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Monday, July 31, 2006

Recommended template for DOPA Letter

I am engrossed in planning my school year, with Marzano's "Classroom Management that Works" book as my guide.

Meanwhile, Doug Noon has created a great template for writing your letter to your Senators about DOPA.

How Senators look at feedback

From my days as an aide in Senator Nunn's office, I will tell you that letters and e-mails do count. When I worked there, we kept tally sheets for all house bills and issues. We marked every phone call and contact on these sheets along with any notes and selected the letter that would be returned. We also passed along any letters of significance up "the food chain" to see if there was need for a more customized response.

When voting came up, we provided the Senator with a tally sheet on what his constituents were saying. The point is, you need to get people to call, write, and e-mail their senator. Here is the directory of Senators.


I remember in Robin Hood when Kevin Costner jostled a little boy who was practicing his archery skills. The little boy was perturbed and shot his arrow into the woods.

Cocky Robin got up and got ready to shoot and Maid Marian said, "Let's see how you can handle distraction." As he shot, she quietly blew in his ear. His arrow careened into the woods.

Whether the distraction is positive or negative, it is a distraction. The Marzano book and every smidge of research I've read says that the first day of school is the most important. That is when you establish your procedures and discipline.

I am having to refocus from DOPA to keep my "eye on the bullseye" so to speak. Many teachers are in the same boat.

Act now!

So, copy Doug's letter, change your name and the Senator's name and e-mail it right now! Then get back to planning! Don't waste a lot of time constructing a letter that will not be read unless you personally know the Senator. Copy it and send it right now!

Remember your calling!

Keep the faith and remember that teaching is a noble calling. Act like it!

Hold your head up high and remember that the greatest things you will do in your life will be things for which you do not get paid.

Wet cement is the only cement that will hold a mark. Make your mark count. Let it be for encouragement, hope, love, laughter, and learning. Never settle and NEVER give up! Children are a gift!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Societal Shift and DOPA

Consider the lobster. When it is in warm water, it frequently molts its shell. A new, very soft shell grows underneath its new one. When it is time, the lobster begins to literally shrink as it expels seawater and the old shell begins to split.

After going through this gruelling process, a lobster emerges with a new soft shell. With a soft shell, it must literally hid in its borough for one to two weeks or it will be easy prey for fish and other predators.

Growth and molting are an important part of the growth process of the lobster with even the eyes of the lobster shedding their covering. Without molting, the old shell would become the lobster's coffin.

Growth and change are part of life

Change is the only constant in our world. In America, in the warm waters of democracy and prosperity, things change rapidly.

It requires us to shed our old modes of thinking and to adopt new methodologies and paradigms in order to understand the new world. We must understand, act, and adapt to the changes. We must comprehend the changes so that we, as educators and parents, can teach our children morality and ethics in light of the new societal shift. To ignore and refuse to adapt to the societal shift results in lost opportunities and wasted resources.

Adapting in Congress

Congressmen and Senators are extremely aware of the "New" Internet and honestly I don't think they like it. When Trent Lott became the first Senate Majority Leader in history to resign under pressure, they became acutely aware of blogs.

Anything that takes the common person, like me, and gives them a voice, unnerves those who are in power and do not want to change and adapt. It also unnerves those who have chosen obsolescence as a mindset.

Social networking and Societal Shifts

In my parents' teenage years, they congregated at hamburger stands and drive in theaters. I remember them telling me that the parents used to complain about all of the problems there. My generation gathered at the mall or at local fast food restaurants after sporting events. Many liked to "drive around" in local spots. Again, parents complained.

Today's kid doesn't go to the mall or "drive around" as much as they congregate online. That is where they converse. When we "drove around", the parents responded by having more policemen put on duty at the places we congregated. They were a safety net. Kids who want to "drive around" are going to "drive around" and the police kept away the problem folks.

We should respond by creating visible presences of "online safety police" and reporting mechanisms for predatory behavior. We should respond by educating children and parents both at home and from school about the dangers. We should teach parents how to look up and monitor their children's myspace accounts.

Do not be afraid of social networking

Social networking is not to be feared, a recent Pew study found:

"Our evidence calls into question fears that social relationships — and community — are fading away in America. Instead of disappearing, people’s communities are transforming:

The traditional human orientation to neighborhood- and village-based groups is moving towards communities that are oriented around geographically dispersed social networks.

People communicate and maneuver in these networks rather than being bound up in one solidary community. Yet people’s networks continue to have substantial numbers of relatives and neighbors — the traditional bases of community — as well as friends and workmates."
Transformation is a process. Like the lobster, we can transform. We can molt and shed our old shell and create new methodologies of protection that work well with the online world.

Harness Social Networking for Education

As an educator, I want to harness social networking to create online islands where teens share educational interests. History buffs, science prodigies, math talents, literature lovers! Students often rise to the level of those that surround them. If we want students to rise to new heights, we will create conduits for educational exchange.

I fear that DOPA will derail these efforts for at least several years if not longer, depending on how the law is enacted. And that is just it. No one can count the number of sites on the Internet, how is a commission going to sort through every one of them?

Regulate the people, don't cut off the conduit

Websites and the Internet are a conduit and must not be confused with the creeps harming our children!

Perhaps a telephone repairman should look at a bundle of fiber optic cabling and listen in on every phone call and cut the cables with offensive conversations? We wouldn't dream of it! It is not the cabling that is the enemy, it is the people on each end of the line.

This is not about shedding morals but rather taking morals into a new online world through education. Our country must change, shed old ways of doing things lest our old ways become our coffin in a new society bursting to be released from its shell.

Why isn't the IT industry screaming?

I think more IT folks are not screaming because I think this bill spells big dollar signs for them:
  • More money for phone companies who will have to provide capacity to the centralized "content filtering database" that will ultimately be created at the Federal Trade Commission
  • More money for in house servers to set up internal blogs and wikis
  • Money to replace the online free services that schools use with internal servers, equipment, and manpower
  • More money for consultants.
  • More money to hire more bureaucrats.

And as a result we have students and parents who are no more educated about living in an online world than when this all started.

I have conceptualized my thoughts on how societal shifts occur and how we respond in my chart at the top of this post. I believe that we are bordering on becoming a non-adaptive society as Congress goes ahead with the DOPA act.

What we need to do to protect children:
  • Yes, all schools must have filtration that protects children from obscene, pornographic, and dangerous material. It should be controlled locally so that it can adapt quickly to local teen issues and curriculum needs. (This could actually be verified remotely by audit by the FTC if it was needed. The technology exists today to do this!)
  • Yes, all students must be supervised with school activities. Teachers should be allowed to supervise using RSS feeds from student created materials with the realization that when one deals with teenagers and technology that a "zero defects" result is unrealistic. Issues should be dealt with using an effective discipline ladder tailored to electronic issues. Discipline should include suspensions of student accounts, and alternative offline assignments.
  • Parent education programs should be created to run parallel to student programs. (I offered a course in 1997-1999 at our school that parents and students took together and ended with a parent/student contract for online safety. I am updating it and bringing it back this fall.)
  • Students should be educated about information literacy, online safety, and online privacy and should be monitored by parents and teachers to make sure they are following such procedures.
  • A mechanism for reporting online predatory behavior must be created with law enforcement dedicated to policing such behavior.
  • Yes, all schools should fully disclose the Internet activities that children are doing at school. (I post them on our school website and invite parent comments.)
  • Yes, we must teach children responsible, ethical use of new Internet tools in a way that will best allow students to succeed when moving to the real world.
  • I would propose that all ISP's be required to provide free content filtration for parents as well as a summary printout to parents of websites that their children go to. This could be done and provided for school and for home. I do not think a child should use the Internet without some sort of filtration in place. Now, that is something that would help the problem!
I also think advocates of DOPA should listen to educators who have their finger on the pulse of what is happening with children and understand that DOPA falls far short of providing a safety net for kids.

In fact, ignorance is far more dangerous than supervised education. We must learn to adapt to the fundamental societal shift that has occurred as we begin to live online in ways that will protect our children today and their future success tomorrow.

For now, we refuse to change

Fighting change for the lobster means death. Fighting change for us means being out of touch with the things we can that can really help our kids and keep them safe!

As for now, I think the shell is tightening.

This quote has been floating around the net:
Filter a website and protect a child for a day.

Teach them online safety in a near-real world environment and protect them for a lifetime.


Boase, Jeffrey, John B. Horrigan, Barry Wellman, and Lee Rainie. "The Strength of Internet Ties." Pew Internet and American Life Project 25 JAN 2006 27 JUL 2006.

Friday, July 28, 2006

What's Wrong with DOPA

There are a lot of folks TALKING about DOPA but not many have read the bill. I want to go on the record and tell you exactly where I have issues. (I feel that I need to do this since CNN and TechCrunch have posted my blogging against DOPA!) Following is the actual text of the Bill and my comments.

Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006 (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)
2d Session

H. R. 5319


To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.

Acceptable Use policies handle many of these issues.

Currently, schools have Acceptable Use policies which detail how they expect school computers to be used. This includes instructions that school computers are not to be used for pornography, commercial enterprise, etc. Every school that I am aware of blocks Instant Messaging, Myspace, Xanga, and Facebook.

What will be blocked?
This COULD extend blocking to other commercial social networking websites and chat rooms including:

Blogs - I collaborate on a supportblogging wiki is that is a great resource for educational blogs. All commercial blogs such as blogger (which I use) and wordpress will probably be blocked. Many of the great educational blogs listed on supportblogging will also be blocked.

Wikis - Wikispaces and PB Wiki (Websites used to build educational wikis such as my Westwood Classroom wiki), Although schools have the ability to create internal wikis for their students to use, these: 1) Cost a significant amount of time and potential money to set up (although the software is open source) and 2) Can not be accessed from home. (One note despit what some think, Wikipedia MAY not fall under this since it is non-profit.)

Many other great resources - The SEGA Tech folks have compiled a list of websites that would be blocked which include: the Jason Project Online (real time science website that allows students to chat with scientists), Google Pages (easy free way to set up web pages), Web CT, Blackboard, Moodle, Google Talk (a free chat that many schools use to give teachers their phone messages), many aspects of Google Earth, and probably the Georgia Virtual School and other virtual schools that are being implemented nationwide.

The Have-Nots will have nothing

You'll notice that many things that will be blocked are the free tools. What will result is that the "haves" will have the resources to set up internal systems, the "have-nots" will have nothing.

HR 5319 EH

2d Session

H. R. 5319


To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006'.


    The Congress finds that--
      (1) sexual predators approach minors on the Internet using chat rooms and social networking websites, and, according to the United States Attorney General, one in five children has been approached sexually on the Internet;
      (2) sexual predators can use these chat rooms and websites to locate, learn about, befriend, and eventually prey on children by engaging them in sexually explicit conversations, asking for photographs, and attempting to lure children into a face to face meeting; and
      (3) with the explosive growth of trendy chat rooms and social networking websites, it is becoming more and more difficult to monitor and protect minors from those with devious intentions, particularly when children are away from parental supervision.

    Parents aren't supervising kids AT HOME!

    Sexual predators are a problem. However, none of these studies show WHERE children are when they are experiencing the predatory behavior, my guess is most of them are at home! Every school I know of blocks myspace!

    Unfortunately, parents do not supervise their children! They are less educated about online websites and do not even know how to find their child's myspace account. I have spent time teaching parents how to supervise their children on myspace and am writing a book that includes that as a cornerstone.

    Predators go where kids are unsupervised

    Predators congregate where supervision is absent. When I was growing up, it was the mall! The mall was not an evil place, but it was used for evil because parents and responsible adults did not go there.

    Likewise, myspace is not inherently evil. It is inherently unsupervised! Parents need to be involved. Teachers need to be involved. Massive education efforts of parents, teachers, and students need to happen. Instead, we are burying our head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away!

    Is trendy bad?

    I find great offense at the word "trendy" here. I can picture an adult looking at their nose saying "tsk tsk" at these teenagers! Teenagers used to congregate at the hamburger stand or the mall or other places. Now, they congregate online. No amount of legislation is going to change that. We can teach them effective, ethical online interaction skills or not.

    These "trendy" chatrooms, wikis, and blogs are also amazing tools that are helping multinational businesses cooperate. They are an essential backbone the globalization of business. Everywhere we are emphasizing the need to collaborate, cooperate, and eliminate duplicate services. The most valuable collaboration tools in the history of mankind must be taught to our children but through this act, the vast majority of Americans will be ignorant by design.

    We protect children through education, not through ignorance!


      (a) Certification by Schools- Section 254(h)(5)(B) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(5)(B)) is amended by striking clause (i) and inserting the following:
            `(i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring the online activities of minors and the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that--
              `(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are--

    `(aa) obscene;

    `(bb) child pornography; or

    `(cc) harmful to minors; and

              `(II) protects against access to a commercial social networking website or chat room unless used for an educational purpose with adult supervision; and'.

    Blocking is happening now!

    Yes, we must block obscene pictures, child pornography, and things harmful to minors. Who would disagree with that?

    I have found, however, that the most difficult thing to block is Google image search. My students are under a strict rule that if they see anything, they are to report it immediately to me. I will then go and block it if possible. I think pornography is terrible.

    Educate kids on the harm of pornography
    I find, however, that educating students about the harm of pornography and the consequences will help them resist it. Unfortunately, if kids want to see pornography, all they have to do is turn on the TV. I'm not sure why Congress is so intent on targeting the Internet when such a poor job is being done on television.

    Yes, block pornography! Yes, block social websites! Yes, block tools that do not educate but only serve to distract!

    I believe, however, that any time you take power out of the hands of local educators that you serve to weaken them. The conduit of communications in the 21st century is the Internet.

    Students must learn how to be responsible, competent net citizens who can protect their privacy and safety, and that of those they will be responsible for as adults.

    Learn from the Middle Ages

    In the Middle Ages, when those in charge did not like the content of books, they had a similar strategy. They had massive bonfires and burned everything! We lost many great works of prehistory and progress was stalled until educators moved forward with reading and education. That is why it was called the Dark Ages.

    We obviously have not learned much. We are simply "throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

    Predators cannot be deleted

    Predators are not something you can press a key and delete! They are there and trust me, they are happy! Happy to have more children online at midnight after the parents have gone to bed. They are happy to have children who are not being taught about online predators. They are happy to have less supervision. They have more victims!

    Education prevents victims

    I am not FOR predators. I am avidly, vehemently against predators. I am FOR education as the only medium for preventing victims!

    Define "adult supervision"

    The words "adult supervision" concern me. To an uneducated offline world, adult supervision means that an educator is "looking over the shoulder" of every student as they post and work. This is unrealistic and impractical.

    RSS is better than "over the shoulder" but who will comprehend it?

    Harnessing the power of the new Internet, I use RSS feeds to monitor every wiki entry and every blog entry made by my students both at school and any of their personal blogs that they tell me about. I am watching!

    I seriously doubt that lawmakers, commissioners responsible for enforcement, or educators understand RSS and will resort to an "over the shoulder" methodology and a "zero tolerance for mistakes" that will totally shut down Internet-based teaching!

    Internet education doesn't mean goof off education!

    It is a misunderstand to think that educators who use the Internet to teach are creating "goof off" kids. Just look at Darren Kuropatwa's math classes or Clarence Fisher's class. These insightful educators are doing amazing things.

    I graduated first in my class from Georgia Tech and use a college level textbook to teach Computer Science. I don't say this to brag but to say that I believe in a great, tough education! Just look at my school wiki and see if you see any "slack" in there. You won't!

    Parents and Teachers raise kids

    Yes, I advocate supervision of children online by parents AND teachers. But just having parents do it is not enough! As their teacher, I need to be involved in the process of educating parents and students!

    I am going to proactively help students "clean up" their myspace account so that they will not limit their scholarships and job hunting. With a significant number of employers Googling their prospects, students need to know that what they create online has significant consequences. I will teach it, but many kids are going to be ignorant in public school classrooms.

        (b) Certification by Libraries- Section 254(h)(6)(B) of such Act (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(6)(B)) is amended by striking clause (i) and inserting the following:
              `(i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that--
                `(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are--

      `(aa) obscene;

      `(bb) child pornography; or

      `(cc) harmful to minors; and

                `(II) protects against access by minors without parental authorization to a commercial social networking website or chat room, and informs parents that sexual predators can use these websites and chat rooms to prey on children; and'.

      I agree with parent authorization in libraries

      Yes, parents need to authorize access to commercial social networking sites. This is great! If I don't want my child on myspace, I don't want them on it at school or the library. I should be asked and give my consent. I agree!

      We need parent authorization in schools

      I also think schools should require consent for activities at school. If I don't want my child on myspace, I don't want an "over the shoulder" teacher to set them up without my knowledge.

      What is missing? We are informing parents about sexual predators.

      Who is informing students? We are teaching explicit sex in the schools and we can't teach kids how to protect themselves from online predators? We can't teach them that most people in kid chat rooms AREN'T kids? We need STUDENT education! I don't see it!

        (c) Definitions- Section 254(h)(7) is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
            `(J) COMMERCIAL SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES; CHAT ROOMS- Within 120 days after the date of enactment of the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006, the Commission shall by rule define the terms `social networking website' and `chat room' for purposes of this subsection. In determining the definition of a social networking website, the Commission shall take into consideration the extent to which a website--
              `(i) is offered by a commercial entity;
              `(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
              `(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
              `(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
              `(v) enables communication among users.'.

      "The Commission" will decide what websites should be used in education.

      The commission will have to sort through all of the websites out there and determine their benefit. As an entrepreneur, when did the fact that something makes money limit it from being a good thing? Competition and profit have driven our economy! Students should be taught about how to create profiles that do not reveal private information.

      How many members of "the Commission" are qualified educators who understand best practices, core competencies, and emerging technologies?

      Profile Building

      A profile can be nebulous or specific, it is user driven NOT site driven. To prevent children from sharing private information, we should again educate them. I love Think.com a free website done as a service of Oracle. It has the best tools for profanity filtration and privacy flagging I've ever seen.

      Will it be blocked because Oracle makes money? I have seen amazing writing since I have introduced my students to blogging! The possibility of an audience produces amazing works. The interaction fuels excitement. It can be done well, but public school teachers will not have a choice!

      Here's a laptop but don't use it!

      What about all of the laptop schools that use many of the online textbook resources? Whole curriculums could go down the drain. Will the Commission look at every school?

      Behemoth blocking database is in our future

      The maelstrom of subjective analysis that will be required is going to be impossible. I can only guess that it will result in an online behemoth of a database that feeds the blocking program of all public schools and libraries. I see no money to pay for such a thing and the massive server farm that it would require.

      This is not quite as easy as it sounds. It sounds a lot like the centralized Chinese censorship that many Americans have opposed. Very expensive. Very difficult to do. Very communist.

      (d) Disabling During Adult or Educational Use- Section 254(h)(5)(D) of such Act is amended-
          (1) by inserting `OR EDUCATIONAL' after `DURING ADULT' in the heading; and
          (2) by inserting before the period at the end the following: `or during use by an adult or by minors with adult supervision to enable access for educational purposes pursuant to subparagraph (B)(i)(II)' .


        (a) Information Regarding Child Predators and the Internet- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall--
          (1) issue a consumer alert regarding the potential dangers to children of Internet child predators, including the potential danger of commercial social networking websites and chat rooms through which personal information about child users of such websites may be accessed by child predators; and
          (2) establish a website to serve as a resource for information for parents, teachers and school administrators, and others regarding the potential dangers posed by the use of the Internet by children, including information about commercial social networking websites and chat rooms through which personal information about child users of such websites may be accessed by child predators.
        (b) Commercial Social Networking Websites- For purposes of the requirements under subsection (a), the terms `commercial social networking website' and `chat room' have the meanings given such terms pursuant to section 254(h)(7)(J) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(7)(J)), as amended by this Act.

      Passed the House of Representatives July 26, 2006.

      Section 4 is a winner!

      I really like section 4 and the idea of a website. That is a great start!

      What is not included in this legislation:

      • Education of children about privacy and online safety
      • Education of parents about how to supervise their children online
      • Opportunities for students to use social networking to further their education
      • Opportunities for commercial businesses to provide needed conduits for education (How about a myspace for education with profanity filters, and privacy blockers?) It would make a lot of sense financially.
      • Education of students on Internet teamwork skills.
      • Opportunities for American students to interact in global projects using existing websites
      • Funding for implementation
      • Funding for schools to set up internal wikis and blogs for teaching
      • An online mechanism for reporting predators that kids and adults can used.
      • Steeper penalties for online predatory behavior.
      • More law enforcement resources to handle the problem.
      Good concept, poor implementation

      As you can see, I agree in concept, just not in implementation.

      We'd never stop farming because we had bugs

      I grew up on a farm. Every year we battled bugs and fungus so that we could have a good crop. We never considered not planting in our field because of the bugs and fungus. We took steps to fight them, but it was part of producing a crop.

      Likewise, as we progress to an Internet world, we will have bugs and fungus. We must aggressively take steps against these predators, identity thieves, and unscrupulous business people, but that is part of producing a crop of well educated, Internet savvy children.

      Doing the wrong thing
      Congress needs to do something! But doing the wrong thing is worse than doing something when it will create more victims. Educators are already firing up to teach children, give them the tools, responsibility, mission and resources. Don't keep them from doing their job!

      The uneducated pass laws restricting our future: DOPA continues

      DOPA passed in the US House of Representatives last night 410 - 15.

      Texas Republican Ted Poe says, “social networking sites such as MySpace and chat rooms have allowed sexual predators to sneak into homes and solicit kids.”

      The DOPA legislation (Deleting Online Predators Act) will not prevent sexual predators from sneaking into homes, it will increase it, in my opinion. In fact, one of my students says it best on her personal blog,

      "The only way to protect children from online predators is to arm them with the information to protect themselves. In fact, probably the best place for kids to have access to these sites is in school where they can be monitored. Not to mention all the educational benefits that come from these sites these lawmakers are trying to ban. Wikis are the new way to do classroom collaboration. Blogs are the new way to do classroom discussion. So no, DOPA is not protecting the children, in fact, all it is doing is hurting them by continuing to promote the idea that ignorance is bliss. These kids are ignorant of how to protect themselves from Internet predators. These lawmakers need to ban ignorance not promote it."
      For those who haven't followed the debate, I"ve been writing on this for some time:

      I think this is a classic case of ignorance. Kids as young as two are surfing the Internet on a weekly basis.1 Are we teaching them privacy, safety, and ethics?

      Most schools ALREADY block myspace which allows the school to ferrett out certain sites it deems unacceptable. They don't need Congress telling them to block it, they already are! What will happen is that schools will be blocked from using wikis and blogs, and other social networking technologies that are valuable educational tools!

      Do you know that many public school teachers cannot even read this blog? It is considered a social networking site and my blog will soon be banned in all public schools and libraries if this passes!

      What? I am encouraging and promoting good education and educators cannot read it. I wonder how many legislators have read a blog? I wonder how many have read a wiki? I find it interesting that Trent Lott was considered a casualty of blogs and that now blogs are on the hatchet list for Congress.

      I want my readers to understand something: I often vote Republican. This is not a partisan issue. This is an education issue.

      I'd like to propose an alternative to DOPA:

      The Online Safety Act (OSA). This would be legislation that would promote online safety. We would look at the statistics for when students began to use the internet and would teach them lifetime Internet safety and privacy skills. We would create safe, anonymous reporting mechanisms to law enforcement where predatory behavior could be reported and followed up on. We would add teeth to the methodologies used by law enforcement against such criminals.

      It would be modeled after "Stranger Danger" education programs and "Drug Education" programs.
      We outlawed drugs, but drug use reducation only happens through drug education. We outlaw kidnapping but the only thing that reduces kidnapping is teaching kids about "stranger danger." We can outlaw social networking sites (and get rid of some very useful teaching tools), but the only way to prevent identity theft and predatory behavior is to educate children. That is how we will reduce victims!

      That is the only legislation that will truly make a difference. For now, we are promoting online ignorance. Ignorance breeds victims. Knowledge breeds safety.

      I am saddened that legislators are making such a mistake. My students have been calling me asking what they can do! They want to go to Washington! They see the amazing blogs and wiki that they are participating in being limited to only America private schools! How sad!

      Fortunately, I teach at a private school and this legislation will not keep my students from using these sites. Unfortunately, those who want to make public schools more competitive, are putting another nail in the coffin. Sadly, I learn so much from my public school counterparts and will miss their blogging, their sharing of best practices, and their student participation with my students. They are going to be left out of the cutting edge of educational innovation.

      We finally had tools to bring America together! And a wedge is being driven in again.

      Remember, that I am an advocate for eradicating predators on myspace. You do no eradicate predators by sending naiive, uneducated children home to myspace at midnight. You teach them privacy. You educate them.

      I have been frantically working on a book this summer: Safe Online Success. I wish that I could print the first several chapters here because it is needed. Unfortunately, I probably won't finish until the end of September and that may be a little late. I have already completed the first four chapters and propose guidelines for online education. Right now, I'll be self publishing, but have been encouraged by my editors to submit to a publishing house. We'll see.

      For now, I'm just in shock. I'll have to get my thoughts together and post more later.


      1A recent Department of Education study that analyzed Internet use of Americans by age shows that sixty per cent of 6-8 year olds are using the Internet on a weekly basis. Almost 80% of 9-12 year olds and over 90% of children ages 12-18 go online weekly. Almost 40% of children aged 2-5 use the Internet weekly! http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/plan/2004/plan_pg7.html

      Monday, July 24, 2006

      Starting the school year right Part 3: Create the plan

      If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? Planning is vital to good teaching. If you are a teacher that cannot seem to get it all done, you probably don't have a year long plan. Planning is not just daily, you have to start with long term planning.

      Why do we plan?

      With my business background, I learned that we needed a strategic plan (3-5 years or longer), a tactical plan (a year or less), and a short term plan (the month.) Then, those of us in departments would take the goals for the month and translate it into what we would do daily. I am a HUGE believer in effective planning. Schools should plan, departments should plan, and classrooms should plan. They should fit together. Those who plan up front sometimes look like they are coasting during the year. Actually, my daily and weekly planning requires much less cogitation because I know where I need to be by looking at my longer range plans!

      3 - Create the plan

      • Plan for the year - I have a month per page calendar that I duplicate for each class. Prior to the school year starting, I create my "plan." I look at SAT dates, major school events, holidays, etc. and plan where I think I should be at that time. I look at last year's plan and actual lessons. This is done in pencil and I keep it by my desk as I plan each week.

        This plan serves as a litmus test to show if I am on track. If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there.
      • Plan the tool integration - If students do not know how to blog or wiki or podcast, I integrate that on a phased basis, and never all at once. It is like building a pyramid. You build the base and then add more. Once they've mastered something, we'll use it as a part of their weekly assignments.

        Many issues arise when you start blogging or wikis or podcasts. You need to space them out to give yourself time to make sure all of their usernames work, etc. If you don't do this, you'll scare and confuse them very early.
      • Plan the rewards - It is important to have something to look forward to. I make sure that I have at least one exciting thing per semester that the kids will look forward to. I also plan ahead for speakers, demonstrations, and trips.
      • Plan the paperwork - I look at each class between day one and the next teacher work day. I have a hanging folder for each chapter of each book I teach. In that hanging folder I have all of the handouts and information that is needed for that chapter. (I keep answer keys at my desk.) I find out how many students I have for that class and make sure that I have enough of each handout that I think will be used until the next teacher workday.

        When I am ready to start a new chapter, I put the old hanging folder back in the class drawer and pull out the next chapter. I keep the current hanging folder for each class in a bin at the front of the classroom. Each class has a color and is color coded so it is easy for me.

        If I get behind, I at least do this on Friday for the next week. You do not want to mess up your flow during the week because you didn't make your copies. (Other teachers may groan when they see you hogging the copier but they'll get used to it.)
      • Plan for projects - I "begin with the end in mind" and look at the portfolios that are due at the end of the semester/ end of the year. I look at each piece of the portfolio and put it at the appropriate place during the year. I make sure to tell students when this is something for their portfolio project.

        I also plan time to work on major projects. I work with the English department to teach MLA format to 8th graders when they have a major paper due. I work with the English department for the 9th graders to create a PowerPoint from their papers. I plan time for term paper work for juniors and seniors. I plan a project that can be finished early during Junior Senior week. I plan the SAT prep program when there is an SAT that doesn't conflict with sports events. These things don't just happen. I sit down with other teachers and MAKE them happen.
      • Plan for sanity - I now when I will be averaging grades and when students will need to be making up work. I plan for a project the last two days of each grading period to give us flex time to make up work. I run a tight ship with an aggressive curriculum, but I've got to live in this profession, so I have to learn to pace myself.
      I posted this Monday post on Sunday, I'm not sure if came through your rss reader early or on time. I will be out for a few days and will see you back here on Thursday!

      Sunday, July 23, 2006

      Starting the school year right Part 2: Establish the flow

      Yesterday, I started my ponderings of the three principles that I use in my classroom. First, was setting the pace. Today I'll talk about establishing the flow of people, paper, and information. Tomorrow I'll cover establishing the plan.

      I hope you'll take time to read the comments on these posts, I'm impressed with those who want to contribute to these thoughts with some very important points. I hope you'll share your insights as well.

      2 - Establish the flow: people flow, paper flow, information flow

      • People flow - When you look at your room layout, you should think about how students will enter the room, turn in their work, receive papers back, and exit the room. Are the bins to hand in work near the printer? If the textbook stays in the classroom, is it to be put on a shelf near the door?

        Also, how many steps are you from each student when you are teaching? When you are at your desk? I strive for 3-4 steps to each student. I like an aisle down the middle and an aisle on each side with all students face towards me at the front. (This is tough to do, but I used gliffy and let pixels equal inches. I measured everything and worked with it until I got it right!)
      • Peer tutoring - Establish a peer tutoring system. Students are responsible to help their teammates. I clearly explain what is helping and what is cheating. My sacred rule is that no student is to touch another student's mouse. They can demonstrate it, but must never DO it for their partner!

        This neutralizes "helpless handraisers" and those who use you as a procrastination tool. (I can't do anything until you help me!) If you are teaching computers and don't have some sort of arrangement such as this, you will be worked to death. Also remember that the highest level of learning is when you can teach another person. By teaching their peers, some kids can come into the spotlight that may not shine in other places.
      • Teams - I tell students that we will try the teams/ partners for a week, and I'll make adjustments if I see any issues. If someone has an issue with their partner, they can turn in a note to me in the box where they turn in their papers. When I switch teams during week 2, I make adjustments as necessary. I typically have Semester 1 partners and Semester 2 partners. If I've never had the student before, I sit down with prior teachers and have them help me create the chart and partners.
      • Establish a peer review system -
        • Paper Collection - For computer fundamentals and keyboarding, I have a team responsible for paper collection. For keyboarding I do this weekly and fundamentals by the lesson.

          I have a form called the "production control form." On this form, I have each student's name, a column for attendance, and a column to check off whether the lesson has been turned in. The team initials, clips it and turns it in and the end of class. It is their job to note if a student left early, or other special things (eg. computer 2 wouldn't print today.) This serves as a great record to double check my attendance and notes to refresh my memory!
        • Proofreading - In Computer Fundamentals, it is each team's job to proofread the lessons of their peers. I give them an answer key and they are to mark the things that are not correct for their peers. Each student has until the end of class to get their work as close to perfection as possible.

          This one method is the one of the greatest things I've done in my Computer Fundamentals class because it makes sure that mastery occurs on the day that the work is done. I have had no problems with cheating because of the "Hands off the mouse" rule. I implement this later in the year for keyboarding.

          This teaches proofreading skills. I give the "proofreading" team a grade on their proofreading abilities. If they have signed off on someone's paper as perfect and it wasn't, I count off 1/2 point for each error I find that they didn't catch.
      • Information flow: How will students know what is for homework? Paper flow? How will they know what their grade is? When am I available for help? When will they be responsible for teaching? How do we save files? Post the URLS on places you will go on a poster.
      There are so many things about flow that you have to look at. It is easy to get your room clean and organized before school starts. If it remains organized, you are managing your flow well. It is this area where I failed miserably my first year. I am getting better at it, but it takes effort!

      Saturday, July 22, 2006

      Starting the school year right Part 1: Setting the Pace

      Stuck in downtown Camilla rush minute traffic yesterday, I pondered the beginning of the school year.

      The one frustrating thing about teaching is that sometimes you feel like you're putting your hand in a bucket of water... when you take your hand out, you don't see the mark. It is a very "what have you done for me lately" profession and each year we start over.

      But we cannot be discouraged! Nature gives us insight into our profession.

      If you look at my beautiful hydrangeas, last year's bloom is still is a reminder of beauty. Although it is brown and faded, it is still lovely in its own regard and a reminder of how well I watered and fertilized the plant last year. It is like the last school year. I have reminders of how great things went in the past.

      But also like my hydrangea, the most beautiful creation is this year's new growth. Teaching is very much a present profession. The greatest gifts of teaching are accomplishments in the present moment. The breakthrough, the unreachable kid who was reached, the life that was changed. Those are the presents that last in our minds and hearts.

      Good teachers in some ways are like adrenaline junkies, always longing for the high that comes from reaching just one more kid and having just one more breakthrough.

      As I ponder the beginning of this year, I think of the advice that my mother, a 20 year business education teacher, and my sister, a 15 year middle school gifted certified teacher, gave me when I began teaching four years a go. My practices hinge on their advice to: set the pace, establish the flow, and establish the plan. I will post a four part series on this.

      As you begin the year, consider these thoughts:

      1) Set the pace

      My Mom always says, "You can never be tougher than you are on the first day, first week, and first month."

      Although students may have had you as a teacher previously, each year is different.

      Here is what I typically do on the first day:

      • I'm ready - I am waiting for them at the door.
      • This is my turf - I give each of them a card with their assigned computer number and their textbook. Giving an assigned seat sets the tone and splits up problems before they happen!
      • I care - I greet them by name and make eye contact.
      • Information card - I have them fill out their information on the card including birthday, parent names, e-mail addresses, etc.
      • Textbook features - At the door, I immediately hand them an activity to do to familiarize them with the features of their textbook. I do not want them to start off by talking but immediately with working. They also need to know how their textbook is structured and how we will work with it. (I remember not knowing about an appendix or tool in the back of a book until the middle of a school year. There is no excuse for a teacher not covering this on day 1.)
      • Paperwork - I cover the discipline and acceptable use policies and send them home to be signed. This is their first grade and if it is not turned in the next day, I call or e-mail their parents.
      • How is the class structured? I talk about the work flow for that class, handout team lists, grading scale, major projects, my expectations and point out my homework board that is on a white board at the side wall.
      • Why should they care? We talk about why the subject is important. As with most things, I do this by asking questions. Examples: "Who knows what accounting is? Why is it important?" If it is an elective, "Why are you taking this class?"
      • Weed out the slackers - If the class is an elective, I always give homework on the first night. That helps weed out those that think it is going to be an easy class. It gives them a quick overview of the subject and lets them decide while there's still time to switch to another class if their work ethic or subject matter doesn't match their expectations. (Over time you will get a reputation if you are a good teacher, but initially this is important!)
      • Something cool - I always show or mention something cool that I know they don' t know about and leave them hanging. This is important, because I want them to go home and share something cool with their parents on the first day. If you can get kids excited early and positive "buzz" going on with the parents early, it will serve you well.
      • Don't be a used car salesman. I NEVER say: "this is going to be easy", "this isn't hard," "you'll like this class" or "we're going to have fun." They can decide for themselves. These phrases come back to haunt you when you're in the throes of that tough project. As much as I believe in harnessing fun as a tool in the classroom, let them decide what's fun. There's nothing worse than being sold a bad bill of goods on the first day.
      • Discipline - If I have a discipline issue, I deal with it firmly, immediately, and appropriately. I follow the discipline ladder. Usually, I only have one or two discipline referrals the first week and one or two the remainder of the year. If you "let it go" the first day or week or month, kids will expect you to let it go the rest of the year!
      • Tardies - On day two, I close the door when the tardy bell rings. Students are not allowed entry until they bring their tardy pass from the front office. I start teaching at the moment the bell rings. They have to learn early that they need to be in their seat, ready to go.
      • Bell Work - I am a huge believer in bell work. If they get in socialization mode, it is so hard to get out. I hand them something at the door, or have something on the board that is to be done as soon as they get in their seat.
      • Reward good behavior
        I have bonus tickets for +5 on the lesson of their choice (keyboarding and fundamentals). These go daily to the first one or two people in the room who have started their work. I do this daily for four days and then intermittently throughout the remainder of the year. Partial reinforcement is a powerful motivator! Don't just discipline the wrong, incentivize the right!

        On tests, every discussion question is a potential bonus question. If I ask for 5 items but there were 9 they could have learned, I want students who learned all 9 to benefit. This creates incredible mastery and increases the level of excellence in the classroom. It also helps those who may have studied the "wrong thing" to show their expertise.
      Tomorrow we'll talk about establishing the flow: people, paper, and information. I hope some of you will also share your thoughts here.

      Friday, July 21, 2006

      The Kids who will be King: the Power of a Video message

      Some high school kids 30 minutes up the road from me are about to be famous.. very famous.

      In less than sixty days their movie will be released in 400 theaters nationwide.

      Facing the Giants was made famous mostly because of its PG rating. The author/directors/star, brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, expected a PG rating because of the football scenes and a frank discussion of teen pregnancy, but instead, it was handed down for religious content. This made the news, but they haven't fought the rating, although many outspoken people have.

      But this is not about religion. This topic belongs on my education blog.

      Let me tell you the story of this film first. These two brothers loved to make movies since they were kids.

      When they attended college together as communications majors at Kennesaw State University, they convinced professors to allow them to submit videos instead of term papers and exams. They graduated and moved on to New Orleans Theological Seminary (Atlanta branch) with the same counter-traditional approach. These brothers became pastors, first at Roswell Street Baptist in Marietta and then at Sherwood Baptist in Albany, Georgia. (Their private school Sherwood Christian Academy plays my school in sports.)

      "These movies were designed to be fun, but they drew people in and provided opportunities for ministry," Alex says.

      TV and movies are a significant influence in our culture

      In 2002 Alex and Stephen read a national survey that said that movies and television were considered to be a greater influence on culture than churches or religion, so they started making movies with a message.

      Their first movie, Flywheel, received some success. It was made with $20,000, volunteer actors, technical apparati made from parts at Home Depot, and catering by Sunday School classes. After massive local success, the movie is now carried in Blockbuster nationwide.

      Armed with knowledge, and a passion to make movies with a message, the brothers wrote Facing the Giants about a football team with a six year losing streak. The church raised $100,000 to bring in five professionals in sound editing, and other areas including the master of photography, Bob Scott, a camera operator for such films as the Replacements, Any Given Sunday, and Friday Night Lights.

      The actors were volunteers. Catering was by Sunday School classes. All of the proceeds will go to a $2.5 million dollar, 40 acre youth recreational park for the community of Albany by the church.

      Provident Films, a joint venture with Sony pictures, will release the movie in 400 theaters after test screenings received rave reviews.

      How does this relate to education?

      I tell you this story to make a point. The educational classroom has evolved little since the pioneer days. Chalkboard, teacher, podium, hard uncomfortable desks. For over 150 years, that has been our educational delivery mechanism.

      Here these men are making a message relevant to the masses. People who wouldn't darken the door of a church are responding to the movies.

      Education fails when it is not engaging and relevant. In third world, industrialized countries, the students expect and can be made to sit in desks like robots. They can have three hours of homework. Education is the way out for many students. It is hope for many.

      We bemoan the fact that America is slipping in education and seek to emulate the countries who are leading us. There is a significant flaw in that. Cultural differences can be significant. To expect a child in India to behave exactly like a child in Japan or China or America is not a correct assumption.

      This is not to bemoan the shortcomings of America or any other places. Shortcomings or strengths, cultural differences must be accounted for in teaching delivery methods. America does have a culture of entertainment, television, X-boxes, computers, and personalized everything. We are who we are. Do I agree with it? Not entirely.

      But when I stand in front of a room of wriggly teenagers and look to educate them, I must understand the culture to which they belong. To pull them from their electronic culture and sit them in a pioneer-model schoolroom would be like putting me under a tree sitting on a rock with Socrates. (I think I'd rather drink hemlock than sit on a rock all day!) I could learn from Socrates but I would be distracted by the rock!

      What do adults want when they learn?

      When I educate adults, they want comfortable chairs. They want a drink in their hand. They want a candy dish on the table. They want to have a stretch break every forty five minutes or so. They want to be allowed to interact sometimes. To break things up, they want to laugh a little. When I combine these things with some knock your socks off information that will change their lives, I have a great learning environment for adults.

      Why should kids be different?
      What makes us think that kids are any different? They need comfortable chairs. They need to be able to have a drink, to stretch, to interact, to laugh, and to learn. They need their lives changed with knowledge!

      What would happen if kids were put in the movies?

      What if we wanted a whole school to truly understand the Revolutionary War? What would happen if the school decided to make a movie about the Revolutionary War? What if the kids researched the costumes and the characters? What if they worked on the plot?

      What if they were required to have metaphor, simile, hyperbole, and other methodologies used in literature as part of the script? What if they had to build some of the set and had to use Geometric formulas to calculate sizes of wood as they built? What if they had to film, edit, mix sound, come up with production schedules, memorize scripts, teach others their part? (

      And to take it one step further, what if kids in England, France, and America each filmed from their perspective!)

      Perhaps it would not be a nationwide released film. Perhaps they just made one to show the next ten years of students that followed them. It would be a life memory. It would be an amazing experience. It would teach and the kids would remember it for the rest of their lives. Parents would watch it and talk about the content with their kids. The whole school would be engaged in the process.

      Time to evolve!
      I don't know the answer to student engagement. I do know that it is time for the classroom to evolve.

      I praise the parents for buying these boys (now directors/ authors) movie cameras. I praise the college professors for allowing the boys to turn in video instead of term papers or exams. Why don't we do that at the high school level? Doesn't it require a student to synthesize a topic to produce a video on it?

      Video is a new medium for the masses. We teach composition. We will reach the point we will all need to know a little about communicating over video. Our faces and voice will be transmitted around the world and we will need to speak clearly, succintly, and engagingly. We will share information around the world.

      The media is evolving. The movies are evolving. Education is evolving in revolutionary little pockets of people who don't know any better and just care about teaching kids.

      I don't have any best practices on this one. I have a lot of questions. As you know, the cruise I took has me questioning a lot of the status quo.

      Excellent Education

      Again, I will tell you. I am NOT for weaking education. I graduated first in my class from Georgia Tech and from high school. I say this not to brag but to say, education and information is important to me. Learning a lot is important to me. And now good teaching is important to me. This is a brand new day and many educators are still snoozing in their kerchif with the sash down at the window!

      We must ask questions. We must learn. We must evolve. We must measure. We must study. We must look at entertainment, movies, and television with a raised eyebrow as we lust over the medium's power to convey our message and help us be better teachers. We must not allow education to become irrelevant! Too much is at stake. We always sit one generation away from illiteracy and ignorance.

      I believe video making is another effective tool in the hands of a good teacher!

      Thursday, July 20, 2006

      My Workshop at GAETC on November 14: Easy and Engaging Teaching Using Wikis

      I haven't been posting much because I've been "living" at the school (8 - 5 and 6-9 daily) trying to put in a new lab, get all of the teachers set, and get myself set.

      My workshop on Wikis

      I have received confirmation from the folks at GAETC that my workshop proposal has been accepted.

      I will be teaching "Easy and Engaging Teaching Using Wikis" on Tuesday, November 14th from 1- 4 pm . We have room for 20 people and I hope there are some educators who are interested in wikis. SDU credit is available for participants.

      I am excited about this workshop and plan to model the wiki teaching method in the class. As a product of the class, we will produce a great wiki for educators about how wikis can be used in the classroom. I also plan to have each participant create their own wiki to take back to their classroom.

      Of all of the new tools I've used, I adore wikis. They are engaging and they create experts in a very short amount of time. I will be interested to see if other Georgia educators can pick up on the power of wikis.
      Tags: ,

      Wednesday, July 19, 2006

      How Disney Cruises transformed my views of education

      As I put my brain on autopilot and sailed off on a Disney Cruise, the last thing I expected was to learn something about education, but my classroom will be different because of it.

      Why on earth would my kids join a "lab" at sea?

      When I pre-enrolled my 10 and 11 year old in the "Oceaneer Lab", the "market-teer" in me said skeptically,

      "Don't they know anything about kids, Lab sounds too much like school and they don't want to do school on a cruise ship."

      However, it was aptly named "Lab." When I arrived the kids found an incredible computer island, a wall of microscopes, an animation center, video games (many educational), three televisions with comfy beanbag chairs, and stations for building and making things. Fun music played in the background and the areas were lit with varied and appropriate lighting for the activities taking place there.

      I checked them in, put on my pager, and expected to receive a call from them in minutes. The call never came. They loved the learning activities. Even my five year old was incredibly entertained (and educated) during his time at the club.

      I felt a little guilty sitting in the top deck coffee shop drinking my latte and reading a book. I checked on them every hour for the first day until my comfort level was up.

      I was stunned and amazed as I realized that these Disney folks were EDUCATING my kids. My kids loved it and didn't want to leave. (They did science experiments, cooking activities, learned to animate, had cultural literacy experiences, and more.)

      It was good that I had some time to cogitate because this really blew my mind. Here are some things I took away from their program and the whole experience!

      1) A good Education can be entertaining.

      Prudish educators will glare over their half glasses at my post on this one!

      I don't think entertainment is an expectation. However, if I think about it, the classes I've loved most in my life were fun. The professor or teacher was animated and in love with their subject. Sometimes their classes would border on the theatrical. I enjoyed what I was doing and saw value in the subject.

      I was invigorated with new ideas before during and after class. I was engaged!

      What's wrong with "making flubber" while music videos of Robin William's Absent Minded Professor playing in the background? (I had to leave the the family "Pirates of the Carribean" dance deck party at 10 pm and check my daughter back into the lab so she could do this experiment. It taught measurements as well as solid and liquid states. She wanted to go! Wow!)

      I'm not talking about dumbing down lessons. If you've been reading me for a while, you know that I believe in an EXCELLENT education.

      I am talking about involving multiple senses. We must learn to create engaging environments for learning. We need fun and creating experiences that will impress upon young minds the concepts we are teaching. We are competing with XBoxes and a customized entertainment society here. Music, video, bright colors, and engagement are essential to reaching and retaining this generation. It's not as hard or expensive as we think, its just out of the box and uncomfortable to the sanitized, sterile educator who wants the school to feel more like a hospital than an exciting place for kids. (Oh my goodness, what if they actually got excited about school and thought it was a cool place to come!)

      Entertainment and education are not mutually exclusive. I don't like the term "edutainment" because it was tagged on many marginally good video games with little educational value. How about entertaining education!

      2) Cleanliness habits are easy to promote.

      I was so impressed. They had big tubs of sanitizing wipes with a crew member asking each person to use them. As I entered all dining areas, we all were given these wipes to wipe our hands and then toss in appropriate receptacles. For the kids it was even more often. They used them before eating, after eating, and after walking through the ship. They did this pretty much during every transition in addition to hand washing at appropriate times.

      How I will apply this in my classroom:

      I teach keyboarding and computers. I am going to purchase big tubs of sanitizing wipes and have them wipe their hands as they come in the room and return from the bathroom. I have noticed in the past that some people using the same computer would be out sick on subsequent days but never really put it together until this weekend. This is important and I will do this religiously this year.
      Lunchrooms should change
      I'm going to promote using a similar system in the lunchroom. Think about it. We are having them wash their hands before going to the lunchroom, but how many surfaces do they touch on the way there? Community door knobs, halls, poles, noses, mouths, etc.

      And when children leave, they have just spent thirty minutes touching their mouths. They are going to touch so many surfaces as they leave including those that kids with clean hands entering the room will touch. They should also clean up after lunch.

      No, we cannot sanitize the world, however, I think that Disney (and all cruise ships) have been forced to innovate in some very practical ways because of the microsmic proximal relationships that exist on a cruise ship. We have similar environments in our schools. I don't think washing hands is enough! (Especially with concerns about bird flu.)

      3) Safety - Where are the kids?

      My biggest concern about having my children in an onboard program was safety. I was very impressed. The children checked in with their "key to the world" cards that were swiped and then filed. The computer then marked that they were there. To check them out, the staff swiped my card AND I had to give them my secret word. The children's cards were then swiped. The system could give them a list at any time of what kids were supposed to be there. If they were checked out, they knew by whom and at what time!

      They used tablet PC's and magnetic swipe cards. I also was issued a pager and the children or staff could page me at any time with a text message or a request to come pick them up.

      As the children (or should I say students?) went through the ship, a person responsible for tracking them went with them in addition to the "teacher." They were positioned at the sole entrance/exit and when the group moved, they walked at the end of the line with their tablet pc. As soon as they arrived, they set up at the door and were effectively the "guardian" as they checked the cards of anyone leaving or entering the area.

      I was impressed! We are going to look at some sort of arrangement like this for our church activities. I know some schools use similar set ups. It just makes a lot of sense.

      Field Trips and the swipe card system
      It would also make sense for field trips. No more, "who's on the bus" and counting heads. With each kid swiping their card, you'd have a list of whose with you and who is not. After sporting events, you'd know whose parents had checked them out and who was supposed to be riding.

      Attendance - Tardies are handled!
      How about using it to take attendance.? Swipe into class and swipe out? Hmmm. (No more, I wasn't late to homeroom, the swipe would handle it.)

      I'd love to hear from someone who is using this now!

      4) Changing scenery is a powerful tool.

      I expected when I checked them into the lab that the kids would be in the lab the whole time. However, all of the kids moved throughout the ship. When the teens were not using their area, the 8-12 year olds would be having a "class" in there. The kids had a "change of scenery" during the day at least every hour and a half and sometimes every forty five minutes.

      In school, what if Class A has a really "cool" reading corner? Why can't Class B come visit Class A's "reading corner" while Class A is at PE or lunch.
      Why are kids so much better at the beginning of the new school year and semester? They aren't bored. They aren't used to their surroundings. Things are still "cool." When routine sets in, minds wander.

      We should break up the routine. What are the coolest places in the school? Who has done a good job with an area? That area should get used by a variety of students.

      I know this turns over the turnip cart, but it makes a lot of sense! Why do kids love the computer lab? Because they don't get to go there every day!

      Change the scenery sometimes and reengage the learner!

      How I change the scenery:
      When I have something important to talk about, or I want the kids to think, I take them outside. After teaching my ninth graders about goal setting, I give them a goal setting sheet. We go outside and sit on the grass or they lay down and look at the sky. I talk a moment and then let them find a place for 15-20 minutes.

      I ask them to set goals for their high school career. Many of them tell me that they changed the course of their lives as they pondered alone and looked at the clouds.

      5) New tools of engagement: put kids on stage.

      I was fascinated as my mind opened up to new possibilities. I watched my 5 year old on a mini stage with a microphone as he was being shown on tv. The other kids were sitting at circular loungue type tables as they snacked and watched him on stage and on the TV's mounted around the room. Each child 4-6 years old had a "talent" to show.

      Kids love an audience, a stage, and a mike. What if we had similar set up at school? Kids would mount a small (6" high) stage with mike in hand to deliver their book reports, memorized poetry, etc. TV's or mikes would capture the performance in either audio or video format. It could be republished on the school intranet to share the learning. Podcast and video equipment would be centralized and classes would rotate through the area like a lab. They could sit at small tables and take notes or eat a snack.

      Disney called this "Studio Sea," I'd like to see something like a "Studio See." This type of arrangement is what needs to happen to harness the changing dynamics of society as students become teachers of themselves.

      6) Harness entertainment to inspire

      We saw three shows on the ship, two of which moved almost every member of our group to inspired tears. Using Disney characters that everyone knows, their "Golden Mickey" night used such superstars as Whoopie Goldberg, and Tim Allen to converse with a cast member about people such as Walt Disney who had a dream, experienced failure, and pursued success.

      I felt renewed and excited as they ended the show with the words "Find your dream and make it fly!" My dream is to become an author and I've been working diligently on a book this summer. With all of the work on this book, I needed this encouragement.

      My children were agape and quiet for the one hour show. We were all entertained but we all got "the message" and left changed people.

      How I use this in my classroom:
      I always select one movie per class each year. It depends on the class and my objectives but I've shown in their entirity: Chariots of Fire, October Sky, FISH, and the John Foppe Story (he has no arms and types with his feet -- he makes you ask, "what's your excuse?)

      Other movies I use to teach:

      • War Games (make sure you have a cuss buster) to teach the origins of computers and the Internet,
      • Sky Captain and the world of tomorrow (to teach animation, CG, and green screen technology.) Documentaries from the Matrix (Bullettime innovation) the new Star Wars trilogy (CG and model building), and the original star Wars (how they built models on ping pong tables and drove by with a golf cart) to teach the process of innovation and that many times answers have to be created.
      • Clips from the three Lord of the Rings trilogy to teach about how one must overcome difficulties and that life is hard sometimes.
      • I've even used a hilarious Saturday Night Life clip with Mike Myers to help my kids relax before the SAT.
      • I have a great keyboarding video that I show at the beginning of typing that helps kids understand WHY.

      Video clips are GREAT conversation and exploration starters. The documentaries on movies are an amazing wealth of information. Even if the movie is an R, you can find many G rated documentaries in the Extras section of the DVD. I always watch the documentaries! (History buffs should watch the documentaries with National Treasure.)

      Literature teachers have often used this "trick" to engage their students. No wonder so many kids are captivated by great literature. Our students are more visual than ever, using video clips doesn't demean the message, it enhances it.

      Again no video clip or computer activity or technology could ever replace a good teacher! These are all tools in the belt of a good teacher. We must not steer teachers away from tools because they are "fun." Good administrators (like mine) allow innovation and effective use of entertaining tools in education.

      I do not respect teachers who play all day and don't teach anything. That is not learning, that is babysitting. I also do not respect teachers who drone on while students drool on the desk!

      Good teachers engage their students. Good teachers find ways to excite and inspire their students. Good teachers do their best. They know that perfection is never attained. They learn to find peace the self satisfaction of doing their best at a job worth doing.

      Teaching is a noble calling. You are never paid enough. You are rarely respected enough in a world that elevates power and prestige. But you are carving your legacy in the annals of history through the positive (or negative) changes you encourage in the lives of your students.

      How do you engage your students? How do you entertain while you deliver a first rate education?

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      A note: I'm giving you an excuse to "research" this amazing education. You've just been given an excuse to go on a great cruise. I've traveled many places and been on quite a few cruises, but this one was far superior to the others I've been on. It was very kid friendly and had no casino. With an adults only, teens only, and kids only areas, as well as family events, there really was something for everybody to do. And the food....mmmmmm. Delish! I could go on, but I won't.
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