What box?

W h a00 T B O 0 X question mark ring

The old adage says to think "outside the box." My question is, where did the box come from? Who made the box? Who decided to get in THE box?

Talking about a box, Erma Bombeck said:

There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, "Yes, I've got dreams, of course I've got dreams." Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they're still there.

How sad!

Keep the dreams out of the box

Teachers and administrators need dreams. When we lose our dreams of making a difference in the lives of children, we lose the power to make a difference! We cannot put ourselves or our children in a box and hope them to be everything we want them to be!

Don't leave technology in the box

Before teaching in my current setting, I used to train public school teachers on how to implement technology in the classroom. I will never forget showing up an hour early for such a class and opening the door I thought was the classroom. It was a door full of about 30 computers still in the box. Upon inquiry, they had been sitting there for six months! (Money was going to "evaporate" and the end of the fiscal cycle, so they bought computers before the money went away and never got around to deciding where to put them! As a taxpayer, it really bothered me. As a person who is saddened by the unengagement of our local community in education, it broke my heart.)

Good technology supplements good teaching, it does not supplant it!

Some people view new technology as a threat. However, the effective employment of new technology is not about walking away from practices that work in the classroom, it is about walking away from practices that DO NOT WORK! It is about building a future for tomorrow that is different from our own.

Let's leave behind the excuses from our own childhood

It is not about saying "I sat in a classroom with no posters and a boring teacher and I turned out fine!" That is hogwash! With almost one third of American teenagers not graduating from high school we have work to do!

With the excitement of technology at a fever pitch, new technologies are the perfect conduit to reengage children who have been lost to boredom and hopelessness.

Who got in the box?

When I think about getting out of THE box, I want to ask why a person would ever climb into one in the first place? No matter our circumstances or condition, freedom is a state of mind more than circumstances!

As a reader of history, I have seen men and women who lived in prison cells and yet were free as their minds and thoughts were busy with activity. As a person who lives in a free country, I have seen men and women who lived in seeming freedom and yet were in a prison of their own mind and habits.

Stop looking at what you cannot do and begin focusing on what you can do!

You can be out of the box and still a good classroom manager

Don't misunderstand me, a good teacher is somewhat predictable, yes. They can get their classroom back on track in a millisecond. They can hush a student who is toying with the idea of goofing off with a sideways glance out of the corner of their eye. They have predictability and safety in their classroom management.

A rut is a never ending box!

A good teacher also makes sure they do not fall into the ruts of classroom monotony. A rut is just a box with no end!

Good teachers and technology

I believe that good teachers employ new tools and are constantly learning. They are pushing the limits of their students and their own as well. They never categorically deny the value of a technology they do not understand and have never used.

The new PEW Internet life study shows that 43 million Americans and 35% of
Internet users have created online content!
(Hat tip Andy Carvin.) It is vital that if our children are to emerge as products of the information age that they know how to create information safely and effectively. Taking such production out of the classroom is akin to restricting a student's access to pen and paper. Their future will be to contribute reams of meaningful, original, creative information as part of the "long tail" we hear so much about.

User generated online content. Source: Pew Home Broadband Adoption 2006.

Blogging is a sell out, Are educators selling out?

Conferences for bloggers like Gnomedex, BlogHer, and BloggerCon are sold out! Meanwhile there are far too many educators who are selling out by burying their head in the sand to the new media that is rising up around them like lava. What if we could emulate what beet.tv is doing for educational purposes in our classrooms?

Blocking insulates teachers from having to change

If technology is blocked, then teacher unwilling to change will not have to worry about how their classrooms have to change! If you can't join it, block it, some seem to say! If you don't understand it, block it! If you don't want to do it, block it!

Blocking recently cost the Cobb County school system
a $250,000 savings in telephone service when a filter inadvertently blocked the e-mail proposal.

The more you block, the more you lose, it is that simple. (I would never advocate unblocking pornography, I think, however, we're reaching the point of "overblocking.")

Kids must be able to create online content

On his blog last week, Robert Scoble says:

A kid in Australia with five readers can become an international media story now just by writing something on his blog.

With high school students winning awards at the Boston Emmy's, this is a new day!

Good education is not in a box

Good teachers don't come in boxes. Now, more than ever, you can not make a good student in a box.

Good students and good teachers are made in a sphere -- an earth sized sphere that encompasses the multi cultural, multifaceted, and sometimes dangerous world that we live in. Students are protected from danger by being educated about the dangers.

Nevertheless, the box grows bigger.

PC Magazine highlights the recent CSTA report on the state of computing education in America. As Alfred says on his insightful Computer Science teacher blog :

Now we can argue if computer science should be part of the core college prep curriculum (I think it should) but in many areas it is not even a college prep elective. In a lot of places its vocational education. Now I think that having a computer science program in vocational education is a great thing but I don’t think we should be keeping college bound kids from taking it.
Alfred and I agree on this one! If you want to get me fired up, get me talking about this subject! I believe that typing is the next progression after cursive writing! I worked with a student just today from a top tier private school whose school removed computing and put in Latin. She is in 10th grade and could barely type at 10 words a minute!

Children who cannot write

This is not a vocational thing, this is a communication thing! Compare the difference in productivity between a person typing 10 words per minute and 100 as some of my students were after one semester of keyboarding! This student can speak Latin but not communicate in today's world! A child who cannot touch type is being put in a box by their own ignorance! With so much of today's communication being electronic, children who cannot type are at a terrible disadvantage!

To not teach typing is akin to saying: "Children are good at coloring, so let them just figure out how to write correctly!" Such a behavior would be considered educational heresy. And yet we expect kids to just "figure out" how to type! But it is far more than typing, it is understanding today's world!

Intentional education, not "happy accidents"

Many adults have the common misperception that students are "naturally good" at computing and thus they do not need to be taught. Well, I'm naturally good at cooking, but if my Mom hadn't taught me anything, I'd still be eating beanie weenies.

You have to start someone on the path of enlightenment on any subject. Once they are enabled with the learning techniques, they will run down the road to discovery!

Children have busy lives full of soccer, football, basketball, archery, leadership camps, and academics, often they are not going to do anything unless they are encouraged to. Yes, "Happy accidents" will happen in computing, but we cannot count on "happy accidents" to educate the generation of tomorrow!

Unfortunately this "happy accident" mentality is leading to a lot of unhappy tragedies as children barely old enough to drive hop on airplanes to meet men they met on myspace and 40 million people logging onto myspace for more than an hour every week.

Teach children to live in the real world

Our children are not in a box, and attempts to put them into boxes always fail. Why not lead them out of the box and teach them how to live in our new world with ethics, honesty, respect, and civility?

I have some filters to block activity at school and primarily keep out pornography and dating sites. I do block myspace most of the time. (Although I unblock it for them to print information for their portfolios if they have good posts on their myspace blogs.) I would never advocate removing all filtration, I think that is irresponsible. I also think that carte blanche blocking of all blogs and wikis is wrong and short sighted. It is putting kids in an overly constrictive box!

Boxes are for shipping things. Boxes are for Christmas presents. Boxes are not for me, my students, or my classroom. I will not only not be in a box, but if you ask me if I am out of the box, I will say "What box?"

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