Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cyberbullying and Digital Citizenship

The World Wide Web... When people hear that term do they think of the global impact their postings can have? Or, do they just think about easier access to information of all sorts?  Whatever you or I think, our students may not understand the implications of all their postings on the web. The New York Times article linked below discusses the prevalence of cyberbullying and the inability of schools to address the issue of off-site postings. Even the courts are confused about where responsibility lies. The only thing that is clear is that we need to educate our students about ethical and responsible digital citizenship. We need to start from an early age, and continue to teach throughout a student's years in school. Bullying has more impact now that it can remain in a permanent and publicly accessible format.  We need to help our students understand not only the impact of their words, texts, and video, but also the permanence that web postings maintain.

Here's a link to The New York Times article about cyberbullying:
The New York Times - Cyberbullying

Here's a link to Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization working to develop responsible digital citizenship.  They also have some cool lesson plans and parent/student contracts.
Common Sense Media

Friday, June 18, 2010

Honoring Enlisted Graduates

This week, we learned from The New York Times that more school districts are choosing to honor students bound for military duty at their commencement exercises. At debate is whether this recognition takes away the prestige of academic achievement being lauded during the ceremony. Many of these newly-honored are average students, unlikely to be singled out for their academic success. As opposed to many others who are college bound, these enlisted students have chosen a career rather than a more challenging academic future.

So, does that mean we should refuse to recognize their future service? Certainly no one would discount the hard work and potentially life-threatening sacrifice offered by these students. Putting their lives on the line, they will be working hard to defend the freedoms we hold so dear. Clearly, there is value in military service. However, does that mean that we should diminish the attention to academic achievement that is the purpose of commencement exercises?

In our increasingly career-driven world, the push for a jobs orientation is strong. We encourage students to choose college majors with strong earnings and career potential. We include cooperative education assignments with employers to broaden the real-world experience for our students. Should a career in the military be different? Surely there is the potential for later academic growth made possible through the various programs offered to veterans, and few would deny the need for a strong American military. Yet, does that warrant special recognition at an academic ceremony?

I can certainly see both sides of the issue, and even the viewpoint that this recognition glamorizes a deathly future of warfare. Yet, I believe that our world has positive futures for all our high school graduates. Some may have to delay college for familial or financial reasons, and others may just not be ready for the academic rigor that college demands. Choosing to serve in the military is a admirable alternative. The difficult choice to serve others is something that should be lauded, whether it is service through the military or through non-profit organizations such as AmeriCorps. Most importantly, these students have achieved what our society has demanded. They have graduated from high school, when all too many have dropped out. In my opinion, recognition of enlisted graduates is a worthwhile activity, but I'd love to hear what you think. Add your comments to join the debate!

Here's a link to the New York Times article that got me thinking about this:

Here's a link to AmeriCorps:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Effort and Responsibility

President Obama made his first presidential commencement speech this week, and he offered some down-to-earth advice for the high school graduates in Kalamazoo, MI. He told them that they are likely to make mistakes, but that they must persevere. He noted that there may be occasions where they work hard, but to no avail. Why such seemingly negative words? His key message was, "Don't make excuses. Take responsibility not just for your successes. Take responsibility where you fall short as well" (NYTimes.com).

How refreshing it was to see someone encouraging our youth to avoid the blame game and stand up for both their good works and their mistakes. Claiming ownership is certainly one of the first keys to fixing, and learning from, our mistakes.  Lately, I've been in meetings where one segment of the education field will blame another for the current deficits in our system. Colleges are pointing at high schools, and high schools are pointing at elementary schools, and elementary schools are pointing at preschools, parents, etc. Rather than working on pointing the finger at others, we all need to stand up and be a part of the necessary change to help our youth grow into responsible citizens. I'm pleased that in this day and age we can admit to mistakes and yet still overcome them.

I'm also pleased that President Obama reinforced the principle of effort. Current research indicates that effort, more than talent or ability, is the necessary ingredient for student success. I believe we need to empower our youth with the understanding and skills to help them succeed in this new century. They need opportunities to practice perseverance, and the support system to help them overcome their mistakes. President Obama's speech sent the right message; now we need to put it into action.

Check out the full article detailing President Obama's address at The New York Times with the link below.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hungry for New Novels

This week I learned that one of my favorite young adult novels, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, was being adopted by the Lenape High School as its school-wide summer read. It's a futuristic dystopian novel with a teenage female protagonist battling in a televised Survivor-style competition in order to provide for her home town.

Why do I love this book? There are many reasons. It has a wide variety of themes that can be incorporated into all sorts of units. Bravery, loyalty, friendship, family, social classes, political systems, media influence, and self-identity are all possible avenues of exploration with this text. It's probably between a 6th and 7th grade reading level, but it can  easily hold the attention of those much older. Besides the diversity of themes, it offers the basis for a discussion on change. Its a great start to contrast this malfunctioning, futuristic society with that of today. My biggest reason is that the book is truly engaging. The reader is drawn into the plight of our heroine, and can easily empathize with the struggles she faces.

The book itself is a hot new read across the country. I first learned of it from my sister who teaches English out in Colorado, where the middle school in her town has rapidly adopted it. The popularity of the book also is evidenced by the broad sales of the second and third sequels in the series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I'm waiting for a bit of free time to read them (I know, keep on laughing!).   If you're teaching middle school or even high school students, I encourage you to check it out.  Let me know what you think of it, and be sure to post your own favorite novels for teenagers!

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)
Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

The First Time!

Wow, after a long time contemplating this, I'm finally entering the blogosphere and creating my own! What do I hope to accomplish? My goal is share my thoughts on American education, and hopefully gain your insights into how we can improve teaching. As a pre-service teacher, I'm acutely aware of the enormous task our educators face, and I can't wait to be a part of this shared journey toward academic excellence. There are so many educators making a fantastic difference, but the data shows that we still have a long way to go. I enjoy following education news, and so when I come across an interesting article I'll be sure to post a link. Perhaps you'll read it and offer your own comments, thus sparking the creative discourse necessary for improvement.