Monday, September 10, 2007

What one teacher can do....

From the title, you might think this is going to be a post of how one teacher can change a student's life/day/direction. Well, it's actually how one teacher can recharge a technology trainer's batteries. I have been absent from this blog for awhile, sadly, because I frankly haven't been "feeling the love" of instructional technology lately. Various technical frustrations, vendor issues and general beginning of the year chaos sometimes wears me out. But a conversation with one of my English teachers, Chris Palmi, today really got me started again.

This is what I call one of those "little big things"...doesn't sound like a big deal, but it can have a great impact. Chris is jumping into Web 2.0 tools in his classroom - discussion boards, blogs, etc. We've met a few times about determining goals, what tools best serve his needs - not really anything earth shattering. But there are two things that he's doing that really got me excited:

1) Chris is having his students create a website that is basically a fake MySpace page for a character in a book they read. Now, here's the twist: they are using the information about safe MySpace accounts from the technology orientation I gave all our freshman last week. Will Richardson, Dave Jakes and others have been suggesting we teach MySpace for a while now... how refreshing to find I actually have someone doing it and doing it in context and of his own accord. He's not losing any time. He was already doing a similar activity -- he just updated it and is incorporating online safety information while he's at it.

2) Chris also happens to be a teacher educator at a local university and teachers pre-service methods classes. He's incorporating Web 2.0 tools in there as well. He knows his students were taught traditionally and will lean toward teaching traditionally but he also knows he would not serve them or their future students well by not introducing them to 21st century tools while they're in his class. His English methods students are blogging. His English methods students are using discussion boards. If it's an integral part of their teacher prep (they're not taught about blogging, they are blogging) there's a chance these ideas (and more) will become part of their teaching. And, even better, he knows that if he is going to have them blog he'd better be blogging himself - and he is.

Many of Chris's ideas are in the infancy stages but we're already talking about how to improve them for next year and what more we can do to make connections with teachers, students and pre-service teachers.

Here's the other thing I love about this: Chris is not a "tech-head" kind of teacher. He is your regular, everyday English teacher (well, frankly, he's a phenomenal, regular, everyday English teacher) who might not know a lot about technology but he does know two things -- technology is undeniably a part of life in the 21st century and we need to connect to the world kids live in better than we do right now.