How to Get Caught in the Web

I am excited about the next phase of the Connected Courses, as the topic is Web Literacies and Web Design and all things Webby (but not Spiderman, as far as I know). This comic idea was kicking around in my head. It’s a bit more negative, from the time-suck stance, than I feel about the work and learning we do when we are on the Web.

Ways to get caught in the Web #ccourses

But, hopefully, it gives a chuckle.

Peace (in getting unstuck),
Kevin

I am Mia (am not)

(This post is part of the Connected Courses Daily Connect in which we are asked to blog in the “voice” of another blogger. I have chosen my National Writing Project friend, Mia Zamora, to emulate for her energetic optimism that she exudes in her writing across many spaces. Forgive me, Mia, if I mangle your voice here.)

(This is Mia, my friend)

I am realizing very quickly just how much possibility there is in everything that is unfolding in the Connected Course networks as well as other Connected Learning networks. Nothing compares to the ideals of so many of us educators coming together for such a deep exploration of Connected Learning! It’s fantastic!

“When I am learning I FEEL ALIVE.” - Mia

I was thinking about this message of teaching the other day. I returned to the concept of “Why I Teach” and isn’t that such a central question to all that we do in our lives? The responses that people posted to that query were intriguing. I do believe we can change the world for the better. We can always be learning, too, even as we teach. We CAN stay in tune with the world.

“Connected Learning is about re-imaging the experience of education in the information age. It draws on the power of today’s technologies and embraces hands on production and open networks.” — Mia

We all have our own learning pathways to follow, and each path will take us on a slightly different journey. The wonder of it is that our journeys often coincide with others along the way. And it is at those intersections where we meet that we can help each other along the way.

“We all feel we are part of a movement that will ultimately be world changing.  We want to invite everyone along with us.” — Mia

Being in the midst of a project like Connected Courses, or even Making Learning Connected, is really being part of hubs of the giant wheel that is Connected Learning. Notice how all the pieces can fit together. If you take a step back, you can begin to see it all in motion. It’s that kind of viewpoint that makes being part of any venture all the more worthwhile.

“Magical things happen when we let ourselves unlearn the criterion of institutionalized conventions.” — Mia.

Peace (to Mia),
Kevin

PS — Process Notes: This “writing in the voice of another blogger” is hard to do! I read Mia on a regular basis, but I had to examine her syntax style and the underlying mood of her writing. I then was struck with the dilemma of, Am I writing as Me (Kevin) in the voice of Mia? Or writing as Mia on my blog, as if she were visiting here? I never quite resolved that question, I realize, and somehow settled into a precarious balance of her positive writing style with some of my own thinking. A blend, then, of sorts. I worried that she might be offended that I zeroed in on her positive message, leaving out how deep she gets with her thinking about learning. I decided to pull in some of her own writing in quotes, to further give Mia a real voice here. I’m not sure it worked.  Go to her blog to get the real Mia Zamora. The one I have borrowed here is only a replica.

Make Your Way to the Make Bank

My friend, Karen, has been tweeting out “Make Bank” opportunities all month for Connected Educator Month. What’s the Make Bank? It’s a legacy resource created by the Making Learning Connected MOOC over the past two summers, with rich ideas around making, learning, creating and writing.

The Make Bank never closes down, but as Karen wrote in her post for Digital Is, sometimes, it helps to be reminded. I decided to whip up a short flowchart about using the Make Bank. I might make it more interactive, using ThingLink, in the next iteration.

Make Your Way to the Make Bank

I “made” the flowchart with an app called Lucidchart, which I think is free for the basics. I like making flowcharts but I realize that I am still learning the lexicon of symbols. That’s another post for another day.

What will you make today?

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

Oh, The Irony of It

If you have some time, watch this video about language immersion. It’s well-done, if bent to a certain political view.

This “Immersion” video is a required part of a state-sponsored Sheltered English Immersion course that I am taking part in right now. All teachers will eventually need to get a certification around teaching students whose primary language is not English. This course will fulfill my requirement, but I have to say that, even with the boatload of work, it is valuable information and discussions for all of my students.

Back to the video … we are required to watch it and then write about it in our online community space.

I find it very ironic that the very same state Department of \Education that is ramping up state testing into the PARCC while ramming data of student growth models down our throats for how it will judge how we are doing — as schools, as educators (the state wants student test scores as part of our evaluation/accountability process) — wants us educators to watch this video in which the systematic push towards standardized testing — and no accommodations for students learning English — hurts and hinders a child who wants to do well.

I mean, that is the message of this video, loud and clear. What am I to make of that tension between the video and the reality of our state’s educational system? (Note: we banned bilingual educational services a few years ago after some California right-wing moneybag came into our state and funded/pushed a referendum on us. Then, he left us with the mess to figure out. Later, the Department of Justice stepped in, which is where the push for Sheltered Immersion is coming from)

Do the state folks feel for the young child in this short movie? If so, why do we have the same restrictions here in our schools that are featured there in that video?

I suspect there is tension in any administrative system, so then I wondered: Is the sharing of this video some subversive act by a technocrat in the state Department of Education?

I’m down with that.

Peace (in the vid),
Kevin

Bad Comic/Lost Idea/Good Duck

Bad comic
I’m not beating myself up on this, but an attempt at a comic inspired by a tweet the other day by one of my Simon friends had even me scratching my head when I was done. It was one of those times when I went into a comic with an idea and completely lost the thread by the end, and even now, I am not sure what I was thinking.

That said, the comic still works on one level — of what different people bring to the table. But I was aiming for something different, and I am not sure now that the comic meshes with the quote’s original meaning. Perhaps it doesn’t matter all that much.

And the Google/Duck Duck Go gag sort of fell apart on me. I was thinking of the accidental visitor, and had privacy on my mind. Maha wondered if I were referencing the duck mascot from the upcoming Digital Writing Month, but no … unless I was doing it without thinking about it (which is possible).

In the end, I like the Meta-Comic better than the original comic.

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Sifting Through Words to Find an Idea

 

If you have not had a chance to check out the Daily Connect blog that we have up and running for the month of October for Connected Courses (and which dovetails nicely with Connected Educator Month), you might want to see some of the nifty ideas being unveiled.

Today’s Daily Create is to find a blog post or tweet or some writing of someone else in your network, and use that post for creating a Word Cloud. This kind of visual sifting through someone else’s words to find an idea is intriguing, and different word cloud generators give you different ways to filtering the text. I used a basic one called Word It Out and put in a post about Network Fluency from @koutropoulos on Twitter that I really enjoyed reading.

As I look at the word cloud, I notice ideas like “nodes” and “network” and “connected” all rising to the top of the cloud. And “learning,” too, the post dives into a variety of interesting tangents around navigating networks for learning. I won’t say I learned anything new from this word cloud conversion, but it reinforced the message of the post in a visual way.

Why not give it a try? Check out our Daily Connect post today with some links to word cloud generators. Or use your own. Get connecting.

Peace (in the cloud),
Kevin

Book Review: Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor

“What? Another science fair story! Ahh….”

That was my son’s initial response as we started to read aloud Jon Scieszka’s new Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor. We had just finished reading aloud Science Fair, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (thumbs up) and had watched a viewing of the movie, Frankenweenie, in the neighborhood (thumbs up but an odd thumbs up).

It was just by chance that all three stories had a science fair competition at the center of the plot, but it does feel like the push for fiction for middle readers into STEM areas is falling on some common narrative tropes. The “science fair” is one of those I am seeing a lot (as is my son).

He got over his initial response, though, as we dove into Scieszka’s story of a young inventor (Frank), and his pal (Watson), creating robots who can sort of think for themselves and then a scientific energy-creating breakthrough called the Anti-Matter Motor (combine water with anti-water). A nemesis in the form of Edison wreaks havoc. The illustrations by Brian Biggs were a big hit, as they complemented the text and provides some scientific drawings of ideas in the head of Frank Einstein (My son later noted, “Did you notice that Frank and Einstein makes …. Frankenstein?”).

I hate to say it, but I wasn’t all that fond of the writing here and I found the plot development too predictable. Written in the present tense, the story never went deep enough for me. Maybe I am more critical than I need to be, even reading through the eyes of my fourth grader. Sorry, Jon Scieszka — I love the work you do to instill reading habits in young readers, particularly boys, and I notice this book sits on top of the New York Times list for young readers. My son, though, liked it well enough, and wondered when the second volume was coming out. (next year, it seems).

Maybe that’s all that matters … (or anti-matters)

 

Peace (in the science),
Kevin

Navigating Network Fluency

Network Fluency
I am just starting up a mandatory graduate level course by our state’s Department of Education about how all teachers can best reach our English Language Learner students through Sheltered Immersion techniques. I won’t say I am overly-excited about the amount of work that will be expected of us in the coming weeks/months, nor am I all that thrilled that we have to use Blackboard as our LMS (hate it), but the class discussions so far have been interesting.

I’m making a leap here (and it may be a bit of metaphorical ramble, so bear with me) but the theme of Network Fluency in the Connected Courses has me thinking of some parallels of thought. Just as I am learning more techniques for helping my ELL students navigate different languages, academic content, cultural expectations and learning platforms, so too are we in Connected Courses considering the “fluidity” of learners across online spaces. Being comfortable in one space/network does not translate into being fluent in the other space/network.

This comes to mind for me as I think about watching the flow on Twitter, or in the blog roll of Connected Courses, and how intriguing it has been to watch university folks move over some of the same ground as we have done in our Making Learning Connected MOOC, yet from a slightly different angle — of syllabus design, of institutional barriers and/or support, of wondering whether pushing barriers will hurt/enhance academic opportunities. The language and discourse of Academia has a different nuance to it, and the idea of Network Fluency is not just ‘Do I know how to use this space?’ but also ‘Can I project an identity into this space that has value for me?’

Right?

Network fluency #ccourses

Early on, I declared that I would only be observing the Connected Course. That didn’t happen (laugh track). That didn’t happen because the facilitators made me feel welcome and important to the conversations. I didn’t feel talked down to because I was “a sixth grade teacher” in the midst of university professors. A space at the table was made for me. Lurker, no more (although we wrote extensively about the value of observing from afar for learning and even about that term itself).

Over the course of a typical week, I realize, I am bouncing around many networks, most with distinct styles and certain lexicons of their own. From the physical networks embedded in my school day, to the online networks whose tone shifts depending upon the platform (Twitter, etc.) and the people who inhabit those spaces with me (serious? humorous? inbetween?). The way I write in various National Writing Project networks is slightly different from the way I write in others.  Sometimes, I connect in with more personal writing via Slice of Life.

We become fluent in these networking spaces by learning and participating, and with assistance of others, just as my ELL students are doing  in my classroom– watching, reading signs, paying attention to cultural markers, taking chances, finding confidence and then, establishing a voice that is valued. The social capital that is discussed in Connected Courses is the connections between those in the space, where trust is the glue that holds it all together. In the Connected Courses, I trust that my views as an elementary teacher will have value. In my classroom, I hope my students trust our classroom community enough to participate and take chances with their thinking, to push the boundaries.

If those things fall apart or never quite take hold at a comfortable level in my own networks, at least I have the opportunity to leave the spaces I am part of (well, except for things like the ELL training). I mostly pack up and say, that’s not for me.

My students? They can’t do that (another difference with university folks, where students can drop out). My young students’ network/language fluency depends upon me to construct scaffolding for them, so they can not just enter the conversations, but so they can be facilitators in those discussions, too, bringing the best of what they offer to the forefront of our collective learning.

If that sounds just like the way we think about the networks we wander into out here, in the virtual spaces, then I have made that thematic leap from my classroom to my networks clear. If not, eh, sorry.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Slice of Life: In Case of Emergency, Break Heart

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

We had a very sobering staff meeting yesterday, in which two police officers from our town talked to us for an hour about changes in the local and state policy of emergency lock-downs in our school. Our old policy was: lock the door, pull the shades, get in your hiding space, stay quiet. Wait for the police to set you free. During drills, our school seemed like a ghost town.

But now, there is no “policy,” only guidelines, and the main guideline for us teachers is this: if there is an armed intruder in the school, use your best judgement on how to react to protect your students – maybe hide, maybe run, maybe fight. I agree that having more options, in the event of something nearly impossible to consider (although, we know we need to at least consider it in this day and age), but thinking of the chaos and confusion of those moments is difficult to wrap my head around.

Which is not to say I would not be ready to do any of those options, should it be necessary. Or at least, I hope that I’d be ready. Alternatively, I hope I never find out if that is the case. One of those little doubts in my head is, what is you make the wrong choice about action? What if you run with your students into the problem when you should have stayed put away from the problem? How would you live with yourself after that?

Man, I hate that we live in a society where we even have to have these discussions of armed intruders in schools. The officers gave us an overview of Columbine, and then Virginia Tech, and then Sandy Hook. They even had us listen to some 911 calls, which I sort of wished I had not had to hear, to be frank. They shared the “lessons learned” — about barricading doors, about slowing down the event, about making decisions in the midst of confusion. They brought all of those news stories right back into focus, and I wish that hadn’t had to have been done.

How will we drill for this kind of response, in which every teacher makes their own decision? I don’t even know. All I know is that I left there thinking, In Case of Emergency, Break My Heart…..

Peace (please),
Kevin