Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Situation

A reader writes:
I've followed your blog for some time now and really enjoy it. I've finally gotten the nerve to ask what, to most, are very obvious questions. Do your students have their own laptops?? Does your school supply them?? How does it work?? Surely they don't all pull out cell phones and starting Twittering Latin for 50 minutes do they?? Just wondering.

Glad to have you take part in the discussion!

I've written about this before, but realize that blogs are more broadcasts than anything else, so here's some info about my classroom situation for new readers.

I teach four sections of Latin (Level I through AP Vergil), one AP Art History class, and a couple sections of Digital Audio Production at the John Carroll School -- an independent Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore serving both rural and suburban Harford County MD. I also help out with tech for our Senior Project program and have become the go-to Web 2.0 guy for the Fine Arts Department.

We've been a 1:1 computing school for about four years and I've been running paperless for about two. Students and their families lease Tablet PCs through us and we've got our own in-house tech and computer repair department. Most of our classrooms have mounted LCD projectors and screens and we've got wireless running throughout the building. I'm also lucky to have a very unique workspace to call home: namely, a large studio space with TV broadcasting capability, a small Mac lab, and an audio-video digital editing room.

I like to think of my situation as being a mad tech-scientist in his laboratory, though I see it only as a matter of time given the accessibility and falling prices of netbooks and Wi-Fi before what's sort of 'experimental' in my classroom will be the norm in most all classrooms. In fact, that's something I've dedicated myself to. Because I myself am a public school parent: my own three children are all students in our town's public elementary school. So in wanting the best 21st century education for them, I have an added incentive as it were to see that all public education matches the tech capabilities, resources, and -- most of all -- the understanding of the structure of the new digital paradigm that I've got to work with in my own classroom.

Once again, thanks for posting your comment. We've got an engaging readership here who regularly takes the conversation in new directions. Comments and questions are welcomed. I try my best to respond and keep those conversations going.

[AD -- May 21, 2009 8PM -- Within minutes of publishing this post, a colleague replied: "So you don't think public school teachers can be innovative?" A well placed 'gotcha', huh? In fact, I think it's a bigger and more tremendous question even than that. The real question is: "Do you think teachers -- public or private -- have the autonomy necessary to innovate?"

Because of my situation, having feet in both the private and public realms, I get to see the realities that destroy the myth that one form of schooling is necessarily 'better' than the other. The thing that really matters is the question of autonomy. There are private schools that shun autonomy just as there are public districts that shun autonomy. And that's a shame. Because the reason I describe my classroom as a 'laboratory' is precisely because the powers-that-be have given me the autonomy to do as I see fit -- whether we're talking about designing my own curriculum or opening up social media in the classroom. Autonomy allows for experimentation. Experimentation allows for creative reflection. That's the stuff of real teaching and learning.

What I want for my own kids is an educational experience that doesn't crush their sense of autonomy, experimentation, and creative reflection. And that begins with teachers whose own sense of autonomy, experimentation, and creative reflection isn't crushed. This is what I want for my own students. It's what I want for my kids' classmates. And it doesn't cease to be a priority beyond the walls I'm most familiar with. Because, despite all the business of testing and top-down authority and fear of the unknown in schools both public and private, it's my conviction that the only thing that's really going to save our collective future is a world comprised of adults who didn't have their autonomy, sense of experimentation, and creative reflection crushed by the best intentions of educational institutions.]

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