Friday, December 31, 2010

If only Sisyphus had a team like mine...

The holidays can't help but promote reflection. One of the things that I've been mulling over is the progress I'm making in a year-long, job embedded professional development experience called Powerful Learning Practice, or PLP. I'm working with five other teachers from my school who teach our youngest (3-Day Three's) in the Pre-School and our oldest students in the Upper School. Some may say we're an unlikely mix of talent. My colleagues asked to be part of this experience and I couldn't be happier with the combination of grades and disciplines they represent. Our teammate from the Pre-School, Chris, has opened our eyes to the critical importance of early childhood education. In addition, she's trying to break down closed doors and promote a culture of "professional sharing" among the teachers in her building. Dana represents Fifth Grade. She is on fire with new ideas and a sense of purpose. She understood "how" to use the tool just not "why" she should use it. Now she does. She loves the PLP Ning and through that connection found her way to another teacher in New Zealand who answered her questions about podcasting. Rachel is our Middle School teammate. She teaches English and manages the Middle School Academic Resource Center. Rachel promotes passion-based learning not only for her students, but for the Middle School faculty too. She challenges all of us to find joy in learning. Beth is Chair of our History Department and is a respected voice among our faculty. She is not one to jump from one learning fad to the next; she carefully considers how a change in her pedagogy will improve learning outcomes for her students. This year she required the students in her Contemporary Issues class to blog and she is pleased with their progress. They are thinking deeper, writing better, and making connections with others outside our community. Lana is a math teacher in the Upper School and our PLP Team Leader. Lana is a "prove it" kind of teacher. Maybe it's because she is a math teacher of the highest quality, but she challenges almost EVERYTHING we do in the PLP. That might be upsetting in some groups, but I think we're lucky to have her. If our ideas can stand up to Lana's scrutiny, then I feel a lot more confident sharing them with the rest of the faculty. From our little community outside Baltimore, MD, we are asking questions and sharing experiences with teachers and administrators across the United States, and through them we're making connections with other educators from around the world. We found community first through the PLP and oddly enough, it led us to find strengths in one another. As for me, I'm learning to listen better, trust more, and let go and let the learning happen.

I've been working in Educational Technology for twelve years, ten years at my current school. Like Sisyphus, I often feel like I've been pushing that same rock up the hill for a long time...and I'm tired. But a funny thing happened just as we were leaving leaving for our holiday break. My PLP team came to my rescue. Faced with designing a couple of days of PD and wondering how I might both celebrate the accomplishments our faculty have made this year while at the same time introducing new concepts in teaching and learning, my teammates jumped at the chance to help me. They are also wonderfully excited about bringing a Middle School PD model, "Breakfast Boosters," to the other Divisions. "You don't have to do anything!" Chris told me. She and Dana are organizing it in the Lower Division (as are Beth and Lana in the Upper School) and I get to attend as a participant (Joy!). I volunteered to cover some of Chris' classes so she and Dana have time to plan, which is a small thing considering the enormity of their project. The rock is still there and it still needs to be moved up the hill, but I'm not alone in the effort anymore. "I've been waiting ten years for you," I told Chris. The cavalry had arrived!

Don't let anyone tell you that a learning community isn't important or that building a learning network of smart, talented people isn't worth the time. Our school took a chance and invested in the professional development of six teachers through PLP. I'm not sure the administration knows what they've unleashed. Where there was one, now there are six. These teachers are walking testimonials to the power of PLP. My hope is that next year there will be six more, and that we'll continue to grow and share and learn from each other.

On a separate but equally exciting note...You'll notice a change in the appearance of our blog. Another Christmas present I received this holiday was visit from my blogging partner and bff Susan Davis! Susan and her husband left the warm environs of Houston for the cold, blustery weather of Baltimore (go figure!). We never have enough face-to-face time, but we were able to make some needed changes to our blog. Now we just need to start blogging more regularly....

Happy Learning, Happy Sharing, and Happy New Year Everyone!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jammin' and Blocking: Roller Derby as Metaphor for Change in Education

The pivots at the front of the pack set the pace. The blockers skate in a tight wall, looking for their jammer -- maybe they can pull her through for a chance to create a whip and sling their "girl" to the front, closing gaps to shut out the opposition. (One blocker had "Wrecking Ball" had bold letters splayed across her bottom, and she meant it too!) The jammers, those tough, fast, graceful jammers, slide right into the pack and thread their way through the crowd, dodging elbows and scooting under skaters who race shoulder to shoulder around the track. Once a jammer slips through, she races around the track to make her way through the wall of skaters again, ticking off points like a ball in a pinball game every time she passes someone. Hooey, there she goes again, circling the track in a blur, picking her way through the crowd, and wham! Some tattooed mama throws out a leg, and the jammer is down!

Having recently watched my first live event at the Houston Roller Derby, I have been thinking ever since about how the rough and tumble derby "girls" suggest a metaphor for those of us who work for change in education.

I like to think we are the jammers, our heads low and pushing straight into the pack of teachers and administrators who close ranks to shut us out, partly because they just need to get around the track and make it through the year. Anyone coming through? The blockers, who could be anyone, really, who is happy with the status quo, try every trick they own to stop us (and there are your allies, blockers too, who are trying to make a way for you to pass through the red tape and push back).  Those opposing blockers sure don't want anyone racing ahead and changing the pace of the game. We get through, not without a few bruises, and burst out of the pack only to rush around the track again. The world has changed in the last lap -- new obstacles in new configurations lie ahead. We race into the pack again, ready for everything the opposition will do to try to stop us. The blockers have regrouped -- maybe it's just a "crappy week for education," as Will Richardson describes our current troubles in his recent post on "The Wrong Conversations." Maybe the opposing blockers stop us with a body slam -- we should have seen it coming, that attack on reading relevancy in the digital world or that questionable kick from the latest cyber-scare, but we didn't, and down we go.

But, if we're lucky, we weave through the elbows and hips and start to rack up the points...engaged learning for our students, critical re-thinking for our teachers, ways to ratchet up the game to make education meaningful again.

Just call me Suicide Sue.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Becoming a Connected Educator

I just discovered this wiki, TwitterEd via a tweet from rkiker this morning. It has loads of examples and ideas for using Twitter in your classroom. The ideas are innovative and demonstrate the reach and power of a PLN (Personal Learning Network) that teachers around the world are finding indispensable.

As someone who is relatively new to Twitter, I say, with absolute conviction, that Twitter has become an invaluable tool in my own professional development. I tweet to learn, in other words. If you are considering using Twitter but can't quite figure out its place in your classroom, this is where I'd start: Tweet to learn. Find experts in your discipline, follow them, and share these tweets with your class. I've found that these tweets are sometimes just a comment, but more often contain a link to a treasure chest of resources (see above). As a Moodle school, we can pull a Twitter feed into our course pages where students have access without setting up an account.

To really appreciate the power and reach of Twitter, however, teachers need to build a personal learning network. Your reach is determined by the number of people following your tweets. Currently I have 38 followers and many are groups or organizations (NAIS, Edutopia, etc.) Yes, I follow teachers, really smart ones (suludavis, larrykahn, zandrews, smcmanus, rkiker), but I know that to extend my reach, to become a truly "connected educator," I need to to expand my list of followers. I want a global reach, not only for myself, but for my students too, because my network benefits them. Take a look at the examples in TwitterEd. A teacher sends out a "calling all experts" tweet and students are lifted out of the classroom, provided links to rich resources, and challenged to question, think, research, and respond (via the teacher's account for younger students) to real people, in a meaningful way. Connected teachers connect their students to other students to collaborate and create with one another without the limitations of time and space. This is my goal for the year: expand my network, expand my reach, expand my (and my students') opportunities for learning.

At Alan November's BLC Conference this summer I attended a session given by Jeff Utecht (jutecht), the Technology & Learning Coordinator at the International School Bangkok. He said that when he was being interviewed for the position he was asked what he would bring to the school? "6,794 people from around the world" who he could reach out to on behalf of the students at ISB. When Jeff sends out a tweet to ask for help or to share something his students have accomplished, people are listening and responding. It's no longer just what you know, it's who and how many people you bring with you into your classroom.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

EduBlogger Student Blogging Challenge

Want to teach your students to be better online communicators? Then take a look at the Edublogger Student Blogging Challenge. This opportunity came to me via a a great blog called Free Technology for Teachers. It's a 10-week program that aims to teach students how to write reflectively, comment meaningfully, and improve their online communication skills in general. The challenge is organized into 10 weekly tasks suitable for class or individual student blogs and according to the website, participants can do as many of the tasks as they like or have time to complete. This challenge has been around for several years and gives students access to an audience of other students and teachers from around the world. The Student Blogging Challenge is a bi-annual event, beginning mid-Sept and again in March, giving those of us in the US just getting back to school an opportunity to settle into the year. A glance at participating blogs shows that teachers are blogging with students of all ages, from elementary through high school. As someone new to blogging herself, I wish I could participate in order to improve my own skills. It sounds like a lot of fun!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tapping the Motivation of Teachers and Students: Dan Pink Drives a School in New Directions

This past summer we took a bit of a gamble at my school. As we prepared to launch a pilot program for a culminating senior project, we used a couple hundred dollars in donated funds and purchased Daniel Pink's Drive for our rising seniors to read over the summer. We also tapped some professional development funds to purchase a few copies of Pink's book for our teachers. The result has been a more positive and energized beginning of school than I have experienced in a long time.

After reading Drive over the summer, we scheduled a FedEx Day for our faculty to break up the usual deadening monotony of pre-opening of school in-service meetings. Our hope was that our faculty would gain some sense of the internal motivation we can sometimes forget to spark in our students (or even drive into hiding). I have to admit, I had more than a few trepidations. The result, I'm glad to say, was nothing short of amazing. The teachers were given a few brainstorming tips (pursue your B-side was one, borrowed from Marco Torres's workshop at BLC 10 that I attended this summer), then asked to produce "overnight" some sort of creative project. Three teachers who might not normally get together came up with a plan for a "food revolution" at our school. One teacher made a video illustrating a short story he teaches. A couple of teachers blogged, one about her recent 30-plus labor delivering her baby daughter, another about the post-graduation habits of twenty-somethings. I was most moved by the letters written by a Teaching Fellow to his family reflecting on life going on after the death of his mother and the return to watercolor painting by our librarian who had literally boxed up her paints and brushes for twenty years. The librarian touched on the essence of self-motivation when she said "the hours just flew" when she was painting. Another teacher, who spent her FedEx day sprucing up our girls lounge, said in our teachers' reflections: "The things that you are truly motivated to learn will never feel like work." (See below for a glimpse of their comments.)

Meanwhile, over the summer, our seniors have been blogging about Drive. They are addressing the issue of motivation as they face one of the most challenging moments of their lives, applying to college, finishing up their senior year of high school, and creating sustainable senior culminating projects for the first year of our pilot project. These gutsy seniors have questioned everything from grading to the time given for working on meaningful projects. Several of them faced off with faculty in a panel discussion about what provides meaningful motivation in the classroom (more on that later -- I hope to have a video clip up soon).

Dare I say that we as a faculty and senior leadership are committed to a year of the pursuit of what matters -- creative exploration of what DRIVES us?!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Need your input!

First, Second, and Third Grade teachers are exploring classroom uses of the iPod Touch this summer. I've created a Wiki for resources and comments and I'd like to invite you to contribute your thoughts about the iPod Touch too. We're really interesting in apps you're using and ways you've integrated this device into the classroom. Here's the link and thanks for your help!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie-Making as a Model for Learning

What do movies communicate? They entertain us by telling a story, motivate us by moving us to action, or puzzle us by posing a question for consideration. Aren't these some of the ways we like to learn best? Yet, here we are talking about the final product. I'm wondering, what do we learn from making movies, and from making them in collaboration with others?

Movie-making, by its very nature is a collaborative process. I have just completed a workshop with master media-teaching mentor Marco Torres as part of Alan November's Building Learning Communities 10, something I have wanted to do for several years. And I have learned from Marco one of his key precepts: "The product is part of the process." The learning comes from the whole enchilada.

What do we learn from making movies together? First, there's the brainstorming, articulating, planning part of the process. During these discussions, we learn how to animate our curiosity and inspiration. We learn how to figure out ways to push out an idea so that others will take a second look at it.

We learn to translate an idea in to words (script) or sketches (storyboards). We learn how to communicate in careful and precise detail to a crew.We learn how to make purposeful choices -- and determine those choices in conversations with others. ("Make the camera movements purposeful," Marco says.) We learn how to project ideas from multiple perspectives (using camera angles, different types of shots).

During production, we learn how to see (borrowing the "rule of thirds" and other commandments from photography). We learn how to listen. We learn how to ask permission. We learn how to work under tight time constraints. We learn how to plan and implement a project based on that plan.

When we edit, we learn how to focus on our purpose and cut whatever doesn't add to that purpose.  We learn to look for ways to tie everything together.  We learn how to present our work to others in rough form, reflect on our challenges and our learning. We learn how others see what we do. We learn how to go back and make it better.

Oh, yeah. We learned how to do this in two days. Here's the movie my husband, Larry Kahn, and I finished this afternoon.  (I've revised this blog to include the YouTube version for you iFolks. Unfortunately, this version cuts off the side.  You can't win, I guess.)

(Thank you, Marco, Rosa, Elizabeth, and Miguel.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blog Skillz: What Can Students Really Learn from Blogging?

What are the skills our students learn when they blog? What are the 21st century skills they need to learn -- and can gain fluency with by blogging?

These are the questions left bumping around in my head after attending a couple of sessions at Edubloggercon at ISTE 2010 this year: Jim Gates's session on "Best Practices in Student Blogging," my (and Jim Gates's) discussion group on "Building Personal Learning Networks," and Kevin Honeycutt's entertaining "Conversational Lubricants." I know they learn tagging ("higher order thinking on steroids" according to Honeycutt), and tagging is a skill that is largely absent from their regular Internet lives. They learn to assess one another's blogs by commenting -- and they can learn to comment in more meaningful ways as a result. They learn to share ideas, to engage in intellectual discourse, to collect and make sense of ideas from others. They learn to expand their notion of the world. They learn to write with words and pictures and video -- and to have a point. They learn to think "out loud."

They learn to teach.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The TED Standard

I have come to think of TED Talks as the gold standard for presentations. While not all of the TEDs are pure glorious intellectual entertainment, enough are to make the standard hold. It's worth asking -- what do the best TED talks have in common to set them apart from the run-of-the-mill lecture or mediocre PowerPoint presentation?

We can learn from TED talks when we think about education, about inspiring others to think and to learn. This is what was on my mind today when I attended TEDxHouston. First, you know there has to be some powerful chi at work when you have that many smart, articulate people in one room. The air pops with their enthusiasm -- they are so happy to have found one another. I found that the best talks are also conscious of their purpose, which is to be worthy of the "ideas worth spreading" label. Which basically means they are meant to inspire us in some amazingly thoughtful way. Finally, the best talks are expert performances (and the less good ones not so much). The "talks" come across as conversations meant to enthrall and amuse, while they also tackle the big questions of the world. One final note: the best speakers use big, powerful images and only a select few words as written text in their digital presentations -- or they use no digital presentations at all. The best speakers connect with their audience and do not merely speak from on high.

Here are some of the highlights from today's delicious deli tray of ideas:

Dr. Brene Brown:
"Stories are just data with a soul."
"Embracing vulnerability as beautiful is the birthplace of joy, creativity, love."
"You cannot selectively numb your emotions."
"We pretend that what we do doesn't affect other people."
"We need to let ourselves be seen, love with our whole hearts, practice gratitude, lean into joy."
"I am enough."

Dan Phillips
"Appollonian concepts create mountains of waste."

Cristal Montanez Baylor
"In order to empower women, men have to be participants."

Drs. Rebecca Richards-Kortun and Maria Oden
Institute for Global Health Technologies
"Students can solve global health challenges."
Haitian saying: "You do not learn to swim in the library, you learn to swim in the river."
"When our students put their ideas into action, they become the leaders of the 21st century."

Stephen Klineberg
Houston Area Survey
"No city in America has benefitted more from immigration than Houston, Texas."

Mark Johnson
Questions we need to ask:
"What is authentic? What is sustainable? What is design integrity?"

Monica Pope
"We say eat where your food lives. Hell, I say, eat at a table."
"We need the new campfire -- cooking, eating, being together at the table, sharing who we are...."

Dominic Walsh
Dominic Walsh Dance Theater
"There's a beauty in the uncertain."
"Dance is a way of observing the spirit in the physical body."
"When I watch dance, I look for the space in which I can participate. This is the creative space meant to be filled."

Dr. David Eagleman
"What we really learn from a life in science is the vastness of our ignorance."
"We need to not 'cowboy up,' but geet out."
"Lead a life that is free of dogma....Celebrate possibility and uncertainty!"

Finally, congratulations to the brave and awe-inspiring young people at Culture Pilot who made TEDxHouston happen! What a day -- my head is still spinning.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Teaching Teachers

This year my school has participated in a wonderful learning community, Powerful Learning Practice led by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson, which has pushed and stretched us to rethink teaching and learning.

Soon my PLP team -- made up of administrators and classroom teachers -- will be presenting "teasers" about training workshops we are planning for our faculty in August and October. Our topics will be based on our most significant take-aways from the program and geared towards helping our faculty step up to the needs of our students, our seniors in particular, because they are embarking on a new senior project.

So, I got to thinking about how to help these teachers scaffold their workshops for our faculty. I came up with the guidelines below, which may be helpful to others who design professional development for teachers.

1. All workshops should introduce at least one tool but probably no more than three (if a choice is provided). This is so that teachers have something to play with during the workshop and, I hope, something concrete as a take-away assignment to use immediately in class. At the same time, we don't to push participants into overload.
2. However, the point of the workshop, as we know, is not the tool, but a better understanding of 21st century learning. Thus, the teachers need to experience and discuss specific skills and concepts relevant to 21st century learning that are suggested by the tool if it is integrated well into the classroom. Thus, blogging introduces new ways of thinking about writing for a digital audience, integrating images, tagging, etc. The presenter should help guide the teachers towards an understanding of what the particular tool does best and how it can be a game-changer for student learning in the future.
3. All workshops should use examples that can convince teachers that these skills are applicable across disciplines and grade levels.
4. All workshops should provide sufficient "play" time so that teachers can learn from their hands-on experience with digital tools
5. Workshops should include time for discussion about what teachers have learned, raise questions, discuss best practices, etc., and generally address issues and concerns about 21st century learning and how teaching is evolving to address students' needs.
6. Presenters should follow up on each teacher in his or her workshop as he or she implements what was learned -- providing advice, offering support, cheerleading, visiting a class and discussing further. I think this will provide a wonderful means for collegial interaction and sharing of ideas, and it's what makes our work "scalable."

I'm interested in any other ideas and suggestions our readers here may have. I understand that our formula may not work for everyone, but wonder if there are some "best practices" you can recommend to enhance the technological PD experience for teachers and to help others who lead such PD in their own schools.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Your Money - Working Financial Literacy Into the Classroom -

I read this article in the New York Times this morning and marveled at the timeliness of it. My school has been promoting this very subject and I thought the article lent our initiative a good deal of support. Financial Literacy is one of the literacies mentioned by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills as as essential competency for students. Our Lower Division has been promoting financial literacy in our Fourth and Fifth Grades for several years now through a wonderful program called "Biz Town." (Click here to view the excellent video about the program, one of several under the umbrella of the James Center.) "Biz Town" is one of several popular programs created and sponsored by Junior Achievement. The program provides an extensive curriculum and students end the program by actually visiting Biz Town, a teeny tiny little community where students take on the role of Mayor, bankers, business owners, police, and even a DJ. Watching them cash their first check and wondering where the money went (TAXES!) is worth every minute spent standing over the copy machine photocopying the curriculum packets.

Maryland has a link to Financial Literacy resources for all ages including an interactive media section with fun, thought-provoking games and simulations. Any of them would make a nice supplement or enrichment activity to a classroom lesson on financial literacy.

What other resources are schools using to build this vitally important literacy?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Backchanneling is Brilliant!

During a recent conversation with my Middle School Head, he described an activity he had just completed with his Sixth Grade Geography students. He had planned to show them a video and then lead a discussion of the main themes and supporting ideas. Pretty traditional. I'm not sure why, but he changed his plans and instead created group chat rooms through FirstClass, our email system, and asked his students to write comments as they watched the video.

I leaned forward in my seat as he described the results. The students were completely engaged, he said. They asked questions which other students jumped to answer before he could, they absorbed the content, and made the important connections he had hoped to lead them to himself. Even the quiet kids contributed more to the discussion than he would have expected had he gone with his original instructional plan.

"So you had the kids backchannel while watching the video," I said. "You're backchanneling with Sixth Graders. That's brilliant!" While he had no idea what I was talking about, that's exactly what he had done. And I think he liked it when I said it was "brilliant."

I had literally just finished reading a blog describing this very thing. This happy accident confirmed what the blog's author, Chris Webb, reported, only with Eighth Grade students: engagement, ownership, collaboration, and they were present, not day dreaming or waiting for the class to end. The blog referred to TodaysMeet, a website that allows teachers to set up simple, private, and free rooms for backchanneling events. Teachers can even retrieve a transcript of the discussions.

So kudos to my Middle School Head/Geography teacher. And kudos to all the other fearless, brilliant teachers willing to try something new in the pursuit of learning.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Plan Will Let High Schoolers Graduate Early -

  • I'm not sure this is the best reasoned argument for early graduation and more, more, and more testing. But it does raise the question - what makes those last two years of high school relevant and worth sticking around for? I'm sure the independent schools in those eight states applying for the grant are wondering the same thing. 
    Back to the question - what makes the last two years of high school relevant, purposeful, and worth sticking around for?  Is the is rigorous curriculum?  Is it student life and relationships with teachers? It seems clear that schools must change in order to survive. But how will school thrive?  Moving beyond content and testing has to be a first step. Building communities of learners with a shared purpose might be a second step.  Revising curriculum and moving toward demonstrations of learning through project-based, real-world work might also be part of the equation. How do others feel about graduation by tenth grade?  What can schools, public and private, do to remain relevant?

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Demonstrations of Learning

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Pat Bassett writes about "tangible output" in terms of student portfolios and "demonstrations of learning." How would your curriculum change if the assessment was an actual demonstration of a student had learned? Take a look at the list that Bassett and a group of college presidents and school heads put together as demonstrations of learning. What would you include?

Diigo: More Amazing than Ever!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

I just figured out how to use "Easy Blog" at Diigo.  This tool makes blogging and sharing with your personal learning network amazingly simple.  So, you find an article online that excites you, you use your Diigo toolbar to bookmark it, tag it, and save it in the cloud.  You add your invitations.  Now all you need is a way to invite others into the conversation.  Wow.

The resource about is an amazing treasure trove of "7 Things" about back channels, about using ning, about lecture capture, about google apps.  Ah, so many things to play with and, yes, so little time.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Conversation over Time: The Rationale for Blogging

Anne Davis wrote two years ago a "A Rationale for Educational Blogging" that gives voice to many of the things I've been feeling on a gut level. The rationale addresses not only what students can gain from blogging, but also exhorts teachers to examine their responsibility for preparing students for the new world of communicating and building their ideas. Davis (no relation, I'm afraid) says, "teachers need to address writing for a public audience, how to cite and link and why, how to use the comment tool in pedagogical ways, how to read web materials more efficiently as well as explore other ways to consider pedagogical uses of blogs. Blogging requires us to teach students to critically engage media. Students need instruction on how to become efficient navigators in these digital spaces where they will be obtaining a majority of their information."

And to her long list of pedagogical reasons for incorporating blogs to help our students learn, I add this comment:

"Wow. You can add another item to your list. This conversation has gone on for 2 years! The ability to build a conversation over time — what a remarkable thing! This reminds me of the wonderful way artists, writers, and thinkers have used letter writing in the past to develop, test, and share their ideas. This makes me feel like I’m part of something huge and historic."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Reading and Writing in the 21st Century

Tomorrow morning I will give a presentation to the Texas Alliance of Accredited Private Schools on the very lofty and all-encompassing topic that I repeat as the title of this blog. I hope to raise some questions and stir some discussion about how our students actually go about the business of reading and writing as they learn. I will ask some very simple questions.

What's the difference between reading a paperback copy of Jane Eyre, a digital text of the novel, or the digital text of the novel marked up in Diigo and shared with "friends" on Facebook? What's the difference between writing a standard critical analysis of the novel on a word processor and sharing ideas about the novel (with hyperlinks, images, and comments) in a blog? I ultimately ask, partly rhetorically and partly probing for deeper answers, why do we still teach in just one way with these developments in mind. How are we serving our students? What do we owe them as they negotiate these new tools on their own?

I still have a stack of paperback books by my bedside (and a pen to mark them up), but I am also excited by the possibilities for reading and writing suggested by the new iPad. I don't have to settle for just one, do I?