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Friday, September 29, 2006

Promoting Awareness of a Global Audience

Statcounter (see my post "Ten Habits of Bloggers that Win" on how to set it up) has a great new feature called "Recent User Google Map." I've started going onto my class blogs and printing out these maps so that students can see all of the locations that are visiting their blogs. I have also added a button called "View My stats" on the blogs. Students can go see the maps.

We are a little behind on our scribe posts. My students just like to use the wiki for everything because they can work together. We'll see if I can get it going better in my classes or if I need to just stick with the wiki and classblogmeister for my student questions of the week.

To the left is my door. It shows the Stats from my blog and my two student blogs as well as the stats for our wiki. (We're getting over 40,000 hits a month.) I also printed out the recent commetns from Canada and highlighted the portions that I wanted my computer science students to view.

You would not believe how much these comments have encouraged my students to do more. (See my recent post "Wikis and the Power of Peer Review.") I truly think this is an amazing untapped resource.

What is on your door to encourage students to understand our emerging global Internet community?

It doesn't have to be fancy! The perceived (and real) global audience is a powerful motivator. (Ask any blogger.)

Researchers know why the Mona Lisa Smiled!

I couldn't help but pass this one along, I find it so amusing. Read how researchers used 3-D imaging to determine that the gauzy shawl that she wore was actually the one worn by women in the Rennaissance who were with child.

It is a fascinating article. But, as the researchers say:

No scientific research will ever figure out exactly what Leonardo was trying to convey, or why exactly she was smiling.

New discoveries "don't take away the mystery," Menu said. "On the contrary, they merely add another layer to the meaning, which only makes things more interesting."

I feel like this is akin to the research about best practices in the classroom.

I envision a picture of a teacher standing in the foreground of a classroom of students excitedly working on computers. Why is the teacher smiling?

Perhaps it is because the teacher knows that truly he or she is the most critical element in the classroom that determines whether that classroom will succeed or fail. That classroom is truly his/her domain and the results that are imprinted for years to come can be studied but no one will never truly understand the mystery of a great teacher.

Quietly smile at your classroom today and know that you are christening great minds onto the path of learning and excitement. Smile quietly at your classroom as they get excited and learn.

It will drive everyone else crazy to figure out why you are smiling!

Did you realize that you are so like the Mona Lisa?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Brain and YouTube: Research & Haptic Vision

Those who shake their finger at the anecdotal evidence of classroom transformation as shown in my classroom and those of others, now have some hard research to look at. Sometimes, we have to look at other fields that have long relied upon print media to transmit their message: the news media.

In the Online Journalism Review, there is an amazing new article which aggregates many sources of research. The author is Larry Pryor, an Associate Professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. He's currently researching the haptics and epistemology of digital news media. I'd like to share some amazing quotes (please read the article) and some thoughts from a teacher's viewpoint.

Article: It feels relevant: biological tactility in news media
The subtitle: Researchers see a body-brain link that might explain how multimedia affects viewer participants in deeper ways than print or television. What does it mean for journalism?

OK, I ask, "what does this mean for education." (All quotes below are from the article, emphasis is mine.)

Brain research and YouTube

"Neurobiologists and cognitive psychologists—only two of many disciplines that give us insights on how digital technology impacts the senses—have conducted recent research and crafted theories, many of them tentative, on how the brain reacts to information. (For a dated yet excellent overview, see "Nature's Mind; The biological roots of thinking, emotions, sexuality, language and intelligence," by Michael S. Gazzaniga, 1992.)...

The latest research points to a general conclusion: online digital worlds like YouTube appeal to the whole body, from frontal lobe to the toes. This payoff from multimedia may be unique in communications history.

What about education?
Computer educators have long been snubbed by "traditional" educators who said, "computers are just cool" as to why students were increasingly fascinated by computers.

The result: if it is fun, many educators thought it couldn't be educational. Thus computers have been relegated to the vocational track for about 2/3rds of schools. Big mistake! People who are looking for transformation should be looking for MEANINGFUL ways to harness this new media! (Remember, classroom with a purpose, see my article, Laptop Campus: Bane or Boon)

The Mind-Body Process

"Hansen and others, drawing from scientific research, conclude that the way a person receives and absorbs mediated digital information is a mind-body process. And the online multimedia experience is more complete, more biologically compelling than previous forms of media, including cinema. As Hansen puts it, the new media experience is "qualitatively different from …the ‘verisimilitude' and ‘illusion' of the cinematic image."...

I have long held that involving technology in meaningful classroom instruction incorporates every sense. A good teacher understands that the more senses that are involved in learning, the better students learn. (That is why I have a well stashed candy bucket! It works when nothing else does!)

I have found through my class' recent work with video and digital storytelling in projects that learning is increased profoundly from familiarity to expertise! Now, I understand why!

Cognitive Change

"New technology enables unique multimedia perspectives that, in turn, open up new possibilities for story telling and may even be changing the way that humans process information. Digital technology, Burnett says, enables humans to "create the foundations for different ways of thinking. … Technology is as much about cognitive change as it is about the invention and the creation of physical devices." (102)...

Why did it take a journalist to say this! He is truly talking about the cognitive change that Web 2.0 educators are preaching! It is real! It often feels as if many are stopping their ears and fighting the change like the third monkey on the gang plank of Noah's ark! (I've been waiting to use that one.) Why would sane, intelligent people suddenly "go off the deep end" about technology. The answer: we're not off the deep end, we've truly found something transformational!

Haptic Vision in the Classroom

This body-brain connection has profound implications for new media because it downplays "an abstracted sense of vision as the primary sense in favor of the internal bodily senses of touch and self-improvement." Hansen calls it "haptic vision," or vision that is engaged with the sense of touch.

All I can say is "Yes!" This is more than visual learning, it is truly engaging vision along with touch and truly when video that has sound is used, the auditory sense comes into play.

Harnessing the body-brain link:

"Instead of separating us from our senses by projecting virtual worlds, computers forge an internal body-brain link. "The source of the virtual is thus not technological, but rather a biologically grounded adaptation to newly acquired technological extensions provided by new media," says Lenoi"
Fellow educators, we've long known that it is not about the technological aspects of all of this. Last year, my classroom was completely transformed with 6 year old computers. Although we like to have the most recent processor and RAM buses implanted with engorged RAM chips, it is truly not necessary to experience the excitement of student engagement!

New Web 2.0 technology engages our bodily senses. That is why students become "addicted" to IM, chat, video games, etc. Instead of blocking chat, why aren't we delivering teaching over it and transcribing the result? (I am.) Unblock youtube, create video and upload it. Use it or lose student interest!

We should be flocking to the Internet not blocking it! I have a pretty lose filtration policy that blocks all porn and sexual material, but allows youtube, Google video, and games on occasion if I have a classroom purpose.

How to have more intellectually and biologically relevant education

Equally intriguing is the study of how a large percentage of incoming signals get rejected or filtered by the brain. The sensory input often fails to find an instant fit with an individual's meme-building materials, such as stored memories, competitive instincts, survival strategies and the potential for empathy. If journalists understood that process better, they might be in a position to offer stronger news that is both intellectually and biologically relevant.

We need to be in a position to offer stronger educational content that is both intellectually and biologically relevant. This research is vital for us as well.

The Emergence of a new metalanguage
Manovich says that the language of digitization is in an early stage, where cinema was 100 years ago. "We don't know what the final result will be, or even if it will ever stabilize. … We are witnessing the emergence of a new metalanguage, something that will be at least as significant as the printed word and cinema before it."

Although this article is about journalism, this metalanguage will affect us all.

Cross Pollination enabled by the blogosphere
This blog posting is yet another example of how cross pollination between fields is causing the collapse of information float. This amazing article for journalists may have taken years to enter the educational periphery and BAM! Here it is, one day later!

I look forward to seeing what you think!

I think this is a must read article to pass along to superintendants and "non-web 2.0 believers" to get them to begin the cognition that it will take to effect a change in their belief system.

It takes time and meaningful discourse. Pass it on!

Wikis and the Power of Internet peer review!

Wiki Work
The wiki continues to manage my classroom as the homepage is chock full of RSS feeds and hyperlinks to current assignments and projects.

Computer Science has completed Chapter 2 of their wiki book on the History of Computing. This was an individual project with each student assigned to present a PowerPoint to the class on their topic. They were required to have at least one embedded video which they located primarly on Google Video. I found that the founding of Apple had a lot of interesting information (although not enough hyperlinks.) I liked the formatting on the Colossus and the Integrated Circuit. I think we'll use screen capture software to let them video and narrate their presentations and post those in the future. The wiki didn't capture the depth of their knowledge on this PowerPoint project.

Their Chapter 1 on Computer Security continues to create a buzz and questions from the blogosphere for me. They did a good job!

Feedback from Canada
Here is one great thing for me: a progressive Canadian educator, Sharon Peters, had her class review and comment on the work that my students did on their Chapter 1 wiki. Mixed in their feedback were several important kernels of truth that I had been trying to get across to several of my teams about digital storytelling:
#1 It is about the content. Humor and everything comes second to content.

#2 It is OK to be funny, but be careful, sense of humor varies widely among people. If your humor distorts the message, limit the humor.

#3 Sound is essential! If a person can't hear you it hurts the message. Rerecord or redub things that you cannot hear clearly.

I had repeated these issues but they came through loud and clear in the feedback from Canada! (Funny, how the students finally listened when other students echoed my remarks.)

This brings up a valuable point to me:

Peer assessment through the Internet is a powerful tool in the hands of educators!

I believe this for several reasons:

1) The peer pressure issue is not as much a factor to the person giving the criticism.

The person critiquing the work cannot see who is on the receiving end of the constructive criticism so I think more valid feedback is given. When students are in the class or even at the same school, they tend to temper their remarks or color them by what they think of the person. The Internet removes the visual "I know you" factor and cliquishness of peer evaluation within the classroom. I think it has potential as a great tool!

2) The peer pressure is a factor to the person receiving the criticism.

Those being critiqued want to listen to their unknown peers and the thought of a global audience pushes students to do more and excel!

3) Combined with teacher feedback, it can elicit change.

I have seen it! I believe it! Students who were "fighting" me on the content for their current video changed midstream when receiving the feedback from Canada. All I can say is, Wow, thank you, Sharon Peters!

4) It gives students a variety of viewpoints.
When a teacher is in a classroom, students get one viewpoint of their work. In the real world. people have conflicting views of your work. (As any blogger knows!) What a great opportunity for students to see the convergence and divergence of the populace at large! If we can work out ways for such reviews to happen, it will help my students transition to the real world!

5) It gives comprehensive feedback.
These students from Canada wrote much more than I could have done or said. The feedback is good and very comprehensive. Sharon really did me a favor!

But I'm not the only one. Darren Kuropatwa has had his Math students evaluating one another's blog posts and commenting. Here is the third point of this assignment. He says:

When the other three groups have posted their solutions each student must leave one comment on each of the other group's published work. Your comment must say either that you agree with their solutions or not. If not, you must include what you think the correct answer is and why. This means that each published solution set will have a total of twelve comments.
You really need to see the power of this strategy! There is a lot of power in the commenting feature!

Blogs help my classroom.
This is just another way that my blog has brought great opportunity to my classroom. I think that blogging is sort of like collecting ink cartridges: sometimes you can really do a lot with the extra money that you raise and sometimes you can do a lot with those who stumble across your blog.

So, in light of David Warlick's and David (at the Strength of Weak Tie's blog) comments about whether one can be a good teacher and not use technology, I'd like to quote the latter blogger's post (It may have come from Dave Warlick's post but his site seems to be temperamental at the moment):

Frankly, I’m tired of technology as a second class educational citizen. It’s not OK not to use it.

Simply put, a good teacher must know when and how to use technology to help kids learn, and must demonstrate it conscientiously, creatively and continually.

It’s one of the most important steps in becoming a great teacher….

This conversation reminds me of one of my favorite old posts, "Why blaze lonely and unpopular trails that will become the highways of tomorrow?" It is about the amazing pioneer Paul Brand who transformed the disease of leprosy with his amazing treatments and insight. No one valued or helped him, he was alone. And he changed the world.

Keep the faith. Do not quit! Technology on the bleeding edge can be bloody but it is also rewarding! You will be the laureate of tomorrow.

Just savor the lack of appreciation today, for tomorrow, everyone will forget but you. You will know what it was like to walk against the torrent of society and emerge as a prophet and pioneer.

Your three choices

The way I see it, you have three choices: you can either give in and join the torrent take you in the wrong direction, you can get out of the river and quit, or you can persevere.

Those that persevere will have the greatest rewards. In ten years, we'll compare notes and find that those of us who took the third choice have greatly improved our lives and those of children. Those who quit will be sitting around saying "woulda, coulda, shoulda" along with those who gave into the current.

Do not quit! It is important to help children and our society begin to effectively live online.

The more educators who abandon fight against the current, the more victims, identity thefts, virus victims and problems will emerge.

The more who fight the current together, the easier it will become as we join together and create a dam to divert the torrent of society from the wrong Internet direction (or lack thereof) to the stream bed where it belongs: firmly implanted in every classroom.


Two Saturdays a go, I saw what special truly means. For three years my National Honor Society students and the students in Y-Club have served as officials for our local Bocce Ball Special Olympics tournament.

Bocce is a great sport for the Special Olympics because people of many different physical abilities can play including those in a wheel chair.

Usually, the Special Olympics in our area doesn't like to use teenagers because they have had problems. However, our students have taken to this event unlike anything I've ever seen. Each Bocce courts requires four students, leadership, patience, and a lot of sweating in the hot sun.

This is truly one of the best projects we've ever done. Although the Special Olympics people have told me that they often have trouble getting high school students to do a good job, we've found it to be the opposite for several reasons:

1) We trained the students well. (The first year, one Saturday for 4 hours!)

2) We ordered special "T-shirts" Face it kids like them.

3) I set expectations clearly and up front.
The first comment (using the "r" word) was handled firmly and sternly the first year. That was four years a go. Never since have we had trouble. The kids know what is expected and love working with the special Olympians.

4) It is not mandatory.
The kids self-select themselves.

5) The Seniors are our leaders.
It is led by the NHS but the Y-Club also participates. We have a Senior running the scorers table with two juniors "in training" as the leader for next year. After they "call a court" for an hour or two, their job is to pass it off to a younger student who has been watching.

6) The adults are there and we praise good behavior.
I am there as well as the other advisor. The headmaster also comes. We watch. We move among the kids. We praise good behavior and privately correct the wrong behavior. We expect a lot and treat the kids professional and expect them to act professionally. We put one person in charge of each court and hold them accountable. They have NEVER let me down!

This tournament had over 200 special Olympians this year and the advisors just gushed about what a great job our students did! They gave up a Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 2 pm! Wow!

I have truly seen a difference in kids who work with the Special Olympics. They are more tolerant of others. They are more kind and loving. They are more patient. It is vital that students understand that not everyone is the same and that God made all of us!

I am a better person for seeing the best in teenagers. (Take a look at the photos if you want to know more.)

Isn't it funny how us adults who expect and speak the best, get the best out of teenagers?

Wikis, Blogs, and Videos at Westwood these past two weeks

Needless to say, you can tell from the photo that I teach a bunch of animals! Well, not literally, but it is homecoming week and combined with personal stress, I have to keep focused and remember to "keep the main thing the main thing."

I've had some inquiries about what we've been doing lately. Although I'm in the midst of assessing some of these projects, I'd like to share with you the main projects we've completed.

Crispy News as a model for understanding the Grassroots Media Movement
As part of my weekly question two weeks a go, I created a news aggregation site for our class on Crispy News. - http://westwood.crispynews.com/

It is open and the students still don't quite have a handle of it. I want them to understand the importance that voting will have on the future of media. This is still emerging, but I believe that future models of news will include a definite "vote" factor as the grassroots media emerges. We are still working on this one and will be discussing this more when this project completes.

Higher Level thinking skills in Computer Fundamentals

It is tempting for people to relegate the learning of software to

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Helping those who grieve!

I know that many of you come here for education and Web 2.0. However, rather than sit around and think about what YOU want to hear, I have always made it a point to share with those who read what is on my mind and heart.

Whatever is going on in my life is mirrored in my blog. I do have a lot of exciting wiki, digital storytelling things and others to share with you (and I will soon), but right now my thoughts turn to my father in law.

As I've blogged previously, he is in the final stages of Parkinsons Disease and although Doctors have extended his life by at least 5 years through medication, he can barely swallow now. My husband and I have been numb for the last several weeks as we've adjusted life. It is not about us or how we feel right now, that can come later. It is about being there for him, loving him, praying for him, and making him comfortable. That is it!

The selfish people that say, "I just can't deal with it." That drives me crazy! Get over it!

How I counsel students
I am the empathetic, motherly type. When we've had losses at school, it has often fallen to my lot to talk to kids invidually or as a class. Although I'm not the final "grief counseling" expert. I am a part of things.

Because this is important to me, I want to share with you what I share with them, when I counsel my students who are dealing with death or a friend's death of a loved one, I always tell them this:

1- Be there.
When you're having a tough time you want your friends around. You don't want them to do anything necessarily. It just means a lot that they love you!

2 - Be quiet and listen.
Golly, gee. As much as I am a Christian, I am not ever one of those who would ever preach at someone whose lost a loved one. Although I believe "All things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose," when you lose a loved one, you don't want to hear it right then. You just don't! No preaching, just listen to me. Cry with me. Love me. Laugh with me and share memories. Don't tell me "its all going to work out" because you know what, when you lose a loved one, it hurts. It is not going to be all right or work out at that moment. It is painful beyond belief. Let me mourn! Let me go through the process because it cannot be circumvented!

You never get over a loved one, you just learn to live with it. When they are close to you, you love them and miss them as long as you're alive! That is the way it is. (As a Christian, I do have comfort in my beliefs and those who have passed on, but right now, just hold me and be my friend.

3 - Meet immediate needs
If I'm hungry, feed me. Help me. Be there for me. Pitch in. You can't do it all, just do what comes to mind and is in your skillset. If it is hugging, hug me!

Although we thought he'd live several months, as I wrote this post, my father in law died 300 miles away. (I guess somehow, I knew.) I just received the phone call. I may not post for a few days...

Remember, life is never to busy to be there for someone who grieves. These are the truly important things in life, life itself!

Time for time alone... I am grateful for those of you who take time to read and listen to "just" a computer teacher. When it is my time, I'll be glad I spent my time teaching, and blogging.


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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

AIM Worm releases botnet army: Best solution, educate kids!

I've been reading an article this afternoon "New AIM Worm may Prove Tough to Exterminate" and it brings me back to a point I've been writing on heavily for several days.

How do people get the AIM worm?

The worm, known as W32.pipeline, propagates when AIM users click on a Web link that appears to have been sent to them by someone on their buddy list.

They receive a message along the lines of, "Hey, would it be OK if I upload this picture of you to my blog?"

If the recipient clicks on the link, an executable file that looks like a JPEG will download into a Windows folder...
Their recommendation:
The best defense is for AIM users to be wary of clicking on links. If a user receives an unexpected link from a buddy, the user can always reply to ask if that person sent the link, to make sure it is legitimate.
Who Instant Messages?

Not suprisingly, a Pew Internet study conducted in 2004 found that 42% of Internet users use Instant Messaging, with 37% of those using the Aol Service. The study also found:
  • 21% of IM-ers in each of the Gen Y and Gen X age groups log onto IM several times a day, followed by 17% of Trailing Boomers (40-49), 15% of Leading Boomers (50- 59), 10% of Matures (60-68), and a mere 9% of the After Work (69 and older) age group.
  • 35%, or the largest portion of those who IM for about an hour are Gen Y-ers. In contrast, the greatest percentage of instant messengers who IM for less than 15 minutes consist of Trailing Boomers (26%).
So, not suprisingly the younger people are IM'ing more than others.

Whether we like it or not, IM is a valid, important communication medium to over 1/4th of Americans in the workforce on a daily basis. In fact, if you look at the study, you will find that those who are better educated and make more money, use it more often that those who are not.

Bottom line:

People must be educated about how to be safe online. It is a fact. It is here!

It is time to stop gripe-ing about text-ing, IM-ing, surf-ing, wiki-ing, and blogg-ing, and start CHANGE-ing and TEACH-ing!

If trends continue, the students in your classroom right now will be using IM even more than the Generation Y group. Do they know netiquette? Do they know about IM safety? Wiki etiquette? How to disagree effectively on blog conversations? How to blog? How to e-mail?

The need for us to teach effective online communications

Just as we teach students to look us in the eye when they talk to us, we must teach them effective online communications. If students do not e-mail us, how can we teach them not to use IM speak? If they do not wiki, how can we teach them not to treat it like a joke?

Every communication medium can be used to communicate ANYTHING. It can be used for great good as well as great evil. I have found that ignorance leads to evil uses, so if we're unhappy with what kids are doing online right now, look at their knowledge base and see if it is from not knowing any better! (Most often it is!) It is time for parents and teachers to flood into online spaces and train up our children online!

Stop fighting it and use it for good!

It will be interesting to see the extent of this new online threat and how the ignorant will be the ones who are exploited. Ignorance has always lead to poverty and this is just another example of how ignorance of IM safety will cost the ignorant money.

Are your students learned or ignorant about online safety, privacy, and success?

Remember the power of a newbie

I want to thank Kim for her comment on an older post of mine entitled "The Power of a Newbie." In her comment, she says:

I happened upon this post, and wanted to let you know that you have inspired me to write more about each step I learn as I go along. For a while there I was feeling so far behind, that I didn't want to demonstrate my "late-adopter-ness" by posting things that everyone knows already.

And then I found this post, which made me realize that there are so many other teachers out there, just like me, that want to jump in feet first, but are just as overwhealmed.

Then I realized, we all have to try together. Post what we've learned, share what we try, and build on what we've read elsewhere. There's no place else to go but up.

Thanks for providing a starting point!

I just want to remind you beginners that I was a beginner too last November. The point of the whole article is:

When you are a newbie, you have something that tech-experts do not have: the perspective of a new user.

The article talks about how to be a great newbie and give a new perspective to things that expert users do not have.

Tim Berners-Lee Comments on Web 2.0

This reminds me of Tim Berners-Lee's recent comments on web 2.0 (hat to to my friend Karyn) where he says:

Tim Berners-Lee, the individual credited with inventing the web and giving so many of us jobs, has become the most prominent individual so-far to point out that the Web 2.0 emperor is naked. Berners-Lee has dismissed Web 2.0 as useless jargon nobody can explain and a set of technology that tries to achieve exactly the same thing as "Web 1.0."

What Web 2.0 tries to achieve may be the same as Web 1.0 but how Web 2.0 achieves it is completely different.

Words are important
First of all, I'd like to say something about words. We use words because we need to talk about things. We need to discriminate and establish that something has changed or has not changed. The first step in discussing almost anything is to give it a name or a label. Is there any wonder that the first thing we do when a child is born is to give it a name. Things with names become real and tangiable and we become able to engage in conversation. To deny something a name is to deny the discussion of that topic and its existence.

Perspective is Important
Tim Berners-Lee discusses the web from an expert-inventor standpoint. He did create the Internet to create. However, those creating were techno-experts not the average person! Here is what I said to Karyn about this discussion:

From his [Berners-Lee] perspective it [Web 2.0] may be the same[as Web 1.0], after all he was creating on web 1.0. However, the average person wasn't. I did because I created web pages, but the average person just clicked and read and that was it. Now they are creators and are involved in the process.

So, I guess from his perspective he doesn't see the difference. But to truly understand the difference, you have to look through the eye glasses of the average web user and that is a perspective that Berners-Lee doesn't have.

I respect and admire Tim Berners-Lee, but as just another humble blogger on the blogosphere, something has definitely changed about the Web and we should be able to talk about it!

And then another commenter said it all on Karyn's Blog:

Martin said...

It feels a little like the Wright brothers complaining about the inventor of the jet engine.

Wow! Sometimes the meat of an article is in the comments!

We can get all semantic on this but the fact is the Internet has changed as our whole communication structure has gone online. If we don't want to call it Web 2.0 then what? Shouldn't the web evolve like anything else?

Are the change advocates that initiated the web itself becoming resistant to change?

I think the whole point of web 2.0 is in the power of a newbie and we now have some of the fastest growing groups of beginners that we have seen in the history of the Internet. I hope we focus on how to improve the Internet and not over analyze where it is. Pinpoint where it is today and miss the point tomorrow!

Monday, September 18, 2006

The mom who is glad her daughter could text

A judge denied bond Monday for a man accused of abducting and assaulting a 14-year-old girl and holding her in an underground bunker for more than a week before she was able to send a text message to her mother.


Texting, e-mail, cell phones. All of these things are just communications channels, neither inherently good nor inherently evil, but rather, how they are used determines their worth.

Text messaging saved her life!
In this case, text messaging saved a girl from living hell and probably murder.

I weary of people complaining about kids texting or chatting or IM'ing. Kids are just talking for goodness sakes! That's what kids do.

What if Mama didn't know how to text?
It is time for adults to listen and join in. Thank goodness the mother knew how to read the text message, because I know many parents that do not.

The cost of being unable to text her daughter would have cost this mother her most precious gift, her daughter.

It is time for us parents to move online and into technology and make it part of our lives so we can be a part of our children's lives. Stop fighting the rip tide and swim with it!

Life is not a computer game

Sometimes my mother's heart cannot bear the pain I hear and today is no exception. During the debates that have ensued after the posting of my eleven ways to monitor your child online, I have read the words of a mother (and educator) whose child has been a mourner at Dawson College.

She said this banner was hung at the college:

Life is not a computer game;
there is no 2nd level,
there are no extra lives
You’ve lost your reality.

It so moved me, that I have posted a question of the week entitled Life is Not a Computer Game for my students as follows:

This week the Dawson College killings are in the news. I have recently been blogging about it.

Kimveer Gill, the killer spent time on a website posting hate filled words and terror that foreshadowed what he would be doing. An eighteen year old girl is dead.

In response, a mother in Montreal posted her thoughts including the banner that was at the college (her daughter goes there) that said:

"Life is not a computer game;
there is no 2nd level,
there are no extra lives
You've lost your reality."

Here is your question:

What are the dangers of becoming immersed in a virtual, online world? Do you think that online and offline worlds are easily separated in your mind or are they merged together and why.
Lives are not completed wasted if we can learn something. Let the lost life mean something. This is a topic worth discussing in your older level classes. It is also important to share information with the parents at your school. If you have differing opinions, then let us have dialog and start discussing these things.

The movement online of parental and school supervision is perhaps one of the single greatest challenges that we face over the next few years. We are in denial if we think we can keep the off the Internet and block everything!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

11 Steps to Online Parental Supervision of your Children

"She knew he spent a lot of time on the computer in his bedroom but had no idea he was filling an online journal with hate-filled rants and violent fantasies. "We found there was a little change because he was a little quieter, but he still was normal at home, living with us upstairs, [sleeping] in his bedroom. It's not that he was alone in the basement or anything," she said."
says Parvinder Sandhu, mother of Dawson College killer, Kimveer Gill, an active member of vampirefreaks.com.

If your child is online, you should be too!
This is yet another reason if your children are online, you should be too! If your kids are on myspace, get your own myspace account and be added to their friends list. Is this invasion, NO! Is it raising your kids, YES!

We would never dream of going days at a time without speaking to our family! Well, children are speaking all of the time but adults who ignore their Internet presence are ignoring their children!

I have revised this article since there seem to be many people reading it. I want to make a point of clarification. Parenting starts with a relationship and involvement. I am not a dogmatic parent myself and tend to talk about things and be involved. I rarely have to "put my foot" down with my kids because we usually deal with it through our daily interaction and discussion. I am a parent of an 11, 10, and 5 year old and teach 5th graders - 12th graders.

Steps to monitoring for parents to consider:

  1. Use a filter with some sort of parental control. You know the password and decide what types of activities you will allow them to do.

    I filter all pornography. After all, what little boy can resist typing "sex" into the Google box. Otherwise, I'm pretty lenient on my filtration. I currently block myspace and such but when they are ready, we will unblock it together and set up the profile together. My children are young for that right now but when they are ready, I want them to ask me so I know that they are using it.

  2. Discuss with your child what they can and cannot do online. If they set up a profile, do it with them to make sure that their information is not revealing.

    (Never include their school, last name, phone number, social security number, address, or pictures of them by themselves.) This is just like discussing coming home from school, talking to strangers, etc. Communicate!

  3. Do not allow them to "make friends" online without your approval. Your child's online experience should begin with communicating with those they do know.

    Require your children to allow you to "check out" anyone new before they add them to their friends. (I would do the first one with them.) Verify their identity by checking the person who referred them to you.

    Very often people say they are friends with one of your friends but that is not the case. The "friend of a friend" ploy is commonly used by predators to get into the social communications structure of a child. For how this works, a predator will observe several interrelated people and then "pretend" to be John Smith, a friend of your child. Although John Smith may be a real person, he actually has another screen name and your child is conversing with a person who is not "John Smith" at all. The way you check this out is by going to the person who "John Smith" says is his friend and sending them an e-mail.

    It could sound like this. "Hey. A guy named John Smith with a screen name of ___ says he is your friend and wants me to add him to my buddy list. Is he OK? Is that his screen name?"

    It is kind of like how my friends and I in college knew who the guys were to watch out for and we helped each other and had a signal for a person we knew was a "creep" and made that to one another. This is just a protection mechanism that we need to teach our children.

    I had initially posted to "not allow your child to make friends online" and that is a decision that some parents may choose to make. However, I do believe in progressive (gradually increasing) Internet freedoms and the rules for my 10 year old would not be appropriate for a 17 year old. Ultimately, they will make friends online, so when you are ready for that to happen, teach them how to make friends online.

    Also, they should absolutely never allow their child to meet someone that they've met online without consulting you. This is not debatable in my opinion.

  4. When your child sets up an web page online, subscribe to the page over RSS or bookmark it and visit it daily.

  5. Watch for their feelings. I have read that predators often search for people who say they are lonely or wanting friends or dissatisfied with life. It is important that although a child be creative and expressive that they guard their vulnerability.

    It is your job as a parent to respond to and be engaged in their feelings. Whether you think they are legitimate or not, their feelings ARE their feelings! Listen to them and respond appropriately. Sometimes just talking about it means a lot. If they are sharing things online and not with you, why?

    Many children get upset with the myspace practice of a person listing their 8 closest friends with their pictures. There is also a place for "boyfriend" and "best friend." This is difficult for kids as they are forced to choose their best friend. This can result in very real hurt feelings. Listen to them even if you don't understand it! If you don't understand it, get your own myspace!

  6. Communicate with your child online by e-mailing them and visiting and posting on their online page. If you don't want to "embarrass" them with a post on their myspace, then visit their myspace and e-mail them about something they said. That way it is private, but they also know that you're watching!

  7. Peruse the history on the computers used by your child. See if there are any patterns or websites that are new that are being visited a lot. Talk to your child or e-mail them about it.

    They should know that you are watching, vigilant, and involved and that you care. This helps them resist temptation. (We do mandatory drug testing at our high school because we know that this gives kids an excellent reason to "say no." Your spending time in their history does as well.)

    This is the only way Kimveer Gill's parents would have found this unless they didn't allow a computer in the bedroom.

    This is obviously for children living at home. (My parents always had a "My house, my business" policy that I subscribe to.)

    Some parents are uncomfortable with this "snooping" and "privacy" thing. I'm up front with my kids so I'm not "sneaking around' in their cache. I do believe that they have places that should be private. They have diaries and journals for that but they cannot be read by millions. I do respect their privacy. Their room is private. Our family computers do not go in their room because our family computers belong to the family!

    It is important for them to know that what they do on the Internet is public and does have repercussions. When they go to work, their business will look at what they view and people have lost jobs for spending time on innappropriate sites. We all have accountability whether we like it or not, so I'm sticking by this one.

  8. Visit their classroom sites. If your child's teacher allows them to post in online classrooms and parents are allowed access, subscribe to or visit their sites. Participate. The teacher will be grateful (I always am) and you will be able to view and see what work your child is doing in comparison to other students. You actually become part of the classroom!

    Parent reinforcement is a powerful. You can comment (or e-mail offline) when they do things in their classroom. And, if for some reason, the teacher doesn't understand privacy (or just let something slip, it happens!) then you can point things out.

    I welcome parent and community involvement in my wiki and blogs. I love parent comments! It is a great thing and brings my subject material home, literally!

  9. Discuss things openly with your child. View news reports and magazine articles and talk about the mistakes the children made and look over each of your profiles to see if there is anything you need to edit or change.

  10. Be the bad guy! Look at the shout outs! Friends can post things on your child's page that can compromise their identity security and state things that are untrue. (A private joke about a skinny dipping event that never happened, for example or the date and time of a meeting!) Be the bad guy.

    While thinking about the best way to handle this and help kids, I asked students in my class if they would ever delete a shout out and they said "NO! That would be rude. I would not do it unless my parents made me!"

    I remember as a senior in high school that I told my parents about a party and said, "I'm asking you if I can go to this party but I want you to tell me no, OK." They said no, they were the bad guy, I couldn't go but I saved face. Do this for your children, it is a gift!

    Tell them the shout outs they have to delete. Be the bad guy! And if another child is causing problems on your child's web page, be the really bad guy and require them to delete that "friend" off their myspace. Can this cause problems? Yes, if you are dogmatic and obnoxious, you can turn a simple, tuck in your shirt to a problem. However, if you are open and have a good relationship with your child, they will usually be grateful.

  11. Keep an open line of communication. I have a policy in my classroom and at home that if something bad comes on the screen that they are to leave it there and come get me immediately. Then, I can figure out what it is, why it is there and deal with the problem. I guarantee NO repercussions (as long as they didn't intentionally type it in) as long as they get me the moment it appears. It diverts problems. It opens communications and helps you see if you have problems with malware on your computer.

    All of our computer use is in the den or office. No one, not even me, uses the computer in the bedroom. All of our computer work is open for the public view and that is the way it is. Putting a computer in a child's room is like putting me next to chocolate... way to tempting!

    11B - **I added this later** But, as you know with the blogging thing, changing the title means that you lose all those hyperlinks, so we'll stick with 11B!

    your child.
    Nothing will probably turn up but you never know. Just in case, every once in a while, you should Google your child's name, nickname, city. Combine their name with the city. Potential employers and college scholarship committees will. Even if what turns up isn't your child, if it looks like it is them, it may be a problem. You can even subscribe to a Google "feed" of the search on your child's name. (Here's a tip, put your child's name in quotations and then type + the town. For example, "John Doe" +Anytown)
Your child is a precious, wonderful gift.

Get over the "privacy" thing with looking at your child's myspace and other online accounts. If a predator down the street who has a thing for 12 year olds is looking at her page, you'd better believe that it is your business!

You wouldn't let your child go to the mall in their underwear, why on earth would you let them be seen by millions in a picture in their underwear!

Get over it and get online with your child!
Get a myspace account. Get on your child's friend list. Get your child's e-mail and start using it! Learn to text them that you love them. Learn to use these internet tools and become a part of your child's life.

The consequences are terrible if you do not. If your child is living online it is your job to supervise online!

If this is important to you, then my book that will be coming out soon will be for you. More later. For now, it is time to talk to the kids!

The Rise of the Machine (and the social issues that will emerge)

The power of Newsmap
As I perused newsmap today (thank you SEGATECH!), I came across the article which discusses the first thought controlled prosthesis and I am struck by how rapidly things can change.

The First Thought Controlled Prosthesis
This first merge between human thought and a robotic prosthesis suddenly blurs the line between human and the machinery/robotics that until this point have been distinctly separate from us.

As we discuss the history of computing, my computer science class has been talking about the next evolution in computing.

And then it happened under our nose. So, I posted this question for next week's computer science consideration:

An article appeared today about the first thought controlled prosthesis that has been created by the military. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.bionic14sep14,0,5964038.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines

As we have begun to discuss biologic computing, I have the following question.

How will we classify things as human or machine? Is this person classified as a human or a machine? What if over 50% of a person is made of machine parts? What are they?

What types of problems can or will emerge from the use of robotics to improve the life of amputees? Do you see any potential problems?

Sometimes I just have to say "Oh, my goodness!" Technology is so ingrained in our lives and is becoming such a part of everything! We tend to relegate the discussion of it to the computer classroom that most college prep kids do not even have access to!

Ethics are vital to our future as a society!
What will happen in the future without ethics and meaningful discussions occuring at even the youngest levels. Just because we can does that mean we should?

Let me throw some "what ifs" at you. And if you think this is far reaching, remember that America is a society where people change their eye color, hair color, and the shape of their face or body parts on a whim. Don't think this won't become an issue, because it will!

  • A boy who has a muscule weakness and cannot build muscle wants to play football. Can he augment his strength or would he damage his arms so that he could receive a super human prosthesis?
  • As prostheses become stronger and more useful, will these "super" humans be allowed to compete in sports or will prosthesis be considered sort of a steroid of the future? Can you imagine the heated debates that will occur at the top levels of sporting organizations? (Look at the money made by NFL players, from a return on investment perspective, "making" such players could be profitable!)
  • As these items become more a part of humans, our current security screening procedures will certainly need to evolve.
  • Could detachable prosthesis be developed for those working in industrial environments to allow better control of things? (e.g. the steel worker who could reach into a furnace with a titanium arm that he controls.)
  • If such prosthesis are developed for industrial environments, what will be done to ensure that sweatshops take on a whole new sinister side as people are "added to" like computer hardware?
  • The amputees of today may become the "superheroes" of tomorrow. What will that do to our society? (Is psuedo X-men possible? I shudder to think!)
You may feel that these thoughts are silly, but human nature is that any time there are differences, the human tendency to discrimination and misunderstanding emerges and I predict that it will in this issue as well.

I am grateful for the opportunity amputees have to improve their lives so much! This is truly a wonderful thing! I know an amazing man who graduated one year ahead of me from high school, his name is Scott Rigsby and he is an inspiration.

He is the first double leg amputee to compete in an Olympic triathalon while running on prosthetics and is going to be the first double leg amputee to compete in an iron man!

If you read the article about Scott
, you'll see that the turning point in his life was to amputate his "good" leg which could not hold up to the running and exercise he was trying to do. Having two prosthetics has improved his life. He is truly amazing and you'll be a better person if you read about him!

But I still come back to how some could misuse this and the plethora of ethical questions that will ultimately emerge.

Technological ethics

Like reading and writing, technological ethics and literacy should be a cross curricular issue, and I believe that every student should have an introduction to computer science course. Of all of the courses I teach, my students tell me that this one transforms their lives and thinking the most.

What do you think about the merging of human and robotics? What does this type of issue mean for the classroom? How does it change or not change what we teach?

The Future of the Wiki; middle school math wiki

The future of the wiki

There are a few things I'd like to see develop in the wiki world to make this tool more useful:

1- Rating of wiki editors-
eBay went to a buyer-seller rating system to make eBay more self policing and safe. Likewise, I'd like to see wikipedia and other major wikis develop a reader-editor rating system. For example, a Level 1 editor would be considered an excellent source of information but a beginning wiki-editor may begin at a level 10.

As people read and agreed with information, that person would begin to become a higher level editor. As their information remained intact and unchanged, that would also improve their ratings.

I believe this would allow more accurate information to "rise to the top" and unethical wiki-editors to require approval of a higher level editor before their edit "takes". (For example, show the text submitted by a level 10 editor in a shaded box and require the approval of a level 5 or higher, etc.)

I know the "level playing field" between beginners and experts is idealistic, however, I don't think knowledge should be presented as fact when indeed it is a new editor or someone who still thinks that wikis are a game.

We must begin to ferrett out unethical wiki-editors like eBay has ferretted out the unethical buyer or seller. Accurate information is important!

2- Ranking of information.
After thinking over a conversation Steve Hargadon and I had recently, I'd love the ability to right click on information to question its validity (send it to a level 1 editor) or to improve its rank. For example, the eduwikipedia list of edubloggers has become extremely long. What if we could click and rank the edubloggers and the list would evolve based upon our ratings. Then, Christopher Sessums and Will Richardson could rise to the top where they belong along with other great edubloggers such as Dave Warlick. Alphabetic is nice, but wiki voting, well, that would be very useful!

3- Commenting individual items.
Comments are great, but often the discussion area of the wiki is disjointed. What if we had the ability to discuss portions of the text by right clicking and including comments there? Then, the gray area of a Level 10 editor could be discussed and bumped up to a more valid rating.

4 - Better table editing in wikis
For design purposes, this is a must-do. Tables of Contents are great, but tables are the next step. Tables are what really made the web page improve and it will also allow greater attractiveness of the wiki.

5- Better Wiki Navigation
I wish I could take credit for this, but this is Steve Hargadon's idea. A navigation structure with the homepage > parent page > child page that generates automatically.

6- Improved real time collaboration

I was so impressed with the collaboration feature in writely! It was simply amazing! When a person updated the writely document, it was automatically sent into the browser of the person who had the document open in their browser and merged the two documents together real time.

I had the students compare and contrast wikis and writely on classblogmeister. After I complete grading them, I will have some interesting information for you.

7 - Wiki mashup Searching
The visual search capabilities emerging on the web are stunning. I've been spending time on newsmap and my life and classroom are changed! Newsmap takes the results of Google news and displays them pictorally. You can see what news stories are emerging and getting the most press.

I'd love to have some wikis search mashups emerge at some point. There should be a way to designate if something is a wiki. It would be great to have a wiki search engine or even be able to see, like on newsmap, a pictoral display of the content of wikis and what is being edited as well as a clickable listing of the wikis that are editing on that topic. Now, that would be powerful!

Middle School Math Wiki Educator

Others are beginning to wiki! Thanks to Ewan for pointing me to Matthew Ream's middle school Math Wiki. When I started,my wiki looked a lot like Mr. Ream's!

I'm hope he'll instruct students to not use their first names as they edit the wiki, but at first glance, it is a great beginning!

It seems PB wiki has added some new features such as "create a group project" and "create a syllabus." They look pretty neat and I'll have to try out those features. They've been working hard to poll educators and get feedback from them.

It will take fearless educators like Matthew to move into new areas such as this. Wikis are very useful but have not yet made it into the research datastream in an extensive way. Until then, pioneers and anecdotal situations from classroom teachers will have to spur researchers on to create their primary questions and begin their research.

Up with wikis! Up with educational engagement!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Think Computer Ethics has no place in college prep? Think again.

"We teach what we know; we reproduce who we are."
Robert Schmidgall
Who are we?
I have to wonder if we have become a people overly enamored with what we can do with technology. How often do we reflect on what we should be doing? How we can be more safe? How can we share in this knowledge soup without getting burned?

As my computer science students have worked to learn and share about online safety, I am stunned with actually how many things I did not know!

What I learned about pop ups!

For example, when pop up boxes appear on your screen, you should never click on the box (even on the red x.)

The red "x" in the pop up box is often part of the pop up itself and when you click it spyware or malware can be installed on your computer. If using Windows, you should always right click on the window on the task bar and select "Close." (See the information on the Pop Up wiki.)

The Implications of Not Teaching Computer Ethics
Many educators have the following opinion:

Consultant: Which is the bigger problem contributing to Internet danger today, lack of knowledge or apathy?
Teacher: I don't know and I don't care.

As I read the Wired News article about how Cyber Crime is becoming organized, I was stunned to read:
There are still instances of these 'lone-gunman' hackers but more and more we are seeing organized criminal groups, groups that are often organized online targeting victims via the Internet," said Painter, in London for a cyber crime conference...
"Typically these groups engage in ID theft, carding (the illegal use of bank cards) and so-called Botnet armies where hundreds sometimes thousands of computers are taken over and used to infect other machines."
This article points to ignorance as the problem:

Because crimes are committed online a lot of people still don't understand what is happening," said Painter.
A quite telling "joke" poster has floated past my e-mail recently. Unfortunately, it has a ring to it! It says,

"It is amazing how easy it is for a team to work together when no one has any idea where they are going!"

(Sounds like some recent legislation which attempts to block all Web 2.0 tools from schools and libraries instead of creating a plan, doesn't it, but that is another topic.)

Where we need to go:

We must create plans to educate responsible, safe, honest web citizens!

It is essential that the 21st century web citizen be well versed in privacy, protection, and cyber crime reporting skills. A virtual "neighborhood watch" will need to be instituted with well-thought out reporting mechanisms (that prevent witch hunts while protecting us!)

It has always been the ignorant who are the prey!

From the unknowing mouse who meanders into the middle of a field only to be snatched into the talons of a waiting owl, to the senior citizen who thinks that they are buying inexpensive medicines but instead are giving their credit card (or bank card) to a fake storefront, ignorance is the problem.

And what is our response as a whole?

Create walled gardens. Raise fish in fishbowls and then dump them into the ocean upon graduation and wonder why they float to the top.

We must gradually transition students to the real web as we teach them how to be safe.

Education is the answer.

Blocking everything does not solve anything. (I still believe in basic filtration though.) Education is the ultimate solution.

Within the human mind is the greatest content filtration system ever designed. We can choose where to click. We can choose to view a page or to remove it from our computer. We choose where to enter our credit cards and what sites to frequent.

If we are ignorant, we are prey. If we are educated and ethical, we create our own cerebral wall of safety.

We reproduce who we are.

We are adults and we should be in the leaders when it comes to online safety.

I am reminded of the mother who received a phone call from a telemarketer. The telemarketer says, "I'd like to talk to the person who makes the final purchasing decisions for your family."

The mother quips, "I'm sorry. That person is still at kindergarten and won't be home for another hour."

As the recent "myspace" news headlines have proven, students do not have innate knowledge of how to protect their privacy. Students want to communicate with their friends. Many of them do not know that everyone can look at their myspace page.

Far too many parents still respond with "computers don't like me" when asked about their use of technology! Well, guess what? Some cyber-creep out there likes computers because it is a way to get at children without parental supervision!

Again, the answer is education! Education and competency must start with the parents and teachers and then we must teach and produce educated, safe, private web citizens.

That is why I am writing my book that will be released this fall. I am writing to beginning parents and teachers who do not understand what all of this new technology is about and are afraid of acronyms. Then, after becoming competent, they can teach their children to be safe. There has and never will be a substitute for parental involvement in the lives of children. The unsupervised child is prey for more than cybercriminals.
I am a woman on a mission!

As far as I'm concerned, every educator reading this blog should be on a mission to educate those within your sphere of influence.

Enough of mass hysteria, lets move towards mass education. Stop cyber criminals before they graduate. Give children constructive, meaningful tasks on computers and teach them the implications of cyber-crime. For, as the article says:

"In the United States certainly sentencing has become more significant in the recognition of the seriousness of Internet crime."

He said hackers were being viewed less as "playful villains" while organized cyber criminals were being hunted with the same vigor as physical crooks.

No more, "I was just joking" or "I didn't know" and a slap on the wrist by authorities. Cyber hacking is a serious crime. It isn't cute. It shouldn't be a way to become an overnight security consultant. It should be a fast track to a daily uniform with stripes on the leg!

What are you teaching?

Teach the children in your care. I've taught cyber ethics material to children as young as fourth grade with amazing response. (A virus module.) They respond with insight and knowledge that would probably stun their parents.

How are you teaching computer ethics to those in your realm of influence?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cars are different (and so are kids!)

I've been offline because I've been out of town having my youngest son tested at Atlanta Speech School's learning evaluation clinic. They are the best testing service that I am aware of and they have completely changed the lives of my extended family! (They have found things others did not!)

I come from a family of extremely gifted (the tests prove it) but almost all of us have significant learning challenges (most people would call them learning disabilities.)

My first cousin is almost a 100% auditory learner. It makes it difficult if she has to extract material from the written word, but she has learned how. If she takes notes during lecture, her learning actually goes down.

I, however, learn very little in an auditory fashion. I take prolific notes because I know that within moments I will forget what the person has said unless I write it down. I guess I've sort of accommodated myself in that way.

My son, sister, and now youngest son have processing challeges of varying types. I'm really too drained to talk about it right now.

If someone doesn't know a person who has a learning challenge (the world calls it Learning disability or LD), they cannot really understand what it is like. The misconception is that the person with this is somehow below average or "dumb." What they don't know is that a significant portion of gifted students are actually "wired differently" and have learning disabilities. (My sister is gifted certified and educates me about this.)

What it feels like to have your child "tested"

As a parent, you go through the whole gamut of emotions. What did I do wrong? What is wrong with me genetically? Why didn't I take my vitamins every day? Why was I so stressed out when I was pregnant? You name it, when you go through this, you question it.

I know so many parents who refuse to "test" their children because of their own pride. They want to say that it is OK for their child to make poor grades and deny the fact that their bright child is performing below their ability!

We all just want your child to be "normal" and not have difficulties if that is possible. But then, I ask myself, what really is normal?

What is a "normal" car?

We have so many cars on the road and offroad and they are all made for a different purpose. A Landrover is perfect for the African outback but doesn't really do well in Japan, where the roads are more narrow. You wouldn't drag race a Landrover but instead a dragster. SUV's do not get good fuel economy for that you might look at a hybrid vehicle. Compact cars don't do well when you have seven kids to haul around.

The point is that we do not expect one car to fit every task that a car can do... they are simply made for different purposes.

Children are made for different purposes!

So are children! I believe in a Creator that makes each of us for a different purpose. We are simply wired for a different purpose.

My sister with a diagnosed weakness in short term memory actually has learned to accommodate herself and has a stronger short term memory than almost anyone! My cousin with the reading disabilities has acute auditory ABILITIES. She can hear a song twice and memorize it. She is going into the recording industry and has amazing memory and abilities with music and audio. It is absolutely incredible what she can do and the sounds she can hear. She is wired to work with music.

My son went from struggling in third grade and is a strong A student in sixth grade. He has excellent study skills and works on organization. It is a struggle but he is learning independence and a work ethic that will benefit him through life.

The disservice of not testing!

The disservice would have been if we hadn't taken the steps to get the best testing available. My youngest son would have assuredly been diagnosed with ADHD (the psychologist said so), however, we determined that his agitation was in direct response to his difficulty with language processing. He has a language processing disability but amazing visual Ability!

In Conclusion

I'll share more later when I'm not so exhausted. Today, I just want to convey to those in the classroom to understand that every child is different. Do not expect every child to be the same! They are made for different purposes. If a child has a behavioral problem, it is often a signal of something more!

If you are a parent, go with your gut. If you think that there is something "there" then there is! Do not think your child is obstinant and hard headed (as I did with my firstborn), they may instead have a learning disability and you are punishing them for what is not their fault!

This world is full of beautiful, wonderful children. They are made to be musicians, doctors, authors, artists, teachers, scholars and more! We can't all be great at everything because then we wouldn't be human!

We have a lot of work to do, for indeed diagnosis is just the beginning but it is the beginning of something great! It is the beginning of a story of someone who overcame to reach their full potential and beyond.

For indeed, it is the stories of the underdog.. the person who overcame much to become much that we love. The easy road earns no respect. And although we'd love to tread the easy road, it is one that is not my path. When we tread the difficult road, it is often that we are using our machete to cut a path for those to walk behind us a little more easily.

I shall not give up. I will sacrifice anything. I will do anything to reach both my children who are Learning Challenged and those children in my classroom who are wired differently than that we expect in an academic environment.

Indeed, this life is about overcoming. Those are the stories we remember! And it is my path to trod. If it is yours, pick up the torch and do not quit and consider that yours will be the story worth retelling as you overcome much to be much!

Keep the faith!

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