Tuesday, December 23, 2008

forest of isolation

Dan Meyer's words, taken in snippet fashion:
I enjoy the job [teaching] more now than I did then. The job is easier, certainly, now. But ease and enjoyment rank lower on my list of Good Reasons To Invest Thirty Years Of My Life than a compelling challenge.
Funny thing, being alone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

where's the 'plus' ?

Once a 'B' student, always a 'B' student:

And yet another reason why people around me scoff ridicule condemn Twitter.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

14 million and i'm just finding out about this

Odd the things of You Tube, but something like this gives me hope:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

hiding behind transparencies

alternatively titled, 'teachers wanted - must own lens'

It appears that sending MP3 files to our email is a lost cause, but right now, at this very moment, the teacher needs the files and he wants them sent via email...only email.

I suggest a wiki, but he wants no part.
Today is not the day to learn wikis.
Pulling the files onto a flash-drive could work, but the teacher believes that will take too long. He needs the files, and he needs them now.

I suggest a wiki, but he wants no part.
Today is not the day to learn wikis
I go covert. I'm lateral movement and head-fakes. I'm surreptitiously starting a wiki. I'm finished. I show him the wiki, and he's got this odd technophobic stare going.

Students upload and listen. The teacher listens with a profound sense of acquisitive joy while one student tells the teacher that wikis are easy and that almost all students have used them in other classes. The student says:
Wikis are easy. They're a lot like Facebook.
And the teacher responds with:
I don't like Facebook. I don't know Facebook.
One student questions his thinking:
How can you not like it if you don't know it?
The answer:
Well, I don't want you to know that I don't know how to do something when it comes to technology.
I walk over to the teacher and whisper:
Doesn't matter. They already think this.

Monday, December 15, 2008

a lesson of importance, annoyance

When the possible reward is greater than the potential risk, it's silly to just hover in your space craft.

Signs doles out a resolution to a pesky alien invasion that is overtly intimated throughout the film. The aliens, we learn, don't take kindly to water. People who've seen the film ridicule the erudition of an alien race that would choose to invade a predominantly water-covered planet. Then, when they realize that attacking a fictitious race does not get them anywhere, they turn their sights on director/producer/writer Zod M. Night Shyamalan. According to many of my peers, Shyamalan concocts a cheap ending to a movie whose message could have been delivered in the length of a trailer.

But there are two reasons why the alien's are worthy of defense:

  1. The invaders came to the planet for the people. If that's what they wanted, they weren't going to let any potential obstacles prevent them from taking action. Maybe they read Hamlet. They probably hated that droopy prince.
  2. The aliens attacked predominantly dry regions. They didn't head to Avalon, New Jersey. They landed in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Maybe they did know that water wasn't quite their Oil of Olay. Maybe they saw those large bodies of water and noted, 'stay away from those things'. Maybe they just didn't consider our plumbing system and penchant for hydration.

And there are two reason why Shyamalan's resolution is worthy of defense:

  1. He creates a solution that is simple, maddeningly so. But the process of discovering that solution is replete with questions, reflection, and inquiry. Sounds like the structure of a really effective lesson. The kind where at the end, students leave class wondering how they didn't see it, get it.
  2. Ever craft a lesson that (hooray!) lasts the whole period? But...you know/I know/the students know that the whole thing could have been completed in minutes. But everyone plays along, or everyone buys in because the journey toward the resolution is a rewarding process. Honestly, ever allow a discussion to continue in class even when you know that repetition is the foundation of every comment?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

we're gonna need some more cows

Garr Reynolds on kinetic type:
Though you would not likely use kinetic type to the degree used in these examples in a live talk, watching the treatment of type in these examples may give you some ideas for working with type on screen that evokes emotion or directs the eye in a certain direction, or that sets a mood, etc. The only real goal is to get us thinking about presenting differently.
to remind you (and myself) again that type matters and that the treatment of type requires careful thought.
The example - please watch - highlights that text can and should be evocative and purposeful.

There's so much to teach. I'm well aware of that, but as I move from classroom to classroom, as I see more and more students present, and as I think about students moving beyond our charge, it's imperative that we take ownership over developing confident, competent communicators, regardless of the chosen medium. Regardless of the subject you teach.

Monday, December 8, 2008

clickin' is for losers

Guiding question: What site would you use to learn about the United Nations?

It's an in-class activity about the United Nations. The teacher provides the handout. The teacher provides the link. Getting to the answer is a three-click event. 1.29seconds (if you used a stopwatch to measure elapsed time).

But that 1.29 seconds is achievable only if users know where to click. In order to reach this world-record time, users had to read some words and phrases on the home page. Terms like 'About the United Nations' and 'Member States'.

What to choose? What to choose? And that's why they don't choose. Why they don't read. Because once they are confronted with choice, once it's an exercise in reading, thinking, and gasp! problem-solving, they run like Artistotle's cave-dwellers, back to the simplistic comforts of the cave. Back to the comforts of Wikipedia.

Because here, it's an all-inclusive locale. Here, everything is click-less. And here, for all its cursory fact-gathering prowess , is a place where students have learned that gasp! problem-solving is not welcome.

Follow-up question: Do we dare tell them about accuracy?

Support The Future Project

Friday, December 5, 2008

are you there bob? it's me, webinar

My parents would have loved webinars.

As a child, one of the more geometric punishments my parents practiced involved me moving to a corner of a room. I'd face the corner, back to the room, and wait, marveling over the ninety-degree quality of the converging walls.

Every year meant one more minute of solitude in the corner. But every minute added gave me time to talk. I'd talk to people. People I could not see. People that I knew didn't really exist.

There was Bob, a rotund young man who had a penchant for praline's and cream. Bob would bring Barb, because Bob knew that with my speech impediment, names with bilabial sounds increased the precision of my speech.

Thandy and Theven refused to show up. They could never tolerate my thlurred S's.

Today, I sat in a corner. I spoke to the invisible. I spoke to them about presentations, rhetorical devices, slide design, and copyright-friendly images.

Bob was there. He was with me the entire thirty-seven minutes. He listened patiently. He never said a word. And just like thirty years ago, I have no idea if anything I said, anything I showed him, made any impact.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

embrace the future project

The Office of the President Elect has a website so it only seems natural that I have one to promote awareness (read: votes) about this blog's nomination.

A little odd, don't you think?

Sure. Maybe. Leaving this site to go peruse another site which, as it turns out, is about this site, seems to live right on the edge of The Town of Redundancyville and Awkwardland. Okay, it's a little odd, but it's important to remember that the list of nominations I've received drops no mandibles.

From the Hall of Received Nominations:
  1. Honorary Cutter of the Cord - four time nominee, yet to accept.
  2. The Litter Box Lifetime Achievement Award - redacted upon the surrender of my second cat.
And that's it. So perhaps you'll understand more about my interest in this nomination.

Now, you'll excuse me. I'm going to adopt a cat.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

the system is winning

It's the first day for filming Cold War movie trailers and the students in US History have story boards, cameras, remote control cars, and duct tape. The message about creative camera work survived a full day.

The group over by the window didn't bring an ingenious dolly, and one of the students has a deep-seeded antipathy for duct tape. They've gathered props from their homes, but one proves debilitating; a road-block, a production stopper. There are four sheets of paper and on each sheet, a typed list of black-listed names, carefully numbered, courier-fonted and sized for the myopic. The students can not agree on the use of these sheets in their video.

This list is important. They tell me this. I suggest that the list 'should be used as a transitional object to advance the trailer and build tension'.

One student passionately and passive-agressively believes that using the list more than once in the trailer will confuse the viewer and distort the historical time line of events. Now, you might agree with her, but to hear her, to watch her walk away from her group, was to witness 'the literal' mindset taking over 'the storyteller'.

Eventually, her group agreed with her. They're not alone.

Across the room, a group is prepping to shoot a scene for their trailer about the Cuban Missile Crisis. They have their next shot all mapped out. The camera starts behind a person. We only see the back of his sport coat. Slowly, the camera rises directly above this person's head to reveal a map hanging on the wall. He's looking directly at Cuba. But the group wonders, 'how will the audience know?'

Their solution is to tape four red arrows around Cuba and write 'Cuba' on each. I ask them if their is another way to convey that the person is looking at Cuba without using the arrows. It's obvious that they're all thinking, thinking about an arrow-less world, but equally obvious is the fact that they need arrows. It's the only way they say.

And I realize that students love arrows and lists.

They're not ready for abstraction and undulation. We've hammered them with so much exposition that narrative, regardless of the medium, doesn't stand a chance.