Category Archives: COETAIL 2 – 21st Century Issues and Ideas

Learning Dilemmas of the 21st century (it’s not all bad)

Teaching internationally has excellent benefits and, at times, heart-wrenching costs. There is a high degree of stress that comes with the wide-range of responsibilities shared by faculty and staff that make weekends feel short and workdays stretch. Educational historians may look back at the initial decade of the 21st century as the “dark times” prior to an even larger paradigm shift in formal secondary education. A time when collegiality was replaced with cynicism; a time when break room conversations turned vitriolic regarding the changes that all could see coming. There are those that distrust emerging tools and 21st century approaches to education, and others ready to ‘storm the barricades’ in it defense. In the international community, where reputation and professional growth are the driving factors behind successful postings, teachers have rare opportunities to be mavens in education by escaping the standardized testing climate of home. International teachers are not interested in things like tenure because they are impractical; we are interested in “what’s new?” or “what’s coming?” and how can this help me both professionally and personally.

The topics covered in Coetail #2 have really provided context in understanding the values that will likely drive formal education in the future: the importance of sharing and having empathy. With proper use of intellectual material and protocols to use materials, content will continue to proliferate and the opportunities to create shall be a visible force for change. Blogging about cyber-bullying, in the shadow of the death of young boy who took his own life as a result of bullying, hit me very hard as a teacher and father. Standardized tests didn’t help that young man and I’m sure that is what all of his teachers focused their attention upon. The situation is as much sad as it is criminal.

The Coetail 2 project our group developed is a very elaborate and engaging lesson plan for teaching proper use of intellectual property and the thinking that drives Creative Commons. Our group from Ruamrudee International School collaborated and commented one another’s contributions and tailored the lesson toward students with options for informing parents. Students will take a short assessment that will email them the results. The lesson will be useful to any program teaching digital citizenship or relying heavily on visual media.

I would like to say that the face to face time in the cohort has gone way beyond any classroom experience I’ve ever encountered as a student. The case studies and engaging opportunities are great, but the large group discussion with so many fine teachers and fine people have been excellent. We do have a great cohort with great ideas (as the blogs indicate), articulation, and visible passion for teaching.

To finally arrive at the point of the title of this entry, I do see the problems in education as something that can be fixed (in order to make room for new problems). We have awfully intelligent students who are on the average smarter now than any generation before them. They are doing things much earlier and with higher expectations of results. So what is the PROBLEM? Maybe it’s us as teachers always trying to solve something or sensationalizing the issues because at least then we have something to make a crusade about. I guess there is always something to complain about. Even in a world that’s pretty damn awesome.

My concern: my pre-school aged daughter will be a member of the Class of 2026. I am inclined to ask her teachers (many are younger than I am) what they believe the world will be like in 2026 and are they really preparing my child for that kind of environment. That should be a driving question for all educators.

 

 

A-tempting Virtual Environment

 

If there is one day that I can go back to and say, “I became a different teacher,” it would be the day my son was born. I would argue that the moment I became a father, my teaching fundamentally changed in a way that allowed me to understand how parents of the children I had been servicing for over a decade struggled with: when to be involved and when to “let it alone.”  I can honestly say that I started to see my students as people with needs and that parents put enormous amounts of trust in us to be fair, encouraging, responsible professionals. Oh yes….we should be human as well.

I make this initial point in relationship to the onset of cyber-bullying as a 21st century phenomena that for the first time allows an adolescent to be reached by a bullying behavior in their home. Technology has made bullying behavior pervasive and mobile. The implication here is that without a safe-haven for those victimized by bullies, the teen mind is threatened and faced with limited choices. The teen mind, as it has been studied in the 21st century, thrives on risk-taking while in the midst of identity formation. The sense of “self,” a construct based on one’s interpretation of how others “see me,” emerges along with significant physical changes that can be used by others to draw attention away from their own obvious changes. Here is the heart of adolescent harassment as a behavior rooted in image, self-esteem, and identity. To address bullying behaviors, it seems practical to employ a number of approaches that would involve all of the major relationships connected to this stage of development and embed within secondary schools alliance systems, collaboration, and exploration, rather than systematic approaches that encourage competition and zero-sum experiences. To support this type of shift, the parent role must also be re-examined including their understanding of the teen brain, their knowledge of their own child, and of course, knowledge regarding technology. Teens need their privacy, however, building a trusting environment is a two-way road with all being responsible for their agreements. One recent understanding of the bullying cycle is the theory that a majority of bullies are intelligent enough to identify the people they can easily harass. Confidence and communication are key elements. Eating family meals and allowing for open discussion lays a strong foundation for developing confident young adults.

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Here are Essential Tips for Parents to consider if you believe your child is a victim or victimizing another. The general feeling from experts in child psychology is that students in both roles are suffering and need support.  Without looking though I am going to make some essential tips for teachers to consider based on experience and understanding of the teen-age mind.

Tip 1: Allow for students to talk more in class. Talking and critical thinking discussion work the frontal lobe, the seat of executive function and verbal abilities. Verbal skills and articulation help build self-efficacy, the holy grail of self-esteem.

Tip 2: Role play, Show video, Blog, or conduct readings focused not on bullying but on empathy….actually with HS students I would bring in 4-5 books from the elementary library and look for examples of “thinking of others.”

Tip 3: Use teachable moments and relevant events to show how dangerous thinking can affect the teenage mind. It is sad when you open the paper and read about a destructive or negative outcome that is related to bullying. But it is an opportunity to send a clear message about the phenomena and learn from others.

Tip 4: Find out as much about the brains of your students and work in class time on building a positive sense of “self.”

Tip 5: Educate your students parents. Blog, send notes, use Facebook or Twitter…..appeal to your student’s parents sense of responsibility and let them know that if they love their children they will be benevolent supervisors who monitor their children’s connectivity and be active guardians of their child’s lives.

The world may be a scary place, but the virtual world conjures a more sinister environment for harassment, exploitation, and defamation. Like many significant changes that have occurred through time, I feel there are strategies and lessons to be used to teach empathy in school, and more importantly, educate parents on the dangers their kids face and the dangers they may present. Since this issue encompasses physical development, cognition, and social development, the programs for ending bullying in all forms must address all three levels of Psychology and developing person.

 

The tragic death of Jamey Rodemeyer due to bullying behavior and hate has galvanized public sentiments urging lawmakers to begin taking a more policy-driven role in bringing empathy into the classroom. I encourage people to view this video from Jamey and consider his message that has reached over one million people, probably many of them teens.

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I encourage people to sign the Stop Bullying Petition, as if anything, it is a symbolic gesture to marginalize a real threat to the well-being of children everywhere.

Fair Use and 21st century Social Studies

 

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How do I properly cite a joke? How about advice? Can I plagiarize my own ideas? Of all the discussion topics I’ve encountered in the Coetail program this one seems the most relevant to my subject area which is Social Studies. I am a firm believer in a number of precepts about history and in general the social sciences as opportunities for collaboration and understanding. I am aware that important considerations regarding the source of knowledge are critical to understanding human behavior in the past and present. Of these “ways of knowing what we know,” authority is the most relevant to fair and proper use because traditional scholarship demands proper citation of information from specific authority. Good scholarship in historical investigation is judged on the strength and balance of quality sources taken from authority; this is reasonable and justified in a sense that it protects both the authority and the researcher but for altogether different reasons. I am intrigued by the discussions around this issue and find that the grey areas are too grey to actually address (I leave that to the courts).

I guess a huge part of my own internalization of fair use is the question “what is an authentic idea?” Is there such thing as an original idea? How does syncretic development fit into the conversation? Writers of religious work generally have borrowed liberally from earlier works. I wonder if the Greeks cried when the Romans stole the Odyssey and produced the Aeneid? Actually, it is reasonable to assume that one of the great accelerators of civilization is the ability of humans to borrow from one another strengthening collective knowledge. The key word here is accelerate as traditional thinking of property and information no longer seems to apply in the 21st century. Consider the proliferation of information in the years after the development of the 16th century printing press. The power to disseminate information lay within the hardware of the actual press (The Chinese understood this having developed printing capabilities as far back as the Sung Dynasty, yet I don’t believe it to be coincidence that every Chinese press was considered property of the Emperor).  The ability to move information has always trumped the actual content and I firmly believe this is because there really isn’t anything radically original or newly constructed that fails to borrow from  pre-existing ideas, designs, and methods.  As new innovations emerge that build and improve, I am much more inclined to place greater value on the connections between people and the content/knowledge, or more appropriately, the concept of experience rather than on wholesale information/product.  Human beings are hard-wired to reach out when the need arises to tap the abilities and skills of others and the benefits of cooperation (or altruism) have been documented, encouraged, and celebrated.

I really enjoy this particular rant on the value of information in context where information is limitless:

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As a social studies teacher the conversations regarding fair use, academic integrity, and scholarly pursuit are vital and relevant. The opportunity that the Creative Commons concept brings to the table is an upgrade to the property minded mores and attitudes of protectionism which have rarely resulted in progress. The great intellectual jumps in history have been the result of sharing and crowd-sourcing and it is actually happening right in front of our faces. This is the right time to begin educating the next generation on being scholarly responsible while endeavoring to embrace the collective power of ideas. The natural place in schools to provide such opportunities is in the Social Studies where visual literacy, critical thinking skills, and citizenship are all heavily emphasized.  I would hate to think the world’s population as one large externality. (The video below is a famous clip from the Documentary “The Corporation:”

 

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As for piracy, the concept and act have been around as long as people produced surplus goods. Piracy is an activity as inherent to society as deviance. Living in Thailand however, when I buy the bootleg dvd at the Samakorn market, I see the ladies children right there in front of me maybe having things a little bit better, and I actually sleep very good at night.

 

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