The future is now

May 31, 2011

Or why I don’t think the internet will replace me anytime soon.

Steven Pearlstein from the Washington Post has an article about new websites and YouTube videos that are “transforming” education. His premise is that with the new technology, teachers will no longer be needed in the numbers they are now, and students will be able to learn from new and exciting content on the internet and shared through multi media platforms.

And I agree that there is a lot of new and exciting content on the internet (and there has been for quite a few years) and yes a lot of the big publishers of educational materials are a bit behind the times. Or should I say the state and national educational standards tests are a bit behind the times.

I do believe in standards, although I think high stakes testing is a bad idea all around. However I will say that this article reads like another bash on teachers.  Another we don’t need no education! Leave those kids alone!  But I think one of the biggest problems with education right now is that there are not enough teachers. Classes have 40 students, and that is just too much to really teach each one individually.

That is why some of the online  content can help.  But school and education isn’t about in-putting information and having students out- putting the information.  Those were always the worst classes.  Real teaching is more about the relationship teachers, students and the school have with the information or skills that are being taught.

One of the problems with just putting kids in front of the computer (or TV) is that most learning isn’t that passive.  And there are a lot of subjects that students need to learn, even if they don’t have the internal motivation for it. (and how many teenagers do you know that have a lot of internal motivation?)  Teachers spend a lot of time and effort in finding appropriate materials and appropriate methods of teaching. And appropriate is the key word here.  A TV show or YouTube channel cannot tailor materials to a class, or to help a student.

One of the things a teacher learns very quickly is that each class has its own personality. What approach works for one class will seldom work for another. What helps one student will fall flat for another.  Yes websites and channels and multi media can make the material seem more interesting and relevant.  They can bring some color and music into the classroom. But they can’t interact with the student. (and Skype tutoring or video chat can, but again you need a teacher for that – at least until our robot overlords make their move)   And that is where real learning often takes place, within the interactions that students have with their teacher and with other students.

And with other students is another reason a youtube channel will not replace a school. Schools teach more than just the subjects the students take.  In school we learn how to get along with people who think differently than we do.  Schools teach how to get along with others, how to follow directions, how to socialize. Even if you were a nerd in high school, you probably still had friends, and learned the invaluable skill of how to deal with jerks – a skill that I could argue is more important than learning how to use the past perfect progressive tense.  And yes I am an English teacher and yes I do teach the past perfect progressive tense.  However dealing with jerks is something I do much more often than use past perfect progressive.

Although most of the students in school aren’t jerks, many of them have different ideas, beliefs, skills, and talents. That is one of the reasons I use a lot of collaborative learning and group work in my classes. It is a way for my students to not only to learn from me but from each other. An opportunity lost if students only learn from a video or website.

I do think that education in America, and in Korea needs some serious reform. Students are often treated like products produced in a factory instead of individuals that have individual needs. In America students with ADD and ADHD are often misdiagnosed and students without these diseases are often medicated just to keep them quiet. We don’t have enough physical activity in the day. Many teachers are stuck teaching to a test that has no relevance to real life.  Teachers are overwhelmed with the new fads that come from consultants that are touting the newest bestest thing, administrations that have their own pressures that put them in an adversarial position with teachers, schools that are old and decaying, out of date technology, and parents who are disinterested or second guessing everything the teacher does in the classroom.  Adding technology can help, but in the end, investing in teachers and students is something we all need to do. More teachers, better books, and classrooms that allow students to express their creativity. Most students want to learn, and most teachers want to teach.   But we do need education, and we do need schools.


So, I guess I’ll stay

May 30, 2011

Mondays are my busiest days anyway, but today was especially busy.  I’ve decided to renew my contract, so of course there is a small bit of paper work. I filled out the forms, and went to the police station to get a local criminal record check, which took all of 10 minutes and cost all of nothing. I guess I can’t complain. Now all I have to do is wait for my FBI record check and then figure out how I’m going to get it apostiled.  I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

I like living here, and I love the school I teach at.  Today I have  5 classes, and they are all awesome. I like Mondays because they are a great ‘test’ for my class activities. I have all three levels, so I’m able to figure out what I need to take away or add to each lesson plan. This week we are doing diamond poems.  The students really enjoy them, and I think they are starting to have fun with words.  The first and last line are one word (a noun) and they should be related. I had students who were able to relate Santa Clause and Lair today. I think what I like most about teaching is when students finally figure out that English is quite a playful language, and they start having fun with it.  They get this impish spark in their eyes, and say ” Teacher –  this ok?” and if it is close to ok, I’m going to let them go for it.  Being creative with language should be fun.

In the bad news department, I’m trying to get transcripts from a community college I went to for one measly little class. So far the fax number from their website doesn’t work and the e-mail I sent hasn’t been responded to. I’m a bit frustrated.  The school I really, really, really want to enroll in for my master’s is the University of North Dakota. They have what looks like a great ELL program, and it is both online and on campus. I like that. So the only thing they need at this time, is a transcript from Highland Community College. Sigh. I shall try to call them tonight, and it may help.

In yet other news, I’m not the only one who thinks living in Seoul is awesome. CNN does as well.


She’s back

May 29, 2011

Well, she is trying to get back. I actually kept thinking of things to write about all last week, but at the end of the day… well, you can see how it is.

I’ve been thinking a lot about education, what it means and what it means to be in it. I’ll post more on my thoughts sooner rather than later.

Summer is definitely here in Seoul, and it was a beautiful but sad weekend. I found out one of my Korean friends is leaving Seoul for Bristol, England to study for her masters. I”m happy for her, and sad for me. But we were able to go to lunch, and make plans for at least one more weekend before she leaves.

I made a mistake on my application, so I’m scrambling to get the extra information they requested. I feel like a fool. Anyway I’m going to look on the bright side. If they wanted to reject me they could have, the fact that they want more information means I’m still in the running. At least that is my story. And I’m sticking to it.


May 12, 2011

I am currently applying to many graduate schools. Everything should be finished, including the grad school I want the mostest, by Friday evening.

Please forgive me and I will be back soon