Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Why Technology?" A True Story

The other day I received a request from my Linkedin account from Scott Bolzan, a college football teammate of mine back in the early 80’s at Northern Illinois University. Scott was a friend, a fellow offensive lineman who, I heard, had an accident which resulted in a brain injury that stripped him of all his memories. All 46 years worth. Here was a man, captain of our Conference and California Bowl Championship team, NFL player, pilot, and, most importantly, husband and father, stripped of his past.

I hadn’t talked to Scott in 25 years.

In his contact with me, he had described his situation and hoped that I could help him by sharing some stories about our days playing at NIU. I also found out that it was his wife, Joan had requested that he begin reaching out to former teammates. My heart sank as I thought about what she was going through, too. I remembered when she and Scott met, dated, and then were wed.

Quickly, I began rewinding the years and jotted down snippets from the past…how we got nicknames, memories from other players, games, triumphs and toil, that is college football. He then sent me to his website that includes his tragic story, television interviews, pictures of Scott and Joan and their biographies—all serving as a means to get the word out about this rare unfortunate situation. I noticed that on his site he is also a Twitter user, and immediately logged on and followed @scottbolzan, and then immediately tweeted to my PLN about his story. Then I remembered a wiki I started last year for our team on the 25th anniversary of our championship season called “Cal Bowl ’83.” , which I sent to him as well. He emailed me back saying how much he enjoyed looking at the pictures, then and now, of his teammates.

So why am I writing about this in an educational blog?

Many educators, including myself feverishly write and speak about the digital disconnect between school and home. Kids are connected to all levels of technology outside of class, but are often denied it in school. For those skeptics, who resist the available technologies, I invite them to study the role of technology played Scott’s dilemma. He found me again through Linkedin, we emailed, I sent him digital images from the past from a wiki we made about our bowl appearance, visited his website, (PLEASE visit) and originally heard about his situation from a site called Mallorymen, a social networking site for former players of our coach, Bill Mallory from Miami, Colorado, NIU, and Indiana.

I don’t know if Scott will ever regain his memory. My impression is that instead trying to “remember” he is on a quest to “relearn” through his family and friends. So where does technology fit into this? These sites and tools serve as a conduit for his regaining at least some of his past. Social networking sites, blogs, wikis, twitter, and email all bring us a little closer. They have enabled Scott to reach out for help, and for us to reach back.

Try doing that with paper and pen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Hope

As a parent, it is a mixed blessing being a teacher. It’s like the chef who goes to a restaurant; sometimes knowing the workings of the restaurant can inhibit the enjoyment of the meal. So, as a parent of three…and a teacher, I sometimes know “too much” as I am often reminded from time to time by each of my children.

As this school year starts, my youngest begins his high school career. His first day was inauspicious, very “freshman.” He could not open his locker, got lost in the massive building a couple times, and, somehow, lost his lunch. And that’s not a euphemism, he literally, could not find his lunch. As heartbreaking as that may be, I know those things will work out with developing his routine. What concerns me more is the hope I have for the learning experiences he has in front of him. I would like to share those hopes:

I hope his teachers provide clear expectations and constant feedback.

I hope his teachers use grades to measure progress, not to sort, reward, or punish.

I hope his teachers provide opportunities for him to work collaboratively on problems that matter.

I hope he is able to write for authentic, real audiences other than the teacher.

I hope he is encouraged to read a wide variety of literature, and be able to select some of his own readings.

I hope he is permitted to redo and rework projects.

I hope that he is asked to “do” more than he is asked to “listen.”

I hope he is asked to create and express himself in many different modes.

I hope he is asked to develop a position, and then defend it.

I hope he smiles and laughs often.

I hope he is asked to regularly reflect on his work and the work of others.

I hope he is asked to think deeply instead of respond quickly.

I hope he is asked to tell and listen to stories often.

I hope he has opportunities to create, discuss, and solve issues with students across town or across the country.

I hope he is able to teach, and learn from his peers.

I hope his teachers NEVER offer extra credit for behaviors that have nothing to do with his learning.

I hope his teachers use technology to extend learning .

I hope that his homework is purposeful.

I hope he is allowed to make lots and lots of mistakes; that’s how he’ll learn.

I hope he takes responsibility for his own learning.

I hope he values learning over point-gathering.

I hope his teachers spend less time on test prep, more time on life prep.

I hope he never says “school is boring.”

These hopes may seem idealistic to some. That may be. But I am a teacher. Optimism and idealism are givens. As you begin this school year, always remember that every pair of eyes and ears out there belong to someone.

Someone who hopes.

Have a great year.