ITRT Aggregation Site Reflection

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by bionicteaching

Back in November of 2010,1 I posted about building an ITRT “mother blog”2 to share things I thought might be useful for Henrico ITRTs.

It seems like it’s working on my end. There are currently 1912 posts from at least 261 different sources3 and that includes a period of time when Delicious feed stopped working for some reason. That’s an average of about 3.5 posts a day. The most important part is that this is part of my work flow. I am not working harder but I’m doing more with the energy I was already expending.

Documenting for an audience has changed some nuances of my process as well. I add a few more tags in Delicious. I have more of tendency to add interesting quotes and explanations to links in the hopes of providing context/interest for others. All in all, it simply makes me more aware of an external audience. That probably helps me in the long run as well as I’ve been known to forget my own ideas.

There are virtually no comments on the site but I have seen evidence through conversations that at least a few people read it at times. I think I’m good with that for now. It’s a step in the right direction.

Next up for consideration is how to keep my sadly neglected portfolio site updated in the context of a workflow. I had to update a resume this year and I had to refer to my calendar to try to remember what I did this year. I never want to do that again.

I think this will be fairly interesting and something we’re going to be exploring with interested ITRTs in the coming year. I can certainly speak to the good things that come from documenting your work online and engaging with all the smart people on the Internet.

1 542 days ago.

2 Just one of those aggregation blog populated through other RSS feeds.

3 There are 119 posts under “author unknown.”

A Few English Parlor Tricks

Despite all evidence to the contrary I haven’t given up coming up with decent WCYDWT examples for English. In the meantime, here are a few English pieces that don’t make that bar but interest me nonetheless. They aren’t much more than parlor tricks but they might interest someone.

“My Hands Smell Like Colon”

Colon vs cologne – Sometimes spelling something wrong changes the meaning quite a bit.

Sort of

‘Sort of’ is such a harmless thing to say… sort of. It’s just a filler. Sort of… it doesn’t really mean anything. But after certain things, sort of means everything. Like… after “I love you”… or “You’re going to live”… or “It’s a boy!”

-Demetri Martin

The details in the language in these examples matter. You can have fun with how that works and use small things to break the intent of statements. It’d be a fun running assignment that would get students engaging with language in the wild in different ways.

Shakespeare – Old School

Original Pronunciation – This site is devoted to the production or performance of works from earlier periods of English spoken in original pronunciation (OP) – that is, in an accent that would have been in use at the time.

I remember my English teacher talking about sight rhymes. It’s interesting to see that it probably wasn’t the case. Once again, one of those things where the details matter and change the understanding of the work.

Free Range Foie Gras and Heroin

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by bionicteaching

These two articles have no direct links to education but have some connections in my head.

Foie Gras

It helps if you understand gavage and how people make foie gras right now.

“They’ll eat anything if they think that they’re wild. But that’s the key: they have to think, from the moment they’re born, that they’re just passing through, that they’re not part of this movie,”

Read more . . .

“If you wanted to raise a baby Rambo, would you want him living rough out in the country or coddled in an intensive-care unit?”

Read more . . .

and finally

Although Haney is intrigued by the idea of raising animals in conditions that replicate the wild, he’s not sure he can make the economics work. Natural nesting means that the birds lay only one set of eggs per year, and for a diversified farm where each animal has to earn its keep, that’s nowhere near enough eggs. Also, he prefers to be scientific in his experimentation, altering only one variable at a time. “Farms change in years,” he says. “Not months.” For now, Stone Barns’ geese will be hatched in incubators.

Read more . . .

Seems like there’s a lot about our current educational system that resembles informational gavage. Students are clearly domesticated and the instinctive way they would fatten their heads in the wild seems to get turned off.

Heroin Rehab

According to USC psychologist Wendy Wood, environmental change explains the difference and the lessons of the returning Vietnam solider are applicable to anyone who’s trying to change a bad habit. According to Wood, addiction treatment in the 1970s and 1980s focused largely on having people make changes to internal systems of goals and intentions. What the Vietnam vets got when they returned home after treatment however was a massive change to their everyday environment – and it was this complete transformation of daily life and routine that made it so much easier for the returning heroin addicts to remain abstinent.

Read more . . .

Just thoughts on how staying in the same school, let alone the same classroom, for 30 years might impact attempts at changing practice. Not paralleling anything directly to heroin, just thinking how much school culture and daily patterns make it hard to make any serious pedagogical change.

The textbook as unreliable narrator


Safe and trustworthy – each resource is selected to be K-12 appropriate, and held to the highest NBC News Standards and Practices.

Washington Post

NBC told this blog today that it would investigate its handling of a piece on the “Today” show that ham-handedly abridged the conversation between George Zimmerman and a dispatcher in the moments before the death of Trayvon Martin. A statement from NBC:

“We have launched an internal investigation into the editorial process surrounding this particular story.”

Great news right there. As exposed by Fox News and media watchdog site NewsBusters, the “Today” segment took this approach to a key part of the dispatcher call:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

Here’s how the actual conversation went down:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.

The difference between what “Today” put on its air and the actual tape? Complete: In the “Today” version, Zimmerman volunteered that this person “looks black,” a sequence of events that would more readily paint Zimmerman as a racial profiler. In reality’s version, Zimmerman simply answered a question about the race of the person whom he was reporting to the police. Nothing prejudicial at all in responding to such an inquiry.

-Washington Post

These two things came my way at about the same time. I don’t want to overstate things based on this one example but it does exemplify one argument I keep having with people. The “vetted” world comes with its own inaccuracies and biases yet we don’t seem to approach this content in that way. Textbooks, NBC’s media library, statements from members of our government, the content of library databases we provide students etc. are all things that ought to be looked at with the same critical eye we encourage for other less “trustworthy” sources of information.1

I wonder to what extent we’d have a more interesting and involved classroom if we introduced the idea of the textbook as an unreliable narrator. It’d be interesting to see what students would consider worth proving vs what they’d just accept. There’s a lot you could play with there. It’d certainly be a fun book to write.

1 Suspect everyone and follow the money might be a good rule of thumb.