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J.E.

Dougherty
Yes, I'm the technophobe who is a self-admitted anachronism. I write and read material far
more fashionable a hundred years ago. I like poetry and I'm proud that I prefer Percy Shelley to more
popular Romantics. I loved discovering Ernest Dowson a few years ago... When I think back to all the
forgettable poems I read in so many classes, I wonder how the authors of textbooks hadn't chosen
works that I value more. Because my opinion should count... And it sort of could via social media, if I
found the right circles. In theory, right?
My experiences with social media and the web have not been productive when it came to
marketing my last book. I had reviews on an online site and entered my book into competitions, but I
got the impression that if someone isn't actively using the web to find you, your voice fades into
obscurity. I could have started a blog, but that's not my style. I much prefer more mindful, carefully
composed pieces of writing. (I'm trying not to make this excessively formal so that it reads a little
more lightly.) I don't put something into print that isn't carefully gone over. Putting it on the web
seems the same to me.
I think the fact that things can be deleted on the web so lightly influences the amount of thought
and effort that goes into composition. If someone is writing for the ages and committing the time and
resources to refine something to near its full potential, the product is inherently different. Is this
wrong? Am I completely off base here? An author doesn't just delete a story. You let it go into print
reluctantly knowing you can't have it back. Maybe the same could be true for modern web, but I still
have my reservations. I have tremendous respect for great writing and close reading of great reading.
This is how I want to spend my free time, engaging the most brilliant minds in history. I don't
necessarily need or want to feel part of a community.
But I'm learning how differently the new generation learns. But I'm not letting go just yet. I see
kids thinking less when powerpoint clicks on. They have learned how to learn in the age of technology
becoming required in the classroom. We seem to live in a world of buzzwords that drive me crazy.
Remember when pro-active wasn't a word? There was part of a Simpsons episode that made this
point so well... How did I find the link? I remember it being in a episode, so I searched Google, and a
fan had a WIKI with quotes, and from that I could search youtube for the exact episode. OK, so I
admit I like the possibilities of technology and recognize that when they are used properly, it makes
otherwise inaccessible information available.
I don't know about you but I remember exact words from novels when trying to write essays
and I get frustrated looking back if I can't find exactly where the character says it (quickly). But when
the text is on google books, it takes seconds. I love looking up unknown words on an e-reader, but it
saddens me that the webpages aren't filled with other words that I don't know (that a dictionary would
be). I approach technology with an attitude that I'm only going to use it for things that can directly
benefit me.
There are potentials about social media that I recognize could be beneficial. Does it mean I'm
willing to sign up for a twitter account? Not yet... But you can't use what you don't know about. I
recognize this as a potential flaw. I would not have thought a classroom website was a necessity, but I
have completely changed my mind on this. When I say website, I would probably choose a free
template like wordpress because there are many potentials that I outlined last week. Absences are a
huge problem! Before a student even comes back to class, there is every potential for that student to
have completed the work due (perhaps even on the day in question). Any video or picture from class
could/should be made available... These files generally don't disappear.

I said generally for a reason. But keeping things current also gives you the opportunity to
improve lessons. You can expand learning opportunities for students outside the classroom and
challenge students (who want it) with alternative, differentiated texts. My current school requires the
same text even for inclusion classes. They allow for differentiation for independent reading, but there
is the potential for so much more! Like this story, here's a link to another maybe from an author seen
before... Educational websites sometimes have tremendous support. I found a link to a recorded
version of Huckleberry Finn which would be helpful (I think) for a student struggling with the accents
or an ESL student who would benefit from someone reading to him (or any special ed student with
such an accommodation). This is so much better, in my opinion, than telling someone that there is a
movie available.
I think social media always has to be constructive and you have to be prepared for things going
wrong. If you can't teach the lesson without the technology, you probably shouldn't teach the lesson.
What does that mean? A large part of Danielson involves a level of preparation. Technology can
enrich lessons and assist with scaffolding, but on some level, I think the teacher needs to have the
material so mastered that a computer shutdown has no measurable effect on the students' learning
experiences. (I actually saw a teacher years ago who let a complete period go because she didn't have
access to her notes and preferred graphic.)
When you can use online discussion boards to generate conversation outside the classroom,
fantastic. Why shouldn't learning continue after 2:30? Students are going to spend vast amounts of
time consuming digital information. Why shouldn't it be an activity that enriches them?
This class has me at least looking outside the shell I prefer to keep over me. I realize that I'm
not entirely successful when it comes to NET Standards. But here's the thing... Many of the teachers
in the school where I am aren't either. I have observed some bare minimum technology employment
for a reason. I am teaching very diverse kids. I can't assign that something be typed at home because
there are not computers in every house. Not every kid has a smart phone or internet access. So I'm
limited... I've also observed teachers who use no technology in the classroom (in another school).
Their classes didn't appear to be suffering...
Here's the thing though, I do often employ other teachers' lesson plans on the web for ideas.
Teaching in blocks is challenging. No 8th grader I've met fully enjoys sitting in a chair for 85 minutes.
They have to move... Are some activities silly and have limited learning potential? Yes. But there is
sometimes a greater good. How I get these activities is often based on teacher recommendations on
professional websites. I know, this does not sound like a complete technophobe...
Not every activity works for every class. Ultimately, you have to know your kids to adapt
lessons to them. I realize that I have used vocabulary that only a small percentage benefit from. (I
could argue that exposure is always beneficial...) When you have ten potential activities to pick from
instead of the limitations of your own imagination, you increase the potential experiences for your
students. I find this is also true for essay questions and seeing other teachers' rubrics in light of
common core standards can be extremely beneficial. Would I have thought to give credit for this or
that? Maybe I have been neglecting the connection to another standard. Accessing professional
opinions is never a bad thing.
I'm excited to be a part of a group of teachers that will be assessing each other. It's basically a
group work lesson plan executed by a single teacher (with a coteacher for inclusion). The teacher and

administrators have brainstormed ahead of time and will take turns presenting to different classes.
Discussions will follow.
To me, this is a real learning network. Immediate, honest feedback from other accomplished
teachers, said in a productive context for the benefit of everyone. Then they do another lesson. The
group keeps everyone thinking about what works particularly well (and conversely). If any teacher
thinks his or her strategy is the best way, he or she is neglecting individualized needs of students. I'm
convinced that there are multiple paths with have different kinds of success. I think teachers need to
share successes and failures to try to meet the growing needs of students. Critique is not a dirty word.
I wasn't particularly thrilled with the words in the digital taxonomy but I was piqued with the
idea. How can I use skills my students have for the better? I have a theory that students are going
more and more accustomed to thinking in images than in words. Hey, check this out. How often is
this a video or picture? How much more rarely does a student say, Hey, check out my poem on my
blog? Take a look at this sentence I saw last night. I may be a dinosaur but I have shared great
sentences than pictures on facebook. I feel like there should be potential to harness interest here, but so
far, I'm still struggling. How can I make my better students better writers? I'm willing to use any path
to get there. I'll activate any interest. I'll read about Call of Duty or How to Take the Perfect
Selfie. If they are writing, you have material. Like when I was writing fiction, you cannot edit a
blank page. If you have something to work with, you have something to work on.
Am I suddenly going to change and register a twitter handle @ihatetechnology? I probably
won't. Ultimately, I know that I have to adapt in any situation to meet the particular needs of students
and finding subjects they are interested in and employing skills that they have for a parallel purpose...
Opportunities are out there that I could not (or would not) come up with on my own. I might have a
great idea for the next thing to try, but I might like to have a backup at the same time.
I love working smarter. Although I've yet to be completely convinced that the smartboard
is a classroom necessity. I never needed a projector to get interested in a story. I believe that teachers
over-introduce stories because they think students need additional information. But additional
information does not always lead to comprehension. I'll give an example. We were teaching Ray
Bradbury's All Summer in a Day which is set on Venus. I wanted to give no preparation and see how
the kids reacted to the story. But the CT wanted to, and used a website with details about Venus. She
read to them about it raining sulfuric acid and being 900 degrees... Here's the problem. Acid never
appears in the story. It is not 900 degrees in the story. This information becomes an obstacle to them
being able to understand a text where kids are playing outside in the hour of non rain and sunshine.
Could they get a tan in 900 degrees? No. These facts about Venus were not available to Bradbury
when composing the story. The text was what they needed to focus on... Instead multiple students got
distracted when the girl finds a raindrop on her palm, asking, Why didn't it burn through her skin?
Because it's not acid rain in the story!
If we're not careful with the technology, we run the risk of confusing students unnecessarily.
Granted, this was the teacher's first time teaching this particular story. Could she have chosen a
different site that might not have been as confusing? Of course. But my point is that sometimes the
kids don't need a multimedia presentation to enjoy a story. Less is more. The reason authors leave out
lots of details is so that you the reader fill things in. It's the same reason we don't just lecture to
students and do a line by line analysis. We have to let the students fill in the information.
So after the story is read, a student might want to do research. He or she might want to know

exactly how hot it is on Venus. Here is the potential for higher level thinking. What elements in the
story can't work if you know certain facts? How could the author have adapted the story (Could he) in
light of current knowledge? These are higher level questions that research and further study can use in
or out of the classroom. Can we start a discussion with other classes in the school studying the same
story via the internet? If we have students thinking outside of the classroom, they may get competitive
with each other, learn from each other, and be inspired to pursue interests further. So if I interfere with
their 6 hours of social media consumption for even five minutes as they start thinking about something
even tangentially related to something in class, I'll think that a success. But if I don't have a platform
and maybe provide at least a little push, all that energy may go in any direction other than a learning
experience (which could benefit the rest of the class and provide ideas for further/future lessons).
So I'm open to new ideas... I'm just skeptical until I see them succeed. My sister is a PhD
researcher (at Drexel). We want proof. Although from the creative perspective, I just crave the
potential and I will keep or abandon ideas accordingly. What do I have to lose? I would tell a student
to be open-minded... (Yes, I have a sense of self-awareness.)