Wednesday, January 30, 2013

To digital or not to digital?

Wikipedia defines a digital native (DN) as, "a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater understanding of its concepts..."  I feel that this definition is, in many ways, too friendly and does not care to thoroughly vivisect or consequently analyze the true relationship between the current generation of school children/college students and technology.  Recently, a colleague of mine defined DNs as having a, "symbiotic relationship with technology whereas we are expats of the analog world."  This "we" refers to my colleagues at work, where the ratio of non-digitals to digitals is quickly approaching 50/50.  Having been born in 1979, I don't know if my birth date qualifies me as a DN, but having had the opportunity to play Pong and Burgertime on their original consoles as well as Loderunner, Winter Games, and Karateka on an Apple IIe just might be the very first metaphorical DN passport stamp ever used.  I've played MUDS, I've browsed bulletin boards, I've logged into AOL and Prodigy only to pay $9.99 an hour in order to take part in the "digital revolution" of our country.  Does this give me DN street cred or just make me the first elderly member of DN. society?

Working with young people and their parents, both of whom can often times be buried in the opportunities provided by ever-advancing technology, I have often wondered if I truly occupy a hut in the DN village.  I am 33 years old and played my first entertainment system at the age of 5.  Although I received my first cell phone when I was 22 years old, I have owned and operated an iPhone for the past 5 years and recently purchased an iPad.  I get upset about the prospect of visiting a place where there might be a spotty internet connection and the thought of visiting a locale where I cannot use the internet at all makes start to hyperventilate a little.

Given the aforementioned and somewhat embarassing aspectss of my relationship with technology, I still feel a stronger affinity to the "expats of the analog" world than to any DN and I would like to note a few differences between the two groups:

1.  Patience is a virtue that is slowly but surely no longer being valued as we embrace technology every more closely.  DNs know patience as the time required to wait for a webpage to refresh, a text to successfully be sent, or the time required for their Killing Spree cooldown in WoW to be over.  When researching a paper or project in school, DNs are upset when the first link on Google doesn't provide them with enough information.  Heaven forbid they should have to to search more thoroughly or *gasp*, enter a library and use primary, secondary, or tertiary sources to acquire information.  Analog expats know patience in a more geological (relatively speaking) sense.  Waiting for your children to come back in from playing outside;  waiting for the next book in a favorite series to be released; or watching as the chocolate chip cookies swell, turn brown, and start to smell really delicious are all measures of patience for the analog expat.  Does this make analog expats better than DNs?  I don't know.

2.  Silence.  Have you ever sat in a public transit vehicle and looked at the 17 year old sitting across from you?  Like clockwork, look to their ears.  I guarantee that approximately 75% of DNs will have an earbud in or a headphone on at least one of their ears.  Look to the group of DNs sitting together and conversing.  Even when interacting directly with one another, you can follow the cord from their ear down to an electronic device somewhere on their person.  Can anyone very truly be invested in a conversation when there is a podcast, music, or a book-on-tape (lulz, yeah right) playing in their other ear?  I know silence as sitting on my back terrace watching cars drive by.  I know silence as the pit-pat of my feet as I run through the neighborhood and wonder what is going on in the houses I pass.  Studies show that no one is truly capable of multi-tasking, so is it possible that DNs will eventually evolve out of that inability?  Are they already more capable than their analog forefathers?      

Friday, January 04, 2013


Yesterday a student and I were chatting.  I mentioned to him my worries and pet peeves concerning my students' participation in a national language exam.  As it so happens, many of the students have little to no motivation to put effort into the exam, as they are often resigned to the fact that they will not succeed and as such, choose to put as little effort into answering the questions as possible. 

His response went something like this, "Well, most of us just don't give a ****."  I may have been and might still somewhat be an overachiever, but I am convinced that the extent to which the teenage blase attitude currently extends has reached a new summit.  I feel that working with young people in their teenage years might have focused my lens more tightly than it should be, but I worry about a generation of people who never had to use phonebooks, never had to use an encyclopedia for a school project, never had to sell cookies door-to-door, has no idea how the dewey decimal system works, and would rather order pizza via their iPad than make a 3 minute phone call.  I mean talking to some "rando" at a pizza place is uncomfortable, amirite?

Don't misunderstand me.  I enjoy the convenience that technology and its cousin the internet bestow upon us all.  Sometimes I would rather not speak to a person face to face but instead send an email.  I do not however, doubt that this particular tendency is the result of technological influence on my life.  I wonder how the world expects a generation of young people who start using iPads and cellular phones between the ages of 7 and 12 to understand why it is important to keep hard copies of books in libraries, why it is important for them to know who their neighbors are, why it is important to be able to have a conversation (albeit awkward) with someone you have never met. 

Maybe it is just me.  I tend to view the world around me as the same place it was when I was growing up.  It frightens me to think that my views on what is useful, just, practical, and necessary are going to some day be viewed as old-fashioned and trite.  I pray that what I know as a vital set of life skills will always remain exactly that, vital.  Even though I say I view the world as unchanged, I know that is not true.  The world changes more quickly than ever, at least according to the Charlie Rose's interviews.

Technology and the internet gives my students endless opportunities to be curious lifelong learners.  They have incalculable advantages over their forebears in that they are able to find answers to their questions with a button click, a finger swipe, or an uttered word.  On the flip side, this easy access to virtually unlimited amounts of information and knowledge has a tendency to dull their curiosity's blade.  Why do you need to keep the knife sharp if the substance you are cutting is so pliable?  We need to find a way to encourage our students and children to keep looking.  To keep wanting to look, simply for the sake of having worked to achieve something if nothing else.  Every time we get something for nothing, we get a little bit more satisfied.  As Hatebreed says, "Satsifaction is the death of desire" and I for one, would hate to live a life where desire is absent.      

Thursday, January 03, 2013

I just spent two minutes looking at prior posts on this blog.  There are many typographical errors.  Some may call this "character" or "charm".  I find it embarrassing and apologize most humbly.

I'd like to write about the hometown I have had the chance to experience for the past 8 years.  Baltimore, you are a neat place.  Your fans are loyal, your population is diverse, and your well-dressed but overpriced brother, Washington, DC, tends to look down its nose at you.  That is until its residents realize they need a place to live and cannot afford to live in or around DC itself.

The people are what make a town.  Not the places.  Not the teams.  Not the universities.  People in Baltimore are normal.  I appreciate this a great deal.  There are wealthy people here.  There are poor people here.  There are crazy people who eat their roommate's organs here.  There are people here who anonymously spray paint the Baltimore Ravens' logo on the sidewalks of our school's campus at playoff time here.  There are people who speak English fluently but because of their "Balmer" accent I cannot understand them here.

Regardless of the cannibalism, silly accents, and graffiti, Baltimorons are normal.  Regardless of their backgrounds, regardless of their level of privilege, real Baltimorons are good, stable, dependable folk.  They remind me very much of the people I grew up with in Cincinnati.  Some may call them small-minded, I like to think of them as content.  I'd like to thank Baltimore for making the last 8 years enjoyable and revealing.  I look forward to making it a decade! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Soundtrack of my Life

Would most likely never drop in tempo below 180 beats per minute and as such, this past Monday, yes on a Monday of all days, I went to see a quintet of death metal and hardcore bands at a venue called The Recher Theater in Towson, Maryland. The Recher is a nice venue in that it is small enough to be "personal" with a big-name band playing there but also large enough that you don't ever seem to get the sardine feeling when that big name band is bringing in everyone from the prepsters in your local frat to the violence-adoring Ultimate Fighter (R) fanatics from Westminster, MD. The decor is pretty low-budget, the carpets are stained with gum and lord knows what else (at least a little bit of my spittle and probably blood after last Monday), and there are 2 free-standing bars to keep the brewskis or mixed drinks (depending on your concert) flowing freely.

My main motivation for attending this concert was to see the headling band, Hatebreed. Also along for the ride were bands that were previously unknown to me; Hate Eternal, Born of Osiris, and Unearth. Last but not least, the legendary Cannibal Corpse was there to round out the five bands. For a ticket that only cost 22 dollars before tax, I'd say I got my money's worth on all accounts.

I am not a fan of death metal, as I cannot begin to fathom what they are saying and if I could, I am almost 100% positive that I would poop my pants in mortal fear of the imagery death metal songs depict. A couple winning song titles from Cannibal Corpse were, "Hammer-smashed Face", "Wretched Spawn", "F*ck a Knife" (dedicated to the 6 lovely ladies at the show), and "Blood from a C*ck". Nice eh? Top all of this off with the facts that the leader singer of Cannibal Corpse is named Corpsegrinder, that he threatened to kill and/or dismember several fans over the course of the night, and their musical tends to lack that crunchy, grinding rhythm that so draws me to hardcore and metalcore music, and I was happy to see them leave the stage and have Hatebreed's soundcheck start up.

I had wound my way to the front of the crowd for Hatebreed's performance as I knew this would be one of, if not the only time I would ever be able to see them in a venue this small. Earplugs in my ears (otherwise the whole show would have been unbearable), I stared up in awe as Jamey Jasta ran out on stage in his Suicidal Tendencies hoodie and started to rock the house with a nice rendition of "Doomsayer". Considering the action in the pit that had been happening up until this point none of the other performers compared to the energy that Hatebreed brought to the floor. Since many of the Cannibal Corpse fans had left after their performance. I was lifted into the air approximately 10 minutes into Hatebreed's show and crowdsurfed for the first time. I also was fairly certain that after landing after my first mass-groping that my wallet had been taken, but after being lifted into the air a second and third time, I noticed my wallet was where it had been before. Another reason to go see Hatebreed.

They put on a rocking show. It was worth waiting 4 hours to see them. I screamed the lyrics of their songs at the top of my lungs, got to high-five Jamey Jasta, and was shoved unceremoniously to the ground more than a few times in the circle pit. It was completely worth it. Decimation of the Nation tour, book it when it comes to your town.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Yellow Brick Road

It is funny how I started with blog with the best of intentions and now seem to be using it as a vent for all of my supressed and poorly-expressed rage. I am attending a concert tonight at the Recher Theater in Towson, Maryland. The headlining band is Hatebreed and the tour's name is the "Decimation of the Nation" tour. I have no idea what that implies, but it most likely refers to the fact that 99.9 (repeating, of course)% of all concert goers who attend shows like this do not take proper auditory precautions. I will be stopping by a CVS in order to buy earplugs before attending.

Anyhow, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I would be attending this show and he immediately asked me,
"Why are you so angry?"
I responded by saying,
"I am an extremely happy person as a result of these people being so angry."
In a way, these concerts and this type of music is a way for me to outsource the rage that builds in me on a regular basis.

The point I am trying to make with this post is that I feel as if certain elements of a high school education have been removed from many students' equations. These elements might have been considered "negative" or "mentally damaging" but those buzzwords are simply that. I am not talking about being beaten at the high school I attended for chatting out of turn, or getting a shoe in the ass for illegally betting against a teacher in a history class on the wrong football team. Those experiences were both worthwhile and "mentally damaging" in their own right, but I am referring to those particular aspects that I had forever thought to be part and parcel of a young person's high school experience. Things like, being horrified of a particular teacher for no other reason than the rumors upperclassmen spread about him or her. Failing a test for the first time ever because you procrastinated and your parents locked you in your room for 2 weeks. The ever-laudable, not doing your work for 3 weeks in a row because you had "emotional problems" (which really just boil down to you wanting to watch television or nowadays "HULU"). All of these experiences people of my generation and those before them lived through and, hopefully, learned from.

My job experience (and please remember it is limited to a very small cross section of students) lends me to believe that parents these days, in attempting to always make life better for their children than what they had as young people, are attending too much to children's "needs" and not allowing nearly enough education to happen passively or on an experiential basis. The safety net that is cast by virtually all private schools in order to help teachers protect themselves from extremely aggressive parents also allows students, with many times minimal effort, to skate through the system and obtain high school diplomas.

Somewhere along the line, parents (and this does not pertain to all, but to an ever-increasing majority) began to think that it would not be suitable for their children to learn via negative experience. My mother and father believed wholeheartedly in supporting me when it was necessary, but also in the idea that, "Hey, that idiot blind kid with the coke bottle lenses touched the hot pot on the again. Do you think he'll learn when they have to saw his mangled finger off that the damned pot was hot?" That was extreme, but applies here. Parents have gotten much more hands on in the past decade with regard to understanding how their students learn, what makes them tick, and how they can best succeed in a multitude of different, difficult environments, but in this attempt at getting to know their children better and help them succeed, have we neutered their abilities to think for themselves and learn intuitively?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I don't know what it is. I cannot picture myself in any other profession outside of teaching, but as most people can attest, I find myself on a regular basis, extremely frustrated with my clientele (excuse the lack of correct accents). By this, I do not mean the parents of my students, but rather the students themselves. These people are my customers. They come to me in the hopes of learning something worthwhile and I slave 70+ hours a week in the hopes that their dreams are not in vain.

Having been through the mid-year point of my 4th year of teaching 9th through 12th graders, I've come to a few conclusions. If anyone else on the planet reads this blog, then feel free to post any thoughts you might have relating to how right or how completely off-base I might be. My one disclaimer is the following, my experiences come from a very small sub-section of students. Please understand that these thoughts and ruminations come as a result of my interaction with independent school students in Baltimore County, MD.

1. Parents of current high schoolers are engaging in an activity for which my parents, during my high school years, would have awarded someone a scarlet R (read; retard). Parents these days, in my estimation, far too often yearn to be friends with their 14-18 year old children. In addition to being chums with their children, they also express a distinct desire to be liked by their childrens' friends as well.
Those of you who might not be experienced teachers might be thinking, "Well, that seems like a perfectly reasonable expectation from a human being." You are incorrect and should most likely stop thinking and just believe my opinion as fact. These parents fall into a trap out of which many of their own children are knawing off their own foot to escape. Friends seek to support one another. High schoolers, in their extremely finite wisdom, tend to support one another blindly and wholeheartedly without consideration of the actions of their compatriots, no matter how asinine.
I remember when I was growing up and going through high school. My mother was very explicit when she found one of my friends or acquaintances not to her liking. She simply said, "I don't like (insert child's name here)." It wasn't necessarily out of blind hatred or bad first impressions, but the woman tends to stick to her guns. If I repeatedly kept hanging out with said reprobate, I would be victim to certain consequences. That is, however, neither here nor there with regard to my current point. My mother was not my friend in high school. Yes she loved me and continues to do so, but she expressed a severe disapproval at several of my poorest decisions (topic for a different post). Not all of my friends liked her, but none of them remained ignorant of her potential for infernal wrath. My mother is a lovely person, but refuses to be rolled over by smarmy, pretend-to-be-charming-but-really-hopes-that-parents-will-buy-him/her-alcohol types. She usually just sent them home with a kindly "Don't come back." as they let the door hit their ass on the way out.
I'm going to end this post now because I feel like I'm getting worked up. Next post will start with some akin to, "Category 2 of parents that the Baltimoron finds difficult are those who week to smooth the rough road of adolescence as much as possible for their children."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


"Don't count every hour in the day, but make every hour in the day count." - Anonymous

As I sit in my classroom waiting for students to finish their semester exams, I look forward to my Christmas break. When thinking about Christmas break, I am forced to think about Thanksgiving break and consequently how much I was looking forward to that time off. Thinking about time in general, I have come to the conclusion that whoever came up with the concept of time was both a genius and a sadistic asshole.

I know some of you (all 10 of you who have ever read this blog) are thinking, "There is no one person who came up with the idea of 'time'." I know this, but every time I think about a vacation that is coming up, even one so monumental as that of summer break from school, I cannot help but quantify exactly how much time I have left of that freedom. In my lowly estimation, this begins to take its toll quickly on the enjoyment of one's freetime. When sitting in front of my computer in naught but my skivvies and driving my black war mammoth all over Azeroth, all I can think of is, "Man, I only have 56 more days of vacation and tomorrow it will only be 55, the day after that will only be 54." Eventually I stop thinking about the days and resort to measuring said time in weeks, which is even more depressing, as weeks are days / 7 in case you were wondering.

Anywho, I am very much looking forward to my Christmas break, even moreso than my Thanksgiving break. Hopefully I will have enough of this nebulous concept to enjoy myself thoroughly, be around my loved ones and friends, and then pwn some virtual aholes on teh intarweb.

Another day, another post. I've made this promise often, but I hope to post more in the future. Take that for what you will, coming from the mouth of a compulsive liar. On a positive note, I recently saw a preview for Jim Carrey's Yes Man and Wolverine. Carrey's movie looks to be an excellent return to his comedic roots while Hugh Jackman continues his entertaining if not altogether accurate portrayal of everyone's indestructible canucklehead.