Monday, October 27, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 29- Trick or Treat

 **Note: I tied a long topper on to this so if you want to get right to the explanation of the Game for #WeirdEdE/#WeirdEd skip to the next time you see the double asterisk.**

Ah, the final Halloween-themed #WeirdEd of 2014! How quickly it all goes by. I don't know about you but I'm a HUGE fan of Halloween. Not so much for the scares, I'm a big scardy pants and don't like scary stuff (will make exceptions for some King books and well made horror comedies like Shawn of the Dead), but because it's an excuse to dress up in costumes. I know, with cosplay culture growing it's more and more acceptable for grown adults to dress up and head out whenever (and don't think that I don't), but Halloween is The Night. It's special. It's fun. Festive. Everyone plays along.

I am a firm believer in Halloween at school. I see no reason to take that away from kids. I know the reasons people give, I just don't agree with them. It's unsafe. No it isn't, that's just to go-to excuse to keep kids from doing something. I'm an adult now and I see through your scheme. It's a distraction. Only if your kids are distracted anyway. You should be able to teach in a clown suit and get your lesson's point across. Children might associate school with fun and we can't have that. You're right there. Can't be having the children enjoy the play they spend 180 days of their year. Nope nope nope, there are tests to prep for and there is data to collect. No time to make school a lighter, happier place. (To make this paragraph make a little more sense you should know that my school voted NOT to have Halloween Friday be a Dress in Your Halloween Costume Day. HOWEVER, we, as a staff, DID vote for it to be Superhero Day! Yep. So I got to say the words, "You can't wear your Halloween costumes to school Friday. But you can dress like a superhero or wear superhero stuff on Friday. So if your costume is superhero you can wear your Halloween costume," to my kids. At which point I started feeling really dumb so I had to add, "However, there have been superheroes about all sorts of things. Who's to say there wasn't a Football Man, or a Vampira. They could be superheroes if you name them right. You know, if you wanted to be creative." So I'll probably be in a little trouble on Friday when a bunch of my kids come to school as off-brand heroes because a bunch of teachers are pieces of wood lodged firmly in wet dirt.)

ANYWAY, this week's #WeirdEd/#WeirdEdE is a Game! And you'll have to pay attention. Because I think you should have to pay attention to our chat. Full attention. A chat should be interesting enough that you a) don't want to double chat and b) can't double chat because you're too invested in the hour's conversation. But that's a different blog post.

This chat will be a Trick or Treat Chat. Here's how it's going to work. The moderator (Shawna @nolagirlfromtx for #WeirdEdE and me @TheWeirdTeacher) will tag someone in the chat and tweet at them "#WeirdEd @BlahBlah Trick or Treat?" The tagged person will need to quickly respond with "Trick" or "Treat". This choice dictates which question will be asked next. Yes, I really have a Trick Q and a Treat Q for each Q.

TRICK Qs are a little more serious (as far as #WeirdEd goes). They are straighter forward. Think of a TRICK as a Teaching Tip/Trick/or Skill question. Still with the #WeirdEd flair.

TREAT Qs are much sillier and more off the wall. They are all educationally relevant but a few of the TREAT Qs are me indulging my goofy side while still honoring your time.

Enjoy the chat. Points for coming in costume.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 28- Monsters PLUS Edchat Soapboxing

Welcome to Week Two of Three* of Halloween themes here at #WeirdEd. This week we are going to talk about the Monsters of Education. We know they are out there, what can we do about them? What are their weaknesses? What calls to them and creates them? Why do we fear them?

Are classrooms like Frankenstein's monster? Bunch of kids stitched together into one whole, hit with electricity, and brought to life?

*gets soapbox out*

Last week's chat about fear was so amazing and honest and I want to thank everyone again for that. I know you come to #WeirdEd looking for a good time and an interesting chat and I try very hard to deliver that, but without your willingness to go places you might not go elsewhere we'd have nothing. We'd be normal, like every other chat. No disrespect to the other mods out there, but are we still talking about being connected educators? Come on, you guys. We have all of education at our fingertips and we're going to stick to one specific topic for an entire month**? That would be like having 25k twitter followers and only tweeting bumper sticker platitudes. What a waste of an opportunity and of your audience's valuable time. We can do better. Look to #LBGTeach for an easy example of doing more. Jess only runs her chat once a month (not often enough in my opinion, because I love it so much), but every month she takes aim at important topics that are relevant to not only her, but all of us. Anyone who works with kids. #TotallyRossome took on gender issues a few weeks ago. A topic that pissed me off because I didn't get to it first. I LOVE that Ross went there and trusted his teachers to go there. When #InnoEd was running Lauren regularly went to interesting places not many other chats would touch.

How many chats covered Ferguson? Want to get on that? It's not over. It's not an #educolor issue. It's an education issue. Take it seriously. I think I need to write a chat on #GamerGate, but I need the teachers involved to have context, so I need to frame the chat in such a way that everyone knows what we're talking about and why. Why do I need to write a chat on #GamerGate? Because it's an educational issue that is actually happening and edtech should be tackling it but won't for some reason. This is real life stuff, folks. Stuff we need to be talking about. Use twitter as a tool. A flexible, living tool. Talking about being connected is just words if you don't take advantage of those connections.

We can do better or edchats are going to die on the vine. We must dig deeper. We must see the world as an educational opportunity and we must see each other as true learners. How many times can we have the same chats about the same things? Mods, if you see a chat that covers a topic you wanted to cover change your topic. Or at least take note of the questions and change your doubles. So many of us won't give kids homework that is meaningless but we're more than happy to parrot the same As to the same Qs over and over and over. Stop writing leading questions to answers you already know. That's safe and boring. Stop being bumper stickers and platitudes. Come up with your own memes.

I'm tired of the same old chats about the same old topics. I don't want to play in that pool when we have the entire ocean of education open to us.

Let's get creative. Let's get deeper. Let's actually use the experience and expertise of those around us in a meaningful and impactful way.

*I know last week I said it was two weeks long, but that's because I didn't actually look at a calendar, I just guessed when Halloween was.

**says the guy doing three weeks of Halloween-themed chats

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 27- Fear

Welcome to the October sessions of #WeirdEd! (Yes, I know last week was October too but I just thought of this so leave me alone). This week and next we will be talking spooooOOooOooOooky topics in honor of my favorite holiday which has been eaten by Hot Topic- Halloween!

This week I want to talk about fear. Fear is a very real thing and something that can motivate or destroy. It's something that we all can relate to (as opposed to, say, very specific classic science fiction tv shows).

Fear makes us make choices. Unless it shuts us down completely. Fear can be unexpected. Sometimes you have no idea you're scared of a thing until it happens. Fear-based choices can be good but are often poor or at least poorly justified. Fear gets a bad rap. Real men aren't afraid. Bull. Like Gandhi* said "Bravery isn't the absence of fear, it's being afraid and acting anyway."

Teaching, at least for me, has tons to fear. I'm not scared of the kids themselves. I'm not scared of parents. Or my administrators (side note: I refuse to be scared of my school district leadership. That gets you pushed around and mistreated.).

I am scared of failing my kids. I'm scared of lessons that bomb so regularly that there's no way they learned it and why can't I reach them and if I can't help this kid he is sooooo screwed because this thing is the foundation for a thousand other things.

That entire previous paragraph is the real reason why I'm not a kindergarten teacher. It's allll place setting and foundation building. That's freaking terrifying.

There's things we fear that we shouldn't and things we fear that we should but are completely irrational. There's that little voice in our heads that knows if the kids really wanted to they could take over the room because there's a lot of them.

In case you think I've forgotten, we aren't the only ones with fear in school. The kids fear too. And their fear is more important than our fear. That's why we shoo the hornet away even though ahmygawdImgonnagetstungahhhh. Our job is to remove fear and replace it with trust and faith and knowledge.

What scares you?

*on the internet you can attribute any quote to anyone. Just ask Facebook

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 26- Star Trek TOS

It's been 26 weeks of #WeirdEd and I haven't written a Star Trek-specific chat. TWENTY-SIX WEEKS! Do you have any idea how many strange, new worlds that is? If George Lucas were writing it, it would be dozens of parsecs!* If JJ Abrams were writing it I'd just copy a chat someone else wrote and change some of the names around and then not admit to anything ever.**

We need some bright future in our lives this week. I'm betting we have all hit that point in the school year where the shine is off, some of the cracks are starting to show, and moods are in need of a boost. What better way than with one of the most hopeful shows in television history?

Trek was about a coming together for a common goal. Creator Gene Roddenberry but white, black, Japanese, Russian, Scot, and alien together on the bridge of the flagship of the United Federation of Planets. This was the crew that would encounter strange, new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations. One of the most mixed casts in television up to that point (and still much more mixed than anything you'll find on most networks) boldly went where no one had gone before. And let's not forget that Star Trek premiered in 1966, so featuring a Russian and a Japanese man were actually bigger deals than it might seem like today.

From Tribbles to Klingons to Gorn, the crew of the Enterprise always sent their best men and women to deal with the problem, which doesn't really make sense since why are you sending the entire chain of command on every away mission? Someone always got sacrificed to the Television Gods of This Situation Is Serious***. Roddenberry was ahead of the curve on tech as well. Watch early Trek episodes and you'll see Mr. Spock  placing discs into a drive to pull up information. Yeah, Star Trek had floppy discs**** before we all had computers. Cell phones were flip phones for a long time because nerds who grew up watching Kirk call for two to beam up loved the swagger James T. flipped his communicator open with. The first interracial kiss on television was Star Trek's.

It was a show that mixed serious and funny with mixed results, and was occasionally bad, but never unwatchable. Sure, the sets were cheap and every planet looked the same. The uniforms were too tight and some of the dialogue was marble-mouthed. But the ideas were pure. Trek was a smart show with ideals and a conscience (more things I'll never forgive JJ for forgetting). It was the best future. Humanity was over our petty squabbles and were reaching out to the stars. Not to destroy but to find and learn about. 

*let us not forget a parsec is a measure of distance, not time. Star Wars isn't science fiction, it's pure fantasy

**Seriously, JJ sucked at Trek. Good luck, Yoda

***Read Redshirts by John Scalzi for a hilarious take on this

****ask your parents, kids