Wednesday, November 28, 2007

may the voice be with you

C&C Music Factory knew darn right-well that there are things in life that make you go 'hmmm'. Perhaps they once worked in a school, and they were charged with the task of developing lessons that integrated technology in meaningful ways.

Perhaps they knew darn right-well about their school's firewall.

See, a Spanish teacher wanted her upper-level students to work on their oral and written communication skills. She wanted them to refine and practice their use of the preterite and imperfect tenses. And she really, really wished that their stories could survive beyond the two minute space in time that they would tell them in class. Oh, and she wanted to afford them with opportunities beyond class to communicate / share in the target language.

Enter wonderful idea: Voice Thread.

Students would:
  1. Pick a memorable event from their lives
  2. Acquire a picture from selected memorable event
  3. Compose a two-minute script in the target language telling a personal story about selected event, replete with preterite and imperfect verb tenses
  4. Conference with teacher to receive feedback, revision ideas, and suggestions
  5. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
  6. Sit in a cozy office with script, laptop , and microphone and, deep breath, record their story into Voice Thread
Spanish Teacher, Tech Coach, and Librarian would:
  1. Meet well in advance and plan.
  2. Develop the assignment sheet and rubric
  3. Upload student pictures to Voice Thread
  4. Create a test 'thread' to insure smooth instructional transfer to students
  5. Secure a location for students to record their Voice Threads
  6. Celebrate the amazingly smooth integration of technology into a pre-existing lesson! Ew, yeah!
But here's the wrinkle in the wool that screwed everything up:

For three glorious days, YouTube had been accessible to one and all. On one of those days, well, that's when the Spanish Teacher tested Voice Thread and, tah-dah!, it worked. She uploaded her own picture, recorded her story, and shared it with some of the staff.

But the day students went to record, YouTube had been demoted backed to blocked / evil status and when this happened, our Firewall settings changed, making communication with Voice Thread's site a 30-second opening.

That's it.

No more than 30-seconds.

So every kid that recorded a diligently crafted, well-rehearsed story, found themselves listening to the first 30-seconds.
Damn you, Firewall! Curse the heavens!
I filled out the mandated / friendly "District Tech Request" and held my cherubic breath for a quick and timely (1)response AND (2)solution.

Okay, how 'bout one outta two?

I received a response, immediate and timely. However, a solution took over TWO WEEKS to appear.

That TWO WEEK delay is dangerous for someone like me. But for teachers, well, that time is open season for reaffirming techno-skeptic words and phrases like 'nope', 'told you', and 'that's why I wouldn't do it'.

Ya see, that's plenty of time for word to get out that attempting to integrate technology can be an exercise in futility and stupidity. I mean, why would any teacher willingly make the effort to modify an existing lesson to include technology when doing so runs the all-too-real risk of derailment?

Anyhow, tomorrow, over TWO WEEKS since the students first recorded their Voice Threads, they are going to give it another go. I tested it today.

It worked like a charm!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

of (quality) student-created videos

Students in US History II and English 12 do not have the time to make:

But after using resources like:


Can make a video like this:

There's nothing horrible about students (heck, all of us) maneuvering around as amateurs sometimes.

(Every image is a link...just thought you'd like to know...or watch.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

critical identity

You're going to dress them the same, right?
Why would I do that?
You'll give them similar names, you know, that rhyme, right?
Why would I do that?
Then what will you do?
I will emphasize identity, autonomy, and individuality.
But identical twin girls are special!
And each one will be her own person. That's special.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

of an appendage well-connected

skin crisis, part two
This is the second post in a three-part series, all tightly tethered to that creepy feeling. When put together, they will convey my stance about a word that means a lot to me in a world of online, open communication: identity.
See that kid over there? He's about to chuck a snowball at a passing car. His ability to calculate trajectory, distance, speed, and a myriad of other criteria make his upcoming toss a spot-on bulls-eye.


See that driver over there? The one who just had his windshield powdered by a snowball? He's applying the brakes. He's shifting the car in reverse. He's looking for the source.

But the kid is long gone. He's darted through the backyard and is already in the woods waiting out the search.


That kid is gonna grow up and he's gonna write a blog. That driver is gonna read that blog.

That blogger won't use his name on his blog. He will remain mildly anonymous. He will remember his snowball hurling days and think of anonymity and preservation.

That reader will gosh-darn read that blog with regularity. He will reflect on the thoughtfulness of the posts. He will comment assiduously. But he will soon reach a point where that blogger's voice is nowhere near as profound as the person who stands behind it.


I teach my student's to take pride in themselves. I urge them to stand up for what they believe in. And I sure as hell would never tell them to go stand behind a bush, shout an invective, and then run for the hills.

Don't hide in the woods. Don't run for protection. Stand up, take credit, believe in what you espouse.

Your message is strong, but you are stronger.

Sign your name. Step up. Be heard.


That driver over there? The one getting back in to his car? He's the U-12 State Select Baseball Coach. He's always looking for talent.

Monday, November 19, 2007

skin crisis, part one

Today starts a three-part post, all tightly tethered to that creepy feeling. When put together, they will convey my stance about a word that means a lot to me in a world of online, open communication: identity.

It's been a while since I've done the late night diner thing.

Diner runs afford the opportunity to extend the length of any given night out. Friends have a chance to see one another in a far more controlled setting; at least more so than scattered about in a bar or club. Having that extra hour at the diner helps to create a name for any given event; a way to generate a title / themeatic heading for that night's experience.

Over the weekend, a friend calls me, urging me to meet at the local diner. It's late, or, it's late because I have two children, both under three, and a full day with them is the equivalent to three days at work, but the tone of my friend's voice suggests compulsory attendance.

The young and the toothless. They populate the smoking section at the diner while the non-smoking section waits, empty and bright. My friend has retreated back to smoking, a habit now in its third reincarnation. We are seated quickly; no time for short, information gathering questions.

We order coffee, decaffinated, but when my friend starts with the word 'divorce', I look desperately for the waiter, hopeful that he overheard the start of a difficult conversation and will upgrade the caffination.

I am ill-equipped to offer empathy, and sympathy seems to suggest I'm-sorry-but-I'm-glad-it's-not-me, so I stare, hoping to conveys support, but then I realize that every thought I have about how I present myself is selfish and egocentric.

He delivers one line that resonates with me; a careful arrangment of words that captures the present-ness of his emotional state as well as the uncertainty of a disjointed future:
She wants to start over, but I have to start over.
Our coffee sits, cream-less and tepid, and I'm looking at my friend, talking in what I'm sure sounds like meaningless jibber-jabber. I feel awkward providing encouragement and I feel remiss when just listening.

Through his words, I sense that he wants out of this reality. And through his words, I infer that he just wants out.

When we leave the diner, I search for the title, the heading for this evening's event:

skin crisis.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

that creepy feeling

okay, so I gave little angryblackbitch a look-see and perhaps if I practice my craft well enough I'll be able to post in the look-I'm-really-calculated-about-my-run-on-sentence style that seems to sell really well nowadays but I just can't get past the feeling that angryblackbitch might really be just a moodywhiteworkingclassgal who finally found a platform to espouse her thoughts using a platform and identify that won't cause her any professional, personal, or global harm because in my line of thinking (and I'm well aware that my line of thinking is expressly my own and not the stuff of public mandate) people who have strong thoughts along with a trust-fund absence tend to present themselves as someone/something else because repercussion is a scary word (read: job dismissal) so I'm entertained but the educator in me keeps pulling at words like 'veracity' and 'authority' and then I realize that my window-shopping blog-reading life needs to be more than just a casual appreciation for vulgarity and societal sadness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the best use of technology

There's this teacher down the hallway. She wants students to know, like really know, Supreme Court cases pertaining to the Fourth Amendment. So we talk and we say all the right things:

Inquiry driven.

So many trendy/timeless words that when she and I begin to plan, we suddenly feel a massive web-weight thrust upon us by our own conspiring.

We decide to have the students make recreations of Supreme Court cases. Videos. There are many steps involved: research, annotations, two-column storyboarding, pitching the project, filming, editing, post-production, and viewing.

All of that is a semester long project, but curriculum gets in the way and we only have two weeks.

Students spent the first five days completing all steps up to filming. Starting today, they were going to have five days to film and complete all the tech-driven steps; you know, the stuff we love to celebrate. The stuff blogs are made of!

But here's the tickle me Elmo moment: we could stop today and celebrate the knowledge and understanding we've seen and heard from the students without every picking up a camera; without ever having to split a clip or insert a transition.

And every student would be able to articulate the relevancy of their court case to their own lives.

This project represents the best example of successful tech integration. Students have yet to film one scene but the assignment has clearly cemented the fact that this group of students has a deeper knowledge of these court cases than classes from year's past. They are asking their own probing questions. They are self-directed. They are using pathfinders. They are acquiring primary source material on their own accord.

They are asking for more time to work on their storyboards. Say that sentence to yourself a couple times and let it sink in. Remember that video cameras and time to film around the school are waiting for them. But they are huddled together in their groups, working collaboratively on their storyboards. They are going back to find more research. They are asking how these cases apply to their lives.

They may never film. There just isn't enough time. But I wish the teacher and I had the foresight to film them during class today. We'd post it to TeacherTube.

And no one would watch. Because process doesn't fill the seats and it surely doesn't wow the eyes of the masses.

But it's not about what they do with their understanding that creates the 'wow' factor; rather, it's about how they reach that understanding that is the educational equivalent of CGI.

Thank you, technology. We may never use you, but you afforded all of us the opportunity to really practice and refine those much-needed 21st Century skills.

What a phenomenal project.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

head, exploding

Thanks to Russell Davies; although achieving the goal apparently requires scrapbooking.

Oh, and Dan Meyer; although if I think too hard about his points, I'll lose whatever funny I may have left.

And both make me wonder: is it better to be interesting or funny?

Monday, November 12, 2007

will u be my optimus?

Dear Optimus,

We've never met, but I have such strong feelings for you, I can no longer sit idle as my heart yearns for your powers of transformation.

When you convert from truck to robot, or robot to truck, you inspire my soul. You prove time and time again that change is timeless and necessary. You could serve humanity at any level, even educationally.

Join me, Optimus. Grab hold of my hand when you are in ambulatory robot mode and help me create change here at my high school. Teach me the value of persistence. Show me that the Decepticons are just machines; not fleshy homosapiens that I sometimes believe them to be.

You are a true change-agent. I need you, Optimus. This school needs you. You are a boon to tech integration. You value the past, but you can make people around me see that progress does not mean having to abandon that past.

We can do great things, Optimus. Prime & Rodoff. Rodoff & Prime. Prime Rodoff. Whatever the name, our collective influence will surely, once and for all, give credence to the calculated use of technology as a tool to advance student-thinking, teacher instruction, and filmmaking.

Oh, answer me. Let my heart break no longer. I am waiting for you. I've waited for you. I cannot wait much longer. I'm about to resort to handouts.

Don't let this happen, Optimus.

Timorously waiting,


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

comments, meaningful

It's been a while, I know that. The last time we were together, we were eating dinner at your favorite restaurant.

It's been a while, I know that. The last time we were together, you were laying in bed and I was reading headlines from the paper to you.

It's been a while, I know that. The last time we were together, you were sitting in your wheelchair, holding Mark on your lap.

You ordered lamb chops. I remember thinking that they always seemed so difficult to consume, but you cut through them like a surgeon.

OJ Simpson articles covered the front page. Above us, the television silently replayed highlights of 'the chase'. You turned your head and I'm certain you looked at my hands. They were holding the paper, but you must've noticed that they were shaking.

Mark reached up and tried to grab your glasses off your face. You leaned back to the left and smiled. Mark immediately determined that you were playing a game with him. At one point, you called him Ken.

We never really spent time together, just the two of us. I remember sitting across from you and feeling like I barely knew you. What were we talking about? What did we ever talk about? Probably golf.

I stopped reading the headlines for a moment and I looked up and saw my father and his sister standing in the hallway, talking to one another. What could they really be talking about? They hugged one another and then they walked in to see us. I'm sure they knew we both needed them.

Even sitting on your lap, Mark could see the room with the bunny rabbits. He leaned forward. He wanted to stand and walk on his own accord over to Snickers and Bubbles. You reached out to pull him back to your lap, but he was too strong, too determined. And he was just over a year old.

I told you the story about Father's Day, 1991. The father-son tournament at Philmont Country Club. Dad had been diagnosed with cancer. He wanted you to still play. He offered me up as his replacement. You knew I was a horrible golfer.

Your two children, my father and his sister, flanked me. You had turned your head away from us. It looked like you were fixating on the ceiling. I asked them why your eyes were yellow; yellow like those you would see on a cat.

Mark was babbling to the bunnies. You were looking at him like you would never see him again. He looked at you. "I love you, Ken." I reminded you that Ken was my name and his name was Mark. "Who's Mark?" I should have listened to my mother and not corrected you.

On the 15th, I hit a good drive. You were sitting in the golf cart, waiting. I admired the flight of the ball and turned to you for a much-anticipated compliment. "Even a blind chicken gets some corn." That's the last thing I remember you ever saying to me. A heart attack two weeks later took all of us by surprise. Do you know that I use that quote all the time? It became the central element to my graduation speech I gave some years later. Everyone laughed. Later that night, I cried.

The morphine was doing its job. It not only eased the pain, it eliminated it. Turns out, you can't beat pancreatic cancer, but you can mute the pain of inevitable death. It was my turn to leave the room. A few hours later, my father told me that you had finally succumbed. My hands never stopped shaking that day. I know you knew.

Mark was due for a nap. How odd to think that I left for that reason. I placed Mark back on your lap and you went to hug him. I hope you know that he cried because he was tired, not because he was scared. We left. And you left two days later. I took Mark back to see the bunnies sometime after. "Mom-mom?" he asked when we arrived. You would've been so thrilled.

Today my wife and I learned that we are going to have identical twins. We spent the entire afternoon calling anyone and everyone we knew.

Sometimes, having one really big thing to share makes you realize that there are so many things you've neglected to share.

It's been a while, I know that.

I have so much to share.

I wish the three of you were here to listen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

the most expensive round of drinks

Do you remember when you would send out emails to ‘select faculty’, inviting them to meet up after school at a local lemonade stand? The people you invited were the ones you wanted to be around. The group was a hand-selected lot and the selection process screamed ‘elitist’.

Do you remember going to said lemonade stand and having a really good time? You would tell your spouse that you would only be out for an hour or two and four hours later, you were well into your Friday night with a new group of friends. Good times.

Do you remember returning to school two days later and hearing the mumbles and grumbles of coworkers excluded from the invite list? They wanted to be invited. They wondered if you would send out a whole faculty email next time around.

And you did.

And come Friday, they were nowhere to found. A lemonade-less lot.

And you vowed never to send out a faculty wide invite because it was a wasted endeavor, meaningless altruism.

It’s not that I disliked the idea of a whole-faculty outing, but I knew that any real or tangible social value resided in the consistency and tightness of the group.

A greater level of selectivity is integral in fostering and maintaining meaningful relationships. Behold:

I follow 18 people on Twitter.
I read 14 blogs.
I float around in one ning.

Edtech circles should strive to remain relatively small because too many connections creates too much verbal static.

Here’s a handful of fun thoughts about these online communities:

Involvement in a ning is professional development; the place where you can sit next to select people, doodle and pass notes back and forth, and when the whim strikes you, contribute to the purpose of the gathering.

Blogging is a department meeting; a room full of people whose sole purpose is the advancement of a unified goal. Keeping a small blog circle is crucial. Remember the one about too many cooks?

Twitter is happy hour. Keep it short and sappy. Great for the social scene. Go with a select group. Have a good time. Talk shop. Vent. Keep going and next thing you know, everyone thinks you need to surrender your keys.

No one invites 300 people to happy hour. It violates maximum occupancy laws.

a twitter survival guide

Must there be a set of guidelines for everything?

Click the image and behold!

Monday, November 5, 2007

best new blog nominee - not me

I've nominated a blog for the 2007 Edublog Awards:
Taylor's voice is fresh, alive, and vibrant. The use of digital images only enhances a visitor's desire to stay, read, and subscribe. Anyone in education, classroom or otherwise, should make it a point to add taylortheteacher to his RSS feeds.

And the best part of all: posts about Tupac and Eminem! Taylor's voice is human. She is honest and forthcoming, but she keeps a blog that is varied, informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining.
Here's to the freshest, most honest voice out there! Good luck, Taylor.

schiess das Fenster!

Taylor posits that Star Wars is a galaxy of learning asteroids; a movie that teaches us a whole bunch of good stuff about life, liberty, and the pursuit of Wookies.

Everyone has one movie; one they turn to as a processing device for the way life careens and jostles about.

Me, I just can't get away from Officer John McClane in Die Hard. When Twinkie-stuffed officer Al Powell receives a fresh corpse on the hood of his squad car, McClane shouts out, "Welcome to the party, pal!"

This quote finds a way to root itself in the classroom and the school with amazing dexterity:
"Mr. Rodoff, you're really giving me a zero for not doing my homework?"
Thank you, John McClane.

"Do I really have to work with a group?"
Oh John, your economy of words captures the true collaborative nature of life.

"Holy crap, someone is shooting off a gun in the halls!"
Sgt. McClane? Do you copy? 417 in progress, use caution.
At times, walking through the halls or teaching a class is akin to McClane's maneuvering through a ventilation shaft: "Now I know what a TV dinner feels like."

But let's be honest; some of those meals are flat-out delicious. We know they're not healthy, but we eat them anyway.

And we know that school can cause emotional coronaries, but we go anyhow.

Because sometimes, it's just a guilty little pleasure.

In the middle of the Die Hard, FBI Agent Robinson invites Sgt. Powell to leave the crime scene. Robinson states, "Now you listen to me...Any time you want to go home, you consider yourself dismissed."

Sgt. Powell responds, "No sir. You couldn't drag me away."

He'd make one hell of a teacher. I wonder what movie he would quote?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

tree me

A series of questions that caught my attention in David Weinberger's podcast, "What the Web Is For":
When are we humans at our best? When are you proudest of being who you are? If you wanted human beings to make a really great impression on Martian visitors, what would you take the Martians to see?
May I take the last part first? Thanks!
  • The Giving Tree. When everything is said and done, we are an altruistic lot.
Okay, now the middle part? Great!
  • Do you see those two children there? I'm with them.
So the first part:
  • At Wawa. People still hold doors. No preferential treatment. Some people go for the coffee, but I recommend going for the civility.

myers-briggs type inservice

Which word in each pair appeals to you more? Think about what the words mean, not about how they look or how they sound.
  • Inservice
  • Surgery
  • Adult
  • Fetus
  • Polite
  • Spastic
  • Respectful
  • Penis
  • Patience
  • Embarrassment
  • Role Model
  • Village Idiot
  • Professional
  • Orangutan
  • Tenure
  • Accountability
  • Impulsive
  • Teacher
  • Content you teach
  • Reality that most people don't care about it like you do and they never will
Insert Forrest Gump voice: Sometimes, there just aren't enough mirrors.