Thursday, January 31, 2008

listen to your grandparents

Taking students away from poor presentation design has very little to do with design.

Students need to know their content, their message, their purpose. Slides should demonstrate the speaker's central understanding and reinforce a message. Emphasis here on a message. One slide, one message.

Make the message stick with a story. Sit us down, pique our interest, and tell a story. Here's where having stories told to them over the years will pay off. In my book, cultural literacy and storytelling run hand-in-hand with the luxury of grandparents.

If storytelling drives quality presentations / presenters, then you can't put a manufacturer's suggested retail price for having a network of venerated story tellers in your life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

love me, don't write like me

When this is the sentence a student brings to class:
him love you to
You can not blame the infusion of technology as the root of this five-pronged nightmare.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

troubling thoughts need Shakespeare

Feeling a bit like Claudius today:

O, my silence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the tech administrators curse upon't:

A working proxy.

Speak can I not,
Though professional obligation be as sharp as will,
My stronger 21st Century educator defeats my AUP-policy self;
And, like a tech coach to a flat-world bound,
I stand complicit where I shall first begin,

What if this cursed proxy
Were employed to access educationally appropriate material?
Is there not firewall enough in the sweet filters
To preserve it white like the snow?

And what's in silence but this dreaded complicity,
To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
Or pardon'd being down?

Then I'll look up;
My chosen path of ignorance is past. But, O, what form of silence
Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul proxy awareness'?

That cannot be; since students and I still possess
The knowledge for which they did use the proxy,
May one be pardon'd and retain the access to Facebook?

In the corrupted currents of this educational landscape
Offence's gilded hand may lay taciturn, allowing appropriate use of social networking sites,
And oft 'tis seen that wicked access itself,
Increases student learning:

But 'tis not so in tech administration;
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In its true non-compliant nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in the URLs.

What then? what rests?
Try what silence can: what can it not?
Yet what can it when one can not foster an open dialog about information access?

O wretched AUP! O proxy black as death!
O 21st Century soul, that, struggling to unblock,
Art more engaged!
Help, network managers! Make assay!

Bow, stubborn knees; and blog, with strings of steel,
Be a catalyst as soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well.

Monday, January 28, 2008

IQ & credit rating - perfect together

Are we part of the problem or part of the solution?

Because just when I want to feel good about myself, my job, and the entire spectrum of education in America, Mr. McLeod shares this little nugget of sadness:

"Two Million Minutes until high school graduation…Two Million Minutes to build their intellectual foundation…Two Million Minutes to prepare for college and ultimately career…Two Million Minutes to go from a teenager to an adult...
How a student spends their Two Million Minutes - in class, at home studying, playing sports, working, sleeping, socializing or just goofing off -- will effect their economic prospects for the rest of their lives.
How do most American high school students spend this time? What about students in the rest of the world? How do family, friends and society influence a student's choices for time allocation? What implications do their choices have on their future and on a country's economic future?"
Good to know that all we're really here to do is prepare our cherubs to earn money. Had I known that the ultimate objective of education pertained to earning potential and pecuniary matters, then I would have never invested so much of my college days writing feces-infested objective statements like:
To increase student comprehension of archetypes in contemporary American literature.

To learn the differences between simile and metaphor in Shakespearean tragedies.

To promote positive dental hygiene.
Perhaps it's time for a new wave of objective statements. Time to excavate the foundation and pour a new, economically-infused base that focuses on global stage readiness:
To promote consumerism through in-class celebrations of material goods.

To acquire a job with an earning potential greater than those of your peers while still maintaining an air of pseudo-interest in the lives of others.

To forge a global industry while simultaneously outsourcing, down-sizing, and reducing employee benefits.
Do you hear that?

tick tock, tick tock...cha-ching...cha-ching...

Friday, January 25, 2008

a three-tiered benediction

Rejected post title: talk to me and let me touch you

Here's my birthday wish list*:
  • A comment from Dan
    • Dreaming big on this one, I know, but I'm only asking for one. I think this has something to do with feeling validated and appreciated. That's a lot to ask from a 6'7" stranger.
Skimpy list?
Too weighty?

Something is whispering in my ear:
You're too old for lists. And don't hold your breath on that last wish.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

thou Hamlet of a most plain English

Sorry for my bossiness, but watch this before you go any further:

Yes, their script included the word 'bonked'. Humor, as it turns out, is all about timing, not all the time. That's one reason why this video works and can serve as:
  • a model for future classes doing the same project
  • a useful demonstration of student comprehension and analysis
  • a product that other students could use in their study of Hamlet
Many props to Mr. Marcinek for his willingness to try a totally new project! The concept, quite obviously, was "ripped from the headlines" (thank you, Lee LeFever).

Below is the process, pulled directly from the assignment sheet. Beneath each step, I have added some observations and commentary.

1 – Select a theme. We have discussed many different themes threaded throughout Hamlet. Your job is to select one and propose your initial idea to me.
  • Once they share their idea with the teacher, have students make their proposals to the class. Allow for fecund discussions to develop. Everyone loves fecund discussions.
  • Don't shy away from asking probing questions. If they 'want that theme', make them earn it. Think 'inquisition', but Elizabethan style. Don't forget your codpiece.
1.a (I'm adding this step): You must talk about audience. You must tell them over and over that they are creating something for others. Video projects have a tendency to regress to cryptic jokes in the yearbook - 'MR ate the BM with the OO while JS got MCD...laughin' always' - and five people 'get it'. 'Audience' is, in truth, quite a new word for them. They've really only created for you, and they have this thing (many of them) about not caring too much about you. Tell them students in Dubai are waiting to see these videos for use in their study of Hamlet. If possible, make that statement truth before you employ it.

2 – Gather at least five textual examples that represent this theme. I want to see act, scene and line numbers.
  • Don't just see act, scene, and line numbers, hear them. Let them use their sonorous voices to demonstrate the strength of their textual support. Demand the use of iambic pentameter. Sonnets are acceptable as well.
3 – Once you have gathered the textual evidence, you will organize it into an outline which will eventually be translated into a story board.
  • Don't move on to Step 4 without having the students use their mellifluous voices to once again hammer home their deep understanding of not only theme, but how the selected actions from the play support chosen theme. Use appropriate background music to enhance their defense.
4 – Create a story board which will serve as the blueprint for the film. Provide pictures with the script for each storyboard scene. The storyboard must be approved before you begin filming.
  • This is the money-step; the one all about writing, clarity, organization, and any other word that you think once thought had to be jettisoned during a multi-media, tech-infused project. These words are not flotsam; they're the project and the reason you assigned it in the first place. You were looking for a new way to engage students without having to sacrifice a valuable skill set worth refining.
  • DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT give students cameras until they satiate your deep-seeded desire to see absolute clarity in their story boards. This is the most important part of the entire project. This is the project. I've said it before and I'll say it again, they're not Scorsese's, but they are students working on a skill-set heavily loaded with words like 'communication', 'organization', and 'focus'. As Hamlet once "said":
The storyboard's the thing wherein I'll catch the essence of this theme.
5 – After your story board is created you will begin to gather or create elements to use for the film. Keep in mind that you are utilizing the blue print of a Common Craft video in order to convey your theme simply. You may use a variety of options here.
  • "Simple is difficult". True to that. If the goal is to convey a theme in a simplistic fashion, dissuade students from complicating the real point in all of this - synthesis - by forbidding Flash, Photoshop, and other whiz-bangery - especially when THEY DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE THEM!
  • Use I-Movie or MovieMaker, but keep it consistent. MovieMaker is open source, so I'm a big fan of it, and I own an Apple!
  • Have a storage system in your classroom so students can keep their props in a central, attendance-blind location.
6 – Once all of the aforementioned tasks are completed, begin filming. Filming should take one class block. Film in sequential order to expedite the editing process.
  • One class block. That's it. If you hammer them (with love) during steps 1-4, then one block is all they'll need. We have 90 minute classes over here, so if you're not "on the block", do the math.
  • They'll need some tripods. The video above still cries for one.
  • Hover, help, and hound them while they are filming. Keep a constant vigil over them as they shoot their video. Ask questions, like, "Can you show me on your story board what you are filming right now?" and "How are you insuring that your product will resonate with a global audience in their study of this play?"
  • SAVING: If you use MovieMaker, you're going to want to do a couple things:
    1. Film takes up a lot of server space, so it may be better to save to: an external hard drive, a 4GB (minimum) jump drive, or the desktop. If you save to the desktop, keep in mind that if every student has a unique log-in, then you'll need that same student to log-in the next day...on the same computer.
    2. Presuming students want to include copyright-friendly music, these audio files will need to be saved in the same location as your footage. In a nutshell, MovieMaker doesn't really save anything to itself; it just looks for the files on the computer when you open the program. With our network configuration, if Benito Dingus saved the MovieMaker file to the desktop on Monday and Wanda Warthog logged on to the same computer on Tuesday, the file would not be accessible. Open source isn't perfect. No network is perfect.
7 – The final stage will be editing and voice-over recording.
  • This project requires a voice-over and as noted in #6, some students may want music. If they want both, they are going to need a program like Audacity to compress both tracks down to one. MovieMaker only supports one audio track.
8 – When filming is finished we will have an in-class screening of the films. Other classes will see them.
  • Classes in Dubai.

clear and present conjecture

In Children of the Corn, kids murder people to satisfy their leader, "He Who Walks Behind the Rows". But HWWBtR is offended by their most recent offerings, so one boy, Isaac, decides to lower the age of sacrifice from nineteen to eighteen.

And "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" is a happy fella. And at some level, we're happy, too. Because once you put aside their murderous ways, you find yourself applaudingthese nefarious rug-rats for developing a pin-point, concrete age for sacrifice.

If only we could get, like Isaac provides, a 21st Century Learner to cite the year of their inception. I've read from a colleague that 1994 might be the exact date, although I'm curious to know the month.

But I'm not quite ready to grab that rock over there and chisel in a 21st Century Learner inception date. Additionally, I'd advise that we focus our efforts more on what's in front of us rather than playing the equivalent of the guess- how- many- jellybeans- are- in- the-plexiglass game.

Guessing the date is good ole' PETE&C fun, but it sure won't provide any of us with a forward direction that can help with creating professional development or solid instructional design.

Interest in when they arrived can't survive as an air-borne issue, but grappling with what it means to be a learner is of far greater import. We label our students and our own children as 21st Century Learners, but we're tossing the term 'learner' around their cherubic necks when they're still a nascent lot.

No overt journalisitic moment of discovery is needed to report that our students are heavily entrenched in the read-write, share and share alike web. Most come to our schools and don't need us to teach them a 'how-to'. They are adroit navigators on their own.

But are they learning from the use of these sites? Are they honing their analytical skills? Are they refining their ability to synthesize? Are they considering audience or are they just preening for one?

Remember your bedroom when you were in high school? Those posters of Farrah Fawcett or Marky Mark scotch-taped to your walls? Or over there, over your desk, the cork board replete with ticket stubs from concerts and movies and sporting events you attended...remember those?

Your room swathed in adolescent artifacts.

It was your space. You knew it as 'my space'.

Welcome to MySpace.

We're all still learning.

Say 'no' to born on dates.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

sticky figures

P - Over there is water. Let me take you down this hill so you may slake your thirst.

H - You'll lead me to the water?

P - Of course. You are one of G-d's majestic creatures. People sit atop your spine and you take them places. Let me return the favor; I'll save you a trip to the Chiropractor.

H - This is a momentous occasion in my life. A person guiding me, showing me the way. And not to a glue factory.

P - Okay, ready? Here we go. Follow along with me.

H - Can you hold my reigns? I'll feel a lot better. The hill leading down to the wiki, um...water, looks kind of daunting.

P - I shall take your reigns and we will walk together, side by side, six powerful legs traversing this navigable slope in unison and harmony.

H - Would you be so kind as to walk in front of me? My confidence shakes with trepidation. If I should lose my footing, I'd want you out in front, preventing a free-fall into the murky waters of wiki oblivion.

P - I will walk in front. But understand, we can enter the placid waters together. We can stand, tread, or swim to our own desiring. We can sip, drink, or gulp. When we leave, we can take some with us; for I know right well that a satiated thirst is but temporary. You will want more.

H - Would you be offended if I asked you to enter into the wiki first? I am fraught with a queasy restlessness which gnaws upon my hoofed soul. I shall feel better by observing, by thinking, by considering.

P - I will enter the water first. My right foot will break the surface and fresh opportunity will slowly envelop me. You will witness liberation and relief. Behold as majestic, sea-dwelling creatures appear before my frame, engaged in their aquatic ballet - a melodious hymn celebrating togetherness and interconnectivity.

H - A wiki can do that?

P - Wiki?

H - Wiki.

P - Wasn't this about getting you a drink?

H - Cheap symbolism. Come on now, even this here equine can spot a hackneyed aphorism. Now why don't you step out of that water, hop on my back, and let me take you back up the hill?

P - What do you think I want back there?

H - And what do you think I want in there?

Thanks to Damian for inspiring this post.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

when a student chooses

Her stutter is beautiful.
It is a disruptive speech impediment.

Podcasting is a great project for low-achieving students.
A time-consuming bunch of goobledeegook for a non-communicative bunch.

But she does not want to record her voice because of her speech impediment.
This project is just another demoralizing kick in the gut for this student.

I tell her it's the research, scripting, revising, and editing that matters most.
Then put away the microphones and open up a word processor.

The recording is never something I would force you to do.
But her grade will suffer, right?

Your grade will not suffer.
Then you're just assigning a project she can not complete.

This is about inquiry, writing, and ownership over content.
If your goal is 'engagement' (how trendy!), then you'll definitely lose this girl.

Five drafts and three one-on-one conference sessions over four days.
I've never spent this much time on any assignment.
Don't talk to him; he's setting you up for failure.

The Instructional Aide is prepared to record your script for you.
Can I try to record it?
What? Why would you ask him this?

Of course you can; let's go into the recording room.
I'm sure I'll stutter, but I want to try.
You're being duped by a 2.0 wizard.

So, how'd it go?
When can the class listen to it?
They'll make fun of you.

You like it?
I love it!
You did awesome!

Her stutter is beautiful.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

pythagorean dictionary

Combustible ingredients:
  • Second semester
  • 10 seniors, all male
  • Honors level
  • Number lovers, currently taking AP Stat
  • Hostile antipathy toward Language Arts, specifically writing

Cooking instructions:

  • Pre-heat classroom to analytical levels
  • Grease students with a charming personality to create student malleability
  • In large group, develop a student-generated list of Language Arts terminology
  • Select and rank the top 16 terms, appropriately numbered, and move over to spreadsheet
  • In large group, develop a student-generated list of Mathematical terminology
  • Select and rank the top 16 terms, appropriately numbered, and move over to spreadsheet
  • Assign each student a bracket
  • Compose a scouting report (read: report) for each opponent, predicting the winner
  • Share scouting reports and then switch bracket assignments
  • Compose a post-game analysis report, identifying the winner, replete with reasons for success and opponent’s causes for defeat
  • Remove from analytical heat and celebrate the victory of Words! Long live Words!

Sample (click to see full bracket):

Thursday, January 10, 2008

systematic for the people

I collect hats. No clich├ęd symbolism happening here; just a straight-forward factoid. In fact, every March, I purchase a brand new fitted Boston Red Sox hat. I have no particular affinity for Theo Epstein or the Prudential Building, but I attended college in New England and wearing a Red Sox hat seemed quite innocuous since they're an American League team and I root (loser) for the Phillies (ha-ha!).

So now, every Spring, right before the first lacrosse game of the year, I pony up and spend close to 24 ducats for a new hat. I wear it when I coach and sometimes, after games, while wearing my hat, some local newspaper reporter will ask me about my coaching philosophy.

Here's my favorite question:
Do you coach players or a system?
Honestly, it's the quintessential question for any coach, lacrosse or technology. In fact, as the one year mark as Classrooms for the Future coach rapidly approaches, I'm finding it necessary to ask and answer this question daily.

Coaching A System
Can you say 'film study'? You need to be able to break down your oppositions' tendencies. Implementing a system before a soul arrives is time-consuming and leaves little room for impromptu, on-the-fly changes. You've invested so much of yourself in design and planning, that no matter what occurs, you'll pay no heed to the vociferous cries that scream for change.You'll be saddled with a deep-rooted belief system, one that few can sway or alter.

Coaching A Player
Get ready to read and react. You'll have to identify strengths and areas that need improvement. An ability to see, really see, like Haley Joel Osment see, needs to be an innate quality. You think like John Nash and you operate like you are putting together a jigsaw puzzle...but under extreme duress; sirens blaring, clock tick-tick-ticking away. Putting people in the right situation is what matters. Everyone appears happy, conducting themselves in a fashion that seems beneficial, but you keep moving them in order to maintain the status quo.

I still can't decide. In the meantime, I'm going to gather my ducats.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

curse you, metacognition

A new struggle, one I surely don't welcome as twins grow, grow, grow, is the internal debate about where to put my thoughts.

Do I tweet? Should I blog? Send myself a Jott and figure it out later? Save it for my therapist (next meeting, tomorrow)?

Oh where, oh where, can my little thoughts go? Suddenly,there are too many choices.

There is something noble and strong about 'just keepin' 'em and dealin' with 'em'.

Take these four munchkins:
  1. A student informs me that she found me on Twitter and is now following me.
  2. A tech administrator from another district wants to know the difference between a blog and a wiki. She also mentions that her district blocks access to blogs and wikis.
  3. With the notion of a global audience (if 58 = global audience), is there a specific time that I should post in order to garner greater readership?
  4. Yesterday, three people asked me, jokingly serious, 'are you going to put an addition on your house?'
Thinking about thinking is tough.

Monday, January 7, 2008

poetry cringe-for-all

I'm a little tech coach, brave and strong,
I work with students, teachers, and apps all day long.

Some people I know may say,
'what the hell does that guy do all day?'

So here I write a simple rhyming scheme
To tell you it's more than drinking coffee with cream.

For example, let's look at this day:
It starts with some students and the site FreePlay.

These transfer-in students are doing this thing,
Requiring scripting, rehearsing, and soundtracking.

There's this need for music at the beginning and end,
But there's this thing I taught them: creative commons.

The finally see that there's an audience to lose,
If they don't seek permission for the song they choose.

Next thing I know, there's a bell ringing out loud,
Off to a class with a less than motivated crowd.

When my hallway peregrination is done,
I conduct a presentation on podcasting that's fun!

Research, note-taking, scripting's the core,
Just when they think they're finished, there's more.

Research, note-taking, scripting and revising,
This podcast project is quite surprising.

Students are writing far more than they thought,
Thinking is making them a tad distraught.

And credit the teacher for attempting something new,
Podcasting once something turning his face askew.

Ring, ring, the day's half done,
But a meeting to plan has just begun.

Professional goals, I've seen a few,
Surprised to see I'm included in two.

We could wiki or blog or find something new,
Let's integrate one with something you do.

There's resistance today, that's something I hear,
But more often than not, it's just initial fear.

Whatever the content, I make it abundantly clear,
Skills are what we're talking about here.

'Ah-ha', 'no way', 'I never knew',
Just some of the comments to name a few.

And now the day is almost complete,
But it turns out there's one more person to meet.

A student wants to show a video to us,
But it seems really impossible to embed G Craig Lewis.

Zamzar's a place he's never seen,
Optimism abounds but then we both scream.

It seems that technology is far from perfection,
Zamzar slams us with a nasty rejection.

We look at video and suddenly decide,
That's there's a myriad of solutions we can still try.

I develop a list of things to do,
The student heads home and actually says, 'thank you'.

A Monday is finished, it's day seventy-seven,
Not to keep count, but it's a slow path to tech heaven.

This job is varied, different, and new,
And every day there's something to do.

Perhaps it's easy, almost facile to say,
That the life of a tech coach could just go away.

But hear me here and I'll speak it true,
Having been in the classroom there's plenty to do.

Teaching and collaborating, words tried, words true,
The tech coach knows there's still more to do.

He sees a need and works hard to achieve,
Knowing that the task is about getting some to believe.

Day in and day out, he tries best he can,
And it's hard because he's not everyone's fan.

This is a challenge I'm willing to fight,
Because the position is one that feels just right.

Friday, January 4, 2008

cart & horse - properly aligned

Remember the History Teacher and the Movie Trailer project?

To hear them present their trailers and talk about their topics proved to be the highlight of the entire project.

They are not cinematographers. They are not foley artists.

But seeing them work toward an end result resonates far more than the shortcomings of their finished products.

I only hope that when I return to the classroom my students learn as much as these students.

If you get a chance, stop them in the halls. Ask them about the Rosenbergs. Just be prepared to listen for a while.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

parent of the year

It is time to confess for sins committed upon those I love most dearly. I write upon this blog and ask for forgiveness. I pour out my transgressions before you, oh mighty Google server, and beg for a new beginning. Let not my latent desires and ill-deeds sway me from my moment of contrition. May I rise up by the end of this post with a renewed spirit and purified heart, free from trans-fats and bad cholesterol.
  • I have served food-court cooked pizza, glistening in the devil's oil, teeming in Satan's carbohydrates, to my three year old son.
  • There have been numerous moments of unneeded bathroom breaks. In an effort to seek solace, I have concocted fictitious gastro-intestinal issues as a means of leaving the cacophony of my children.
  • Snoring is a but a ruse, soporifically created noises to avoid rising at early hours with my progeny.
  • There be death in Dallas, or so I have uttered to my son. I have Jim Jones-ed him with heretical anti-Cowboy sentiments. And yet, the Eagles be but 8 and 8. Fostering an ill-deserved antipathy of a flat city-scape in my three year old son is nothing more than the rotten actions of a fanatical, championship-deprived Philadelphian. But if he should be a fan of 'dem Cowboys...Oh Great One, may I continue to work on purging myself of this ailment...
  • Elmo Visits The Doctor has more words than I have read aloud. To hasten bedtime routines, I have arbitrarily cut superfluous sentences. If by chance my decision to skip over Elmo's observation of the tongue-depressors offends you, please, Great One, accept my plea. I shall forever read all words and from this day forward, I will give all pediatric medical supplies their due reading.
  • The television does not run on six D-cell batteries! How many Backyardigans a three year-old can watch over and over and over again is nothing short of mesmerizing. At some point, desperate and out-matched, I had no other means of stopping his television consumption. Is it possible, Great One, that 'no' does not mean 'no' to a three year old? Show me the way, but make me not remove my flat-panel 32" LCD HDTV and Verizon Fios with OnDemand and 400 hours of DVR storage.
  • Need for Speed 2: Hot Putsuit is not an age-appropriate video-game for a three year old. "Dad, I got busted" is a sentence ladled with a disproportionate amount of toddler disrespect. May I work with my son and help him to curb his usage of such language. Let me teach him how to turn without crashing into a tree.
May the words of my heart be acceptable to you, my rock, my redeemer, and may the new year be an opportunity to prove my worth.

Humbly and contritely your servant ever,