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Art lives.

While we mentally live in a virtual world, there is grit and texture in other dimensions, too. Pay attention.

The other evening, I went to a benefit concert performed by the Seattle School of Rock and other locations at the Vera Project in Seattle.  It was a strange evening. As my son and I were parking, two gentelmen warned me of a hustler in the parking lot. Sure enough, a young man with odd piercings tried to get cash from me in return for “paid parking.” I had to pull out my best “alpha” animal, stare him down, and repeatedly say “No, thank you. No, THANK you. NO THANK YOU!” before he slunk off. Then, walking toward the Vera Project, we saw a homeless person, um, well, being quite public…

Next stop on the rabbit hole voyage was an introduction to the Sanctuary Art Center. According to the brochure, the

“Sanctuary Art Center is a professional quality art studio serving homeless youth ages 13-25 in Seattle’s University District. Our mission is to create a safe, warm, calm environment for youth to experience creativity and success through use of artistic media, such as pottery, stained glass, painting, beading, drawing, drama, musical instruction, and more. We provide street involved youth wiht a place of discovery and support, removed from the noise, danger, and chaos of the street.”

Hey, grown-ups out there: Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing?

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Copy that, good buddy: Plagiarism and the 21st Century Learner

Trucker with CB radio

The educators I follow on Twitter are like a never-ending source of inspiration, ideas, and innovations. However, the conversations are somewhat truncated because of the confinements of 140 characters. I like the boundary, but sometimes I have a bit more to say, or to reflect. This is one of those times.

The topic is plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined by willfully and intentionally “stealing” another’s creative/original ideas, works, products, or concepts. Sometimes it’s unintentional, though, but ignorance of the law is, unfortunately, no excuse.

But teaching these concepts isn’t really working in our communicative, idea-rich world. Ideas, conversations, and concepts fly around like oxygen molecules. I have noticed my students copy/paste without thought, compunction, or ill-intent. Seriously — they do not ‘get it.’ It’s like leaving a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen counter and forgetting to put a sign that says “don’t eat.” I don’t think my population of students is copying/pasting with malice–but they do need some instruction and direction.

compunction |kəmˈpə ng (k) sh ən|noun [usu. with negative ]a feeling of guilt or moral scruple that follows the doing of something bad : spend the money without compunction. See note at qualm .a pricking of the conscience : he had no compunction about behavingblasphemously.DERIVATIVEScompunctionless adjectivecompunctious |- sh əs| |kəmˈpəŋ(k)ʃəs| |-ʃəs| adjectivecompunctiously |- sh əslē| |kəmˈpəŋ(k)ʃəsli| |-ʃəsli| adverbORIGIN Middle English : from Old French componction, fromecclesiastical Latin compunctio(n-), from Latin compungere ‘prick sharply,’ from com- (expressing intensive force) + pungere to prick.’

Here’s what I think is happening:

  • There is so much to teach. The majority of 13/14 year-olds I teach are behind considerably in background knowledge in simply how “academia” works: I remember clearly slaving away over index cards with encyclopedias, informational texts, getting every citation perfect, making sure how to quote passages properly, and giving credit where credit was due. This was in fourth grade. Many of my eighth grade students can’t define “citation, resource, or reference.” (We speed through too much too fast out of necessity, playing educational “catch up” and trying to float all boats by flooding the river…)
  • Working with index cards, pencils, and paper slowed down the thinking process for me; there was time to read, re-read for importance, determine importance, and process–and most importantly: SYNTHESIZE the information. No wonder why students copy/paste innocently: they really think they have done the ‘work.’ I would estimate 40% of my time with students during one-to-one discussion/conferencing is spent re-reading their copy/pasted work back to them and asking them if they understand it. The answer is inevitably ‘no.’
  • In instruction, there are two primary, fundamental, over-arching reading instructional goals for my students:
  1. Help them develop the critical thinking ‘filters’ that help them read with deep meaning and connection.
  2. Help them find their own path to original thinking/creativity. Once they discover that the originality is their inherent human right–there is only one of them in the entire world, then perhaps they will not only find confidence and joy, but value the originality in others, too. Do unto others, folks.

Having spent my adult life in pursuits of creativity, alongside my husband, we value our works, and I honor those of others, too. I think it’s really important to teach every generation about ideas, and create a culture of sharing ideas that incorporate a nod or tip of the hat to others. Twitter does this, Facebook, too; the protocol for acknowledging someone else’s tweet or post is the ubiquitous “@” symbol. And though this symbol is king of the universe now (sorry ampersand; you’re Miss Congeniality in the Punctuation Pageant), we cannot but help bow to its reign. Which brings me to my next idea: although I do think we all need to be very intentional, honest, and direct in our teaching of why plagiarism is not okay, and in fact, seeking the way through material is supremely beneficial, I do think we need to redo the citation/bibliography style guides to be more streamlined. Maybe not as easy as “RT” or “@,” but something to clear that obstacle off the information highway.

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Lost at sea.

Paradise Island, Bahamas

There are pirates on the Caribbean, and they wear mouse ears.

Wait. That’s not the tone I want to set for this post. My family and I were the recipients of an amazing gift from my uncle. He arranged for a large family reunion that had something for everyone, from the oldest to youngest. The trip included Disney World in Orlando, Florida, to a 4 day cruise to Nassau, Bahamas, and Castaway Cay, a Disney Corp. owned island. Yes. Disney owns AN ISLAND.

There were so many bright spots of this amazing trip. It was daily life but expanded, telescoped wider, bigger, and with more food.

Here are my questions:

Why is the sea different colors in different parts of the world? I know reflective skies are part of it, but that can’t explain why it was sapphire blue in some areas, and turquoise in others.

When stingrays are kept captive, do they go crazy?

If Disney ran the U.S. economy, would we truly run the world?

Here are some things I learned:

Cruise ship workers work seven days a week, sometimes up to 13-16 hour days, for six months straight at a time. They are from all over the world. I heard Jamaican, South African, Croatian, Serbian, British, Indian, Japanese, Czech, Chilean, Uruguayan Botswanian, and American English.

Stingrays are smart. They know how to avoid the sloppy tourists who are trying to pet and feed them. They know when feeding time is, and circle like shadowy sea stalkers, routed by the promise of regular meals.

Crying children reach a pitch that reach one’s back molars. And I learned how grateful those crying children were NOT MINE (this time).

It’s tough to keep track of older children on a very big ship, and the ship grows proportionally larger depending on the time of night out in the middle of the ocean. (And that’s all I’m going to say about that.)

I also learned that I’m not “that person.” I’m not the person who can run on the beach with sugar-sand covered bare feet, enjoying the extreme heat, humidity, and humanity. I wanted to be at one point in my life, but I think that ship has sailed.

I loved seeing a new part of the world.

I learned I feel bad when other people are around me working harder than I do. (And teacher friends, you do NOT work harder than a server on a cruise ship. You don’t. I don’t. They make minimum wage at best, and the ship isn’t registered in U.S., so the cruise ship owners do not have to obey any U.S. labor laws. The workers depend largely on tips, which are often built into the cost of passage.) The workers I encountered always had a smile (except for the Botswana pizza lady–she was grumpy), and a friendly word.

One of the best stories I heard was from a Jamaican woman. She has a family back in Jamaica. She recounted when she and her siblings were little, and there wasn’t enough to eat, she would catch buckets of crayfish from the river and shake the trees for fresh almonds.

Take that anecdote how you will.

I thought about many of my students who “shake the 7-11 tree” for poisonous blue Mountain Dew and Cheetos for their breakfasts.

Strange: I still feel like I’m on the boat, and haven’t found my land-legs back. Things will stabilize soon, and the seas will change. I’m on my way home to the muddy green waters of the Northwest, where the rocky shores do not invite the casual beachcomber. Our beaches beckon miniature scientists: we go to the tide pools for field trips. But we don’t go enough, and we don’t go far enough. I want to take my classroom on the road. I want to give my children and students more experiences. Heck, the directions for getting off the boat in case of an emergency were reason to learn to read alone. (Aside from a very poor font choice, they were so confusing. Glad we had a drill! Talk about hands-on kinetic learning!)

Anyone else out there want to come aboard? Anyone else interested in seeing how far we can take our students by sharing our local cultures, languages, and ideas? Come on, PLN, whaddya say?