Saturday, January 17, 2009

To Hell with Manners

Tonight I watched a documentary entitled To Hell with Manners narrated by William Shatner. 

Among very good points about the decline of civility, there was a section of the film that posed the idea that technology has actually caused us to be more isolated because of the loss of human contact. 

While this certainly seems true and we can all see many examples of technology affecting society negatively, I would like to emphasize how technology in education has actually brought our profession out of isolation. 

From Flat Stanley to The Flat Classroom

The award winning Flat Classroom project is an excellent example of how technologies such as wikis, blogs, email, IM, video chat are all utilized to connect students around the world. In some ways, this is a more purposeful, technologically advanced version of the idea behind the Flat Stanley Project based on the book from 1964. It took the idea of connecting students across the world and brought in into the here and now of 2.0.  

PLN's for Teachers and Students

A union of 2.0 tools brings this all together: while I am getting ready to comment on PLN's, someone follows me on Twitter, I check out their blog and they have a recent post about the same topic. So thanks to Simon Pankhurst and the beauty of PLN's and ed tech blogs! The importance of developing a PLN will be one task that teachers who are a part of our upcoming 1:1 project must make a priority. The development of the idea of PLN's represents a noticeable shift in the approach to professional development from a centralized model to one that suits the schedule, lifestyle and interest of any teacher. This is a must read post from Simon Woessner.

Taking strong foundational best practices from educators like Barrie Bennett and pairing them with technology can only serve to improve how we teach. The next level of this is to use 2.0 tools such as iGoogle, RSS aggregators to help students take responsibility for their own learning in my classroom. Teachers also need to get over the idea that they are the great harbingers of knowledge and power and get used to the idea of themselves as being a more of a personal learning guide (PLG- a new acronym is born) working with students. I get a fresh set of students after exams next week with whom I get to share this idea with. 

Use Their Gadget to YOUR Advantage

So a kid gets a new cell phone in your class? Ask them to show it to you. A new ipod touch? Spend a couple extra few seconds asking them what apps they have downloaded and suggest they get Pull My Finger!  Last fall, my media arts class had done a project called Cellywood (Project summary and evaluation tools will soon to be on the Apple Learning Interchange). Students were able to use their cell phones, digital cameras, iphones and anything else that can fit in their hand to create 90 second movies. They used a blog to suggest "ingredients" that had to be in the film (like cinema sports) and they had 4 classes to storyboard, shoot, edit, add voiceovers, ambient sound and email the movie to me. Students voted on the ingredients using their cell phones and ipod touches with my free account from Polleverywhere. A couple of the exemplary films were sent to a contact of mine at Apple Education and got great reviews. This was the project that created the most buzz among my students so far this year. I will see about getting permission to post them here. 

Now, Hall Davidson from Discovery Channel is doing the same thing. I will definitely be getting my students to participate in this one! He is the one who got me on to the idea of using cell phones in the classroom at NECC last summer. His project is called Film on the Fly which will be a highlight of my Saturday, February 7th. I am even thinking of hosting something at my school so students have access to the Macs for editing. 

So has there been a decline in civility? Sure.We see it everyday. Let's use the tech at our disposal to connect to our students, promote 21st century skills, and just maybe one or two of them will see the importance of developing their own PLN and will be just a little bit more civil to you knowing you are a tech savvy teacher. 


  1. Thanks for the mention Jared. I still meet many people who still think that comuters and the Internet will breed a world of people who don't connect with other human beings and just sit at home and order pizza. However I find the complete opposite! Web 2.0 and the developing of a PLN allows a teacher like me who comes from a small town with a generally small view of the world, expand my horizons by standing on the mountain to see what others do.

    I love to ask students what technology they have at their disposal. My media class had little access to resources so the kids produced their own mobile phone and equipment to meet the need. This year I expect (and hope for) an influx of netbooks. This would be a dream come true. Why wait for the government-funded laptops when you can connect for the price of a birthday and a christmas present.

    Thanks for mentioning the Polleverywhere site. I think I will be using that one.

    An inspiring blog post.

  2. Jared, this post states everything that the teachers in our 1 to 1 project need to see and hear. You have eloquently said it all. Hopefully, all of our teachers will find it as inspiring as I did.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hello,
    I am a first time reader.
    As a student who is probably the most 2.0 in his school ( sadly) I really disagree with the notion that 2.0 seperates us and furthers us into isolation.
    A few examples, Facebook has brought millions of people who had lost touch back together.
    Web 2.0 helped Obama become the first black president.
    I can talk to my friend in Egypt and say goodnight to my friend in Japan.
    I can know what my buddy is up to using twitter.
    I can check what the weather in Vancouver looks like with weather-cams.
    I can re-live history with useful tools like Wikipedia and Youtube.
    So how can web 2.0 be bringing people apart when the concept of it all was bringing people closer?

    That being said, it warms my heart to see a teacher with such enthusiasm towards educating in new and innovative way.
    The only aspect I would reconsider is either toning down the Apple fan-boyism or kidnapping Steve jobs because we know you think about it.
    Sorry this post may not be clear or concise but it is 5:30 am during exam week and I am tired.

  5. @ Fiftybelowzero.

    I agree with you completely, and in fact, I was trying to illustrate how the comment on the To Hell with Manners documentary was wrong in saying tech has isolated us. I've been on FB for a long while now to connect, twitted etc., and now I get to have a dialogue with many people who have a vested interest in schools and using tech. In many ways my job is awesome because I get to try out cool new 2.0 apps the day after I find them in my class. I wish you luck in bringing 2.0 to your school! As for the Apple bias, I'm afraid it will always be there. Life long Mac addict.

  6. @coolpoolteacher
    I tried and failed. The only thing that sort of caught-on was firefox and torrents. Oops?
    Hey who knows, eventually you may be referencing websites I have created in your class.
    I would own a mac if I could afford it. So since I can't I choose to bash those who cans. Darn mac fans...

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.