Thursday, January 17, 2013

Today's Readings

What started as a list of my readings from last Friday (which was a snow day) has turned into this blog entry - albeit five days later.  That's what two kids home will do to a person.

It's tough to get anything productive done.  Just about the time I really get invested in an article, Cash needs his diaper changed.  Or when I get part way through a lesson plan, Kenz wants to snuggle.

But if I try to devote my morning to them, all they want to do is watch Scooby or play independently.

Such is life.  I'm blessed either way.

Here are the readings I've been intrigued by over the past couple of weeks.

College Comp 2 students have been busy presenting their chapters from Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From.  The final one is on "Exaptation," which is an evolutionary theory term where some creatures, such as dinosaurs, make the most of out characteristics or traits that don't serve their original purpose.  For example, some dinosaurs didn't use feather for flight.  Instead, they used them for warmth.

Johnson also uses the printing press as an example.  One key feature of the printing press is how Gutenberg took an idea of the "press" process from a wine press and repurposed it to fit his printing press.

However, this post makes it clear that it wasn't quite as simple as that.  And this shows us truly just how impressive Gutenberg's creation was.  No wonder Martin Luther called it "God's highest act of grace."


A colleague sent me this one.  It's called "Is America an Idiocracy?"

And I can't wait to discuss this early on in College Comp 2.  The first book we read in there is Mark Bauerlein's The Dumbest Generation, which makes the same claims as the article above (the author actually quotes Bauerlein in it).  I am hoping to even invite the colleague in to discuss with us.

What's the truth?  Well, I don't totally agree with the either this article or Bauerlein.  Nor do I totally side with those that would argue this is the greatest generation (such as Neil Howe or Don Tapscott).

Instead, I think the truth lies somewhere right in the middle of these.

That is the millennials are not idiots.  Nor are the innate geniuses.

I agree that much of reality TV is stupid and moronic even.  However, I think it's wrong to assume the millennials or Gen Z are the target audience.  I know many Gen Xers who watch such shows as Honey Boo Boo, The Real Housewives, and Jersey Shore.

So I don't but that.

One claim that I do buy, though, is that the younger generations don't take advantage enough of the amazing cultural resources around them: museums, plays, libraries, and so on.

That scares me.  Too many times they are just too interested in the tiny little smart phone nestled in their hands (though, to be fair, I know many of my generation (me included) who are even worse than the kids - you know who you are.  Don't deny it!).

I also worry about this generation's ability to concentrate for long periods of time.  And I have to admit, that I've fallen victim to social media here too.  Even while typing this blog post, I have checked my phone several times and tweeted and so on.

But is American an Idiocracy.  I'd argue that it's always been one.

If you think Honey Boo Boo is bad, ever watch an episode of Three's Company?  And Three's Company was one of the prime time shows of the 1970's!  How many times can a show keep playing on the same plot twist of a misunderstanding?

And don't even get me going on The Newlywed Game.   On one episode a young man didn't know what a "decade" was.  Now some on Jay Leno's 'Jaywalking" episodes may not either, but the worst you can say is that we're no better . . . despite the advances in technology and so on.  And that is a cause for alarm.


I love this.

Don't use 2.0 technology in a 1.0 way

The main point here is that 1.0 tech is simply browsing the internet for information.  There is no real interaction (uploading or downloading or sharing) going on.

That just doesn't cut it anymore.  Why not create a blog and have a student share it?  They could share it with family members (always a good idea since they can not only see her progress in school but also see what they are doing in your class) and experts in the field (university professors, local merchants or experts).  Then the students get real world feedback.

That's the power of 2.0 technology in a flat world.  Just like this student's blog, Never Seconds, which has now raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for food shelves.


And given the power of 2.0 technology, is this even a question anymore?  Not if you're an educator.


Speaking of 2.0 technology -

Here are 25 Signs You Might be a 21st Century Teacher.

How do you rank?

  1. You think of clouds as good things.
  2. You check twitter for news. And only twitter.
  3. The blogosphere is more relevant a term than the stratosphere.
  4. You spent more this year on iPad peripherals than you have pencils and pens.
  5. You giggle when you recall how you used to simply give tests at the end of a unit.
  6. You hate Wikipedia.
  7. You begged your school accountant for an iTunes card instead of your annual classroom fund.
  8. Have actually used the phrase “digital citizenship” in a sentence with a straight face.
  9. You’re in major trouble if the internet goes down during a lesson.
  10. You love YouTube.
  11. You forgot what chalk does to your skin.
  12. Flipping the classroom is an instructional strategy rather than a method of classroom management.
  13. Your students facebook friend request you, and won’t take the hint.
  14. Your district has a more transparent facebook policy than they do on assessment or curriculum mapping.
  15. You text other teachers during meetings.
  16. You think school should be out on Steve Jobs’ birthday.
  17. You trade rooms with another teacher for a better Wi-Fi signal—and don’t tell them why.
  18. You’ve texted during class, but have taken a student’s phone for doing the same.
  19. You plan lessons assuming that every student has Wi-Fi broadband access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  20. Students blame passwords and log-in issues rather than the dog for eating their homework.
  21. Your students have to explain certain technologies to you, but you pretend you already knew.
  22. Your computer clock replaced the clock on the wall.
  23. You seriously consider that if it’s not being talked about on twitter, it may not have happened.
  24. You’ve spoken more recently with the tech leader in Mumbai than the new 10thgrade Math teacher down the hall.
  25. You always truly believe there’s an app for that.


The MAN, Sir Ken, on the importance of fostering creativity in education.


Highlighting is a waste of time?  Sure, now they tell me this after miles and miles of highlighted notes throughout college.

Instead of taking notes and high lighting, here are more effective strategies;

1.  Strategic study sessions.  Forget the all-night cram sessions.  Humans retain little knowledge that way.  Study in short, strategic bursts.  The more often you schedule study sessions (say Monday, Wednesday, and Friday prior to a test), the more you will retain (for a longer period of time).

2.  Practice testing.  This is anathema at the high school level.  I mean it's more work for the teacher.  But it has been shown to be vital.  Believe it or not (and I found this hard to believe at first), but flashcards are a great way to practice test information.


I love this.  A Pinterest Cheat Sheet.

The more I use Pinterest for education (inspirational phrases, stockpile useful blogs and resources, books I love, samples of concepts for class, documentation of student projects), the more I find it absolutely vital.


Great teachers are great learners.

This is so blatantly obvious to me, yet how many of us actually are active learners?  How many of us tune out at staff development days or - gasp - read the paper during guest speakers?


If you ever use documentaries in your class (I've used Food Inc. on occasion.  And I would love to find room to fit Helvetica, Ad & Copy, Waiting for Superman, and The Examined Life), here is a list of some of the best recent ones (I particular like American Scream).

Here is the trailer for American Scream.  Don't tell me that it doesn't sound entertaining!

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