Crossing the Divide

On Monday I taught a workshop called Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts to a room full of teachers from my district. I knew I was taking on a lot by trying to include all three topics (and RSS), but little did I know that I could have called it just Blogs and that would have been just fine. I spent the last fifteen minutes explaining the concepts behind wikis and podcasts, providing them with a set of resources for personal exploration.

Since NECC I have been focusing a lot more on reading the ed tech blogs out there (see sidebar). I immersed my self in Web 2.0 technologies – I’ve played with Writely, YouTube, and explored WordPress for the first time. I was in a pure ed tech state of mind.

I ended up experiencing a strange sort of culture shock. Most of the participants had never read a blog. There were some who struggled with basic Internet use.

I started the workshop off with an overview of Web 2.0, discussing the greater implications, the philosophy behind it, and its potential impact on education. Inspired by Dean Shareski’s workshop wiki, I decided to start with RSS. As the participants began to set up a Bloglines account, with varied difficulty, I realized how far educational world still has to go. NECC attendees get it, that’s why they are there. Many don’t understand and do not have the time to do it on their own. Schools and districts don’t have the time or money. Budgetary constraints keep teachers doing what they have always done.

The diverse set of teachers who spent six hours in front of their computers with me on Monday started to get it. Instead of delving into wikis and podcasts, most set up an account on and really look at how they might incorporate it into their classrooms – in two weeks when school starts. Everyone seemed to really be focused on trying to understand this technology in their specific context. English, art, PE, social studies, science, and special education were all represented.

In the end it really made me realize we have a long way to go. I don’t believe my district is any further ahead or behind technologically then the average district. These teachers represent the masses.

The digital divide is wide and deep.

As an aside, I developed a Blogging WebQuest for the workshop. First, the participants explored the nature of blogs in contrast to the mainstream media. We used the conflict in the Middle East as the content. Second, they looked at current uses of blogs in education and categorized their use. It worked well, providing a conceptual understanding while utilizing the technology being examined (they had to post to a blog as well).

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I Love My Job, But…

Throw out all of the political drama my district is currently going through, the occasional wacky parent, a handful of disruptive kids, and the low pay – I love my job. Interacting with a 150 kids a day, discussing topics that I find interesting, developing curriculum, getting to read more about these topics, and getting to guide my own curriculum make me want to keep coming to work. You’ll notice grading is not on that list. Grading is the part of the job that I actually despise at times. I know evaluation is one of the keys of education and do my best to make sure that I give my students a fair shake, but when I collect a big project or an set of essays, a feeling of dread circles over my head and doesn’t disappear until I have finished.

I just finished grading 109 AP World History essays on the Haitian Revolution in the last week. This set easily took me 25 hours to finish. I usually take 2-3 weeks to get back essays, but I wanted them done well before the grading period ends next week. This is on top of writing a couple lectures (2-3 hours) and revising a lesson for my AP class. I have friends who have said it must be nice to be done with work at 2:30. But, as my wife will attest to, I am always working. I always have a paper to grade, a lesson to work on, a meeting to attend, or a book to read. When I have nothing to do for tomorrow, I think about the next day or even the next school year. Something always needs revising.

Then there is all that time off in the summer. Yeah right.

Anyone else ever get comments that teachers “have it easy”?