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Monday, November 24, 2008

Technology in the Classroom

As I sit in the National Writing Project listening to teachers discuss how to implement technology, it occurs to me just how important it is for teachers to reach out to kids through cyberspace.

I think I’m a prime example of what writing and teaching in the digital age has become. My teaching evolves around using Wikis, blogs, Blackboard, and Nings. As an author, I’m currently writing a multi-genre YA novel (a sequel to Dregs) using blogs, chat rooms, IMs, and text messages. It isn’t centered on just that, but it’s about teens, so it wouldn’t be an authentic representation of them if it didn’t incorporate that on some level. To reach my intended audience, I have to enter their world, and a huge part of their world exists in cyber space. We can’t use age-old strategies for teenagers now, because they’ll feel we can’t relate to them. As an author, I want them to read my work, and say, “Man, she gets it…” As a teacher, I want them to listen to what I’m saying, especially since I’m teaching future teachers how to teach. That listening needs to morph into believing, and the only way to truly convince young people I understand their world is to be part of it. As teachers and authors, we’re role models, and we can exist in those virtual worlds just as we do in the real one. (It begs the issue that teaching via virtual reality also allows the less-interactive kids to interact more openly, where limitations can be breached. Shy kids step out of their box, because they can assume an avatar/persona that gives them anonymity.)

When education embraces the world students/teens spend their evening hours immersed in, we might meet on a middle, common ground that allows learning to abound. And my guess is, kids won’t be the only ones learning.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What It Means to Be an American

If you list all the hats you wear in your life…wife, teacher, author, mother…where does American fall? For many of us, it’s near the top of the list. I do this activity with various writer’s group, and inevitably, I find American somewhere fifth, sixth, sometimes seventh on that list. Right now, it hovers closer to the top, because the election always reminds me how lucky I am to have the right to vote, to have a say in what happens in my country. When writers list all the roles they assume throughout the day, the week, the month, their life, somewhere down that list, we all come around to it eventually. Why? Because we know what people who don’t live here don’t…being an American, though sometimes taken for granted, rocks. Freedom of speech, of religion, to chase that elusive dream. We have it all, no matter the downside. But how many of us, on that list, put down Republican? Or Democrat? We don’t, because both McCain and Obama said it Tuesday, in their various speeches. Once this election ended, we must come together, forget our differences, and remember, we’re not red America and we’re not blue America. We’re the United States of America, for better or worse.

If you’re patriotic – whether you hang out on the left, the right, or try to straddle somewhere in the middle – you recognize that when it’s all said and done, we have to remember that one of those labels we embrace everyday is American. If you ever doubt it, watch this video of 6-8 year olds singing our National Anthem at a Texas Tech basketball game last year. It’s one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever heard, and should send that surge through you… Man, I wouldn’t wanna live anywhere else.