Wednesday, July 30, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 16- Flow With It Storify

You #WeirdEd teachers are amazing. I knew when I planned this chat that I could make it flow with the theme and everyone would keep right up and without  missing a beat you all proved me right. I don't know about you, but I think #WeirdEd/#WeirdEdE has the best group of teachers on the tweets. The joy and trust it takes for you to think, "We are going to talk about classroom flow, but he's going to make us do it in rhyme? Ok, let's do this," is immeasurable. Thank you so much for playing along every week. And we even got new people this week! New people during the week where answering Qs might have been the hardest it's ever been. Awesome. Simply awesome.
Here's the Storify for this week if you want to go back and dig your mad rhymes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 16- Flow With It

Tonight's #WeirdEd will be a little change
For some of you it might be kinda strange
 I'm gonna make you think
Make you struggle make you link
 Every answer that you say
Will rhyme this Wednesday
We'll be talkin' 'bout school
How as teachers we are cool
But if the kids could see this chat
They'd laugh, "Ha! Lookit that!"
All your answers to my queries
Better rhyme, my sweet and dearies
Get creative, like the kids are
Get silly, and you'll go far
How smooth can you be
When your trying to rhyme with me
Your classroom is a song
And your teaching must flow along
Sometimes things make the groove skip
How do you handle that kinda bad trip
This chat is #WeirdEd
Led by the voices in my head
Our topic is the Flow
And making your class go
So buckle up and enjoy the show

Monday, July 28, 2014

Repsonse to BATDC of July 28

Today the BATs (Bad Ass Teachers) group marched/rallied at Washington DC with a list of Demands. I'm not a fan of the Bad Ass Teachers group for many reasons (the juvenile nature of the name and imagery of a group that wants to be taken seriously is high on the list*). But their list of Demands for DC is ridiculous. So I took to the twitters to talk about it.

Here's the list:

Embedded image permalink

I have issues with the list. Not personal. 1) Know who issues "Demands"? Kidnappers and cartoon baddies. No one serious **

Demand 1 is ridiculous and never going to happen.Why have it in there? So they can say no and you can be "unlistened to"

- I'm actually OK with not having teacher evals based on high stakes testing. Wish it wasn't buried under impossible first.

Nmbr 5 is not actually on them, it's on us. How many eds go into government to get on those committees?***

I'm also ok with equality in funding, but "appropriate class sizes" is pretty vague for Demands.

I'm not a huge TfA fan, but it's not the Devil either. Don't kill the program, work on it and with it. Bring it in line.

Looking at N.8 Isn't this rally proof we have freedom of speech? How is part one and two of this demand related?

Re N.4 The standards aren't test-based. They aren't. They might be test-assessed, but that's different. And Ts were involved.

Does has alternative suggestions to accompany their demands? End this and that and replace with what that's better?

Does has alternative suggestions to accompany their demands? End this and that and replace with what that's better?

I'm open to a conversation about my problems. I hear Arne Duncan actually came out to meet with the group. I look forward to hearing how everyone dealt with that meeting and what was discussed. I REALLY want to know if someone in their group demanded that he step down to his face.

 What is BAT's alternative plan? Does the group believe how things were prior to Common Core was better? Is the group's idea that standards are bad period and teachers should be trusted without guidance to teach what we think kids should learn? 

And it's not until the very last demand that student learning is mentioned at all. For a teacher group you would think students would pop up in the priority list somewhere. 

 *No really, a bunch of them use Batman logos. You know, the comic book superhero. Because if you're a group of grown up educators asking to be taken seriously you go with a comic hero. And I'm a big comic book fan, I've read more Batman comics than most of these teachers, and I actually understand the character they chose as their avatar.

** Really. Batman villians issue demands, you guys. Demands are associated with baddies. Real life baddies like kidnappers and cartoon baddies like the guy who will blow up the bank unless he gets a Lear Jet to the Bahamas and a massage from Olivia Newton John. 

*** This is a HUGE thing for me. You have a problem with government? Run for government. Michele Bachmann got elected, you can get elected.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

CUE Rockstar Vegas Wrap-Up

July 21-23 found me in Las Vegas presenting at a CUE Rockstar teaching convention. It is an unique and incredibly fun conference experience. Most teaching conferences are massive events with multiple sit-and-listen sessions every day. CUE's is built to be two two hour sessions per day, with a two hour lunch in the middle. Each session should be about thirty minutes of talking by the presenter, and then ninety minutes of everyone in the session working and exploring and learning together.The conference attendance is capped at 100, with nine presenters. Which means every session is small. For example, my sessions over the three days ranged from two to sixteen people.

Each day starts with a Shred session. Every presenter has one slide and one minute to sell their session to the teachers in attendance. It's supposed to be fun, engaging, and informative. So I did a poem, a puppet show, and a kung-fu movie.

Below are links to the three websites I created for my sessions, and inside of those websites are links to the presentations themselves. And then a bunch of pictures from the three days in Vegas.
Some of the pictures are changed. That's thanks to the goofy people of twitter who decided some of the pictures needed some spicing up.

The other guy is +John Wick, a friend from Twitter I finally got to meet

Photobomb from my Needle session

Google-Fu ninjas

My shred sessions were never boring

Needle Shred

"When you can snatch the answer from the google your training will be complete."

Sold all the books I brought. Here's a happy fan

Fun was had on the twitters

Morning tweet promoting Needle

Some of my wonderful Google Drivers from Day One

Lunch with some other faculty selfie

John and I being tough

The kilt was a big hit

"I've got papers on my table, I've got piles on my piles..."

Borrowed the Gos for my slide

Awesome pic from one of the attendees

Real quotes

Come to my session. You know you want to.

Went to LOVE and then to dinner at Gordon Ramsey's BURGR with faculty Monday night

Courson rocking a Shred

Being clever and handsome

More fans!

Thanks, Joe!

Discussing stuff and things
CUE was an amazing experience and I hope to attend more. If you get the chance, check them out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 15- Sammiches

This week's #WeirdEd is Weird Teacher-less for I will be just finishing Day3 of CUE Rockstar Las Vegas when #WeirdEdE starts and I'll be on an airplane flying home when #WeirdEd starts. Which means that both chats will be piloted by the wonderful and talented Sam Bates (@sjsbates).

In honor of Mrs. Bates, this week's topic is Sammiches.

Let us think about the sammich. Held together often with bread, but not always. And there are so many kinds of bread. And what goes inside a sammich? Anyone who's been to a real sammich shop (yes, I'm going to spell it like that the whole time, get used to it) knows you can put just about anything between those slices. You can have small sammiches or big ones. Some are very simple and some are multi-layered. Some are peanut butter and jelly and some are good.

This feels like a perfect metaphor for education, doesn't it? Everything in education comes in layers. And so much changes if you remove even one piece. So let's think about sammiches.

And a thousand thank you's to Sam for taking over #WeirdEd for me for the night. She's a chat saver.

Adventures in CUETubery

For Day 2 of CUE Rockstar Vegas I presented on using YouTube in your classroom and how students can use the program's internal editing software to create videos easily and quickly. Then I made the group create their own videos. Not everyone shared with me, which is fine, it was really more of a practice session.
Still, I'm very happy with what was developed. So I'm going to link to the ones that were shared so you can see how creative the teachers I got to work with today are.
The videos are especially impressive since none of the teachers had played with the program prior to today. So what they were able to do was figured out by the quickly.
We'll actually start with the two I made while I was demo-ing the program for them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 14- Aliens

This week you need to get your tones, lights, bicycles, and power loaders ready because we are talking about aliens.

So much of #WeirdEd is about being slightly different. Weird. Not fitting in or being one of the group. And through that learning acceptance, flexibility, and empathy. So basically, being an alien and learning to cope.

Let's talk about different aliens and what they represent in pop culture.

There's the ones we are supposed to fear, the titular Alien of Riley Scott's (mostly) excellent series, Klingons from Star Trek:TOS and the Cardassians from Star Trek:TNG, Pacific Rim's kaiju, and the Vogons.*

The lovable aliens like Alf, Paul, Micheal Jackson, Zoidberg (because why not Zoidberg), and tribbles.*

The ones who help us and teach us like Ford Prefect, Nibbler, Vulcans, Yoda, Valentine Micheal Smith (not technically an alien but so very alien), and The Doctor.*

And the ones we are supposed to help like E.T., The Little Green Aliens (pictured above), Nibbler again, and the little bots from Batteries Not Included.*

We are and we have these aliens in our classes and in ourselves. That's why we like writing about them so much. It's why so many great movies (E.T.) and awful movies (Transformers) are about aliens. We can project anything we want on to them. Our hopes, our fears, our aspirations, our wish to have sex with a very tall blue monkey lady (looking at you James Cameron). These things (with the exception of the last one [probably...hopefully]) show up in our kids all the time. They show up in our teaching. We can learn from them.

So pull on your ultra-tight Starfleet uniforms, grab your towel, make sure to fill out form 3652A in triplicate and submit it to the proper authorities before close of business, and don't forget your sonic, because we're getting out there.

***Things to Think About***
Pretty much the four types of aliens I named up there. They will be the basis for the questions and the thrust of the thinking.

*I thought for a second about linking to each of those, but you have the Google. You do the work if you don't know.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Better Edu-Cliches

All children can learn. It's some adults that have the trouble. #bettereducliches

We are training kids for jobs that don't exist yet. Like teaching, medicine, and law. #bettereducliches 

I model the behavior I want to see out of my students. Unless it's the weekend or a holiday. Or its been a tough day. #bettereducliches 

No student is standardized. Except identical twins. Because identical, duh. Also clones. #bettereducliches 

Kids today are nothing like kids when I was young as long as I forget everything about being young. #bettereducliches 

Would you want to be in your class? Then who would be teaching your class? I don't think you've thought this through. #bettereducliches 

Teaching isn't a marathon or a sprint. It's a mud run in the rain. Messy and fun and kinda squishy if you teach kinder. #bettereducliches 

All PDs should be individual-led. Laws are meaningless. Guidance is unneeded. An unaimed arrow is prettier. #bettereducliches 

Kids need to have time to be kids. Unless they like video games. Those are awful. #bettereducliches

They don't care how much you know until they know how much longer until recess. #bettereducliches 

Worksheets are evil. Until you're writing last minute sub plans, then hell yeah worksheets! #bettereducliches 

Teaching is a work of heart. Until the copy machine dies. Then it's a work of panicked improvisation. #bettereducliches 

Children are not a number. They are ambulatory bags of water, meat, and electricity we sometimes test with numbers. #bettereducliches 

Being a teacher is like having a thousand internet tabs open. Being a teacher w/out coffee is like the network crashing. #bettereducliches

Monday, July 7, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 13- Luck and Skill

Welcome to #WeirdEd's 13th chat (and #WeirdEdE's first!)! As there is no way I'm letting a 13 go by without using it to my advantage, this chat will be about luck and skill.

I know I'm not the only teacher who has thought the following thing- "No, I didn't make this class so good. I got really lucky with the mix. And those test scores? I mean, yeah I'm good, but that's all the kids. I got a good group this year. That's most of it."

Luck. It's luck. Is it luck? Maybe.

Or is it skill?

So many of us (ok, so many of you, I wrote a freaking book about how wonderful I am [ok, it's not really about that but still]) are reluctant to step up and take credit for how awesome we are. Yeah, we'll passive-aggressively RT "Teachers are Awesome"-style tweets, but those aren't about Me. Those are about Us. All of us. All teachers are awesome, right guys? And I get to kinda say I'm awesome too because I'm an Us. But much rarer will you see or hear, "I made that lesson wash my car like it was Biff and I was George McFly! Those kids learned everything I wanted them to and it's my fault! Booyah!" But we do have skills. We've got sick nun-chuck skills (a reference to a movie I don't even like). *

So how much of what happens in our classroom is luck, and how much is skill? We know the chemical combination in our classroom's is a delicate balancing act. Too much of one kind of kid or another and the whole mess fizzles or blows up in our faces. So there's the luck of the draw. But a teacher becomes a skilled chemist, knowing how to spread the mixtures around. When to agitate. When to let it rest. When to turn up the heat. When to continue beating a metaphor into the ground.

When to mix lightly. When to cool. When to put the chemicals in a centrifuge until at least one of them tries to lay sideways and falls totally off the wall to the amusement of everyone except the kid who is about to puke his guts out.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. So let's talk about luck and skill. What's bad luck in a classroom? What's pure luck? How heavily can luck swing a room or a lesson? Is there a point where luck and skill balance each other? Is that called Being a Great Teacher?

*there feels like there's another #WeirdEd in here about tooting our own horns...hmmm

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Annoucing #WeirdEdEast

I am shocked and pleased and shocked that I even get to write this post. Never, from when I first started writing the book to when I first started #WeirdEd, did I imagine the kind of connections that would be made.

#WeirdEd, in its 12 weeks of life, has grown faster and wilder than I every foresaw. The response has been overwhelmingly positive thanks, I'm quite sure, to the amazing early adopters who knew exactly the tone (anti-edchat) I was going for and who every week manage to keep it light and fun while also bringing the professional knowledge and experience in spades. It's an tricky line to balance and every week I'm shown that there are more Weird-minded teachers out there craving something a little different, a little off center, than any of us knew.

The biggest (honestly, only) complaint I've ever received about #WeirdEd is the time. 7pm Pacific Standard Time. Why is it at 7PST? Because I teach all day and want to work out and have a wife and small human who need my attention. I realize that makes it ok for west coasters, decent for those in the central time zones, and very late for our east coast friends. But what am I gonna do? The time works for me and I'm the moderator. East coasters, unfortunately, will have to either miss out or stay awake past their bed times.

But now, with how big we've grown, I want to try an experiment. I want to broaden the reach of #WeirdEd. Read the subtitle of the blog. This is the hub of my ever-expanding educational empire. So, at the risk of diluting the water or over-extending my reach (something I've always done because even when I come up short I still reach farther than I thought), I'm announcing #WeirdEdE.

Yes, #WeirdEd East, but that takes too many precious characters so just #WeirdEdE will be the hashtag. I love and respect my East coast (and tired Central) friends and I want their input as well. So #WeirdEdE will bring #WeirdEd's fun and philosophy to an untapped wealth of knowledge.

#WeirdEdE will take place every Weds at 7EST. Hopefully this makes it easy to remember. Same day, same time, just change the time zone. #WeirdEd is at 7PST, #WeirdEdE is at 7EST.

Obviously I'm not mod-ing this chat. I can't. 4PST will never work for me. I'm lucky if I've left school by then. Like Wonka, I had to find someone to care for the candy factory. And I knew just the person. She's smart, funny, and understands the #WeirdEd philosophy as well as I do. She's been on board since Day One and was instrumental in talking me into starting the chat in the first place.

Samantha Bates (@sjsbates) will be the mod for #WeirdEdE. She's in TN, which gives her the geographic bonafides, and is completely trustworthy. In the #WeirdEd Jaeger she is my co-pilot and we are in the Drift.

I will still be writing all the Qs (now with more of Sam's input) and writing the overview blogs. Sam will be ringleading #WeirdEdE. The Qs for both chats will be exactly the same.

I have no idea how well this will work. I do need your help. Please spread the word to the right coast twitterers you know, tell them there's a new chat in town, #WeirdEdE, at 7EST. If it fails and no one comes, we'll push on for a few weeks. If it still doesn't fly, then we tried.

Thanks for making #WeirdEd so awesome. Without incredible participants it's just me talking out loud to myself and making myself laugh.

#WeirdEdE, 7EST
#WeirdEd, 7PST

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 12: The World Cup

I'm opening with a deep and profound thought, so prepare yourselves.

Are you properly prepared? Sitting down? Seat in an upright and locked position?

Here it goes: The World is a HUGE place.

There, aren't you glad you were prepared for that?

Here's the thing though- I don't think most adults know how big the world really is. How many people exist on the planet, how different yet the same we are. How normal is abnormal in so many places. How run of the mill somewhere would scare the pants off some of us.

I try hard to expand my world view. I acknowledge that I still don't really know how spread out we are. I take steps to combat that. I don't have the money to travel, but when I do I like getting outta Dodge. Look at who follows you and who you follow on twitter. I'll be honest, I go out of my way to follow non-American teachers. Like, if you're from the States I'll check out your profile, read a few of your tweets, vet you. If your profile says, "Teacher. Australia" I click FOLLOW so hard you feel it.

And if we adults, the wise ones we are*, don't realize how big the world is, how can the kids? Should they realize how big the world is? I know my kids in Hawaii didn't. One of my favorite things was to pull down the world map and point at the tiny speck that is the island. "Here!" I'd shout. "This is you! This teeny tiny itsy speck is you! And this," I gesture wildly to the rest of the map, "is EVERYTHING else! See. The. World." Island dwellers have no idea how big the world is.

But neither do my kids in Oregon. Not really. Only military kids seem to have an idea, and that's because mom (or dad) showed them where the other parent is stationed, or they were stationed there as a family.  They know flight times and time zones and how there's places around the world their classmates have never heard of.

The Olympics are a great time to do this. So is the World Cup (if it happened while school was in session, and of course I mean the Rugby World Cup, not that other one). Those come but once every two-to-four years though. What about the rest of the time? How do you make the world real?

*Things to think about**
How important is it that students understand the size of the world? At what age should this concept be introduced? How many non-American (or non-your country) people do you follow/know? Don't you wish you spoke another language so you could follow those people too? Is Finland really that great? Really? How do you share the size, breadth, and variety of the world with your students? How do you experience it yourself? How do you make the world real to your kids?

*I'm not really an adult. It's an act