Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Follow Bob

For the last two weeks, I've watched a most incredible transformation take place. This all has to do with Bob, the teacher I share my room with.

Bob's been teaching a couple years longer than me. When I started at JCS, Bob was my mentor teacher. A career changer from a former life as an assistant director in Hollywood, Bob's always got a good story... that and there really ain't anything a couple kids can throw at him that he hasn't had hurled on him sevenfold by the Hollywood types.

So, two weeks ago, Bob comes to me and says: "I want to go paperless".

I asked him if he had a Google ID.

"They have IDs?"

I asked if he was on Twitter.



Yes he was on Facebook. Following his fourteen year old daughter and a Frank Zappa fan club.

"Ok," I said, "Sounds to me like you've met all the pre-requisites."

So for the last two weeks, Bob and I have worked on getting him paperless. He set up a blog and learned how to set up a web calendar. He typed the email addresses of every single one of his kids into his calendar settings only to find out he'd typed them in the wrong box (after leaving the send screen!) He had a nightmare about social networks, he had a melt down when the wireless went down and none of his kids could access their blogs, and he looked absolutely exasperated when I told him it was probably a good idea for him to use a newsreader.

But he's come through. Today I saw literal joy in his eyes as he discovered how to use a blogroll. He came to me after class to announce that all of his kids were subscribed to his blog. He scheduled two hours tomorrow to sit down and learn the finer points of burning feeds and using Twitter apps.

Oh yeah, and he's on Twitter.

I think Bob is exactly the kind of teacher you want your own kids to have. He's energetic, he's got life experience, and he really loves kids. And now he's going way out of his comfort-zone to meet them in the digital world.

Here's a toast to Bob. And here's to all the Bobs out there.

Oh yeah, and while it's on your mind, follow Bob on Twitter; wish him congrats and tell him Shelly sent you.


  1. The past few posts make me want to comment about the theme of all of them.

    It is ironic that we are "teaching the younger generation to use Twitter" and younger teachers to join social networks because they are closer to being Digital Youth than we are.

    But then again.... parents of these kids went to seminars where they were taught about "internet safety". Remember Net Nanny? People used it! I have 3 teens - to this day (they are between 16 and 19) none of them use their real names online. Guess who taught them this. ME! And now my oldest son is going to be a sophomore in college - in a digital media and animation program no less - and he still remains anonymous, aside from the walled garden (Jonathan Zittrain term) of Facebook. It is safe there. He is beginning to build a portfolio online, but it is still on the school server and hasn't made the jump from there yet.

    We assume the 16 - 24 year olds are early adopters but they are not. Research shows it is people in the next age bracket who adopt technology first. Why don't my kids use Twitter? "It's pointless". I am not sure this is such a bad thing, as it is not hindering anything. They still seek out niche communities, they still learn, they still share. In fact perhaps the anonymity enhances the experience (Dr Michael Wesch, cultural antropologist at Kansas State University has some fantastic videos about his "anonymity project" on You Tube for those who have time - any of his videos are fantastic). I know my kids are bolder and in a very good way that gives them confidence in real life.

    So when is the right time to transition to a "life in public"? What's the rush until they have a profession and are ready to show their work. With a blog or Twitter account, maybe it is a good idea to keep the Twitter account non-public (within their own community) as a transition, if we can convince them to do that. Twitter is not being adopted rapidly by teens - all studies show that. They post back and forth on Facebook. It is a great tool -but unless we build a community for them they will not come. Facebook does that automatically with their friends in school, etc.

    I have no definitive answers to anything, I am asking questions more than I am answering, since I have been thinking a lot about this. We are at a generational inflection point. There was a great article being passed around (via twitter) last night that hopefully many saw - "What would Socrates Say?"¢.aspx

    I think it is the most well written piece I have seen about combining our wonderful technology and social networks with the principles of Socratic Inquiry. I am a tech zealot, live much of my life online and am all for open source education and of all the wonderful things social networking can bring us. But I see it simultaneously in different generations, and we have to be careful not to focus so hard on the shiny new toys that we forget the foundations of education and what being a well rounded, educated person is all about. I think this is our biggest challenge.
    Just the opinion of one :)

  2. I will be following this transformation. I am also taking on a "special project" this year and blogging about it. Take a look if you are interested in following along.

  3. I'm in a school that says it wants to go paperless. No doubt this is an idea whose time came yesterday! I'm in a school where we enter the building on a passcard and sign in on paper. Attendance is taken online, as is student registration, but The Count must be done...on paper. So, yeah, I'm in a district that blocks every tool you're push. Oh, we are going to go paperless! We have a fantastic online learning environment the district has purchased. I've got teachers who are willing and building administration is pushing it. It will be an interesting process, but it must be done! I read your blog religiously and am inspired!


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