the year to come

i've taken a very childish attitude regarding the remaining 6 days of summer vacation. when someone mentions the end of august i snap, 'shut up'.
when someone complains about the summer flying by i stick my fingers in my ears and sing liz phair songs.
when someone tries to ask me when i have to be back at work i change the subject to cheese. i ate a grilled manchego with tomato today. tasty.

i've been muddling my way through alan november's book, web literacy for educators. a great book, that i'm just barely getting into, not for lack of content interest, but more for lack of ability to recognize that within 3 weeks i'm going to need to be full steam ahead with learning.

i dig alan november a lot. he's an incredibly smart and sarcastic man. he's basically disgusted with the state of public education in our country and while he's profiting off seminars and book sales that are supposed to help, he's not impacting the problem enough to bring about the changes we need. he's a revolutionary thinker but doesn't seem much of a fighter. he must believe his supporters will create the revolution in his stead.

november has given me a seed of an idea. his schtick is real learning happens while using technology for a meaningful purpose, and talking to real people about it. the seed is this: imagine a middle school, say 8th grade class learning about the american revolutionary war. maybe they're into it, maybe they're tired of it, but either way, they have content they've learned and notes they've taken, and maybe a quiz or test or essay along the way. what i'd like to do, thanks to alan, is get that class into my computer lab for a few sessions. first session we talk about the revolutonary war. we answer some simple questions. how did it start? who were the key players and why them and not others? what exactly was the reason for the war? how do you think the different sides felt about the war? on and on. we spend another session talking about podcasts. i intro garage band, or if i'm lucky, i partner the kids in groups of 2 and hand out the ipods and audio recording adapters i will win on a grant in time for the project through donor's choose, expect a link once they've approved my proposal. we learn how to create a podcast, how the software works, and how to upload it to itunes. boom, bang, done.

we put together podcasts answering the questions answered in the first session, and push them up to the itunes store so someone else can download and listen to them.

we find a cooperating class in england, preferably, who wants to participate. the british class downloads the podcasts, listens to them, reacts, and sends back their own, which my kids receive, listen to, and react. it could go on forever. a real, international substantive debate amongst middle school kids on topic of the american revolutionary war.

and how cool would it be to end the unit in a videoconferencing party where kids in new york and kids in england have some snacks, maybe pizzas, maybe fish and chips, and some sodas, and they can get on a laptop and see and talk to the person in real time who they've been listening to the podcasts of. they can talk about the project or they can ask questions about life in england but either way they're making a social connection with someone far away and likely quite different from them, but possibly a lot the same. it would be a very very exciting thing to watch.

does anyone who reads here, and i know there are a number of you, know any teachers or know anyone who might know a teacher in the UK, england, great britain, the other side of the pond. i have some feelers out to find the class i'll work with, but no good leads yet.

this project is going to be my baby this year. like the student newspaper and photography exhibit was last year. damn, i still need to post some pics of that.

so i guess i'm back on the schoolbus.

wish me well this year.

i might actually be dealing with children who understand that when they come to school, they will spend much of their time there learning.

i'm optimistic.


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