Monthly Archives: August 2018

Television Worth Watching

I don’t watch a lot of television whether live or through a streaming service. Much of my news and entertainment comes via PBS.

But, I discovered I had a Hulu account as I was poking around, I found the first few episodes of NBC’s nod to Makerspaces called Making It. Executive producer Amy Poehler and sidekick Nick Offerman host professional makers for weekly challenges.  Two judges–Etsy’s Dayna Isom Johnson and Barney’s Simon Doonan–make decisions about winners and losers.

Some of the projects are more crafting than making but there is lots of critical and creative thinking going on. The judges look for the unusual and innovative and are quick to point out when something has been done before.

I recommended the show to my students and managed to catch it “live” at its regularly scheduled broadcast time on Tuesday night. It was a great way to wind down from my exhuberant class.

What I Teach Face to Face

My School Technology class met last evening for the first night. I joined 14 practicing educators who have chosen to pursue advanced degrees and principal certifications at a university in Richmond. They come from surrounding divisions including urban, suburban and rural schools. One class member works at a correctional institution.

My course is a bit free wheeling as I want to make sure students have time to explore and experiment with technology while considering its potential uses to support student learning.

Last night, we spent time playing with Merge cubes. I had collected enough of them during the $1 frenzy earlier this year that I was able to give one to each student. All of them quickly followed the simple instructions to download the app and get up and running. But soon, one of them wondered aloud, “How is this educational?” Discussion ensued even as they continued to interact with the cubes. I’m sorry I didn’t grab some video! But one student went home and posted some after class  as his second Twitter post ever!

I teach online and enjoy the convenience but you can’t have the kind of experience we did last night where everyone explores in real time, sharing, helping, laughing.

I am really looking forward to the rest of the semester!

What Comes Easily to You?

I am just a few hours away from teaching the first class of the semester. I have a limited number of face to face sessions so I think this first class is even more critical than in a K-12 classroom. Every moment together counts.

Katie Martin’s pic of six questions to ask your students showed up in my Twitter feed. I followed the link to her blog post about four ways to create a learner-centered classroom. Both are worth a look. I completely agree with her that reviewing the rules or the syllabus are important but should not be the first thing a teacher does no matter the grade level. When I taught middle school, we started working on the first day and I either wove the rules in as part of our activities or spent some time with the students creating classroom rules and norms together. I wanted the message to be that this was an interactive class where we worked hard, played hard, and learned hard.

The goal of Martin’s six questions are to help teachers build relationships with their students. They are reasonable questions that would certainly help a teacher personalize classroom learning for students.

But, I did wonder about one of the questions: What comes easily to you? This is a potentially powerful question. But as with all things: it is all in what we do with. If the answer is used to customize activities so Suzie always gets to write and Billy always gets to draw because it comes easily to them, I think we could be taking student choice too far.

Given a choice in how to respond, I’m probably going to choose the way that comes easiest to me, in my case by writing text. In fact, publishing my little sketchnote/infographics and committing to public writing has been my way of moving away from what comes easily and pushing myself outside the proverbial comfort zone.  (I probably add 750 words a day to my journal…writing isn’t the problem for me, publishing is.)

I shared my course outline with some colleagues and at least one pushed back on requiring a “TED style talk” to present the work from their passion project. Wouldn’t some people be uncomfortable doing that, he asked. Yes, I’m sure they will, and I might tone down the “TED talk” rhetoric so it eases the pressure a bit, but the students WILL do a stand up presentation about their semester-long project. They are going to become school administrators and education leaders, and they need to get comfortable presenting ideas in front of groups of stakeholders.

We do lots of things that make people uncomfortable in my class at one point or another, from coding to recording videos of ourselves to solving challenges. For some people, just taking a course called School Technology causes anxiety. I combat that by being as supportive and reassuring as I can that while they will be expected to try out tools, failure will not affect their grades. (I don’t grade anyway really but that’s a whole other blog post.)

I am offering lots of choices this semester: from pursuing your passion to choosing from various tools to “writing” to your blog using a variety of media. But, I also am planning whole group activities around topics and tools, and I will expect participation from every student to some degree.

I think we should use the answer to the question of what comes easily to a student as a foundation for supporting them and a springboard for pushing them beyond the walls created by their preferences. I am a huge fan of Seymour Papert’s idea of hard fun where learning is challenging, but we find satisfaction in that challenge. He comments:

My whole career in education has been devoted to finding kinds of work that will harness the passion of the learner to the hard work needed to master difficult material and acquire habits of self-discipline. But it is not easy to find the right language to explain how I think I am different from the “touchy feely … make it fun make it easy” approaches to education.

My class is not easy in many ways and does require students to do more than a typical textbook, lecture, discussion kind of graduate class. You will get metaphorically dirty in this class but if you’re willing to try out things that may be difficult for you, I can promise you hard fun.


Blog Challenge Update:

Bad news: I had just turned out the light and plumped the pillow last night when I realized I had not posted a blog entry. I made a futile attempt to see if I could do it from my phone if only to keep the very short streak going but gave up pretty quickly and went to sleep. And slept soundly so clearly wasn’t too upset about missing.

Good news: In an effort to be more public about my blogging (honestly, I could probably write away here for months without anyone knowing), I shared my 10,000 Steps post on Facebook and got some nice feedback.

 

First Day of School Visual Agenda

My first class for School Technology is Tuesday night. I always feel a lot of pressure that night: I need to address lots of differing objectives, including making sure they can connect to wifi, login in to the course site and create a blog post using text and images (something they need to be able do before the next class), while introducing them to the big picture ideas and questions around educational technology. I’m working through the agenda and did a visual draft ala Linda Barry’s Syllabus:

Class Agenda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just did this with a regular pen and then tried to do a fancier, full color version but the pressure to make it perfect proved too much for me. I know many sketchnoters use a digital tool so I may start exploring, although I love the feel of pen on paper.