom blog as a communication tool for students and parents, and tried to teach some information literacy along with the social studies curriculum, but never wiki'd, moodle'd, or podcast'd. I know about these things, but can't talk about them first-hand, can't say, "Well, in my class..." I believe these are things that are good for kids, good for schools, good for education, but I don't know that I have the "street cred" necessary for the "tech guy" job.

So, where does that leave me? As I see it, I have a couple of options:
  • Stick with site administration, and support my teachers as they use these tools in their classrooms. Encourage them to innovate where I did/could not. Hold them up as examples to others, and effect change that way.
  • Personal professional development. Attend workshops, NECCs, CUE conferences, whatever I can in order to fill in the gaps I perceive in my knowledge base, then go after that "tech guy" job. Instead of "This worked for me," say, "I've seen this work in other classrooms."
  • Become the leading Luddite in Southern California, fight against all technology in classrooms, and make sure my schools return to blackboards and paper-only assignments.
Honestly, I think some combination of the first 2 options is the way to go. I love what I'm doing now, and can see myself as a principal of a school in the next 3-5 years, but I don't think that's where I am destined to spend the remainder of my career. I still have 20-25 years or so left before retirement, after all, so it's way too early to settle in.
The question remains, though, "What next?" Right now, the answer is, "I'm not sure."
What do YOU think? I welcome your input.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New Job

So, I started my new job last week, and, so far, things are going very well. The summer school principal element is really not that big a deal, particularly since the school principal is still around (at least until tomorrow, then she goes on vacation), and summer school kids, while not necessarily the best and the brightest representatives of the student body, are pretty well-behaved.
I've only had to deal with 2 disciplinary situations so far, one an ADHD 7th grader who poked another kid with a pointy piece of plastic he found on the ground (he got a 20-minute detention and a lecture to behave himself), and an 8th grade girl who socked a boy sitting next to her in the groin, then lied to my face about what had happened (she's done for the summer). Pretty typical middle school stuff, and nothing I haven't done before.
I've spent some time getting to know the campus and some of the staff, and have enjoyed going out to lunch with the principal and the other AP as we begin the process of bonding our admin team, but otherwise haven't really had much to do. That, I know, will change, but I am taking advantage of the slower pace for now!
I will, gentle reader, keep you posted as things develop.
Assuming, that is, that there are any readers of this blog. Could you comment, just once? Say something like, "Hi!" or "Hey there!" just to let me know I'm not blathering off into Cyberspace for no good reason. Please?