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Friday, February 15, 2008

Cute Cupcakes and Choruses for Change



a simulpost with TechLearning

The cupcake is a delicious thing!

We all love cupcakes and our school parties are full of them!


Cupcakes are everywhere.




But what happens when someone gives a person they dislike a cupcake that looks like this?















Or what happens when you eat too many cupcakes and end up like this?


So, really, what we're saying is that we should BAN CUPCAKES!

They make us fat, they hurt people's feelings! They are terrible, awful things -- aren't they?

And yet.

We don't!

Why not?

Well, we see cupcakes for what they are... an object in the use of humankind. And as with all objects, they can be used for good or for bad.

There are lots of other objects like these running around in schools... scissors (they can kill people), pens or pencils (also could kill someone), and the most lethal thing ever invented: human beings!

Human beings are all over our schools, and yet, as we are reminded this week, they kill more other humans than anything else!

But yet, we don't ban humans, we put things in place and teach the behavior so that we will not be eye poking, cupcake hurting, scissor wielding, fanatics.

We don't focus on things like cupcakes and scissors, because the human race tends to focus on the new things as the source of their ire. When the Gutenberg press was invented, we had book burnings. When the Library at Alexandria amassed the amazing learnings, it was burned also. Chemists were witches as were astronomers and many other scientists.

Now that we have passed the initial hatred and mis characterization of the Internet itself, the human race has turned on such things as:
  • Cell phones
  • Ipods
  • Blogs
  • Wikis (naughty Wikipedia)
  • Video sharing sites
  • Social Networks
These are the things that we're looking to outright ban rather than teach their proper use.

I have a bracelet that I wear that says "I read banned books." (Oh, I found it on Amazon -- here it is.)

My sister gave this bracelet to me over Christmas. (This bracelet includes the original book covers of Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Howl and other poems by Allen Ginsberg, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and a few others.)

On the note, my sister said this:
"Many great authors were once banned."

She and I often joke about how I write a blog to people who CANNOT read it. The teachers who read my blog have to slink home after a long day at work, open up their laptops and read my blog and the blogs of other educators promoting change.

I am banned. If you blog, you're banned too.

A Chorus for Change

But, I feel that the tide is beginning to turn and I believe it is because of the increasing cacophony of voices.

This past Tuesday, I had an amazing time at the Center for Quality Teaching and Learning at Columbus State University presenting a workshop. (See my notes.) Their visionary director Beth Holmes and I had a delightful dinner talking about change, the balance between testing and creativity, and she taught me a lot!

Then, on Tuesday, in addition to my own presentation, my students and curriculum director were there in person. My friends Julie Lindsay, Doug Johnson, Silvia Tolisano, Chris Lehman, Beth Ritter-Guth, Beth Kanter all added their thoughts on change when I skyped them in. (You all were phenomenal!)

  • While I speak from a private school teacher teaching mostly upper level students in a computer lab...
  • My students spoke as learners in my classroom (and managed the backchannel beautifully! -- Casey, Katie, Gillian, Tayler, and Mitch -- you rock!)
  • My curriculum director spoke of the need for change as a 30 year teacher and 5 year curriculum director. (Thank you Mrs. Betty Shiver, my mentor and friend.)
  • Julie Lindsay spoke as an international educator working with international students...
  • Silvia Tolisano spoke as a elementary/ middle school technology coordinator working to promote literacy in classrooms having one computer each...
  • Chris Lehman spoke as a principal of a visionary public start up school in Philadelphia with a 1:1 laptop program...
  • Doug Johnson spoke as an expert librarian turned technology administrator from a very large school district...
  • Beth Ritter-Guth spoke as a college professor using Second Life to teach her students literature...
  • Beth Kanter spoke about the amazing fundraising potential for schools and nonprofits using facebook and myspace as well as the state of technology education in Cambodia.

Although we all spoke about different topics, one theme emerged.

It was through our combined voices that the chorus for change emerged as such a cacophony that it could not be ignored... even for me, it was powerful to hear the similarities of speakers who did not even know the others were coming in or the topic of their talks.

I think of my favorite musical, Les Miserables. The finale goes like this:



Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
They will walk behind the plough-share,
They will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes...
Tomorrow comes!

I'm sorry. You can call me a hopeless romantic, but I see the parallels with what we're experiencing right now in education that are so profound!

I can barely express how important I believe it is that we sing together. That we echo the importance of protecting our children from what is harmful, while exposing them and teaching them to the things that they need for their very future and the future of any nation that wishes to be civilized.

A commitment to excellence and high achievement that does not only produce well educated students but ones who are articulate, wise thinkers who can create and innovate.

That can generate ideas and inventions with the wisdom to effectively implement ideas for the good of society. People who interact online but remember that there are people behind the blogs, videos, podcasts, and avatars that they encounter.

A place where a variety of learning styles are included and we work to find the hidden potential in every child.
(I cry for this day!)

Pardon me for being passionate, but I'm passionate about this!

The youtube clip that I included had all of those who had been in the Les Miserables musical over the 10 years. Those people earned the right to sing that finale in the anniversary because they had served their time!

Let me ask you this.

When this chapter of history is written.

When nations decline or improve because of the impact of their educators in their respective decisions and efforts, will you have earned the right to sing in the finale?

Will you be a person who has promoted positive, wise, change?

Who advocated the effective use of technology, not for the technology itself, but for the end result of well-educated students?

These are tough times, and pardon the pun -- some of us can get pretty miserable at times.

However, to earn the right to sing of victory when we're done, we must put in our time now. We must run and not grow weary and walk and not faint. We must encourage each other.

We must experiment and only take those technologies to the classroom that are safe for our students. We must be more dedicated to excellence than ever.

Only time will show whether we are visionaries or quacks, saints or devils, wise or foolish. And, as I've often said before, sometimes how we do things is the deciding factor.

In these days we desperately need visionaries and a whole lot of elbow grease. Doing it right takes a lot of effort.

Tomorrow comes!

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