Ted Nellen @ SchoolTech99


If It Ain't Broke, Fix It!

Ted Nellen
Tuesday, March 30, 1999 1:30 - 2:30
New York, NY

1. Describe your main project on the web and tell how you got started. Any details about how you gathered support will be helpful...Grants? PTA? Partnerships? What does your classroom look like? Do you use an LCD, LTV, or other device? Are your students grouped? Does every student have a computer? Do you use labs?

    Cyber English began when I was a sophomore in college, in a bookbinding course. In this course we wrote and published our own poetry. We used a hand printing press, we chose our inks, paper, and fonts. We sewed the books together and we took them to local bookstores. When I became an English teacher the notion of the scholars publishing their own work was realized only through a selection process of the school literary magazine, newspaper, or yearbook. As computers were introduced in the 80's, I had my first computer classroom in 1985, every scholar publishing became more real. With the introduction of the WWW in 1992, Technology had finally caught up to what I wanted. Pedagogy was leading and technology was following. Every scholar sits at hir own computer, I use an LCD when I need to. My current computers were installed in 1992. I use Windows 3.1, Netscape 2.02, and LINUX. My scholars write in UNIX. Each has an email and webpage of hir own. The initial setup was done by my own ISP, Dorsai. They created the LINUX box for and help me maintain it. I use a standard telephone line and a 56K Modem. The rest of the school uses the T1 line just recently installed by the NYC BOE. MBHS had its webpage up and the scholars were publishing in 1994. I use email, listserves, forums, and the web to communicate with my scholars. The classroom, not a lab, has computers and the scholars use them as they would use a notebook and book.

    We write lots of grants to pay for teacher training. We now have a grant writing team, which is crucial to much of our success.

2. How do you teach HTML? In other words, how do you fit it into the day, especially with everything else you have to teach? Where does it fit? Please share any classroom management techniques you have for rotating students or managing the technology as it is integrated into your content area.

    HTML is taught from the first day. When the scholars walk in, I hand them a piece of paper with the basic coding for their homepage. The second lesson in HTML is teaching them about the View Source feature of the browser. Thirdly, we use a basic HTML Style sheet to illustrate coding. Within a week the basics of HTML are done and the rest is learned as we go or as needed. Now as to the WYSIWYG editors, Frontpage, Pagemill, Homesite, and the others, knowledge of basic HTML helps, makes these fancy editors more efficient. When teachers or students have learned to use an editor, they always have to come over to learn some of the basic coding to make the editor and their work do what they want it to do. We don't get hung up in HTML, it is merely another tool, a very useful and basic tool. I make the analogy to owning a car in 1914. the driver needed to be a mechanic too. Until WYSIWYG editors are better, being a mechanic will always be useful. In addition, I promote cooperative learning, we don't have hard and fast assigned seats, and I'm not hung up on deadlines, which releases pressure and encourages ownership learning.
3. Have you been successful in getting other faculty members involved in your web activities? Please share your methods and projects.

    We have been very successful in promoting our faculty involvement, through grants, team teaching, mentoring, and excitement. I use the Tom Sawyer strategy, you know the one he used to get the fence whitewashed. I work with those who want to learn and do and ignore those who are reluctant. Not all teachers have to use the technology at this time, since we couldn't accomodate all of them at this time. When we have the technology, those who are reluctant will have retired or eventually will see the light on their own. It isn't about converting the reluctant it is about assisting those who want to learn and use the technology. We have a very active staff using the technology in their disciplines as seen by our roster of Internet Projects
4. What have been your biggest obstacles...and how did you overcome them?

    Ignorance, fear, and maintaining the status quo...Pedagogy, Practice, and Perseverance.
5. What is the best new software or technique you have discovered, ...and how can the rest of us get it into our classrooms?!

    Software: Linux and Mosaic! Technique: Web Writing/Publishing! I've stopped buying software. Most computers come with the basics and the net offers the rest of what I need. With computers I can finally follow my pedagogy of having each scholar do. Essentially if we just slow down and let each scholar do, then our scholars will learn and our schools will be more effective. I seek quality not quantity. We all learn at our own pace and we should allow for that.
6. What *one* piece of advice would you offer to those thinking about starting a web site? Or...What do you *wish* someone had told you before you started your site?

    Pedagogy, patience, and paying attention. Oh, you want *one*: Trust the scholars, understand they come not as empty vessels, which we are taught to believe, but that they in fact come with skills. Respect "Child Power" and use it. Education is interactive, a two-way street, and ongoing. So what is my advice? Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.