Upside Down with Standards

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment
It’s that district mandated time of the week again: workshop day. It’s time to triangulate the world of standards and outcomes with the world of working with students. Notice, however, how few “student choice” workshop days there are or “learning & learner focused” days there are mandated in any given district. 

In scouring over all of the academic standards and essential learner outcomes thoughts instead drift to the Upside Down Academy. It’s model, structure, and standards are all quite simple.

“The best way to learn is to try and teach.”

    1. Learn something.
    2. Pay attention to what you find confusing.
    3. Come up with a way to make it less confusing / more fun for the next person.
    4. It can be a blog post, video, dance, song, smoke signal, what ever.
    5. Create a lesson and make it a little easier for the next person 

 I find the idea of planning learning environment with this kind of an outcome or this kind of a structure in place to be far more engaging than anything conceived of by a standards committee. 
The technology exists to make this a reality. We just need the will to make it happen. And to have the savvy to reconcile that new world with what things like this. 

It sounds like a challenge worth accepting, don’t you think?

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Poetry and Crowd Seeding a Sonnet

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment
In the upcoming unit I’m planning I am encountering something that teachers everywhere fear. No, not just Shakespeare; poetry. Go ask a teacher if they would like to go impromptu substitute teach in a poetry class. Go ahead. I’ll wait. No volunteers? 

I’m one of those “weird” guys that actually likes poetry. Poetry has been a part of my life since before I was a teenager. Yes, for that long a time. But teaching poetry still gives one a sense of trepidation. So in the spirit of transparency I thought I would try a new approach in working with students writing poetry. 


The process is one that comes from the writer Chuck Palahniuk. I recently heard him speak at the Fitzgerald theater in St. Paul Minnesota. He brought up a process of writing that he has spoken about and written about before he calls it “crowd seeding“.


To develop his themes, Palahniuk also conducts experiments in what he calls “crowd-seeding”: At parties he tells people what he’s working on and freely hands out his phone number to generate ideas….

All of his books are packed with this group expertise “so that you feel like you’re learning,” he says. It’s the Google-era technique of novel writing: social composition. “I’m simultaneously testing my material or premise with people and tweaking it,” he says. “Plus, it’s a fun game and gives people a role to play.”

This brings to mind a different author, one that I’ll be seeing in the near future, Jane Mcgonigal. Here’s a bit about where she is coming at the whole technology/education interplay:

Given that Mcgonigal says in her book that

All games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation

So I’m thinking, why not crowd seed the writing of a sonnet? One could even make a game of it.

Hopefully more to come…

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Recalibration and “You’re Doing It Wrong.”

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment
It’s been far too long. As I look up school year is over a quarter gone and very few blog things have been posted here. When a new iPhone came out Steve Jobs was criticized once for saying that problems of the device simply existed because “you’re holding it wrong.” This has gone on to become a meme in the technology world of “you’re doing it wrong.” Clearly when it comes to blogging and my workflow I’ve been doing it wrong.  

A lot of the problems come from the differences between formative and summative work. This blog and the work that comes from it should be about thinking. It should be about learning. It should be open. But it hasn’t been. It’s time to change all of that now. It’s time to get back to process. It is time to uncover the learning. Below is a video that’s hopefully got me on the right track. Don’t think of it as a reawakening, look on it as recalibration.


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Independent Reading List – Quarter 1

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Click on the link below to access the reading list for the quarter. Once you have found a title that you want to read put your First Initial, Last Name under the “Reader” column. Be sure to bring in the signed permission slip as soon as you can. 


Quarter One Independent Reading List

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The “To Kill a Mockingbird” Review Post Overview

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment
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Eulogizing Bankruptcy and Lessons in Disruption

July 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I went into Borders yesterday and bought a book.

Soon that sentence will no longer be a possibility. As many already know, Borders has lost it’s battle with bankruptcy and is moving into full-on liquidation. While others have done a far better job of parsing the days and ways that this came about there remain valid lessons in this case for education and other targets of market disruption.

The Relationship with the Internet

As Slate points out:

Borders famously flubbed its relationship with the Internet. From 2001 until 2008, it outsourced its online sales to Amazon, essentially handing customers over to the bigger, better site during the formative years of e-commerce.

The lesson for education?

Here is an example of outsourcing core competencies. Sites like Kahn Academy and e2020 can be valid supplemental resources for things like blended learning. But that is all that these should be supplemental resources.

Overly scripted or “curriculum in a box” programs like Read 180 can provide structure and a basis for instruction but there is an implicit message being sent to educators: We don’t trust you to handle it alone. Such prescriptive programs can lower morale but also affect the sense of community. Make no mistake, I still think that any teacher that feels that they can be replaced by a computer probably should be. But we should take care not to use web-based programs and curriculum in a way that removes learners from the community of education in a school because they will simply seek out another to be a part of instead.

The Future Is Digital and Will Need Curation

NPR comes on strong in it’s Monkey See blog with two points.

The first:

There is no other future for reading but a digital one, and getting misty about the decline of tangible books is an exercise in futility. Reading itself has never been more popular, even if formats are in flux.

The second:

Bookstores are very special places, even the behemoths. They provide a space for cultural dilettantism. You can get lost in them for hours, perusing covers and picking up obscure titles. They are dedicated to discovery and are curated by some of the most dedicated retail employees around (even to get hired at a large corporate chain, one is still required to exhibit a sharp passion for reading).

The lesson for education?

Educators have to embrace multiple forms of authorship when it comes to content for their students both in terms of source and creation. Saying that you are a digital educator because you have a PowerPoint or Twitter lesson just isn’t going to cut it. This isn’t to say that all students need to be educated to be the next Amanda Hocking – but they should be allowed the option to geo that route if their passion dictates it.

The second point brings up the salience of curation. This point concerns me the more I learn about student motivation in the face of increased accountability testing. Right now education’s focus is more “what’s on the test” than it is “what are my students passionate about learning.”

The Take-away

People have written about how much they are going to miss Borders and just as many have written about the mistakes that got Borders to this point. One could say that a series of bad decisions broke the chain. But the real take-away from an educational standpoint is that technology was either dismissed or discounted to Borders’ detriment. These are mistakes that education not only cannot afford to make but also possesses the means to surmount. If education embraces technology, and through it change, Borders will be a cautionary tale. If not it will become an outlier.

Sent from my iPad

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The Spiral of Up-votes & Learning

July 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Given the rise of websites like Reddit, Stumbleupon, and yes, Google+ this story from Gizmodo bears consideration. The premise:

Flickr user André Rabelo saw when he uploaded this b&w photo to a Flickr pool called DeleteMe!, which votes on whether a photo has any right being amongst the top classes of photography.

However, the joke was on the people commenting on “Rabelo’s” photo. The photo was actually one by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Yes, the Henri “father of modern photojournalism” Cartier-Bresson. But the plot thickens:

Over 500 comments have been added to Rabelo’s uploaded photo, and it makes for a hilarious yet thought-provoking read flipping through the pages. The first batch of comments from the DeleteMe! group some 68 months ago look rather foolish in hindsight, but not as foolish (in my eyes) as the bandwagon-jumpers who latched onto the prank once it was revealed, calling it “art” and a “masterpiece.”

This is kind of a case of “Schrödinger’s Photograph” – is something quality based on its observable merits? Or should the overall work transcend its constituent parts? Who decides what is “Art” or merely “art?” What about learning?

Given the rise of the aforementioned socially curated news and web content this story could be an outlier. While I love using Google+ and want schools to have the option of adding it to the Google Apps for Education suite, I have to take Rabelo’s photo as an admonition.

As an educator, the danger is to be a commenter of either extreme. Yes, there are many that want web 2.0 tools used in education, but when the discussion spirals out of the black & white which side should we be on? The one of process and learning Learning.

photo © 2009 Ariston Collander | more info (via: Wylio)

Spiral Sphere

Sent from my iPad

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