Saturday, April 30, 2016

Crossing platforms 'cause I need more characters

Under the auspices of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and #ETCoaches, I'm dabbling in a slow-chat book study of Effective Digital Environments by Jo Williamson. Something I read yesterday has been bugging me enough to prompt me to write more than a tweet. Here's the passage from page 101:
Technology coaches must understand that adults are already expert learners and want their existing professional knowledge and expertise to be valued. Typically, adults prefer self-directed learning and topics directly related to their work. Generally, adults learn better from actively constructing knowledge through solving problems or by producing practical products with peers.
Since reading that, I've been having a hard time separating adult learning theory from some larger pool of learning theories. Don't these words, for instance, encourage tech coaches to do what  many classroom teachers already do? Aren't the bits about adult learners true for any age group? Aren't embracing self direction, craving relevance, problem-solving, and making useful stuff (often through teamwork) coins of the realm for learner efficacy, regardless of age? Adults can't lay sole claim to this expertise, nor should they.

What the passage implies as a need for tech coaches to focus differently to serve their audience, feels to me more like learning business as usual. Not all adults are expert learners, and not all expert learners are adults.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Poem Formerly Known as Clerhiew about the Artist Formerly Known as Prince

The first musical experience I can recall with the legendary Prince
was oddly enough, in England, during a foreign-exchange stint.
Some Brits and I wore out a CD of Diamonds and Pearls,
Watched Purple Rain endlessly, until our eyelids curled.

Monday, April 18, 2016

13 Ways of Looking at a Standardized Test

In honor of National Poetry Month
and with apologies to Wallace Stevens

Among 173 days of learning,
The next two
Are given over to state-wide standardized tests.

I have mixed feelings,
Like a desk
Cluttered with forms for three standardized tests.

The standardized test flickered on screen.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A student and a teacher
Are one.
A student and a proctor and a standardized test
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,  
The beauty of assessing  
Or the beauty of reflecting,  
The standardized test loading  
Or just after.

Fluorescent bulbs filled the room  
With garish glare.
The pall of standardized tests  
Hung low, near the floor.
The mood  
On most students' faces
An indecipherable stare.  

O thin men of Pearson,  
Why do you imagine gilded technology?  
Do you not see how standardized tests  
Tangle among the feet  
Of the learners about you?  

I know noble keystrokes  
And lucid, inescapable creativity;  
But I know, too,  
That standardized tests are involved  
In what I know.

When the standardized test flew out of sight,  
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.  

At the sight of standardized tests  
Beaming their blue glow,  
Even bawds of big-data debauchery  
Would cry out sharply.  

Students flung thoughts into servers
Via fiber-optic wifi.  
Once, a fear pierced them,  
In that they mistook
The shadow of their wildest guess  
For the best answer on a standardized test.  

The stomach is grumbling.  
The standardized test must be ending.  

It was evening all afternoon.  
It was snowing  
And it was going to snow.  
The standardized test sat  
In the Internet-nodes.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Slice of reading life

Some readers stick to one book at a time (monogamists?) while others juggle multiple titles (gigolos?). I count myself with the former, but circumstances occasionally conspire to lump me with the latter. This week is one of those occasions.

Just four days ago, finding myself between books, I raided the local library. I came away with a copy of Armada by Ernest Cline. I'd enjoyed his Ready Player One two years ago, and a current student recommended I give Armada a try. I knew I was just getting knee-deep into a book study offered by ISTE, plumbing recently issued standards for ed tech coaches, but the pace and density of that professional text made me feel okay about lining up simultaneous pleasure reading. Two books, I can handle for a while, I thought. That's when a colleague flipped me her copy of Booked, Kwame Alexander's latest sports/verse/realistic-fiction mash up. No way I could delay starting that, right? Sometimes, the reading heart wants what the reading heart wants.

So, here I am now: two chapters into surveying those ISTE standards, 150 pages into Armada (an alien invasion looming), and 40 pages into Booked -- a fitting word to capture the mix of readerly joy and hyperventilation I'm feeling.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Perspectives on perspective

A rolling stone gathers no moss, it's been said. To that old saw, I now add: a writer who doesn't write gathers no topics. I'm both surprised and not surprised by how quickly I've fallen out of the groove gouged during the recently concluded #sol16 story challenge. So, I will reach desperately into English class for slice inspiration. More of a nick, really.

Today, I adapted activity 1 in this lesson from EDSITEment where students write about different points of view using five black-and-white photos of the Statue of Liberty. I next asked my eighth graders to choose a landmark of their own, go visit it virtually, and start two pieces about that location, each from a unique perspective. Sure, I noticed plenty of Eiffel Towers, but there was remarkable breadth, too. Some students returned to places they'd frequented over the recent spring break, reviving happy memories; others used a few clicks to observe spots of which they'd only dreamed before. Class simultaneously visited Ireland, Thailand, Peru, and South Dakota, among other locales.

I never fail to be amazed by the writing grist provided by the Internet's seemingly ceaseless digital mill. I can also still fret about how much this relatively easy access to imagery may atrophy writers' own imaginative powers over time. (Clouds have silver linings, but the converse is equally true.) Changing perspective, I hope, will always powerfully jolt my students' creative juices.