Friday, February 15, 2013

How the World Helps Me Teach Pre-Service Teachers

In Less Than 24 Hours!

It took less than 24 hours for the world to help me teach my pre-service teachers. That happens all the time but this time the process was especially interesting.

On January 24, nine days after the start of EDM310's Spring 2013 semester, one of my students (I will refer to the student as JJJJJJ) posted this on JJJJJJ's new blog:
JJJJJJ's Post had no Title

I have just viewed a teacher blog for the 1st part of C4T assignment it was a short post commenting on another teacher's blog or post. My thoughts are, it's all flutter and opinions and we all know what opinions are like, everyone has one. The subject was "school reform" and it's being screwed up by leading internet figures such as Gates, Zuckerberg and Jobs who are nicknamed as "big money guys".
My comment was on how does this help me be a better teacher or at the very least just a teacher. Somebody please explained to me why this class is important, because until the benefit of reading and writing these blogs are explained I'm going to have a bad taste in my mouth.
Less than 24 hours later the post had received 16 comments from some of the most influential education bloggers in the world. From New Zealand to Canada.

I didn't even know about it until I received this Tweet from my good friend and mentor in blogging and commenting on blogs William Chamberlain 45 minutes after the first comment had been left: Interesting stuff brewing on your student's post. You may want to check it out.

Who were the individuals who left comments?

Will Richardson, the author of Will Richardson's Blog
Karl Fisch, author of The Fischbowl
Dorothy Burt author of Manaiakalani who helped teach me the power of blogging more than three years ago which I have discussed in detail in Kaia and Room 10 - Why Blogs and Commenting on Blogs are So Important
And 13 others including third grade teachers, math teachers, principals, education consultants, IT directors, art teachers, regional administrators and 3 who remain a mystery to me. Residents of New Zealand, Canada and at least eight different states in the United States. Truly a world of educators who help me teach. I thank them one and all. I never cease to be amazed by the power of blogging and commenting on blogs.

So What Is This All About?

Each semester I have my pre-service teachers comment on the blogs of their classmates (every week for 16 weeks), teachers (twice every four weeks - 8 posts in all for 4 different teachers from a list of over a hundred that I have compiled since I started EDM310 in the Summer term of 2010), and on kids' blogs (for 10 weeks on blogs of first through twelfth graders in classes all over the world.

The student involved in this story (whom I am calling JJJJJJ in this account) left a comment on a teacher's blog. JJJJJJ had only written two posts at the time JJJJJJ left the comment on Will Richardson's blog post We're Getting Rolled. The comment JJJJJJ left was
Hey I'm suppose to post a comment as part of a college class assignment in Elementary Education. I was assigned to read your blog and I must say I have no freaking idea what the heck you're talking about and how your blog is useful to me as a future educator.
A few people left additional comments on the post that referred to this comment. But the most important responses were left on the JJJJJJ's post in which JJJJJJ reported the comment he had left on the blog of the teacher assigned to JJJJJJ for the first C4T. That was JJJJJJ's second post ever. The irony is that JJJJJJ was not supposed to publish the summary of the post and of the comment left for the teacher until after JJJJJJ had done both parts of the assignment. I am glad JJJJJJ did not follow my instructions however, since the incident has provided an exciting and important learning experience for me, for all of my students, and, I suspect, many of the other participants in this event.

So what has been learned (or not learned)?
1. All posts must have a title. This requirement was not followed in this case.
2. Use proper grammar. Use the correct words to convey your message. This requirement was not followed in this case.
3. Identify yourself as a student in EDM310. This requirement was not followed in this case but, as I explained in class, there are many ways you leave trails when you use the Internet. Remember, as Anthony Capps said, "You are leaving an intellectual trail and you will be Googled!"
4. Post your C4T summaries after you have completed both parts of the C4T the assignments.
5. You are part of a world wide community of learners whether you realize it or not. That community is eager to join you in learning (and to help you do it).
6. The world will help you. That is why you will be developing a PLN. In these 16 comments there were 9 very useful links. Use them!
7. If you do a bit of searching (click on the names of those leaving comments, for instance) you can find even more links to important materials. You can also find worthy candidates to follow on Twitter and/or to add to your PLN as it begins to develop and flourish.
8. Blogs are indeed powerful - and useful. For you. And they will be for your students as well.
9. Mobile County, Baldwin County and even Alabama (despite being Champions in football) are a very small part of the world. The profession of education is practiced differently throughout the world. Learn about these differences.
10. You cannot learn except by doing. If you won't try something new you should not be going into a profession which has as its central focus learning (or at least should have).
11. You must not teach the way you are taught! If you intend to do so, change professions. NOW!
12. When you get offers of help, take them. Contact those who offer help via Twitter, email, or blog comments. You will be surprised by the responses you get.
13. Although this is beyond the scope of EDM310, I would argue that everything we do is based on opinions. We debate those opinions as a part of the learning process. Remember one of the mottoes of EDM310: Questions Are More Important Than Answers.
14. Don't jump to conclusions until you have made your best effort to understand and use the tools we use in class.
15. Use Twitter. See if you can't make it into your most important source of professional development as I have and as have many of the respondents to JJJJJJ's post and comment.
16. I will quote Dorothy Burt on this one since I want to avoid patting myself on the back:
I would like to let you know that this class [EDM310] is the envy of educators around the globe...We enjoy having a number of your classmates visit our children's blogs (at Pt England School) and my own blog and are always envious when we track back and see the latest things you all are being taught...Be very very thankful.
17. We are part of a worldwide educational community as I have said often in class. If you did not believe me then, I hope these events have convinced you that I am correct in that statement.

The complete set of the comments left so far can be found in a separate post Complete Set of Comments Left for JJJJJJ.


  1. I was honestly shocked when I read this blog. The student had a lack of respect for you and this class. Just like they said everyone has an opinion how he or she felt about the class was an opinion. The world is evolvoing and technology is changing and we must reach our students in all different aspects. Having them write blogs and comment and read others blogs to help their reading and writing skills is amazing to me. I think this is a creative alternative to in the classroom assignments. I was even more shocked to see a student answer a blog they were given with the comment I do not know why I was given this blog to read. This to me is wrong you were given the blog to read to provide feedback or share you expertise or opinion on what you read. We are here to learn from each other and what I may do wrong and do not catch another student or teacher can help me. I think some people just do not like computers or extra work and this class does require a lot of your time or you will miss a lot. I do not think the student was purposely being ugly they just felt a certain way but as furture educators we have to learn to censor our thoughts. I enjoyed this post I was shocked but I thought it needed to be pointed out for others to read and learn what not to do.

    1. It isn't about censoring our thoughts, it is about getting active in a dialogue so that we can come to some kind of understanding of each other's position. Of course it helps to be careful of the word choice ;)

    2. Jessica: It is all part of the learning process. Even though many students think they know it all when they enter EDM310, they don't. We learn from our mistakes and from those of others. Learning never ends. Nor do mistakes. We must, however, keep those events combined.

      This story also demonstrates what I say over and over again. You are leaving an intellectual trail even though you may not realize that and the world is watching.

      Thanks for your C4T comment.

    3. Bill: I should add your post as Learning Possibility #17.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I moved the above comment to a reply to Jessica which is a better placement

  4. Interesting post John. I think I will require my graduate students in IDE650 to read and respond.

  5. Dr. Strange,
    Dr. Vitulli asked her IDE 650 class to respond to your blog post; here is my flash response. Perhaps it will stir the pot some.

    Unlike the Finlands of the world, where education is the most competitive field for only the top 10% of college students, America, far too often, directs the top 10% of students into STEM programs. And who can blame the top American students for going this route given the status teachers enjoy in America? I seem to recall the red herring political move recently where “greedy” American teachers were blamed for almost every social ill except global warming, which of course does not exist (a bumper sticker told me so last week). But such thinking might get me labeled as an elitist, socialist, or union lackey, so let me curtail the impending rant and focus on the matter at hand.

    Sadly, I am not shocked by the style or substance (irony intended) of JJJJJJ’s (even though the digital trail to his actual name was not hard to follow) comments; being from Alabama and having lived in Mobile for many years, I can easily picture JJJJJJ. The anti-intellectualism permeating in America, specifically in the South, can be seen in almost every run-on sentence in JJJJJJ’s post. The best teachers I have had and currently know all share an intense curiosity and love of learning. These qualities cannot be found in JJJJJJ’s post. One wonders why he wants to be a teacher if he doesn’t want to learn about the craft. And given my years of working in universities, I can attest that JJJJJ does not hold a monopoly on a lack of curiosity among education majors (or college students in general for that matter). Hopefully he will use this as a learning experience and not shut out the important lessons (17 and counting) generated from his post, but my half-empty side doubts it since self-reflection and self-awareness rarely come in pre-packaged sound bites.

  6. Dr. Strange,

    I am a student in Dr. Vitulli's IDE 650 class and I have to say I am a little embarrassed for this student, JJJJJJ. I do not know about the specifics of this student's education history or upbringing but I would assume by now he or she has received extensive information on how to communicate effectively, both orally and verbally. If I were this student, I would hate to know that I have posted something that would cause people to judge me so negatively. I would hate for a future employer to pass me over because of how I presented myself on the Internet. This is a teachable moment for sure. While we are all entitled to our opinions, we should use discretion when choosing to voice those opinions.

    I hope this student is able to take this experience and grow and learn from it.

  7. Dear Professor Strange,
    My name is Cari Raymond. I am an EDM 310 student at the University of South Alabama. I am commenting on your blog as part of our teacher blog assignment. I will be posting the summary on my blog Cari Raymond’s EDM 310 Class Blog on April 7th 2013. Thank you.
    I would say that of all of the assignments that we have done the blogs by the teachers have helped me the most because this is first-hand lessons and knowledge by those in the front lines. They want others to learn from their mistakes and go in with eyes open. When I was younger I had to do a paper on the Gulf War but I did not look on-line or read a book before I began to write; I talked to my Dad who was there. I asked someone who had experience to teach me and that is what we are doing with these teacher's blogs. While I do have many happy memories of my school days there are just as many bad ones and most are about a teacher who did not listen or was boring. I do not want to be the teacher who made a student not want to come to school but one who made them yearn for it more. No one wants to be the mistakes of their past and with this class I believe that there will be more "good" teachers.
    But there is one issue I have seen come up again and again in class now and I fear I do not know how to approach it: technology and parents. I have read and hear the many concerns from parents that technology is rotting their children's mind and that they do not want their child exposed more to it in the classroom. How do I explain or show that what they are doing that the programs that I am teaching them to use are not games but tools?
    Cari Raymond

  8. Dr. Strange, I have read this post a couple of times and each time I read it I learn a little more than I did the first time. I am amazed how some students have no clue of what it takes to be successful in college much less as an educator. This class has taught me a great deal about technology in education but it also has taught me about being a husband and a father. Many of the blogs and videos we have reviewed has given me insight into being the person and future teacher that I want to be. This critique of JJJJJJ's comments has proven that this person is not ready to be an educator. This post has also been inspiration for our group's final project video. Also this is a good example of how a PLN can be helpful. Thanks Dr. Strange for your commitment to guiding and coaching your students to be successful future educators.

  9. Dr. Strange,

    Former EDM 310 student of yours from a couple of years back. I've been out of school for a few semesters now, the world has taken me some interesting places. I'm trying to get a new blog up and running, as well as a twitter presence.

    At any rate, I was just browsing your blog to see how the world of EDM 310 is going and I saw this post.

    It was a very interesting read, and despite JJJJJJ's reactions to the experience I thought the overwhelming response by the edtech community to be inspiring.

    I just have one question. Why can we not teach the way that we are taught? I think its fairly obvious that we cannot teach exactly the same way that we have been taught. We have to be innovators and explorers of education to move beyond the experience of Mr. Winkle. But if something worked, why not take a look at how we can effectively implement it in our future classrooms?

  10. I am delighted to hear from you.

    Your question is an interesting one. The problem with the way your were taught (probably and certainly a generalization) is that you were taught to memorize information, carry it around with you, burp it back when necessary, and to act as an independent learner within the confines of a small (relatively) community.

    That no longer works. We have to work collaboratively in a world-wide community. Employers want people who can work well in teams, not as individuals. We have to be connected with the world, not just the attitudes, experiences and prejudices of Alabama (or the South or whatever).

    We no longer have to carry around information in our heads. Almost all information (text, pictures, graphics, audio and video) is available from our phones and maybe, after today, from our watches. The need now is not for memorizers but people who can ask questions, figure out what information is necessary to address those questions, know how to find and properly evaluate and use information to address the questions, and can ask another series of questions that move is further along in what we are doing and what needs to be done. This is very different from the way you were probably taught.

    Until last semester I spent about four weeks addressing the question you raise. I now no longer do that. I just point to Baldwin County and say "Look at Baldwin County. That is the new way we will all have to teach: project based learning with the best technological tools available to each student to work effectively in a world where "all information is in all places at all times." I still assign some material to address your question, however. Take a look at Blog Post Assignments 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11.

    Stop by the Lab for a visit when you get a chance! We can continue our discussion.