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   K-Mart WAS the store to shop at in the early 1980’s. The “blue light special” never feared any Wal-Mart or Target when I was growing up.  K-Mart was the place to shop in Port Huron, Michigan.  K-Marts even had “K-Mart cafeterias”, not in-store Subways, McDonalds, or Starbucks like we have today.  These cafeterias served greasy french fries, hot dogs in little paper sleeves on plastic trays, and cola slushies, These  famed K-Mart cafeterias were usually near the back of the store.  Near these havens of heartburn and other unpleasant digestive side effects were usually an aisles of a new product that was beginning to dominate the American landscape: home computers.

      On more than one occasion, my parents scolded me for losing them at K-Mart because I had become so entranced with playing whatever game was featured on the Commodore 64 in that aisle. I remember standing at that oversized keyboard, mesmerized by the blue glow of the screen, thinking, “This is it! I have arrived in the future.”  Mattew Broderick can create a nuclear war, which I often had nightmares about, with one of these computers.

      Move through blisters on thumbs from Atari 2600 (Pitfall and Pac Man!), the original Nintendo System (Mike Tyson’s Knock Out), the first home computer, WITH with only Kilobytes worth of memory(later would come Megabytes, comes home with my parents.  Complete with a word processing program, that seemed amazing at the time, that was no better than a typewriter.  I now laught to think that it had less memory on it than the little, portable flash drives I use today.  Post high school, I remember being in awe at Western Michigan University as I entered this HUGE student computer labs to use Word Perfect or whatever version of Microsoft Word that was around in 1995.  I remember setting up my Hotmail account  in one of those labs and really wondering if email could ever replace the U.S. mail man and the letters he brought to my dorm room.

     Ten years later, I have several email accounts with thousands of emails that desperately need to be deleted. At the beginning of my first decade of teaching, my school barely had enough computers for half a class.  Now we have five computer labs and more computers are soon to be coming.  Only a few teachers had cell phones.  Now, when I address my cast and crew of my drama company, I have to ask almost ALL of them to put away their cell phones, stop texting, and pay attention. I now own a Kodak camcorder that is as small as cell phone with better resolution than that monstrosity I use to hoist upon my shoulder to capture my first child’s birth. On and on, the days since my marveling at that Commodore 64 are long gone, and the impact on education gives me the sensation of standing in the middle of a merry-go-round while the biggest kid in the park spins it furiously and unmercifully.

    While my explorations into what “is out there” leave me a little overwhelmed, it is not that I cannot sense and clearly see what I believe will be the future of education.  Even before the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, much of what is discussed about students being engaged in their academics comes down to the fact that the days of a teacher being the sole fount of knowledge are OVER.  And I believe many egos still remain to be bruised and/or crushed in the transitions that are yet to come.  Even myself, one that actually enjoys the progress that technology is bringing, cannot fight the urge to daily dominate a class with my insights, my knowledge of writing, reading, literary tools, grammar, and so on. 
     Trends in technology do not allow for my type of self-centered pedagogy.  What is both striking and scary is how much the culture has moved from School impacting the student then impacting society TO Society impacting the student which impacts how school is conducted.  The Web, when offering credible sources of information, can explain and demonstrate literary concepts to greater depths than I could ever imagine.  Why would a student need me? A student has the wonderous, ever-expanding resources of sound, imagery, video, and lecture at his or her finger tips.  My friends, who are teachers, and I often joke about the idea that someday a robot, with our voices, will be instructing our classrooms, but is this a joke?  In the future, the year 2020 and beyond, will students need teachers? 
     Students will not need me, a teacher, in the year 2020 and beyond, to necessarily INSTRUCT but to GUIDE.  While students probably should never be fully let go to just learn WHATEVER they can on trigonometry, chemistry, literature and so forth from just exploring and connecting on the World Wide Web,  the information may be out there, but students need a credible guide.  The future, in my opinion, really comes down to the simple truth that we learn best by doing. 
     Recently, I began two ventures that totally demonstrated this ideology.  First, I never really appreciated who my car moved down the street until helping my father-in-law fix my brakes and struts.  Mechanics had explained to me many of the dynamics of components they were fixing, but until I got under that car, myself, and had someone guiding me through the steps of fixing a part of my car, most “car talk” went in one ear and out the other.  In another arena of my life, I have become a much better cook.  Ever since I was a kid in my grandmother’s kitchen, I had always fancied myself to be a “cook”, but until I stepped into my own kitchen and attempted scrambled eggs or lasagna or chocolate chip cookies, most recipes, cooking shows, and cooking advice meant little to me.
     And so the future of education, with the major aid of Web technologies and applications, will be about DOING.  The DOING will be very specialized too. I don’t quite see it in my neck of the woods, but I wonder, as teachers become guides, allowing students to pursue PARTICULAR INTEREST, if the parameters of what call curriculum will greatly change.
     I often feel bad at the end of the semester-long Theater class I teach because I feel that I have covered what I believe students interested in theater should know.  I NEVER cover make-up or lighting or that much on directing.  It is primarily focused on Acting, my area of specialty.  No student has ever complained, but I am sure I have cheated a few along the way from discovering more about an AREA of theater that both interests them and would engage them better.  I believe a teacher/facilitator of the FUTURE will let go and allow students to explore the specific areas that each of them want to know more about.  In a computer lab, students could watch videos, explore blogs and web pages, listen to lectures devoted to a specific aspect of the theater.  One student may be putting together a project on mimes, while another studies clips on lighting design for the stage.
      In these personal journeys of more individualized learning, I have fears and mixed feelings about where technology could be taking us.  As I sat watching Maycomb, Alabama in 1938 on the school’s theater stage last weekend in our production of  TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, a colleague and friend of mine and I whispered about how life was so much simpler and community meant more.  She continued on about her concerns over each of her children having headphones on, ISOLATED, while driving together, as a family, from school.  I know the discussion is out there about how technology may allow us to collaborate through wikis and blogs, but technology DOES have the potential to isolate us even more.
     In the  future, I would hope that teachers, serving as GUIDES would establish time and create projects that have students using the tools of the web to build community not fragment it.  Technology may have provided us with wikis, but I was able to participate in several with people from all over the country.  This is great except that I never really had to talk on the phone or meet face-to-face.  In fact, students can communicate via the isolation of being on their Facebook accounts or MySpace pages.  Trends indicate that people are watching movies less in the “togetherness” of a theater and more in either the small groups of a home or the solitude of a personal move device complete with headphones.
     While I am certainly for moving away from the teacher-centric mode of learning to engage students more, even while students may be bored presently with the one teacher instructing all thirty or so students at the same time, all of the students are being bored TOGETHER.  They share that experience.  Will the future only find us being together via a computer and by making comments?
     My methodology and style of teaching certainly will continue to be tweaked and improved, sometimes with major renovations occuring.  One are I am proud and hope to maintain is creating and facilitating moments where students build community.  In my creative writing class, students must peer edit, following a certain and required formula: READ, WRITE, TALK.  They must read another student’s poem or story without ASKING the author any questions.  They must write out their thoughts on a guided questionairre to give the author something concrete to work from.  But it is the last stage, TALK, that I love.  Once the reading and writing have occurred, I require students to discuss, FACE-TO-FACE, making eye contact, each other’s original works.  Sure, making a comment on another’s student’s blog can work in very similar ways, but I would miss the face-to-face, eye contact aspects of working together.
     Perhaps, this has been more my wishes for the future, rather than my vision, but I hope that in the future relationships are not built just through the median of technology but away from it.  Perhaps, like my process of moving away from the model of teaching that I grew up with and have always known, I am still clinging to the past, but I want my children and grandchildren to swing on the school’s swingset and play kickball.  The mobility of Web 2.0 is great, but I want a future that builds community not just with blogs, wikis and podcast but with true human interaction.

The K-Mart cafeterias, let alone K-Marts, are a dying breed.  Commodore 64’s are relics found only at the Henry Ford Museum.  Along with Ataris and Pong, VCR’s and 3.5″ floppy diskettes, much of what I thought was “the future” seems laughable and from another lifetime.  I wonder if what we consider to be trendy and “the future” will be equally laughable in the year 2020?  Will our visions and prophecies will be so “out there”?   While I love many of the advances of Web 2.0, there are times that I miss the blisters on my thumb from the Atari joystick and the simple awe of staring up at the blue glow of those Commodore 64 screens.  After all, those days were more about being with the people, IN PERSON, than via a computer and the internet.

Even now, as I unearth and become aware of this web application, among others, called “Google Docs”, I am reminded of both how fast technology continues to evolve AND how very different the “computer lab experience” has become.  It wasn’t even a year ago when I began uttering the phrase, “If you want to work on this at home, you need to bring your FLASH DRIVES.”  Before then, I would normally allow students to copy and paste their text into an email and have them EMAIL THEMSELVES their work.  With both the use of flash drives and the emailing of documents, especially as attachments, students always ran the risk of having one version of Microsoft Word be of a “different vintage” than the other.  So the effort to take it home to work on or to bring it back to school to work on became pointless and frustrating with “errors in conversion.”  Heck, I still remember having students sign out a 3.5 diskette from the Media Center to allow them the “possibility” of working on computer assignments at home.  And again that old issue of converting from version of a Word Processing program to another version reared its ugly head.

    It was just a week or two ago, when a fellow English colleague told me that she was having her students use “Google Docs”.  Despite being in an online computer class, I had NO idea what Google Docs was all about.  I had used and installed Google Earth so my children could track Santa Claus on a slick, 3-D globe. (Love how this application made them go to bed even earlier because it showed how close Santa was to Michigan.)  I used Google to search with, but I never knew about the great option to save and access word processing or spreadsheets from ANY online source. 

     This changes the game of writing papers significantly. Now, admittedly, I’ve only spent about fifteen minutes reading some content and following links, via the Google for Educators portal.  It is really intersting how much Google, as well as other online web applications that feature word processing, are continually improving what they offer.  In  are recent post to the Google educators portal, students have access to a Spanish/English dictionary to aid in writing documents in Spanish for that foreign language class. 

    I also spent about ten minutes accessing the actual online application of Google Docs, and I even uploaded one of my Microsoft Word documents.  One thing I DID notice was that it took some time to upload a fairly small-sized and simple document.  Still, to now have it there, ready to use was cool.  The other “downer” for me was that Iexplored the option to add additional storage options.  I have known that Google would have a “fee” for anything, but it does. I can get an astonishing 20 G of additional storage to the 1024 MB I had for 5.00 a year.  That really is nothing, but something about charging money to have more storage rubbed me wrong from Google.  I don’t know really why, but it did.

    Despite concerns about charging for storage and slowness of uploading, I can now tell my students to leave their flash drives at home.  Even bettter, I see a classroom, with online portfolios and storage capabilities, of ending the continued excuse of leaving an assingment, PRINTED, at home or the continued issues of having a document that “supposedly” will not convert to the school’s version of Microsoft Word (Because we’re usually about five to ten years behind).  Its the basic fact that Google Docs, like Thinkfree or Zoho, offer AVAILABILITY to work ANYWHERE that really makes the assumption that essays, poems, short stories, and research papers CAN ACTUALLY GET DONE that makes it so great.   It’s great to know that I don’t have to hound students for borrowed 3.5 diskettes anymore.

  Ah, my man Kermit, you were on to something when you sang, “it’s not that easy being GREEN.”  (Probably most of my students would not even know what song I am talking about, but I listened to Kermit sing that song on Sesame Street and on my RECORD PLAYER over and over again as a kid.  I loved (love) Sesame Street.)
    Without any prodding from former Vice President Gore, in recent years, I have begun taking steps to be more “green”.  Some steps have been to save money more than help the environment.  One example is buying energy efficient lightbulbs.  Another example is turning off lights around the house.  Both, yes, are great examples of conserving energy, not wasting energy, but in all honesty, I just like SAVING MONEY.

    This is NOT to say that I do not feel convicted to do my part to cut down on activities and practices that conserve and are not wasteful.  I hate driving by our local dump thinking of all of the stryfoam and paper products that were used once, for thirty minutes or less. Now they sit, NOT decomposing, filling the cavity of earth. 

    In my classroom, I’ve become much more vigilant about recycling paper, using the back sides of old unused tests and handouts for scrap paper (and again recycling those).

     Even more recently, I’ve wakened to the fact that as an English teacher I photocopy thousands upon thousands of handouts, that are used ONCE or for a week or, in the rare case, OVER THE COURSE OF A SEMESTER.   After being used, either these handouts are thrown away or recycled.  Then the next year comes, and I’m again making copies of the same handouts and tests.  I’m not that eager anymore to make so many photocopies.  I’ve begun to recollect assignment packets and file them away until next time, but that does not work that well.  I am one that constantly likes to remodify old assignments or try new ones.   
     So I’ve begun to use more transperencies on the “old school” overhead projectors to save on the amount of paper used in handouts.  This is fine, but there is something about having a student hold a text, or at least have their own text that works better for me.  When I put up an overhead of a scene from ROMEO AND JULIET or a poem to share with my Creative Writing class, I will read it aloud, walk while reading it, and am constantly craning my neck while trying NOT to get in the way of students following on the screen.  It’s probably just me, but I’m too active to just have the text sit central in front of the class while we all gaze upon it.
    So I’ve moved a little from that to posting poems and more assignments online.  Again, this is my own needed paradigm shift, but I still have NOT gotten use to reading aloud a poem or other literary work (not assignments I’m cool with that) while students stare at a computer screen.  Still, I KNOW the advantages of bringing them to the lab. Sure some of my use of blogs and online web content is to keep their attention, and I must fight the desire to be the “trendy teacher”.  But THEY ARE WORKING BETTER than when forced to connect to a heavy Literature textbook.  So I’m slowly making the shift to having more of my assignment posted online, more assignments and tests done ONLINE, and actually having students even PRINT less (as if our school’s printers ever worked anyways?!?).
   Like the article we were assigned to read mentions, there is some attractability to having students see pictures, videos, and artifacts connected to the material you are studying.  I imagine reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes online while seeing videos and live cam feeds of the various locations in London. I imagine reading Edgar Allen Poe and having student delight and squirm to online images connected to his ghastly stories.  And in the end, if my file cabinet becomes empty and bare from a lack of photocopying, I suppose I will be able to endure the change so my students can become more engaged.  I just don’t want to become gimmicky for the sake of trends. 

   And then, while aiming to be more green, there is the whole issue of actually getting time in a computer lab when everyone else is trying to be more trendy or more green too, but that’s another blog for another time….

  I have pondered and been amused to remember my Education classes I took at both Western Michigan University and University of Michigan.  While I had, for the most part, really excellent professors and instructors, I found it ironic that while we were being prepared to become teachers that used such pedagogy and learning theories such as collaborative projects, use of multi-media, socratic seminar, and other methods that took the teacher out of the spotlight and put the student into it, our professors would lectures us to death, doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of what we were suppose to do.
     I also have reflected much, during my online course about using blogs, wikis, and other intriguing Web techology, that my vision of how I would teach is coming into sharp contrast with HOW I am and will continue to teach.  In high school, the teacher WAS the show.  He or she brought the knowledge, and I sometimes “yes” and sometimes “not” received the information.  Of course, we had research projects and had to gain additional information from a CENTRAL textbook  or novel, but that was it.  Teacher lectured, students took notes, students read, and then we were eventually tested. 
     Of course, my favorite classes were those that incorporated discussion time.  And again, here is part of my intitial vision of what I thought teaching would mean and BE for me.  In my first years of teaching, 1999 and onward, I would create “unique” project, try to be cutting edge in my approache, but I STILL was that “sage on the stage”.  Classes would be simply the “McCulloch Hour”.  I would lead discussions. I would explain assignments. I would often read the text aloud.  I would give notes.  I, I, I, I….  And while I consider myself one that embraces instructional changes and loves the possibilities of technology in the classroom, there is a part of me, that while I detest being lectured to, likes being CENTER STAGE and thought of as the “wise and funny” instructor that enchants students with his knowledge.
     Will Richardson outlines several changes,  or “shifts” with the rapidly changing climate brought on by Web 2.0 and Web 3.0.  One of the shifts is exactly what many teachers see as losing their time in the “spotlight”.  He writes, “to look at curriculum as lecture is to fight against a tide that we will not be able to keep back”  (Chapter 9-“What It All Means”, Kindle edition).  It really is like being in a tin shed, hearing the hail and rain POUND down on that structure, and knowing that SOMETHING is truly going on outside, in culture, that is bringing inevitable change.
    For me, a part of this is learning to let go and serve more as a guide.  I need to invest MAJOR TIME into just learning what is out there and how to use it in my Language Arts classrooms and Theater classrooms.  I’m trying new things…blogs in Creative Writing class, group blogs in my ninth grade classes.  My major dilemmas are finding time to figure out HOW to grade these blogs AND just GRADING them (there are 30 students so there is a great deal of moving from page to page).  Another dilemma is figuring out what to DO.  I know that I want my students in ninth grade to connect more personally with Shakespeare and ROMEO AND JULIET.  I just don’t know how.  I’m overwhelmed at the possibilities and don’t want to blog  just to blog. 
     So I’m working on finding that BALANCE of time in class, time in the computer lab, and time in small groups.  As another shift Richardson hits upon is that fact that MASTERY is NOT centered around memorizing facts for a test or exam.  Amen to that… When I think of it now, I never understood what I really got out of memorizing minute facts from HAMLET really meant to me.  I always did better when I could creatively connect the material to my own life.  Perhaps, this is what the big shifts in education will help more of…making the process of learning more personal again.

The Use of Skype….

In all honesty, I’m very, very new to Skype and its possibilities.  I’ve only recently begun to use it keep phone charges down with conversations I have with a youth pastor friend that lives in Canada.  Most of those I network in with education, I see everyday in my building or I can call at local schools.  I’m not entirely certain how much I would use Skype in the arena of teaching or with other educators.  Honestly, I’m pretty information-overloaded just through the blogs I”m reading, the conversations I have with colleagues, and the English journals I read. 
     Still, like other new technologies, I recognize that there is great worth in using applications like Skype.  I think of our school’s German and Japanese classes that use long distance learning labs. Like Skype, students talk to and see a teacher that is often over thirty miles away via cameras and television monitors.  I think that this is amazing.  Students in my school would not have this opportunity if it were not for technology much like Skype.  I’m not sure how comfortable I am yet with video conferencing with my students, but that day may come.

While unpacking and understanding George Siemen’s and Stephen Downe’s ideas and thoughts about Connectivism, one thought came to mind:  Are we REALLY  uncovering an idea, whether it is truly a way the students SHOULD LEARN or merely a “WAY” to teach in the classroom, that is NEW?  In other words, for those of us still trying to keep up with the latest technological advances,  are we really inventing something or just discovering what is already there? 
     For instance, I had been hearing about the social networking phenomenom known as Facebook for a YEAR before I tried it out.  While I’m very hooked on it now, my students had been using it for some time.   And while I love my second generation Ipod to download Black Eyed Peas (which are probably according to my students “so YESTERDAY”),  I drool and must confess my sin of coveting as I watch my students walk by with the latest I-Phone or I-Touch. 
     My point is that while we, and other debate, about the importance of connectivism or whether or not it truly is a way that our students should be learning, IT ALREADY IS!!  While not everyone of my students has a computer at home, if they don’t they find a way to the public library or to use the school’s computer to connect with their friends, to connect with their favorite bands or sports heroes (not personally mind you), to connect online with people that share a common passion for their paricular hobbies.  Learning through networking via technology is a monster that is growing and growing, and like Godzilla, it may devour our notion of teaching and education before we can run away screaming with subtitles.
     Here’s my dilemma…keeping up with the “monster”.   I took this class to understand better what I already see is there.  In my ninth grade class, I’m trying to set up “group blogs” to allow students to go exploring about Romeo and Juliet without ME as the “source of ALL INFORMATION.”  I figure, while I have much knowledge about Shakespeare and his famous tragedy.  My students can explore, NETWORK, and find information I never dreamed of.  And this brings personal ownership of learning.  I am ALL about students being invested in their personal learning.  This is a major PLUS in considering  to allow students to embrace, what I view, as not just an instructional style but a way that students are already learning.  Connectivism has been here.  Are we going to run away screaming like a bunch of Godzilla extras?????