Posts by Susan Davis
First of all, blogging is writing, 21st century style, plain and simple. Blogging is a massive genre. It comes in many forms, addresses myriad topics, and can certainly range in quality. For my money (which usually means free), blogging provides the best venue for teaching student writing. As bloggers, young people develop crucial skills with language, tone their critical thinking muscles, and come to understand their relationship to the world.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration. It’s a bit like thinking about falling in love --- hard to get a handle on, but what’s not to like? Still, I’ve been trying to tease out what inspiration is exactly, especially for those of us in the education racket in 2012. My husband, Larry Kahn, and I will lead a workshop for PLP Live! in Philadelphia on September 28th. Our task is to marshal inspirational stories to help those who want to integrate 21st century learning in schools translate the words of wisdom from the likes of John Sealy Brown and Suzie Boss into the right stuff for their schools back home.
First, let me thank you for entrusting me with teaching your children, honoring the amazing individuals they are, and helping them discover the confident and empowered young people they can be. Providing a rich and engaging environment for your children to learn in is my utmost concern, but Iately I have had to acknowledge that the young people I see every day do much of the learning that is important to them when they leave the parking lot and head home from school. Thus, I am writing to solicit your help.
I remember exactly how I felt when I put together my first real toolbox. The gray no-nonsense plastic container, made by Rubbermaid, would house the essential tools I needed now that I was twenty-something and on my own. I bought a hammer, of course, two kinds of screwdrivers (one with a Phillips head and one with a flat head), a foldout miniature saw, some nails and screws, and a measuring tape. I mainly used the toolbox to hang pictures in my apartment, but oh my, did it make me feel empowered!
Recently, I read with interest an opinion piece in the New York Times by Mark Edmundson touting “The Trouble with Online Education.” It just so happens that after nearly three decades of face-to-face classroom teaching (including at the college level) and a handful of years experimenting with “blended” courses to varying degrees, I have begun teaching a fully online course for the first time this Summer. So, naturally, the title of Professor Edmundson’s piece piqued my interest.
You have - no doubt - tuned in to the buzz about ePortfolios. Digital portfolios certainly were the talk of ISTE 2012 in June. Although it was written in 2005, “An Overview of E-Portfolios,” by George Lorenzo and John Ittelson for Educause, paints a pretty good portrait, even now, of where we stand with ePortfolios for students, especially if you skip the part about CDs. As I decipher the ongoing conversation (for an example, the Twitter #Edchat summary by Shelly Terrell from 2009), I get the impression that many educators view ePortfolios as the ultimate solution to our complex assessment dilemmas.
I need to confess. As an English/Language Arts teacher with nearly three decades of experience teaching writing in her professional backpack, I am supposed to know what I am doing. But the radical changes in the way we communicate in contemporary society have led me to dive deep into an existential crisis.
I generally like the idea of turning things upside-down if only to see what happens as a result. I suppose I learned the merits of flipping first-hand, having once taken the wacky (and effective) advice to stand on my head when I couldn’t sleep – yes, by a yoga teacher, and yes, it worked. I mean, whoever had the idea of flipping tomato plants to get those crazy hanging vines was a genius in my book.
Had I grown up in the early part of the 21st century, I believe I would have gravitated toward learning how to code. I liked math, and I liked solving problems. Maybe I would have found the wherewithal to apply for a grant to study with Girls Who Code, which was founded to reach under-served girls interested in STEM.
Teachers are master problem-solvers. They learn quickly to adjust on the fly as they react boldly and deftly in a moment’s response, whether to students’ endless questions about how to and what if, to the numerous disruptions blaring from a PA system, or to adapting their lesson plans because the Internet is down…again. When it comes to their own classrooms, teachers do not hesitate to meet daily obstacles and challenges head-on. It’s their job, after all.