Tag Archives: John Spencer

Confused? Good. You’re thinking.

via GIPHY

Without going into the long backstory, recently someone told me students in my class were confused and whispering to each other, seeking clarity.

They said this like it was a bad thing. 

Oh, silly teacher…!

Well, it’s not.

In fact, it’s an awesome thing. A tremendous thing…dare I say….maybe one of the best things a student can experience!?

Confusion is metacognition as an expression: it means that the student or students are engaged, tracking, and wham! knows they’re lost–and when you know you’re lost you can try to find your way back. The point in question was during a challenging foundational attempt at point of view and perspective. Many of my students have had the creativity and risk-taking so drilled out of them that some couldn’t make a list of things they did in an hour without getting further instructions.

Me: Just write everything you did between 7 and 8 am.

Student: I was sleeping!

Me: Then write that down.

Student: What do I do?

Me: Write down everything you did between 7 and 8 am.

Student: Can I write that I was sleeping?

Me: Were you sleeping between 7 and 8?

Student: Yes.

Me: Then write it down.

Okay — that was a few. But the lesson added the next step of writing down was either objects or people were doing at the same time. One young man, who has a really difficult time getting anything done, wrote a delightful story about his dog from first-person dog’s point of view/perspective. This role-playing/narrative writing just clicks for some kids.

Anyway…confusion.

My friend John Spencer writes about confusion, and it makes a lot of sense.

The person who was questioning my practice, (and saying that students were confused) believes this:

However, schools aren’t built around confusion. We reward students for speed and accuracy (the way we average grades and set rigid deadlines) rather than nuance and confusion. We value teachers who can make learning efficient, clear, and easy-to-understand.

In fact, the word “urgency” was used many times. I know what urgency is, and it’s not “panic” or anxiety attacks — it’s a compelling reason to do something or to learn something. But sometimes that sense of urgency isn’t in every slice of a lesson — it builds, and results in great writing, even from the most reluctant and bashful of students.

Something else to consider: screentime may be doing some deep harm to our cognitive abilities. Or we just might be changing our means of communication. Please– I “urge” you to read John Spencer’s post on confusion, and listen to Parts I and II of the Ted Radio Hour Screen Time recordings.

You know nothing, Mrs. Love.

Does anyone want to become a judge because they know how to write a claim, evidence and reasoning paragraph?

Has anyone played scales on a clarinet and decided music was their life’s calling?

Did you ever fall in love with someone because of their SAT scores?

No?

Me neither.

In fact, I’m sensing legions of dissatisfied English/Language Arts professionals who bought into the dream of teaching the worth and beauty of communication rising up– an undercurrent of questioning and pushback to forces that represent the opposite of love of language. I’m pretty sure no one became an English/Humanities teacher because they wrote cursive well. They became a teller of stories.

In our data-driven world, we are forced to look at tiny points, a sieve of information that never shows the whole sky.

This doesn’t mean all data needs to be destroyed, any more than I am suggesting we sit around the just “feel the stories” — ew, no.

Look at Pernille Ripp’s work: she balances the formula with the big ideas so beautifully. Her project, Planting A Seed: Our Refugee Project should be our model. Look even closer: students are doing the highest level of Project Based Learning with self-assessment (annotating the way that makes sense to them?! REVOLUTIONARY. Sorry – sarcasm crept in. I’ve been showing students authentic annotations for years, and when true scholars use them, and for what purposes.)

Read John Spencer’s ideas about design thinking. Okay. I’ll wait.

I’ve spent going on eleven years trying to keep ahead of the curve, be innovative, and growth-minded. It is a bit galling to have old-fashioned thinking creep in like it’s something new. It’s not. We’ve solved many notions, and yet many ideas still keep being trotted out. We need to bury some ideas once and for all:

We need to bury some ideas once and for all:

Please:

Don’t display data with students’ names on it.

Don’t assume kids of poverty are somehow helpless or disengaged. by nature. And never, ever assume their parents don’t love them.

Don’t start the year out without providing some foundational love of reading and writing lessons. The skills will come. Skills without purpose are meaningless and thin.

Now, DO:

Go back to the top of this post and look at the work of StoryCorp.

Tell your story.

I want to hear it.

The first rule of write club…

 

Must give credit to John Spencer once again for this idea. He tweeted:

tweet

Now the thought of Chuck Palahniuk writing the back story for a cartoon intrigues me, and I began to think of multiple mash-ups of writers and stories. This morning I envisioned a complete Nathanial Hawthorne Scarlet Letter version of Rugrats, whereas every time Angelica attempts to bully the babies she must wear her insignia “A” embroidered on her chest, serving multiple purposes. The adults are the villagers, of course, standing firm in judgment. Well, it played out better before I had coffee. Now I’m not so sure.

But what about Stephen King and a treatment of Roadrunner? I think Kurt Vonnegut could do justice to Bugs Bunny. Or as John quoted, ‘create sad backstories to all the Animaniacs.’ Brilliant. This, of course, is the essence of fan fiction, with a hefty side of writer’s craft, style, and voice for good measure.

zim

Allow me to meander a bit:

Ayn Rand takes over an episode of Invader Zim.

Neil Gaiman rewrites a ‘Hey, Arnold’ episode.

J.K. Rowling takes on Powerpuff Girls.

G.R.R. Martin rewrites Dexter’s Laboratory.

Dr. Seuss: Ren and Stimpy, of course.

Suzanne Collins and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.

Okay, I could go on all day. I am seeing a really fun lesson idea here: D&D dice with each number associated with an author and then a second roll for the cartoon episode. 

What other ideas come to mind?

Postcript:

 

Now–parents–think for a second. When I was growing up Bugs Bunny and his ilk alluded to operas, literature, film, etc. I know there are ‘jokes for grownups’ in current children’s media, today, too, but I am a bit out of touch with the ten and under crowd these days. My sons are 18 and 21, and they share gritty, funny binge-worthy media. We are long past the Rugrats days. If you’re a parent of kids under 10-11 and let them watch tv, what do they watch?

 

 

Graveyard of Jargon

hopesdreams
What educational jargon or bandwagons have you had to bury?

My friend Philip Cummings recently posted something on social media that caught my eye, “Letting Go of Learning Styles” by Amber and Andy Ankowski on the PBS Parents site. This article busts the myth of learning styles, one of education’s most holiest of shrines, and offers much more authentic alternatives. And the Ankowskis have a point: no matter how special our snowflake, we’re all trying to figure out how to use gravity to our advantage during the storm.

Wait–that was a TERRIBLE metaphor. Forgive me. I’ve been doing mom-chores and adulting all day, and I’m cranky. College boy is in town and needed to get him squared away, and the whole tax thing, and now people are arguing, being bossy over one another, and quite frankly, it’s all a little silly. Or in the words of the immortal Mr. Krabs,  “What a baby.” The deal is, we really need to be careful when jumping on bandwagons: they have a habit of gaining speed and being much more dangerous during the departing.

Here are a few of my thoughts/questions:

  • What if a teacher becomes an ‘expert’ in one of these sacred teachings, and then that path is no longer valid or respected? I’m thinking of one educator I know whose expertise is in ‘learning styles,’ and how is she going to feel that others believe that it’s bunk?
  • What about all the backlash and misinterpretation of “grit,” growth mindset,” or gangum style? Whatever. I still dance to it. Just kidding. You know what I mean.
  • What’s next? What about the ed-tech movement, our love of Alfie Kohn, or DON’T EVEN THINK IT: UBD?!

STEP. AWAY. FROM. THE. U.B.D. AND NO ONE GETS HURT.

But back to learning styles, John Spencer noted,

“I feel like the original research on learning styles was flawed (and I’ve never bought into the notion of fixed learning styles). However, almost all of the research “overturning” learning styles relies on flawed metrics. In most cases, the assessments don’t match the instruction. So, a visual style of instruction and an auditory style of instruction both end up with a written test at the end. They do this to boost reliability but in the process, the validity suffers.”

I always liked Howard Gardner, and even he said learning styles was misused. His “multiple intelligences’ are NOT learning styles. That’s always the way, isn’t it? Someone has a good idea, does mountains of research, draws conclusions, and adjusts and flexes thinking, and then some bureaucrat gets a hold of it and takes all the flavor out. While becoming a teacher, of course I applied all the things I was learning about to my own young sons. The older one was the musician/mathematician, and the younger one (I was sure) was destined to be the next Jane Goodall with his love of nature. But again I think we confuse interests with concrete, fixated means of functioning in a classroom. We label, box, and shelve. We forget we are complex, adaptive systems, capable of multiple approaches to something. The concept of content becoming the focus makes sense: I wouldn’t learn about how to throw a ball from seeing a picture of someone doing it as well as just doing it. Moreover, I wouldn’t learn how to write a solid rebuttal from an interpretive dance (however much fun that would be).

There is just some stuff we need to know– like how to throw a ball, or write a great rebuttal. And we have teacher-experts in those areas who are more than capable and desirous of teaching those skills.

And then we come to the big tests that only focus on ‘reading’ and ‘math.’ And the ELA and math teachers seem to be the only ones who get their names tied to those scores.

I am predicting that ‘close reading’ is going to be next on the list of educational movements to at least catch a cold, if not completely buried in the Graveyard of Jargon. Close reading is great, and though everyone’s been cautioned not to overuse it, guess what? It’s being overused. And when something is overused it loses its effectiveness and provides diminishing returns.

But damn, that poor woman who spoke about grit. Bet she’s sorry.

What educational tropes do you think are about to expire and meet their maker in the big classroom, where St. Dewey watches over all of us, just smiling to himself?

Ah well. Enough of this. Time to dance!

I don’t care what anyone says: this is still fun to dance to.

Information overload.

Copyright Learning Fundamentals
Copyright Learning Fundamentals

 

In a recent story on NPR, ‘Information Overload and the Tricky Art of Single-Tasking,’ there is a link to an Infomagical challenge–making information overload disappear. My relationship analogy with technology feels that the more tech I have/use, my lungs have de-evolved from breathing air to turning into gills. I am so submerged in this soup I don’t even know I’m swimming in it anymore. My focus is fractured to the point I may need to take drastic, heat-pressure methods to reform my brain cells into more granite-like thinking. Even this post is tough to write: I installed Grammarly, and it’s constantly green/red lighting my typing, editing as I go:

"No, I don't mean girls. I mean gills."
“No, I don’t mean girls. I mean gills.”

Chasing the purple dragon of ‘the perfect app’ is like lassoing a bubble. There’s always something new, shiny, and fleeting. In this post, I shall attempt to currate some old and new favorites. Some of these items are the equivalent to Russian nesting dolls– stacked inside one another.

Stopping the Noise:

Freedom– if you need time to turn off those ‘quick check-ins’ to Facebook, etc. install Freedom. It was recommended to be by a ‘real writer’ – someone who’s published multiple titles.

Big Lists:

Cult of Pedagogy’s post:

WriteAbout, Google Cardboard, Versal, Noisli, Formative, and Periscope.

I have used John’s WriteAbout, and have made attempts to get other teachers/district to use it too, but there have been obstacles. We are on overload right now, methinks. Maybe I’ll try again, because last year was crowded with others agendas.

As far as Versal goes, we are piloting Canvas, and have used e-learning. Personally I prefer UX designs like Versal or Edmodo better, but it any online platform seems fine.

Trying Out:

  • Screenshot–app for iphones and ipads — annotate, etc. screen shots
  • Screenchomp
  • AURASMA
  • Chomp–very silly–just entertaining
  • Talkboard–going to try this and record lessons
  • Gaia GPS/Topo Maps–cool way to look at maps

Already Love:

Student brought me food.
Student brought me food.
  • Word Swag- -makes pretty little posters from your photos
  • Snapseed–easy photo editing tools
  • Voila–easy screen recordings for lessons/flipped classroom
  • Dark Sky–well designed interface for the weather
  • Sky Guide–feel like you’re floating through the universe. I get vertigo when I point it at the ground and realize there’s only the earth between me and the universe.

Who am I kidding? I’m not qualified to curate diddly-squat at the moment. During this time, not only do I have Grammarly spying on me, but the laundry is on repeat wrinkle-guard, I’ve read 5 articles on the supreme court issue and new appointee, hit the like button on a few Facebook posts, changed to jammie pants (it’s mid-winter break), watched Principal Gerry videos, sent one email, and thought about “all the stuff I have to/want to do” over break.

Sigh. Maybe it’s time I take the Infomagical challenge, too. I did go to a good, solid old-fashtion art supply store the other day near the UW campus when we met our older son for lunch. It was like going through a time machine for me. I did end up with a box of goodies to take back to the classroom, but even creative-crafty stuff requires focus:

IMG_2234
Annotated with Screenshots

 

And of course, who doesn’t need a plague mask?

IMG_2233

Maybe that’s what we need: plague masks filled with herbs to keep us focused on single thoughts, doing them well and mindfully. Let me go find some paints, brushes, and oh look a text…

…time to use one of my 12 list making apps and start checking stuff off.

Ultimately, what is all this used for? To keep me engaged as well as develop engaging instruction–that’s it. If it doesn’t suit those purposes, perhaps it’s time to tech-purge.