Year: 2007

Total 339 Posts

Perils of Podcasting

From Scott’s podcasting for principals tutorial:

What can I do with this? Well, I don’t know about you but I can talk faster than I can type. So maybe I’d like to send a message to my class… Ta da! I’ve just freed up 20 minutes of my day. What else might we do with this?

I’m all for stocking one’s toolbox but the upbeat monologue here makes me wary. You can talk faster than you can type, which, great, but I hope you temper your blithe optimism with some concern for your listeners’ experience at some point.

Not only do most of your listeners read faster than you talk but if you don’t edit for clarity – eliding those ums, ahs, scripting beforehand, and clipping out those accidental digressions – they carry the burden of your communication.

Which seems kind of typical of my relationship with podcasts: lots of waiting and finger-thrumming while you circle a point you could’ve made in half my time had you typed up a coupla draftsWhich, come to think of it, is the single biggest problem with pod- and vodcasting: the drafting process is too complicated for your casual enthusiast..

The suspicion just creeps over me every coupla months or so that the constant introduction of new tools has left your average, well-meant educator a permanent amateur, able to save some time for herself using these tools, unable to do anything better. And since we’re all in that same state, there exists very little peer pressure towards excellence, excepting occasional posts from certain School 2.0 curmudgeons.

Tell me I’m wrong.


They’re gone.

Kind of a bummer that the children of migratory workers must endure a migratory education. My Spanish was never lousier than when I tried to wish them well and say goodbye.

Nos vemos, chicas. Mucho gusto conocerles.

Liveblogging the White Elephant Exchange

  • 3:45PM PST: A student body leader passes 38 numbers out of a hat. I’m #17.
  • 3:58PM PST: 16 people have selected (and occasionally stolen per the rules of the game) cookie cutters, Christmas ornaments, barbecue sauce, lamps, etc, etc.
  • 3:59PM PST: I go for the smallest gift. Organic soap called “Kiss My Face.” Regift potential: high.
  • 4:10PM PST: Will Winkler, whom students, faculty, and parents refer to by the single letter “X,” steals my soap.
  • 4:12PM PST: Given the choice between some awesome known commodity and the unknown, I’ll almost always select the unknown. It’s a sickness. Stepping past a leopard-print umbrella and a Johnny Cash collection, I open up Richard Carlson’s best-seller Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – and It’s All Small Stuff and finally understand regret. Regift potential: nil.
  • 4:30PM PST: There are five gifts left on the table. One of them is mine.
  • 4:35PM PST: There are three gifts left on the table. One of them is mine. I begin to worry.
  • 4:37PM PST: There are no more takers. Everyone has a gift. Two are left and one is mine.

    I blame my colossal TA Katy’s homemade wrapping paper which featured angler fish a little too prominently for the faculty’s tastes, I guess.

    Sucks for my colleagues. There was a Utilikey underneath those angler fish. Yeah. That’s right. A little combo pocket knife / screwdriver / bottle opener that collapsed into a key and which could’ve been yours had you only looked past the scary wrapping paper.

    There’s a metaphor there, I’m positive, but no way I’m gonna spend my time sniffing it out. ‘Cause that’s small stuff. And I don’t sweat that anymore.

Snowflake Math

[BTW: Mimi Yang’s remix is highly recommended.]

I’m about to give you what I’m convinced are good blueprints even though the house I built off of them today was pretty raggedy.

Here, three days before winter break, I wanted an activity that injected math into something mindless. I thought about snowflakes, you know, how you fold some paper, cut it here and there, and open it up only to discover you’ve recreated The Storming of the Bastille.

So here’s (what I’m convinced is) an awesome exercise in spatial intelligence for you and your students: predict what the snowflake will look like before you open it up.

I’m tempted to leave it there and let you decide how this oughtta shake out, encouraging you to please get back to me and let me know. Because what I did today didn’t have the same loose-limbed energy my best stuff usually does. This was second-rate but maybe we can spin something better out of it – you and me:

  • I passed out a sheet of standard letter paper and some scissors to each student.
  • I had them square the paper and fold it into fourths – now a smaller square.
  • I put up a series of slides. Each one asked them to make one cut.
  • They made the cuts and I said, before you open up the snowflake, sketch what you think the snowflake will look like.
  • They sketched it.
  • I walked around, observing, sometimes making comments.
  • They opened it up and checked themselves.

Then, without passing out more paper, we went backwardsWorking backwards from a solution to the problem, incidentally, is the most reliable way to carry your kids a few rungs up Bloom’s Taxonomy..

  • I gave them the result and asked them what cuts had been made to get it.
  • I called up five volunteers to the board to show their solutions, most of which differed only slightly from each other, a fact which offered up some good conversations starting with words like “compare” and “contrast.”

Then I passed out this worksheet, which asked for eight visualizations, the second half doubling in complexity by adding one fold to the snowflake.

Typing all that here at the end of the day, it’s kinda obvious to me that this was too much even for my Geometry sophomoresNine of whom apparently read this thing so, hey, team, no disrespect.. The spatial learners had a blast but I didn’t manage to transcend that division and pull the other intelligences over the wall like my better stuff tends to. This thing lacked a certain scaffolding. In other words, buyer beware.


Call to Action: Make it Fun

Okay so I’m gonna cherrypick a set of your comments and decontextualize ’em to serve my point. God bless the remix culture.

fgk, on why people don’t take lessons from those who offer them:

i think a big part of why we don’t adopt [lesson plans] from others is because we don’t see it happening. when you watch a class, you can tell when something succeeds, and figure out how to incorporate that into your own teaching.

druin, on the frustrations of sharing lesson plans with others:

I think for many people the idea of sharing is lop-sided. I don’t mind sharing ideas with others, but it frustrates me when I’m the only one sharing.

sarah, assessing my lesson offerings:

The power of your narratives is the piece that keeps me hoping that something turns up in your [lessons] tab. It’s that reality check of what works. It’s hearing your voice, getting hints of your personality, helping me mentally test what I can pull off, and what, like rap music, would be obvious that I’m faking. That voice is what every lesson plan needs. [emphasis added]

So my advice is this: you have to make stories out of your lesson plans, collapsing resources into anecdotes. It’s easy to blog stories. They’re cathartic and satisfying where resource posts feel expensive. Plus people are more inclined to read stories than rubrics.

Talk about the questions you asked, the responses they gave. Share pictures or screenshots when possible. Post stories, not plans, and then attach handouts or link sources at the end. I can’t help you with the time cost but if you’re convinced you should share your resources, I promise that this is the way to make it fun for you.

Moreover, I promise that as you start receiving feedback on your stories – positive & negative – you’ll start looking for more stories to tell. Constantly. The pipe that carries interesting things from your eyes to your students’ and then to your readers’ will grow wider. It’ll move faster. If you start this in earnest, I pomise you won’t be able to turn it off.