It was like so…

I do not recall exact details, but I do recall that feeling…realizing how much of my mind dumping and rambling was contributing to the growing pile of cyberspace junk, I decided to delete my blog. I archived it, for my own files, then hit the magic delete button.

A clean slate has remained for several years.{Or so I thought…scroll down, and there it is!}

Now that I am considering a return to blogging, it is a strange feeling. Part of me wants to say ‘wait – there’s more! I used to be good at this…’, but I guess we shall see if that is the case. Is it time to stick my toes in that water again?

Pointing to Boutique learning…

Just a point to a post that got my mind going the other day (perhaps it is because of the coffee reference).
“Keepin’ it Real” by Aaron @ Teacher In Development. A good read that sets your mind on a track of very interesting poderings…
I have wondered about this analogy in the past in terms of faith and culture, but the tie to educational delivery is dead on.
My question: how do you deliver boutique coffee when the place is lined up out the door? Or, how do you deliver customized learning (what some would call differentiated instruction) when you have 29 + students in one class — and I’m talking private (boutique??) school here, not public.

This has been my frustration for some time. I’m open to your comments or suggestions…

‘Tom’s Shoes’ –> Why Can’t more Companies BE like Them?

I was just reading Don Miller’s blog while deleting about 3 gigs of school photos from my mac (funny, it isn’t any lighter…). Miller’s latest post is about a brilliant company called ‘Tom’s Shoes’ that is walking in justice…amazing stuff.
I think everyone should buy them (if only they shipped outside the USA…) – they are the new converse….the new vans…with a conscience.
here’s their manifesto:

Inspired by a traditional Argentine shoe and challenged by the continent’s poverty and health issues, I created TOMS with a singular mission: To make life more comfortable, TOMS accomplishes this through its unique shoe and my commitment to match every pair purchased with a donated pair to a child in need…no complicated formulas, it’s simple…you buy a pair of TOMS and I give a pair to a child on your behalf.

(Blake Mycoskie – designer / chief shoe giver) {that is the coolest job description I’ve heard!}

According to Miller, Mycoskie’s humble beginning in the shoe world was one of direct response to what the conditions he saw in his amazing race travels:

While traveling in Argentina Tom met a number of children who didn’t have shoes, so with very little money, he bought about 200 pair of shoes, brought them in a duffle bag to Los Angeles, and sold them for enough profit to buy an extra pair for every pair he sold. He then delivered the extra pair to a child in need of shoes, placing them on the childs foot with his own hands. (Miller accessed May 6, 07)

This is a brilliant form of jubilee marketing….marketing that thinks from the heart and with concern for others.

We need more of this kind of marketing.

As soon as I hit the states again, I’m snaggin’ me some TOMS….

How are you teaching?

Just viewed/experienced a very thought provoking video on using technology in the classroom. You can view it here: “Are You Paying Attention?”

Thanks to Graham Wegner for the point in that direction.

I found the video to be very compelling…especially the discussion around cell phone and ipod use in the classroom. I wonder….could it work? Could it actually bloody well work? My brain is wagging a big yes there…will have to do some thinking around that one.(and I would have to work against our school’s ban on cell phone and mp3 use in the classroom…)
The text messaging assignment sounds great, but I am wondering how to link it to Ministry PLO’s? I think you could…just wondering out loud here…

Regardless, this was a challenging and thought provoking view. Thanks for the ref, Graham. I wish I had my coffee and the morning to mull it over….

‘What are you {think}ing about?’

For openers, thanks to Alex McManus’ ‘Into the Mystic’ for this great Utube reference that had me almost spit out my terrible tasting maxwell house coffee (boo to the corrupt corporate coffee giants) – which reminds me, I need to keep campaigning for an ethical staff room…

I read a post last night that was just brilliant in terms of reflective practice and working towards dialog vs. top down assessment in the classroom. Konrad Glogowski’s “Replacing Grading with Conversations” is well worth the read. I applaud his attempts to maintain a conversation of learning that is constructivist in its approach, not an end-game type of assignment:

In other words, I want them to see their blogs and their entries as organic entities, as attempts to engage with ideas, as evidence of growth and development. It’s about maintaining conversations, not ending them by saying “Well done!” or “Good job!” (Glogowski)

This is learning.
Learning does/(shouldn’t?) not just stop when the assignment is posted or handed in. It should be something that is built upon and carried forward. I have found myself attempting to engage students in similar conversations about their blog posts…asking questions and adding the odd link that I think may stimulate some thought or take the discussion further. I agree with Glogowski’s sentiment that this reflects “a long period of learning to engage with students as a learner and a participant and not a teacher who has read it all and knows everything the students can possibly come up with” (Glogowski). I am wondering if my students are getting a whiff of that feeling- the feeling that I am, in fact, a fellow learner- a fellow travellor on this journey, and not some kind of all-knowing super monk who already knows the destination.
My problem is that I’ve been having that conversation (at least trying to), but also whipping out the ole’ rubric and assigning a mark on the assignment.
So many students attach value to that. We’ve cultured them to do that…
I have been holding off on the last two posts, and am getting peppered with questions as to when I will mark them. My plan is that students will evaluate their own and choose which they would have represent their learning in this instance. I want them to engage in their own product and ask ‘Which is a better artifact, which is more authentic in terms of demonstrating my thoughts, ideas, writing style…’ The more I think about it, the more I think it crucial that students evaluate their own work and choose what they feel to be representative of their learning, writing, and thinking.
I am learning to try and unlearn some of my thinking that suggests every assignment must be graded by me and entered into that grand mark book. For one, workflow can just flood you if you maintain that thought process. Second: it quickly becomes redundant.

Here’s where I hit a snag. It’s a good one, but one that has stumped my brain a bit….Glogowski delves into the realm of alternative assessment, and it’s somewhere I want to go, too…

[…] becoming a participant and divesting myself of that teacherly voice means that I need to gradually move away from formal evaluation. I want to. I am interested in reading my students’ work, sitting down with them individually and talking about their progress. I don’t want to be the only arbiter of their progress. They need to be part of the process too. In fact, since it is their work, they should be given a chance to talk about it, not as an artifact to be evaluated but as evidence of engagement. (Glogowski)

My question is: how would this look in context of a high school (say gr12) classroom? How does a system that is geared towards formal evaluation decentralize that notion or subvert it?
Again, the term ‘portfolio’ comes into my head.
A collection of learning artifacts that demonstrates a journey…
Thinking time again…
p.s. this is a rough post. my apologies. please be good to yourself, your fellow humans, and the earth: drink fairly traded, organic, shade grown coffee. Your tastebuds will thank you!