A Song for Connected Educators: Bend in the Road

http://centerforcreativity.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Connected_Educator_Month.png

I had this idea to try to write a song for Connected Educator Month. I’m not sure it came out the way I wanted it to, capturing the spirit of helping to convince folks to move out of their comfort zones a bit. But, here it is anyway as a demo.

Take a listen:

 

 

A Bend in the Side of the Road
(dedicated to all the Connected Educators out there)
By Kevin Hodgson

We can take these four walls
and use them as protection
Or we can plug ourselves right into the world
and forge some connections

‘Cause everywhere I look
There’s someone there to share an idea
to help you grow
Yes, my friend, this ain’t the end
It’s a bend in the side of the road

You can have your self-doubt
Or maybe it’s reflection
Sometimes you take yourself right out of your zone
and forge a new connection

And everywhere you turn
well, there’s something to be learned –
Something that you didn’t know –
Yes, my friend, this ain’t the end
It’s a bend in the side of the road

Peace (and get connected),
Kevin

Having Fun and Making Fun of Connected Educators Month

This will be no surprise to those who read me here, but I was making some webcomics as part of my thinking around Connected Educator Month. The third one dipped into my cynical side as I was scrolling through some of the “Partners” with the federal folks on CE13, and mulling over the times of so many events. (And I got some pushback from the CE folks on Twitter when I shared that one, too, as they explained the difficulties of logistics for scheduling events. They noted that many teachers watch recordings of presentations later. I countered that strong connections come from participating in live events, in the moment, not from watching a recorded webinar where you are a passive viewer. But I do understand the difficulty that they face in scheduling on such a large scale.) I am actually partial to the second comic, with the fish, for some reason. Maybe it is because I am part of a School …

CE13 Comic1

CE13 Comic2

CE13 Comic3

CE13 Comic4

CE13 Comic5
 

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

 

Talking Back to the Book: Invent to Learn

 

3d-invent-to-learn hodgson

Over at MiddleWeb, I recently reviewed Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager and found it be such a great resource for wrapping one’s head around where to begin with the move to get kids making things again in a learning environment. (See my review).

But seeing how there will be a book club community around Invent to Learn for Connected Educators Month, I wanted to share out some passages, lines and quotes from the book that really stood out for me as I was reading it. I hope to find time to participate in the book club. We’ll see.

“The past few decades have been a dark time in many schools. Emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, teaching to the test, de-professionalizing teachers, and depending on data rather than teacher expertise has created classrooms that are increasingly devoid of play, rich materials and the time to do projects.” – p. 1

My Response: Yep. And this shift towards numbers, instead of students, continues to grow by the day, particularly as administrators are forced to show accountability and growth in testing. There is no doubt that this move and shift has taken much creativity out of our classrooms. Mine, too.

“Making things and then make those things better is at the core of humanity.” – p. 11

My Response: Yep. We forget that the most precious times of our own learning are when we are forced to dive in and learn how to do something. We make mistakes. We break things along way. We curse. (or I do). And then, when something falls into place, there is that exhilaration of “I did it!” For me, this often has to do with plumbing and fixing something before calling in the expert. Maybe that’s just me, though. A fixed toilet is cause for major celebration in our household.

“The Maker ethos values learning through direct experience and the intellectual and social benefits that accrue from creating something shareable. Not only are there a plethora of high-tech materials available for childhood knowledge construction, but the growing popularity of making things has led to many ‘low tech’ innovations to spice up hands-on learning.” – p. 29

My Response: Yep. (Sorry. I took these quotes out because I agree with them). I like that low hurdles and low or not tech is part of the Maker Movement values. Access and equity are huge issues. And cost of supplies and technology often are a barrier to classroom Make projects.

“When we allow children to experiment, take risks, and play with their own ideas, we give them permission to trust themselves. They begin to see themselves as learners who have good ideas and can transform their own ideas into reality.” – p.36

My Response: And I would argue that this is true for any educational experience and environment. Or I would hope. But direct instruction, drill and kill skill work and teaching to the test through the year suck all the fun out of learning for so many of our young people. They don’t trust themselves anymore, it seems. They are reluctant to take chances on something new. To fail (the authors don’t like that work) and iterate/innovate (their preferred terms) is part of learning. It’s not the end of the path. It’s the start of a new path.

“Projects create memories for students. Those memories contain the skills and content learned during that project’s development. The best teachers are those who inspire memories in their students, and engaging students in great projects is a powerful way to do so.” – p.65

My Response: Ye.. oh, never mind. I agree that we want learning to extend beyond the classroom walls. Memories are powerful reminders of learning.

“Making things provides a powerful context for learning. An authentic, or real-world audience, for one’s work is a mighty motivator. As teachers, we often promote the idea that process is more important than the end product, yet it is often the product itself that provides context and motivates students to learn. Knowledge is a consequence of experience, and open-ended creativity tools expand opportunities for such knowledge construction.” – p.66

 My Response: This idea of creating things for the world, for an audience, can be transformative in many ways. When we share our expertise, and when we teach others, we are learning even more deeper. That’s why so many teachers are such smart folks, right? And young people have a natural impulse to be part of the conversation with the world. (See the plethora of YouTube how-to videos).

“Re-using materials is consistent with kids’ passion for environmentalism and is an idea of the maker movement.” – p. 83

My Response: I had not really made that connections before. But this is so true. My students are passionate about the environment on many levels.

“Learning to program a computer is an act of intellectual mastery that empowers children and teaches them that they have control over a piece of powerful technology. Students quickly learn that they are the most important part of the computer program. The computer is really quite dumb unless you tell it what to do in a precise fashion the machine understands.” – p. 130

My Response: I suspect this is where we lose a lot of teachers. But we need to dive into these apps and programs that students can use, if only to get deeper into the technology and gain some agency over the devices of their lives. There are now a lot of simple ways to show programming skills and web-based skills. At the heart, though, it is us who are in charge, not the tools. (Although I know some might argue that point.) We control the power buttons.

“A funny thing happens when you make something, particularly something of  a technological nature. You are inspired to learn something else.” p. 162

My Response: That is so true. Success breeds curiosity which breeds innovation which breeds success.

“Teachers should not be treated as imbeciles incapable of growth or felons who can’t be trusted to show a YouTube video in class.” p. 199

My Response: Can we bulk email this to every school administrator in the country? Tape it up on the walls above the desks of the informational technology officers of every school district? Please?

What do you think?

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

The Shaping of a Song/ The Shaping of Connections

I write songs for my band, Duke Rushmore, every now and then. Some songs work for the band. Some don’t. Last Monday, I had about an hour to myself and pulled out the guitar, and wrote a new one. The next night, I was sharing it with the band, and last night, we worked on it for about 45 minutes (minus our lead singer.) It’s interesting how some songs come quick and work great, while others take forever to write and then fall apart. I’m not sure what leads a song to go one way or another (I suppose if I did, I’d be making my millions selling songs to Katy Perry).

Here’s where this particular song started out, with me doing a quick demo for the band before I forgot the melody. The words have been updated here and there over the last week as the song filters through my head.

And here is what we were doing last night (again, without a lead singer, so that’s me singing for now).

What is magical about this process is how an idea conceived alone, in a room with only a guitar (and sometimes a dog as an audience) becomes something else when you bring collaborators into the mix. Sure, the main ideas are still there. But the song is different now and one thing I have learned over the years is that you have to give up part of the song to make it work with a group. You have to be willing to let others take a piece of ownership. So, our discussions are very interesting, as someone suggests this different chord, or a stop/break here, or where to insert the solo sections, or what kind of melody line should run here.

I work hard to avoid saying, No, that’s now how I hear it. Instead, I try to hold true to the spirit of what I was writing and remain flexible with other parts.

This is just like collaborating with other teachers (see my point?) when we connect with others. We share the best of what we know and brainstorm with the best intent, and then we need to listen to what others are saying, think about how to find that balance between our own established opinions and those of others around us. Eventually, what I have found — in my band, in my writing, in my professional circles — is that the energy of the larger group often trumps the vision of the individual. Not always, but mostly. And we continue into this Connected Educator Month, that is something to hold on: we are in this together and I rely on you as much you may be learning from me.

Maybe we need to write a song about that …

Peace (in the connections),
Kevin

 

Spoof Documentary Intro: The Connected Country

Connected Country Spoof
(Created with Mozilla’s XRay Goggles)
Yesterday’s Daily Create for DS106 asked us to “Write an intro for a documentary on culture and traditions of a fictional country.” Since we are kneedeep into Connected Educator Month, I thought I would amuse myself (at least) with a spoof intro for a fake documentary about The Connected Country, and the search for the Most Connected Person in the World.

Here is what I wrote:

In this geographically distant yet technologically connected land, people find themselves drawn to each other by shared interests and expertise. Perhaps it is the hyperlink tattoos that adorn their foreheads or the hashtags each inhabitant wears on their left and right cheeks, but this land is a wondrous place of connections. Here, friends lend a hand or share an idea with strangers. Neighbors offer refuge to the confused who wander in from the outlands of the greater world. Everyone is looked after. There is trust here in this Connected Country. There is a sense that all of the residents here are in this life together, learning as they go along and sharing their learning without trepidation. Notice how each inhabitant wears a sharp-looking vest with multiple pockets. Each pocket contains a different mobile device, tuned to a different interest channel. At night, when the specially-designed lights of the Connected Country are turned on, one can literally visualize the threads that connect each person to the others. The colored webs are another indication of the tapestry of their lives. It is here that we begin our journey to find the Most Connected Person in the World. Come join us as we venture into the Connected Country.

And here is the podcast I created for it:

 

Peace (in the land),
Kevin

 

Remix this Tube: Where I’m At

Where I'm At Tube Map
During the summer in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, Sara Green posted a “tube map” style illustration of some of her learning. It was very cool. Then, in the spirit of the CLMOOC, Chad Sansing took Sara’s concept and built a remixable Thimble page for anyone to use. I sort of forgot about it (sorry, Chad and Sara) until this week, when my friend Paul Oh shared this over at the New York Times Learning Network post about Connected Educator Month:

I participated in and helped design a MOOC this summer called “Making Learning Connected,” sponsored by my organization, the National Writing Project.

More than a thousand educators signed up to participate, and among them was Sara Green, from the U.K. At one point, she created her life’s learning journey as a London Tube map. One of the MOOC faciliators, Chad Sansing, an amazing educator in his own right, then took that idea and created a Thimble template so anyone with a computer and Internet connection could create their own learning pathway London Tube map. (Thimble is a free tool developed by the Mozilla Foundation that allows you to create remixable open content for the Web while learning about the building blocks of the Web itself.)

Chad’s template, called Tube Map Me, is freely available to use. In fact, a number of people have already remixed Chad’s project to create their own learning pathway London Tube maps. Consider making your own map and connecting with Chad and Sara and the CLMOOC and Mozilla Webmaker communities.

– Paul Oh, from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/01/what-connected-education-looks-like-28-examples-from-teachers-all-over/?_r=0

This week, I dove back into Chad’s Tube Map Me and started to think about how to map out the connections that I have a writer and teacher. (If you have never used Thimble, Chad has helpfully done most of the work and annotated his code with notes about where you write. It takes a few minutes to get orientated to the set-up – code on the left, preview on the right — but Thimble is a great teaching tool and makes the building of a webpage more visible to the user, and remixer).

The activity was intriguing and enjoyable, although I found at a certain point that there were too many stations for ideas, so you notice a bunch of repeated station stops. I suppose that’s OK since writing, learning and collaboration are frequent themes to the various online networks where I call home. Or virtual home, anyway. I realize now, too, that I could have been a bit more thoughtful and purposeful in where the tube lines connect with each other. Oh well.

Check out my tube map, which I call Where I’m At (and if you hear Beck singing “I got two turntables and a microphone” when you read that title, then you and I are sharing a soundtrack.)

So, now it’s your turn. Go to Chad’s Thimble and remix it for your own connections.  Or heck, remix mine. (See that Remix button on the top of every Thimble page? Click it, and start making.)

Chad Tube Thimble

Where does the tube lead you?

Peace (along the connected lines),
Kevin

 

Making the Case for Connections

This Voicethread is a great place to learn more about why we should care about the principles of being Connected Educators, but also, to add your voice to the mix. The Voicethread is an offshoot of a book by Shery Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter-Hall’s The Connected Educator.

And check out the list over at the New York Times Learning Network of 28 examples of what Connected Education look like in the classroom and in teacher networks. There are lots of great ideas there.
Peace (in the connections),
Kevin

Start Getting Connected during Connected Educator Month


It’s October, which means it is Connected Educator Month, as various networks of teachers and educators come together to showcase and strengthen the ways in which we build on our collective knowledge, share out our expertise, and create rich learning environments for our students.

No Teacher An Island Supporter Art

At the Connected Educator website (which, should be noted, is funded through the US Department of Education and various partners – it’s always good to be aware of who is behind things), there is a calendar of events and resources for the month. (Note: the homepage kept crashing on me this morning.) I’m always interested in ways that we can connect and having a theme of the Connected Educator makes sense to me, particularly if it gives folks a chance to take steps forward.

CEM Starter Kit cover

If you are looking for a place to start, I would suggest the Connected Educator Starter Kit (pdf file), put out by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and colleagues at Powerful Learning Practice. I like how it suggests one simple task per day to begin building out your online connective networks. There is also a blog — Innovations – that you can subscribe to as well as a series of book talks during the month. I, for one, am hoping to get involved in the Invent to Learn book talk.

invent_to_learn

There’s plenty going on. You just need to connect.

Peace (in the stretch out),
Kevin