Monday, November 28, 2016


I live near a library and enjoy grazing the shelves in search of serendipitous reading opportunities. This M.O. led to me spending Thanksgiving with George Plimpton's Paper Lion, a literary journalistic account of the author's try-out with the NFL's Detroit Lions in 1963. (The book was reissued this year with other Plimpton titles.)

A passage I came across today on page 230 provided grist for blogging -- not to mention my first foray into the nascent world of #booksnaps. Here it is:

(Fret not, book protectors, I didn't mark up the library's copy; that's all digital post-production.) Plimpton writes these paragraphs as scene setters. He's about to take the field, following weeks of practice, to quarterback five actual plays in a Lions scrimmage in Pontiac, Michigan.

Reading this, my teaching sensibilities tingle. It's the precise feeling I want my students to kindle in themselves. Even as they harbor doubts, I crave for them to feel like great readers and writers: looking and acting those parts; committing to their preparation; faking it (if they must) en route to making it; belonging, ultimately.

For his part, the author of Paper Lion makes an inauspicious gridiron debut (-29 yards of offense in just five plays). He does, though, learn plenty about himself and stretch beyond any conceivable comfort zone. That's a Plimptonic ideal to which my students and I ought to aspire, I figure.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Multi-level marketing, Madoff, & me

Turns out I can and can't put a price on good health. Over the past nine months, I've had a close-up view of medical care that -- knock on wood! -- I've largely been spared to this point in my life. I'm now doing some accounting at (what I hope to be) the end of this process; or at least the end of this particular knee-ligament reconstruction. Here are the ledger's broad strokes as I've gleaned them...

Since March, my employer has paid $4,608 in insurance premiums. I've been responsible, meanwhile, for $3,357.03 in co-pays and co-insurance. A digital deluge of explanations of benefits has kindly reminded me that, without insurance coverage, all this recent medical attention would've set me back $35,707.11. The insurance folks also let me know their negotiated share of the bills has been $7,685.65 -- effectively, $3,077.65 if we subtract my employer's premium-based contributions.

Bottom line: I should visit the HR office and thank my employer. It's been purchasing my health insurance for over a decade in which I've minimally tapped those contributions for preventive care. Which leaves me wondering: What, if anything, separates this system from a pyramid scheme? Is it the group buying power that negotiated down the full-tilt costs?

Monday, November 14, 2016


Look, up in the sky,
is it a bird, a plane?
It's SuperMoon.

Moon among moons,
Moon about town,
Moon of the hour
(or of the past 68 years).

Big moon on campus.
A moon of few words,
yet a moon of the world.

Renaissance moon,
iron moon,
boss moon,
main moon,
marked moon.

Low moon on the totem pole?
Can't keep a good moon down!

a self-made moon,
a moon of means.
Odd moon out,
a one-moon show.

Monday, November 7, 2016

9+ slices from EdTechTeam Colorado Summit

Google for Education may be going through an identity crisis: Exit apps and GAFE, in with Suite, and subsequent hashtag scrambling. But that doesn't mean the past weekend's Colorado Summit wasn't stuffed with learning. Here are some bits and links I took away...
  • Notion #1: The latest and greatest technology we've used today is probably the worst version that a five-year-old growing up today may ever see. Notion #2: Grades are a false endpoint in a world of continuous iteration, and they undermine critical thinking. Thanks for the insights, Jamie Casap. Both ideas have implications for the present and future of learning.
  • Google Feud offered addictive play based on search results. Thanks, Sandra Chow.
  • Sandra also encouraged me to re-see GSlides as a collaborative platform for differentiating tasks for students, not just for presentations.
  • My mind reeled -- literally and figuratively -- when taking in 360° videos or visuals. See YouTube or the New York Times for examples. Thanks, Micah Shippee.
  • BadgeU, a GSheets add-on, may just bring DIY credentialing within reach for me and reluctant independent readers with whom I work. Thanks, Dan Sharpe.
  • Dan also tipped off the demo slam audience to GIFit!, an extension for clipping GIFs from YouTube videos.
  • In my brain, I'm still turning over keynote comment that each person in the audience was the oldest we've ever been and the youngest we'll ever be. What might that mean for me? Do those words belong on a fortune cookie, or do they have more staying power? Thanks for the provocation, Molly Schroeder.
  • Folks like Julie Stewart are implementing creative changes at the classroom level, re-imagining learning spaces, while folks like Brendan Brennan are spreading far-reaching moonshot ideas for the whole education system. Our field and our future are dynamic.
  • The advancing armies of Bitmoji'd or Androidify'd avatars made my hand-made caricature self quake in his digital boots.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cut & slice

The woman cutting my hair yesterday asked me, "What do you do?"

"I teach middle-school students English," I said.

She gave me a familiar look in the mirror, blending her rueful smile with an eye roll. It said both, "God bless you" and "You're crazy."

She went on. "I remember my English classes. They were my A classes. Except for one. In high school, I chose a class on 15th century English. It sounded interesting. That teacher gave tests every Friday, and I just couldn't pass them. I showed up every day, though. I think the teacher ended up giving me a C because of my effort."

Minutes later, I left this exchange, the outside of my head newly shorn, the inside roiling. I'd guess a generation or two of living separates my students from the woman who cut my hair. Yet talk of grades -- rarely learning -- still tends to dominate the day where I work. What about the future I imagine where my students have very different recollections of school? That's going to require some serious counter-programming...