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Archive for June, 2008

… the week is shaping up once again to be more about tools and vendors than about … the very essence of how teaching and schools are being pushed by the shifts that are occurring. — Will Richardson, an up-and-coming edublogger, questioning the momentum of the ed-tech conversation.

My word. If you people keep up this kind of clearheaded self-critique, this blog'll have nothing left. It'll digest itself, slip into a peaceful coma, and die smiling.

The Ed-Technologist's Self-Evaluation

Are you about the tools or the teaching? Are you about the clenched-fist revolution or the game-changing evolution? Or, ideally, are you about both at the same time?

A scenario — only sorta hypothetical — that has nagged me going on eighteen months:

Kristi is a technologically-adept fifth-year Algebra teacher. She blogs, both personally and professionally. She can develop basic fluency in any tool — online, hardware, or software — you throw at her inside a week. She will let you do whatever you want to her classes, from the lesson plans on down to the seating arrangement. Hell, for the sake of the hypothetical, I'll spot you laptops — MacBook Pros, XOs, Asuses, or whatever — on every desk.

The only requirement — and this is as minimal as they come — is that you cover her state's Algebra standard to the same extent she has these last four years.

Do You Have A Plan?

I'm not asking for a year's worth of lesson plans, a curriculum map, a first-day activity, or even a raised hand. I'm asking to ask yourself, "stripped of all my usual impediments and foes, do I know how to help this teacher?"

And if you don't, I'm going to suggest here that you've driven yourself to distraction with what's new *coughs in Plurk's direction* and lost sight of what's useful, that you've confused your adult enthusiasms with your students' needs, that you're approaching the learning transaction from the new tool downwards ("Plurk is awesome. Where can I fit Plurk into the classroom?"), rather than from the necessary instructional goal upwards ("What is the best tool — offline or on-, new school or old- — for teaching this concept?").

So much of the ed-tech conversation has been motivated by, written in response to, even defined by the School 1.0 boogeyman. I mean, if I want a thousand words of big-picture idealism, of reductive analogies between traditional schools and modern jails, of rabblerousing, of browbeating, I know several hundred places to look.

That's all fine and fair. The boogeyman exists, after all.

But the Kristi's exist too. And they're getting restless.

Don't ask me how I know.

photo credit: Ewan McIntosh

Can He SAY That?!

Can we all admit that K-12 students aren't *always* the best judge of what is best for them? We have to value, but temper, their wants. — Chris Lehmann, via Twitter.

Chris has been wandering way off message lately:

I think we have to understand that what we need is evolutionary change. But that's not as sexy, it's hard to get as impassioned about it, and the evolutionary change is, I believe, harder. It's a quieter reform. It's a more measured, scholarly approach that requires careful, thoughtful movement. It requires us to honor and learn from those who came before us. But it also allows us to innovate and change without quite as much upheaval and pain for those who are undergoing the change. — Chris Lehmann, "Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary."

Someone admit this guy to a deprogramming facility pronto.

My fiancée and I, this weekend, attended what for reasons of space will be described as "professional development for engaged couples."

There were threats all throughout the literature: if you left early, brought a cell phone, left the grounds at all, or committed any number of minor-league infractions, you would not receive a certificate of completion.

Nope. Don't — no, y'know — just stop begging. Stop it. You were seven-and-a-half minutes late to our noon session. No certificate.

Thing was, me and my girl didn't much care for a certificate. And after it became evident our presenters were going to read from a script all day, we left.

The relevance of this anecdote to classroom management is left as an exercise to the reader.

Tying Loose Ends

My Week, More Or Less, In Washington, D.C.

Cable In The Classroom's Leaders in Learning Awards was an event which saw me initially in my default, slouched, slacker-kid-among-grownups posture. By the end of the week, though, I was dry for snarky Tweets, far too awed by a) my first trip to my country's capital, b) the people — CEOs, senators, congresspeople, incredible educators, among them — I met there, and c) the ceremony itself.

I'll leave it at that. Plus a Flickr album and two videos if you're really inclined.

Next Year's New Job

Which, as it happens, is the old job. What a mess, really. My fiancée and I found little traction for her nursing career in San Francisco while a job opened up, instead, fifteen minutes from the position I had officially resigned months ago (papers and everything), a position which my school had already filled. I told my department head to expect reference checks from the nearby Santa Cruz City School District.

The farewell dinner came and went. My students said goodbye. I signed yearbooks. My principal stopped me on my last prep. He told me they had freed up a math position.

My hesitance precipitated a good discussion of the school's advantages and disadvantages for a new teacher (each of which I detailed, however elliptically, earlier this year).

Inasmuch as a unionized teacher can negotiate for anything in this job, my principal has graciously accommodated some material and immaterial needs, accommodations for my fifth year teaching which should keep me challenged and push me into my sixth1.

Good Reading At Home

  • TMAO takes a dump on teaching's couch and flips it the bird on his way out the door. Commenters love this guy but I don't really get it. (Seriously, though: it's an overwhelmingly accurate lifestyle piece on a) a certain kind of teacher b) teaching a particular population, and I don't use that adverb lightly. I was almost too depressed to finish.)
  • H. Aychison issues a precise and comprehensive post-mortem of her implementation of skill-based assessment.
  • Eric Hoefler examines skill-based assessment within the humanities.
  • Glenn Waddell, a second-year teacher in Nevada has pushed skill-based assessment on his department restructuring team and is liveblogging the process.
  • Sam Shah post-mortems his math video project, reminding me I have my post-mortem to write.
  • And in between drafts, TMAO retires his blog. I'm taking the rest of the day off. I just … need to be alone.

Those middle four citations are emblems of transparent practice which everyone oughtta hold aloft. Or at least comment on.

Worthwhile Math Clip

Here's a Chris Rock bit from I'm Gonna Git You Sucka which is simultaneously a) hilarious and b) an efficient introduction of rates. I ripped it, cleaned up the language, and re-uploaded it. Are you with me here? Chris Rock! Clean!! Introducing math!!! This is a freaking unicorn I'm serving up here.


  1. Pick at this all you want but the single largest, truest inhibitor to any career I have in a classroom is that I learn less about this job every year.


dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

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lecture, nextgen, visual engagement

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dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer (640 x 480)

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