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AMFELLOWS  January 1999

AMFELLOWS January 1999

Subject:

Re: Best practices

From:

"Monica R. Edinger" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

American Memory Fellows <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 30 Jan 1999 08:17:48 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (84 lines)

Arnold,

Thanks for your post and invitation.

I actually want to comment on your statement "Here's my opinion (you knew
this would be coming): the teacher has to be incontrol.  I know: I've been
moving recently in the direction of  relinquishing control in the computer
room, but this is a different story. The teacher has to be firm about not
allowing the students to go where they shouldn't be going."

I so concur with this. And I would go further - teachers need to KNOW
where their students are going.  I still see an awful lot of rheteric
about students teaching teachers and the like. What alarms me with this
sensibility is that it implies that you, the teacher, don't have to know
that much and the students can guide you. My experience is that children
know a lot less about navagating the Web than they think and a teacher
relatively unfamiliar with the Web won't be able to recognize this .  In
many articles and books I see the recommendation that teachers appoint
students as Web Guides or something similar.  There is rarely the
accompanying suggestion that the teacher be sure to really really really
know the Web to be aware what these children are doing.  Knowing the Web
and KNOWING the Web are two different things. Unfortunately, I think
teachers who use the Web need to KNOW it - it is too unwieldy and
unpredicatable to simply know the basics of searching on Yahoo and then
letting the kids do the rest.  It worries me a lot. Teachers are so
overworked and also very pressured to use the Internet.  Most are not like
us, willing and interested to spend the time (and they really don't have
the time) to really get to the know the Web to stay on top of their
students' knowledge. I'm not saying they need to spend hours doing this
-but enough to be alert to what the kids are doing. I had to be so
negative, but most teachers I know use the Web occasionally not even
remotely as often as many of their students do.

There is a difficult paradox, it seems to me, in using the Web in the
classroom, especially in a school like mine with a long progressive
tradition.  On the one hand many teachers want to encourage a
collabortative educational environment with their students -- that they
are equals in the process, that the students may teach the teacher --- yet
I think that is a very dangerous stance with the Web.  I think teachers
must know more and be ultra alert as to what the students are doing.  In
my school I often go by rooms with Internet access and see a child on the
Internet with the teacher off elsewhere. The children tell me they are
just "playing" and usually are on something like a Pokemon or
sports-related site. (I'm not aware of any filtering for us yet.  Kids are
suppose to only use the Internet in adult-supervised settings, but that
seems to be interpreted differently by different teachers.)
Unfortunately, our school is in flux as regards technology and there is no
sure consistantly inforced policy at the moment.  Hopefully next year when
we finally have a permanent head of school and a new technology head this
will all be addressed.

Those kids with Internet access at home are learning fast.  Teachers do
need to stay abreast of them. This is different from using computers with
software. Sure, there you can be sure of what it is and if the kids know
more about MS Word than you, sure let them help teach.  But the Web is
different and I don't see that sufficiently addressed by many tech gurus.
And it is coming very hard and fast, literally.  I just finished my
American Memory unit with my fourth graders and I was really amazed at how
facile they were with searching, much more so than last year's cohort.
Their foundation knowledge was so strong (navagating, cutting and pasting
from the Web into a Word document, saving files, etc) that they quickly
picked up more sophisticated search techniques on the AM site.  I'm very
pleased with this outcome of the unit - they do have a much better idea of
how to refine searching with a search engine. I hope it will stay with
them for other sorts of research.

Also, a question - what sort of parent education are your
schools/districts doing?  I'm a bit frustrated about this too. Many of my
students now have AOL accounts and are very into chat rooms. I think their
parents see AOL as safe. It isn't.  A parent who works in computer
security did a brief safety assembly for our 4th/5th graders, but I think
the general parent community needs such an assembly too.  The parent who
spoke was used to speaking to adults and I stepped in telling the kids to
deal with it as they deal with strange people on the street (these are
urban kids and well trained to do that) since she started to take kids
questions that turned into scary e-mail stories (I stepped in after one
story about a kid being killed after an e-mail exchange - very mangled
from what actually happened.)


Sorry for the rant, but I' ve been doing a lot of observing and thinking
about this lately.
Monica

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