“The benevolent future of the Internet”

I first heard this TED Talk through NPR’s TED Radio Hour. Links to both the video and the NPR segment are below.

http://www.npr.org/2012/05/18/152883399/how-do-you-make-a-virtual-choir?sc=17&f=57

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/eric_whitacre_a_virtual_choir_2_000_voices_strong.html

In the transition to a 1:1 school, and at the beginning of the school year for many years after 1:1 was established, there is a great deal of concern over the dangers surrounding this tool, a networked laptop.  These concerns need not be minimized by pointing out what an interviewee in this story calls “the benevolent future of the internet.”  What a wonderful term that is, “the benevolent future of the internet.”  There is hope and grace in connectedness.  That doesn’t make the dangers any less real, but it does change the calculus in our decision to allow or restrict our children’s access to the internet.

Posted in change, creativity, learning, teaching, technology | Leave a comment

What does “performance” mean?

A colleague and I had a great conversation at the last CFT meeting about “performance.” PBL goes by many names, but one of them could certainly be “performance-based learning.” The arts and PE are among the best examples of performance-based learning, yet they don’t get nearly as much oxygen as math, science, and languages. Why do we relegate our best examples of “learning by doing” to the back benches of our practice?

Jim and I were speaking specifically about what the term “performance” means in an orchestra class. Although small-group work finds expression in ensembles, most of us, and I think this includes Jim (although he’ll have to speak for himself), consider an orchestra performance as a single event, or multiple events spread out throughout the school year, in which the entire orchestra performs a repertoire.

What if “performance” took on a different meaning for music students? What if, rather than occasional performances in a concert hall, orchestra and band students spent the year selecting pieces to be performed individually or by ensemble? What if students then picked the time and place of their choosing (on campus or off campus) and performed? What if they performed over and over and over again?

I guess I’m asking, what if school music students performed like street musicians?

In my next post I’ll get out of someone else’s back yard and get back into my own.  I’ll spend some time thinking and writing about what language “performance” means.

What do you think? How else could musical performances take shape?

Image source: Niels Linneberg via Flickr; nosha via Flickr

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Seeing YOUR world through someone else’s eyes

Penpals, epals, skype sessions, Hangouts…

skyping with HI5For decades students have benefited from the classroom practice of communicating with students from other cultures.  Two decades ago email allowed that communication to be almost immediate.  Chat, and then videochat gradually increased the value and the linguistic and social-emotional power of creating connections across borders.

A colleague recently forwarded me a blog post from the HI5 English School in Bétera, Spain.  In the post the writer chronicles the connections that his students have forged with students at my school.  Seeing pictures of my students and athletes projected on a screen in front of engaged and curious Spanish schoolchildren deepens my understanding of how powerful (and how necessary) this practice truly is.

When I see a student from another school projected on a screen in one of our classrooms, she is a novelty.  A fun, interesting, and potentially meaningful artifact (please forgive me for referring to a person as an artifact) of student learning.  When I see MY kid (let’s call her Lucy) projected on their screen, I see a child, one of many at my school, LIFTED UP as a representative of the school.  What makes Lucy unique and lovable in our community makes her equally well-regarded to that far-flung group of students.  And even better, she projects that image on our school as a whole.

I saw MY WORLD through the eyes of someone else today.  It made me realize how important it is to share my world with others.  And to welcome their world into mine.

Posted in culture, habit, learning, Spanish, teaching, technology | Leave a comment

Should vocational education be a part of plain, old education?

I was reading an interesting New York Times article by Christina Hoff Sommers about how grading practices create a bias that affects male academic success.  Interesting stuff, but what causes me to write today is the mention of a word that I haven’t heard since my days in Rappahannock County, VA: vocational education.

Since I was young the term “Vo-Tech” or vocational education has been synonymous with “remedial”–trade-oriented learning for the kids for whom traditional education is not a good fit.  But the increased attention toward “work-readiness” and project-based learning makes me wonder if vocational education can point us in a slightly different direction.  Can science students learn about volume and pressure by learning about how an engine functions (and comes to not function, as my 1980 Datsun 510 once taught me)?

What can we learn from vocational education as we prepare the classrooms of the next 50 years?

Posted in change, integration, pbl | 2 Comments

On jargon, professional language, and gazing upon the art of teaching

This is NOT a drawing of a horse

It’s Pablo Picasso’s Guérnica, and there are countless conversations to be had in every square foot of this painting (the painting itself is 11 feet x 25 feet).  One would only describe Guérnica as a drawing of a horse if they chose, quite deliberately, to ignore the story, the intensity, the context, and the purpose behind Picasso’s craft and his process. Continue reading

Posted in assessment, habit, learning, observation, professional development, teaching | Leave a comment

Just how hard is “integrated studies” anyway?

As Co-director of PLCs in the Junior High, I have the exciting privilege (and obligation) to participate in each of the school’s PLCs: English, Math/Science, History, and Language.  Thursday was my first opportunity to observe another PLC in this capacity, and my very first visit to the History PLC.  Within the first few minutes I experienced what I had assumed I would have to wait weeks for: a common thread. Continue reading

Posted in assessment, culture, integration, learning, observation, plc, teaching | Leave a comment

Experiment: Wordclouding our institutions

Whoops.  I wrote this a while ago and it sat in the Drafts folder until now.  This little activity was a lot of fun.  I recommend it to anyone:

A few days ago I sat in a session at the Lausanne Laptop Institute and learned about Tagxedo, an entertaining gadget that allows one to create word clouds using any shape imaginable.  The presenter encouraged us to tinker, so tinker I did.  I pulled up my school’s Mission and Philosophy Statement and our recently penned Learning for Life Vision Statement.  I was delighted by what I found: Continue reading

Posted in change, integration, learning | Leave a comment