Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Losar! (Do you know what year it is?)

Today is Tibetan New Year, or Losar. I used the opportunity to discuss the idea that not everyone in the world follows the same timeline, and it made for an interesting discussion. I wore one of the shirts I picked up from Tibet Gallery, which certainly sparked a conversation in and of itself since it's not the typical polo-style staff shirt I usually wear. After that, life got interesting when I informed my students that it was the Earth Ox Year 2136. From there I informed them that according to the Chinese calendar, it is the year 4706; it's 5769 by the Jewish calendar, and for Muslims, it's 1430. That kind of blew their minds a bit and led to a conversation around the B.C./A.D. vs BCE/CE way of marking time, and how we keep track of time in general. It definitely became a good discussion, and I think it helped them to understand, or at least think about, some of the differences that can and do exist between cultures. I also tried to get across the idea that as we become an increasingly global society, we will need to become more sensitive to those differences as well as the similarities, and use them to move the human race forward rather than tear us apart. The concept that not everyone in the world marks their societal calendar by the birth of Jesus Christ was something of a new one for them, and they did not know the difference between BC/AD and BCE/CE. The idea that something as "basic" as a calendar can be so different led them to wondering about other differences that can and do present themselves... I hope.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Education in the 21st Century: Teachers Without Borders

(Teachers Without Borders provided the logo exclusively for educational purposes and is not an endorsement of comments or opinions on site.)

I recently joined Teachers Without Borders (TWB), an organization of teachers committed to enacting global change through education. TWB goes a bit beyond professional networking sites like the Global Education Collaborative and Classroom 2.0 in that Teachers Without Borders offers opportunities for professional development and even mentorship on an international level, and it possesses the ability to identify and support educational leaders who are willing to put the effort in to making a difference. It’s interesting to see the number of organizations that have developed around international collaboration between educators and students. Teachers Without Borders promises to take training and collaboration to a level beyond mere networking. Like Doctors Without Borders, Teachers Without Borders is a nonprofit dedicated to bridging cultural and geographic gaps for the betterment of humankind; unlike Doctors Without Borders, which is a centralized organization, TWB is decentralized and more driven by its members. It’s also one of the few organizations whose focus is the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, and recognizes that teachers are on the front line of world change. Going beyond mere networking, TWB has specific goals and a plan for affecting change through education. (Best part is that membership is free!) For the rest of this entry, please go here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My fuzzy Valentine

Let me start out by saying that I’m a cat person. Now, I have absolutely nothing against dogs at all, but I’ve tended to prefer cats for a pet: quieter, cleaner, more independent. There have been plenty of dogs that I’ve liked and a few that I’ve loved; I even owned a beagle when I was in high school. However, when the subject of getting a pet would come up in my family, I would always say that I intended to get a couple of cats; last year I picked some carrier crates, dishes, litter boxes, and a big-ass tree thing for cats to play on/in, figuring I’d get a couple of felines before 2009 was out. So imagine my surprise when I came home with a dog on Valentine’s Day. The rest of this entry is here. I'll post more about our adventures with him later, including today's "But, Dad... I LIKE squirrels!" discussion. For now, it's time to take him out on another walk.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More implications of technology

The other night I received a text message from an alumni attending one of the state colleges asking me to sign on to my Yahoo Messenger because he needed help with an essay; I let him know that I would do so after dinner. Shortly after I'd finished eating, I signed on and sent him a text telling him that I had gotten online. He joined me a few minutes later, and we began to work on his essay. He would send it to me over Yahoo Messenger, I'd look it over, make my comments, then send it back. We continued like this for some time until I'd gone from my intial 60+ comments and suggestions down to two.

There are a number of ways we could have done this same thing, including Google Docs and so forth, but more importantly was what this represented. Z is about an hour's drive away, so not too long ago, he would have been pretty much on his own when it came to his essay, or at least his access to me would have been all but cut off, especially since I'm a visual learner and need to see it in front of me in order to work on it; additionally, unless he were to read the punctuation marks to me, I'd have no way to assess that unless I saw it.

This only reinforces the importance that the internet and technology in general has gained to both educators and students. An exchange of text messages, then the sending back and forth of an essay with comments added and subtracted from it, and a student is able to access a resource and get help with an essay.

While this may seem like no big deal, at the same time, these changes have occurred within the span of half of my teaching career, which is pretty remarkable, really. It wasn't a problem to help him, though I kept "geeking out" over the ability to work with him as if he was next to me in spite of being an hour away. It brings me back to an observation made by a student in my epistemology class that it wouldn't be long before he might not have to show up to class at all... that it would all eventually be online. And while this is certainly a possibility, at the same time, I hope that it doesn't come to pass; there is too much to be gained from human interaction and too much to be lost by the lack of it.