This morning while scanning over the headlines on MSN, this caught my attention; “Ont. girl charged for online threats”. Earlier this week I went for an interview for an LTO position and during the interview we got on the topic of using social media in the classroom. As an example of the connections I make with students outside of class time, I mentioned that I have used class websites (recently Tumblr) as well as facebook and twitter as a means to stay connected to students. This semester past I was teaching an LTO and used twitter to send reminders to students. Some students would use the twitter to let me know if they were going to be late for class and when I explained this the interviewer was curious to know how I managed using social media while in class, assuming that I was communicating with the students before and during class. This is a pretty valid question to ask and one that I think is the kind of root cause of the problems we’re facing in the schools with cellphones and social media…
Here is the thing, and boy am I going to sound old fashion saying this. 10 years ago (which I realize is eons on the technology timeline) students didn’t have cellphones and if they did it was unimaginable that they would use it in class. Please do not get me wrong, I love technology and embrace it as a teacher. I recognize that my students function in a very different world that I did as a teenager and as a teacher I need to find the best ways to convey information to my students that will allow them to a better understanding and way of communicating what it is they have learned.
There is a time and a place. I really enjoy looking at the world from a deconstructionist view point. The reality is that we create our reality, nothing has meaning until we decide to recognize it and name it. My favourite way of explaining this to my students is through gender. Why do girls get dressed in pink and boys in blue? Why are girls encouraged to play house and boys encouraged to play with cars? Little girls are not born with pink bows attached, and boys don’t come with blue bow ties… so why? Girls have the same capabilities to be physically aggressive or mechanically inclined as boys the same way boys have the same capabilities to be nurturing and domestic as girls… gross “domestic”. Where do these ideas come from? When were they “constructed”? Usually I don’t get an answer, just more questions and anecdotal stories. Why are we not asking the same questions of our students about technology and communication? As a teacher, it is a constant battle to have students put their cellphones away. Usually we are told as teachers we have the right to take the cellphones if students do not comply with the “no cellphones in class” rule. This is new territory for us. Who is liable should the cellphone go missing while in our watch? I don’t think taking the cellphones is the solution, I feel we need to teach respect and appropriate behaviour and it’s going to have to be a school wide initiative. I have heard from employers and workplace trainers of youth they have encountered who are texting or playing games on their phone during interviews or during safety training. Clearly the problem is one of boredom in the classroom, but a lack of respect and appropriateness with the technology.
As teachers we have a lot to contend with when it comes to cellphones. I constantly have parents texting and calling their student while they are in class. One day I had a student come to me to let me know that her mom was at the school to pick her up for a doctors appointment. Really? Go into the school and sign your child out; which is what I told my student. She was not to leave class until I was given instructions by the office. To make things worse, as an adult, I have seen administrators and other adults in positions of authority using their cellphones to text and check emails at times that they themselves would not want a student doing the same. Hello! What are we teaching them? That its ok, thats what!
During the interview I explained that I do not have my cellphone in class (unless I am using it as an ipod) and would never let a student use twitter as a way to justify lateness because, well, I told Ms Marr. Unless students are looking up information to support their learning, I don’t want to see their cellphones. Mostly, because I know what they are texting and tweeting, and it is certainly not questions to their friends about last nights homework. The things I have seen on twitter are shocking… shocking! Which brings into light a whole new issue… what are the students rights in terms of privacy? And as a teacher, when is it my responsibility to step in and address what is being tweeted? These things need to be addressed. Is it our responsibility to not to read what students post or is it their responsibility not to post anything they don’t want seen. The answer seems obvious, if you don’t want people to read your private thoughts, don’t post them online. But it’s not that simple, if it were we wouldn’t have 14 year old girls being charged for making death threats. The technology keeps expanding and changing but we never teach students how to use the technology so they figure it out for themselves and then the schools have to deal with the repercussions of bullying on sites like Formsprings.com , Facebook.com and Twitter.com.
Last year I did a Forum Theatre project with a group of senior drama students about bullying in their school. One group simulated what happens when people post hurtful things online. One student stood center stage, while the others covered her with post-it notes, each with some insult or rumour. The other students disappeared but the one girl remained crying on stage and covered from head to toe in sticky notes. You can delete the posts the same way a post-it can be removed, but that post-it still exists somewhere and so do the words posted online.
There have always been bullies and victims, but the internet has added a new component to the harassment that has ballooned bullying into a new monster capable of ruining someones life and I don’t just mean the victim. Where is the girl from Windsor going to end up after being charged with uttering death threats? I can tell you that youth who spend time in juvenile centers do not come out reformed, instead they are released with new survival tools and I don’t mean for camping in the wild. It’s common knowledge that youth live and learn through their sense of immortality, but at what point is enough, enough? Bullying has become part of mainstream media, but its not really getting better because we as adults are not doing much that is tangible to teach respect and understanding. In a world of global connection through the internet and new technology, there has been little to address how to communicate appropriately or use the millions of new pieces of information shared over the internet on a daily basis. In a world with little to no boundaries, how do we teach children and youth to find their own personal and moral boundaries? How can we teach our children and youth to respect themselves and in turn to respect others?
My students have a very difficult time grasping the idea of “doing” research. When they get their essay outline, the focus is always on the thesis and supporting paragraphs, so that’s what they jump into.
My first question is always, where is your research? Then, what are you arguing? They are missing some vital skills and basic understandings about research and essay writing that gets them stuck every time.
In anticipation of summative assignments I ran a workshops on the process of writing a research essay. Here is what I covered and the materials I used;
Where to begin? We first reviewed the initial brainstorming.
Find quotes, statistics and facts that best support your argument!
As you are writing the paper you must record the source where the information came from. Although it may be time consuming, it’s important to cite the information right in the rough copy of the essay! It will take much longer to have to go back through your notes and try and find the right information at the end.
Citing your sources
Plagiarism is a big deal! Do not forget to cite your sources in the text and at the end with a bibliography or works cited.
Find out what type of formatting your teacher prefers.
Follow the instructions, step by step. When you get to university you can lose marks for having punctuation out of place in your citations!
These are great sources of information on citation;
As teachers, sometimes I think we forget to teach some of the most basic skills such as skim reading or find sources of information, but they really don’t know! We have to teach it to them! If you have any suggestions or ideas to help support high school students with research essays, please comment below!
As of today, I am officially entered in the Who Inspires U Video Contest! If I win, I will have the opportunity to open my own arts and education center. I have been working on a business plan for a few years but haven’t been able to take the next steps because of, as always, money!
Please watch the video, the more views I have the further I will progress in the contest!
Let me first begin by stating, that I am clearly biased in favour of the humanities as a drama and history teacher. Now with that out of the way…
I have just begun reading a book by Martha C. Nussbaum titled, “Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities”. Only six pages into the first chapter and already I am intrigued by the content and theories that have been introduced thus far. She argues that democracy, and therefore the economy and our humanity cannot survive without a serious reformation of our current mainstream education systems. Our schools and the those who have the power to enforce policy and curriculum overwhelmingly support and system of education which caters to the here and now of the current economic climate. Math, Sciences and Technology are all the rage while the humanities and arts are left on the back burner. Nussbaum makes reference to educators Rabindranath Tagore and Amos Bronson Alcott when she discusses the word ‘soul’ in an educational context;
“…the faculties of thought and imagination that make us human and make our relationships rich human relationships, rather than relationships of mere use and manipulation. When we meet in society, if we have not learned to see both self and other in a way, imagining in one another inner faculties of thought and emotion, democracy is bound to fail, because democracy is built upon respect and concern, and these in turn are built upon the ability to see people as human beings, not simply as objects.”
~ Martha C Nussbaum, Not For Profit:Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, P. 6.
Over and over again, the media and popular psychology suggest that today’s youth are self-entitled and have labeled them as Generation Me. When I speak with other educators I continually hear the greatest challenge they face with students is a lack of critical thinking skills that they feel often comes across as laziness. Whether these claims are completely true or not, it is interesting to consider a possible correlation between an apathetic generation of youth and systems of education that do not value the humanities. I doubt many high school classes could teach empathy or encourage collaborative creation better than drama. Students who learn to understand our past and present through the social sciences have an opportunity to critically assess the world they live in, how it came to be and how it might or could be changed in the future. Our educational institutions consistently encourage, enforce and promote mathematics, science and technological studies through funding and deny the importance of the arts and humanities through the same means. Although numeracy, science and technical skills are important and relevant parts of a students education, it is just that, a part and not the only areas to be focused on. Nussbaum argues that without the arts and humanities students are not developing the critical thinking skills needed to become informed and productive members of a democracy and that our current focus on simply creating employable workers in the current work force we are facing a “silent crisis”.
What do you think? Is our societal disinterest in the humanities going to negatively effect our democratic systems?
I am an avid Stumbler and was fortunate enough to stumble upon Ken Robinson’s talk at a TED conference in 2006 titled, “Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity“. His particular talk is one of the most popular talks on TED.com with 7,775,295 views. He is fantastically witty and his ideas on our current school systems are ones that I share (along with 7 million other viewers).
I enjoyed his talk so much I looked Ken Robinson up online and discovered he is the author of The Element: How Finding Our Passion Changes Everything and Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. This summer I had the pleasure of reading The Element.
The book is full of anecdotal examples of wildly successful people who were, at one point in their lives, on a path that would have led them astray from their ‘element’. Like his Ted talk, he links problematic structures within our school systems to the hindrances faced by the men and women discussed throughout the book.
The most powerful idea for me was in the final chapter when Ken Robinson discusses how our changed economy and relationship with technology both have radical implications for our education systems. Are the past structures of the industrial era really preparing the next generations to be successful in their personal and working lives? Did it ever really best serve the youth who graduated the system? Ken Robinson would argue no, which is something which resonates me.
I look forward to reading Out of Our Minds in the near future. Have you read his books or heard his talk on TED.com? What are your thoughts?
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson