June 2009
Vol 6 No 6

Current Issue » Cover Page Cover Story Harry & Rosemary Wong Columns Articles Features
Back Issues
Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.6 No.6 June 2009

Cover Story by Graysen Walles
Teaching – The Power of Influence
The impact of teaching is clear, and the influence of the profession is immeasurable. All it takes is one moment, one situation, one discussion to turn the life of a young learner.

Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
Nine Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2009
On April 26, 2009, President Obama hosted the four 2009 finalists for America’s top national teaching honor, the National Teacher of the Year award. Alex Kajitani, who teaches mathematics at Mission Middle School in the Escondido Union (Elementary) School District in San Diego County was one of the four finalists.

»The Three R’s for Summer— Rest, Relax and Recharge! Sue Gruber
»Buddy Programs for Elementary Schools Leah Davies
»Moving to September Todd R. Nelson
»Ronald Reagan and the Art of Influence Marvin Marshall
»The Busy Educator's Monthly Five Marjan Glavac
»Substitute issues: Bathroom Passes & Anger Management Barbara Pressman
»Preparing Students for Travel: Films and Immunizations Josette Bonafino
»A Message to Share with Parents about Summer Learning Dorothy Rich
»Classroom Clean-Up and Clay in a Can Rick Morris

»Schools and Filters: Ice Age, the Meltdown Matt Levinson
»Effort: It Can be Taught! Deborah Granger
»Homework: Damned if you do, and if you don’t Alan Haskvitz
»Parents Are Recruits, Teachers Are Responsible, Kids Are Victims, and Schools Are Culpable For At-Risk Problems Bill Page
»12 Ways to Stop Conflict in its Tracks! Susan Fitzell
»Using Photographs To Inspire Writing VIII Hank Kellner
»The Writing on the Wall Tim Newlin
»More Brain Teasers Steve Sherman
»Teacher of Facts - and of Life Rachelle Ann A. Abad
»Grant Writing Tips Kimberly McCloud
»Bald is Beautiful! Teachers, Students Lose Locks to Fight Childhood Cancer David Peter Marchesseault

»Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes Barb Stutesman
»Today Is... Daily Commemoration Ron Victoria
»The Lighter Side of Teaching
»Video Bytes; Literacy Empowers (Illiteracy Awareness), The Underground Railroad, Wikis in Plain English - CommonCraft tutorial, Twitter in Plain English – a CommonCraft tutorial, Naturally 7 music group on Tavis Smiley Show, Tour the International Space Station!
»Teacher Blogs Showcase
»Printable - Ice Cream in a Baggie Recipe
»Featured Lessons, Wisdom from the Chat Achives, and Timely Printables Especially for June!
»What Is A Document Camera? What Does It Do?
»Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers


The Teachers.Net Gazette is a collaborative project
published by the Teachers.Net community
Editor in Chief: Kathleen Alape Carpenter
Layout Editor: Mary Miehl

Cover Story by Graysen Walles

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Graysen Walles, Sue Gruber, Leah Davies, Todd R. Nelson, Marvin Marshall, Marjan Glavac, Barbara Pressman, Josette Bonafino, Dorothy Rich, Rick Morris, Matt Levinson, Deborah Granger, Alan Haskvitz, Bill Page, Susan Fitzell, Hank Kellner, Tim Newlin, Steve Sherman, Rachelle Ann A. Abad, Kimberly McCloud, David Peter Marchesseault, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, and BattleShip Ron.

Submissions: click for Submission Guidelines

Advertising: contact Bob Reap

Subscribe for free home delivery

Matt Levinson

Archive | Biography | Resources | Discussion

Schools and Filters: Ice Age, the Meltdown

Just when teachers figure out one new tech tool, a giant new one, like a wooly mammoth, towers over and crushes them. Teachers need to figure out how to balance the student (the acorn), plug the glacier (technology), without imploding like the squirrel.
by Matt Levinson
Regular contributor to the Gazette
June 1, 2009

The children’s film Ice Age opens with Scrat, the saber toothed squirrel desperately attempting to scale a giant glacier while trying to hold onto an acorn. As the squirrel inches his way upward, a crack in the glacier widens and water begins to shoot out. Scrat plugs the hole with one hand and holds the acorn in the other hand. Then, another crack opens, and another, and another. The squirrel uses his left foot, his right foot, and with no body parts left, puts his mouth over the last hole he can plug. His cheeks swell with water, the glacier finally explodes with full force and the squirrel is sent flying for miles as water crashes forth. The squirrel bounces up and down and contorts in all directions. Miraculously, the squirrel survives and ends up on dry land. But, just when he thinks he can breathe and see clearly, he is quashed by Manny, the wooly mammoth.

This scene captures where schools are with technology today. The schools are the squirrel, technology is the glacier, and the acorn is the student. Schools are at a loss as to how to balance the student (the acorn), and plug the glacier (technology), without imploding, like the squirrel. Just when they figure out one new tech tool, a giant new one, in the form of a wooly mammoth, towers over and crushes them. Technology is simply moving too fast. Students pick up new apps and tools every millisecond of the day. There is no point in trying to put stop gap measures in place to slow the pace. Instead, teachers need to figure out how to tap into student expertise and passion, and create authentic learning experiences with technology. This is no easy task.

Schools can build the tech infrastructure, and with new programs like Ning (the Facebook for schools), schools can even create portals for safe social networking, but the challenge is how to get teachers to actually use the tools. Blogs, wikis, the Google suite, Skype, etc., all offer different and exciting ways to engage students, but these tools are far off the radar and out of the comfort level of teachers who did not grow up immersed in this culture. In a teacher’s world, this is just one more thing to do, amidst an already busy school day filled with lesson planning, assessment, lunch and recess duties, and communication with parents. “It’s enough to just stay on top of school email,” one veteran teacher lamented.

Students, though, do not even think twice about ubiquitous technology. They flip screens, add widgets, and answer multiple mail accounts all in a matter of seconds. At school, they cook up recipes to circumvent the porous blocking mechanisms schools attempt to put in place. Schools have to take precautionary, protective measures to keep school safe, but in the global marketplace, it is misguided practice to think that schools can keep everything out. Instead, schools should take the teachable moment that arises when a student encounters hateful language on a blog post or false claims on a web site. Examine the intent, explore the bias, strategize response, and invite the students to develop a solution.

Every parent and educator wants students to make sensible decisions when they are on their own, out in the world. But students are deprived of precious learning opportunities if schools and parents block their access. Adults end up looking like Scrat the squirrel to the students. This does not inspire trust; instead, it breeds cynicism and drives a deeper wedge between students and adults.

Schools are obligated to cultivate a sense of community. But, the community has changed. Instead of a monolithic, one size fits all approach to block and filter, schools need to articulate a clear approach and customize filtering based on developmental needs of students. No matter how many times schools scramble the Rubik’s cube of filtering, students can find their way back in two steps or less. Students can just type “bypassing school filters” into Google and find thousands of how-to-guides. The last thing schools want to do is encourage a game mentality of how many different ways students can come up with to break the filter.

The bad news for schools is that the technology is not going away. In fact, it is only getting more futuristic. The recent demonstration of MIT designers of a sixth sense prototype, with holographic touch screens, only reinforces the notion that blocks are futile. The design allows users to use their fingers to take pictures, make phone calls, and learn everything about a person they meet for the first time, based on their web profile. Images of words aligned with Facebook pages, Google searches, and blog postings layer across the body of the person. Pretty soon, there will be nothing to block. The walls are disappearing.

To avoid the fate of Scrat the squirrel, schools have to change course. The glacier is too big and it is only getting bigger.

» More Gazette articles...

About Matt Levinson...

A graduate of Teachers' College, Columbia University, Matt Levinson is the assistant director and head of the middle school at the Nueva School in Hillsborough, California. Prior to moving into school administration, he taught middle and upper school history for fourteen years at Princeton Day School in Princeton, New Jersey.

Matt Levinson Articles on Teachers.Net...
Related Resources & Discussions on Teachers.Net...