His disciples lead him in / And he just does the rest / He's got crazy flipper fingers / Never seen him fall /That deaf, dumb and blind kid / Sure plays a mean pinball.
-- from Tommy
I realize that enthusing about wikis, Google Docs, blogs, and other forms of social media has caused some of my colleagues to question my values, loyalty or even sanity. I suppose I can see how they might think I am drunk on the idea of Web 2.0 being the answer to everything. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I am into teaching with the best tool for the task, not preferring the new one for its own sake. And frankly, I still believe what David Brooks recently noted in the Times:
We’ve spent years working on ways to restructure schools, but what matters most is the relationship between one student and one teacher.
It's been my privilege to teach next door to a gifted teacher who has impacted literally hundreds of students by touching their hearts. I've never encountered anyone who more passionately teaches about literature and life. He has a remarkable ability to do this with keen humor, yet tenderness; great rigor, but unique sensitivity. Boy, do the students respond. And some are forever changed. But after forty-one years in the classroom, Tom Schusterbauer is getting set to retire in June.
You might suppose at this point that I am on the verge of recanting my profession of faith in the ability of new technology to change education...... Naw.
Though Tom has claimed that he is "no techie" and even "befuddled" by tech, I like many of his "friends", read these statements online, thanks to his recent discovery of Facebook. Talk about a marriage of message and messenger! He has virtually exploded as a one-man super nova of networking with the students who have passed through his classroom semester after semester for forty-one years. His teaching persona has become crystallized online and threatens to thrive well beyond his classroom days. His exquisite "notes" are not to be missed, sometimes producing dozens of responses to his thought-provoking reflections on life. (Does he realize that he is blogging?). If he is no techie, how has he mastered the Goliath of all social media? When I "friended" him, he had just written "In Defense of Facebook." (Hmn....Can you say, "Web 2.0 evangelist"?). I chuckle at his protestations about tech, but I am truly astonished by his Facebook tour de force, and love to check online for his musings, even though we are office mates.
You see, it's not a choice between people and machines. It's about teaching. And someone who is passionate about connecting with students will want to try new ways to teach as the world changes. Web academic, Danah Boyd, recently remarked at the Microsoft Techfest:
Social media is here to stay. Now we just have to evolve with it.
Evolving with it does not mean surrendering our passion for teaching. In fact as Tom has shown, it can amplify our passions far beyond the physical and temporal limitations of classrooms and school years.
"Captain Fantastic...." Creative Commons Flickr Photo by Gregory Wild-Smith
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