Friday, June 25, 2010

iPad is the new tool in the toolbox--maybe

Like so many other educators around the world, this summer I am exploring the iPad.  Sure, it is cool looking, it is lightweight, the screen is lovely, etc.  But, how do I incorporate it into teaching kids?  Or, as Charlie Johnson, Sunset High librarian and I used to say to each other, "is it 'mo' better?'"  I agree with David Warlick (2¢(I love doing that on a Mac!) Worth) that it irks me that I have to buy Apps from the iTunes store in order to try them out.  I don't mind paying for software if it meets my needs, but I don't feel I should have to support developers who are creating products I won't use once I have seen how poorly created they are.  Richard Kassissieh writes that iTunes App developers earn an average of $682/year.  I admit that is not exactly living wage territory, but I digress.  This is about the iPad.

I have observed my wife using the iPad for around 2 months.  She uses it for writing, playing Scrabble™, checking e-mail, reading books, magazines, and creating her own electronic cookbook.  I have no idea what we are going to do with all the extra space in the kitchen once we no longer need to consult cookbooks!  In short, she uses it all the time.  I would probably use it similarly, but I am trying to figure out how to use it in my teaching.

My classroom already has desktops, notebooks, netbooks, iPods, cameras, camcorders, etc.  Students have free access to all of these tools in their daily work.  What would the iPad add?  I can see individual students bringing iPads to class to take notes, organize work, etc.  To that end, I need to know how to help them with their own tools.  But, a class set?

I think right now I see the iPad as an individual tool that I and others may choose to use.  I am still exploring how to use this exciting new (lightweight) tool to further individual learning.  I know I am not alone on this path.  The exploration is fun!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pausing a moment

Clearly blogging during the last month of school is difficult.  Projects need grading, reports writing, class trips require planning, and the family requires time.  This year, Noa completed eighth grade which meant Pam and I experienced the whirlwind of "graduation."  Neither of us is ready for what will happen in four years.  There is so much to write about, I hardly know where to begin.  Fate, kindly, intervened today.

Ted Knauss passed away on June 9th.  There are only a handful of people who knew AND appreciated Ted.  I am lucky to count myself among them.  Ted was an intensely private person who enjoyed the intellectual challenge of running a school, good food, and baseball; not necessarily in that order.  I first met Ted when he interviewed me for a 7th grade position at Cedar Park Intermediate School in Beaverton.  Since I knew nothing about teaching 7th graders, and less about baseball, Ted must have seen something else in me that made him want to risk hiring me.  I must have done something correct that first year in Beaverton because on the last day of school with ten minutes remaining in last period, he showed up at the door to my classroom.

"Paul, could I speak with you a minute?"  Fortunately, I had already begun practicing a classroom management style which encouraged students to work so independently that it mattered not if I were in the room.  I stepped outside.  Ted, with an enigmatic smile asked, "Would you like to house sit for me?"  I replied that I couldn't answer because I didn't know if I would be working at Cedar Park the following year.  Ted replied, "You are not listening to me."  Finally, it dawned on me that this was his way of telling me I had a job.  Ted was like that.  He had a sensitive side that few saw and even fewer knew to treasure.

Ted was at his most excited when one of his teachers wanted to try something out of the ordinary.  In Ted's years at Cedar Park, we took kids to Ashland, Mt. St Helens, the Columbia River Gorge, and Mt. Hood Meadows.  We held food festivals, mock trials, held kids to high standards, and ourselves to even higher ones.  Cedar Park was one of the first schools in the country to be recognized by the US Department of Education as outstanding.  Those of us who worked at Cedar that year would never forget that designation.

After he left Beaverton, we heard from Ted now and then.  He would send a postcard from a baseball city somewhere.  Those he hired continued to work in education.  We became administrators, superintendents, coaches, counselors, and some remained excellent classroom teachers.  Each of us knew Ted would be proud of what we were accomplishing.

Ted's passions were good food and baseball.  He enjoyed getting people together to try different foods.  New recipes were always welcome.  If they contained lots of garlic, even better.  Ted's baseball knowledge was second to none.  He understood the game, knew the players, and could think of no finer way to spend three hours than eating hot dogs while watching a game.

In typical Ted fashion, even his passing was low-key.  There will be no service, no cause for donations, etc.  Some of us will make donations in Ted's honor, but, it will be because we choose to donate, not because the charity was a favorite of Ted's.  That was Ted's way.  He wanted us to find our own path and passion and follow them.  So, in Ted's honor, my family tried a new spicy dish tonight, others went out an ate a hot dog.

Ted would not want anybody to say as much about him as I have here.  Ted, consider this a background.      Friends will now understand why I am a bit sadder today.  I know you are following Stephen Strasburg and enjoying the amazing hot dogs at Nationals Stadium.