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Moving through summer…

I wish I could say this post is urgent, but alas, I know the truth: I’m avoiding ‘real’ summer work– the projects and ideas that are supposed to rejuvenate me and get back in touch with my ‘real’ self. So here’s a deal: I’ll write this post, and then go do something. Maybe take the dog for a walk. Maybe organize my jewelry box. Or go find some Pokemon. Who knows? The world is wide open. And gotta catch ’em all.

When the school year starts again, it’s closed, boxed, a hedge maze of navigating rules and schedules. And consistently over the years I’ve tried to shape and refine my teaching practices. Sometimes those practices come at the will of administration and changing district policies, but all in all, I know those are in alignment with my personal teaching values more than ever, and truth be told I am feeling a great confidence of agency. As long as I can honestly say what I’m doing is in the best interest of students as my litmus test, then every decision holds integrity and intention.

The “A” Word

One such is the notion that teachers grade everything. We’ve gotten in this feedback loop of complaining about when students aren’t motivated, even for grades, and then use too many sticks and run out of carrots. In this post about accountability, I should have said ‘punitive’ — but was trying to be too soft-edged, I suppose. I am really starting to dislike the word ‘accountable,’ and I know that bias is all mine. Accountability is an accountant, a bean-counter, a points-shiny-stars-gamificationated-hoop-jumping word. Please– any other word but ‘accountable.’ If, in my book club, the other ladies said, “we are going to hold you accountable for reading all the books” I’d be so out of there my wine glass would shatter from the squealing of tires. We read each other’s book choices because we get to discuss things with those of various points of view. And there are snacks.

The conversation became a bit derailed, but no matter. That's what we teachers do -- talk about it!
The conversation became a bit derailed, but no matter. That’s what we teachers do — talk about it!

The question became side-tracked, naturally. And that’s fine. Let me see if I can get this back on point: the 40 book challenge is meant to create readers. There are multiple ways for students to share what they’ve read.

The post I linked above says many things, but mainly this:

An unfamiliar parent emailed me to complain. She tracked me down on the Internet after asking her son’s teacher about the “outrageous requirement” that students read 40 books and complete 40 book reports this school year. Her son’s teacher said the assignment was based on my work, and this upset mom wanted me to know that I was hurting her son. I responded that while I expect my students to read 40 books, I don’t tie any assignments or grades to this expectation.

Consider this: when doing something like a 40-book challenge, weave in the next two concepts about technology and grading policies. Consider carefully what the goal is. It takes students some getting used to doing something because it’s amazing. Maybe I can do a mash-up between books and Pokemon? Wait, what am I saying?!

Technology:

If you want to know exactly how to best use technology for any student, underserved or not, read this article by Molly B. Zielezinski @mollybullock. What a Decade of Education Research Tells Us About Technology in the Hands of Underserved StudentsThe article provides clear constructs for how to use technology in the classroom. 

Grading Policies

Hope. It’s all about hope. 

Do No Harm: Flexible and Smart Grading Policies by Andrew Miller. Our new admin had their plates full last year; I wonder if a discussion about grading policies will hit the meetings this year? I hope so. As a staff, learning new ways to grade and assess effectively and meaningfully would sure go a long way to help our students we serve. I had a great conservation about grading policies in Twitter at #edchat the other day. It’s on everyone’s minds, and something that the current grading software programs we use don’t provide much in terms of true reflection of growth or stagnation, for that matter. I am going to integrate Miller’s ideas in with my syllabus for this year, along with some of the grading policies and explanations for parents.

Tardy Slips

This is one of those issues I didn’t think was a big deal until I encountered an interpretation I had never considered before. If a student is talking to another teacher, and receives a late pass, but another teacher still marks them down tardy as his/her only means of showing that the student missed instruction, what is the point of this? If a teacher’s class runs over a few minutes, and then asks that those students are not marked tardy, why wouldn’t people honor that? Perhaps, like the word accountable, there needs to be different shades of meaning: if a student is clearly hanging out in the bathroom avoiding class, then yes, tardy. But for those times where students need to confer with a teacher for a few minutes, but another teacher needs to show that they missed the entry task, perhaps a ‘conference’ demarkation would be a good idea? That way they’re not punished or disciplined in any way, and it shows that the student was attempting to get clarification on something, and allows for flexibility for the entire staff.

Rethinking Everything

Many teachers are going to have a hard time with some of the new Washington State guidelines regarding discipline and suspensions. 

Good.

If we truly want this school-to-prison pipeline to be shut down, it’s time.

And now to go read more Nikki Giovanni poetry.
And now to go read more Nikki Giovanni poetry.

Well, I made a deal. This post is done. Time to honor summer again. I felt as if I haven’t gotten anything done, or accomplished, but that’s not true. I made this, and others are going to share it. I hope you will, too.

 

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This old dog.

Stop. Just stop.
Stop. Just stop.

Much ado is being made about age these days. Maybe it’s my own resentment of being a digital pioneer, and constantly being reminded I’m in charge of training children for jobs that don’t exist yet (for Pete’s sake, it’s not like I’m asking them to be farriers or corset-stay carvers!) At the NCCE, included in one lecture’s description was “NOT YOUR PARENTS’ TEXTBOOK!” which, yes, using the “o” word — offended me a tad. And not only am I playing a shoddy offense but defense as well. In this political climate my sons’ generation is constantly maligned: labeled entitled, privileged, whiny, and naive. My friend John Spencer gets it. VSauce has a great video about “Juvonoia,” the idea that younger generations are lame.

So I suppose if those younger than I are a bit miffed and allow for casual ageism to creep into the conversations, I must try not to cast my own disapproving glare.

via GIPHY

But ageism is actually quite horrifying. We’re all living longer, and creating a world where each generation gets a little smarter (thank you unleaded gasoline!) and a bit more savvy with all these critical thinking skills we’ve been touting. We’re creating awesome smart monsters humans. And while young folks may think of us as “elders” in their capitulating apologies, it has very real consequences.

Yes, young woman, you are contributing quite a bit. But over-40s are not quite “elders” yet.

So why does this get to me? Perhaps because it has an ‘ism’ at the end. “Ism’s” connote binary decision making: yes or no, black or white, up or down. Ageism is permission to assume someone cannot learn something about anything, but usually, especially technology, because they are old. Is it as bad as racism? I can’t make that claim. Its consequences may mean someone doesn’t get hired, so while we elders are trying to pay for our millennials’ college, we also can’t save for retirement. This article feels like a biography. Ageism decreases opportunity and allows for mocking on good days, and discrimination on bad. There’s that binary thinking again.

That moment when you realize someday you too, will be old as....never mind.
That moment when you realize someday you too, will be old as….never mind.

So, tiny examples: if I see something cool, guess what I do? I try to figure out how it was done. One of my little goals right now is to create gif doodles. Believe it or not, I can’t find any good tutorials, and this is making me feel a bit doddy. But they’re so cool! Not as cool as the Silicon Valley holographic mustache, but still…

http://reallifedoodles.tumblr.com

Is there something you’d like to learn how to do? Can anyone help me with this? I’ve fallen in a gif and can’t get up!

 

PS I know how to use Snapchat. I just choose not to. My students laugh at me because my husband is my only friend. /sigh You’ll understand when you’re older.

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Spent.

via GIPHY

Yesterday’s post concerned time: today’s post is all about…you guessed it…money.

And boy oh boy is this a touchy subject.

Let’s let go of the trope that teachers get summers’ off and don’t make enough and-and-and…I’m just looking at the nickel-and-dime new microtransaction model of economics. “What’s a ‘microtransaction‘?”,  You innocently ask. You know those times you’re playing Candy Crush, and to unlock the next level you need to spend .99, easily done from your PayPal account to the finer purveyors of CC, and voila! Your level is unlocked. Or, instead of simply spending $99 to buy Microsoft Office, and then upgrade every few years, it’s on a subscription fee basis, so you end up spending a little every month, but much, much more over the life of the software.

  • Prezi: $20/month, $240 year
  • Animoto $200
  • VideoScribe subscription: $144
  • WordPress subscription for fan-fiction blog: $99
  • Screencast-O-Matic upgrade: $96
  • Thinglink subscription: $120
  • Evernote subscription $50 (personal sanity)
  • Edublog upgrades for class blogs:
  • Doughnuts for class prizes spent this year so far: $120
  • Supplies for projects: $100
  • Special prizes for writing contest $200
  • New classroom books: $400
  • Graphics Fairy subscription $72 year
  • Misc. apps $50
  • Teachers Pay Teachers misc: $60
    • Subtotal for doughnuts and art: $1002

Yikes.

YIKES!!!

via GIPHY

I hope my husband doesn’t read this.

As much as I enjoyed Leslie Fisher’s gadget roadshow at the NCCE, many of the things she discussed cost cold, hard cash.There was one gadget, a wireless document camera, and that was ‘on sale’ for $154. Yeah, not going to happen.

This is quite a revelation to myself, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one who does this, one who loves the ‘new shiny first-adapter’ feeling, that ‘new tech’ smell that comes from the promise and hope of new, engaging means of delivering instruction. And that doesn’t take into account the time to learn the software, collect sprites,* storyboard, edit, etc. I have no idea what the costs are for Comcast, printer ink, web hosting, etc. I can rationalize most of these purchases, and therein lies the rub. I am masterful at rationalization and need to flip this skill with penny-pinching miserly ways. Somehow other teachers muddle through without Animoto or VideoScribe presentations.

So now that I know the numbers, what’s my plan? What am I going to jettison off this money boat to keep it afloat? Probably VideoScribe and Animoto, and will not renew those subscriptions. I have one year, and then if I don’t see amazing results or enjoy using them, they’re gone. Prezi is too damn expensive for teachers, but I’ll probably keep that one. Thinglink is super fun, and I’ve just begun to tap into those possibilities.

As I look at my grey hairs and neglected haircut, my shabby couch and dingy bathroom, and unpurchased plane tickets to destinations of home and love, it’s time to seriously rethink how I spend our money. And word to these educator tech companies: please stop trying to make money off of teachers. I’m spent.

And no more doughnuts.

 

*I’m calling anything that is collected or curated a sprite from now on.

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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.

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Myth of the Month Club: Krampus

Brom's Krampus
Brom’s Krampus

Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer who rewards good children each year on December 6. The kindly old Saint leaves the task of punishing bad children to a hell-bound counterpart known by many names across the continent — Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf, and Krampus. Usually seen as a classic devil with horns, cloven hooves and monstrous tongue, but can also be spotted as a sinister gentleman dressed in black, or a hairy man-beast. Krampus punishes the naughty children, swatting them with switches and rusty chains before dragging them, in baskets, to a fiery place below.

 

Just when you thought stuff couldn’t get any weirder: ‘t round out the week before Winter Break, prevent the need to scrape kids off the ceiling, and harmlessly, innocently, integrate some technology skills I created this prompt:

There are a lot of strange and wonderful ways to celebrate in December around the world. Now’s it’s time for you to come up with your own! This is a group project contest for the best, new, weirdest plausible holiday!”

And they were off! They were given a list of items they might include:

  • Food served
  • Special clothes or costumes
  • Mascot or Character
  • Tradition/ritual
  • Activities

And while none came up with a variation on Festivus, we did have a “Wishing Day” and a “Squidmas.” The students worked with Power Point on-line through their Office 365 software, and had a ball. They only had one block class to consider, create, and design their presentations.  They were all winners in my book! This proved to be a great way to introduce Power Point on line, collaborative creativity, and a low-risk activity that was accessible and funny. The ones who didn’t quite get it at first were those who thought this was a simple regurgitation of researched holidays: once they saw others with their original ideas it helped to model. The truth is, as much as a teacher can model something, middle school students look to their peers to see what else is happening in a creative crunch.