Tuesday, October 30, 2007

leave your cork-covered face at the door

I used to tell my students that we all wear masks at various points in our lives. Invariably, one of them shouts out, "Just like the Greeks!".

It's nothing more than impeccable timing; we are reading Sophocles.

"Anyone care to share an example of a time when you put on a facade?"

Dramatic pause, appropriate for the current unit of study...

"Drinking," shares that confident, ew-yeah-I'm-talkin'-'bout-drinkin'-in-school-to-a-teacher kid.

Okay, so I've set them up on this one. You've done the same thing and you know it!

"Even-though-you-know-it's-illegal-but-let's-just-speculate-on-a-hypothesis-here, do people wear masks when they drink?"

The debate that follows is often spirited and engaging not because of the topic that allows the discussion to percolate, but students begin to reflect on their own behaviors and choices. The best moment is when we find our way back to Antigone and they analyze the concept of facades; not just as props in a Greek tragedy, but also as a means to unlock a person's true inner motives and desires.

Teachers should read Antigone and talk about facades. Because I'm beginning to think that their tried-and-true teaching practices are quite possibly facades that cover-up their latent willingness to try something new.

When teachers reveal their true selves, they remove their masks. They try something new or they plan a brand-new lesson. They will exclaim, "Yeah! I'll try that! Let's see what happens!"

There's no perfect lesson. I learned that after my first period of teaching thirteen years ago and it's a reality that has only been reinforced year after year. But I believe we are, at our core, pioneers and explorers. We seek out new strategies to enhance our teaching, to engage our students, and to mold and re-shape the learning process.

And we are at our best when we remove our masks and reveal ourselves as willing risk-takers, focused on affording our students the best opportunities for learning.

This Halloween, leave the mask on the desk or by the copier, and have an exciting, empowering, and re-affirming Holiday. And you'll say to yourself, "I wish Halloween could come more than once a year."

And it will.

Monday, October 29, 2007

when the leaves plummet down

hockneyizer number one - 1995
When I returned my first set of graded papers, a kindly student, Eric, stayed after the bell. If I remember correctly, he had earned a 'B'; a pretty good understanding of Lady Macbeth's motives.

"Mr. Rodoff? Yeah, um, I want to thank you for taking the time to grade our papers. But here's the thing: You spent a lot more time on each paper than any of us did."

hockneyizer number two - 1996
I am coaching the lacrosse team at an all boys' high school. It's our first day of practice. I tell them, "If you've never played lacrosse, you'll learn rather quickly that it requires a lot of running."

"Okay," says one of the would-be midfielders, "Why aren't you running with us?"

hockneyizer number three - 1997
It's my first year at Springfield, quite possibly my second class on my first day. A student in one of the dark corners of the room raises his hand.

"So, you got tired of teaching just guys? Learned you're not gay? Is this why you want to teach at a school with girls?"

hockneyizer number four - 1998
Serving as the Faculty Manager at a basketball game, my job description is simple: make sure students don't curse or do anything inappropriate that would reflect negatively on the school.

Colin, sitting in the back of the bleachers, sees his web design teacher. Colin yells out, "Yo, you failed me, bitch. I oughta kill you!"

I remove Colin. I write him up. The next day I am in a meeting with my Principal. I ask, "How long will Colin be out on suspension?"

"Are you a Principal?" he asks. "Sometimes the fear of punishment is more effective than any punishment. Maybe you should learn that before you tell a Principal how to do his job."

hockneyizer number five - 2002
The students I am teaching are low-achieving seniors. They are respectful, but I can tell that literature is lost on them. They speak of careers in carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work.

At a meeting with the Special Ed. Coordinators, I ask about teaching life skills.

"It's not our job," says one of the Special Ed. Coordinators, "to teach them how to do their laundry. Is that what you think you or any of us are here to do?"

And that ends the meeting.

hockneyizer number six - 2003
One month before I leave for Japan on my Fulbright Memorial Scholarship and I am well-beyond excited. I begin preparing my students for my trip, sharing with them some of the beautiful elements of Japanese culture.

Two students ask questions, rapid fire:
"So you'll be the tallest one over there, right Mr. Rodoff?"
"How does everyone in Japan walk or drive when they always have their eyes closed?"

hockneyizer number seven - 2006
A student passes me in the hallway between A and B block. She asks, "Is it true that I won't have you for English next semester? You're going to work with teacher instead? I was looking forward to having you. I've really been looking forward to your class. I even read the prerequisite reading. And I've never done that."

So, Taylor, would you believe me if I told you that all of these snapshots are the reasons why I think the good ones stick around?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

see that door over there?

Mark wants to go to the supermarket and we are a family in need of milk, so off we go. The walk from the car to the entrance is always full of excitement for Mark. I can sense his anticipation: The race-car shopping cart. The embedded Manhattan Bagel. The mountain of grapes. Just three of the wow! can't wait! supermarket moments.

When we finally coordinated our assault upon the Superfresh this evening, the sun had already set. As we began walking from the car to the door, Mark noticed a man enter the store, and then witnessed the sliding doors immediately shut.

"Oh, maaan," moaned Mark, "It's closed."

But then Mark witnessed a miracle. As we stepped up to the entrance, the sliding doors re-opened, welcoming Mark into the store. Elation ensued.

"Look, Daddy, they opened for me!"

And my wife and I let him have this moment. We allowed him to bask in the idea that this once shut door opened for him. We admired his sudden sense of self-confidence; the belief that opportunity existed where moments earlier he had felt rejected and left-out.

Mark sat in the race car shopping cart. He munched on a bagel. He kept the bag of grapes by his side until checkout. And I walked up and down every aisle wondering why teachers tend to see only closed doors; why they lose their sense of optimism and opportunity.

If they could only see what is on the other side of the glass. If only they would walk up to the door, press their hands upon the glass and peer inside, they might see something so enticing, so meaningful, that they might step back and jump up and down on the mat, willing the door to open.

I've seen teachers do just that. They'll get a glimpse of something on the other side and they'll bang their fists, they'll jump up and down, and if they need to, they'll even break in.

And it doesn't matter what's on the other side of that door. It's not about finding a wiki or a podcast or a blog. It's about finding a new, improved, or enhanced way to do something better. For themselves and for their students.

That door's not closed. It's waiting. Walk up to it. If it doesn't open automatically, open it. I've seen too many teachers turn around from a door that holds something desirous on the other side. They claim they don't have time to open it.

You have tenure, open that damn door.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

how to create immediate antithesis:

how to crisis

Shane killed himself in front of the library ten months ago. A lot has changed around here.

Today, we conducted our first school-wide Lock Down Drill, a simulated event/incident/nightmare. Leading up to this event, an assembly, faculty meeting, and announcements helped prepare everyone. But some people wanted more. Or, better yet, some people needed more.

Over the last two weeks, people asked questions.
  • What do I do if I'm in the hallway and the intruder is right there in front of me?
  • Is it okay to run outside?
  • Can we use our cell phones?
  • If we're to station ourselves in the classrooms in such a way that we can't be seen by someone in the hallway, then how are we supposed to close the blinds on the windows?
  • What should we use to cover the glass in the door?
These are valid questions. They are practical and they provide information and protocols. But one question, asked during the assembly, irritated me:
  • So I'm in the bathroom, in a stall, sitting on the toilet doing my business and the intruder walks in. What do I do?
Okay, if you know the student who asked the question, you know that it's a student who desperately craves attention; a student who has asked a question or made a comment at every assembly since he entered the high school. Why he is called on is part mystery, part theater of the absurd, but he did ask the question, and he did get an answer.

In fact, we were all told that if we find ourselves 'in a moment' then we should, like the little Amish boy in Witness, lift our legs up to the level of the toilet seat and remain absolutely quiet.

There's just something so disappointing about this question and its response. It is over-specification of an unwritten policy as well as an acute delineation of details.

And then I think about the pointedness of the question and its even more-pointed response, and I realize that the question is nit-picking and its corresponding answer is debilitating.

Sometimes we ask too many questions. Sometimes we ask them because we are not so much interested in the answer as we are with stalling a process.

Sometimes we work too hard to provide answers. Sometimes we over-specify, over-scaffold, and over-justify and we render ourselves paralyzed.

And this Q&A business is slowly emerging as the most profound obstacle in getting teachers on board with change.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

if these microwaves could talk

Donate a microwave to your faculty if you have an extra. School-based altruism just feels so good.

But what doesn't feel so good is when the faculty defiles your microwave. Disrespect it long enough, and next thing you know, the microwave may send out an email to your faculty:
Dear Faculty,

It is with great sadness that I come to you today to tell you of my intention to leave Springfield, this Friday, October 26.

I will miss all of you. Thank you for affording me the chance to cook your leftovers and mass-produced frozen dishes.

I am honored to say that I served as your microwave.

The Microwave in the Faculty Lunchroom
And the microwave would feel justified, proud, and optimistic, but the one who:
  1. Donated the microwave, and...
  2. Crafted the email on behalf of the microwave
Would get a barrage of emails expressing shock that he was really leaving his job.

Honestly, do people not read a three sentence email? Do people really not read?

Wait! I know the answer: NO, they do not read!

So...why on this goodly green planet do teachers always put on the 'golly-geewillickers' face when they lament the fact that their students don't read?

They'll say:
  • "I mean, honestly, the instructions are right there on the handout."
  • "I even bold-faced the task words."
  • "Oh, and don't even get me started on the obvious disregard for the rubric."
  • "It's like people make up their own guidelines as they go along."
  • "And every handout is available on the mail server, our Moodle class, and in a folder in the classroom."
  • "Why bother even putting a scaffolded assignment together? Just do some work and tah-dah!, you've earned a diploma."
  • "Books? Are you serious? Do any of them even read a single, grammatically correct sentence?"
  • "Microwave-generated emails? Unlikely! Did you hear that Ken is leaving Springfield this Friday?"

Monday, October 22, 2007

a little giggle in your ear

because in today's world, you never have to be alone.

In The Know: Is The Government Spying On Paranoid Schizophrenics Enough?

cut your leg off, eat HTML

Reading another blog, I came across a nifty little widget, a snazzy rectangle from Blogrush. Thought it might look 'good' on my page. Now, what to add on a page is post worthy, because determining widgets can be a time-consuming blend of personal aesthetics and pathetics.

But after browsing, perusing, and all the other requisite tasks one goes through to consider inclusion, I copied, pasted, and uploaded some quality HTML. And then, click-click-view, and there, in full rectangular glory, was my new Blogrush widget.

Our relationship lasted six weeks.

Today, Blogrush sent me a declaration of separation; a notice that our human-HTML bond had been terminated.

We regret to inform you that your blog did not pass our Quality Review criteria.

You will notice that the widget no longer loads on your pages -- please remove the BlogRush code from your blog for now.

We determined that your blog did not meet our strict quality guidelines. Please do not take this personally but realize that we must abide by a very strict set of quality guidelines. (They are listed below.)

Below is a complete list of our quality guidelines:

- The blog contains unique, quality content that provides opinions, insights, and/or recommended resources that provide value to readers of the blog.
- The blog should be updated on a regular basis (at least several times a month) and should not just go a few months between posts.
- The blog should already contain at least 10-12 quality posts. New blogs with very little content will not be accepted.
- The blog's primary contain must be in English. BlogRush is currently not available for non-English blogs.
- The focus of the blog should be quality content.

Best Regards,

The BlogRush Team

In truth, I had no idea that the widget could walk away. My impression has been that widgets are like digital GAPs, always looking for some good, free pub. A widget on my blog was akin to someone shelling over $40 for a hoodie with a GAP logo on it: free advertising.

What occurred today would be the equivalent of the GAP calling me and telling me that I needed to return the hoodie because I had not created enough retail traffic.

I am left a little confused, a little hurt, and a little vindicated.

I had never been one to wear GAP hoodies, and I surely refuse to define myself by the acceptance of an invisible web-based entity that knows little of me and chooses only to judge me by the traffic which I generate.

Sitting in the school library at this moment, I see seniors working on updated thesis statements, revising, editing, and posting to their blogs.

I'm quite certain Blogrush couldn't hold a widget over the quality of content these students are creating, and I'm realistic enough to admit that their work is far more important than any blog by any adult.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

do you need a bigger baby?

Q: What am I doing?
A: Perusing the Media Education Foundation '07-'08 video catalog
Q: Why am I looking at this?
A: Because the title of the foundation has two words tied to a couple of my interests.
Q: What do I find most interesting in this year's catalog?
A: Baby Barcode
Q: Why do I find 'Baby Barcode' so intriguing?
A: He could be my son. And he is quickly, with great celerity, becoming an active member of:
a nation that places a lower priority on teaching its children how to thrive socially, intellectually, even spiritually, than it does on training them to consume.
- juliet schor, author, Born to Buy
Q: Do I realize that our schools are leading the charge to create a nation of consumers?
A: Of course. In fact, what I really know, what I really see, is that when any new computer shows up at my school, students and their families are most likely put in a tenuous position.
Q: Is it about having to keep up?
A: Of course. I've read Robert Frank's alarming essay, 'Our Climb to the Sublime: the $5,000 BBQ grill and other milestones', and he makes a profound point:
We are in the grip of a luxury fever that rivals the spectacular excesses of the Gilded Age of a century ago. But unlike that earlier period, which was dominated by a small number of families with enormous wealth, our current consumption boom involves a vastly large number of people all along the economic spectrum.
We need to take notice that we can not keep presuming that technology levels the playing field or creates a greater sense of equity. We need to recognize that simply using a nifty Web2.0 app doesn't mean parity, but instead, money. Even NetZero is $9.95 a month.

Q: What can I do about this issue?
A: My cell phone is ringing.
Q: What can I do about this issue?
A: I'm using my mobile web right now.
Q: What can I do about this issue?
A: I'm having Verizon Fios installed tomorrow.
Q: What can I do about this issue?
A: I'm sending out my homework assignment via text message.
Q: What issue?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

what is school?

  1. A place where a student pulls out a shotgun from a duffel bag and proceeds to commit suicide in front of the library.
  2. Where a girl stays after the last bell and finally wants to talk. But she says nothing. She turns her back to the teacher, lifts up her shirt, and there, in firework red, are whip marks scattered deep across her back. An extension cord can do that? Nope. Not without a father.
  3. An institution that tries to juggle two seemingly incongruous concepts: differentiated instruction and state testing.
  4. Where a girl decides that the entire class should hear that her special, wonderful boyfriend placed his genitals in her mouth the previous night behind the Tilt-A-Whirl during the church carnival. Honestly, who really wants to talk about Hamlet?
  5. A chance for ninth graders to indoctrinate themselves by intoxicating themselves on vodka-filled water bottles. Good old-fashioned fun. But I've never had to have my stomach pumped, and surely never twice in one year.
Wait. Ask me again.

What is school?
  1. Statistically speaking, the safest means of travel out there.
  2. Wireless technology.
  3. Diversity.
  4. Health class.
  5. Frog dissections.
It's all perception and lenses.

Taylor, thanks for the inspiration. You've got a lot of moxie!

Monday, October 15, 2007

i can kick your ass @ intellivision football

Growing up, you probably had a prized possession; some product of consumerism and conspicuous consumption that defined the retail soul of your being.

For me, it was my Intellivision Game System; specifically, Intellivsion Football. I would challenge my father, a man who grew up around football, and every time the end result was lopsided.

81- 3. 75 - 9. Something squared - 7. And my father would always play, although I'm sure it must have irked him in some places of his being that his skinny, soccer-playing, 11 year old son had his number. Sometimes, I would sit side by side with the TV, and although I could not see the screen, I would still beat him. Those were the days, but thank you Natalie Merchant, for these are the days.

Days like today. When I have a captive audience. When I present Classrooms for the Future to my faculty over the course of five, fifty-minute cycles, fifteen teachers per session. I 'ew' and 'ah' them with my wiki. They marvel over polldaddy. And I have no adjectives to describe the gaper-delay like awe that overcomes them when they see an embedded slideshow instead of a PowerPoint icon.

But the prize for them came in the latter twenty minutes, when I introduced them to social bookmarking and del.icio.us. They were a willing audience (all but one) and they registered, installed extensions, tagged a site, and added someone to their once unpopulated network (oh...me!).

So now time is tick-tick ticking away and it's time for my conclusion; my teacher-led moment of instruction (Dear Warl-ck, Forgive Me, For I Have Instructed in A Teacher-Centered Fashion!). I tell them about my Intellivision-rich childhood. And then I ask a simple question:

Why did I kick my father's ass at the game?

And they provide the simple answer:

I played it all the time.

Bait. Yummy, delicious bait, and they eat it up.

"Delicious is, at some level, a program. Intellivision Football is a program. I beat my dad because I knew the program. I played it all the time. You have to 'play' with Delicious if you want to develop a level of comfort with it. Because when you play with it, when you take ownership over it, then you, like your students with content knowledge, will actually be able to do something meaningful with it."

I said more:

"And if you leave this room and you say to one another, 'well that was good, but when will we get to do it again?', then you haven't learned the essential skill that we so desperately want to impart to our students: self-directed, inquiry-based learning. And if that isn't a skill that you want to equip your students' with, then honestly, what are you doing?"

When I said this the first time, at the end of the first session, I felt odd, like I had over-stepped my bounds. Yet as the groups came and went, it really felt right. Like it needed to be said. Like it needed to happen.

It needs to happen.

We cannot demand inquiry-based learning from our students if we don't model the behavior, either in front of their beady little eyes or on our own.

So go learn how to use Delicious, because, in truth, you'll never beat me in Intellivsion Football.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

what you can say in 27 minutes

So you understand everything there is to know about the abyssian world of blogging, twittering, and social networking? Then you're a consultant! Congratulations.

For the rest of us, this landscape is all epiphany and Hamlet.

I don't know about you, but I'm totally webtigued. Just when I think I have a grip on something, I feel like I'm trying to keep one of those water tube snake things from slipping through my hand. Plop!

And this evening I took it all out on Twitter.

I'll say three things up front:
  1. Taylor inspired me to believe that Tweets can serve as a post.
  2. To appreciate the stream, start at the bottom and up! up! and away! Stop when you get back here (although, you are welcome to read in traditional linear, top-bottom-left-right fashion).
  3. Sometimes arriving at a point is a mental cross-country drive, not a simple peregrination next door.

kenrodoff snooze one, snooze all...dream in Beta.

kenrodoff @taylorteacher and then the borg ate one another...and that guy that used to be on Sesame Street...faking blindness...pirate whore!

taylorteacher Been working on a blog post about that Borg thing. This "node" is signing off.

kenrodoff @taylorteacher and the unsolvable puzzle was web2.0

garageflowers @ken , @chrisL 'night gents - 12:00 really should only come once a day for me.

taylorteacher @kenrodoff reminds me of an episode of StarTrekTNG in which they were gonna destroy the whole Borg collective with one unsolvable puzzle

taylorteacher @kenrodoff You asked that before, and thinking about it send me into an infinite loop. I don't think I know.

kenrodoff blog image? again...what is the ultimate goal of the blog?

kenrodoff @garageflowers i've done the vodwikicast...it's over-rated.

garageflowers @kenrodoff sometimes it's nice to just talk about books in English class, with nary a wiki in sight :-)

garageflowers @kenrodoff these tools and toys are great fun, and I dabble in it all, but I'm not rushing to turn every assignment into a vodwikicast

taylorteacher @kenrodoff sure. I'll send whatever I find out -- what about blog image? confused.

garageflowers @kenrodoff a well crafted, pedagogically sound lesson plan. don't force the fit.

garageflowers @kenrodoff "i am hyperlink, i am widget", etc. don't let the tail wag the dog. tech is a tool, not an endpoint. Use tech as part of

taylorteacher @ kenrodoff you're hilarious -- it must be pretty late there, too

kenrodoff @taylorteacher so you will inform me about the 'how to'? I am so relieved to know that my earlier thoughts about blog image are true.

taylorteacher falling asleep. nitey-nite. I'm outie!

kenrodoff @taylorteacher fair enough...direct and to the point...Polonius would be proud, but alas, he is slain.

kenrodoff I am text. I am word count. I am hyperlink. I am widget. I am a shell of the person that used to stand in front of a room and teach
kenrodoff what are you reading? will it improve A) your esteem? B) your spirit? C) your perspective? D) your jingoism?
kenrodoff STD: sustained typing disorder
kenrodoff Aristotle = Poetics = Catharsis = Twitter
kenrodoff my sons smile @ me every day...A) they love me w/out question, B) they just don't know any better
kenrodoff speak at a conference, mingle with warlick, richardson, ew, and ah, and then what? how do you feel?
kenrodoff Affect Change...go, do it now...then tell me what it really looks like.
kenrodoff how often do you scoop your cat litter?
garageflowers @kenrodoff Our school just abandoned the writing portfolio - neither teachers nor students were finding it meaningful
kenrodoff the microwave in my kitchen is no longer emitting waves of micro...what do I do? buy another...how american...bigger and macrowavier!
teach42 @kenrodoff Yes, no, maybe, yes, definitely. Hard to answer questions when they're rapid fire! Yes, wordpress is better. Yes, feedburner rox
kenrodoff can students keep portfolios on their own blogs? how valuable are student portfolios? should I apply for Eng. Dept Chair?
kenrodoff How do I carefully choose widgets? Should I abandon blogger for wordpress?
kenrodoff is Feedburner better? And to whom?
kenrodoff how should I really feel about my Technorati rank (or lack thereof)?
kenrodoff would my blog matter only if someone read it?
kenrodoff would my blog matter if no one read it?
kenrodoff I am tired of people hiding...I want to connect.
kenrodoff i wonder..are you out there? or should I ask that to Dar Williams
khokanson @kenrodoff why the twitter rant this evening? get some SLEEP
kenrodoff District Tech Requests are spawn of the devil, electronic spawn.
kenrodoff i am tired of feeling like i need to be everywhere all the time...you can have the chat room, ustream, and WOW! (they wouldn't let a man in)
kenrodoff the score for the movie Transformers is moving, sweeping, and not what you would expect.
kenrodoff i believe in the power of my own integrity over anything else.
kenrodoff i was voted 'most friendly' Abington High School, class of '89
kenrodoff i surrendered one of my cat's this past summer and it was a horrific moment and I felt like a failure.
kenrodoff i have 2 children and a 3rd due in March
kenrodoff i have spent 150 dollars every other week (money I do not have) to see a psychiatrist.
kenrodoff i have yet to recover from the shooting at my school last december
kenrodoff i have trichtotillomania.
kenrodoff i teach @ Springfield Twp. High School
kenrodoff i am 36. i live in PA
kenrodoff i am ken rodoff

Did I learn anything?

Presuming I did, is this the type of learning we want to advocate and see from our students?

If they tell us how they feel, if they unpack their baggage in clear, concise 140 word textbites, are we ready to listen? Are we ready to demonstrate real empathy?

Are we ready to say that the content we teach is a massive cover-up, disguising the real goal we should focus on with our students:

Getting them in touch with themselves, so they can move forward, sooner than later.

And can Twitter do that?

why grades kill souls

Thanks to the good people @ Website Grader for making it abundantly clear that I am not popular.

However, I'm big with the esoterics...um...smart people...um...brain-filled things with legs and other body parts...um...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

find your own yellow sun

Felt good today, didn't it?

What are you talking about?

Being in that classroom.

I accepted an invitation to listen to a student tell an anecdote about taking an SAT tutoring course via Skype with a tutor that lived in India. I mean, I'm a tech coach, so any flat world stuff is bound to interest me, and hearing a student example would really resonate with the students. Anyone in my position would go.

Did you leave after Mike told his story?

Well, no. Students asked questions. They wanted to know more. They expressed opinions. They referred to selected readings from Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat that they read.

And did you participate?

Come on now. I read the book. I asked probing questions. I took a moment to teach.

THERE IT IS! I knew it, you knew it. Don't deny it. You are meant to be in the classroom. You saw those seniors and you thought, in a way, that they were rightfully yours. If this grant hadn't come in to play, you would be in your cushy room with them. You would greet them at the door every day. You would show genuine interest in their lives. You would hold high expectations and high accountability over them. You would establish a rapport of mutual respect; a classroom where students worked hard without you ever having to napoleon authority over them. You would end every day with personal reflection. You would ask yourself how you plan to improve your instruction to engage and push more students. You would immediately begin revising whatever plan you had in place for tomorrow because you've learned that teaching is all gymnastics and Kleenex. You would -

And so maybe you're right. Maybe you've finally put words to the thoughts which stab my brain, thoracic cavity, and heart every day. Maybe I see that a teacher teaches. He doesn't totally abandon the classroom for wikis and twitter and un-conferences. He stays in the classroom. He demands that he retain at least one class. He knows that he needs that contact as much as the students. He realizes that a change agent doesn't take the diluted path of PD and co-teaching. He teaches.

Because the art, skill, and desire never leaves those who love teaching.

Because I love teaching.

And there it is.

Monday, October 8, 2007

dizzy today make me

I am always in awe of Dan Meyer's thoughts on education and media. Why is this personal preference relevant? Because...

Today, I spent my time doing the following:
  • viewing the K12 Online Conference PreConference Keynote, presented by David Warlick
  • engaging in live AjaxChat (you can still join the chat) during and after Mr. Warlick's presentation
  • solving the 'how do I invite people to my class wiki?' dilemma that is slowing reaching pandemic amongst the faculty
  • observing a teacher with his class in the library as they worked on answering a series of study questions about subliminal messaging
  • discussing creativity, as assessment criteria and lesson development, with Joyce Valenza
  • expressing thankfulness for the rhythmic sound of the fetal heartbeat, strong and audible, that could be heard from the fetal monitor pressed against my wife's pregnant body
Mr. Warlick states that kids are creatures, creatures with tentacles, and these tentacles reach through the walls. Then, when they enter their classrooms, teachers cut the tentacles off. Rude bastards!

And I don't really disagree with him. I work in a building no different than most, where teachers provide a series of rudimentary questions about ______________ (fill in your choice subject, but for the purpose today's experience, I'm gonna go with 'subliminal messaging') and then, 'poof!', the teacher leaves the kids alone. He goes and makes a phone call...or two, and the students exhale, recline, and wait for the one student to search online for answers and then communal sharing, but not the kind of collaboration that gets me all warm and fuzzy, begin.

The teacher is on the phone. I am in Joyce's office, viewing the event with her through the glass walls that encase her fortress of solitude. She tells me this teacher has done the aforementioned 'activity' for years; like I'm-back-in-first-grade-and-this-assignment-still- existed! Last year, Joyce suggested to the teacher a different way to get students to learn about subliminal messaging: create their own.

That idea is still available...if you want it. But in truth, it's not that much of an 'ew! wow!', but for the teacher above, the idea was way too creative, too out there, too hard to effectively assess.

But is it? If the teacher thought of that project on his own, wouldn't he have been able to 'see' the assessment? Wouldn't he have been considering the language for the accompanying rubric? Wouldn't he have been Mr. Mad Scientist, sitting @ his desk during his prep periods, sacrificing grading and grading, to create this most engaging, study-guide free learning experience?

I am certain the answer to all is yes, indubitably. Mr. Warlick states that 57% of teenagers have created authentic content for an online audience. I think that number is higher. But how many teachers have created authentic content for an online audience?

Don't answer that.

Before I could answer, a teacher calls, 'needing' my help: Wiki Crisis, Level Two. Turns out, all the invites he sent to his students didn't get to any of them.

How is that possible?

A: enter the email addresses in the message box and hit 'send'. Yep, he didn't know to enter the email addresses in the 'to' box.

I enter the email invites.

Back to the library, to join the AjaxChat in conjunction with David Warlick's keynote.

And I contribute. And I leave. And I come back. And I contribute some more. And I realize that I am living an educational life that is completely divorced from many of the other teachers in the building.

I enter email addresses for teachers.
I am witness to a stale, 30-year old lesson.
I am backchatting with educators from around the globe.
I am witness to an entirely new and impressive means of presentation.

And I am now, more than ever, convinced that a debate, 10 months old on Dan Meyer's blog, is really the evidence of the digital, instructional, and eternal divide that exists in education.

And that heartbeat I hear tells me that I am listening to the uncertain future; my future, tentacled child.

What will school look like to her?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

agent change agent

Education 107 - Bringing the NETS Standards to the Classroom

Quiz #1

Part One - Multiple Choice
Instructions: Please choose the best response for the following question. You MUST choose only one answer.

1. You are operating as a Technology Coach in a suburban high school with a full-time faculty of sixty-seven teachers. One of your main objectives is to engage teachers in developing rigorous learning experiences for students that demand one of the newest NETS Standards: Creativity. Which of the following is the most effective strategy to be a true change agent:
a. Conduct a full-day workshop during a scheduled in-service day, providing teachers with 'sand-box' time and department level collaboration. Create avatars.

b. Communicate one-to-one in a non-threatening fashion with the teachers you believe are the early-adopters and hope for a pay-it-forward process with the rest of the faculty. Share bagels.

c. Distribute copies of NETS Standards in faculty mailboxes and request faculty meeting time to discuss the need for change in instructional practice. Quote bloggers.
Consider: You have x days/years (circle one) to achieve the aforementioned objective.

Friday, October 5, 2007

silence is approval

Yesterday marked an event-less event: International Bloggers' Day for Burma:
"International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4..."

Tactically, I think this is an ill-advised strategy. You know what? Let me be even and direct on this one:

What a bassackwards attempt to make a global voice resonate.

It would've been a lot more effective if everyone posted the above image and then actually posted. You see, what if the supporters of the cause actually demonstrated some real knowledge over the event? Wouldn't that have been more powerful? A global cacophony of voices sending out support!

I had been lead to believe that silent contests ended right around fifth grade.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

the woods through which we walk

Two weeks ago, two groups, clad in suits and armed with Blackberrys', entered close to 30 classrooms for "brief, non-intrusive visits" to get a snapshot of the leaning environment and instructional practices employed in our classrooms.

Initial reviews:

"A 5 minute roller-coaster ride...too long for humans." - anonymous

"Like Godzilla, times five....but dressed...in wool gabardine." - anonymous

"Remember those Ring Wraiths from Lord of the Rings?" - anonymous

"Whatever its intentions, the implementation of the Learning Walkthrough left me feeling skeptical and submarined. I'd like to believe in its value; that Learning Walkthroughs can afford the opportunity for professional growth, but when it shows up on our doorsteps the day before they are to occur, what's a teacher to think? There is the need for front-loading, for planting the seeds, and for greater faculty inclusion. Instead, we witnessed intrusion. I hope the teachers that spoke at yesterday's Planning Team meeting effectively conveyed the confusion and trepidation that these Walkthroughs generated. For my small part, I'd like to believe that my impressions will make a difference as we move forward." - ken rodoff

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

analyzing character intentions

Mr. Betlach, keeper of roomd2 blog, provided the above slide in a recent post and it inspired me.

So I want to answer the questions because now that I have my master's degree, because now that I have two children, and because now I have this horrid habit of crafting compound, complex sentences, I feel this innate desire to respond with depth and irreverence.

1. Who are the two characters shown in this photograph?
Simple response: Boy and Computer.

Convoluted response:
Boy and Computer, but not in that order.

Esoteric & filibusterous response:
You want to hear that the two dominant nouns in the picture represent some form of symbiosis, but in truth, they represent two wholly dissimilar items that have no business sharing a common space.
2. Each character has a goal. Describe each character's goal.
Simple response: They share a mutual goal set, focused solely on inquiry, creation, collaboration, and games. People create computers. Computers create opportunity. People expand critical thinking, problem solving, and harmonious existence of webkinz.

Convoluted response: Separate entities working to coexist in an every-changing geo-political landscape.

Esoteic & filibusterous response: Person is intent on destroying creation of his own doing by drowning the machine in RSS feeds, social bookmarks, and Lindsay Lohan chat rooms. Machine wants to fully expose the folly of the human race, specifically its infatutaion with Lindsay Lohan.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

a 3.0 x 5.0 message

Of all the new-fangled, ooh-aah ways to request for a meeting, I have to say today's method was amusingly low-tech.

Every day, I check four email accounts, read over RSS feeds, and survey the blogiverse. But I rarely check my rectangular mail receptacle in the "Professional" "Library".

The seemingly endless talks, tweets, and blog posts about getting teachers on board with technology is great, but how many of us really work with index-card communicators?

Apparently I do, and this is why I've decided that being in a building is crucial if someone wants to truly convey to the assembled masses what it takes to really create a culture of change.

To all in the buildings, HOO-RAH!

Monday, October 1, 2007

teacher on the edge

Positivism rules today because just beneath lurks ill-deeds.

You should see the other one.