24 marzo, 2011

Love and learn through ICT

I met Charo on a flight to Madrid. By chance, ICT got both of us on the same flight, seating one next to the other, but for different reasons. I was heading to an ICT Conference in Seville, Spain, and Charo, well, let me tell you about her amazing story.
Charo, like many women nowadays, was very successful in her career, but not so lucky on the love field. Over 40, never married and still hoping for love to happen, she signed up on one of those “dating sites” on the advice of her cousin. To her surprise, through the dating service she found someone great, Robbie.
Robbie was an Argentinian living in Turin, Italy, who like Charo, successful but lonely, was seeking true love.
They started a relationship or, should I say, a virtual relationship. Anyway, they connected in a way that something grew between them. See, I don’t know much, but I know love, powerful and marvelous love, powerful enough to get Charo on a plane to meet Robbie in person -nice, yes, but yet a complete stranger- putting herself in a vulnerable and risky position.
On CCK11’s week 9, Stephen Downes posted: “Learning is an act of vulnerability”. How true. Learning implies the realization that we need to learn because, guess what, we don’t know everything, no one is self-sufficient, we need others. Pretty much as in loving. We are in need of both, love and knowledge, and that makes us vulnerable.
After five hours of conversation on that plane, Charo and I became friends. We keep in touch.
I assume that you would want to know how her love adventure went. Well, it turned out great. Charo and Robbie are in love with plans of marriage.
ICT are great, great in every way. They are certainly a huge help, they give us access to knowledge, they make our lives easier.
But, when it comes to love, ICT do their job as well, introducing people to us, erasing borders, putting down barriers, we come closer, we become connected.
So, if you ask me about learning or loving through ICT, I’ll say, without a doubt, hands down, by all means… go for it.

17 marzo, 2011

Before it is too late

Even though we live blocks away from his high school, my fifteen year old son, Misael, Witzalbertie, constantly gets to school late. He has received several reports due to his tardiness.
In order to “treat” his unpunctuality, Angélica, the social worker, has called me a couple of times.
Several days ago, Witzalberto got up really late, despite his two alarm clocks. I was expecting a report or a meeting with Angélica that day. Rather, he came back from school with no tardiness report, just a sad face and terrible news: Angélica had died.
Angélica what? How? When? I was shocked.
“Well, mom,” Misael said with his condescending look as if trying to break it down for me, “people die”.
Yes, I know. People die. I’ve seen it, as I have volunteered in a children’s hospital. I’ve lived with it, my father died when I was ten. But Angélica? I just saw her. Young, maybe younger than I, and healthy-looking
I know, we all come with an expiration date. But, still, it shocks me, and what shocks me the most is the little time we have and how fast it goes by.
Angélica’s death reminded me that life is not an unlimited-time run, the clock’s ticking...
So, if we have been thinking about calling our parents, or siblings, or whomever; or reconnecting with that special who we haven’t heard from in a while; or if we have been thinking of doing something and we haven’t, now is the time.
Today is the day to talk, to reach out with open arms, to show our love, to say we are sorry, to forgive, to connect, or reconnect. Please, let’s do it before it is too late.

13 marzo, 2011

Talented or not, assessment comes

California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) 2006 math results catapulted my fourth-grade son, Misael, aka Witzalberto Delacroix, to a different dimension, letting others know what I already knew, that Misael, Witzalbertie, was a gifted kid.
Furthermore, Johns Hopkins University, through its Center for Talented Youth, invited Witzalberto for two consecutive summers, with a full scholarship to participate in their summer programs Inventions and Engineering. That was, definitely, a life changing experience for my son. But most of all, my son gained enough confidence so as to be considered, by his teachers, classmates, and siblings, as a “glorious” talented child.
Two years later, we came back to Mexico, and my official math whiz got lost in the maze of a different educational system and sank in the deep waters of anonymity. No more distinctions or diplomas for him. The Mexican assessment system considered Misael, my once genius boy, to be nothing but average.
Why did this happen? Here’s a list of possible answers.
a) American food and water make smarter kids.
b) American standardized tests are easier.
c) Mexicans are trying to “raise the bar”.
d) Standardized tests suck.
e) All of the above.

Jokes aside, the truth is that, in Mexico, to be considered talented, you have to excel in every subject, not only math or language. You have to be an almighty-talented kid and, with that the case, there’s not a specific program for them.
But, beyond programs and tests. What does it mean to be talented? What does it mean to you? To be good at something? And, for that matter, aren’t we all talented?
Misael’s math skills were valued by the system for obvious economic reasons. But, what about other skills? What about the ability to feel for others, to care, or to assist; the ability to make others happy? How about the ability to listen, or share; to work together, or to connect? Those are very important skills which no one assesses. Educational systems don’t acknowledge them.
I knew Misael was talented before the STAR scores came up, as I know that my other two sons are, as I know every child in the world is. The problem is that their “talent” is not valued nor acknowledged by their educational systems. For example, I value a sense of humor, as I need laughter in my life as I need air, and there’s not a single standardized test in the world that assesses that aspect, despite Jerry Seinfeld’s success, among others.
Bottom line. Is assessment an indispensable part of the curriculum? Do we really need assessment? And if we do, how should we do it?

07 marzo, 2011

What would you do?

I have a problem: my ten year old son, Jordi, hates his teacher.
His grades have dropped, he is misbehaving, I have been called a couple of times, and it’s getting worse.
My kid, who had been respectful, nice, and a good student, now has changed. But, how did this happen?
Here are the facts. Last year Jordi had a wonderful teacher and somehow he thought that he would have him again this year. Didn’t happen. Instead a new teacher came to the school, a “constructivist”. And this is what happens when you don’t get a theory, you do it all wrong. His “constructivism” consists of no-teaching. Yup, he doesn’t teach a thing because he thinks that’s what constructivism is about. In addition to his “methodology” he has, how shall I put it, his “ways”. Here’s an example. At the beginning of the year, Jordi lost his pen and he went to his teacher to tell him. The teacher response was: “That´s your problem”.
Sadly, the teacher has made more unfortunate comments and remarks, developing a tense relationship with my son. Now my kid is fighting back, he doesn´t want to work or obey any orders, he frequently talks back and responds to the teacher’s requests with a “I don’t want to”.
So, here’s the deal. I know that Jordi’s teacher is not a good one, rather, he sucks. But the truth is that in life, in real life, there are other people that suck too and we have to work with them, they might be our bosses, or our co-workers, or our in-laws, it doesn’t matter, we need to get along with them. And, of course, it’s hard to get along with people we dislike.
This situation opens many questions, but I’ll ask only three. How do we deal with this in a connectivist way? How do I teach Jordi to do that? What would you do?