English Version of Published Texts

PLN  and PLE

It is amazing the power that two new concepts have been gaining in this era of the web 2.0.

For many teachers, especially in Portugal, this concept is new and many people have never heard of it, although it is quite a simple one: teachers are not alone anymore! They can exchange opinions join communities, ask for their peers’ opinion on most subjects from curricula to classroom behaviour, lesson planning, and mere communication of the type” Hello World! I’m here and I want to interact with you all, educators from all over…”

That is how two new concepts have arisen: PLN and PLE

PLN means Personal Learning Network and implies that, as teachers, we may connect to other educators and establish with them a communication channel, through which we exchange principles, points of view, experiences, ask for advice, give advice and learn a lot in the process, becoming better teachers, better educators, with a better view of what is going on around the world. This is globalization applied to educational philosophies and to the way teachers work and network.

The other concept is PLE: Personal Learning Environment and it is not less important than the first one. Because as we learn from others we come across new tools, new blogs, new ideas which imply that we live in that environment, and it is important because it creates our own way of living, thinking and teaching.

This is the subject of this article because of my experience in the months of December and January. In my plight for the development of new ways of viewing classroom integration in the small private school where I have the honour to help my fellow teachers and educators in general,  I decided to take the plunge I had never tried: I joined a marvellous community, of which I heard through my PLN. There I took two online courses, where I came across a lot of other educators, from all over the planet. That gave me the real picture of what is happening in education all over the world.

It is a real change and it is becoming stronger as the time goes by. I really encourage all the Portuguese  teachers ( and others as well ) to go and give it a try. And I tell you that you will feel marvelously rewarded when you finish those courses.

Try http://www.integrating-technology.com , http://edupln.ning.com/ , http://tech-in-ed.ning.com/ , http://wikieducator.org/Main_Page .

In Portugal we have http://interactic.ning.com/ . And I’m sure that you will get to know other communities, of which I haven’t heard yet.   Maybe I will come to know them through you, my “incognito” reader , when you become part of my PLN.

20th Century versus 21st Century…Which will it be?

In my opinion, the fact that the majority of the portuguese population does not understand english is a great setback and causes a true civilizational “décalage”.

The clearest example is education.  Are teachers aware of what is going on around in the whole world? A swarm of opinions that are preached and contradicted, analyzed and discussed, the changes in the  mentality of the youths, and the way it relates to technological changes in society, which have brought about a new dynamic spirit  and enable us to be aware of all the innovation and tendencies all over the globe?

I also think that I should be writing this text in english, so that its scope might reach others…but I would lose the focus on my school colleagues, those who are near me and need to be alerted… Those are the ones I really want to conquest and bring over to my “army” in this “war” for the future education…

This film I discovered in my wanderings through Web sites and social networks is a good example for this purpose…Crying out in the desert!

HELLO WORLD!

Hello good evening.

I decided to start a blog. I’m not too sure about the reasons that led me to do so. I do not want to be a “guru”, the keeper of the truth. Maybe I just want to express what I feel about what is happening in education. Perhaps it is a way of forcing me to think about what I do, what happens around me and how I react and interact.

The real reason was a joke between friends on writing a blog describing ridiculous situations in the relationship between parents and school (or schools). However, I think it will only touch the tip of the iceberg, because what really is at stake here is the representation that most people make of school, of the role of teachers,  as well as the real expectations of “attending school.”

Thinking about these issues, as I said before, I started to write down  a number of ridiculous situations. But they are so ridiculous that I fear they are not good enough to make us “re-think” the role of school. In 2008/2009 there have been many situations that jumped from the benches of schools to the Portuguese social media. Used and abused by a bloodthirsty press only interested in crucifying someone just to get audience rates.

Eventually these cases tend to be forgotten without the necessary analysis of cause and consequence, without drawing attention to the existing uneasiness in schools. Because it is just a sign of malaise, a misunderstanding of what school really is, of negative student-teacher relationship and the lack of common sense of many of the agents involved.

I’m stopping here for the moment. I promise to bring issues to discuss. I’ll only be happy if  my thoughts can catalyze an exchange of points of view with the sole intent of changing the mindset of people, the situation in schools, teachers, education and learning.

MY CHILD DOESN’T LIE!

This is a sentence that is recurrently heard among parents. But… I just wonder: Are parents really sure about that?

One of the difficulties in the relationship between school and parents is the representation parents have of teachers. Often, when they receive messages on the wrong behaviour of their children, the first remark is to question the authority, competence and teaching skills.

By saying this I do not mean that teachers are infallible or that there aren’t better and worse days. We all know that our daily mood can influence the way we relate to others (students included). For the same reason, the relationship between teacher and students often depends on how the teacher can or cannot “overcome” the initial “friction” and interact with the student, either inside or outside the classroom.

Likewise I do not want to say that it is always the students’ fault and their proverbial lack of manners. What I mean is that parents often lack the authority to question the children about their behaviour and to draw their attention to the importance of respecting your neighbour, whether they are colleagues or teachers. Only then, and not in front of their children, should they try to learn from the teacher what happened and in what way they will be able to help.

What actually happens is that the first stone is almost always thrown at the teacher, not taking into account the differences in behaviour that their children show when in group with other colleagues, before whom they do not want to appear weak, or are just afraid of being called “chicken.” That’s why things like filming, recording or photographing situations in class and publishing them in YouTube are common. Moreover, when you want to ban the use of mobile phones at school, aren´t parents the first to come forward and criticize the decision, because they want their children to be always reachable, either inside or outside the classroom?

Indeed, “it is very difficult to be a priest in this parish”. Where is the respect for teachers? Don´t parents realize that by attacking teachers they are undermining their authority in the classroom, at school? And about their children’s good manners ( or rather the lack of it) isn’t it true that they (children) just do what they see their parents do?

WANTED! RESPONSIBILITY AND GOOD COMMON SENSE…GOOD REWARD

In fact the situation is getting worse and worse. Those who have to relate to children, whatever their age, must face a difficulty: parents do not educate their children in the principle of accountability for their acts.

Speaking openly, there are many areas in which we can observe this behaviour (I call it neglect),  that will have profound negative effects later.

We all know that, since early age, tasks that fall on the individual, must begin to be taken slowly, so that we can understand the reason of the actions required, its educational and social function. We all know that a two-year-old child can not dress herself, but if she is 4, it will be a bit strange  that she can’t put on a piece of clothing even if her parents have to be careful and come and see if it is alright. I think that we all have to learn to do things well. It was by trial and error that we came to realize the way things were done. All  these small tasks that are necessary in life.

I think everyone agrees with what I have  just stated. At least in general terms. But reality is different. When parents are confronted with their children’s difficulties, they always come up with an excuse. As children grow, there are some home chores (put toys away, tidying their room, help with small chores), the homework (read, write, exercise, work on holidays). Then, when children fail to do what is expected of them, parents come forward to exempt them from any responsibility because “they had no time” or “because they forgot,” or “they have no obligation to remember because they are still very young”, and sometimes parents even come to the point of signing a document to justify their children’s failures…

What happens when children grow up and continue to proceed as usual? Well, that’s it… They will not fulfill their responsibilities because they never got used to it. And when we confront them with reality, they still give the same excuses that have always heard or given.

But what is extremely wrong  is when those excuses are given by parents, right in front of their children, when questioned by a teacher or educator: the child feels that his misbehavior  is protected by his  parents’ position  and therefore nothing bad will happen to him. And he goes on the same way as  before, while teachers feel helpless and do not know what to do.

Things get worse when they are adults and have no parents to take responsibility. Sometimes they even come to the point of oppressing their own parents because they do not understand what is wrong with them. But it is usually too late now, when they have to face social problems, problems at work, family arguments.  At that moment they will realize that something is wrong. And then, they may try to act differently when they have children, in order to avoid the problems they had with their parents.

We are all responsible for this mentality. But for the sake of our children’s future, we must do something to reverse this trend.

YES, WE CAN!

A few days ago, at a family lunch, we were discussing the characteristics of the  Portuguese  people.

One of the characteristics  in focus  was our dependence on the government. We are always hoping  that the  establishment will help us, do something for us. We find it  difficult to take the lead and do something regardless of any outside help. If a disaster happens,  the government  has got to help.

Trying to find a reason for such behaviour we were reasoning and went back in time and came to the conclusion  that, in fact, we have  always been dependent on someone or some institution. Moreover, it seems we can’t exist without the state, without authority, without a boss, a King. For example, if you go to a school and do a survey among K12 students on what they will do in the future, their invariable answer will be “get a degree and then a good job.” Only a few will say ” try to find a niche market, create my own business and work my life away. ” We’ll get the same answer if we do the same survey in college.

Why is it so? A few years ago I had a teacher who said that since Alcácer Quibir, Portugal has never been able to find its own path. Therefore we are always wishing for  the “desired one ” who will return in a foggy morning to solve our problems. Maybe so,  but … then why not accept the solutions we are offered? When there is a government trying to do something and change things, voices will immediately rise against it, seeking to diminish, to minimize it. And when, finally, we manage to throw the government down and replace it for another one,  after a period of grace and peace, then we go back to the same old song because … well, ” because of this and because of that”… And we must always be against what the government wants, even if we have chosen it. Just because we feel like it! It seems we find pleasure in doing so.

We have to agree that the Romans were right when they said ” The Lusitanos ( the Portuguese people before the creation of the kingdom) cannot govern themselves and they don’t  let others govern them.”. Indeed, we have been doing things the wrong way for quite  a long time now: squandering public funds, lack of vision and planning, the Holy Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews, Salazar’s “proudly alone”, the colonial war …

Is there ever any chance of making long term plans?  To keep  to what is planned? Are we  aware that we are a group and that each of us must do his best for the community? That the government is not “the soup for the poor” and the answer for everything? That we need to do something for the government and not the opposite? I have many doubts.

But if we ever want to change this state of affairs, this trend, we have to fight this auto-critical  tendency and the defeatism. We must assume a new attitude: YES, WE CAN.

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