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While we often here complaints about the many delinquent and criminal activities youths in the inner city are accused of or involved in. We very seldomly hear about the positive things that help to encourage our children to stay off the streets and to become leaders and successful citizens in the world. For many people including many adults, music has been the gateway to expressing ones emotions and feelings. How many youths do you know, that are mutil-talented through art forms but because they have nothing to do, they waste their time away smoking, drinking ,engaging in sex, and other criminal activities?

Youth Entertainment Studios is a program set-up to allow inner city youth to express themselves through music, dance and film. The program travels nationally and globally allowing for youth to build and connect with others around the world who are struggle with some of the same realities they struggle with. Yet, instead of continuing on the cycle of those struggles, they are finding positive outlets that allow them to release those energies.

 I feel like if there were more programs created for purposes like this, may the teen pregnancy or jail rate would decrease instead of increase!

http://www.yesamerica.org/

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The idea of “ambient intimacy” is a term that before reading this article I would have had no interest in, yet alone been able to understand. However, this idea in my opinion is more than just posting updates about what you are doing or how you are feeling. This idea of “ambient imtimacy”has changed for me in particular, the way I view social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. No longer do I just have to I network and connect with only those people who I know on a personal level. I can now connect and network with people who may be miles away from me or even someone close to me, who happen to have some of the same interests I have who I might have never connected with had it not been for Facebook or Twitter. As a teacher especially, this is a tool that will become very useful to me in the future specifically when it comes to things like conferences and lesson planning. When in doubt I can always tweet or facebook someone who may have the answers or solutions to my issues or concerns.

Yet, as teachers I think that just as important as it becomes for us to acknowledge how powerful these networks can be we should also be mindful that some of these same networks our children are using. And while it is encouraged to become a part of this “new technology”, things like face-to-face interaction should never be taken for granted.

In his September 7, 2008, New York Times article entitled, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy, writer Clive Thompson offers new and compelling insight into the world of digital communication.  I must confess that before reading this article, I like many others viewed Texting, Blogging, Facebook and MySpace as a waste of time.  Who had the time to invest in establishing, designing and maintaining a page?  Who had the interest?  Not I.

The few pages that I had seen seemed like nothing more than self-indulgent, non-celebrity news, advertisements for the regular people.  My guilty pleasures never involved reading about celebrities and they were not going to involve reading about the minute to minute tedious details of the lives of “friends”.

Reading a “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy”, offered a more engaging and unique perspective of realities of digital expression.  Thompson opened my mind to the concept of “ambient awareness”.  He states that “It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on their mood through the little things he does-body language, sighs, stray comments-out of the corner of your eye….Each little update -each individual bit of social information-is insignificant on its own, even surprisingly mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friend’ and family members lives…”

As stated by Marc Davis, a chief scientist at Yahoo and former professor of information science at the University of California at Berkeley, told him, “It’s an aggregate phenomenon. No message is the single-most important message…”  According to Thompson, .  “You could also regard the growing popularity of on-line awareness as a reation to social isolation. Ambient awareness becomes a way to “feel less alone”, as more than one Facebook and Twitter user told me”

In addressing my time concern, I found out that “awareness tools are not cognitively demanding”  because they are not really directed at you.  Therefore they do not take up a lot of time.  Also these on-line updates allow you to increase your number of “weak ties”-loose acquaintances, people you know less well.  According to sociologists “weak ties” greatly expand your ability to solve problems.  This could potentially help you to save time.

The ultimate effect of the new awareness, quotes Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is that, “It brings back the dynamics of small town life, where everybody knows your business…the current generation is never unconnected.  They’re never losing touch with their friends. So we are going back to a more normal place, historically…”

Digital communication makes it possible to establish and maintain relationships with people all over the world.  Instead of traveling thousands, you need only travel a few key strokes to meet the world at your door.  Meeting the world at my door, now that is exciting.

“Of course, no matter how innovative our schools or how effective our teachers, America cannot succeed unless our students take responsibility for their own education. That means showing up for school on time, paying attention in class, seeking out extra tutoring if it’s needed, and staying out of trouble. And to any student who’s watching, I say this: don’t even think about dropping out of school. As I said a couple of weeks ago, dropping out is quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country, and it is not an option – not anymore. Not when our high school dropout rate has tripled in the past thirty years. Not when high school dropouts earn about half as much as college graduates. And not when Latino students are dropping out faster than just about anyone else. It is time for all of us, no matter what our backgrounds, to come together and solve this epidemic.”

These remarks were made on March 10, 2009, by President Barack Obama during his speech “Taking On Education”. I especially appreciate these remarks because they more accurately portray a realistic plan for a resolution to some of the challenges that  face students in urban schools.

Although I am certain that this is not a unique perspective, prior to the speech I had never heard it verbalized so clearly. This was the first time that I had heard someone speak about the active role that students have in their own education. In the past, the responsibility for educating students was placed squarely on the shoulders of teachers. If the student did well, the teacher merely did their job. If the student failed, the teacher failed to do their job.

This view challenges the outdated passive role of students as learners. Students are not empty vessles that teachers pour knowledge into. Students are unique, thinking, feeling individuals who come to us with a variety of skill levels and needs. As such, they do have a responsibility to themselves and their education.  They do have to show up, they do have to pay attention, they do have to ask questions, and they do have seek help when they don’t understand if they are to take an active role in their education.

This is not about blame. This is about the cooperative responsibility that students and teachers must share if teachers are to be successful as educators and students are to be successful as learners. We all have a part to play in the resolution of some of the unique challenges that face both student and teachers each day in the classroom. We must work in concert to ensure that teachers are providing students with the skills that they need and that students receive the necessary tools that will allow them to become thinking, productive citizens of the world.

To read the speech in its entirety go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/03/10/Taking-On-Education/

I am new blogger. To say that my technological skills are lacking is an understatement of fact. I admit that if it were not for a class, I would not have joined the writing space community at WordPress. While I am more than willing to learn, my learning curve seems incredibly high and my patience is waning.

In her book, Using Blogs to Enhance Literacy, author Diane Penrod offers five basic reasons for blogging:

1. They are easy to publish.
2. They mix pleasure with information.
3. Blogging is a malleable writing genre.
4. They allow writers to generate new personas and construct new worlds.
5. Blogs empower those that are often marginalized in society.

I find the five reasons to blog very exciting. In terms of blogs mixing pleasure with information, Penrod goes on to say that “When a blog functions at its peak, several elements are at work to encourage writers to play, to be creative, and to continue blogging:

There is a clear reason.
There is immediate feedback.
There is a balance between challenge and skill.
There is focused concentration.
There are limited distractions.
There is no fear of failure.
There is little to know self-consciousness.
There is time distortion.
There is an increase in autotelic behavior. (Bloggers blog just for the sake of blogging).”

It is clear to me that my blog is not yet functioning at its peak. The problem seems to center around mixing pleasure with information. I do not yet find the blogging process fun and I have a high fear of failure. I am experiencing great self-consciousness and I do not yet enjoy the act of blogging for the sake of blogging.

The greatest challenge seems to be the time intensive nature of blogging. Perhaps it is because my desire to blog is not yet organic. Perhaps it is because I have not yet found a subject that I am passionate enough to freely blog about. Perhaps it is because my skill level and the challenge of blogging are not yet balanced. Whatever it is, I only know that it takes an incredibly long time to blog-so long in fact, that I find myself losing focus.

The good news is that I believe what Ms. Penrod says about five reasons for blogging. Given that belief and my desire to challenge myself so that I can discover new ways to engage and challenge my students, I will continue to blog so that I reach my blogging peak. Perhaps then I will experience blogging as an autotelic behavior and blog for the sake of blogging.

 This article, even though short, has really opened my eyes to a new way that could reform urban education. There are factors such as social, political, economical, and racial issues that surround the achievement gap present in many urban schools. This article touches on the suggestion that future teachers need to be taught and trained how to teach in real life situations such as urban environments. There needs to be a partnership between the univerisities and colleges that are training future teachers in which they prepare them to teach in real life education school systems and stop just training them with the traditional middle-class, everything is so lovely, public environment.

This made my mind turning as I have not really thought  about changing teacher-prep programs to help deal with urban education issues. Programs are now infusing more diversity issues as America is a big melting-pot of diverse students and learners. But, in a way I see how teacher prep-programs do cater towards training future teachers for the perfect job environment. I think that altering teacher prep-programs for the students who want to teach in an urban enivronment could be useful. However, I think since urban education is in such a bad state as it is in now that including more real-life situation aspects and teaching environments to a teacher pre-program would have positive results. I think that changing the teacher-prep programs seems to always face opposition. I can see how reforming the teacher prep programs to tailor towards urban, inner ciy and poor students, could change the course of these types of education systems. Urban schools need highly-qualified and compasionate teachers for the students to start triving in those environment. Read this website and see if anything sparks into your mind about changing teacher preperation programs to help urban schools.

http://www.ur.umich.edu/9899/Jan25_99/urban.htm

 This is a great simple website that discusses various ways for parents to get involved and help decrease the achievement gap that is present in urban schools. The site offers the following ways to help decrease the achievement gap: parental involvment, before & after school programs, data modeling & reporting, and community adopting a school.  I strongly believe that parental involvement can play a key role in a student’s academic success. If parents can not or will not become involved, it is very neccessary to find a struggling student positive role models.  The site provides a tab for getting informed on the achievement gab. The information under this tab is great. It provides numerous ways for families to get informed and provides tips on what to do to together as a family to help their children in school. The involement tab provides resource links and tips that parents can do to to personally ensure that their child(ren) are getting the support they need.

Even though this site was designed for a certain school district, I think it can be used as a general site for all urban and inner city schools that suffer from achievement gaps. This site is easy to navigate and uses stright forward language. This is a definate muct look site for educators who need resources to provide parents on how to get involved with their child(ren) education with no sugar-coating.

 

http://www.achievementmatters.org/index.html

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