Two Days at SDCC

August 4, 2016

imageThis July I got to experience Thursday and Friday of San Diego Comic-Con, thanks friends in the awesome crew of usual suspects with whom I’ve been attending scifi and fantasy conventions the past few years. While briefer than I’m used to, the two packed days fed my soul. Unlike past years, I did NOT spend the night in line for epic panels in Hall H or Ballroom 20. Nor did I venture off-site to ticketed shows or fan parties. I didn’t even spend more than an hour in the Exhibit Hall. SDCC is too huge for any one person to describe, but I’m happy with my experience.

The short notice precluded any fancy cosplay, but I did  walk around Friday with Bitty, my fire lizard, perched on my shoulder. We’re pictured at a Punished Props meetup on Friday with professional cosplayers Bill and Brittany Doran. I also brought her back to her home “colony,” (Imaginarium Galleries) where the dragon maker autographed her feet and I sprouted the cat ears in my photo above.

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My favorite panels this year were with artists, from a panel with MAD Magazine icons like Sergio Aragones to the new Betty and Veronica writer/artist Adam Hughes. I could knit while watching them created under the document camera. Also, it was worth waiting an hour or so in line for the Indigo Ballroom to see Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) and Ted Danson promote a new show called “The Good Place” and the cast of “Silicon Valley” just being hilarious. I made a plug for educators’ roles in combating sexism in movies, and the panelists had all teachers in the room raise their hands. No, I can’t go an hour without mentioning my “kids” or finding connections to my curriculum.

Knitting content: just received a new shawl kit in the mail from Craftsy called Drachenfels. It’ll be next up after I finish the baby blanket.

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No Time Like the Present

August 3, 2016


Photo credit: bina.au

Me, again! Not uncommonly, I go through bouts of writing paralysis and writing … prolificness. I found the past school year incredibly demanding and the summer crazy busy, but have decided that writing is too important to me NOT to take out a few minutes at least five days a week to document my thoughts. 

On family:

  • Appreciate each other daily. The health challenges plagueing our elderly parents have forced me and my DH into thinking about our own planning for the future. Perhaps this is TMI (too morbid info) but our Christmas gift to ourselves last year was a funeral plot and prepaid plan that saves a ton of money on an inevitable expense. More importantly, we are more careful of our own health. My Pokemon GO obsession comes just in time to encourage me to walk around more.

On work:

  • I love my job! I’m so lucky to be an educator. My DH and I have a standing bet that I can’t go more than an hour at a time without mentioning “my kids” or considering how something I just learned can be adapted to my classroom. I spent a ton of time as both a presenter and participant in a number of EdTech workshops this summer from CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps and a GAFE Summit in Riverside to a day-long training with Code.org and planning with my grant partner Freya on how we’ll use our 1:1 Chromebooks in our classes next year.
  • Breakout EDU is a fun, fabulous tool to teach and reinforce key skills in future-ready students. THIS ARTICLE emphasizes that automation cannot replace a human’s ability to, among other skills, solve mysteries.

Knitting content: 

  • Op-Art baby blanket. I’m making great progress for the newest niece, Adeline. Hope she won’t be too old to appreciate it by the time I get it delivered!

Two Sides of the Same Coin

May 3, 2016

This image of a spinning coin reveals not only that it’s possible to view both sides of a coin simultaneously, but that it’s lovely. Reading and writing are two sides of the same cognitive coin. Carol Booth Olson’s book,  The Reading/Writing Connection, has helped me teach reading and writing skills hand in hand for years. Similarly, as I pursue my Innovative Educator Certificate with CUE, I realize that Exploring and Sharing are both sides of a different coin called Learning. So, as I explore, expect me to share with my cohort colleagues in social media and in this blog as well as the one I’m creating for my e-portfolio, not just to document my learning but to expand it with the comments of others. I’m already finding that, as I spin and blend the sides, it’s lovely.

New to Moodle

May 2, 2016

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Tonight I had my first experience with Moodle, a 10 year-old technology for online learning. It was great! I’d been scarred early on by a frustrating, glitchy user experience and been wary ever since. But CUE and Fresno Pacific University do it right. We “met” via Blackboard Collaborate and used Today’s Meet as a back channel. All the course materials are on Moodle with links to all things Google Apps. I’m excited about being in the Innovative Educator Certificate program with some awesome teachers and fantastic instructors. Continuing Ed units toward salary credit won’t hurt either.

Why isn’t PBL everywhere now? Or Grandma’s Lasagna

May 1, 2016

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Photo source: sultana.com

My students have had tremendous success with 20% Time Projects aka Genius Hour, a variant of Project-Based Learning. Research has documented the benefits of learning this way and increases in standardized test scores. So why isn’t PBL everywhere now?

This article lays out a sensible description of the barriers and suggests changes. It’s a bit self-serving, but the author’s not wrong. His metaphor of Grandma’s lasagna is perfect. How can you expect people to want to make lasagna from scratch if they’ve never tasted it, much less possess the time or desire to work that hard when no one around them is doing it? PBL is delicious! Share it with your friends. Make your own.

The Opposite of “Play” is Depression

April 30, 2016

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Photo source: sierrasourcemedia.com

Play – its opposite isn’t “work” but “depression.” I heard this in a TED Hour story on  NPR called “How Does Play Shape Our Development?”. Among other findings, Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, learned in his studies of the lives of murderers that they all lacked play in childhood. In interviews of thousands of people to catalog their relationships with play, Brown noted a strong correlation between playful activity and success. Play in both children and adults lights up activity in the frontal lobe, creating connections that help in problem-solving and risk-taking.

I also read a story today that “Science Suggests a Relationship Between Geekiness and Happiness.”  Recently, in February, educators around the world celebrated Global School Play Day. In American society, we understand that the “work” of childhood is primarily to play.

Yet a school on Long Island NY cancelled its annual kindergarten show so kids could keep working to become “college and career ready.” Given all these finding and reactions to standardized testing, perhaps it’s time educators insist on spending more time on what research shows is best for children and less time on excessive testing and test prep. It’s downright depressing.

 

Sing Strum Smile

April 29, 2016

This is my Ibanez bass guitar I got for my birthday a few years ago. She lives in our “home studio” populated by my husband’s and son’s electric and acoustic-electric guitars, mics, mixer, sitar, guzheng, amps, and recording stuff I don’t understand. That’s my concertina behind and to the left, though. We jammed some tonight and my poor, tender fingertips suffered. But I’d forgotten how fun it is to make music together! I need to resume the habit to build up those calluses again. Depending on the research, it takes either 21 or 66 days to form a habit. So I’m looking at summertime. Stay tuned!

When Kitties Attack

April 28, 2016


Pictured is my normally placid and loving Siberian forest cat, Midnight. His ears are back and eyes almost as dilated as earlier when he attacked me (I’m fine). In all fairness, he warned me vociferously, then nipped at my hand, before feinting toward my face. Apparently he objected to my practicing one of the songs for our school’s upcoming Faculty Follies. I’m not that bad a singer, honestly! But Midnight freaks out every time I sing aloud. 

A cursory Google search reveals others share my “pain.” I found numerous YouTube videos of cats freaking out at singing as well as  queries on pet forums, but no satisfactory explanations. In the meantime, to keep the peace, I guess I’ll restrict my rehearsing to when Midnight is outside or I’m in the shower. Maybe I’ll ask one of my students researching pets for their 20% Time Project to add a tab on feline music preferences.

Science Fiction Simultaneity

April 27, 2016

imageSource:  theimaginativeconservative.org

For the first time in my career, ALL my students are reading science fiction at the same time. I am in geek heaven! My juniors are reading 1984 and my elective students are reading Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. The latter is tough to get into, especially for the non-readers in the class, but they find the story’s “what if?” fascinating, that this humanoid race is androgynous. What if WE lived in a world with no distinct gender roles?

Before getting too far into the novel, I train my students to identify the Cognitive Strategies (see Carol Booth Olson’s research) they use in reading so they can read more intentionally and closely. We do a fun activity where they record themselves reading and thinking aloud, then identify three strategies and document them, including the recording, in a Google Slides presentation. Students enjoy using their cell phones for schoolwork and hanging out outside on a spring day in SoCal to make their recordings.

 

 

Warm Fuzzies

April 26, 2016

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My top Google search is “baby animals” because I choose a new image every day to project as my students walk into my classroom. This was today’s “awww-inspiring” picture. I explained to my classes that I picked it because I had spent the weekend visiting my mom. As she gets older, having survived my dad and most of her friends, I cherish every day I can still talk to her.

I joke about my blatant emotional manipulation, but finding a fresh, happy baby animal to share every day sets MY mood as well as my students’. I certainly prefer it to my former practice of projecting my agenda for each class. It’s also less demanding cognitively than, say, a quote of the day. Several teachers, as part of our WASC data collection, shadowed students one day. How daunting to have to switch rooms and gears within a six-minute passing period from taking a geometry test, to analyzing Wuthering Heights, to setting up a science lab, then performing a skit in Spanish, THEN lunch, learning a history lesson, and working out at sports practice. The least I can do is provide a visual warm fuzzy as they transition to English class.


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