Why I cry at night

Those of you who are looking for upbeat lesson ideas should immediately go look at this If Hollywood taught science class link. Lots of fun things to think about with that one. Lots of applications in any subject and it requires students to think about what is really true in order to make fun of the Hollywood stuff. It’s like reverse psychology. Now stop. If you want to read why I cry at night continue below. _________________________________________________________________ Three fairly different “Internet objects”1 have come together to crystallize some ideas for me2. This Ted Talk on Motivation by Pink This book review mentioning the false gods of NCLB This Netflix Culture Presentation So all this stuff has come together over the last little while and it all gets at why teachers and students, especially in k12, are having such a dismal time3. Motivation Education is designed around grades for motivation when dealing with students4 and now we have standardized testing scores for teacher/admin motivation. The bigger players at the divisions are driven by aggregate scores, numbers of AP tests taken and other garbage indicators. Pink’s whole talk is focused on how research shows over and over again that extrinsic motivators (rewards/punishments) for “21st century tasks” (really, anything that requires sophisticated thought) has been proven to either not work or to actually […]

Speaking from experience . . .

Asked by one student how he could become President someday, Obama issued a warning about Facebook. “I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook, because in the YouTube age whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life. That’s number one,” he said, according to Bloomberg. – source Good advice but I really wonder what will be considered “bad” in 30 years1. Neither party has been too clean in terms of youthful (on non-youthful) “indiscretions” lately2. Leaders in the private sector and many religions don’t seem any different. I wonder if the easy and frequent documentation, not to mention publication, of all sorts of mistakes will change what people expect out of politicians and people in general. People make mistakes. It’s going to happen to lots of them. Will the sheer proliferation make those mistakes matter less? Will it take more and more shocking things to make any sort of impression? That’d be an interesting byproduct. As a result of the consistent chronicling of “bad” behavior in our society the definition of bad behavior has been revised. I think it has already happened. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. Maybe we’re looking at people realistically or maybe we’re lowering the bar. 1 Granted, many people don’t care about […]

Serendipity

We found this monster today. He’s a Hickory Horned Devil1. We researched him- learned about his habitat, that he’ll eventually become the regal moth, and the fact that he’s just about ready to burrow into the soil for pupation. We’ve found a lot of animals and insects this summer. Everything from tortoises to caterpillars- all by chance. They each led to more knowledge for my sons but more importantly they’ve increased their interest and curiosity about nature and science. That’s what I want out of schools. I want them to create more opportunities for teachable moments, more chances for kids to follow their passions and interests, more pathways and more flexibility. I want schools orchestrating chances for serendipity. What I see instead are multiple choice tests and many, many more multiple choice tests to prepare you for the final big multiple choice test. What little chance, individuality and spontaneity left is getting stripped out and we pretend to wonder why teachers quit and students are bored. Serendipity is the enemy of standardization. Serendipity happens when your class is out in the woods and finds a giant, terrifying caterpillar even though you’re supposed to be looking for leaves2. You supplement serendipity by letting kids use class time to research this monstrous worm despite the fact that it isn’t on any state […]

It’s the little things

I saw these two posters ready to be hung in an elementary library. I was amazed. I showed this picture to two teachers and said “Can you believe this?” They had no idea what I was talking about. I was sad. OK, let’s get passed the whole crappy idea and the fact that they’re wasting wall space that could be put to any kind of better use. Look at these posters. The food looks horrific. It’s low level cafeteria food. One of them has the food on the floor. I wouldn’t feed that crap to my dog, let alone my brain. Why is there mustard with the Mexican food? What the hell is that neon green stuff with the nachos covered with a few dessicated olives? Seriously. Someone may have spent money on these posters or at the very least took the time to laminate them and then put them on a wall. That might have worked in the 1920s but kids today have seen decent images. They’ve been marketed to. They know that even McDonald’s food looks good in posters. I know it seems I’m making a big deal about nothing. Maybe, but I see this as a good example that we aren’t paying attention to details and are still living in a world where those kind of crappy […]

Comic WordPress Theme (and kind of a theme hacking lesson)

So here’s the proof of concept page for those who just want the idea and know how to change things already. It’s a great way to let students quickly and easily build an interactive online comic book story or display their art work. I really like the potential. I’m documenting some process here in hopes of giving people who care how I end up where I end up an idea of the path I traveled. I saw a tweet and ended up at the site below. I liked the way it looked so I noted the reference to the theme at the bottom right. That URL led me to the designer’s homepage but I was either too impatient or too lazy to find the theme there. I backed out and did a search via google for ipseity theme and end up where I want (which is here). However it looked like this when I installed it- which is fine and good but not what I wanted. I liked the clean, white version that had started me on this journey. I’ve now have two options. Option One One, I download the css from the other page and replace it. To do that I go back to the original site. I click view page source (in firefox) I search for cssand find […]

04

Signs of the 2Pac-alypse

These are real song lyrics. And I always thought “Feelin On Your Booty” was as low as lyrics could go. If 2Pac were dead, and not hiding out on an island in the Caribbean, he’d be rolling in his grave. Shorty just text me, say she wanna sex me LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face Shorty sent a twit pic saying come and get this, LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face From LOL Smiley Face (more lyrical genius here) Yeah load it on my macbook air Its a new form of macking don’t be old fashioned update your passion and See I cant wait till I get a little taste of you And I just upgraded to 10-80-i hi def just for you From Digital Girl, the newest travesty.

Conan the Barbarian Has the Answer

You probably don’t remember the scene. It’s below. Very short. It came to me this morning. “What is best in life?” Such a perfect question with which to plumb the depths of historical or literary figures1. English and History uses abound2 Don’t play it seriously. There’s a reason to use a cheesy Conan quote to introduce this. It ought to have some humor. As always, your example will be key. Make it good and then break down with the students why it is good. The simplest thing is to play the clip. Discuss it. Now the students assume whatever persona and write the three3 things that person would say are best life. The things that are best have to be concise and quick. I’d probably have them write explanations for their choices for proof of processing/show your work purposes. More – Students work together in groups to write the “best in lifes” for a number of figures with another figure as final judge of what is right. Even more – The class votes on the best answer and mash it into the original video. I’d probably do this with every major section. These videos then become a collection for later review. You’ve got two choices here. You could just dub your best Conan impersonation into the video as is or […]

What is Good?

I look at many things in edtech land and education in general and I am constantly puzzled by what people perceive as being good. That may sound pretentious and it may very well be. In my defense, I’m far more critical of my own work. I realize more and more that it’s because I compare what I create, and what others create, to the products of professionals. That goes for my photos, print design, video work, presentations etc. I also try to make sure my idea of fun doesn’t get warped either. It’s way to easy to say “This is fun . . . for school” or simply to think this activity is much better than a worksheet. Seth Godin does a good job explaining this concept in his post We don’t compare ourselves to other airport restaurants. So how do you get this mindset going? It’s fairly obvious but it’s more than just exposing yourself to great media/presentations/whatever produced by professionals, YOU have to consciously analyze it. What makes it good? What makes it different from what you’re making/doing? How do they do X? Why do they do Y? Just being exposed does nothing. If you’re not thinking and referencing your own sphere of context it’s useless. The Internet is full of amazing things and people. Find the best […]

Fun with Discipline

I had two future teachers in my class last night complaining about a syllabus that it wasn’t scary enough for 9th graders, that they needed to have more fear put into them. The whole “don’t smile until Christmas” thing came up as well. It’s a popular mindset among teachers. I tried the tough guy route for a while. I could do it. It was effective. It also made me miserable and very, very tired. I ended up going the opposite way in the end. It made me feel better and I really got much more out of the students in the end. I tried to have as much fun as possible at all times, even with discipline. Here are two fairly amusing (at least to me) examples from when I was an ITRT. 1. Problem: Students weren’t allowed to install software on their computers, especially not p2p stuff like Limewire. Naturally some people did it anyway. Solution: I had a copy of ARD and would occasionally send out automated searches for stuff like that. When it was found I’d follow this process from my secrete lair. Copy the offending program icon. Erase the program. Make a custom warning sheet (see below). Making it say the student’s name is key. Those little touches mean so much. Replace PDF icon with icon […]

Knowing is half the battle . . .

the other half being blue and red laser beams of course. As part of my continuing retrospective . . . . Being a big GI Joe fan growing up I made these file cards for my students. I moved to a more student-centered model later and built an Appleworks database1 so they could put in their own pictures and information. Either way it was a fairly entertaining way to work with some fairly dull SOL information. We also used these cards to play a version of 20 questions. A student drew a card from the hat and the class asked yes or no questions to determine the individual. It took a fair amount of modeling to get them to ask good questions to narrow things down but it helped in the end. Although now it’s pretty clear to me I should have moved to smaller groups doing this once they got the hang of it. I did only have 12-14 students but this would be a big waste of time in a class of 30. Lots of things I’d redo if I had the chance with these. The nicknames are semi-amusing but the stories are dry. They need more work. Additionally, the font now really bugs me and in general the layout is pretty crappy. Conceptually though I still like […]