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TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #3

Despite the disappointments, I love the start of school

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - Iserotopefavicon Today is the first day of the new school year. I love beginnings. The start of the year is so much fun. I’ve got dreams for my students and my classroom.

This year, new technology is coming to students. New content obtained over the summer from three weeks of professional development and two online classes is also on the way. Then there is the energy from students excited about the start of a new year. Even the new superintendent gives an inspirational speech, which gets a curtain call.

Trying to get to sleep last night was tough. It was hot, and I was nervous about the first day of staff meetings. But when the alarm went off at 6:00am, I still bounced out of bed. As I drove up to the school, there’s an earthquake. Moving earth is always exciting and seemed to be a good sign. But it is almost as if the earth sets events on an irreversibly negative trajectory. My new electronic key not only opens the school door, it sets off the building alarm, which was just repaired.

Thirty minutes later, I get to my classroom and find a peculiarly strong odor greeting me at the doorstep. I ask random people for the use of their noses. What is that smell? Ignoring the putrid odor, I turn to the blank wall in my room where new art will hang. It is so dirty; tape and heavy duty 3M products won’t stick. I’ve brought a mop to clean it, and soon there is a bucket of dirty water and a wet, muddy wall. I leave the wall cleaning for the first department meeting of the year, which is dominated by complaints. The details are pedantic. The positive comments can be counted on one hand.

The complaints follow me out into the rest of the campus. Complaining is everywhere. Teacher complaints are dominated by two topics: 1) our 1.5% raise is looking more and more anemic given the ballooning administrative staff and the arrival of new state money, and 2) many class sizes are bigger than they have been in years. The phone rings. It is the auto shop telling me I won’t have my car fixed for three days. Attacking the phone, I dial the auto insurance company only to discover they won’t return my calls. The phone rings again with a call from my real estate agent who informs me that yet another bid on another house is a loser. I finally go home depressed and dejected.

Some days as a teacher are disappointing. In this profession, it helps to have extraordinary optimism and cheerfulness so that the disappointing times don’t define the work. While I’m neither optimistic nor cheerful, I’ve found that the difficult days are usually the ones dominated by adults, and true to form, the start of this year is no different.

As soon as the students show up, I’m back to loving the beginning of school. There is the big smile and authentic “How are you?” from Sydney. The joyful reconnections with Megan and Tyler and Sutter and Kevin. How Nikitha and Clair stop by before going off to college just to say goodbye. Three students begging to be my T.A. Four students asking for letters of recommendation. A new World History curriculum focused on climate change that inspires. “I’m really looking forward to your class” from more students than I can count. New first-day activities where students are actually getting to know each other. “Thank you” from countless young people as their first class with me ends and they pile out of the newly decorated room. Oh, how I love the start of school, despite the disappointments. favicon

Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont Highfavicon

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The rise of phone reading, and what that means for the Kindle Classroom Project

favicon Apparently, people are reading more and more on their phones. Please check out Jennifer Maloney’s article, “The Rise of Phone Reading,” in The Wall Street Journal.

In the last three years, according to Nielsen, the percentage of people who read primarily on their phones has jumped to 14 percent from 9 percent. On the other hand, the percentage of people who read primarily on their e-readers has plummeted to 32 percent from 50 percent.

From the article: “The future of digital reading is on the phone,” said Judith Curr, publisher of the Simon & Schuster imprint Atria Books. “It’s going to be on the phone and it’s going to be on paper.”

I think this trend is real and will likely continue. So why am I still collecting recycled Kindles and giving them to students? Shouldn’t I just encourage them to read on their phones? After all, the White House is moving in that direction, and the New York Public Library is developing an e-reading app for smartphones.

Moving to phones — as Worldreader has done — won’t work for the Kindle Classroom Project for several reasons. The most important reason the KCP cannot and does not want to rely on BYOD, or bring your own device. That’s inequitable. Plus, giving a student a Kindle is a crucial part of the program. When a teacher tells a student, “This Kindle is for you,” that means, “I care about you and your reading.”

The second reason is practical: Phones won’t work because they’re banned in most schools. The point of the KCP is to increase access to reading in order to encourage students to grow lives of the mind. That means making reading an option as often as possible, as simply as possible. If phones can’t be out, then students can’t be reading.

I won’t get into some of the other reasons — like whether phones distract students more than e-readers, or whether the phone “is antithetical to deep reading,” as neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf argues.

Sure, perhaps a trusty Kindle 2 e-reader is becoming antiquated, and maybe a few students (though I haven’t heard this from many of them) would prefer sticking with their phones to read. But overwhelmingly, students tell me they love having a Kindle and a library of 500+ books to read, along with the opportunity to request new ones whenever the like.

Source: http://j.mp/1Jixwou (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Follow the Kindle Classroom Project!

Untitled-3favicon The Kindle Classroom Project is growing!

In just a few months, 600 students in Oakland, San Francisco, and Hayward will get Kindles to keep for the 2015-16 school year. They’ll have access to more than 500 books, and they’ll be able to request any book they’d like to read if it’s not already in the library.

I’d like you to be a part of it! Please follow the KCP in one or more of the following ways:

1. Join the new KCP website at http://www.kindleclassroomproject.org.

2. Follow the KCP on Facebook at http://facebook.com/kindleclassroom.

3. Follow the KCP on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kindleclassroom.

4. Follow the KCP on Instagram at http://instagram.com/kindleclassroom.

About the new website: It’s not ready yet, but once it launches for real in September, it’ll be the hub of all KCP activity. Students, teachers, donors, and KCP aficionados will be able to connect and follow the growth of the project.

And for all you fans of Iserotope: Don’t worry, Iserotope is not going away. favicon

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9th grader Luz offers her thoughts about participating in the Kindle Classroom Project

favicon One of my goals for this upcoming school year is to encourage students to share with everyone their thoughts about participating in the Kindle Classroom Project.

Please check out what Luz (Hayward, CA) has to say! This selfie video is 30 seconds long.

Let me know what you think in the comments! What would you like to know more about? What should I ask the students next year? favicon

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This just in…

Go ahead, follow me on Twitter! Or contribute to the KCP! favicon

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“This Kindle is for you.”

Kindle Giftfavicon Too many programs for students have caveats and conditions. Too many rules and responsibilities. Too many if-thens.

“If you agree to do this list of items,” these programs say, “then you get these rewards.” Sign this paper, follow the requirements, and later, you’ll reap the benefits. If you don’t, too bad; your lack of follow-through demonstrates your lack of interest in the program.

I understand this reasoning. It’s an American tenet, after all, that consistent hard work leads to progress and success. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging these values in students.

But at the Kindle Classroom Project, there is a different message: “This Kindle is for you.”

This is what I tell the students when I give them their Kindle. The only rule is not to break or lose the Kindle. Otherwise, they get to use it as they like. They can read a lot or a little. They can choose what they read and request books they want.

This message emerged from conversations last year with KCP teacher and close friend Kathleen Large. Miss Large is an extraordinary teacher because she loves her students unconditionally and pushes them to a build a life of the mind. Gifts with conditions, she would argue, do not appropriately demonstrate the care, respect, and love we wish to offer our students. We must instead give and trust.

“This Kindle is for you” is powerful because it means, “I believe in you, I care about you, and I encourage you to read. This gift contains a library of books. Choose any of them to read. If you don’t find something you like, let me know, and I’ll buy it for you.”

If we want young people to read, we can’t complain that they don’t read, or say that they’re lazy, or that teen culture repudiates the quest for knowledge, or wonder why they don’t go to the library. Instead, we must put books in students’ hands.

Respected reading teacher Donalyn Miller calls on us to be “book patrons.” Here’s my favorite passage from her recent piece, “Patron of the Arts“:

“Many of my students over the years haven’t owned a single book they can call their own. It’s heartbreaking. While I recognize that many people lack the resources to purchase books, we must accept that for children to have access to books, someone—a parent, teacher, librarian, or generous donor must buy books and put them in children’s hands. If we truly value reading, the artists and publishers who create children’s books, and the children themselves, we must embrace our role as book patrons.”

According to Ms. Miller, the if-thens shouldn’t always be for our students. Rather, they should be for us. If we put books in students’ hands, then they will read.

I’m proud to be a part of the Kindle Classroom Project, and I’m very appreciative of the many donors, teachers, and students who make it possible. favicon