Wednesday, August 31, 2016

hack to school learner-led conference script

Here are the questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this course?
  2. Describe something interesting that you have learned, read, and/or written during this course so far.
  3. What is the easiest experience you've had so far?
  4. What is the most challenging experience you've had so far?
  5. What are your goals for the next grading period?  For the semester? For the year?
  6. What is a Socratic Seminar?


Whether you and/or your families can make it to Hack to School Night or not, everyone you know is an extension of our learning network. Any time they want to learn something from us or share an expertise with us they are welcome.

This concept may be new to you because high school traditionally emphasizes subject-by-subject specialization in closed classrooms.  However, this practice is the norm in a world where collaboration and interdependence are essential factors for success.  For example, my daughter's elementary school just sent home this notice:

See you tonight!

august 31

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "These Dreams of You" by Van Morrison; "Laverne & Shirley (Making Our Dreams Come True)"/TV Theme by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox; "Street of Dreams" by Sarah Vaughan).

Edgar Allan Poe wrote, "All that I see or seem/Is but a dream within a dream."  Can you prove you're not dreaming right now?  How?

1. Journal
2. Vocab debrief
3. Satire/work

1. Prep for Big Friday (satire, literature analysis, vocab)
2. Update your online portfolio (make-up work, refinement)

Monday, August 29, 2016

august 30

JOURNAL TOPIC: ["My Friends Always Ask Me" by Mary Lane; "Ask Me Now" by Thelonious Monk]

Does language merely describe reality or does it create a sense of reality? Do speakers of different languages just use different words to describe the same things, or do they actually think and see the world differently because of the language they use? Explain your answer.

1. Journal
2. The language of satire
3. Hack to School Night
3. Vocab (if time)

1. Satire
2. Literature Analysis

hack to school night

(my t-shirt from OSCON)
To be clear: the word hack has been associated with definitions ("sharp cough, "cut with unskillful blows," & "illegal/unauthorized computer access," e.g.) that do not describe what we do.

We make connections and facilitate conversations that help people learn.   We build, evaluate and modify things to make them work better.

You know how they say, "[So'n'so] just can't hack it?" Well, we can.

So, at Back-- er, Hack to School night, we are at it again. Get here whenever you can. Bring whoever you want. Offer them the benefit of what you know and find a way to learn from them too. Share new ideas about technology and how you can use it to get ahead in life.

Here is the program:
1. Learner-led conference (see below)
2. Periodic "Intro to Digital Life" presentations
3. Sign-ups for "friend of the course" events and "digital drop-in" nights

Here is the process:
1. Think about these questions and your answers to them;
2. Bring an interested adult to Hack to School Night;
3. Have them ask you these questions, be suitably brilliant in your replies, and demand that they take notes so that you know they're paying attention;
4. Turn in their notes to me, get your extra credit, listen to me brag about you briefly;
5. Go home and finish your homework.

Here are the questions:

student led conference script

vocabulary #2

Definitions & sentences due tomorrow (post to your blog or turn in hard copy).  Quiz on Friday, 9/.2


august 29

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: radio silence]

What song do you sing when there's nothing on the radio? What thoughts do you think when it's quiet and you have the chance to think about whatever you want?

1. Journal
2. Head to the library and check out books
3. Work on this week's schtuff (if there's time)

HW (a.k.a. "this week's schtuff):
1. Satire (due Friday, 9/2)
2. Literature Analysis #1 (due Friday, 9/2)
3. Post definitions and sentences for vocab list #2 (quiz Friday, 9/2)

due dates

Reminder: last Friday in class we agreed that you would post your satire and your first Literature Analysis to your blogs by this Friday, 9/2

Friday, August 26, 2016

wowee check this out

As we talked about yesterday in class, a great way to add value for other people is to share how you solved a problem.  Some of us had challenges uploading videos to blogs, so I asked if anyone was willing to share a solution.

Leydi went above and beyond the call of duty and made THIS.  Check it out.  If it helps you, please visit her blog and say thanks.


Guess the Friday "turn in journals" thing hasn't become routine yet.  If you see this before you leave campus please drop yours off.  Mahalo.

august 26

JOURNAL TOPIC: ["Walking in LA" by Missing Persons; "These Boots Are Made for Walkin" by Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra]

On your walk home a dog starts talking to you.  As soon as someone else walks by, the dog stops.  He only talks when you're alone.  And he tells you a secret that can save the world.  But to share it, you'll have to divulge your source, and that might make you sound crazy.  What will you do?

1. Journal
2. Vocab quiz
3. Due dates: satire & literature analysis #1
4. Satire

1. Work on satire & literature analysis #1
2. Enjoy your weekend

how we read

It stands to reason that anyone who isn't a professional reader (teacher/professor/editor/literary critic, e.g.) is an amateur.  One connotation of the word amateur is a person who doesn't get paid for a particular talent.  In a culture that overwhelmingly--and often erroneously--associates value with money, an amateur is often considered less proficient than a professional who gets paid for doing the same thing. 

But it's the second connotation of amateur that makes something worth doing and life worth living.  The word comes from a French derivation of the Latin verb for "love."  Amateurs love what they do.  In fact, amateurism is often defined as, "the philosophy that elevates things done without self-interest above things done for pay."  In this sense, although I have been paid for teaching, consulting, researching, and writing about learning for nearly 25 years, I am a proud amateur.

I'm thinking about this now because of some recent discussions with students about reading.  I understand how important it is to read what you love and to think about the text in your own way.  When I read for pleasure I want to suspend my disbelief and lose myself in the story.  I imagine the

how do i post videos to my blog?

There are a variety of ways to embed videos on your blog, and-- since I am an expert in none of them-- here are two strategies I hope will help:

1. Find a blogger in the Member Blogs who has figured it out and ask him/her how;
2. If you are one of those people who has succeeded, please share your method in a comment below.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

a 7 year-old can do this course

Today I'm home with my daughter.  So what am I up to?

Playing Legos and making chili con carne.

I have also been posting to the course blogs and answering emails from students.  Earlier my daughter was looking over my shoulder and saw the picture of her fish.  She read the post and cracked up (I already told her the story at dinner, but she didn't know it was online: "Daddy, you TWEETED that?")

When she saw the post my daughter noticed something else on the blog.  "Daddy," she said, "Why did you type that you never learned to read?"  I explained the reading assessment idea and showed her the video of me reading Fox in Sox. We had just finished a conversation about how learning should always be fun, even in school.  "Hey," she said.  "I can do that."

I answered with a smile: "Yeah? Prove it."

So she did.  And check out the look she gives me when she pronounces Dr. Seuss' name correctly.

Do your homework. For the grading period I may just make it simple: can you do what a 7 year-old can do? And the most important thing in this video and this post is what she DOESN'T do.

She doesn't get distracted by the dishwasher. She doesn't even look up when the timer goes off. And she never, ever, EVER gives up.

august 25

I'm posting this the day before because I can't WAIT to get back!!!  Hope everyone is doing well and where they want/need to be in the course.  If you need anything please email.  See you tomorrow :)

This should be interesting.

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes: "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley)
This is a quick write: Describe what you learned in this course so far this week.  If you need inspiration, listen to the song and/or consider the picture.

1. Journal
3. We are born learners
4. Next steps: essay topics, portfolios, & hack to school night

1. On a PIECE OF PAPER, please answer the following questions: a) What visible, tangible work have you produced so far in this course? b) What grade would you give yourself at this point? c) What do you need to succeed?  Please bring with you tomorrow (Friday, August 26)
2. Post vocab definitions & sentences to your blog (if you haven't already). Due by 8 AM  Friday, August 26
3. 3. Prepare for Socratic P2P conversation about satire & meaning, signs & symbols

alternate journal topic aug 24

Here is another journal possibility for today:

A Native American elder described his conflicting emotions as two dogs, one good and one evil, fighting all the time. When someone asked which dog wins, the elder replied, "The one I feed the most." Describe a time you were ambivalent and explain which dog you fed.

Thanks Cerenity for pointing out the duplicate!

august 24

Please reflect on your independent work process.  Are you getting stuff done?  What about your working environment is helping you achieve?  What's holding you back?  What are you going to do next in order to succeed?

1. Journal
2. Same deal as yesterday. We reconvene tomorrow (Thursday)

Q: What did the mama tomato say to the baby tomato when they were out walking and the baby tomato lagged behind?
A: Catsup!

Please make sure your portfolio is up to date.  See you in class Thursday!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

your satire aug 23

To make progress on your satire project:

  • Read "A Modest Proposal" (on your own, with a partner/small group, or with Ms. Twenge and the class)
  • Ask yourself: how does Swift use diction and syntax to create an effect?  What impression does the document make?  Does it seem like a goofy joke or like it's intended to be taken seriously?
  • Make three choices today (and post about them to your blog):
  1. What is the most effective medium for your satire?  Will you write a document like Swift's?  Will you create a presentation (e.g., a PowerPoint or a Prezi)?  Will you produce an audio or video?  Why?  How will the medium you choose make your message more impactful and/or memorable?
  2. What will be the most effective tone for your satire?  How will you show your tone through your use of diction and syntax?  Will you choose words that a fifth-grader can understand or will you aim for a more sophisticated audience?
  3. Out of the topics you have considered so far, which social institution or condition will you target for improvement?  What will be the topic of your satire?

august 23

The first couple weeks of this course were a mad dash.  Since I'm off campus this week, it's a good time to slow down a little and cross some things off our lists.  Please take a moment to reflect on those things you started but haven't finished, and those things you haven't started yet, and make a list of what you need to accomplish this week in order to get caught up.  Feel free to comment to this post with your list.  Your exit ticket today, which you are required to hand to the substitute before you leave, is your list with a status report on each item.  In other words, once you figured out what you needed to do, did you use the 50 minutes to do it?

What do you need to do in order to catch up and/or get ahead?  What will you do first and why?  What's better to do in class with your colleagues, and what do you feel better about doing at home?

Here are the possibilities we talked about; if you can think of something else please add it in the comments):

  • Add design elements to your blog
  • Catch up on assignments/posts (Welcome post, "Richard Cory" recital, "Right to Your Opinion" response, etc. etc.)
  • Complete/add to your journal topics
  • Define & study vocab
  • Video reading assessment 
  • Read "Conscience of a Hacker" and respond on your blog
  • Read "A Modest Proposal" and respond on your blog
  • Read your Literature Analysis book
  • Begin answering Literature Analysis Questions #1 
  • Work on your satire project

Monday, August 22, 2016

the art of the essay

Please read "The Conscience of the Hacker" for us to discuss on Thursday.  Between now and Thursday please post a response to the essay on your blog.  Mahalo.

literature analysis questions #1

Here are the initial questions for your literature analysis.  We will refine this list and add to it after reading the first round of each others' analyses.

  1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel.
  2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel.  Avoid cliches.  
  3. Based on the author's tone, describe how you imagine the author's morning routine.  Does s/he get up early or sleep late?  Coffee, tea, or no caffeine?  Yoga/meditation/exercise?  Groggily stumble to the toilet and wish s/he wasn't so hungover?  Breakfast?  If so, what kind of food?  No, I am not kidding.  There is no shortcut for this, only your own imaginative thinking based on how you read his/her work and interpret his/her tone.  Include no fewer than three (3) excerpts from the text that illustrate your points.
  4. Describe five (5) literary techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the theme and/or your sense of the tone.  These techniques may include characterization, figurative language, or anything else you've ever studied.  If you can't come up with five, do your best to remember and then look up "literary techniques" online and see if something rings a bell.  Include three (3) excerpts for each technique that will help your reader understand the technique and how it helped you gain insight.

august 22

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Memory" by Barbra Streisand; "Don't You Remember" by Adele]
When we read we make connections between the text and what we already know.  Sometimes we find ourselves surprised when a book calls to mind an old memory we haven't thought about in a long time.  What are your earliest memories?  What makes some things impossible to remember and other things impossible to forget?

1. Journal
2. Plan for the week
3. Literature Analysis
4. Satire
5. Big Question

1. Begin your week's projects
2. Review vocab (nightly for Friday's quiz)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

make this blog work for you

Are you still clicking back here multiple times a day to see if I've posted something new?  Unless you're checking at 1:07 P.M. on a Sunday afternoon, it's gonna be a while until you see this post.

Suggestion: follow the blog.  Use the widget on the right side of this page (web version) to sign up.  That way, whenever I post you will get a message in your email Inbox letting you know.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend! 

this fish is smarter than i am

I will never understand this.  Yesterday I cleaned my daughter's fish tank.  I caught all the fish in a small net to put them in a baggie while I siphoned out a third of the tank, cleaned all the algae off the glass, and put in new water with a couple chemicals.  Simple.

Not simple.

One fish eluded the net.  This one.

"OK," I thought as I came back to the tank, "Fine.  Be too quick for me.  I'll just clean the tank with you in it."

But when I returned from putting the other fish in the bathroom, he was nowhere to be found.It's a small tank.  With glass sides.  Multi-colored rocks, a bubbler, a shell and a fake coral-looking thing on the bottom.  That's it.  As you can see, this fish is the color of emergency crew jackets.  Shouldn't be too hard to find.  I even looked on the floor.


I was totally confused for the entire 45 minutes it took me to clean the tank, replace the filter, change the water, and wait for the chemicals to filter through.  Then I put the other fish back in.

And had my mind blown.

The fish is back in the tank.

Sure, I could joke about fish magic, or that dimension where the other sock sometimes goes, or Hamlet's will-puzzling undiscovered country, but this is for real. 

I don't know how he did it.

Thank goodness I had a witness or this would all sound nuts.  Ms. H was in the house and saw the mystery for herself.  He was really gone, and then he was really back.

That is one smart fish.

Friday, August 19, 2016

"i never learned to read!"

You know, as much as we talk about reading, it's easy to overlook the fact that some of us didn't grow up with books and occasionally have a hard time with the basics.

Consider poor Wayne:

So, how do you know how well you can sound out words and get through a text without mistakes?

Here's how:
1. Watch the video below;
2. Get a copy of Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss;
3. Set up a phone or a camera (or get a friend to help);
4. Read the book as fast and as well as you can;
5. Record your time and the number of mistakes you make;
6. Compare your numbers with mine.  Don't forget to count my mistakes--I just learned that I've been mispronouncing the author's name my whole life!
7. Post your video and your stats on your blog under the heading I CAN READ!

UPDATE: In reply to questions from the email bag...
  • If you're having trouble finding the book, here is the text without the pics. 
  • My reading was a one-take job, but yours doesn't have to be.  You can practice all you want before posting your best effort.
  • To earn course credit you must post I CAN READ! by 11:59 P.M. Wednesday, August 24. (Bonus for add'l. renditions with friends/relatives :)

literature analysis sign up

literature analysis #1 sign-up

Please comment to this post with the book and author you chose.  Mahalo.

ways we can help each other

As we talked about in class this week, there are many ways for you to collaborate, such as: study partners/groups, online forums, even lists of features like journal topics, assignments, and vocabulary lists so that you don't have to comb through the blog. 

Here is a link to a tool past students created; if anyone does something like this, or anything else online, please let me know so I can include a page or a link to help others find it.  Mahalo.

august 19

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes: "Let's Get Down to Business" by Eminem; "Taking Care of Business" by Bachman Turner Overdrive)

Please reflect on your independent work process.  Are you getting stuff done?  What about your working environment is helping you achieve?  What's holding you back?  What are you going to do next in order to succeed?

1. Journal/collect ("Happy First Full Week Friday!" I was told 3x on the way to class)
2. Heads-up on calendar
3. Socratic Seminar: Satire
4. Satire Project

1. Create your satire
2. Find 2 interesting resources that align with your Big Question
3. Have a look at vocab
4. Select a book for your first literature analysis and bring to class on Monday

Thursday, August 18, 2016

room design

Now that we're rolling, and I have hope that someone will take all the extra stuff out of the room, it's time to revisit our conversation from the first week.  Can someone please comment and remind me what we said about the room design, walls, etc.?  I confess that the first week was a bit of a blur-- I should have taken notes in class! :)  Mahalo.

august 18

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "You Talk Too Much" by Run-D.M.C.; "Communication Breakdown" by Led Zeppelin]

So many phrases say the same thing: Talk is cheap. A picture's worth a thousand words. It's not what you said, it's how you said it. Since words are so easy to create we tend to mistrust them. We use our intuition to "read between the lines" and determine what someone really means.  Describe how we listen, read, and learn without depending on words.

1. Journal
2. Satire
3. Vocab
4. Intro to the Big Question

1. Post your first impression/offering as a comment to "What's Your Big Question?"
2. Put next week's vocab quiz in your calendar & start studying
3. Read "A Modest Proposal" and respond on your blog by describing how it meets the criteria for satire.  How does Swift's use of diction, syntax, and tone effectively convey his message?

vocabulary #1


faux pas

what's your big question?

Our minds are naturally inclined toward associative and interdisciplinary thinking.  We connect the dots in all sorts of ways, often when we don't fully comprehend the experience (and sometimes when there aren't even any dots).  

We have questions about the nature of the world: our experience of it, our place in it, our relationship to it, what lies beyond it, and everything else.  When we're young we ask questions all the time.  We are insatiably curious.  It's like somehow we intuitively understand that the more we learn the better we get at everything--including learning.  We don't worry about curricular units or standards.  We have no test anxiety.  We test ourselves all the time.  We love risk and we don't care if we fail.  It's always somebody else who's saying, "Hey, come down from there, you're going to get hurt!"* [*Often, they're right.  In any case they're probably more experienced in estimating the odds of that was fun didn't hurt vs. itchy leg cast for a month outcomes.  But sometimes you just KNOW you can do it and it's frustrating to be told you can't.  Pushing the edge is what learning is all about.** {**As a teacher/responsible adult I must explicitly remind you to do this (i.e., learn/push the edge/create new neural pathways in your brain that actually change your mind) in ways that will not break laws or harm any sentient beings-- most especially you-- or offend, irritate, annoy, upset, or anger your parents.***} <***If you think this is a lot of footnotes, or whatever we're calling the blogger's equivalent, you should read David Foster Wallace (especially Infinite Jest).  In fact, this is the perfect time for you to consider his commencement speech (which doesn't contain footnotes, but does contain the sort of wisdom that more people should hear while there's still time to do something about it.).  At any rate, if you're still following this sentence you'll do fine in this course.>}]  Not only do we love climbing learning limbs when we're young, we know it's what we're best at.  Most of us learn whole languages best between the ages of 5-12.  Our amazing brains manage the torrential inflow by creating schema

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

why teachers don't like f&b in class

august 17

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "The Logical Song" by Supertramp; "Argument" by Monty Python; "Think" by James Brown]

Why do people argue?  What factors should determine who wins an argument?  Describe a time when you won or lost an argument.  Did the experience change your mind?  If it did, why?  If it didn't, what would have?  ALSO: What role/s can humor play in persuasive argument?  When do you think it's appropriate and effective?

1. Journal
2. Old Business:

  • "The Right to Your Opinion"
  • "The Laughing Heart"
3. New Business:
  • Literature analysis
  • Vocabulary/ looking ahead
  • Satire
Analyze the satirical elements of Louis CK's "Everything's Amazing/Nobody's Happy" riff and post to your blog (title: EVERYTHING'S AMAZING)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

august 16

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Freedom of Choice" by Devo; "Freewill" by Rush]

We use phrases like "pay attention" and "make a decision" all the time-- what do they mean to you? How would you teach a child to do either?  How might you improve your own abilities in these areas?

1. Journal
2. "The Laughing Heart" as argument
3. "The Right to Your Opinion"
4. Self-determination

1. Record your recital of "The Laughing Heart" and post to your blog
2. Introduction to Satire:
  • Find three sources you believe qualify as satire.
  • Post links, screen shots, or other references to these sources on your blog.
  • Explain (in 1-3 sentences) why you believe each is an example of satire. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

creating a new blog post

1. Go to the Blogger Dashboard
2. Click on "Create New Post" (orange box with the pencil icon)
3. Give your post a title
4. Write your post & include any pictures, videos or links you want us to see
5. Proofread!
6. Publish your post and make sure you like the way it looks
7. Sit back, relax, and enjoy that sweet, sweet feeling of success

guest teacher this morning

Good morning August 15!  Due to a family matter I won't be in 2nd period today.  Lucky for you, my good friend Mrs. Twenge is stepping in for me-- and she's awesome.  Please share what you've learned about "The Laughing Heart" (just because I'm not there doesn't mean you're off the hook for knowing the poem :) and start the conversation about the Right to Your Opinion.  I'm not assigning new homework tonight; please take the opportunity to catch up on anything you're missing and help a friend do the same.  Have a great day, email me with any questions, and I'll see you tomorrow! -DP

august 15

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes: "Learning to Fly" performed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and "Learning to Fly" performed by Pink Floyd)

What did you learn in this class last week?

(NOTE: this can be something about language, something about technology, something about learning, or even something about yourself...)

1. Journal
2. "The Laughing Heart" -- your recitals and analysis
3. Blog reviews
4. Do you have the Right to Your Opinion? -- discussion

1. Catch up on anything you're missing
2. Help a friend do the same

Friday, August 12, 2016

our online legacies

Just after 6th period today Jish showed me something from one of my former students.  Some of you may have known Breanna Rodriguez.  This was her version of "The Laughing Heart."  Somehow it seems even more compelling now.  Enjoy.

august 12

JOURNAL TOPIC: (Today's Tunes: "Teacher Don't Teach Me No Nonsense" by Fela Kuti)

According to author Salman Rushdie, "A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it from going to sleep."  Do you agree?  To what extent does Bukowski accomplish these goals in "The Laughing Heart"?
A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.
Read more at:
A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.
Read more at:

1. Journal
2. The purpose/s of language
3. Poetry-as-argument
4. Argument-as-search-for-truth
5. Why you are not entitled to your own opinion

1. Finish memorizing Bukowski
2. Finish reading "The Right To Your Opinion"
3. Blog posts: Welcome message and responses to readings

Thursday, August 11, 2016

august 11

Describe the most memorable moment from yesterday's class.

1. Journal
2. Blogging
3. Language as argument

1. Email Dr. Preston with: a) confirmation of your name in the Member Blogs roster; your class period (everyone here is 2 but I have others :) ; and 3) your blog's URL.  If you run into any challenges please let me know.

ted talk on open source learning

Because-- and ONLY because-- some of you asked:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

it's official: we're an open source learning network

It was great to meet you all this morning!  We have a lot to do.  Tomorrow we will go live online, working with this blog and building yours.  This page will never look the same.  Please take a look and make sure your name looks the way it should.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

august 10

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Move On Up" by Curtis Mayfield]

"Action expresses priorities." -Mohandas Gandhi

What are your priorities? Specifically, what are you doing here? Why are you enrolled in this course? What actions can your colleagues and I expect from you this year that will show us what's important to you? What does success look like to you? How will you know -- and how will we know -- when you've "made it"?

1. Journal-as-HW (normally we'll do this at the beginning of each class period, but since you're writing all period today, please get a spiral notebook-- if you don't already have one-- and write today's journal entry in it before class on Wednesday)
2. How to account for the time we've lost?

1. Read and complete this poetry assignment
2. Research the following quote, translate it, and explain its relevance to this moment/course in a brief comment to this post:
dimidium facti qui coepit habet: sapere aude, incipe
(due by the beginning of class Thursday, August 11)

don't take my word for it

about this blog, your health & success in this course

Part of the reason I use a blog instead of a website is that a blog is more personal, more journalistic, and more likely to create opportunities for conversation. When we begin meeting in person, every day's agenda and works-in-progress will be documented here. But in-class interaction is limited in time and space, and learning happens everywhere all the time, so even though we only had something like 185 days of class last year, there were 398 posts to the course blog. I frequently create posts like this to raise issues and/or invite discussion; feel free to comment and begin a conversation thread by contributing an idea, resource/link or question.

We all get a lot of information from a lot of different sources-- and some of it is worth passing along. I'll post items about college, financial aid, study/learning strategies and resources, and occasionally random stuff like an eight-year-old girl who builds rockets or a guy playing piano for elephants in the middle of a jungle.  Just now I ran across this article about young people finding yet another substance to give them an achievement "edge." I find this terribly depressing. What is it about [products/substances/things we can buy] that make us believe they can solve our problems more effectively than we can? For the record, the only substances that will help you in this course of inquiry are: water, clean proteins, fats and carbohydrates in moderate proportions every few hours. And the super-secret bonus ingredients? SLEEP & EXERCISE!

We live in a culture that emphasizes shortcuts: don't believe the hype. Every athlete or intellectual/professional at the top of her game is a living testimony to a simple equation: [Passion] + [Diligence] = [Excellence]  If you've ever loved doing something enough to completely lose track of time, you're already familiar with the idea of flow.  If the idea is new to you, I hope you can discover something through this course that will lead you to it.  I'll give you some ideas in August to get you started.

Grantland Rice gave us the idea, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."  He also wrote a verse called "How to be a Champion" that Coach Wooden used to quote all the time:  

You wonder how they do it, 
You look to see the knack, 
You watch the foot in action,
Or the shoulder or the back. 

But when you spot the answer 
Where the glamours lurk, 
You’ll find in moving higher 
Up the laurel-covered spire, 
That most of it is practice, 
And the rest of it is work.

You're about to have a lot of work to do, and there is no way out but Through. This doesn't have to be a bad thing or a stressful burden. In the first couple of weeks we'll talk about balancing your academic and extra-curricular obligations as you prepare for life after high school. In the meantime, please feel free to comment to this post with any ideas, questions, concerns or observations about these topics.  

Sapere Aude.

will this blog see tomorrow?

It's an open question.  Think about today's in-class discussion, ask yourself what you really want out of this semester, and then comment to this post with your decision and at least one reason for it.  (NOTE: As Benjamin Franklin famously observed, "We all hang together or we all hang separately." We won't move forward unless all of us participate.

I've created an approach to learning in which students use 2.0 tools to create their online identities, express themselves, and show the public what they can do. 

I call the model Open Source Learning and I define it with a mouthful: "A guided learning process that combines timeless best practices with today's tools in a way that empowers learners to create interdisciplinary paths of inquiry, communities of interest and critique, and a portfolio of knowledge capital that is directly transferable to the marketplace."

Students use Open Source Learning to create a wild variety of personal goals, Big Questions, Collaborative Working Groups, and online portfolios of work that they can use for personal curiosity, self-improvement, or as a competitive advantage in applying for jobs, scholarships, and admission to colleges and universities.  You can see a sample course blog here, some member blogs here, and sample masterpieces here and here

Several members of the first Open Source Learning cohort made this video about the experience:

In an era when it seems like all you hear about school is how much it sucks, it's nice to see student achievement make positive waves.  Check out this Open Source Learning interview with students and Howard Rheingold, the man who literally wrote the book on The Virtual Community 20 years ago. 

The defining characteristic of Open Source Learning is that there is no chief; all of us are members of a network that is constantly evolving.  Another key element is transparency.  What we learn and how well we learn it, how we respond to setbacks, and even some of our favorite inspirations and habits of mind are right out there in public for everyone to see.  Readers will rightly perceive what we curate as the best we have to offer.

And all this is Open.  In thermodynamics, an open system exchanges substance, not just light and heat.  To us, the important idea is that the network can change in composition and purpose.  Every time you meet someone new and exchange ideas, you're not only enriching each other, you're changing your minds and contributing opportunities for others to do the same.  In other words, you're learning and teaching* (*one of the most effective ways to learn).

We're not limited to one source for curriculum or instruction.  We have a full slate of online conferences scheduled this year including authors, authorities on the Internet and social media, entrepreneurs, and others.  Last year a mother/daughter team presented a lesson on class distinctions in Dickens & Dr. Seuss online (I'd post & link if I hadn't forgotten to click 'Record').  Ricky Luna invited a champion drummer to talk with students online about music and its connections to literature and life.  If we read something that makes an impression we can reach out to the author.    As you get the hang of this you'll come up with your own ideas.  Testing them will give you a better sense of how to use the experience to your greatest advantage.

No one knows how learning actually works--what IS that little voice that tells you what you should've said 15 minutes after you should've said it?  How does a subneuronal lightning storm somehow account for our experience of being conscious?  We are not sure how to account for the individual experience and demonstration of learning.  We are also not sure what exactly the individual should be learning about at a time when factoids are a search click away and the economy, the environment, and the future are all increasingly complex and uncertain.

Maybe this is why learning still seems magical.  Maybe it shouldn't be.  Maybe if we learned more about how we think we'd be better off.  After all, how we think is a powerful influence on how we act.  If you think of your blog work as a list of traditional school assignments/chores, you will treat it that way and it will show.   Your friends will miss your posts and worry that you've moved to The House Beyond the Internet-- or that you're still at your place but trapped under something heavy.  At any rate you'll be missing the whole point.  This work should help you connect the dots between the interests that drive you, an academic course that derives its title from words hardly anyone uses in casual conversation, and practical tasks like applying for scholarships and college admissions.  The general idea is for you to: do your best at something personally meaningful; learn about how you and others learn while you're in the act; and fine-tune your life accordingly.  In addition to mastering the core curriculum, improving your own mind is the highest form of success in this course of study.

As you well know (Put that phone away or I'll confiscate it!), many people are worried about the use of technology in education.  They are rightly concerned about safety, propriety, and focus: will learners benefit or will they put themselves at risk?  The only way to conclusively prove that the benefits far outweigh the risks is to establish your identities and show yourselves great, both online and in meatspace.  As we move forward you will learn how the Internet works, how you can be an effective online citizen, and how you can use 2.0 and 3.0 tools to achieve your personal and professional goals.  You'll also learn a lot about writing and the habits of mind that make readers and writers successful communicators. 

Because Open Source Learning is a team sport, this is all your call.  You have to decide if you want to pursue this new direction, or if you want to invent another possibility with or without social media, or if you prefer the familiarity of the traditional approach.  There is admittedly something comforting about the smell of an old book, even if it's a thirty-pound textbook that spent the summer in a pile of lost-and-found P.E. clothes.  My perspective may be obvious but I'm just one voice.  Please add yours with a comment below. 

this classroom sucks

When I arrived at the classroom where I'll be teaching this year I was excited. New students, new campus, great to roll my sleeves back up and get my learning on.

Not even the [insert adjective here] painting on wall outside the door threw me.

But you know, I like choice. I like making a place my own. Even if it's a musty trailer on someone else's lawn. And I walked into this:

None of this crap is mine. I don't want it. Now I have to fill out forms and talk to nine different people just to throw it away.

So, dear friends, our first job is to hack our learning environment.  I'd like to know in what kinds of places you learn best, and I'd like to know what you'd like to see in here.  Sure, I could bring in my old posters or make this look like my old room (we had a graffiti wall, about 300 mounted CD jewel cases, and other stuff we built together) -- but my idea of cool or creative may not look like yours.

We will start this conversation in class tomorrow, and then-- unless you want to use that stack of crappy old textbooks-- we will post our ideas online and start designing for learning.