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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Newspaper Intelligence

As I picked up my paper today, I reflected on the memories I have of my parents reading the paper. My dad would come home from work about 3 or 4, sit down and read the paper. He was the smartest man I knew, and I could ask him about any situation in the world. He would explain it to me. He read magazines, as well, with an avid interest in current events, science, and music. He had turned down a chance to go to college because he wouldn't accept "charity." It was the depression and there were no jobs to be found. Ultimately, he fought in the front lines of WWII and came home to raise a family. He opted for a truck-driving job with Dean's Milk that paid well and a home in the suburbs of Chicago.

Mom is 95 and reads the paper every day. She is equally smart, and able to point out things I may have missed because I work full-time and don't read the paper every day, except to skim. She does the crossword puzzle and reads the bridge column as well. She is another reader passionately interested in current events, music, medicine, and now, technology.

I subscribe to a paper and scan it in the morning if I have time. Sometimes the papers pile up for a week before I go through them and pull interesting articles. I have given up saving recipes (no time to cook) and reading in-depth analyses of situations. I save the articles, but get more information from public radio and TV news coverage. Still, the paper covers topics such as psychology, medicine, business, food, health, ecology and information about local places and events that would never enter my consciousness if I did not read the paper. I am a sudoku and crossword-puzzle addict as well.

I once talked to a man at the railroad station. I had always been unsure of which track the train would be on, and you have to cross the first set of tracks in our station to get to the others. He replied that the tracks had been built by a British engineer, so they are the opposite of our highway system. Tracks going into the city are on the left, coming out are on the right. I asked him how he had learned this and he replied, "I read the paper."

My children do not subscribe to newspapers. They are gifted individuals who have access to the Internet and are avid readers and learners. However, are they being exposed to the wide variety of information contained in a single newspaper? How is this going to change society? They are instantly in touch with each other and the world. They are producers of content as well as readers. But what will their world be like without papers? Without books? Or are these media just disintegrating and reorganizing into a metamorphosis that will be better able to inform the public? What will the public look like? Stay tuned for further adventures.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holidays and Family

It's that time of year - the holidays! To help you all get along better with your families, I recommend pet stories. Someone in the family must have a pet. If not, feel free to borrow one of my stories. My mom and I were laughing today about my dog Tonto. Tonto was an American Eskimo dog that was taken home by a bachelor who wasn't home much. His idea of training the dog was to let it out in the morning and then chase it all over the neighborhood because it wouldn't come when called (this would later play an important role in one of the stories). The dog was kept in the basement, where it was free to go where and when it wanted. Our neighbor asked my daughter to walk the dog for him after school each day. Tonto was a fluffy little guy and we fell in love with him. All, except my cat, Lil the Pill. When Kim brought Tonto in the house after walking him, the cat would attack and corner the poor little puppy under a chair. He didn't know he was twice her size and more powerful at 9 months than she was at 6 months. I digress.

Tonto was a bit high-strung. After we adopted him, he never outgrew his tendency to "piddle" in a submissive reflex at the least convenient moment. Once, my daughter and I laughed so hard we wet our pants trying to shave off his heavy fur on an especially hot summer. We tried taking him to a training school for pet groomers. They said to have him there by 8 AM. We were kinda concerned when we hadn't heard anything by late afternoon. Finally, my mom got the call. She had to take Kim over to the school, where she had to hold him so they could finish the job. They advised her, "He's not really a good training school dog." We all had a good laugh at what must have happened.

The kids and I moved five times in five years while I was getting divorced from their dad. When we were finally settled in our own house with a fenced-in yard, we all began to enjoy life more. I was sitting at the computer in the living room one night when I smelled skunk.
I thought, "Hm. I'd better get Tonto in. There's a skunk in the neighborhood."
I opened the back door and in came Tonto, reeking of fresh skunk spray. If you've never experienced this smell, let me just say it is more of a taste. Pretty soon, the whole house smelled of fresh skunk spray. Two of my kids were living at home at that time, and asked if they could go to their grandma's house two blocks away because of the smell. I said, "Sure." I stayed with the dog and would have been angry if he hadn't whimpered in pain all night long. I called a friend, who told me to treat the dog with tomato juice. (It's hydrogen peroxide, water and a touch of mild detergent.) I told my daughter to run to the store on the way home and pick some up. She brought home three large cans of tomato paste. We doused the dog with it all over his body. The only effect it had was to turn the dog pink. Later that day, I found out the correct treatment from the vet. Unfortunately, we ran out before we could wash the tail, so Tonto had a pink tail for a day. The house smelled like skunk for a week!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Global Education Conference

I have gone and done it again. I volunteered to post a session for the Global Education Conference. When will I learn to check my calendar for the weeks I have to send home IEPs?! I will give it my best shot, however, and hope that I have something to offer educators. I am talking about Lego robotics again, and I have added new links to my web page since the last time I presented. If any of you are my former students, I hope you will join our conversation about learning without boredom. I am amazed at the sessions I am seeing this week and I hope you will all join the conversation. I am listening to students from Anser Junior High who made a web site about human rights ( Thanks to Lucy Gray and Steve Hargadon for an awesome adventure!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ten Ten Ten

The ten-ten-ten movement is asking people to write about what on earth they are doing today. My life can seem pretty boring, but there is beauty in the details. I awoke to the sound of a harp on my iPod, walked downstairs, and heated a mug of water in the microwave oven. My cat, Maximo, the Destructo Poopinator, hounded me, demanding some strokes. Who can resist a feline who throws himself on the bed on his back with his belly open? I read my usual morning books and affirmation cards, ate some Kashi cereal, and put the dog, Tess, on a leash. I was holding the leash in my right hand, looking left, when the dog saw a squirrel and smashed my hand against the door knob as she took off like a shot. It is going to be ugly, but no broken bones. Having survived the lift-off, my morning walk was pretty uneventful. I emphasize pretty, because we are having the most beautiful fall I can remember. The weather this weekend is warm - eighty degrees - and everyone is out enjoying the weather. The trees are red and green and yellow, all in the same tree!

I am getting over a nasty illness, which would have kept me in bed for a week if it were not for antibiotics. My neighbor walked with me last night, since her surgery for lung cancer has healed somewhat and she has more stamina. My cousin received surgery for pancreatic cancer in the winter, and is doing better. Even a few years ago, she would have been dead by now. I am hoping the cancer has been removed and stays away for a long time. In another medical advance, my younger granddaughter was injured on a playground last week and they "glued" her lip back together.

My mother is ninety-five and still lives at home. The three of us children all do our part to take care of her. My father died in 1995 at the age of 80, and mom's family almost all lived until their late 90s, except for a brother with cancer. Unfortunately, there is also a history of senility on her side, and she has escaped its most severe form. As I helped her search for an earring this morning after church, I discovered a box under her bed, pulled it out, and discovered my dad's ashes. It reminded me of the time my brother was drying marijuana under a bed in the 70s and a neighbor's young girl found it. "Mrs. Wallin, what's that under the bed?" "Uh,uh, I'm drying some herbs." I watered some plants, filled the bird feeder, put some shredded paper on the weeds in the garden, and headed home.

I checked Facebook and my email, heated up leftover pizza for lunch and ate on my deck. I have a very large milkweed plant, which attracts monarch butterflies all summer, and it reminds me of the plant in "Little Shop of Horrors," which I saw when my daughter was in college and sang one of the parts. Last night, a group of church members that sang at an Advent Concert last year recorded a group of songs in a recording studio. The equipment that is available now is astounding. We had four microphones for the singers and two more for the group in general. Different cords were attached, depending on the quality of the voices and the quality of the sound the producer wanted. His main board was composed of hundreds of ports, most of which were not in use. If we did a section badly, he could have us just repeat that section and later splice it in. The room we sang in was soundproof, which gave an eerie isolation to each of our sounds. The pianist had a grand piano and is an incredibly talented woman who has adopted four children.

I attend a mainline church, the First United Methodist Church, because it allows a great deal of diversity while staying true to its traditions. We have adult Sunday School, and our class is reading Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. There is a little awe and inspiration in what this man has done. I have a dream to take technology to Monterrico, Guatemala, but I am not sure if I have the dedication to do what Greg did. Monterico has public schools made of concrete with no books and very little paper and pencils. The teachers are incredibly dedicated people who teach by lecture and any other way they can. There is no special education, that I know of, although my Spanish is what I have learned from teaching Hispanic kids in a special education smaller classroom.

In the town of Monterrico, there is also a dedicated staff who is trying to protect sea turtle eggs. When they are laid in the sand, the workers move the eggs to a protected area. When they hatch out, they are returned to the sea. I would love to see these people online, letting the whole world know what they are doing. Wouldn't it be great to have the local children updating web pages on the school and the nature center? Not far from town is a nature preserve where I got to see the winter nesting habitat of the white herons. It inspired a poem called "Quietude." You can see a picture of Monterrico here.

The state of special education in Illinois is mixed. Because of the budget crisis in the state, brought on by a collapse of financial markets in 2007, we are not even getting paper or pencils ourselves this year. The state of Illinois is paying bills so late that many businesses are not accepting credit any more. Some businesses are looking at failure because the government is six months or more behind in its bill paying. Teachers in general are doing massive amounts of paperwork that were never required before, but special education is particularly hard hit. Class sizes are mushrooming, more services are being provided, and everything must be documented. Staff members skip breaks and take short lunches because we have children going in an out at all times for special classes such as art, PE, music, and library. For every piece of assistive technology that we use, we have to track its use for the administrators. Since I am a huge advocate of AT, I write a few hours a week just for that purpose.

The economic crises has created a great deal of conflict in the country at all levels. Everyone is blaming everyone else, while millions of people are out of work or underemployed. President Obama has taken steps to shore up the nations laborers, after Bush bailed out the huge banks at the end of his term. The gap between rich and poor is growing. I am grateful my children were able to get college educations, even though it meant we all took on large loans. I hope to pay off my school loans before I retire in two years. At this age, my parents had paid off their house.

Colleges are becoming prohibitively expensive. I would like to pay for my granddaughters' educations, but fear there won't be any way for them to go, since even loans have dried up now. Our family is composed of many moderately or highly gifted people, so I feel it is really important to get the children educated and serving society. The state of gifted education is not good, with no money being appropriated in the national budget.

The arts are alive and well in Chicago. Apparently, we place theater, art, music and dance in a relatively high position. Poetry is definitely experiencing a renaissance here. Although we lost many theater groups, opera companies and dancers, I think we kept the majority of these types of groups performing. It is not a good time to look to the arts for employment, however, so my daughter has given up on singing for now.

I am always amazed, however at the extremes of wealth and poverty when I go into the city. The central area has huge skyscrapers with thousands of rooms, while the streets have at least one homeless person per block, begging for money. When I was a young girl, we could see homeless people on West Madison, which was our "Skid Row." That area has been taken over by upper middle class urban professionals and rebuilt into expensive, vertical condos. I first became aware of the poverty in Chicago when my brother, Paul, worked for Catholic Charities, building low-income housing for seniors in nineteen neighborhoods. That's nineteen neighborhoods that are at or below poverty level! (For a further treatment of this topic check out this Blog.) It is so inconceivable to me that people freeze in the winter while architectural masterpieces lay vacant. Many churches have stepped in with a program called PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), which provides a meal and a bed to a homeless person.

So many things to talk about, and not the least of which is one of my favorite topics: technology. I sewed all day yesterday on a machine that performs exact stitches based on which buttons I push. I carry my iPod for the calendar, Internet access, podcasts, pictures it holds. My phone can dial family members at the push of two buttons, and I received a text from a friend this morning that her business phone has changed. I have Skype on all of my computers, although I find Apple was much easier to use - I still haven't gotten my PC camera to work! I can't imagine what computers will look like even 50 years from now, or how companies will ask permission to access the chip in our heads for advertising. My mom saw the development of electricity, cars, planes, plumbing, tractors and combines, telephone, and Internet. Family gatherings have gone from large dinners, cooked by women (and cleaned up by them) every week, to holiday gatherings with as many people as can make it, cooked by whoever is around. (Funny, the women still do most of the cleanup.)

To finish on a positive note, it is hard to slog through everyday living sometimes. We forget that no matter what mankind goes through, we still manage to survive as a species. Whether that will be true for my children and grandchildren is still a mystery, and adventures in space, in nanospace, in the oceans and at the poles will provide a limitless supply of change and anxiety for the next generation. As a teacher, I would like to think that we can teach each generation what it needs to survive, but I think that must come from the spirit of the country. We can teach skills and facts. We can discuss ethics and social relationships, but ultimately it is up to our families to overcome the greedy, the cruel, and the uncaring attitudes that are plastered in the media every day. Are we going to adhere to the ideals that all people are created equal, all people have a right to achieve, and all people have a right to good health, a place to live, food to eat?

What are you doing on 10-10-10?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Choosing a Topic

As a blogger, I find my biggest difficulty is beginning. So much information passes through my brain each day, how do I decide what is important to write? If I could choose a select field and narrow my interests, I would do better, but I wouldn't be me. This Labor Day, I am preparing for a week that is shorter than most. We have Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah. While most people are celebrating, I am worried that a three-day week will mean two less days to prepare, assess, and gather materials. A colleague confided recently that she did not try to instruct while she was assessing. I realized that I was probably trying to do too much, but my time with the students is so limited that I want to make the most out of it. I am truly grateful that SEDOL has provided me with the training I need to do a good job. Hopefully, the materials will follow. One thing I have learned about class size that may account for the achievement gap between large and small class sizes: It takes more time to go to the bathroom, line up to go outside or to lunch, and take tests, especially when they have to be administered individually. I am still in the glow of pre-retirement joy, however, and I am so grateful for a job that challenges my abilities, provides never-ending learning opportunities, and is based on relationships. I have the best co-workers in the world, and we all give 100% to our jobs. Thank you, Andi and Shari, Marilyn, Minnie, Deborah, Gail, Rosemary, Adrianne, Joyce, Ann, and Lisa. You're the best!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Start of a New Year

I had hoped to have my Flickr account up and running by now, and YouTube as well. My fifth grade students say it is easy. I always have to fight that demon that tells me I can't do a good job, and I haven't been able to get past that this summer. I will post the link on the top of this page when it is done. In the meantime, I have begun the 2010-2011 school year with a totally new attitude. I am really appreciating what a great job I have and enjoying every moment. Just yesterday, four team members were talking to me while I taught, a situation that would have stressed me out in the past. Instead, I taught the kids, then let them work while I talked briefly with the adults, then returned to the kids, etc. I seem to be much better at taking things one at a time, always keeping the kids first. My technology staff has outdone themselves, getting our computers up and running from day one. Today they came in and added more software to the dock. I like to familiarize my students with the basics: Scratch, iWork, iTunes, iPhoto, Garageband, iWeb, and the programs already in the dock: Kidspiration, Pixie, and probably others I can't think of at the moment. I am sorry we won't get Co:Writer, but hopefully there will be a word prediction software that costs less.

The students are doing very well, and I look forward to having 5 fifth-graders this year. Some of them were in my class in kindergarten! It is a stretch to teach third graders who want to know when we are having snack (we don't) and fifth graders who can write paragraphs! I hope I can challenge all of them without making them frustrated. I have a big class this year, which allows me to create a bit of community. The older kids have to adjust to helping the younger ones, and the younger ones have to adjust to higher expectations. Here's to a great year!!!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Last week of Legos

The summer has gone fast and so did Lego Robotics II in Buffalo Grove. I hope to get some pictures up at Flickr and some videos up via youTube onto my page. Hope this doesn't have a steep learning curve. There are some nice features to Mindstorms NXT 2.0. It can recognize color now and there is also an image editor. I shall spend the rest of the year learning the new features and posting information on my web page at Wish I could just teach Lego robotics all year. Except for the lack of imagination in COLORS!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Forgetful's Last Day Letter

Computer Lego Robotics
Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder
Summer 2010 Gurnee

Dear Parents,
I just love working with your children and teaching them how to control Lego robots. They get so excited and come in with a happy attitude. Our format does not allow them to do long term projects, because each day we have to share materials among three classes.

The students are wonderful, though. They listened courteously when I spent a short time explaining some simple programs up front. They take videos and pictures of their robots, some of which I hope to have posted on the Center for Gifted web site. If you can’t find them there, please go to my Lego page and I will post them there.

Don’t forget to go to to download free programs off the Web. The link is on my web page, as well.
If you would like to purchase Lego Logo Equipment, you may contact Steffanie Forbes, LEGO Education representative for the Midwest. Her email address is

There are teams in First Lego League ( for students to join. There is an annual competition and last year it was in Arlington Heights!

There is also a Brickworld competition in June for any team that wants to join – even a family. Here’s the link:

My library of Lego Mindstorms books keeps growing. This summer I added
The Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Discovery Book, by Laurens Valk.
Previously, I have suggested
The Unofficial Lego Mindstorms NXT Inventor’s Guide, by David J. Perdue
The Lego Mindstorms NXT Idea Book, by Martin Boogaarts, et. al.
Thanks for sharing your child with me this summer. It has been a wonderful experience.

Linda Wallin

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Day of Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder

Today was a glorious, fun day in the life of some gifted children. Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder Began in Gurnee. I thought I had three advanced classes, so my first day letter might have taken some parents aback. Be assured that I will do my best to make sure my students are challenged, but not unhappy. The students were all quiet, as they are on the first day. So many strangers there. I try to group them according to interests so they can make new friends. I always think back to the first weekend activity my son had in western Illinois and how he came running out showing me all the things he had done. I want all of my students to have that joy and I will my part to make it enjoyable.

I forgot to put my website on the first day letter. It is Duncan Wallin Networking Associates. To find the page on Legos, click on Gifted Education and then Lego Logo. Or, you can just click here

Now I must go analyze the information I have on the kids and group them into teams. Please let me know if there are any problems. I love to hear from parents.

The most touching moment came at the end of the day. For those of you who are not in the gifted community, you may not realize that there are some topics we can't talk about. One of these topics is our abilities. Talking about our achievements is usually seen as bragging, even when it is not. So I was pleased when one of the students told me he had skipped a grade. I replied, "Me, too." His face lit up and it turned out we had skipped the same grade. As we walked out of the classroom, the quiet young man next to me said, "I skipped two." It's so good to be able to talk about this!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

North Park University Loses Expert on Middle East

The Chicago area is losing one of the foremost experts on the Middle East, Donald E. Wagner. His book, Dying in the Land of Promise, opened my eyes to the plight of Palestinian Christians. Apparently, North Park has not renewed his contract and the students are distraught. My grandfather was a minister in the Swedish Covenant Church, and I think he would be appalled at the actions of the Swedish Covenant University. We need a reasoned look at what is occurring in the Middle East. Here is a man who has gone there many times, talked to all factions of the residents, and has some ideas on what needs to be done to end the bloodshed. Palestinians think he is pro-Israeli and Israelis think he is pro-Palestinian. The fact is that he is neither. He genuinely wants to call attention to the new leaders arising in the Middle East who are working for peace. Will we ever be able to find resolution among the people of the Middle East if we can't even discuss it here in Chicago? Shame on you, North Park!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

National Poetry Month

I feel like I should post a poem here, since it is National Poetry Month. One of my favorites is called:

Cottonwood Snowflakes.

in slow motion
herald the beginning of summer.
Floating into
suburban pools and urban slums,
they have no opinion.

Swimming lessons, baseball games,
court convictions and funerals
continue unaffected.

and observe
as the miracles float by,
a caress from above.

(c)Linda Wallin 1997

I wrote that poem the year my cousin's son died at the age of ten. He was the same age as my second son and died around the time of Colin's birthday. He was born with his heart in backwards, and it gave him wisdom beyond his years. I was taking my daughter to swimming lessons and watching her sing the National Anthem at a White Sox game, which was in a very poor neighborhood at that time. My children's uncle was struggling with legal issues. I was struck by the gentle softness of cottonwood seeds constantly falling all around me, unnoticed by most people.

My students have discovered that it is not so hard to write a poem. My fifth grader wrote a beautiful poem about a walk we took outside the school. My third graders are searching their hearts for feelings and senses to put into their poems. My fourth graders are giving me their best effort. Every year I am amazed at what my students have to say that is unique to them. The best part - no grammar!

Today I was blessed with a trip to the Loop. My daughter Kim and I visited the Chicago Cultural Center, had lunch with poets, and then I went to a workshop at the Chicago Public Library by Poets and Patrons, followed by a Poetry Wheel led by Tom Ruby. My cup is full. I hope you all learn the joy of poetry if you don't know it already. It can heal your hurts, give you hope, and force you to explore parts of yourself you didn't know you had.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Missing the Boat

I know we are doing whatever it takes to teach children to read, but do we really have to sacrifice science, social studies, movement and the fine arts? How are we going to solve the environmental crisis if the students don't know what is involved in habitat? Will they care about people in Ghana if they don't even know the difference between a country and a continent? Students who cannot read can draw, sometimes very well. Students who have athletic ability deserve a chance to use it, and physical exercise will keep them healthy until they are old enough to qualify for Medicare, which may be age 80 by then. Music is the most effective teaching tool we have, and a recent study showed that children under the age of one move to music spontaneously ( What are we doing with what we have? We have 1660 minutes per day to teach our students how to be reasonable human beings with a desire to learn whatever they need to learn to survive in a global society. Education has been charged with teaching citizenship, basic skills, love of learning, a need to serve others, and an appreciation for life in all of its multitude of dimensions. Are we missing the boat?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Change in Habits

I was going to quote William James on the importance of habits, but I cannot find the quote I had been told was his. Interesting, how we go on doing things on assumptions without questioning them. I can't tell you how many years I have used the incorrect quote to motivate me to change. In short, our habits have a profound influence on what we do with our lives. If you can get into a good habit of exercise, eating right and getting enough sleep, you will have a much easier time with old age, when these things become requirements for health. If you come home and sit in front of the TV every night, it is very easy to let work pile up and lose energy for life. Taking for granted the opinions of the media and not researching what is going on in government from a wide variety of sources would lead one to become passive and accept that things have to be a certain way. The only certainty in life is that things are changing at this moment and if you are not changing, you will have a rude awakening at some point. I was smug when I discovered the joy of a budget and not overspending my teacher's income. I thought my credit would be safe because, after all, I had not missed payments or defaulted on anything. Then the economic crash shocked the world, and I realized that there was no way I could pay off my house if I had to, no way I could pay for my mother's nursing home if I had to, no way I could remain a homeowner if the banks crashed. As it is, the government keeps overlooking the fact that inflation is not at zero. If prices remain the same and salaries fall, that is a clear picture of inflation for all those of us with less income than we need. Yet I take heart in the perseverance of my students. Although they struggle to learn and relearn basic skills, I know God will not desert them, so God will probably take care of me as well. It would be sad to see democracy become a thing of the past, though. Have you read something about the health care bill this week? Do you know what it is they are voting for? How it will be paid for? Whether the monopoly laws will be changed to include insurance companies? Don't just vote, write, call, study, discuss. This is your country.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Modern Medicine

I took my mom to the doctor today for an eye check. The ophthalmologist sent her to the retina expert, who happened to be two floors down. A few decades ago a diagnosis of macular degeneration was like a sentence of punishment. My former grandmother-in-law gradually lost all of her vision. Today, the doctor said he has medication that will slow or stop the progression of the disease. I felt like a miracle had occurred. I am not sure what the future brings, but I worry that my grandchildren will not be able to receive the same quality of care that my mother receives. If it were your vision, what would you like to have happen? It is time that we all become active in the health care debate and think about whether we want to return to the days when the poor couldn't afford good medical care, so they suffered.

Monday, February 22, 2010

ICE 2010

We cannot help it, those of us that have been around for a quarter of a century. We stand around with our volunteer shirts on, greeting familiar faces we see only a few times a year. We relive the beginnings of what has become a movement in education. What is amazing to me is how much I learn from everyone at the conference, whether it is in the sessions, talking to other ICE members, or helping newcomers. Today I am enjoying the presentations of my previous students. It's always a thrill for a teacher to see her students doing well.

I was so nervous about standing up in front of other people and talking! What if something didn't work? That has happened often enough at NLU. What if I said something stupid or went completely blank. I don't use notes for my presentation, so if I panic, I forget everything. Luckily, I had support from others, so I was able to feel good about what I did. I was pleasantly surprised by my Superintendent Bill Delp in the room, although it raised the stress for me: will he approve? How many other teachers can brag that their superintendent goes to technology conferences?!

Once again, Illinois Computing Educators have amazed me with all that's going on in the technological world. Back to Lucy Gray. Be sure to check out her blog: High Techspectations.
I must also mention an excellent wiki made by Tracy Murdoch.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Keeping up with Everything

I am missing a technology conference today: NICE Mini-conference 2010, thanks to some weird virus. I was feeling pretty sad about it, but have begun to find the resources of the presenters on the WWW. Just one presenter had ten web-based resources to use with the students!

How do you keep up with technology? If you're lucky, you have a job that requires you to explore new tools every day. More likely than not, you have to go out of your way to learn new skills. I have been stymied this week by a coworker that implied I shouldn't teach writing with technology MY way because it might conflict with the writing curriculum that we will be using next year. She has been a steady and helpful support for a couple of years now, and a great coworker. I'm sure she sees flaws in my writing instruction that would be corrected with the new curriculum. Yet the pace of technology is relentless. The pace of progress is relentless! New developments in every field are proposed and refuted by research every day. What is one to believe? The reading curriculum that goes with the writing curriculum has been excellent, so I will go with what works. I still wonder if increasing the number of reading interventions at the cost of thematic, multi-disiplinary projects is going to help the overall thinking of the child. "Teach to their strengths" seems to have become 'Test to overcome their weaknesses" and the whole child is forgotten in a pile of test scores and graphs. On the other hand, my instruction begins with assessment. How can you know what to teach unless you know where the student functions. Do you really want to waste valuable school time teaching something they already know or presenting material that is years above the students' abilities?
So where's the balance? I can truthfully say that many of the problems presented by using technology in education are not being solved: how to get teachers to use new methods, how to give students access to technology (especially if they live in poverty), how much to filter, how much time to spend on computers using what software, how to insure equity for all users, how to shift district priorities to insure technology use is encouraged. For me, the balance is in using what you can. Instead of writing your report on Siam, type it in to Kidspiration or a word processor, recite it into Voicethread (filter issues notwithstanding), make a presentation of it. Let the kids play with it and discover what they can make. (That one would not pass the "linked to curriculum" rule in my district.) We don't have time to wait for what is coming next year. Learn what you can, when you can, and pass it on!

In the time it took for me to write this, an email came with information about another type of reading instruction:
Renee Seward's Multimedia Program Linking Sounds and Letters: Reading By Design