One conflicting, nagging thought is that as a Computer Technology Essentials teacher this year I’m doing actual harm. This current notion about how coding saving students from poverty, and the egalitarianism in technology makes us all equals.
Tech companies can exploit such vulnerabilities to keep people hooked; manipulating, for example, when people receive “likes” for their posts, ensuring they arrive when an individual is likely to feel vulnerable, or in need of approval, or maybe just bored. And the very same techniques can be sold to the highest bidder. “There’s no ethics,” he says. A company paying Facebook to use its levers of persuasion could be a car business targeting tailored advertisements to different types of users who want a new vehicle. Or it could be a Moscow-based troll farm seeking to turn voters in a swing county in Wisconsin.
When students ask me about how many YouTube followers I have, they’re asking if I matter based on algorithms.
“The techniques these companies use are not always generic: they can be algorithmically tailored to each person. An internal Facebook report leaked this year, for example, revealed that the company can identify when teens feel “insecure”, “worthless” and “need a confidence boost”. Such granular information, Harris adds, is “a perfect model of what buttons you can push in a particular person”.
The thing is, I rarely get comments, re-blogs, or shared discussion from these posts. I send them into a deep, dark well, hear a splash, gurgle, and never anything more.
Come on, guys! It’s not about the clicks and likes: it’s about do we connect with one another.
The Notice and Note Facebook page is a collaborative, safe place. At least I thought so until yesterday. The post I’m referring to is gone, taken down by the poster: people began attacking her parenting skills. And that is not okay.
The question she posed was how to best talk to her daughter’s teacher about reading logs – long story short, she knew her daughter might have to deal with the consequence of a ‘zero’ if she didn’t turn in her reading log. The little girl loves to read but hates the chore of logs. When I spoke out and said maybe there is an alternative assignment, and reading logs are garbage, the backlash I received blew my eyebrows off my face. To paraphrase, I was a know it all and it was just my opinion.
Yes, I reminded the commentators who were hostile to me that they were on the Notice and Note site, and it wasn’t my opinion, it was the informed opinion of Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, too.
Here is the subtext: many teachers were scared. They hid behind “we don’t get to do what we like all the time, so suck it up, buttercup.” They said their principals “made” them do reading logs. They had no choice. It teaches responsibility, accountability, and all that. When I said all it does is teaches students to hate reading, I was told it didn’t.
I have that effect on people. It’s my fatal flaw. I write short sentences. To the point. And hold up those mirrors. Now, I could say if I was a published author or a male teacher, things may have gone better for me. Well, for them. Because I’m not the one who’s upset or harmed: it’s about our students. Our children. Growing readers and thinkers.
Just in time, a teacher that others respect, and don’t find nearly or at all antagonist, (unlike one certain teacher *cough* we all know and love *cough*) has a post on KQED promoting her book, Pernille Ripp:
“I will admit that not every kid leaves my classroom having fallen back in love with school. Sometimes that damage takes years to undo. But I mostly get them back on the path of loving learning. I take responsibility for my own actions as a teacher and realize the damage I can do. I go to school knowing that every day I can be the difference between a child embracing his or her own learning or tuning out. I accept that what I do today may make the difference a few years from now between staying in school or dropping out.”
I am hoping that some read her post and give themselves permission to be better teachers and push their practice.
Are there two kinds of people in this world? Those who X or those who Y? Or maybe that is the paradox, thinking we can be this or that. But if I was the kind of person who asks if there are two kinds of people, (which I’m not) I would ask if you like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
“Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.”
How do you feel about The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein?
Do you ever feel tapped out by the financial and emotional demands of teaching? I sure do. This week alone there were tens of broken pencils on the ground. Stolen candy. Requests to buy T-shirts for ourselves for the school fundraiser. Requests to pitch in for the staff morale committee (12 years x $20 = $240, of which I’ve never received a card, birthday cake, or any acknowledgment or benefit. I’ve been in the hospital, my husband had surgery, and yeah); also, requests to pitch in more money for a friend’s birthday present (I have the misfortune of having a birthday during the midwinter break). I pledged $40 to the fundraiser already. Good thing it was payday yesterday…oops, and it’s gone.
Over the summer I thought ahead and made sure I would have Lord of the Flies books, spending my time and goodwill with friends and family, begging them to donate the books I thought I would be using this fall. Like the Little Red Hen, I planned ahead, spending hours over the summer creating and curating important resources, building on research, professional judgment, and knowledge. And this week I planned lessons, shared knowledge, gave away books, bought a new teacher a $30 gift card for Amazon so she would be able to get a few books, got a request for books for a teacher returning to her classroom, and let’s not forget the four current natural disasters (although one could argue the ferocity of the Level 5 Hurricanes is man-made). There are teachers in Texas and Florida trying to rebuild their classrooms and schools.
So the teachers who are teaching 8th grade ELA this year asked me for the Lord books, and I handed over the box and then went to my room and cried. Those were my brand-new books with really cool book cover illustrations. They didn’t even have my name on them yet. I wanted to write my name. I have black Sharpies. They’re mine.
Later, I asked them both if we could please compromise, and they’re great colleagues, and I’m sure they will. But it wasn’t easy for me to speak up.
It’s so hard for people, and I could make a strong case for women especially (see The Giving Tree reference if you’re confused) to say no. Women have different sins than men. The sin of selfishness. The sin of owning things. The sin of hard work and time not being for everyone else’s benefit but their own.
My family takes emotional energy, in the best of ways, but in hard ways, too. Jobs, health, dreams, goals: mothers/wives circle around the members making sure everyone has what they need, and if she doesn’t, is thought of as toxic or dysfunctional. My own brilliant husband told me the other day he thought I planned stuff because I liked it. After 25 years he still has some things to learn about me. Because I am good at something doesn’t mean I like to do it.
So here to permission for us all to say No, or I can’t make it. Perhaps another time. Or just back to “no?”
I’ll share a secret, too. Teaching ELA is the best teaching gig ever. Books, stories, creativity, imagination…and oh, did I mention the books?!
In Computer Essentials I answered the same repetitive, mind-numbing questions because students wouldn’t read a sentence or two of instructions. They don’t know how to talk to each other, no matter how many strategies I scaffolded.
But as far as not knowing, yet, how to do and collaborate, I don’t blame them: they have a pass with me. They’re wonderful, and they’re trying. And when they get something, they thank me, and I get a smile in return.
It may not be a coffee mug, but those smiles keep me going.
How do we concurrently 1. teach students how stories work (or how anything works for that matter) 2. use technology to best demonstrate concepts 3. have students practice and grow their own knowledge?
One idea: mind mapping.
There are multiple available apps, etc. for this technique. We had Inspiration in our district, but not sure if we renewed the license or not. No matter. I know we have other similar apps on our PCs for work. Mind mapping is simply brainstorming, sketching ideas in a hierarchal visual mode, and revisable in real time. For anyone who’s done a cocktail napkin sketch, written a grocery list, or planned an essay, you’ve done a form of mind mapping. It’s finding your way, setting a course, and looking at the big picture.
All mind maps begin with a main concept or idea that the rest of the map revolves around, so choosing that idea or topic is the first step. Begin by creating an image or writing a word that represents that first main idea.
From that main idea, create branches (as many as needed), that each represent a single word that relates to the main topic. It’s helpful to use different colors and images to differentiate the branches and sub-topics.
Then, create sub-branches that stem from the main branches to further expand on ideas and concepts. These sub-branches will also contain words that elaborate on the topic of the branch it stems from. This helps develop and elaborate on the overall theme of the mind map. Including images and sketches can also be helpful in brainstorming and creating the sub-branch topics.
Mind maps can be created on paper but are more easily and fluidly created on a computer with mind mapping software such as Inspiration Software®’s Inspiration® 9.