Literacy Status: It’s Complicated

I’m writing this stuff down in an attempt to hash it out in my own head. Feel free to help me find the right path (if there is one) or even decide if this is worth thinking about. Tool Exposure vs Literacy What we have going on today in many cases is the illusion of teaching literacy. In reality we’re just exposing students to tools1. I see quotes similar to this one all the time- The literacy tools of our day, today, include the web, netbooks, cell phones, cameras and recorders, etc. We are responsible for teaching students how to be literate. – source So essentially, we have to teach kids how to use all these things because that’s what it takes to make it in the world. In the past it was just reading, writing and some math so the only general tools you had to be able to use were a pen/pencil, paper and a book. Now the idea is, we have to teach students (and learn ourselves) how to use all this stuff, to learn which buttons to push on lots of different objects. Where these comments get messy for me is delineating what really requires different kinds of thought (bigger conceptual framework) and what is just today’s tool which needs only the mastery of the how […]


A Separate Peace – Iron Teacher Submission

Here was the challenge The Challenge (as defined by the teacher): Students are beginning a book discussion of the novel A Separate Peace. These particular students struggle to demonstrate understanding of content through writing, but have recently become more motivated to read and respond to literature as their teacher has incorporated audio books and modern literature into the curriculum. The teacher shares that the class performs better when asked to discuss personal experiences and would like to incorporate the book themes of envy/conformity into the book discussions. These students in particular are not easily motivated to participate in class activities. Their teacher is looking for an original and fun way to have the students discuss and share while demonstrating understanding in a way that goes beyond writing an essay or taking a multiple choice test. So here’s my attack, and it’s one I’ve done before but I wanted to work through this in a few different ways to show how you could use what students are doing now with Facebook (and other services) to get them both analyzing and empathizing with the characters. Priming the Pump First, I’d start off by having the students discuss the subtle (and not so subtle) ways people play mind games on sites like Facebook (like cutting people out of photos, top friends lists, snide […]


Breaking into houses with Dan Meyer

Dan’s got another What Can You Do With This1 challenge up. This time it’s dealing with a numeric keypad. Basically, it’s what can you do (in a more lesson plan focused format this time) with an image he’s posted of a numeric door key pad2. I’m not helping much with Dan’s lesson plan but I’d actually have the challenge be to break the combination. I’d take bets on how long it’d take to break into this door if it had a one digit code, a two digit code, a three digit code and a four digit code (maybe go higher?). I’d write down the bet times- maybe graph them. Then I’d give them a chance to try it and I’d record the times when they did break in. If people had computers this would be an easy thing to do. Here’s the Excel spreadsheet I’d use (not very pretty – just a proof of concept). I’d lock the one I gave the kids with a password of course. It’s pretty simple stuff. It amused me though. Might be garbage for math class but maybe someone will get some other use out of it. Here’s a video if you’d like more explanation on the construction. It’s nothing fancy but it might inspire some other better ideas3. Excel as a lock 1 […]


Picking Up Gauntlets is Heavy Work

So Dan threw down a challenge as he tends to do. I did the easy part but also felt I should do some critiquing to maintain some credibility in my own mind. I’m taking a shot at how I might change Ms. Mercer’s Powerpoint presentation. The main thing that made this difficult is I don’t know what she says during this presentation and that stops me from really considering how I might change things more fundamentally. So the following is given in the hope of providing helpful and positive feedback for Ms. Mercer. Please excuse any mistakes I make while attempting to determine intent. Here are the two title slides. Ms. Mercer’s slide will always be on top. I found that slide to be a little heavy and dark for my tastes and wanted to go with something similarly humorous but a little cleaner. I found a warning slide about killer electricity and dropped the background in Keynote using the Alpha Channel tool1 Here I’m just simplifying. If I’m going to be out there talking, I don’t feel I need any more specifics than this. I might drop the slide altogether. I’d probably use this slide to get the audience talking about why they use presentations. Get some top answers and then move on with what I’d bill as pedagogically […]


Iron Teacher

So there’s been good conversation lately recently about the lack of good lesson plans on the Internet. I think that’s true. I’m not sure this game will bring us much closer to the end game but it has the potential to produce some good content1. Hopefully it’ll be fun and catch on2. Here’s the idea Milobo and I came up with a few days ago. It’s Michelle’s better twist on the Pimp My Lesson Plan idea that’s been nagging at me for a while3. Instead of Pimp My Ride, the inspiration is a lesson plan contest based on Iron Chef. Basic Rules Two teams of educators (more if others are game) will battle4 to develop a unit or lesson plan to meet the requirements of a selected teacher. Each team will share their lesson along with the process they used to brainstorm and develop the idea. A panel of judges, including the teacher who issued the challenge, will rate the lesson on Originality, Student Appeal, and Ability to Meet Outcome. Here’s the current lesson request. It’s due by midnight- Sunday, April 26th. Post the content to your blog and link back in the comments5. The Audience: 2 classes of 10th grade General Level Literature students. The Secret Ingredient: The novel “A Separate Peace” The Challenge (as defined by the teacher): […]


Why it’s hard to stay interesting

Even the things that you think are pointing you to new material may be further mainstreaming you. Online merchants such as Amazon, iTunes and Netflix may stock more items than your local book, CD, or video store, but they are no friend to “niche culture”. Internet sharing mechanisms such as YouTube and Google PageRank, which distil [sic] the clicks of millions of people into recommendations, may also be promoting an online monoculture. Even word of mouth recommendations such as blogging links may exert a homogenizing pressure and lead to an online culture that is less democratic and less equitable, than offline culture1. While each customer on average experiences more unique products in Internet World, the recommender system generates a correlation among the customers2. To use a geographical analogy, in Internet World the customers see further, but they are all looking out from the same tall hilltop. In Offline World individual customers are standing on different, lower, hilltops. They may not see as far individually, but more of the ground is visible to someone. In Internet World, a lot of the ground cannot be seen by anyone because they are all standing on the same big hilltop. A “niche”, remember, is a protected and hidden recess or cranny, not just another row in a big database. Ecological niches need protection from […]


You Are Your Own Laser Blender

I wrote one post that was long and full of references to things like the Kennedy Assassination1, furries and tattooing the whites of your eyes but it seemed a little too preachy and I’ve done more than enough of that lately. It was a long way of getting at my point, which is this- the Internet and our society (America in particular) makes it really easy to ingest laser like streams of information that focus solely on subjects you like and are said only by people who agree with you2. The world is full of lasers and echos, it’s up to you to blend them and make something interesting. So take Dan’s video which says what he means much better than his later post3. dy/av : 009 : don’t be prez from Dan Meyer on Vimeo and mix it with one of the TED videos that walks a slightly different but similar theme. I have another video that is Ed Ayers and Joe Hoyle from UR talking in a similar vein but it’s Real Media and can’t be embedded. Honestly, I’m not even sure it still works as I don’t have RM on this computer anymore. Shame about the format. 1 Amazon has 11,850 results in books alone and Google gives you 856,000 2 I count listening to opposing view […]


Information Fluency Presentation-Old Skills, New Applications – Part 2

Before recording my response to Dan Meyer’s challenge1 I might as well continue what I started the other day. So we had a pretty brief section where we learned (surprise, surprise) that there’s a lot of new information in the world and most of it is on some form of magnetic media. There was conversation around those facts and maybe it changes what kids/we need to know and do and maybe it doesn’t. So we know there’s lots of information. Let’s take a closer look at both why this information is exploding and what kind of information is being put out there. I can publish anything I want right now – text, audio, video – or any combination of the three – and what’s more I can do it for free and I can reach a world-wide audience. (really not sure about this slide, I made probably four other versions and just went with the simplest one) There are great things about this personal publishing revolution but there are downsides as well. Huge amounts of information lack even the most superficial vetting and as more and more information is published at ever increasing speed it gets more and more difficult to find the quality pieces you need (the red 1s appear with flashes one after another- not sure that works […]


Even a Duck’s Quack Echos: The Danger of Networks

Ok, so that wasn’t the original TED title but I like mine better (it’ll make sense if you’ve ever gotten one of those “amazing fact” emails). This is an old TED video from way back in 2005 but this one portion really hits home with me. I started to transcribe the notes and then got lazy- so my non exact notes are below and the video clip is embedded. I trimmed it to 3:30 but the whole thing is interesting, especially when looking back at 2005 and thinking how much more enmeshed in networks we have become and how much print journalism has continued to change. duck echos Rough notes for those who will never watch the video It’s easy to believe networks are good. The dark side, the more tightly linked we become the harder it is to stay independent. A network is not just a product of its component parts, it is something more than that. The problem is that groups are only smart when the people in them are as independent as possible- paradox of collective intelligence. Networks make it harder for people to think independently because they drive attention to the things the network values. one of the phenomenons – meme gets going it’s easy to pile on, that piling on phenomenon, that essentially throws off […]

Tilting at Windmills

My bad. image source Turns out my last post attacked a post that was set up to be attacked (his companion piece is here). I could have saved myself some time and read more of the site. The only problem I have with small pieces loosely joined is, for me anyway, it’s easy to lose the overall context of the pieces and you end up with misunderstanding because that context is missing. I subscribe to lots of sites1. It’s a little too easy for me to see the chunks as individual ice cubes rather than pieces of a larger glacier2. Sometimes that matters, sometimes it doesn’t- another way technology has made media literacy a little more complex3. Totally my fault and looking back at it, the post did seem too easy. I’m leaving the post up, both to remind myself to pay better attention and because I still believe the whole rationale for writing the post is true whether the original post was written in earnest or not. I believe our society and education in specifically has attempted to legislate its way out of problems and we have suffered gravely as a result4. From the top down, the choice and intelligence of individuals is stripped from the system. Centralized pacing guides are the mandatory sentencing of the education world. Anyway, […]