Organizing the Internet
Larry Ferlazzo sums up the best of ed tech in bite-size lists.
Looking for the best art and music websites? How about the best sites for math and science? Perhaps you’d like to learn more about robots or weird-looking creatures. Whatever your interests, Larry Ferlazzo likely covers it in his blog. The high school teacher is a prolific poster; he typically writes about more than one educational topic or issue a day. In addition, he continuously adds and updates information about go-to websites, organized within an exhaustive list of lists.
Ferlazzo established his blog as a way to share the best of educational technology with other teachers. He aims to guide educators through the mass of available products and resources toward the tools that will enrich their curriculum. “My perspective on technology: it has its place but it also needs to be kept in its place,” he says. As enthusiastic as he is about the new ed tech resources, he is equally concerned by the gadgets that are all flash or too complicated for use in the classroom. “Sometimes a paper and pen might be better,” he says.
Ferlazzo is by no means lobbying for pencils and paper over computers and the Internet; he simply wants to spare other educators the time and energy it takes to adopt the latest tools only to find that they are no better than the traditional tools. To this end, he has established an efficient method for finding programs and products that bring added value into the classroom. “If I can’t figure it out in one minute or less, I won’t use it,” he says. As a teacher, he knows that there is little time in the school day to puzzle over technical details.
Once a product or website has him convinced, Ferlazzo will incorporate it into his curriculum. As a teacher of English Language Learners, he has seen “countless benefits” using educational technology. Offering everything from high-interest entertainment, sports and news, to audio and animated texts, the Internet has been a “huge help; a huge positive,” Ferlazzo says. He’s a big fan of EnglishCentral.com, which offers clips of new movies and features popular books that students will want to read. The site’s value lies in its ability to evaluate how a student did, while taking into consideration his or her native language and accent. “I know how fearful second language speakers can be in trying to speak the language,” he says. “[Now] students can practice on the Internet without fear of embarrassment.”
The high school where Ferlazzo teaches is in the inner city, so to a large extent kids in the area don’t have regular access to computers or the Internet. School provides the bridge that students need to reach a level playing field, and after working well with technology Ferlazzo hopes that they will have the self-confidence to envision a brighter future—and then make it happen. “It’s not the answer to everything,” he says, noting that on top of typical teen concerns, many of the students at the school are dealing with hardcore stressors, including economic concerns and gang issues. “But it can be very effective if we help students and parents learn how to use it.”
When he’s not teaching or updating his blog, larryferlazzo.edublogs.org, Ferlazzo is busy maintaining his website, larryferlazzo.com/index.html, updating his other blog Engaging Parents In School, and writing for In Practice. Alice Mercer began In Practice in 2007; the blog is written by a group of teachers from around the world who teach in low-income communities.