As I patiently wait for spring temperatures to arrive, I find myself starting to anticipate the summer warmth and days on the lake. I recently found this link for a device that would make anyone's time on the water unforgettable. At $99500, it is not exactly a steal, but at least now I know what to tell my wife I want this year for my birthday. Imagine people's faces as you went flying by on the St. Lawrence River. If money was no object what would you like to receive?
Roger Ebert has grown to fame with his analysis and critical commentary on the latest Hollywood movie releases. I stumbled upon his blog where he laments the "dumbing down" of youth today. In his article "The Gathering Dark Age" he writes:
“If I mention the cliché “the dumbing-down of America,” it’s only because there’s no way around it. And this dumbing-down seems more pronounced among younger Americans. It has nothing to do with higher educational or income levels. It proceeds from a lack of curiosity and, in many cases, a criminally useless system of primary and secondary education. Until a few decades ago, almost all high school graduates could read a daily newspaper. The issue today is not whether they read a daily paper, but whether they can.”
Brett McCracken echoes these sentiments in his blog post "What's Wrong with Kids Today" when he explains:
The problem with kids today is not that they aren’t motivated to be successful and/or change the world, it’s that they aren’t curious about the world. They aren’t interested in thinking critically, deliberately, and probingly about anything, unless it spells immediate pleasure and or advancement for their life. They are utilitarians in the first place, bored by any inquiry that lasts more that a few minutes or which requires more than a few Wikipedia searches.
I have always been skeptical of individuals to try to paint "groups" with a single brush, as I believe the two previous opinions do. There is no question that some young people are uninspired, but this is not exclusive to this generation. From my perspective, the youth today are as capable as students in the past, perhaps more so. Students read regularly, althought dated sources of print materials may not be the medium of their choice. They are much more likely to publish, produce and text ideas and critically evaluate the world around them. My greatest challenge as an educator is not to dismiss "the ways" they acquire information and learn, but to engage them in meaningful activities that allow them to use their technology to gain greater insight. Do you think teenagers lack motivation and commitment? How do you respond to Ebert and McCracken's comments? Let me know what you think...
My inspiration for this post came from an article I came across recently where a 13 year old Russian boy found a message in a bottle that had been sent 24 years earlier. The message writer, now married and in his late twenties, had few recollections of writing the note when he was 5.
This story brought back fond memories of my childhood adventures at the family cottage, on Lake Huron. There was always a fascination with the idea of sending a message in the bottle in the hope that someone would reply. While I never received a reply to my floating correspondence, the possibility of a response was then and I guess now still exciting. Part of this interest in communicating with others came from a video shown in many schools "Paddle to the Sea". In the days before the internet (yes there was a time) and before Flat Stanley and Dancing Matt , this National Film Board video inspired elementary students' sense of adventure and discovery. In this story, a young boy carves a wooden figure in a boat and on the bottom inscribes Paddle to the Sea - Please put me back in the water. The film documents the journey of this wooden creation from Northern Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. Have you ever found something interesting? What is the modern version of sending a message in a bottle? What do you think will be a memoriable event or story for this generation?
For those of you unfamiliar with the name Rebecca Black, she is a grade 8 student and the latest overnight teen music sensation. Her current song and video "Friday" is among iTunes top 40 and her video has been viewed close to 40 million times on YouTube. The controversy surrounding her fame, is the negative comments and criticism she has endured. While she has conceded that she has "some talent" and uses voice enhancing technology, is her harsh treatment by some justified? Her music style is not on my playlist, but it is hard to believe that anyone could comment "You should cut yourself". I wonder what negative feedback like this does to a developing teen. This negative press will certainly translate into greater fame and monetary compensation, but at what price. Do you see her a victim of cyberbully or her and her parents as business savvy salesmen? Should there be limits on what people can post on the YouTube? Check out this link as well for a news commentary on the video (sorry couldn't embed the video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjFIzWjT5I4
Also go to Youtube to see the number of likes and dislikes for the official video.
March Break is a time for teachers and students to unwind and hopefully come back refreshed for the final term. This break was no exception, as I enjoyed time with my wife and two sons, and some quality couch time watching tv and movies. In order to get away we ventured to Syracuse New York, for a few days of swimming and shopping. While I can't say that the idea of extended mall or outlet visits excite me, I dutifully endure this, to eat out at perhaps the best barbecue restaurant in New York State, Dinosaur BBQ. (It is certainly the best BBQ I have had the pleasure to devour). What makes me look forward to visits here are not only the unbelieveable fall off the bones ribs or amazing side dishes like their homemade cornbread, it is the atmosphere and energy in the place. There is an eclectic mix in the roadhouse, where bikers, people in ties and everyone in between all come together in pursuit of authentic cuisine. My only regret usually is my lack of self control and my need to run off some (many) unneeded calories the next day. Have you ever had a truly memoriable dining experience? What is the best meal you have ever eaten? Let me know your experiences...
With the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami, my family's focus and concern were immediately with the people of this island country. What brought this tragedy closer to home was the fact my sister-in-law was visiting Japan on business. Technology, skype in particular, allowed us to have chat across the ocean, where a shaken, but uninjured family member could reassure us in her own voice that things were ok. It really showed the power technology has in linking us in meaningful ways. In this moment of concern, it struck me, how important it is my students "connect" to their world.
For the past few months I have been endorsing a proposal for "Itechnology" for our school. It started with a request for class Ipods, but was reworked due to wireless access issues. Our latest request to the board is for a m0bile lab of 9 Ipad2's. My optimism for these devices is not only for how they can improve the way content is delivered, but for how they can enable and transform student thinking. How do you think Ipads can help to support learning? How can this technology help to connect our classrooms? What links or sites would you suggest to assist in the Ipad implementation? Let me know your thoughts...
While I am not necessarily proud to admit it, I seem to be drawn to reading "light hearted" fiction at the end of a long day. While Robert Ludlum and James Patterson novels aren't exactly academic staples, they do provide some high interest escapism. Last week I picked up a new novel, by necessity, not choice. I had finished my previous read and flipped open my wife's novel to relax at night. The novel "Outliers - The Story of Success" is based on an interesting premise that success is predictable and not only based upon the individual, but the environment in which they developed. In the novel Gladwell expands on the notion that all people who are successful have spent 10 000 hours in their field. According to the author this is the minimum for a person who have mastery in an area. He uses the examples of the Beatles who had played for thousands of hours in Amsterdam, before ever making big in the United States. He also suggests that Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, owes his success to some luck and good timing. In the late 1960's computer programming involved using punch cards that had to be sent away to be process. The current head of Microsoft, was fortunate to attend one of the few schools in North America that had a mainframe computer on campus where he could have hands on access to a computer lab. The author contends that his early access to computers, along with his personal drive, allowed him to achieve to the level he has. I have enjoyed the book so far, but I am not sure if I completely agree with all of his precursors for success. What types of novels do you like to read? What do you think is the greatest predictor of success? Let me know what you think...
My goal for starting this blog was to have my students engage in meaningful communication about issues relevant to them. The fact that five students had left posts, before I arrived home on a Friday night, is encouraging and seems to indicate that I am on the right track. My inspiration for this entry comes from a link sent to me by a student , so my thanks to Liam. The YouTube clip included below is for the Nickelback video "If Everyone Cared". What impacted me about this video is how it documents significant individuals who have witnessed injustice(s) and have set out to change the world they live in.
The first individual in the video is Bob Geldolf, a musician, who travelled to Africa in the 1980's and witnessed a continent being devastated by a lack of food and water from years of sustained drought. He along with Midge Ure (another 80's musician) realized that something had to be done and together they planned an ambitious event, Live Aid. Its goal was simple, to raise funds for the famine relief effort in Ethopia. On July 13th, 1985 , I along with 1.5 billion people world wide, gathered in front of their television sets (no internet feeds yet, sorry), to watch some of the biggest musical acts of the day perform (U2, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, The Who, Dire Straits and Queen just to name a few). It was a significant event as it was one of the first times musicians came together with a unified social conscience, to help feed the world. More than $240 million was raised in just one day. The second clip I have included is one of the headline acts of the event , U2 playing their song "Bad". This song brings me back to my high school years, but more importantly when Bono (the lead singer) pulls someone up from the audience to dance with, it symbolized for many, artists connecting to the world they lived in and their outward expression of compassion. I am curious what songs have meaning or inspire you? Are there groups in your generation that have continued this legacy of bands with a conscience? Let me know what you think...
The clips I have included are of Sungha Jung, a 12 year old Korean student, who began playing the guitar when he was only 3. As an educator I am constantly amazed at the talents and creativity of my students and young people in general. Can you think of a time when you experienced or witnessed greatness? Do you know of other adolescents who are making a difference?
Grade 8 teacher, cross country/track coach, tech inspired educator
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