Survival Guides

Survival guides have some interesting potential for a variety of historical and literary analysis needs. This idea was jump started by the Brighid Survival Manual which was found via Super Punch. Here’s a quick example for the Witch in The Wizard of Oz. I’ll see if time allows me to make one for a Jamestown colonist. The problem is that these take a good bit of time and effort if they’re going to be good. That’s great in a project but it does make it harder on me. Anyway, lots of English and history applications. It’d be fun to write survival guides for self-destructive historical or literary figures- maybe Edgar Allen Poe or Custard.

Animoto: An Academic Use

I despise Animoto‘s use as evidence of learning in the classroom. It produces a veneer that implies intent but requires none. It allows people to put on the facade that their students are doing intelligent work. They seem to trick even themselves. That being said, I finally came up with a use that would require some thought. Pretend Animoto is an author with intent and intelligence. Analyze the choices in image juxtaposition, camera angles etc. Really break it down as if the director had some control and thought behind all the choices. You could do this with random videos from the showcase, have students contribute their own images etc. It’d also be fun to make comparisons between two auto generated versions of the same images. Which film was produced later in the artist’s career? What experiences caused the change in filming techniques. A simple idea but it does require some thought in a process otherwise devoid of intellect.

UMW Faculty Academy 2010 prt.1

cc licensed flickr photo shared by bionicteaching Here are a few of the things I’m thinking about after a great time at Faculty Academy. Raw notes are below. The big picture stuff is pretty simple. Work that is student driven, public and has a real audience results in all kinds of good things happening. We really ought to begin working on defining and publicizing best practice around blogs a lot of this stuff. And by “stuff” I mean things like student driven classes, online conversations, etc. Simple things like “when/why does it make sense to give people feedback as audio? ” Kevin McCluskey gave his theater students feedback via audio files and saw his language being reflected when students did in class critiques. So there are a variety of times we ought to be recommending this type of feedback for reasons far beyond simple convenience. Melanie Szulczewski had a really interesting look at how the action words her students used changed over time and focused on the idea that blogging allowed them to reflect as they progressed rather than after. So it’d make sense to make this kind of data visible and encourage people to look at it. Maybe a blog plugin that showed comments by user sequentially with chunks of additional information- maybe word count, links to outside content […]



I think about where we spend our money. We’re constantly trying to find easy ways out of holes, easy ways to scale metaphorical mountains. We look for processes to remove the chores of thought and decision. Education is floundering. We lost our faith in teachers. It is every politician’s easy drum to beat- after all. “Our schools are failing! The enemies are at the gate!”1 Who would argue that our kids don’t deserve better? Both parties agree. Education is failing. Our solution is not to work, to spend money and time on our teachers, to help them become better, instead we send our money away, spending precious time testing products of a system we insist is broken. We buy software. We buy content. We buy external experts.2 We buy reputation. We buy “trust” and “quality” because we don’t believe either really exists in our schools. Invest that money in our teachers, on smaller classes, on things that have been proven to matter. Make teaching a career that isn’t based on martyrdom. Martyrs die flaming deaths. Systems based on them don’t last. There are no easy answers. You can’t buy, process, software, magic your way out of this. There is no microwave dinner version of educational reform. 1 Don’t actually go to this site. I just liked that it was a […]


cc licensed flickr photo shared by bionicteaching My son decided to make a slingshot the other day. He disappeared for a while and showed up with this. He’s six. It’s not rocket science and it’s not perfect. That’s not the point. I love the spirit that drove him. He believes he can make things. He thought about the parts he’d need, what they should do and then he just did it1. I’d love for our classrooms to foster that kind of thinking and independence, that ability to make things you’re interested in. Now we’re going to use it and I’m going to see what changes when he makes on his next slingshot. 1 This can be a little annoying if you care about things that happen to become components but we’ve got those lines fairly well defined now.

A few things . . .

Currency Redesign This would be a fun way to look at our government (and other countries for that matter). It’s simple but complex. How do you redesign our currency so that it reflects our history and current values? There’s a lot of interesting analysis potential there. Partnering with an art class would give you some added advantage and would allow for more focus on art as problem solving. Monsters Inspired by this Boing Boing post, I thought it’d be fun to have students draw a monster of their choosing (maybe give it some particular talents) and then randomly assign them to other students who then write a story with the monster as a main character. The artist then works with the writer as a peer editor. I’d do this online and then mix in other monsters and story lines. Then the larger group has to look at the stories and figure out how they’ll merge. Drugs This list of the top 25 psychiatric prescriptions and a comparison to their numbers in 2005 would open the door for a number of conversations about our society and medicine in the U.S. I’d love to see overall prescriptions and a comparison of those numbers between countries. Random Thoughts This card trading game concept for medical students is worth thinking about more. I’m in […]

Step Up Your Vocab: The Musical

cc licensed flickr photo shared by bionicteaching This is pretty simple and likely to be pretty fun. It probably fits best in an English classroom1 I’m not sure how I’d start this . . . I think I’d go this route. I’d show the kids a bunch of article headlines and quotes complaining about the deterioration of today’s society and how today’s music sucks. This is really just to get them riled up and interested in proving they’re not the brain dead people being described. The kids pick their favorite favorite song and go find the lyrics. Then you have the kids run they lyrics through something like this site which calculates reading levels. This one isn’t great for this purpose but it’ll do for this demonstration. We just want some sort of number that quantifies the sophistication of the lyrics. The challenge for the kids is to increase the reading level as high as possible while maintaining the spirit of the song and it’s rhyme scheme (if any). So they have to really figure out what makes the reading level go up or down and then apply what they learn. They’ll be working with vocabulary, sentence structure etc. The students will have to think about the essence of the song and struggle with the subtleties of word choice. 1 […]

Jason Tester Presentation

cc licensed flickr photo shared by bionicteaching I saw a presentation today delivered by Jason Tester (Institute for the Future). It was one of the more interesting presentations I’ve seen in a while. The whole presentation was framed around superhero skills for the immediate future. The names are a little silly but he had some fresh websites and I think the ideas are solid. Tester is not an education expert and so he didn’t try to make tight ties to how these skills play out in schools. mobbability -work in large groups while maintaing role, organize and collaborate with many simultaneously influency -ability to be persuasive in multiple social contexts ping quotient -measures your responsiveness to other peoples request for engagement, propensity/ ability to reach out to others via a network protovation -fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles open authorship -creating content for public consumption and modification emergensight -ability to prepare for and handle surprising results and complexity (or create the right conditions for it) signal noise management -filtering meaningful info patterns and commonalities from the stream of information coming into our lives cooperation radar -the ability to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best collaborators on a particular task longbroading -thinking in terms of higher level systems, cycles, the big picture One of the things that struck me […]


If you’re going to do this 21st century thing . . .

Here’s my advice. Get your leadership on board with the same vision of what this looks like. That doesn’t mean “Yeah, P21 sounds good.” or “I like ISTE’s version.” If your administration is going to push this as something that needs to be done, they actually have to know what they’re talking about in detail. General comments about doing things 21st century style won’t cut it. The vision has to come from the top and it has to be focused on your county/school. Even if you could just apply some framework out of the box you’d lose quite a lot of value. So now you’ve got your vision. You’re going need to have some way to assess where you are now, otherwise there’s no way to see if you’re getting better or where you need to focus specifically. If you really think about you can make a tool that will perform a variety of functions with only minor alterations. This is a good idea for all kinds of reasons- for instance you won’t have to spend enormous amounts of time making brand new tools all the time and the commonalities will make the data more comparable and consistent. Think about observations, quick walk throughs . . . Now you’re going to need to norm the observation tool. If not, you […]


Best Practice, Shared Resources, Tools and Community

Mike Caufield’s post made me realize I’ve done a pretty poor job of publicizing what we’re trying to do lately in good old HCPS1. So here’s my attempt to put this out there for people to spot holes, misdirection, etc. Setting Best Practice We’re turning to video for best practice more and more. We’re doing that for individual subjects, certain pedagogical techniques, major tools like IWBs (no luck so far) and for other things you might not expect like administrator training. We have a whole series dedicated to illustrating the art of the post observation interview for our administrators. It’s a three step process so for some of them we now have the planning conference video, the class itself and then the post-observation wrap up interview. That allows administrators to see the steps of the process, put themselves in the classroom to gather data and then watch how that administrator wraps things up. This video series supports a larger web based structure that has different observational tools, process maps etc. We tend to use the videos when the administration is brought together. They’ll watch a video, break it down in small groups etc. etc. and then be directed back to the main site for the tools/process maps/documentation. So that’s the relatively simple part. Here’s where we’re attempting to merge a […]