No Time Like the Present


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!

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Time Flies…

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..when you’re having fun. …when you’re sick. … when you’re not paying attention.

All these happened to me this week. But what struck me most was a Memory that popped up on my Facebook feed from exactly seven years and one day ago when my family and I witnessed in person the inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States.  What a privilege to be able to travel to Washington D.C. and stand on the Mall with about 1.8 million others!

How far we have come in seven years! Yet, how far have we NOT come, especially given the hope and promise of that day.

But the glass half-full/empty reflection applies to my own life as well. I’ve ventured further into the frontier world of educational technology than I ever imagined. Yet how many knitting projects remain on the needles, books remain unread, relationships require tending.

As I get older, a year becomes a progressively smaller proportion of my life, which is why it feels like it’s flying ever more quickly by. *sigh* Wait for me.

Serious Silliness

http://peewee.com/2016/01/12/this-mom-knit-a-lifesize-version-of-her-tween-son/

Would you knit this?

I suppose one could get all Freudian about this project by a Dutch textile designer, but I prefer to focus on the glory that is several knitted life-size creations. Not my cuppa tea, but, hey, it’s art!

Note that she’s also produced knitted food and plants and other goodness. Love it!

Style Over Substance

Asymmetric Poncho

Today’s FO provides another teaching metaphor: Asymmetric Poncho, a lacy Tunisian crochet pattern from Stitch Diva in a ribbon yarn. It was novel and engaging to learn a new technique and to work with an unusual yarn. I used to love throwing this on over a solid tank or tee in the summer. Then I stopped. Ultimately, this lacy little accessory epitomizes style over substance. It’s far from functional, not even pretending to be warm, and often the unpredictable fringe gets in the way when I’m writing or driving  or even drinking a cup of coffee.

My Asymmetric Poncho = many CCSS “resources” on the market.

(A caveat: I support the Common Core State Standards whole-heartedly. My elementary school colleagues tell me of challenges at their level, but at high school ELA, I see worthy goals. I do, however, have huge issues with the assessment piece. I will save that rant for another post.)

Many apprehensive educators are grasping for quick fixes to implement what is seen as a huge change in curriculum and instruction. (I believe that CCSS simply codifies teaching critical thinking, so these “new standards” shouldn’t come as a huge surprise — once again, more on this later.) So these educators attend to every new shiny product with a CCSS label in the hopes it will just take care of it. And publishers are eager to provide an expensive plethora of worksheets and activities and systems to make CCSS implementation “easy.” Style over substance.

Slapping the CCSS label on a mere worksheet or collection of readings is as effective as throwing my poncho on over a holey tee shirt to wear to a wedding. It may improve the appearance, but only covers up an idea that was flawed to begin with. Teaching critical thinking requires teacher planning, student engagement, interaction, individual attention, and, often, innovation.  No “one-size fits all product” can substitute for a planned approach designed for a particular class or student. That’s what good teaching has always been and always will be. And it’s not easy. Nor is it truly different from what has always worked in the past.

Educators and the public need to look beyond the promises and fears of the CCSS label to the substance of teaching practices and continue the hard work of refining best practices to do what teachers have always done.

I think I now understand why I have never knit another lacy poncho and why all my scarves are more than just accessories. I prefer substance over style.

Days 2 and 3 of CUE Rockstar Teacher Camp – What – How – Why

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So much to distill down to a manageable blog entry! Here it is: What – How – Why And above is my distillation in the form of Sketchnotes.

On Day 2 of CUE Rockstar Teacher Camp in Manhattan Beach, I attended Jen Roberts’ session on Writing and Citing with Google Tools and Victoria Olson’s session on Screencasting basics.

1 – I’ve said it before — Jen is a goddess! The beauty of her session was that she focused on our primary task (critical thinking and writing instruction),THEN identified some uber useful tools and demonstrated their use. Granted, we didn’t get to create as much original material in her session as in others, but we got access to Jen’s stuff and, more importantly, got to PICK HER BRAIN! All of us were happily late to lunch. 😉

2- Ironically, I had uploaded almost all the tools Victoria listed in her session description, but never learned how to use them. She, too, provided the What and How, by modeling with us how she introduces the process to her little guys with Explain Everything. (I’d love to be one of her students!) We got to make something simple on any topic we wanted for our first project – mine was about Knitting, of course (this is the YouTube version of it). Then she practiced more advanced techniques and had us make a second project we could use in class. (Mine’s not finished, but I didn’t want that to stop me from posting this.)

On Day 3, I focused more on “How” and especially “Why” in sessions by Karl L-S on 20% Time and by Moss Pike on Design Thinking for Innovation.

3- Last year I had dipped my pinkie toe into the world of student choice in long-term content creation by having my AP English Language class make TEDtalks after AP Exams concluded. Karl’s materials confirmed that it’s worth diving into the deep end with #20TIME. It leads to incredible engagement and learning. I love that Karl is so transparent – he explained his lessons learned from his missteps as well as his successes. His materials also gave me a great start in putting on paper (well, in a Google Doc) concrete plans for my classes later this month. (gulp!)

4- Moss introduced me to a new way of looking at problem-solving and critical thinking, at  “why” we teach, or going “deep.” My biggest takeaway is that INNOVATION IS A SKILL, a muscle we all have that we can exercise and fine tune to address future questions and problems we haven’t yet imagined. Our small group tacked Teacher Time Management. We identified the key parameters of our “wicked problem,” but, sadly, didn’t have time to come up with permanent solutions. Just collaborating was a fabulous start, though. I was STILL mulling over design thinking as I was going to bed. It’s that powerful.

More on “why” — the day began with a lovely, inspirational video called the First Follower – Dancing Guy about leadership. Interestingly, it ties to a video Moss showed at the end of my day called “Moonshot Thinking” about nurturing the human impulse to dream and achieve.

CUE Rockstar Teacher Camp nudged me more on that path as I help my students do the same.

BB KAL Progress

An all-knitting post, for once! Pictured is my progress (completed Chart C) on the BB KAL on G+. Translation: I’m participating in a KnitALong with about 100 knitter friends on the social network Google+.  We voted to cast one a lovely shawlette pattern called Bashful Butterflies on August 16 and post pictures, questions, triumphs, etc. It’s been fun seeing the variety of yarns people are using. The designer, Julia Temiseva, is participating as well. My yarn is Starry, a sockweight Merino superwash in the Deep Seaflower colorway  by dreamincoloryarn.com. DS was admiring my progress and the yarn, and expressed a desire for socks in something similar, so I bought him this Malabrigo sock yarn. Since his 21st birthday is tomorrow, I plan to cast on … tomorrow.

Pain Sucks

I  had minor surgery today to remove a soft tissue growth on my finger. This is what my hand will look like until I see my doctor next week. Hopefully, the pain will subside before then. The problem with meds and me is that no pain = no brain. Fortunately I don’t have to drive myself anywhere for a few days.

In related news, DS had a tonsillectomy two days ago and we learned the hard way that his system metabolizes out pain meds very quickly. After quite the comedy of errors, we were able to get him something stronger. In a nutshell, since I couldn’t drive, DD had to pick up the scrip, which couldn’t be called in to the pharmacy, she got lost, then the car wouldn’t start for about 30 minutes, then when DH went to pick up the meds, the entire shopping center lost power so the pharmacy closed. When he went back later, the pharmacist was locking up, but opened for him since we urgently needed the new pain meds. All is finally well, except my repertoire of interesting, cold food is running low. Poor DS doesn’t even like ice cream much.

Knitting content: I got in about 10 minutes on a new Broken Rib pattern scarf before pre-op. I will have to drastically alter my knitting style for the next week though 😦