Friday, February 9, 2007

Sigh Of Relief...Or Stress

"If when I die, the moment I'm dying, if I suffer that is all right, you know; that is suffering Buddha. No confusion in it. Maybe everyone will struggle because of the physical agony or spiritual agony, too. But that is all right, that is not a problem."

"It is wisdom which is seeking for wisdom."

-Shunryu Suzuki

Last week, our freshman English subdepartment talked about how we're going to integrate technology into our curriculum. We're getting ready to present our principal with a plan for next year when every freshman will have a laptop. We started the meeting with a whiteboard full of every type of software application and internet tool the school has come across up to this point. The list went something like: MVN Forum, iLife 6, Notetaker, Inspiration, Moodle, YackPack, Comic Life, Blogger, Wikispaces, and probably more that I'm forgetting right now. This task combined with missing a day of school to fly to the mainland to throw my mother-in-law a surprise 60th birthday party started the one-step-behind-everything feeling that lasted throughout the week.

I was deep in Moodle and starting to feel like I didn't know enough about it to use it further with students, starting to have my freshman and sophomores comment on student blogs in other countries, and working on podcasts using Garageband and Podomatic. And I've never done any of these before. I started to wonder whether the time we were spending learning these tools was usurping time from the core curriculum. I was reminded of several essays I read in Harper's last year. (I don't remember the titles and will continue to look through my files.) The gist of the articles was that we can become so overloaded with information and choice that we start to shutdown and become inefficient. One of the images from one of the essays was the cereal aisle at a grocery store. High fiber, high protein, whole grain, which is best? Anyway, I was feeling inefficient.

Serendipitously though, several encounters with colleagues, students, and familiar texts left me feeling like it's okay to be just hanging on in the name of innovation. First, several students told me how much they were enjoying working with podcasting and how differently it's made them see the writing process. They also told me how much they were thinking about their blogs, and I think their blogs speak for themselves. I also received an invitation from a school we're starting to collaborate with for my students to start commenting and making introductions. Finally, I came back to Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, and Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind thanks to a student blog. Discussing the ideas of quality, value, interconnectedness, and perspective in these books set me straight, or at least made me comfortable in my discomfort. Sigh of relief.


Clay Burell said...

Hi Chris.

Good to see skepticism that isn't deaf and blind: my students are waking up, also, to the fact that classwork feels less and less like homework or schoolwork these days.

Their French Revolution writing to learn wiki stunned me when I started grading it today. A new experience for all of us.

They're starting to shift gears in their blogs now, too. It's taken four months, but it's happening.

So I know what you mean about doubting, drowning in the new, and all, but they keep pulling me along with their pudding.

I never knew what the core curriculum was in English classes anyway :)


Clay Burell said...

Have to add that I love the Buddhist epigraphs. After 44 years, I tapped into a similar insight in that old chestnut, The Lord's Prayer, a few weeks ago:

"Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil. For thou art with me...."

Seen gnostically, that's about as simple as it gets.

Let's delete "death" from the language. It's got too much baggage. I choose "sleep" as its replacement.

Anyway. Look what you started. And here it's Saturday night.

Clay Burell said...

By the way--why not start small?

Wikis, blog/netvibe combo--that's basic reading and writing skills to the 10th power--and go podcasting and such later?

Or am I saying this because I've only done that much so far myself? (I do plan on having students do oral interpretations of their own stories on 1001, possibly as digital storytelling projects, after writing them. And inviting illustrators to do their thing....)

Where do you find time to write so meditatively? I'm jealous. Maybe I should lay off coffee.