Thursday, December 17, 2009

My New Technology Theory

Wow ... I know, I know. Two blog posts within a month of each other? No way!

Yes Way!

Anyways, I have a new theory about integrating technology into the classroom for the leery. (Is that the right word there? I teach Math, not English)

I am trying my hardest to convince fellow teachers of the value of technology in the classroom and for those that are still not so sure, I think here's how you start.

You give it as extra credit. You say, "here, do this and turn it in here."

While I am not leery of technology, I recently assigned this to my students. I was inspired by @fouss and her Conics Project, so I tweaked it, added some things and instead of doing it in class, I am having them do it outside of class. I am letting THEM learn the technology, I am letting them WORK with the technology and I am NOT teaching them how to do any of it.

Now, yes, I will answer questions, of course. But, seriously, they're on their own. So much so, they're doing it over Christmas Break.

So, teachers, if you don't know how to integrate technology, assign it and let them free.

Let them teach YOU.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You aren't allowed to read WHAT?

Okay, heads up. This post has nothing to do with math.

And, yes, I haven't blogged since October 6th. Sorry. Get over it. Read on.

Yesterday, I had a student come up to me and ask me to fill out an AP English Survey about banned books. It started off the usual (age, gender, ethnicity). The rest of the questions looked (something) like this (ish):
- Did you know our school had a banned book list?
- Lord of the Flies, Gone with the Wind and The Great Gatsby are all on the banned books list. Do you think they should be?
- Do you believe books should be banned from high school students?

Okay, first ... WHAT? WE BAN BOOKS HERE? I got over my internal shock and asked the student in a calmer way. "Yes, we do. But (so and so) is about to read Great Gatsby in class, so I guess it doesn't matter." Next, I looked at her and I said "So, you're telling me, you don't read these classics in high school?" Her response "Nope, we don't."

I kept my internal fire of banning books and my opinions of it to myself, wrote a little bit on the survey and went back to helping students with ... wait for it ... math.

So, this being at 8:30 in the morning, I was set to spin my wheels of thought going on this all day long. And, it lead me to my thoughts about internet filtering. I mean, isn't banning books the exact same as internet filtering? Aren't we protecting our students from the inevitable?

I let it all stew inside of me until my planning period and I went down to talk to none other than Julie. She's my accomplice during my planning period, #1 helper for keeping me from doing work. But, it's worth it. Some of you know her as Julie Sugarplum. Others as @ejulez. If you know her, you know she's awesome.

So, I brought up this conversation I had in class with her and we started talking about the banning of books. I brought up my comparison to internet filtering and we both agreed that we are way over the constant chatter of internet filtering. It comes up each and every day on Twitter. I think everything's been said that can be said. Eventually, we'll get over internet filtering. Until then, let's talk about ... banned books. Julie went on to tell me about how when she was a TF in an elementary school, the debate over banning Harry Potter came up. Crazy! Okay, elementary school, maybe, perhaps, possibly, not really, but maybe I can see it.

Julie told me how many schools have committees set to discuss and determine which books get to be on (and sometimes get off) the banned book list. She then had an "aha" moment. "The kids can access these banned books on the internet. Shouldn't our filter be in line with our banned books list?" Novel idea. A kid can't check out The Great Gatsby in the library, but I sure bet they can find it on the web.

So, is banning books similar to internet filtering? No matter your belief of either idea, should they go hand in hand? If we ban the book, should we ban it online?

At the end of a very insightful conversation (we rarely have those! :) haha!), I was still in shock that schools choose to not let our students read classics. So, my next stop? The librarian.

We have a totally hip and awesome librarian. She has completely turned the concept of a library around and the kids LOOOVE going in there. She's awesome! Anyways, I brought it up with her and she went on to inform me that there are no banned books at our school. The list she gave the student was a list of previously banned books from around the world. My heart went to ease as I heard these words. But, she said that it is not uncommon for schools/districts/states to ban books. She also went on to tell me about the recent debate of Jack and the Beanstalk. The giant holds a can of "ALE" in one of the pictures.

Dana (my librarian) put it best. "Use it as a teaching moment. Kids, we don't drink ale. Did you hear what Chris Brown just said? Yeah, we don't say those words ... ever."

So, again, is banning books similar to internet filtering? Where do we draw the line? What do we do about it?


The librarian sent me this later in the day. Check it out:
As long as there have been books, there have been people opposed to what is said in some of those books. Authors who challenge the accepted norms in their literature are often the target of angry people who do not understand or appreciate their literature. The following books are excellent examples of great literature that has become banned or challenged in an attempt to shield the public from what some see as inappropriate.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald - Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987)
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote -Banned, but later reinstated after community protests at the Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, Ga. (2000).

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck - Burned by the East St. Louis, III. Public Library (1939) and barred from the Buffalo, N.Y Public Library (1939) on the grounds that "vulgar words" were used. Banned in Kansas City, Mo. (1939); Kern County Calif, the scene of Steinbeck's novel, (1939); Ireland ( 1953); Kanawha, Iowa High School classes (1980); and Morris, Manitoba (1982).

Native Son, Richard Wright - Removed from Irvington High School in Fremont, Calif. (1998) after a few parents complained the book was unnecessarily violence and sexually explicit. Challenged in the Hamilton High School curriculum in Fort Wayne, Ind. (1998) because of the novel's graphic language and sexual content.

The Call of the Wild, Jack London - Banned in Italy (1929), Yugoslavia (1929), and burned in Nazi bonfires (1933). Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.

The Lord of the Flies, William Golding - Challenged at the Owen, N.C. High School (1981) because the book is "demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal";

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell - banned from Anaheim, Calif. Union High School District English classrooms (9178) according to the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association