Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 88- Future Reflections and Other Nonsense

As it is the final #WeirdEd of 2015 we must look back and look ahead. There's nothing I can do about this. It's in the edchat bylaws which all chat moderators must sign in blood before beginning their chat. However, I've found a loophole. The bylaws say we must reflect and look forward at the end of every year BUT they do not specify to and from which years the reflecting and forward looking must go. 

So let's get weird on this. I'm going to skip 2016 and pretend it's the end of next year. We'll look back on the previous year (which hasn't actually happened yet, are you keeping up?) and reflect on how it went. See? It's like we're looking forward by looking backward. And then maybe we'll look sideways or look way back or way forward. Maybe we'll just chat about how our break has been going for a while. There might be a random moment of noise for Lemmy. 

You might need to pay attention to this chat to know what's going on. Which I think is important. I've said it before but if you can multitask a chat then you aren't really doing the professional development you claim to be doing. My job is to write questions on topics that engage for an hour on a weekly basis. You know, like we all do on a daily basis in our classes. Your job is if you come to the chat to be present in the chat. You know, like you expect your kids to do. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 87- Santa Baby

Dear Santa,

For [winter celebration of my choosing] this year I have a long list of requests. I've been bad a lot, but I've been very good at it. I should still get what I'm asking for. Tonight's chat will be a list of educational and personal wishes. But my first wish is that everyone takes a chat about wishes as seriously as a chat about wishes should be taken. Wish for the sun and the moon and the stars and a reindeer with a schnoz that glows and a magic hat and maybe the new album by your favorite band and a copy of He's the Weird Teacher or THE Teaching Text (You're Welcome).
And then maybe later in the chat we can play Santa. You know, a little role playing to spice things up. We will grant wishes to other people. I have to assume that you don't get letters from everyone which means sometimes you must have to guess. We'll guess what people want for [winter celebration of their choosing]. That would be fun and different, right?
Should we talk about who shouldn't get gifts? I dunno, that sounds a little negative for us, don't you think? Is there a way to spin that, somehow, Mr. Claus? I'll think on it and get back to you.
We'll leave the cookies and milk out for you. And some carrots for your reindeer and mud for your turtle.

Fly safe,


ps I really am serious about getting people my book. You better have a bunch in your sack there.

Friday, December 18, 2015


I cast about my class
Someone must know
must have a response
Same hands every time
Find someone new
Pull out a trick
turn and talk
did something stick?
Stand atop a desk
behind a desk  
kneel before the desk.
and dance
and sing for the kids
They dance
and sing back
I joke
they joke
we laugh
together we're in this
Some kids separate
Feeling hurt
Senses sensitive
feelings reeling
by home-life
life on the inside
Need to attend to everyone
gotta keep up with all the kids
and what they need
But what do I need?
Wild-eyed I teach
reach with speech and plans
and do you understands
yes ma'ams.
We push together
Strive together
Fail apart
Fail together
It's not now or never
Or is it
Learning intrinsic
Overthought until you're sick
I metacognate
teaching myself to think
about what I think
about what they think
and how
before it's too late
Try not to think about the end
of the term
of the day
of the lesson
they can sense that
it'll send
it'll burn
them away
Wild-eyed we try
And try
and try
and try
and try
and try
Teaching with a need
Even when I'm sitting
Quietly sitting
Mentally pacing as they
Take the lead
With wild-eyes

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 86- S******S

We don't want to hear about it. Don't say anything about it. How is that fun to know ahead of time? Stoppit. I know what I cant avoid and that's it. I like being surprised, don't you? Isn't that half the fun? I'm not going to claim it's all of the fun because I've seen PACIFIC RIM nine thousand times, but you want the first time to be special, with all the excitement and unsureness and fumbling that entails.


What were we talking about again?

Oh yeah! The thing on the Internet's mind right now! The thing everyone is obsessing over. SPOILERS! (Spoilers and Star Wars have the same number of letters and begin and end with the same letter, so that *** trick worked out rather nicely.)

Let's talk about spoilers for schools and students. Surprises and set-ups and pay-offs. Previews and giving away the game too early. We're a spoilerphobic culture now, and how does that translate to the classroom? Have you ever accidentally spoiled something for your kids? Or has a kid spoiled something for you or your class?

(I really don't want to talk about THE FORCE AWAKENS yet. I want to see it first. And even then I don't want to tweet specifics about it for another month.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 85- This Week

I want to rebuild edchats. At least this edchat, our edchat. And I'm still working on it. Twitter as a medium is fairly limiting. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Limits force creativity. So I've been sweating hard over how to revamp #WeirdEd and I haven't broken it yet. I've got a few ideas, some musings and some half-formed thoughts, but nothing solid. At the very least I want to keep pushing the edges of what can be an education topic, something I think we've done pretty well. Every week here is somewhat of an experiment and some go better than others. For example, I l loved the World of Warcraft chat idea we had a few weeks ago. I thought Jenn wrote excellent, creative, deep questions. But the chat didn't go great because it was a little too specific, a little too inside baseball. But I'm ok with that. I'm ok with #WeirdEd not being Big Tent. If I'm doing this right there will probably be weeks that turn you off because I'm trying to find new things. Every week is a new rep. It's certainly more interesting than yet another chat about collaboration or getting 20th century teachers into the 21st century. Sure, those can be productive conversations, but man can they be boring. 

#WeirdEd this week isn't ground-breaking or difficult. I want to make it as micro as possible. Real specific and specifically specific about education. Specifically specific about this week. It's Wednesday, let's talk about your week.

I want it to be a loose chat. I'm not even going to write questions. I never don't write questions. I think that's unprepared. I worry I'll waste your time if I'm not ready with a few well thought out and detailed questions. But since this will be about this week I think I'm going to try to let it flow more organically. If I have an idea and my brain goes, "No, that's a dumb idea," I'm going to try it in a way that feels not dumb. Don't self-reject, you train the muscle to stop trying. 

Let's talk about our teaching week so far, Monday through Wednesday. As a chat. A real chat. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 84- The High Wire

image credit-

Teaching is a high wire act of the highest difficulty. The best make it look effortless unless they want it to look difficult, are terrified even when they are outwardly calm, and are meticulously planned.

A high wire act does not come together overnight. Maths and planning and practice happen over and over because sometimes that's literally the difference between life and death. Sometimes you have a net and it's the difference between triumph and embarrassment.

I assume wire walkers fall a lot when they are learning. And I assume the learning curve is difficult enough that only those called to the wire last. It's a small group of brave men and women. It can be learned, it's a skill as much as a talent, but there are those with naturally better balance. Sure, someone might learn to walk across a wire, but ride a bike? Juggle? Even walk backwards? Those are skills only a certain madness will allow.

We walk a wire in the classroom. Behavior plans, even the strongest, can be made to feel like a piece of thin metal stretched tight in a stiff breeze given the right circumstances. Lessons when there is no observation can still feel as though we had better not look down, never doubt for an instant once you're in it and going. Yes, doubt beforehand. Question and plan and prepare but once you're out on that wire you need to make it to the other end. The audience is depending on you.

Our students are right on the wire with us. Some readers might have rolled their eyes, "Once again Doug is putting himself (literally) above his students. Like with the rock star thing." But that's not trying hard enough to extend the metaphor. Each of our kids walks her or his own wire. Some, again, make it look easy, fairly sprinting from one post to the next. Others inch out  on the wire, clinging with knuckles white and knees a'tremble.

How do you teach a wire walker? You can't walk with them, can you? A master walker must stand on the opposite platform and coach from there. You need to let the fledgling walker find her own balance. He needs to hit the net a few times. You give the walker a bar to balance, maybe even a safety harness to slow or stop the fall. Still, they must walk on their own.

As a walker's confidence grows the choice may be made to go higher, though I assume if you're indoors it's just as difficult to walk over ten feet of air as it is to walk over fifteen or twenty or fifty feet. It's like saying you can swim in the deep end or the shallow end. The danger in the fall is already there.

Praise the brave, the crazy, high wire walkers. In ourselves, and in our classrooms, under each of our own Big Tops.

Related- You should check out this doc, it's really great. Joseph Gordon Levitt is starring in a feature about the same thing that I haven't seen but just came out.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hacked Learning

“Mr Dyson! I’m done,” calls Kate. I walk over to her terminal. Sure enough, the screen is covered in numbers and letters.

“Ms. Libby, you and I both know this isn’t what I assigned.”

“Aw come on, Mr. Dyson,” she cracks her knuckles. “You know I know what I’m doing.”

“You’re making things up is what you’re doing. I bet you typed all this in about ten seconds. Stop it and get back to work.” I walk away from the grumbling student and survey my class. Twenty-seven heads bent low over keyboards, clacking away. My Teacher Sense tingles and I turn to a row on the far right.

“Stanley! Who is under your desk?” A good-looking boy looks up. He looks distracted, like he just got caught with his hand in the NSA. Again. “What? Nothing. Nothing, Mr Dyson. No one is und-” A brown mop of hair and a smile pops up next to him, “-der my desk except Angela,” he finishes with a sigh.

Angela smiles brightly. “Hey, Mr D! Just dropped my pencil. Sorry. Can you come here for a minute? I want to show you something.” I make my way over to her computer and lean down. “Look,” she says. “Look right there, at those numbers. Don’t those numbers look suspicious to you?”

“Suspicious, Ms. Bennett?”

“Yeah, watch.” She cracks her knuckles and types a few more lines. “Look. Now it’s gone. Isn’t that weird? I swear I saw that line a few days ago when I was doing my homework too.”

“You think something on the computer followed you home?”

“Duh, no.” She smiles again. Pretty girl, a lot of teeth. Wants to be an astronaut she says. “I think it followed me from home to school. Can I check it out?”

I sigh. Students have the most active imaginations. “Sure, knock yourself out. Just finish what you’re working on for class first. If you catch anything in that net let me know.” I spy a hand waving across the room and head towards it. On my way I pass another big boy, thick glasses pushed close to his scowl. “How are you doing, Mr. R-”

“Spider.” He cracks his knuckles and doesn’t look up when he corrects me. “And fine. And goodbye.” It’s no use making small talk, but a teacher has to try. Real life connections and all that. I reach the student shaking his hand in the air like a drowning man. “Monty, you waved?”

“Mr. Dyson, sir. I can’t do what you asked. I need more time.”

I sigh. “Why does every assignment need to be a big production with you, Monty? Must we be so dramatic?”

The student looks up at me. “But Mr. Dyson. I can’t do it! I don’t have the powerstrips.”

“You don’t need any powerstrips. Look, your computer is on. Stop playing with the mouse and get back to work. You can do it. Look, Liz over there is having the same problem as you and she’s not freaking out.”

Liz stops typing long enough to call over her shoulder. “I’m not having any problems. Leave me out of this.” She cracks her knuckles and hunches back over her keyboard. Her sleeve comes up and a flash of black shows on her shoulder. What has she drawn on herself this time? How did she get it back there?

I hear giggling and the quiet boop of a game. I don’t even have to look to know where it’s coming from. “Kevin! Kevin! Come here!” The student who comes towards me has so much charisma, so much potential. He almost glows with it. Still, he needs to get a clue. “Kevin, what did I say about games in class?”

“Oh come on, Mr. Dyson! You need to come see this one. It’s great. So immersive!”

I try not to sigh. He does have talent, and I should be supportive. “I know you are good at this, and that’s great. But right now you need to focus. Please?”

He sighs, nods, and cracks the knuckles on one hand, then the other. “All right, all right.”

“Thank you. Gary, Wyatt! I know I don’t see you designing what I think I see you designing!” The two boys snicker and as soon as they see me heading their way I can see them close the window. Weird kids. I’ll check on what they were doing later.

David rolls into the classroom on his bike. They let him through the halls on it? He waves to me and starts to make an excuse, talking as much with his hands as his mouth but I’ve heard it before and I stop him. “David. Unless aliens abduct you, I need you here on time. Got it?” He nods guiltily. Some kids get too much independence.

“Mr. Muphy, if you don’t back away from the screen you’re going to be wearing that thing has a helmet soon. Peter. Peter. Peter!” I try not to stomp over to Peter’s desk. Where he’s sleeping. Again. I lean down and shake him gently until he snorts and starts, “Wha-huh?”

“Peter, I hate to interrupt your nap, but what do you do here?”

“Uh, I write reports?”

“In theory. Did your mother get the note I sent home?”

“Yeah,” he sighs, “and she got the phone call from the principal and the email from the office.”

I nod, “Good. Please get back to work. I’d hate for this to spill over into what I’m sure is a very busy weekend.”

So many students, so many different assignments. It’s not easy letting them all chase their passions, but they do love computers. It’s strange that my other David is absent though. He kept going on and on about some new website he’d found. Said it was like a game. He wanted me to look at it. Playful kid. I’m sure it’s nothing. And then there’s Boris, my first Russian student. I swear if he clicks that pen one more time I’m taking it away. Or Liz will. Girl looks like she might set him on fire.

Terry pokes her head up from behind her screen. I love it when they do that. Looks like a field of digital prarie dogs. “Mr. Dyson? Can you come here please?” When I get to her she beckons me to lean down closer and whispers, “Someone is sending me messages.”


“Look. Code.”

“No, Terry. That’s not a coded message. It’s literally just code.”

She shakes her braids, “If I can decode it-”

I stop her, “If you can decode it I’ll give you a special job. But I promise it’s not a message.”

My rounds take me near Hiro and Dee working quietly. Dee never talks but seems to get what I want anyway. “Lex is having trouble, she looks like she’s just clicking on random things again. Can one of you two help her? Unless you’re not two of the best in the class….”

Hiro cracks his knuckles and smiles. “We are too. Dee too?”

I glance at Dee who stops what he’s doing long enough to make a noise which might have been a sigh, but like I said he’s hard to read. “Dee too.”

As I straighten my principal walks into the room with an unfamiliar student in tow. You’d think he’d have more important jobs than to deliver new kids. Oh well, there’s always room for more. Our little classroom machine hums along quite nicely and one student won’t throw the balance off too badly. “Mr. Dyson, I’d like you to meet your new student. This is Tom Anderson.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 83- World of Warcraft

By Guest Moderator Jennifer Borgioli Binis

I once spent three hours running through a sewer, clad only in underwear, darting from hiding place to hiding place. On every dart, I would be spotted by a guard and before I could take more than five steps, I was dead. Were I clothed, each death would result in damage and repairs cost money, so.. naked. I died a dozen times, give or take a few. Each death required running back from the cemetery to my body, waiting for the guards to pass, and then resurrecting myself. Following my last death and run back, I resurrected at the feet of a powerful Sorceress (I don’t remember who she was - just some Horde lady). After quickly opening the a chest at her feet, I grabbed the thing inside and put it in my backpack. I took one step and was killed by that not so nice lady. Again. This time, I rezzed (resurrected) at the cemetery, and proceeded to hoot and holler, yelling to my husband, “I got it!” Not because I got the thing but because that thing got me an achievement and points. Those achievement points got me closer to a DIFFERENT achievement that I’ve been working on for years. Yes, years. This bigger achievement will get me nothing besides a title that will float above my head. So don’t tell me that grit isn’t a real thing.

So yeah… I play World of Warcraft. More precisely, I play as a Human Shadow Priest (Level 100), which means I play for the Alliance (as opposed to the previously mentioned Horde.) I’m a bit of an anomaly in that I play one character (aka toon). Some players I’ve met in the game play multiple characters (called alts.) I play PVE (player versus environment) and only kill mobs (non-player controlled characters). I’ve only once killed another player in PVP (player versus player) because I had no other choice. That player was the only thing standing between me and an achievement. As is pretty clear in this paragraph, playing WoW or any massive on-line game involves learning a whole new vocabulary and way of interacting with the on-line world.* Odds are good that there are teachers in your building who play WoW, Eve, or something similar. Maybe you’re a gamer in your free time. Although it may sound like a foreign language, there are many connections to the world of education. Tonight’s WeirdEdChat is about exploring those connections and trying on a new vocabulary for size.

*If you’re interested in getting a better sense of what it’s like to play WoW a different way - doing raiding, being in an active guild - check out You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. It’s a seriously good read.

Tonight’s questions are framed around both the world of WoW and its mechanics.

Q1 Background: If one were to draw an analogy to education, those in the Alliance are the students who loved school so much, they made a career of it. They saw the power and beauty in formal, public education and wanted to be a part of it. They celebrate positive change and seek to ever evolve the system, while maintaining the heart of a free, liberal arts education for all. The Horde, meanwhile, are the students who hated school so much they joined the system to change it from within. School didn’t work for them and now they want to ensure that no student feels the way they felt. They seek to change the system through ways that are sometimes dramatic and subversive.

#WeirdEdC Q1: What type of educator are you? Alliance or Horde? Defend your position.

Q2-Q5 Background: Part of the appeal of games like WoW, Eve, Everquest, or the like is working with players from around the world. In WoW, players queue for dungeons (smaller, enclosed spaces, usually run with 4 other players) or raids (larger, more involved spaces that can range from 10 to 30 players). Once in the raid, there are set roles with set responsibilities.

Q2 Background: The tank. The tank is the player who pulls (pokes the bear, as it were) the mobs in the dungeon or raid. They go first and take the hits. They are up in the mob’s business and when they die, it’s game over. Once the tank goes down, other players willingly step into the fire to die, knowing they’ll never finish without their tank.

#WeirdEdC Q2: How do tanks manifest themselves in education? Who are our tanks?

Q3 Background: The healers. Doc. Heals. Players who choose to play as healers are so popular, they get extra perks for running dungeons and raids. We need them. They are found on the edge of a fight, conjuring healing rain, hovering over wounded players, and remaining light on their feet to ensure they don’t die and leave their charges unprotected. They are the nurturers but aren’t afraid to yell at tanks if they get too far out of the heal’s reach.

#WeirdEdC Q3: When have you had to play the healer in the last week?    

Q4 Background: Melee damage. They are the fighters who are right there with the tank, though more bumblebee than sledgehammer. They dance back and forth, moving with the fight, covering and protecting the tank, attacking the mobs weak points. They are consistent, consistent, consistent. Nothing flashy, nothing special but dependable and steady.
Ranged damage. Ahh.. sweet ranged damage. Look to the left of the heals. See that toon that is casting spells directly at the mob? See how the player follows the healer and stays waaaay back from the tank and the mob? That’s us ranged players. We can cast spells that inflict damage on the main mob plus all the mobs around it. We can cast one spell that kills slow, and then three or four others that kill them kick. We can conjure pets that do some of work for us.

#WeirdEdC Q4: Now you know all the classes. Choose your class.

Q5 Background: It’s not uncommon for players to kill one mob multiple times, hoping for it to drop one particular item. That item may complete a set, be an ultra rare mount, a once-in-a-game pet, or a piece desperately needed for an achievement and WHY WON’T IT DROP, ALREADY??

#WeirdEdC Q5: What loot are you waiting for? What’s the idea or thing you keep trying you think would solve some ed issues?

Q6 Background: Once players reaches the top level, currently 100, they are pretty much forced to work with other players in order to get better weapons and armor. At the top levels, these opportunities are presented in raids. Some players belong to guilds and will raid together. Others, however, have to sign up to do a raid with strangers. Although WoW’s construct has ways to ensure all of the players who sign up are about equal in armor and item level, it can’t ensure all players know the mechanics of a particular mob or raid. As a result, players go into the LFR (looking for raid) queue knowing they’re like to wipe, or die, a lot. Occasionally, though, you arrive in a raid and it’s like clockwork. No one stands in the fire, the tanks direct the mob away from the group, everyone stays within the heals reach, and all damage players remember to focus on the adds, not the boss. (last one, I promise. Bosses are the main mobs inside a raid. There’s usually 2 to 3 per raid and all come with friends. These friends are known as “adds” and a guaranteed way to wipe the raid is for the damage players to focus on the mob instead of the adds.)

#WeirdEdC Q6 Did you get to choose your school team? What have been your experiences joining a team you did/didn’t build?