Monday, November 16, 2009

Social networking as a form of class discussion?

Recently wrote a post on the Global Learner blog around Purdue University's "Hotseat" program, a form of social networking as a means of class discussion. There is some very interesting potential here, if implemented correctly, for real-time student collaboration and opportunity to work with and assist in teaching one another. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this... anyone use anything like this?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hello from October!


Lots happening these days, and not anywhere near enough time.

There are plenty of silver linings amongst the storm clouds of life lately. Recently I received my first ever invitation to a Quinceanera! I'm super excited about it, and I've asked a few of my male students who have been to one to help me out with what I need to know and do so I don't make a complete fool of myself. I have always enjoyed taking part in others' cultural experiences; I can't wait to see what a Quinceanera is like. I'm sincerely honored to be asked.

Not too long ago, I attended a talk and book signing by Anyen Rinpoche who was there promoting his new book, Momentary Buddhahood. I really enjoyed hearing him speak, and I was given quite a bit to think about. I took a few moments to browse the store afterwards (of course), and happily came across Brom's new book, The Child Thief. It now sits on my bookshelf, waiting to be read once I finish Kristin Cashore's Graceling.

Slowly but surely, my students are grasping the use of, and acclimating to, the various technology tools I use in my classes. They've realized that Edmodo is one of my favorite tools for getting them information, including notes. When a student is out and comes back, my stock response is "Check your Edmodo account" when I'm asked for notes. I've gotten into the habit of turning my class notes, Power Points, and so forth into pdf files and then firing the pdf file out on Edmodo. I've generally preferred the conversion to pdf since not every student has Microsoft Word, Power Point, etc at home, yet Acrobat Reader is free; thanks to pdf995, I didn't have to spring the mega-bucks for Adobe Acrobat, thank goodness. Blogging, using Google docs, even taking notes electronically is rapidly becoming routine in my classes. I actually just a few minutes ago read a post on Twitter by a teacher in British Columbia who is sick at home yet ran his classes online. Now THAT is just amazingly cool.

Earlier, I came across the SmithTeens Six-Word Memoirs site and used it with my freshmen classes, who are in the process of writing their own memoirs. I used the site to help them develop their thesis for their memoirs, which proved to be pretty effective. For those who were looking for a greater challenge, I had them use Squeaker, which reduced their thesis statements to 14 characters. They weren't required to actually post anything to either site, but they did compose their posts on the sites so they could "play by the rules." Both were great (and fun) mini lessons in the importance of word choice and even punctuation.

Hmmm.... oh yes!! Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back to the world of technology!

After various delays, I was able to get my students back online today, much to our collective excitement. My sophomore classes participated in a live blog with the other sophomore-level classes in a conversation in reaction to an essay by Richard Rodriguez. It was quite an experience to have roughly 80-100 students participating in a Coveritlive conversation at the same time. Fortunately, the other teachers in their classrooms were able to help me manage the discussion, so I wasn't too overwhelmed (for the most part).

Live blogging has several useful components to it. While it is true that spelling and syntactical errors appear, as does text message spelling, the writing itself is raw and unedited, and for some, more real. The level of engagement goes just about through the roof since the students are involved in conversations in a medium in which they (mostly) feel comfortable. One student remarked that he wished they could live blog every day because he was enjoying it and learning quite a lot.

For second language learners, live blogging enables them to participate in the conversation at their own pace and rhythm. Being able to scroll up and down the screen to review others' postings and comment on previous observations opens the doors for them in a manner in which traditional classroom conversations may not enable. This also holds true for students that are generally shy and even for those who process information more slowly. In many ways, live blogging is one of the more valuable classroom tools that I possess.

The next cool thing I'm working on is an author event with Kristin Cashore, hosted by the Boulder Bookstore and the bookclub, which I'm starting back up next week. I'm taking the year off from the climbing program simply due to time constraints; fortunately the bookclub isn't quite as time intensive.

Things are starting to settle in to (more or less of) a routine for me, which is always nice. Helps when I know what to expect on a day to day basis for sure.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Here we go!

Another year has started! This makes year #22 for me, which is still weird when I think about it. This is the first year in new building, and aside from pretty sketchy wifi, it's been really exciting to be in it at last. It's also our first year in Academies and with a new dress code, both of which seem to be going decently well, at least in the I.B. Academy, anyway. We even made the news, which was kind of neat. I was particularly pleased that I didn't walk into the lcd monitor or trip over anything while on camera, so I'm taking that as a good omen for the year. (ha ha!)

This week was a hectic week for my students. On Monday we took a reading inventory so I would have a decent sense of where my students' reading levels were, then spent Tuesday giving a basic IB1o1 to my students. Yesterday and today we were in the library getting familiar with some of the various tools we'll be using this year: the class webpage, the class blogs, our class and Academy Ning pages, Edmodo, and Coveritlive. My goal was to address some ISTE NETS standards this week, so I focused on collaborative and communication tools.

The only real disappointments came when I received some emails this week that essentially asked me to set aside what I had planned in favor of someone else's agenda; particularly aggravating when those other people don't even deal with my students on a day to day basis. I am certainly flexible and willing to roll with changes, but when those changes are essentially dropped in my lap and the message (intended or otherwise) is "Yes, thank you for planning out your lessons so carefully, but we need you to do THIS right now," I tend to react negatively. A little heads up would be nice. Ah, well. Such is the nature of education sometimes, regardless of how frustrating it is.

Still and all, a good week and an auspicious start!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The reality is even better than the idea

Tonight's dessert: grilled peaches a la mode with Bhakti Chai chip ice cream and fresh, homemade whipped cream. Tastes even better than it sounds. Wow.

Tomorrow is the final day of Global Learners training. I'm really excited about the new group of Global Learners. They are really enthusiastic about the program and all they are learning, even if they are a little overwhelmed right now, much like I was a year ago.

One week from today is Freshman Day. Wow. I'm looking forward to it, though. Yes, the year will be replete with its bumps and bruises, but I do think it will be a good year anyway.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's over... new beginnings

The summer is over for me now. I attended part of new teacher induction today, and tomorrow I will be back full time with Global Learners training. This was a really intense summer for me, so I'm not sad that it has come to an end. Added to that is the opening of the brand new, beautiful and exciting high school building, with all four Academies in place and ready to go. While I'm taking a break from the climbing program this year, my plate will not be empty. (The program needs to be reset due to the demise of the Denver Climbing League and Paradise Rock Gym, so the students and I are going to take some time to figure out what that will look like for the 2010-2011 school year and beyond.) Instead, this year I will have two mentees in Global Learners, a student teacher until December break, a few senior adoptees to get ready for graduation, and as senior class sponsor, I have graduation to help out with. The only extracurricular I have planned for this year will be the book club, though there are a few teachers and I who want to put together a triathlon event for the spring. In addition, with the authorization of the full IB program, we have to get that up and running as well. Like I said, my plate will still be decently full.

Last night I attended a book signing and teaching with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, author of The Joy of Living and Joyful Wisdom. I've been to a few such teachings/book signings, two with Tibetan writers/teachers (this is my second of such). The event was both entertaining as well as educational: I learned a great deal, and took quite a lot home for me to sort through. It was a really nice way for me to end my summer and to begin a new year. I'm looking forward to it now more than I was before.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Almost over and more farmers' market fun

Had my first pre-new school year meetings today; more next week, and then I'm back full time... my summer is nearly over. It's been "interesting" this summer, and so in some ways, I'm not entirely heartbroken to be going back. Not only that, but with a new high school building and the IB Academy about to be officially launched, I'm actually pretty excited.

This past week I picked up some goat meat at the farmers' market. That's right... goat meat. Tonight's menu was grilled goat ribs rubbed with fresh garlic and fresh rosemary, grilled corn on the cob, and purple potatoes mashed with parmesan cheese and tarragon. Yum! I'd had goat before, but my son hadn't... he liked it. The goat, corn, and potatoes all came from the farmers' market, as did the garlic and rosemary; the butter in the potatoes was homemade from local cream. So much tasty goodness!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Funky and fruity

One more reason I shop at my local farmers' market. The first peaches of the season have arrived, and... yeah... they are pretty freaking amazing. I had to stand in line at the market to get the peaches, and since it's been almost a year since I've had a fresh peach, there was no way I wasn't going to have some; you know what? They were totally worth the wait.

The funky green thing next to it is romanesca, introduced to me by Mark from Ollin Farms. It's like brocolli, but tastes a little bit different; I like it a lot.

That's what makes shopping at a farmers' market so much cooler than going to a grocery store. In a grocery store, chances are the produce clerk could tell me about the plant, but not much more. Mark was great; told me what it was, where it orginated, and even who recommended that he grow it this year. He even gave me a sample of it to try (and it was tasty!), which doesn't happen often in a store, either.

The peaches? Yeah, use a napkin. The odd weather this spring has definitely helped make this year's crop some of the sweetest, juiciest peaches I've ever had. Ever. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I lived in Georgia for 6 months a while back, and a Georgia peach doesn't come close to a Colorado peach. The farmers' market is open again Saturday! I can't wait!

Biking to Boulder!

Last year I set a goal to ride my bike out to Boulder, and for various reasons, it didn't happen. BUT... this year, it did happen, and it was GREAT. I woke up early as usual, and after taking my pooch for his morning walk, he and I grabbed a bit of breakfast, and I got myself ready to go.

I made it to Boulder about 2 hours later, and first thing I did was head to Spud Brothers for lunch, where I feasted on poutine (a Canadian specialty, and one I used to have back when I lived in New York). Then it was off to The Cup for a Bhakti Chai milkshake and relax a bit more before the ride home.

The ride home, while hot, wasn't quite as bad as I thought it might be. In almost no time, I found myself at Mojo Coffeehouse in Lafayette, where I enjoyed an iced latte. Then it was time to head home.

The day was a bit longer than I had originally planned, but I'm really glad I took my time; I got some great pictures and had fun taking some video while I was at it. The movie below is a little videoblog of my adventure. Enjoy! (Cross posted to Elephant Journal.)


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goodbye, Farrah; Rest well, Michael, thank you for the music




Bits of my childhood died today with the passing of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Charlie's Angels was a show I rarely missed when it was on, and Michael Jackson's music was a constant soundtrack playing in the background of my life. Michael Jackson's music was always there for me: I heard "ABC" and other Jackson 5 songs on Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid; his solo work was what we all danced to in the bars when I was in college; I used the music video for "Thriller" in class to demonstrate the elements of horror fiction... the music of Michael Jackson was just a given in my world. When "Thriller" premiered on MTV (back in the day when they actually played music), all of us knew how transformative that video was. Like him or not, there is no arguing his impact on pop culture and music. And just like that, he's gone. It's a little weird for me to think that when I wake up tomorrow, it will be a world without Michael Jackson in it. He was only six years older than I am; I knew that at some point he would pass, of course, but certainly not at 50 years old. So goodbye, Farrah, and rest well, Michael, be at peace. Thank you. Both of you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Farm dinners = Local food = YUMMY

I attended my first farm dinner last weekend. For those that might not know what that means, it means that I traveled out to a local farm and sat out under the trees and enjoyed a meal that was locally sourced... the veggies and chicken were all grown on the farm, the beef was from Erie, and the meal was straight up amazing. If you'd like to read more about it and check out the slide show of the meal, check out my article about it on Elephant Journal.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jonny Copp in video and in his own words.

"Dirt Days" at NCAR from Alex King & Mito Media on Vimeo.


Here's a great interview with Jonny and Waylon Lewis of Elephant Journal. While I'm at it, here's a link to an article Jonny wrote for Elephant Journal as well.

Here's a link to Coppworks, Jonny's website showcasing his work. I hope you enjoy the interview and his words and are able to get a sense of how amazing my friend was.

A clip from Sharp End: a movie with Jonny and produced by Wade Johnson:

Huge Loss of Wade, Micah and Jonny in Sichuan Mountains China. from renan ozturk on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rest well, Jonny. Ignite is amazing!! Looking ahead.

(Picture from the Boulder Adventure Film Festival website.) Summer's off to a really rough start. Today I found out that my friend, Jonny Copp, was killed in an avalanche while climbing in China. I'd known Jonny since 2004, just before the showing of his movie, Splitter. We'd been good friends since, getting together and talking about everything from rock climbing to teaching to adoption to whatever was on our minds at the time. He possessed a warmth, sincerity and joy that was incredibly infectious and seeing him always brought a smile to my face and heart. I will miss him always.

This time of year is typically my time to look back on the school year and reflect on things I thought went well as well as identify areas of growth for me. I incorporated a great deal of technology in my classes this year, which was falls into both categories. I still have some growing to do and kinks to iron out, but I definitely did a lot more experimentation in my classes than I have in the past. In addition to the technology piece, I did a great deal more group work than I ever have. Typically, I've found group work to be a bit of a management nightmare, especially when working with freshmen, but this year I bit the bullet and pushed myself to let go a little bit and let my students take the lead. I'm glad I did. The live blog collaborative sessions revealed a great deal about my students and their capabilities, and their presentations went quite well.







video Which brings me to my next point. Ignite is an amazing format for student presentations, especially for students who aren't used to doing presentations. The 15 second time frame for each slide really discourages the reading of slides, and sticking to the 20 slide/five minute format definitely ensures that students will reach the time allotted. Sticking to the 15 second per slide format also means that those students who would normally rely on videos to fill time aren't able to, and it keeps the more... verbose... students to a reasonable time frame as well. I will definitely continue to use it, especially for underclassmen. We even got an invitation to join IgniteDenver, which is pretty cool. I plan to check out a few presentations on my own first, then open the door to my students to attend and present at an event. Here's a great blog entry that I'm going to share with my students on how to put together an Ignite presentation.

Other things I will continue to use next year: Google Docs, TurnItIn.com, blogs, podcasting, Google Sites, Ning, Edmodo, CoverItLive, TextTheMob. I want to add: OpenZine, PhotoStory, MovieMaker. I'm sure there's more I'll end up using, especially with the Global Learners' trainings coming up this week and in August. Should be fun!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Last live blog of the year: transitions




Had our last live blog session for the school year. Our topic was the transition from 8th to 9th grade, with the idea that my students would offer their words of wisdom to the incoming freshmen next year. We had a few technical issues here and there, but the day went well over all, with the exception that no eighth grade students actually joined us. The students and I were pretty disappointed about that, but perhaps we can do this again next year and get a better response. The advantage is that the conversation is still there and so can be accessed by the class of 2013 over the summer and next year as well.

The other up side of the day was that students who struggled with live blogging before "got it" this time, and so the level of participation for the students went up quite a bit. When these same students use this next year, it will be a bit less direct instruction I will have to do aside from a review of sorts. Certainly next year will be interesting from a technology standpoint. This is the first year I've used tech as much as I have, and next year I'll have about half of the students up to speed with the other half being brought in. I'm pretty excited about it, and I plan to find and learn how to use as many new tech "toys" as I can over the summer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Global Learner Year One Reflections

The conclusion of my first year as a member of the Global Learners program is rapidly drawing to a close. I can comfortably say that in many ways this has been one of the most exciting years I've had as a teacher in quite a while. Not only did I choose to take on collaboration/group work as a norm of the class, but I integrated technology into my teaching far beyond what I thought I would. (Quote of the day from one of my juniors as he is typing his final: "Mr.... how do you spell 'miracles'?") Ning, Edmodo, Twitter, CoverItLive, YouTube, TextTheMob, Power Point, Google docs, TurnItIn.com, and the like played far more of a role in my classes and in my instruction than I initially believed they could, to the point that they became as much of the classroom culture as a whiteboard or a textbook. There are some that I've introduced my students to but haven't really dug into yet, like RSS feeds (I use them, but haven't spent a lot of classroom time on them yet), podcasting, videocasting, OpenZine, and so forth. I used blogs this year, and will continue those as well. I'm sure there are other educational technologies that I've not even heard of, but will seek out and utilize as much as I can.

On the one hand, it does mean a good bit of extra time and work for me, at least initially, but when schools in other countries are making it a part of their regular curriculum, then it becomes a given that my students need to be made aware of these tools as well; under no circumstances will my students be given the opportunity to be left out of the conversation. There are plenty who disagree and feel that social networking and the like have no place in the classroom; I and many others respectfully disagree. The bottom line is that the technology is here to stay and as educators we can either adapt or be left behind. The tragedy of that is if we choose to become Luddites, we drag our students down with us and so disenable their ability to stay involved and connected to the world that they can, do, and will live in.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Things that are better than they should be

Got this recipe from the Denver Post, and decided tonight was a good time to try it out:
Dangerous Chocolate Mug Cake
1 regular-sized coffee mug
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp chocolate chips (optional, but makes it taste best)
some nuts (optional)
small splash of vanilla
Directions: Add dry ingredients to mug, mix well. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in milk and oil, mix well. Add chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla. Mix again. Microwave for 3 minutes on high. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed. Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. Eat! (Serves two if you want to share.)

The results? Omigosh. As you can see, I made up three cakes (one for K, one for B, and one for me) and served them whipped homemade whipped cream on 'em. Wow. Okay... where is says serves two? Yeah, for sure. These things are rich! They're kind of like a cross between a brownie and cake, and after a few minutes of cooling resemble a brownie more than cake. None of us were able to finish our cakes; they're tasty as heck, but super sweet and rich... go make one, but be warned! (I'll be making them again for sure!)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Set your presentations on fire

My students are preparing to give their presentations on renewable energy and what they have learned from reading Plan B 3.0 and related readings. I've decided that this time around, I'm going to have them use the Ignite format for their presentations. Basically what that means is that they will be given five minutes and 20 slides (that automatically rotate every 15 seconds) to present their ideas. The students are in various stages of pseudo-panic about this: some think five minutes is so long, others say that there is no way they can present in that short a time. I think this format will work really well. I like the structure this promises, and I also think that teaching them to be concise in their delivery will prove invaluable.

I have become pretty hooked on Edmodo. I've started using feeds for some of the groups I've used and I've discovered that when you put in a link to a video, it actually embeds it in the message... very nice! The next pieces of tech I want to master is OpenZine. OpenZine is basically a way to design and publish online magazines. OpenZine definitely represents some cool possibilities for my classes next year; I'm already thinking about the possibilities for class and IB Academy magazines. (Cross posted to the Global Learners blog.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hah! I KNEW it!

I've always loved chocolate; it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I was identified as having ADHD... now maybe I know why my body loves chocolate so much!

Chocolate: A Cure for ADHD?
As the most widely studied childhood disorder, treatments for ADHD come in a very wide spectrum. Research has found that PEA, phenylthelmian, found in chocolate, may provide the euphoric impact needed to alleviate symptoms in ADHD patients.
http://www.associatedcontent.comarticle/43208/chocolate_a_cure_for_adhd.html

And children around the world are rejoicing.... :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Edmodo, Twitter, and Web 2.0

Last week I found out about, and signed my students up for, Edmodo; basically Twitter for teachers and their students. (FYI, I am on Twitter as well... feel free to follow me!) It took me a little while to get the hang of it, but now that I'm catching on, I'm really enjoying it and finding it far more useful than I thought. I can send just about anything to my students and/or to the groups I set up within it. Best of all, it's extraordinarily safe: students need a code just to sign up to use it... very nice.

Along those same lines, students in the UK are now going to be required to be technologically literate by the time they leave the primary grades. The new requirements include the ability to utilize not just basic skills but also skills with social networking, blogging, podcasts, Twitter, and so forth. I'm only vaguely surprised to see these skills being formally incorporated into school curricula; not too long ago we had a rather interesting (read: vaguely heated) conversation around the idea that as English teachers our job had moved from the traditional role to more of that of a communications teacher, and as such, we were to accomplish three tasks: teach our students to read well, communicate effectively, and to think. After the initial eyebrow raising, at least some of my colleagues began to see the logic in this... and then the conversation turned to technology. Why is it so many teachers have such an intensely phobic reaction to the incorporation of technology in the classroom? There are times when I wonder how on earth I was able to get anything done before the advent of the digital age.

And yet, there certainly are risks to the uses and abuses of technology; it's not the panacea to learning as this Irish student was so effectively able to demonstrate. Like anything, technology is a tool, one that we should be using effectively instead of allowing it to use us. It's easy to get lazy about this: I see it in both students and teachers all the time. Using technology effectively takes work; it's not for the faint of heart, yet it is here and as Will Richardson so eloquently put it in this blog entry, it is crucial that our students become fluent in the language and be able to truly communicate their ideas effectively in a variety of mediums (and media). Are the days of reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn over? Hardly. But what is over are the days when we could complacently expect our students to read literature and spit back what we asked them to memorize facts and information on a paper test. It's time for our students to really be able to show us what they've learned and are learning, and it's time for us as professionals to be open to the possibilities.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fate or Freewill?

My epistemology students will be engaging in the classic philosophical conversation of fate vs. freewill today (April 30) at 1:30 Mountain Time (GMT-7):

Are fate and freewill mutually exclusive or can you have some combination of the two?
What is freewill? Does it exist or is it all determined in advance (destiny/fate)?

The link to join us is here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Vision of K-12 Students Today



I don't think I posted this before, but it's a spinoff/variant of the original "Vision of K-12 Students Today" done by the KSU students. It's a GREAT video and very worth watching.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

IB authorization, Farmers Market, live blogs, and audio/video blogs!

videoIt's that time of year again! The first Boulder County Farmers Market was this past Saturday, and I attended of course, in spite of the snow. The turnout was pretty light, for both the farmers and the customers, which was understandable considering that the forecast had called for a huge blizzard. It was great to see the farmers again, many of whom I consider friends of a sort.

Life in the classroom continues to take interesting and cool twists and turns. A student in my epistemology class asked if he could record his blog entries as a podcast and upload them or post the link to the class blog site; it then became an overall discussion, and it was agreed that a 3-5 minute podcast or video would be appropriate for the blog entries. I was impressed with the students' initiative and since oral presentations are a part of the class anyway, it wasn't hard to get me to go along with the idea.

The first live blogging session for the epistemology class is today. Topic: What's wrong with modern man? Should be interesting.

I've rescheduled the live blogging session for my MYP classes. The new date is Thursday, April 16. The times are:
Block 2: 8:30 a.m. -9:15 a.m.
Block 3: 9:30 a.m. -10:20 a.m.
Block 4: 11:15 a.m. -12:05 p.m.
Block 5: 12:20 p.m. - 1:10 p.m.

The topic: Within the realms of food, transportation, and housing, what have you done or what are you doing to lessen your impact on the planet and what goals do you have along those same lines?

The epistemology class will also be live blogging on April 16 at 1:30 p.m. (Mountain Time; GMT-7) for our next live blog. Topic: “In order to find out how things really are, one must understand the filters through which one perceives the world.” Discuss and evaluate this claim. The link for this blog is here.


If you can/want to join us, simply click on the class period to be taken directly to the page.

In other very cool news, the school where I work has been authorized for the IB DP program. That means that we can now offer the full MYP/DP sequence here at the high school, and it means that our district is one of the few in the world to offer the full K-12 IB program. Pretty sweet.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Live blog: What Are You Doing?

On Friday, March 27, my classes will be participating in a live blog session discussing the topic: Within the realms of food, transportation, and housing, what have you done or what are you doing to prevent or slow climate change, especially in the face of peak oil and a diminishing oil supply, and what goals do you have along those same lines?

The times for the sessions are as follows (just click on the class period link to be taken to the blog site):Please note that all times are Mountain Time in the United States (GMT-7):

Block 2: 8:30-9:15 a.m.
Block 3: 9:30-10:20 a.m.
Block 4: 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
Block 5: 12:20-1:10 p.m.

It would be great to have people join us for our discussion!

This blog has been postponed due to a snow day... it will be rescheduled for April 16th.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

From participant to parent

video

On Thursday, I attended Kyle's first swim meet. It's been a long time since I was at a swim meet; 26 years in fact. He definitely shows some real potential, but then again, he's a pretty athletic kid, so I'm not surprised. It was pretty fun being on the parent side of a swim meet. Interesting how things change yet remain the same.

My classes have started working with Plan B 3.0, including a page on Ning to allow for cross-class collaboration. I've never done anything like this before, but I see some real potential for some very cool things to happen, so while I'm a little nervous about how it could turn out (or not), at the same time, I'm more excited about what this represents for my students in general and for me as an educator. I also want to combine this with some live blogging. I got pretty good with it last marking period, so now I want to pilot it out to more of my classes.

In other news, I've been invited to work with on another Elephant Journal event, this time with the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Very, very cool. It's not until May, but I will be starting work on it this week. I'm really excited about it... stay tuned, there's more on that to follow!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Global issues and language, and a dog report

Today was a rather interesting day for me. Today was the first day I've ever had one of my children in my class. At first, I hesitated at the thought, but I think there will be some real advantages to it.

Today I gave my students their cd with Plan B 3.0 on it as well as various pdf files of IB MYP info. We discussed the long term plan for using the book and did a general overview of the course this term. Over dinner my son asked me: "Dad, if we spend all of our time dicussing global issues, when will we learn English stuff?" FANTASTIC!!! A totally appropriate and the perfect question to ask me. At that point we got into a discussion about analyzing the book as a text (Brown's use of language, vocabulary, etc.), but the question showed me that he is thinking about the class material and connecting it to what he knows his needs are as a student and as a person. I was pretty excited about the conversation.

It's been almost three weeks since we got the dog, and I couldn't be happier with the way things are going with him. He's an amazing animal, and I'm glad we made him a part of our lives. My day begins with an early morning walk under the stars; after work we go out and run and play and generally be hyperactive and silly (if you ask me, no one does this enough, regardless of age or pet ownership status), followed by endless hours of generally spoiling him with attention by both my son and me, ending the day with another walk under the stars. Yes, he is an incredibly spoiled dog, and he knows it (and loves it). Kyle's been taking on the responsibility well and helps out quite a lot, which makes my life easier and makes me pretty proud of him in general.

I once mentioned that going out for coffee or tea with a good friend or two was one of the simplest yet most profound pleasures of life... add to that the simple joy and peace found in taking a dog out for a walk (regardless of time of day) and the sheer wonder of having someone intensely happy to see you, even if you've only just gone out to the car to retrieve your coffee mug.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Losar! (Do you know what year it is?)

Today is Tibetan New Year, or Losar. I used the opportunity to discuss the idea that not everyone in the world follows the same timeline, and it made for an interesting discussion. I wore one of the shirts I picked up from Tibet Gallery, which certainly sparked a conversation in and of itself since it's not the typical polo-style staff shirt I usually wear. After that, life got interesting when I informed my students that it was the Earth Ox Year 2136. From there I informed them that according to the Chinese calendar, it is the year 4706; it's 5769 by the Jewish calendar, and for Muslims, it's 1430. That kind of blew their minds a bit and led to a conversation around the B.C./A.D. vs BCE/CE way of marking time, and how we keep track of time in general. It definitely became a good discussion, and I think it helped them to understand, or at least think about, some of the differences that can and do exist between cultures. I also tried to get across the idea that as we become an increasingly global society, we will need to become more sensitive to those differences as well as the similarities, and use them to move the human race forward rather than tear us apart. The concept that not everyone in the world marks their societal calendar by the birth of Jesus Christ was something of a new one for them, and they did not know the difference between BC/AD and BCE/CE. The idea that something as "basic" as a calendar can be so different led them to wondering about other differences that can and do present themselves... I hope.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Education in the 21st Century: Teachers Without Borders


(Teachers Without Borders provided the logo exclusively for educational purposes and is not an endorsement of comments or opinions on site.)

I recently joined Teachers Without Borders (TWB), an organization of teachers committed to enacting global change through education. TWB goes a bit beyond professional networking sites like the Global Education Collaborative and Classroom 2.0 in that Teachers Without Borders offers opportunities for professional development and even mentorship on an international level, and it possesses the ability to identify and support educational leaders who are willing to put the effort in to making a difference. It’s interesting to see the number of organizations that have developed around international collaboration between educators and students. Teachers Without Borders promises to take training and collaboration to a level beyond mere networking. Like Doctors Without Borders, Teachers Without Borders is a nonprofit dedicated to bridging cultural and geographic gaps for the betterment of humankind; unlike Doctors Without Borders, which is a centralized organization, TWB is decentralized and more driven by its members. It’s also one of the few organizations whose focus is the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, and recognizes that teachers are on the front line of world change. Going beyond mere networking, TWB has specific goals and a plan for affecting change through education. (Best part is that membership is free!) For the rest of this entry, please go here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My fuzzy Valentine

Let me start out by saying that I’m a cat person. Now, I have absolutely nothing against dogs at all, but I’ve tended to prefer cats for a pet: quieter, cleaner, more independent. There have been plenty of dogs that I’ve liked and a few that I’ve loved; I even owned a beagle when I was in high school. However, when the subject of getting a pet would come up in my family, I would always say that I intended to get a couple of cats; last year I picked some carrier crates, dishes, litter boxes, and a big-ass tree thing for cats to play on/in, figuring I’d get a couple of felines before 2009 was out. So imagine my surprise when I came home with a dog on Valentine’s Day. The rest of this entry is here. I'll post more about our adventures with him later, including today's "But, Dad... I LIKE squirrels!" discussion. For now, it's time to take him out on another walk.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More implications of technology

The other night I received a text message from an alumni attending one of the state colleges asking me to sign on to my Yahoo Messenger because he needed help with an essay; I let him know that I would do so after dinner. Shortly after I'd finished eating, I signed on and sent him a text telling him that I had gotten online. He joined me a few minutes later, and we began to work on his essay. He would send it to me over Yahoo Messenger, I'd look it over, make my comments, then send it back. We continued like this for some time until I'd gone from my intial 60+ comments and suggestions down to two.

There are a number of ways we could have done this same thing, including Google Docs and so forth, but more importantly was what this represented. Z is about an hour's drive away, so not too long ago, he would have been pretty much on his own when it came to his essay, or at least his access to me would have been all but cut off, especially since I'm a visual learner and need to see it in front of me in order to work on it; additionally, unless he were to read the punctuation marks to me, I'd have no way to assess that unless I saw it.

This only reinforces the importance that the internet and technology in general has gained to both educators and students. An exchange of text messages, then the sending back and forth of an essay with comments added and subtracted from it, and a student is able to access a resource and get help with an essay.

While this may seem like no big deal, at the same time, these changes have occurred within the span of half of my teaching career, which is pretty remarkable, really. It wasn't a problem to help him, though I kept "geeking out" over the ability to work with him as if he was next to me in spite of being an hour away. It brings me back to an observation made by a student in my epistemology class that it wouldn't be long before he might not have to show up to class at all... that it would all eventually be online. And while this is certainly a possibility, at the same time, I hope that it doesn't come to pass; there is too much to be gained from human interaction and too much to be lost by the lack of it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Authors, ethics, and random thoughts

On Monday evening, I had the unique pleasure of meeting Joseph M. Marshall III, author of Walking With Grandfather and The Power of Four (among other works). He did an appearance at the Boulder Bookstore do to a talk and book signing. He was interesting to listen to, and he had a quiet, confident energy about him that lent even more power to his words. One of the many advantages to living in this area is the ability to meet so many people like him.

In other news, I have discovered that leaving a wireless microphone on for several hours is a sure-fire way to absolutely kill the rechargeable battery inside it. Oh, and rechargeable 9-volt batteries are not inexpensive.

I've really been enjoying the live blogging that we've been doing in the epistemology class, but have definitely found that it doesn't work as well when/if others don't log on from anywhere. I still need to work on that; perhaps more lead time to discussions would be good... maybe pick a day of the week to be a regularly scheduled live blog day or something like that. This week (and the next few) should prove interesting... we're going to begin a discussion of ethics. I'm sure that there are several in the class who will have some pretty strong opinions about things along ethical lines; it should be fun, or at least interesting.

I had an interesting conversation with Phil, the owner of Rocky Plains Meat not too long ago. For some time now I've noticed that while the food I've been eating in some ways costs more per pound, I'm eating less of it. That's not to say I'm going hungry at all; in fact, quite the opposite- that the food I'm eating satisfies me sooner due to the higher nutrient content in it since it's both organic and local. Combine that with my more mindful eating habits, and my meals have taken on a much different "feel" to them, and I've suspected that I'm actually saving money rather than spending more. Phil and I talked about that, and he told me about a couple who shop with him as well. The woman of the couple does the budget for their household, and she noticed that they were spending less money and eating less food since they made a similar switch in their diet as to what I have done. Proof at last! Of course, I've since then been talking with people about that concept; that if you really want to save money, then buy and eat local/organic as much as possible. Yeah, I do still cheat a little (e.g. coffee, chocolate, bananas), but I still try to eat seasonally. Bananas are currently in season, for example, so for the next couple of months, I'll be chowing down on bananas. Not only do I feel better and have reduced, if not eliminated, my chances of being subject to food recalls, but I'm actually saving money. Kind of nice, really.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Live blogging improvement

We continued our discussion on the goal of science today, and started an interesting conversation around genetic engineering which led to the use of antibiotics and growth hormones in food (especially meat). In addition to another teacher in the building, we had a former teacher join us as well as one a former student of mine who is now a teacher in Boston. I'm pretty excited since this is exactly what I was hoping to do... branch out beyond the district. I've also joined Classroom 2.0, and I'm hoping that between that and the Global Education Collaborative that I'll be able to start hooking in with other classrooms as well. I think posting it on Facebook and the like helped, and I'm also going to post an invitation on the IB website. I think it's great to be able to reach out like I'm able to. Now I just have to get others to join us!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back at work and back at live blogging

We had another live blogging session in my epistemology class today. The kids have really gotten into it; it's definitely become a part of the classroom culture. Actually, yesterday we had a brief moment of panic when I said we were going to discuss the blog topic but not have an online conversation. The kids misunderstood and thought that I was saying that we weren't going to use coveritlive anymore, and I almost had a mutiny on my hands. Today's conversation was "What is the goal of science?" Before we started the conversation, I asked the students to take out their phones and turn them on. There were a few sheepish looks from the students who already had them on, and general confusion all around. One student looked at me, laughed, and said, "You know they're waiting for the snatch and grab, don't you?" Once the phones were on, I had them send text messages to as many people as they wanted to (preferably not other students), asking those people what they thought the goal of science was. It was pretty amazing... I think many of the students were a bit surprised to be using their cell phones and sending text messages as part of class work, but they certainly weren't complaining. As messages came in, we added them to our class discussion on coveritlive, where John Albright and someone named Angel had joined us.

I love the fact that the students have taken to this so readily and have really become much more active participants in class discussions; it's even bringing out the "wall flowers," especially when they could incorporate text messaging. My only wish now is to get more people participating in the live blog that are not only outside of the building, but outside of the district (and not just through text messaging); I've begun posting the links and notifications on Twitter, Facebook, The Global Education Collaborative, and even MySpace, but we haven't quite gotten the response I've been hoping for, at least not yet. Then again, it's new, so I'm not really discouraged, either... I figure once I make this a more regular thing, I'll get more outside participation.

(Cross posted to the Global Learner blog.)