They are thinking, and so am I


Today, when I got home, tired and cold from a long day, I tried to reflect back on what my ninth-grade students took away from our discussions in class. (We are in the middle of a unit on indifference, a unit designed to make them think about what matters in their life and how they can, in fact, MAKE a difference.We started the unit with Elie Wiesel's Night, and since then, I have had them reading articles about poverty, the environment, and even learning–anything that might spark their curiosity or interest in taking a stand.) Today we discussed Will Richardson's article about Footprints in the Digital Age. His example of Laura Stockman, a ten-year-old who changed her world and the world of many of her readers with her blog, was one that I used to show how students could empower themselves to do something.

I am trying to make my class more student-centered, force them to make choices about their learning and be thoughtful in their discussions about what we read. But I second-guess myself about how effective this technique is, wondering if students are feeling frustrated by this approach. We are using much more technology than they are used to, and for some, it's a constant stress: what's my password? where did I save that? your blog or the history blog? where is my homework online? why can't you just tell us what you want us to know?

My last class of the day started, and I asked what they had taken away from the article. One young woman raised her hand to say that she was struck by Richardson's comment about "being Googled and not finding anything at all about you."

Ahhhh, she got it. The first student all day to consider his point.

So we talked…about that and about their own topics. About how they didn't have to wait to write about what mattered to them. About how they didn't have to wait to try to convince others to act. And about how what they put online should reflect themselves and paint the picture they want others to see.
Good stuff. I came home feeling somewhat ambivalent about the day but more uplifted than not.

A few minutes ago, I pulled out my laptop to begin working on tomorrow's discussion, and found this email from the same young woman:

Hello Mrs. Morgan. When talking in class, I mentioned that I
was really surprised by the fact that not having anything about yourself was
just as bad as having something bad. I was really affected by that.  It
got me thinking, and I was just wondering if you could give me some ideas of
how to put a good impression on the Web. I have a Face book, but I feel like
that isn’t enough, because I make it so that no one can see it other than
people I invite to see it. If you could just give me some ideas, that would be
really great! If not, that’s ok.

Funny isn't it? One minute I want to quit, and the next minute, I think I could teach forever. Oh,yes, I'll help you….let's see….where shall we begin?

image: Uploaded on April 11, 2008
by Mexicanwave

3 thoughts on “They are thinking, and so am I

  1. I am curious as to what your recommendation is for this high school students. I know that they could easily create a great online presence but at the same time if it is like a blog they could write something that 2 year, 4 year, or 8 years down the road when they try and get a job they may regret. Ive been thinking about purchasing or similar domain to host personal projects, resume, etc but I dont know that I want to shell out $60 a year yet.

  2. That could happen. Writing things they might regret later happens now, doesn’t it? So if she goes into this thoughtfully, with the attitude that she wants people to “see” her in a positive way, it seems like a win-win. Good question, though, Chris. To me, it starts with the conversation. Why not blog? Why not figure out what matters to her and start writing about it? Why not post photos to flickr? She is 14, so I would recommend first talking with her parents and then deciding how to protect herself in terms of location and other personal information. But the benefits (she is one terrific writer) outweigh the negatives to me.
    (And I understand the cost. I just bought my own domain name and pay typepad $9 a month for my blog!)

  3. I like to have full control (as much as possible) on my sites so I was planning $10 a year for domain and $4 a month for hosting. Now that I think about it, you always gonna run the risk of writing something your going to regret at any age. I think it is a good idea of start forming an online presence that you shape and manipulate in a good way.

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