May 21, 2009

Sitting on top of the blog bubble

9:10 a.m. - Everyone in the gym can feel the excitement building.  Students quickly shuffle back and forth from side to side.  Suddenly everyone seems to move fluently with the sound of the basketball dribbling down the court - everyone except me, I do not move fluenty.  In comes a student half my size - here's my chance, I go for the block but he fakes to my right.  Luckily I stopped his elbow with my jaw.  So here is the premise for this upcoming blog it building background information.  

Actually, this post has nothing to do with basketball.  I am just thinking ahead and using the elbow to the jaw as a potential scapegoat in case people greatly disagree with me.  What I do want to discuss comes from an experience I was part of a few months ago - E-journalism.  As I have already mentioned, it was an eye opening experience.  Students from different schools working together in a projects based environment with multiple teachers as guides.  This, I thought to myself, is what education should feel like all of the time.  However, something was "off".  Not everything was 100%.  We were covering a conference held for teachers about how to use technology to enhace student learning.  Although I had an idea of why I had an "off" feeling it wasn't until I watched the video featured in my last blog that I realized what was missing - the students.  Well, that's not true.  The students were there.  They were covering the conference.  David Warlick came and talked to the students.  He even hosted a panel discussion with the students.  So why do I say the students were missing?  Read on.

I didn't see any students being part of the other presentations.  Our E-journalism team showed videos during lunch, but we had mixed emotions about the response.  Overall, we felt like teachers in a disengaged class - many people seemed to not be paying attention.  Why do we do this?  Why do we as teachers hold conferences that are really about our students, yet not include our students?  Shouldn't we be listening to them?  Are we the experts?  Are they?  Do they know what they want?  Do we know what they need?  I don't know.  But we sure have a lot of "experts" and most of them are not students.  

Even now I am still having difficulty processing my thoughts.  All I know is that our students were covering a conference that was all about them, about teaching them and connecting with them.  A lot of people at the conference were our "tech" and "collaboration gurus".  You would think that it would be easy for our students to get immersed.  And it was.  And it wasn't.  Like I said, David Warlick came up and talked to our students.  He talked to them for quite some time.  And it was an interesting conversation.  Donna DesRoches was part of our team, and an organizer - but she found time to come up and "visit'.  Gary Ball showed up, so did Ryan Hackl.  Mark Kowalski came and helped us with our Mac problems.  But that was it.  Well, not exactly.  Students set up intereviews with they spent some time with those people as well.  And now I'm no longer sure.  Maybe there was more engagement than I thought.  

I guess it's kind of like my ideas about blogging.  I love blogging, but it's hard.  I mean, why do we really blog?  To converse with others.  To bounce ideas, to collaborate, etc...  But I am finding that it is time consuming.  I love reading other people's blogs.  And commenting.  I love when other people read my blogs.  And comment.  But does it benefit our students?  I think so...most of the time.  We are sharing ideas, and defining them, and redefining them.

But I think that there is a blog "bubble" and this is the part that is hard.  In this blog bubble are the more prominent bloggers.  We know who they are.  They are amazing.  And all of us secretely want to become part of that blog bubble.  But are we running the risk of losing our way?  And what I mean by that is: is anyone else worried that it might not always be about the students, and about education - but rather about us?  Are we focused too much on being in that bubble?


  1. As teachers we are still stuck in the mindset that we are the experts. It is still largely a give relationship (not a sharing one). I can be guilty of that. We have to realize that students have something to say - and it is worth listening to. We will keep them more engaged if they are part of the conversation - not just hearing the conversation.

    As for the e-Jounalism response - I am going to give one excuse. We all had terrible wireless at the conference. Most of us could not look at what your group was doing until we went home at the end of the day. A lot of your student's projects had a bit of a shelf life that had more impact if viewed right away.

  2. Good point. I guess if the connection had been better more people would have been familiar with the students work and more likely to engage them. Although it is odd that the the wireless connection at a technology conference was slow.

  3. I really like this post. It asks (in my opinion) most of the right questions. I love your use of ambivalence to make good points. For me it articulates the way I often approach the world; there is no absolute path to truth, only the journey on the continually negotiated path.

    Regarding e-journalism: I didn't really know I was invited. My school wasn't involved (never yet has been) and I have to say it didn't even occur to me to come visit. Perhaps in future planning there needs to be built into the structure of the e-journalism a means whereby the participants and the students can interact and dialogue. From my point of view, the students had their agenda and their assigned tasks none of which had anything to do with me.

    As for the noon-hour presentation: If this is indeed an important part of the conference, then there should be no presentations during a buffet lunch. If I recall, by the time I got my lunch and sat down, the presentation was almost done. If it is that important (which it is) then we should be at a sit-down lunch eating simultaneously and then collectively attending to the presentation.

  4. Oh, another random thought: schools are hierarchical organizations. There really is no democracy in the structure. At best, we are benevolent dictatorships. A good example is curriculum that is dictated by governments and is sometimes not closely related to the findings of pedagogical research.

  5. pcone: you offer some interesting insight. I think you have stressed what is most important - that we can learn from this experience. Perhaps next time we can make our students more of a central focus (e.g. rather than a lunch presentation why not have them as a keynote?) And the experience was still a great one. Maybe we should think about opening it up to more students. As for the "benevolent dictatorship", somewhat true. Although I think that many of us are moving into a more collaborative democracy.