Blogging from the beach is hard and not that much exciting has happened. The kids are exhausted and it’s starting to show. The extreme weather broke today so it’s not ungodly hot. We’ll make one more trip over to the beach, surf a few wave, collect a few shells. Then we’re going out for seafood. It’s been fun, but I’m honestly ready to go home. There will be more interesting blogging then.
My kids were basically in some body of water all day. Geeky boy, especially, loves the ocean. I’m amazed at how much I worry about him while trying not to look like I’m worried. It is amazingly hot but generally there’s a nice breeze. Today we’re planning a major sandcastle and lots of body surfing. Yesterday, I went for a walk but today didn’t get up early enough. Maybe later. One more cup of coffee and I’m off.
Nearly halfway to the beach. Some observations.
men in tank tops creep me out
i’ve seen more accidents in the last month than in my whole life
hotel coffee sucks
Some conversations I have with my extended family contain an element of racism. My inlaws, too, often make racist comments. I don’t think they always mean them in a racist way. They just say things without thinking. These comments are not the blatant racist comments one thinks of from around the time of the civil rights movement, but more subtle. Generally, they take the form of an observation about one or two people of a particular race which gets generalized across the whole race.
For example, my mother made the comment to me that she’s noticed a lot more hispanic lawn crews in her neighborhood. “They’re doing the work blacks used to do,” she said. Because, she goes on, “Blacks are too lazy to do it.” What has she based this theory on? The fact that the kid she hired to do her lawn work is lazy (and black). I suggest that maybe blacks have found better jobs as they’ve gotten more educated. “No,” she says. Again, she bases this on the fact that her yard worker hasn’t gone out and pursued a job actively. I suggest that he’s 18 and not sure how to pursue a job, might need training or guidance and has nowhere to turn for it. Maybe, she concedes.
This kind of thing drives me crazy. And it sweeps under the rug the institutionalized racism that is rampant in many southern areas. Not to mention the history of segregation and racism, the aura of which has not disappeared. And I never know what to say to these kinds of comments. I’m never armed with enough information to diffuse the argument. And I’m usually blindsided since I’m just not around racism that much anymore.
No one in my family or Mr. Geeky’s is going to tell a racist joke in front of us. (We’re considered the wacky liberals who actually take recycling seriously.) But they will make these broad comments which are hard to respond to. It’s hard to diffuse these comments with a discussion of the complexity of the socio-economic fabric in America. My relatives nod politely without really listening. And it’s even harder to answer the kids’ questions. What’s a conscientious mother to do?
Tomorrow I leave for vacation. We’re going to the same beach I went to my whole life. We haven’t been in 15 years. Man, I feel old. We’re meeting my father and stepmother there.
When I was growing up, vacation was the one time I got to bond with my father. Especially when I was little, he was always working, first in a big law firm and then, trying to establish his own practice. He ate dinner with us, but then often had to work afterwards. (Actually, come to think of it, Mr. Geeky follows the same pattern). He also worked on the weekends. But at the beach, I got my father to myself.
My dad liked to fish in the surf. My job was to catch bait for him. I would go out about thigh-deep and dip into the sand for the wiggly little burrowing crabs that he used for bait. I’d put my catch into the bait bucket and I’d sit next to him while he fished. Sometimes we talked, but a lot of times we just sat there enjoying each other’s company.
We also played in the pool together. He’d throw me, drive me around and generally encourage my budding swimming skills. And at night, the whole family would play hearts, and my dad and I were often on a team together.
Even into high school, I enjoyed hanging out with my dad at the beach. My first boyfriend broke up with me while we were on a beach trip and it was my dad who comforted me in the dark when it seemed like my world was falling apart. If he could have flown back home and beaten the guy up, I think he would have.
And the beach was where my taste in fine dining got started. We went to a very nice restaurant when I was 16 and my dad let me and me sister sit at a table by ourselves right next to him. We got to order our own food. I still remember the duck in mustard-brandy sauce from that night.
The last few years, we’ve either not gone on vacation at all, visited various relatives, or gone to the beach with friends. I like going to the beach with my friends, but there are so many kids and the whole trip feels more like a trip for grown ups rather than time to spend with your family. One of the things I liked about my family beach trips as a kid was that it was time our family got to just let go and be ourselves. The beach was where we formed inside jokes and created the stories that we still tell like the year my dad accidentally dropped an entire fish down the garbage disposal and we all started yelling “Bass-o-Matic! Bass-o-Matic!” That’s the kind of thing I want for my kids and I’m glad that this year, my dad gets to be a part of it.
I love, love Phantom Scribbler’s Wednesday whining. She’s just about one of the best bloggers out there, imho.
Lord help us.
I don’t know why, but I’m thinking about the Pink Floyd song when I think about the way social software–especially blogging–threatens education as we know it. Things move so slowly in higher ed that I don’t think anything radical is going to happen in the next 5 years or even 10 years, but it might. Just this weekend, the NY Times reported that high school students are dissatisfied with their educations, that they weren’t being challenged.
I am not an education expert, but I play one at work. I think that in many high schools and colleges, courses are still being taught in the “sage-on-the-stage” method. A teacher stands at the front of the room, imparts some information interspersed with pauses for discussion. Students are required to read and write papers, maybe take essay exams. All of these are very linear enterprises and very passive. Students do not learn well this way. Study after study shows this (although there’s always a few who do learn well and others learn to adapt to this method).
Books like Everything Bad is Good for You and What Video Games have to teach us about learning and literacy point to a different kind of learning, learning that is more active and hyperlinked and most importantly, controlled by the learner. Which brings me to blogging (or pretty much any technology where one must relinquish control to the students). Blogging allows students to have more control over their own learning. They get to decide (within parameters) what to read, what to write about, what to comment on. They get to grapple with material in a way they can’t in a controlled classroom or even in a paper.
Teachers are also often afraid of the public nature of blogs. What if their writing or thinking looks unformed and I’ve sent this link to lots of people? Won’t that reflect badly on me? And what if students decide to start personal blogs and they write stuff that isn’t very flattering to the school?
And then there’s the issue of creating more work. “How do I grade this stuff? And I have to learn about blogging before I use it? I don’t have time for that.”
Here’s an example of the kind of activity I’m planning with my students in the fall. Some faculty I’ve mentioned this to are freaked out by it. And it’s pretty tame and it’s really a re-hash of stuff librarians and writing teachers have been doing for years.
One of the concerns I hear from faculty all the time is that students don’t know how to do research. They resort to Google (a quick google search shows millions of articles on this topic). In a recent survey, faculty stated that they expect their students to learn research skills, but often do not want to take class time to teach them. I’m stepping back to a more general view of research, of simply learning how to evaluate information, a skill that I think comes primarily not just from being told that a library database is a better source of information (because it’s not always), but from comparing lots of different sources and through analysis of those sources making some judgements about what’s better, based on the information presented.
So, the activity I have in mind is to have students search using the same keywords in about 5 different places. The keywords need to be unique enough not to generate millions of results, but general enough to have some results to choose from. I envision that they would search a library database that they think (based on the information given on the library web site) is most appropriate, a search engine, google scholar, technorati, and perhaps a social bookmarking site like CiteULike or furl. They will blog this whole process. It’s a big assignment. It could lead anywhere from talking about evaluating sources to the technology of search tools to the future of libraries. I want them to blog their whole experience–how easy was it, what kinds of frustrations did you have, what was the best experience, what was the most interesting resource you found and why. Anything.
I can envision setting students loose like this, blogging their experience of reading a book, attending a lecture, participating in an online discussion, reporting it on their blog. I know I have readers who’ve actually used blogs, so they probably have more to say. I’ll be experiencing this whole phenomena in the fall.
Setting kids (even college kids) loose to construct their own knowledge freaks some people out. I still think we need teachers and college professors, but not as sages who fill their students with information. They show students how to find information. They help them figure out how to present information, how to incorporate their own ideas into that information.
Increasingly, students will expect to incorporate social software type things into their classes. They’ll do it on their own or with the assistance and guidance of teachers.