Thursday, June 30, 2016

Getting my Post On...

I have just had a hard time getting on a computer these last few days, but I have been busy, busy, busy.

The thing is that MY GOAL this summer had originally been to organize my lesson plans and piles of papers. And since getting back from San Francisco I've just wanted to "nest" and visit these projects I've been nursing for months.

I realized a moment ago that part of the focus of this class (storytelling and finding meaning) I'm already demonstrating with my journal. 

Which took 9 years to develop. 
Which is part of why I don't like this class. There's not enough focus on experience and mastery. 

I'm not a master. 
And I am enjoying learning how to make memes and gifs and developing my storytelling rapport. Which is why I want to be involved in this class, to learn how to make these things for my lessons - for my students. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

First Donors Choose Project

My first Donor's Choose project is now online. Pass it around, visit the site, maybe even donate a little.

Great Illustrated Classics

I tell my students that when I was their age I had this really embarrassing moment where I realized I was not a very good reader and I decided to do something about it.

I set a goal to read a book every four days and it had to be at least 100 pages long. I read a lot of Nancy Drew and the entire Great Illustrated Classics series.

I want to add those books to my classroom library so students have the opportunity to read and discuss them.

A Very Busy Week

When I got back to the hotel yesterday after the close of the conference I fell asleep sitting up in front of the laptop. I just needed to reset. So much info packed into five days, so much extroverted energy and my little introverted self was done, ready to shut down and restart.

I had originally planned this week to reflect on keeping your goals while traveling but what really became important to me this week was just not giving up.

How frustrating the visual assignment turned out to be. And even though we keep reading about how amazing this free exploration is, and the resources of the computer and internet, my thought was that without some reason to keep trying I would have quit.

And maybe asking for help on the internet is easier for other people, I find it even more frustrating. I just want an actual teacher to sit with me and help guide me. But then I'm an awesome student who comes to class ready to learn and engage (humility not a strong suit I must admit). And I do have some killer grit that made it possible to stay in the game until I at least had something to turn in. 

But again, how many people, after hitting all those road blocks, would have kept going? At what point would they have felt demoralized, blocked, hopeless, or helpless?

I feel I am giving my best effort for this class, I have to balance some very unique things this summer but I am prioritizing my responsibilities so that I am meeting all those obligations. I am having fun, even if I find it frustrating. The truth is that teachers are expected to do for their students things that are not done for them in trainings. I will have some guidelines for kids as to which websites they can explore and play with, but then I will also allow them the freedom of choice like this class has offered too. 

When I get home, I'll have ten days before the next life event gets in the way, and I've got a lot of plans on how awesome I can be ;)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sylvia Plath's Opening Line

The opening line of The Bell Jar reads it was a hot, sulty summer, the summer they killed the Rosenbergs, and I have no idea what I was doing in New York.

1953 was also the year Eisenhower took office and Charlie Chaplin left the United States, never to return.

I was trying for a napkin brainstorm starting with the idea "Plath" would tell the story about her month in New York that changed her life forever. I also enjoyed finding lots of words to play around with.

I Used to Want to be a Filmmaker

This week's video assignment fell on the same week I needed to travel for work to San Francisco and attend a conference on Responsive Classrooms. It's a five day conference, with nine co-workers. Here, let me make an illustration:

I really wanted to be that person who was on top of their homework before going to a conference where I would be expected to extrovert and critically think.

Sunday I finished the required reading. More inspiring then the previous two weeks but still a bit too "embracing an idea without questioning it" for my taste. I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid here. There is still plenty of research that shows negative effects of social media on society and after this frustrating week I am about ready to break all my computers. But let me focus on telling you the narrative of creating my video.

Sunday I also shot the footage for my video, my dream was to have both the reading and the video finished before the conference so I could just focus on my learning and planning with co-workers, and squeeze in the two Daily Creates as I had time.

Oh, but the fun was just beginning.

I did finish collecting the footage and transferred the data from my phone to the computer. Which turns out DOESN'T have Movie Maker on it. I can't download it either because this is a work computer and I don't have administrative permission to download programs. But the school iPad has iMovie so I try transferring the videos from the computer to the iPad.

But that doesn't work.

So I upload the videos to Google+.

But then I can't get them to download to the iPad.

So I upload the videos to iCloud.

But now I have to go to the airport.

Which does have really good Internet service and I am able to download the videos to iMovie.


I edit together the footage and the song.

It looks great.

It will not save.

It will not upload.

It will not export.

I asked the Internet for help.

I asked my friends for help.

I got frustrated and create this video of my video at 4:30 in the morning while sitting in the stair well at the hotel.

But when I go to upload it at 4:30 in the morning, guess what does not work? The Internet at the hotel! Or at least it's not letting me upload the video.

I decide to go to the conference center and try there, but, and I'm not joking here, I ran into an issue connecting my laptop (that I don't have permissions to download or update anything on) to the Internet at the conference center. But I brought the iPad, so I try all over again to get iMovie to work.

Still nothing.

I get back to the hotel and I decide to give YouTube a go even though I can't use my song with it.

But hey, here it is.

And now, I'm going to go meet my team and discuss how we are going to use Responsive Classroom practises in our middle school next year, and specifically how I will use it in my sixth grade classroom. And I'm glad I didn't become a filmmaker because this little video has taken me four days to create and it's still not what I wanted it to be.

But I'm okay with that.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Week 3 Reading Response

Successful goals are the ones we believe we can achieve if given enough time and energy (resources). I was reminded of that this week as I finished up my readings for class.

Align Your Time Management with Your Goals

The Harvard Business Review offered this insightful article on time management and goal setting that I added some notes to in

We really need a system in place to track our time. Countless books and articles address the myriad of ways we waste, lose or have stolen from us the time to do the things that are really important to us. I felt this article did a good job of supporting some of the other items I have already talked about when it comes to being goal achievers.

The first thing we want to do when we are looking at managing our time better is to see how we are already spending our time. Honest observations. When we fudge a number here or there we are only lying to ourselves. We have to know how we spend our time and for how long we work on a project to honestly see where we can improve.

For me the hardest lesson was when I went back to school to become a teacher. I am such a procrastinator, waiting until right before the assignment is due and rushing to finish. When I actually timed myself doing one of those rushed, last minute assignments I was shocked at how long it had taken me. As I started to allot time everyday leading up to the assignment to work on it I noticed my work was more thoughtful, my anxiety levels were lower and at the end of the week I didn't need as much time.

CRAZY RIGHT! The same work took less actual time to complete (better) when I planned for it. It was an amazing lesson and I still struggle with it.

The second thing the article talked about was using that data to categorize our activities and determine where they feel in terms of importance. I like the below image because it has a limited amount of options (only four categories) and when you get used to using it you get better at identifying in real time the non-urgent, not important time wasters.

In terms of the course readings of Lankshear and Knobel (2007) I think the biggest take away was that there needed to be time for exploration. When I was trying to mash my two songs together I used youtube videos and social media cites to ask friends for help. When we are trying a new pursuit we need to give ourselves extra time to explore, make mistakes, get frustrated, take a break, and come back. That's a lot of emotional commitment and in order to make sure it sticks or we don't get discouraged we need to take baby steps. We also want to create the right balance of struggle with success otherwise we will find ourselves mediocre in two dozen applications and a master of none.

Which leads me to my concluding thought: How do you __________? One step at a time. For a variety of weird personal reasons I like the mantra "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." because it is true. How do we create a powerful Ted Talk? One slide or notecard at a time. How do we lose weight, one calorie at a time. You see, it really can be used for anything. But as we decide on what it is we would like to spend our time doing we can look at the big picture like the elephant and our priority diagram as the small bites. To make that smash up I needed two songs and a program to mix them together with so those things would have been in my important and urgent box because I can't do anything until I have them.

Little Red Hen

This story happens to get my sister upset whenever it is mentioned. She can not understand why the hen eats all the bread herself in the end. She would have made friends, and had some help for the next cycle of planting and harvesting if she had. Still, it was either this or something about drumsticks...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Achievement Unlocked

Sunday I finished my 14th journal. Now, I'm going to warn you, I'm about to get my brag on.

Does anyone remember when this book came out in 2002? Well, it says a lot about my life at the time that I never finished this book but that I think of it as one of those initial stepping stones down the path that has led me here.

Recently a friend recommended this book and I feel they offer nice bookends to what I'm reflecting about this week. Both books discuss using a journal to record your creative impulses, thoughts, observations, and what all. There are numerous benefits to keeping a journal but let me contain my thoughts to one quote by Joan Wink (2011), "I write so that someone will respond to my thoughts, and/or so that I can further develop my thoughts."

My finishing my 14th journal is no small accomplishment. It is the result of NINE YEARS of work - trial and error - analysis and implementation - and it hasn't always been pretty. I have discovered I have a tendecy to "throw everything out" when I am frustrated and disappointed, and I can vividly remember a time, years ago, where I almost threw out the few journals I had done for that very reason. They didn't look like how I wanted them to, my reflections and writings were still angry and rambling rants that made me feel worse about myself. But instead I decided to add an element that changed the process and helped me advance in my journal keeping.

There are my babies. And it's strange but as you pick them up and flip their pages, memories and sensations fill the room like a fragrance. Oh, yeah, my journals today make me feel like a poet. But this kind of accomplishment is the result of time. And time management in terms of goal setting is something I want to reflect on today.

I think this last picture really says a lot about momentum. Yes, that first journal took two years, and every journal after that, for better or worse, took about a year. But in 2015 I started to pick up momentum, I started to find my rhythm, I started to experience flow with my journals.

I find one of the disadvantages to traditional education is the lack of long term observations. Every year we start over, begin again. My journals provide a powerful visual to students about longevity and sticking with something. It also shows development and growth. Each journal is different then the last.

But it doesn't just happen. On Sunday when I finished writing in my journal I had to take some time to prep the next one. For me the ritual and routine of setting up the next journal is a kind of meditation used to set my intentions.

I have had students tell me they hate my journal and that's OKAY! Because the way I do it is not the way you HAVE to do it. The readings for class this week really reflect the scope expression and the possibilities of the 21st century give us. What I want to inspire in a student is that if they start in the 12th grade developing and searching for their style, they will be rocking it when they are 22 years old.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

An Ode to the Ideal Woman

I'm sensing a theme in my art this week. Feminity. Objectification. Romance. A mix bag really of cultural expectations and the way I define my own sense of beautiful. The assignment this week was to take two songs and mash them together into a conversation. 

I decided to use Cake's Short Skirt/ Long Jacket and Alanis Morissette's 21 things I want in a Lover. I like the back and forth about what the other is looking for in the perfect partner but I am having issues with How Slow Alanis Sounds HELP!!! Suggestions? I am using Audacity.

Wait, hold on... I'm having major issues now...

The song represents three days of work, and I feel pretty close to done. However, I would love to "fix" the way Alanis sounds when she's singing (too slow?). I'm not very musical, I don't have a lot of practice listening to beats and scales and sounds, and I feel all panic-y when it comes to anything singing/musical but I also love music. All kinds. So I'm glad I picked this assignment but I'm putting it out here early in the hopes someone can offer a suggestion on how I can fix that one little issue I have.

Oh, and then there were the unseen issues with actually using real songs to create this mashup but I think I figured out a way around it here...

Just put the finishing touches on the song and am ready to put it to rest. It was fun and challenging learning how to use Audacity, trying to use youtube videos more to help trouble shoot my problems and I posted on Twitter that I could use some help but not a lot of response or networking when you give such a short deadline.

I think my using powerpoint to photoshop pictures has gotten pretty good and I'm going to try making a GIF. I understand how just jumping into something can help someone learn because you have to problem solve and be more creative, but woudn't it be wonderful if at some point you actual got a lesson or course correction with the programs you are using. Do we have to flounder so much?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Not your Grandma's Book

Today's daily create got me super excited, and once I checked my bookshelves I knew I had found the perfect book to update.

Seriously, am I the only one noticing how overly sexualized we are making young women look these days (I realize my picture is for an "adult" halloween costume but it illustrates the larger issue here).

I remember when Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen (who are 5 years younger than me) started to develop the Tween market (which they were a part of at the time). And you started to have, "here is how your annoying younger sister start to dress and act like you" phase of fashion. But it has progressively gotten worse.

There is no cute anymore. There is no young woman anymore. It seems that the moment you start to identify as a woman you start to see marketing and advertizing about being a sexual or sexualized creature.

I am all for the empowerment of women and the embrassing (*haha Fruedian slip! Meant EMBRACING) of our sexuality. But where are the training wheels for a 12 year old girl. I would like for us adults to have serious conversations with preteens about the developmental phase, between say 11 and 17, where we are developing but we should be cautious about going over board.

I could rant on and on, which is what is awesome about a single image. The power to provoke discourse.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Week 2 Reading Response

I think one of the most important things I have been able to do for myself is learn how to appreciate my anxiety. No, I have not found a cure but rather by appreciating it for the primal, alert system it is I have been more successful in using it to help me more and hurt me less.

For example, a class to complete a Master's program. My anxiety leading up to such an event in the past was one marked by procrastination and avoidance. Because anxiety is such an unpleasent thing, I would just not do anything about it. A behavior that in the end made things worse and is one of those self fulfilling prophecies. "We knew we would never be any good at this, why even try?"

Well, I have to say that before this class officially got started I was putting my anxiety to the test by trying to get a start on assignments. A practice that lead me to jumping in the deep end and thrashing about for a bit before feeling like I was getting my rhythm. I felt that by Thursday I had done everything on the checklist even if some of my assignments felt frantic. But hey, it was Thursday.

Which meant I had two, three days to do more work and a better job.

And my anxiety?

Of course still there (did I mention some of the crazy dreams I've been having) but I get more done before noon to help keep it controlled, which in turn means I'm getting more done.

And I think that connects to the Reggie River's Ted Talk I shared. Stop focusing so much on the goals and more on the behavior needed to meet those goals. And it ties in with the required reading because several times this blogging, twitting thing was pretty overwhelming but I just kept reminding myself that this was about me learning to read and write about me. It doesn't have to be a five paragraph essay. My meaning, my context, my expression.

And of course I feel 100% ready for Monday morning when week 2 starts and I need to start it all over again. Looking forward to some feedback so I keep growing and rising to meet the new challenges.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sounds of the Apocalypse (not really)

Normally this would have been the assignment I tried to get out of but I just jumped in. Instead of trying to repeat myself I did ask my wife to help out and I think it was awesome. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons sounds much better but I appreciate their help on my first SoundCloud assignment. This was actually kind of cool.

Week 1 Reading Response

I'm much more at home reading a book and writing an essay. But when I look at how writing is changing, how the Internet and Computers are changing the way we write, I want to push myself to create more like that. According to Lankshear and Knobel (2007) "even the concept of “text” as understood in conventional print terms becomes a hazy concept when considering the enormous array of expressive media now available to everyday folk." 

So, even though I'd like to jump in with both feet, when it comes to the web I need some serious floaties. Research I can do with books, but with a computer I'm limited to web searchs. Still, it was a place to start.

Some random, rambling searching of "goal setting" wasted a lot of time but eventually I started a list of the resources I did know about how to use. Almost immediately I remembered watching tons of Ted Talks online, and some have been on goal setting. I didn't just go to their website, instead I searched for other resources that would contain "goal setting" and "Ted Talks". On the first page of returned results I had the option of sites that offered 7, 5, or 4 "top" videos on goal setting.

So then I settled in and started taking some notes.

I'm not sure if the author of 
7 TED Talks about Goals for your New Year’s Resolutions realizes this but two of the videos they share actually say opposite things about goal setting but I'll talk more about that in a moment. Why Getting Serious About Goals is the Key to Achieving Your Dreams also had some good videos. I've already shared one video on a different blog because I knew I liked it but it wouldn't really flow for this conversation I wanted to have today.

Today. I want to talk about something that blew me away when I heard it. 

To start off, the title of the talk says it all. "Keep Your Goals to Yourself"

Wait, doesn't that sound wrong? As a matter of fact isn't one of the "secrets" to weight loss having a supportive network of friends and family who help you achieve your goal. I zipped over to the American Psychological Association's website and did in fact find, "It’s easier to stick with a weight loss plan when you have support, can share tips on diet and exercise and have an exercise buddy, say researchers."

But then I also saw "Psychological research has found that a group approach helps, at least in the short-term." 
Emphasis on the short-term.

Okay so what blew me away with Derek was:

"Our Brains Mistake the Talking for the Doing."

This reminded me of how my dad once told me (when I was telling him about a story I was thinking about writing) "don't talk away your ideas." In both cases, the person talking feels like they are doing something, attaining their goal or telling their story, but there's no actual action behind it. Another thing that Derek said that is sticking with me about our goals is that, "ideally you would not be satisfied until you had actually done the work."

There are so many things I want to do, my friends have expressed interest in, that my students want to do someday. We have the intrinstic desire already within us to work on these goals but we almost set ourselves up not to accomplish them in the very way we talk about them. Just sharing our plans or ideas trick the brain into thinking we've done some of the work (but we never actually finish the job so we are always left with a bit of dissatisfation in ourselves no matter what). 

*Now for the record, on the same blog I found Derek's talk I also found William Barr, who basically says the opposite - visualize your goals to make them happen, etc, - which I have found personally really helpful in the last 8 years of my life but I'm interested in trying some more tight-lipped Derek approach now too.*

But my learning is never really done and since I found the first website to not really work for me I went to a second website and found Reggie Rivers!!!

Yes, the same Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers, but apparently he also has some insights to offer when it comes to not focusing on your goals. Because here was the second person I found talking about changing the very ideas we've been told about when it comes to being successful.

Reggie says we shouldn't focus on our goals at all, but our behaviors. Again, I've been reading and researching and setting goals for the past 8 years and this was the first time I heard this idea so simply put. Yes, our behavior is a huge part of whether we are successful or not, you can't lose weight if everytime to work out you binge eat, etc. But again this message of not talking away our ideas, of not thinking of our goals and the end-all-be-all, we want something we need to act like it. Action. Not words. That's the lesson I'm learning this week.