February 27, 2009

On the Return: Reflections from the Boston College Trip

So, one week has passed since the Boston college trip and although I was initially planning on writing a daily log of our events, the days were long and the cold was debilitating. Ordinarily we left the hotel in Cambridge in the mornings around 9:15 (breakfast consumed) and off to our first college tour and meetings of the day. We went from college #1 to lunch and then to college #2, typically, each day we were there. Overall, we saw eleven colleges and universities, which sounds like a lot- and really, it is a lot- but in Boston it's not that unheard of. We met up with some of my old students and they hosted a great dinner for the boys and talked to them all about living and going to school in the city, the transition to college, the difference in responsibilities, etc . . . It was a great evening. We also met up with another one of my students from Boca who was in Boston for Harvard Model Congress with some of her classmates. Serendipitous. The boys were on great behavior the whole weekend and really gained an understanding of what type of campus it is that they're looking for and what the major differences are between academic programs from school to school. Of the group, three of the guys decided that going to school in Boston was precisely what they wanted. The other one learned that going to school in Boston was precisely what he did not want. The weather was much too cold. For him, this was a very productive trip, as well, just because the whole point is to identify locations that you do want to go to college and a big part of that is identifying those areas that you do NOT want. The guys have now all sent/are sending this weekend their follow-up Thank You emails to the various admissions folks who really went above and beyond for the four of them. That is a big part of these trips, to make sure that the students continue to grow and learn through inquiry and experience, while exploring themselves. It was a good trip. Happy almost March!

February 17, 2009

Boston: Day 1; Cold

I am in Boston with four great young guys. We arrived this morning to find that our luggage did not follow us here. It was disappointing, but also a good lesson in patience and customer service. The initial response was- as it always must be- frustration. But this was funny how absurd it was. All five of our bags were missing. When they found out that the lost baggage amount of compensation is $3,000 they all started to hope that the bags were lost in the ether, somewhere. It's extremely cold here. This is the whole point of a trip during the winter, to experience what ends up being the real weather during 4 months of a 9 month college year, sort of eliminates any fantasy about what "college in Boston" will be like. But regardless, it's still a wonderful place, with so much energy and so many young people. The guys were a little apprehensive, I think, as they were expecting some amazing shock of college life when they got off the subway and entered the city. But it's just a normal, dynamic city that has the hustle of a metropololis with the community of a college town. We had some good food. We walked the commons. We walked through the Jewish Memorial near Faneuil Hall, which was really moving. Then they got cold and started whimpering so we came back to the hotel where I made them write for a little while- they'll get used to this. More later.

Brady Norvall, M.A.
Education Counseling

February 9, 2009

Wired High Schools: Increasing Access and Decreasing IQ's

I admit that I have not always been a fan of the idea of laptops in the classroom, especially in affluent areas where students have access to that technology on a regular basis, as it stands. However, several recent experiences and some new students who I have come across, have lead me to assess "why" I dislike the idea of a 'laptop school'. This post will not be very long, because I'm afraid that I could write far too many ideas that are neither supported through independent research nor really legitimized by a truly random sample. That said, what it is that I have witnessed from my experiences with students who attend schools which do utilize laptops as a part of the daily curriculum, is their savvy in navigating youtube, wikipedia and google is greatly enhanced. It stops right about there. Sure, they can troubleshoot a computer problem much quicker than I probably am able, but the majority of their time spent on the computer is spent trying to figure out a way to beat the firewall or entertain themselves with the infinite amount of ether-tainment available in the wide world of web. I have students who have found (and do send me) some of the most obscure videos from youtube or will, without thinking twice whether they've heard of an author or tried to dig in the recesses of their minds for a common reference, do a wikipedia search, read the first line of the bio and then move on, as if they have now learned, associated and retained the information. Like I said above, there is something valiant about providing technology in a more vocational aspect- especially to schools where the demographics indicate that the average student might not have the same opportunity and access outside of school. But is it really necessary for students who do have access to be hiding behind a screen all-day long? What will happen to their creative writing? When will they have the chance to feel a book in their hands or turn the page of a newspaper? I'm not saying that google search is not a better tool than a library. But I am saying that it would be nice for every student in high school to be able to walk into a library and know how to find a book that they might be looking for. It's technology. It serves a wonderful purpose and provides great hope for a more well-connected and informed society. Though I just can't help but wonder whether, with these laptop schools, it isn't providing one aspect at the expense of another?