gone starfishing


Basic Skills for the Digital Age

Do our ideas of "basic skills" in a school context actually match what people need to know in our society? From what I've seen, schools are getting much better at incorporating computers into the curriculum, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I think I need to keep a running list of technology skills everyone should have (i.e. that I should teach my students). I get the sense that most people are finally realizing that computers are becoming just another element of daily life, and are more willing to teach and learn "21st Century Skills" but don't necessarily know what's most important. Some of this is basic operation knowledge (what's the best way to share files with other people?) and some of it is a bit more political (how do you write a formal email? is there such a thing?). I have not yet seen any books published with guidelines for text message etiquette, and yet that's something people are beginning to expect of each other. We know the Internet is a mix of really useful information and really terrible monsters, but we don't necessarily practice discerning between the two or give students much help in finding the really useful parts. And everyone loves the Xerox whisperer, but when does anyone let students tinker around and learn how a copier works?

So anyhow, in addition to the things mentioned already, I'm keeping a running list of technology skills I think I owe it to my students to teach or at least briefly discuss. As a large part of our technology skills ultimately have to do with communication, I do not believe such lessons would be out of place for an English teacher to tackle.

Here's my list so far (please add to it in the Comments--I'm sure there's much more that could be added): email (and text message) etiquette, different file types, basic MS Office (including a unit on professional PowerPoint presentations), copy/scan/fax machine commands, printer troubleshooting, storage options, utilizing a local network, compressing and decompressing files, navigating online research and searching effectively, editing a wiki... and definitely learning how to run all the new SmartBoard equipment I keep seeing in classrooms!


Chapter Three: Little Iowa Schoolhouse

In the middle of an overdue homework project, I've decided it's high time to start the third chapter of this blog (the first two chapters being my summer in DC and my semester in Denmark). This chapter will be dedicated to matters closer to home (I both live and attend college in small-town Iowa) and will focus mostly on my thoughts regarding education as a third-year English and Secondary Education major planning to teach in a public school in the near future.

The basis for this "chapter" comes from a practice I've already been doing for the past two or three years: I occasionally journal my thoughts about how I want to set up my future classroom, values I have as an educator, ideas for possible class projects, discoveries I make about pedagogy, turning points in my own educational philosophy, etc. Most of these little journaling bits are sparked by specific conversations or events, and many posts will be directly related to classroom discussions and personal experiences or observations; however, I will try to maintain as much anonymity as possible, both with people and sometimes places as well.

I can’t promise I will update frequently, but I will try for a short post about once a week or so. As always, feel free to leave comments; I love reading them and I’ll try to respond promptly. I also love outside-the-blog discussions if something really piques your interest--most education-related topics are complex enough that I can’t say nearly everything I want in one go, and everything is basically related anyway, so I always welcome more questions and dialogue. (Side note: I’m really happy to find that I’m at a point where I really do have a lot to say about most educational issues that come up, as opposed to times in the past in which I’ve wanted to know more or prolong the discussion, but didn’t know enough about the topic to contribute much input, or even know what kinds of questions to ask.. that's changed).

For now, I should probably go work on that homework project I keep delaying (which, ironically enough, is about blogging)...

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Quotation Granola

  • "There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives." - Audre Lorde
  • "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." 
- Talmud
  • "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • "What we call the freedom of the individual is not just the luxury of one intellectual to write what he likes to write, but his being a voice which can speak for those who are silent. And if he permits his freedom of expression to be abolished, then he has abolished their freedom to find in his voice a voice for their wrongs." - Sir Stephen Spender
  • "To love another person is to see the face of God." - Victor Hugo
  • "We care what happens to people only in proportion as we know what people are." - Henry James
  • "Hope is knowing that people, like kites, are made to be lifted up." - Anonymous
  • "And in each person I catch the fleeting glimpse of something beautiful, and swear eternal friendship with that." - George Santayana