Waxing and Waning Tweets


I’ve been disappointed in myself that I haven’t been as active on Twitter or in my favorite Twitter chats or Google+ communities since school began. Then I realized that I’ve had to develop different priorities. To everything there is a season. At least I’m still listening to education podcasts. And I’m confident that I’ll resume active participation in my online PLN (professional learning network) as I create a comfortable and efficient school routine. It takes time. 

Teachers constantly  shake their heads at non-teachers’ envy of our “summers off.” Ironically, my summers are even more packed with professional development activities than the rest of the year. This summer I presented at two conferences, attended two, put in 3 days of site and district learning, plus spent countless hours of thinking and planning and dreaming about the coming school year. Granted, I also attended San Diego Comic-Con and visited Washington DC. But I collected there ideas to share with my students.

My commitment to and enjoyment of growing in my profession remains steady even though my activities wax and wane. Twitter can wait.

I Teach to Learn

Several recent events led me to choose this topic and title and to write about it. One was Facebook reminding me what I did on each day several years before. I USED to blog every day, even if only about silly, apparently trivial observations. But those old posts reminded me of certain moments of learning in my life that I did (or didn’t! absorb into my common practice today.

Another was hearing an interview on NPR’s The Frame of Casey Affleck at Telluride this year. John Horn asked Casey if he enjoyed watching himself in his movies over his 20-year career and Casey replied “not really” and that he wasn’t sure why. Rather, he recounted a story of doing construction work summers in his youth in Boston, and of one job where they had to build a short flight of stairs. No one, not even the foreman, knew what they were doing, but they figured it out together. It’s still there, and Casey points it out to friends when they go by. Casey analogized that to making movies. It’s not the product he finds inspiring, but the conversations and creativity that are part of the process.

I’ve blogged on process over product before. I, too, am not a fan of reliving past successes or dwelling on past failures. EXCEPT insofar as they inform what I DO NOW. For example, I’m quite proud of a short music video I made at a summer CUE Rock Star Teacher Camp with parody lyrics and a green screen, not because it’s great (it’s not!), but because it’s a useful teaching tool. I don’t recount many legal war stories from when I was in private practice or a legal editor in the Bay Area, except for those that illustrate a point about good writing. (“Know your audience” and “Always read the statute first.”)

A third event was a fleeting reference to the concept of “flow” which quantifies why people are happiest when fully engaged in a challenging activity. I see it in my students (pictured above) when they solve puzzles with our BreakoutEDU kits. I feel it in myself when I’m researching and designing and executing new lesson plans with new students and tech tools and educational priorities each year.

The final event was flipping my calendar page to October. Even though this school year began in late-August, it still feels like we just started a few weeks ago. Time flies! And so does the opportunity to document my learning each day.

So that’s why I’m blogging again. I want to remember my learning each day. I teach to learn.

Two Days at SDCC

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


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

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

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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

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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.