Monday, July 23, 2012

Youth in Action

On Friday my husband, Tobey, asked me if I'd every heard of the Perry County Project.  I had not. Apparently, Tobey had read a tweet about it from an educator in New Bedford, MA. No big deal, right?   Well the Perry County referred to in the Perry County Project is in Alabama.  And the project of the Perry County Project? It's a week long event held at Judson College where "25 students and 9 teachers in Perry County, AL will focus on togetherness, thinking big, getting creative, and creating a lasting and positive presence on the web" and it held its first ever conference this past week.  Below is a video "letter" created by the Perry County Project's directors Beth Sanders and Daniel Whitt, two Alabama public educators which gives a little background about how this project got underway:

Now what amazes me is not that there are educators out there trying to use technology as a means to empower students, although I am certainly impressed by the scope of their vision, but rather that by Friday of last week I, a semi-tech literate Massachusetts educator, knew about it. That by Monday night, I'd explored their website (Youth Converts Culture), watched their videos, blogged about it for class, and "liked" their Facebook page.  The power of digital media to reach and inform/inspire a broad audience is flippin' amazing!

I've been looking for ways to give my students a voice.  The population of students that I deal with have a difficult time finding relevance in what they are learning.  This disconnect between what they care about and what we try to teach them has caused many of them to totally disengage from their education.  Now before you get the wrong impression of me, I am not advocating some touchy-feely-let's-sit-around-the-campfire-and-sing-"Lesbian Seagull"-together-instead-of -learning-about-the Industrial-Revolution-or-reading-Othello attempt at relevance.  What I want is to bridge the gap between say the Industrial Revolution, which seems ancient and irrelevant to my kids, and their everyday lives.  I want them to take a critical look at capitalism and how it affects them negatively/positively, how they benefit/suffer under this system, how the people the world wide are affected by such systems and then. . . and this is the new part. . . I want them to take that information and do something with it, to share it with as many people as possible.  I want to empower them, not depress them.  So I need to do more than just expose them to new information/knowledge, I give them an outlet for their anger, frustration, confusion, wonderment, et. al.

I think we underestimate what kids are truly capable of when we give them the guidance, time, and resources they need to express themselves.  I was exploring the internet looking for some examples of youth in action when, lo and behold, I came across Youth in Action, a Providence, RI based organization that believes that "young people are at the forefront of creating postive social change."  What's really impressive about this organization is that they have their own media team called Next Generation Media that produces videos "on issues related to social justice and equality and feeds the community and their peers with knowledge about situations that they would not normally be informed about in their schools or on the news."  In the video below, Youth in Action members went out and interviewed not just their peers but members of the community about racial profiling in Providence:

This is what kids are capable of--this piece of serious cultural criticism.  Yet we ask them to fill out worksheets, write canned essays that will score a 8/10 or higher on the MCAS, and bubble in answers to standardized tests.  It is time to rethink everything we are doing in the classroom, to have the difficult conversations about the relevance of our curriculum, the effectiveness of our assessments. If a group of Alabama students and educators can produce a video that inspires a teacher in Massachusetts to redesign her curriculum to incorporate new technology in order to empower her students, what might my own students be capable of doing; who might they reach and inspire?

I'll leave you with The Perry County Projects slogan: "It's never about technology.  It's about empowerment."

I Share Therefore I Am

Sherry Turkle's TED talks and her article "The Flight from Conversation" gave me pause.  Over these last few days in Media Analysis, I became a believer in technology.  It's potential as a resource for the classroom is vast.  I am particularly excited about the possibilities of using technology to help my students become more active participants in their learning--creators/producers of knowledge rather than merely receptacles of it.  Yet just as my newfound excitement rose to a fevor pitch, Sherry Turkle doused me with a gallon of caution.

In both a TED talk and her interview with Frontline, Turkle discusses how we are too busy "communicating" to talk, to create, to connect.  She relates how teenagers, particularly ones with divorced parents, complain about competing with technology for their parents' attention: 

"The mom [who has not seen her child in four days] comes to pick them up at the soccer game; this is now their time with their mom, right? The mom is sitting there with the Blackberry, and until she finishes the Blackberry stuff, she doesn't look up to look at the kid. The kid's in the car, and they've driven off before the mom looks up from the Blackberry."

This story made me so sad.  I never want my children to think they come second to my cell phone.  After reading Turkle's article, I became hyper-vigilant about my own use of technology around my children.  I was disturbed by how often I had to urge to check my Facebook page or blog while I was with them.  Why did I care who "liked" or commented on the wedding photos that I'd posted?  Was their recognition of my work really more important than constructing elaborate foam block "bird condos" with Malcolm?  It's the "I share therefore I am" mentality.  The feeling of validation (of our feelings, beliefs, effort, talents, etc.) we get when we share a part of ourselves online.  Before the internet, if I took a bunch of pictures the only way that people would get to see them was if they came over my house or if I sent them copies via snail mail.  Now I can take a great picture and people I have never met can tell me how beautiful it is.  It is an intoxicating feeling.

Yet what do we sacrifice for this high?  Turkle argues that the price for all this connectivity is our real world relationships and most importantly our very sense of self.  While she is quick to point out that she is not a Luddite, Turkle convincingly advocates for a critical approach to our relationship with technology.  In her interview with Stephen Colbert, she jokes about wanting to "put technology in its place." She argues that technology has become so important to our way of life that it has changed "not what we do, but who we are."  We use technology to carefully craft the person we want others to see--editing our virtual selves to mask our real life flaws and insecurities.  It is an elaborate and often exhausting performance.  

We also use technology to "bail out of the physical real," to avoid/ignore that which we'd rather not deal with.   Real life is messy; it's complicated.  But life online can be as simple or as complicated as we allow it to be.  It's about control.   Unfortunately technology is not a panacea for our troubles. In fact it often helps us hide from the very troubles we claim to want to solve.  For if we never allow ourselves to be vulnerable, how will we ever take risks. And if we don't take risks how will we grow, learn, develop?  

I see this fear of risk all the time in the classroom.  It has become almost impossible for most of my students to finish an essay in a class period.  If I allowed them to, many of my students would literally ask me to read over every sentence to make sure what they had written was "right."  Is this technology's fault?  No, probably not.  But does technology enable such insecurities?  Definitely.  

We need to help our students overcome their dependence on simulated reality.  Simulated reality doesn't involve the same kind of risk that reality does.  We need to help them find a way to bridge the gap between the "I share therefore I am" mindset to the "I create therefore I am" reality.  The internet does indeed allow for constant connectivity but it also provides unprecedented opportunity for the creation and dissemination of knowledge.  It can help take education outside of the classroom and make it a global experience, transition it from a passive experience to an active experience, reignite the curiosity and enthusiasm for learning that has all but been driven out of today's student.  The thrill of creation exists whether four people or forty-thousand people see/experience your product.  But truthfully it is a bit sweeter when what you've created reaches a broader audience.  And I don't think Turkle has a problem with that.  Her issue lies in how we are using technology (or rather how we are allowing technology to use us) not in technology itself: "Technology is a wonderful conversation opener because it's so seductive. That doesn't mean it's where the conversation should end. It's a wonderful means of collaboration. But the collaboration is between people who are excited about the ideas. The technology is not the product."

As Turkle is herself fond of quoting Thoreau, I couldn't help but think of his quote "we do not ride on the railroad, it rides upon us" (Walden: Where I Lived and What I Lived For).   

Friday, July 20, 2012

Infographics in the Classroom

Infographicvisual image used to represent information or data

Infographics are more than just a way to represent complex data. They tell a story. And as we've been discussing in Media Literacy these past few weeks, the media is the message. We do a great disservice to ourselves and our students if we do not first learn the language that message is being spoken in and then teach our students the grammar of it. 

 Look at the infographic below from Oprah's website and see if you can decipher its message:

Did you notice how the creators of this infographic (who appear to want to remain nameless) drop Oprah's name to give their statistics a sense of legitimacy but do not cite any other sources?  What about the pie chart that claims that student achievement and therefore by default non-achievement is driven by teacher quality?  Homeless?  No worries. If your teacher's good enough, you'll make honor roll.  Underneath this infographic is a link to an article about Waiting for Superman.  This infographic isn't just a representation of data. It has an agenda. 

The current state of education is such a complex issue yet as a medium the infographic's strength lies in its ability to simplify, to summarize.  Take for instance the statistics used above regarding the U.S. rankings in math and science.   Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) results have long been used to discredit public education in the United States. But these statistics fail to take into account that the United States is a far more diverse country than those that it is being compared to. 

In 2007 Masschusetts entered itself in as a "country" on the TIMSS report to see how they stacked up to the rest of the world.  The results? "Massachusetts 4th graders ranked second worldwide in science achievement and tied for third in mathematics; the state's 8th graders tied for first in science and ranked sixth in mathematics" (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). 1st is a lot different than 21st.  Just saying.  (FYI: The National Center for Women and Informational Technology does a decent job of summing up the problem with relying on TIMSS scores alone to assess the state of U.S. education.)  

I'm not trying to say that everything is sunshine and butterflies in our public schools but statistics can be wielded as tools or as weapons. Humorist Evan Esar defined statistics as "the science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures."  That's why I think it is vital to help our students become more critical when confronting information presented in this format. 

But infographics are also a way for students to understand, to create and to inform.  They are free, relatively easy to create, digestible and dispensable.  Used correctly they have the potential to help students "reposition themselves, from cogs in the machine to social actions intent on jamming, resisting, and/or rewiritng the status quo" (Marshall and Sensoy, Rethinking Popular Culture and Media 11).  For example this infographic regarding the lack of diversity in Congress just popped up on my Facebook newsfeed:

Using publicly available data, the designer of this infographic is able to tell a powerful story about inequality and representation while simultaneously giving viewers an outlet for action--the link to register to vote at the bottom of the infographic.  This is the "outlet for [ . . .] despair" for which Linda Christensen advocates.  It isn't enough to expose them to the injustice inherent in the system; we must also give our students a way to deal with it.

This is where my desire to learn how to create an infographic came from.  I wanted a medium that students could create and share with one another digitally.  I don't know about you but I am sick to death of watching poorly designed PowerPoint presentations.  I don't like them, the kids aren't proud of them, so why am I still doing them?  It was time to explore something new and Media Analysis gave me the kick in the rear I needed to start.

I began by looking into two of the major infographic sites: Piktochart and (both free). I ended up using Piktochart because it allowed for more autonomy and was less glitchy than (though in's defense they make sharing your final product much easier than Piktochart).  Once I decided upon the site, I got to work creating an infographic.  I chose to use the data I'd collected during my teacher research (shout out to Dr. Johnson) because I hoped to use it as a vehicle to present my findings to the administration.    

After hours of trial and error, I created the infographic below:

Unfortunately, the only way (at least that I can figure out) how to share this in a way that you can read it is to email it as a .png file.  That's my big beef with Piktochart.  Otherwise, I'm pretty proud of my creation.

However, this infographic took me hours to create.  There is just so much that you can do on Piktochart.  I worry that if I have my students create their own infographics, they will be so fixated on making it look cool, they won't be able to finish the product in a reasonable time.  This is where the little voice inside my head questions whether this is really helping my students.  But then I think about all that you have to do in order to create an infographic--work with statistics, understand persuasive appeal, make an argument, tell a story, etc.--and I reconsider.

Really the only way to tell if this is going to work is to do it.  So I'm going to do it.  My plan is to show my students a version of the presentation on infographics that I made for our class.

Then have them analyze a few infographics and discuss them as a class.  Before we make our own infographics, I'd like to emphasize the idea that infographics have a point of view.  It is so easy for people to assume that because it is "published", that it looks nice, than it must be true/accurate.  After discussing infographics in general, I am going to have them sign up for Piktochart.  My first assignment will be for them to create an infographic about something they care about--Justin Bieber, motocross, animal rights, whatever tickles their fancy.  When they're finished I'd like them to publish their work by sharing it in some way--uploading it to Facebook, Twitter, their blog, etc.  I'm hoping that by sharing their schoolwork with a larger audience they will a) take it more seriously and b) feel pride in what they have created.  It all goes well then I will use infographics as a way for my students to analyze and digest more content driven topics like slavery, capitalism, war, etc. 

Stay tuned. . . 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sesame Street: Women Can Be. . .

After reading all of our blogs, I thought we could use a break from all the misogny, corporate greed, and racism.  So here's a clip from Sesame Street which aired in the 1970s.  Watch it, feel good, and try not to think about the implications of Abby Cadabby until tomorrow:

Turning Pain Into Power

I have been thinking a lot about what Linda Christensen had to say about making room for our students' lives in the classroom, turning their pain into power It is not enough to make our students aware of the injustice in the world for "without giving [our] students an outline for their despair, [we create] what Wayne Au et al. call 'factories of cynicism'" (Christensen 198).   We must provide our students the opportunity to act, to create, to teach so that they feel empowered by knowledge not burdened by it. 

While I was perusing the Media Education Foundation site, I came upon two videos that were about youth in action.  The first Mic Check is about the Occupy Movement. My students were very interested in the Occupy Movement when it was happening.  They asked a lot of questions about the economy and capitalism.  I think watching all of these young people stand up for something, even if it is something they may not totally understand or agree with, would inspire my students.  They are so convinced that nothing will ever change.  The world is what it is and you just have to deal with it the best you can.  A video like this is a conversation starter.

The other video, How to Start a Revolution, revolves around Gene Sharp and "how an obscure list of nonviolent actions authored by Sharp in 1973 has served as a blueprint for anti-authoritarian revolts everywhere from Eastern Europe and the Balkans to the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia." Civil disobience is my jam!  I can't wait to show this clip.  I'm always trying to explain to my students that civil disobience is anything but passive.  It's so bad ass.  I want the idea that people not that much older than them have overthrown vicious dictatorships to grab ahold of my students and not let go.  Perhaps this clip has the teeth I need:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Super Cool Free Infographic Sites

For those of you interested in making your own (free) infographics, check out  the following sites:


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Independent Princess (and a Swamp Creature)

A Mighty GirlIn light of princess conversation today, I thought I'd share a website called A Mighty Girl which describes itself as "the world's largest collection of books and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls."  Check out their "Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess."

Sally and the Some-Thing

And on a personal note, I found a cute book on this site called Sally and the Some-Thing about a scrappy little girl who befriends a swamp creature.  Those with small children should definitely check it out.

Authentic Expression

I want to start by blaming Megan for giving me the case of the weepies today.  I cried at Brave and I cried when I read my chosen article "Knock, Knock: Turning Pain into Power" by Linda Christensen, and I cried when I watched the video from which this article takes its name.  That's a lot of crying in one day.  I should have stocked up on tissues.

In all seriousness, Christensen's piece, which is reminiscent of Gerald Campano's work, advocates creating opportunities for our students to bring their lives into the classroom, to bridge the gap between school and home, academic and personal, to "[open] their veins, so they [can] write with the blood of their lives" (317).  It is a message that I have swallowed wholeheartedly but sadly one I am just now, 11 years into my career as an educator, hoping to enact in my classroom.

Christensen writes of how the emphasis on standards and common curriculum too often become the focus of our teaching much to the detriment of our students' motivation and engagement.  She warns that unless we consciously build "curriculum that allows room for students' lives. . .there is little hope of getting authenticity from students" (312).  She then goes on to describe using the poet/playwright, Daniel Beatty's Def Poetry Jam performance of his piece "Knock, Knock" to inspire the work of her own students.

After watching Beatty's performance, Christensen and her students discussed the poem.  She specifically asked them to connect his experiences to their own lives which sparked a rich conversation about the very real struggles her students face every day.  Christensen observed how "When one student opens the door for an honest conversation, others follow, especially if I create space by responding to the student's remark instead of rushing past it" (314).  That last part about responding to students' remarks is so important.

We need to do a better job of sending the message to all our students, but particularly our most marginalized ones, that they matter, that we care, that there is a place for them in school even if there doesn’t seem to be one anywhere else. But it’s not easy. For my teacher research project, I gave the students in School Within a School (SWS) a survey. While 72% of the SWS students reported feeling that their teachers respected them (something I take a great deal of pride in), only 28% agreed that teachers understood what their life outside of school was like and a full 50% said that their teachers never ask them about their worries or their problems. In order to really engage marginalized children, we, as educators, need to acknowledge the struggles they face and validate the experiences/knowledge they bring to the classroom. How can we hope to encourage students to take ownership of their academic lives if we know nothing about what goes on in their lives outside of school or worse yet send the message that the very real struggles they face mean nothing?

One of my students, K.K., started off the year with a bang. She was focused, positive, and self-aware. She even made the honor roll quarter one, for the first time in her life, something she was incredibly proud of. Yet somewhere around Christmas time, K.K. started missing school, getting into petty fights with her teachers and other students, and her grades began to plummet. When I finally got her alone one day, I asked her what was going on and she told me that her parents were going through a bitter separation. They’d make up, have a nasty fight (sometimes physical), and break up again. She then revealed that she’d had to call the police on her father the night before because he was harassing her and her mother only to have him then threaten to take K.K. away from her mother by revealing to DCFS that K.K’s mother tried to commit suicide in 2010. K.K. was terrified that she was going to be taken away from her mother.

I can’t imagine how a person compartmentalizes this type of trauma in order to focus in school. I also can’t imagine hearing a story like this and seeing the fear in a child’s eyes and not wanting to help or at the very least not wanting to add to that stress. But it happens, all the time. That's why it is so important to draw from the vast well of experiences that our students bring to the classroom, to validate both their struggles and their humanity. Christensen argues that by creating opportunities for students to reflect upon their own experiences, we help turn their pain, frustration, insecurity, confusion, etc. into power. 

Pink Dresses and Plastic Surgery

Here's the article from about the history of the gender associations we make with color: "When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?"

Ursula's Slimmed-Down Look

And Ursula's makeover written about in Psychology Today: "Under the Sea, Under the Knife"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Princess Wore Sweatpants

I was a huge tomboy for much of my young life and pretty geeky thereafter.  While other girls were experimenting with make-up, I was still wearing sweatpants and T-shirts with cartoon animals on them (I could really rock a panda jumpsuit).  I blame much of my lameness on my mother who is herself a bit of a tomboy preferring Sears to Neiman Marcus for all her fashion needs.  I was also really active in such uncool activities as Girls Scouts, softball, and church choir.  And while these activities probably thwarted any hope I had of being a cool kid they also empowered me and gave me the confidence needed to tackle an awkward adolescence.  

4th Grade Field Day 1990 (that's me on the far right)
While I have few conscious memories of Disney's impact upon my sense of style or self worth,  I do distinctly remember its impact upon my little tween heart.  1992, Lowes Theater, Brookfield, CT, double-feature: Newsies and Aladdin.  For those of you who haven't heard of Newsies, recently revived on Broadway, it is the story of the 1899 newsboy strike against the papers owned by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst set to music (of course).  More importantly it stars Christian Bale (complete with ridiculous NY accent) and a slew of other cute adolescent boys.  The character that stole my heart was the leader of the Brooklyn Boys, Spot, played by Gabriel Damon.  I used to fantasize that I was a Bowery girl and Spot would strut into my life and sweep me off my feet.

I mention this rather embarrassing tidbit because I recently learned there is something of a Spot subculture.  Women my age romanticizing about the characters that they use to harbor crushes on when they were tweens.  Harmless, right?  Well only if you don't take into consideration that Spot is one of the most violent characters in the whole film.  In the clip below the Newsies are fighting the thugs hired by the newspapers to put an end to the strike. Jack, Christian Bale's character and the most experienced fighter, is in over his head until Spot and his crew show up to save the day.  Notice that Spot and his band of Brooklyn newsies are the only newsboys brandishing weapons.


What does it say that grown women are still fantasizing about a violent man-child?  Gabriel Damon was and probably still is attractive but so is Christian Bale.  Yet much of the fan fiction and YouTube comments about this film revolve around Spot.  Why?  He's not even a major character.  But he is the "coolest" character--he is a domineering presence (all 5'7" of him), violent, and assertive.  It speaks to the power of Dorfman's "secret education" ( 189) that this character has yet to fade into the ether.  Spot's aggressive characteristics seems to resonate with Lila Johnson's observations about her brothers who "tossed aside their piles of books and tubs of clay: Heroes didn't read or create--they fought!" (202).  These aggressive, volatile, men are suppose to be our princes.  Not creators but destroyers.  It's frightening to think about.  

As a parent, I am very concerned about the messages being carefully aimed at my children.  I am especially worried about the effects on the "Princess Culture" upon my daughter something
Peggy Orenstein writes about in her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter (her original NY Times article "What's Wrong with Cinderella?" is worth a read).  Just walking into Toy R Us gives me the hee bee gee bees.  They have organized their toys around franchises--Cars, Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, etc.--and  whole isles are dedicated to princess merchandise.  I remembering trying to buy invitations to my son's 1st birthday party and not being able to find a single one without some T.V. or movie character on it.  How do you fight this indoctrination?   

Wesch and the Machine

Sorry I'm so late with this.  Cranky babies don't respect deadlines.  Jerks.

When Dr. Bogad first introduced us to Mike Wesch in SED 552 by reading his article "Anti-teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance." I must say that I was more than a bit skeptical of the whole idea of "anti-teaching:"

As I was shaking my head in agreement with Wesch, a little voice from the far reaches of my brain, keep asking how does Wesch knows that his students are really learning anything? He is vague on how he assesses his students' knowledge. Now I realize that Wesch's goal is to inspire students to ask questions but I'm not sure that making a documentary or creating a simulation of world history really proves that all of his students are learning. He seems to be implying that if we hand the reigns over to students that learning will just happen. Still he admits in this TED talk(13:39 min) that the world simulation game he has his students create "almost always fails" but that it "fails in the best possible way" because students leave his class asking the questions that will help them pass the test of life. While that sound amazing, I'm left a bit uneasy. Wesch either downplays his role as "manager" while discussing his innovative anti-teaching or he puts way more trust in his students ability to find, analyze, and present real information than I am comfortable with.

 I was uncomfortable with notion of handing over control to my students.  How would they be held accountable?  Was there some sort of summative assessment which gauged his students' understanding of the  courses' key concepts?  I just wasn't ready to make the leap of faith necessary to even consider doing this in my own classroom.

Given my initial reservations about such student-centered pedagogy, I was surprised by how much Wesch's ideas resonated with me today while reading "The Old Revolution." It was kind of like what Seth was talking about today when you haven't realized how far you've come until someone or something brings it to your attention.  I still think that it is important to make sure all of one's students are being challenged and participating in their learning but I realize that I was obsessing about the wrong thing.  If students aren't motivated, if they don't see the value in what we are trying to teach them, than I'm not doing my job regardless of how well my students do on MCAS.

Wesch argues that progressive, student-centered pedagogical movements have gone in and out of fashion for a long time.  But whereas in years past, there were only small pockets of revolutionary thinkers, Wesch argues that technological and cultural changes that have taken place in the last 20 years are so vast that "educators everywhere cannot help but see a disconnect between their traditional modes of teaching and the world in which we all now live"(2).  

This disconnect is a reality we live everyday--kids bored, disillusioned ,and disengaged.  We can choose either to hide behind the idea that kids today are just lazy or we can start figuring out ways to recapture their attention and spark their imagination.  Stepping outside of our comfort zone isn't easy but taking risks is the only way to grow.  I think Wesch framed our situation beautifully:

In the pursuit of these new learning environments we find ourselves asking those wonderfully fundamental questions: What are “the basics” and “basic literacy skills” today? How might our students best learn them How are schools/classrooms/desks/subjects/schedules/teachers necessary to this learning process, and how are they not? And these are the best kinds of questions, because their best answers are just more questions. And so we find ourselves exactly where any great learner would want to be, on a quest, asking question after question after question (3).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thinking Beyond Word

I don't automatically think in terms of technology. It's not yet woven into my DNA. I can go days without looking at my cellphone, much to the chagrin of my friends and family who despite knowing of my casual attitude towards cellphones will text away in vain before giving up and actually calling my house phone (yes, I have a land-line).

My ambivalent attitude towards my less-than-smart-phone may make it seem as if I am totally lost in the digital frontier but I not a total Luddite. I'm just not sure how I'd categorize myself in terms of my digital literacy. I would have thought that I was as much an immigrant as any adult my age but when Dr. Bogad was going over the characteristics of the digital immigrant accent described in Marc Prensky's essay "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants," I found that many of those descriptors weren't applicable to me. I have a Facebook account, I own a Kindle, I am constantly uploading pictures to the internet, I even started my own blog (The Adventures of Worm) when my son was born. I don't know if it's because I'm married to a man who believes in the importance of using technology in the classroom or just being around 15 year-olds all day but I haven't printed out an email in years and have adopted much of the verbiage of the digital age (although admittedly I have participated in grammatical debates regarding the appropriate usage of the word "text" in the past tense). Still when I compare myself to my husband or my students, I feel very much like an immigrant.

When designing lessons that utilize technology, I tend to think small. We have a mobile laptop cart with wi-fi capability available to us in the School Within in a School program (SWS), a privilege bestowed on no one else in the whole school (despite the fact that a good number of kids have phones with 3/4G internet capabilities, wi-fi access is tightly controlled by our OIT department who seem to think Al Qaeda is trying to infiltrate the Attleboro High School server) . Yet despite this incredible resource what we most often used the laptops for was word processing, typing essays. All that technology available and all I could think of was using Word? To be fair, my students are proficient in using Google Docs and know how to properly upload documents and files. The basics are important but I know that it's not enough.

Ideally I'd like to create a more authentic, engaging experience for my students. This is a particularly urgent goal given that the students in the SWS have been identified as the 9th graders most likely to drop-out of school I know that technology is a key component to achieving this goal and thus I am hoping that this class gives me kick in the pants I need to overcome my digital shortsightedness.

I will end this blog with one of the first videos I ever uploaded to Blogger. It is of my son hopping around in his jumpy to House of Pain's "Jump Around":

Greetings and Salutations

Greetings! My name is Kelly Reed and I am an English teacher going into my eleventh year at Attleboro High School.  Last year working in our new School Within a School Program (designed at helping at-risk 9th graders successfully transition to high school) was one of the most challenging and rewarding years that I've had as an educator and I am excited to get back into the mix.

On a more personal note, I spend most of my time outside of the classroom cuddling with my 3 month old daughter, Zoe, while simultaneously attempting to keep my 2 year old son, Malcolm, from plummeting down the stairs, smothering his baby sister with kisses, and brandishing his nether regions at strangers. When Malcolm is safely asleep, I enjoy having some adult non-school related conversation with my husband (who coincidentally is also a teacher at AHS), reading a good zombie story or two, and watching nerdy shows like The Universe (Did you know there are giant alcohol clouds in space?) and MonsterQuest (I believe in you, Nessie!).