Saturday, May 21, 2005

Late Matisse cutout. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Grow simply older.



1. They are fun to play.
2. It is fun to watch others play.
3. You can blow stuff up, use the force, and win the Stanley Cup.
4. When playing with others you can talk trash.
5. Some games have entertaining plots.
6. You get to shape the plot.
7. Some games have interesting characters.
8. You can be that character.
9. They make you think.
10. They can help you about history, economics, politics, social relations, government, culture, physics, zoologoy, business, war, sports managment, art history, geography, city planning, diplomacy, archeology, forensic science, project managment, human resources, marketing, diversity, current events, literacy, poetry, mythology, and much more.

~Dennis Charsky

Glad to see games being taken seriously as they are, not as “educational”.  Which leads me to this.  Tell me.  How does an education standards committee view video games in the grand educational scheme?  And if they do include them in their state standards (by some miracle) what happens as the games evolve?  Where do they fit then?  Where does IM fit?  Where do blogs fit?  I suppose you can apply all these technologies to some Procrustean standards bed, but you would to do some deadly chopping to do so.  Standards.  Their name suggests forever, once, and always.  Truth with a capital “T”.   Akin to holy writ in that deviation from them constitutes corruption. 

Yet…I would be happy with a “many” standards approach to teaching.  I really do want to help my students become better writers.  I imply a standard when I say “better”, don’t I?  But where does this leave the students?  With me defining absolutely what that standard is and they reduced to aping it?  If there is anything I have learned in writing it is that the approaches to the better writing are many, but that if we define too clearly what that “better” is, then we create hacks.  That’s why there are so many bad writers out there including myself—we let other people put, as Max Stirner called ‘gears in the head’.  It is only with my personal use of weblogs that I have started to throw spanners in the works.  I have only now begun to cultivate a new garden of ‘standards’ from within.  How I am getting there?  Passionate, dogged obstinance against the man, that’s how.  Exactly the kind attitude that we hate in our students.  I have become the teenager in the back of the room, arms crossed, eyes wary.  I have seen what “standards” do and it ain’t pretty.  And I don’t think a clarion call to better standards is going to work.   Evar.



Cognitive Dissonance » Education as Commodity

Cognitive Dissonance » Education as Commodity

Education is a toaster that is being tuned to produce more and more toast of a uniform color, density, and texture. We take a variety of breads, feed them in, and require that we get exactly the same toast out. We take bagels and make toast. We take filet mignon and we make toast. We put every flavor, variety, and possibility into this toaster and we damn well expect to get toast — and nothing more — out.                                                            

Nathan Lowell

Amen to this, but make sure you read Jim Ellsworth’s cogent reply.  To their discussion I added my comments:

 It all comes down to not what’s worth teaching, but rather what’s worth learning. The whole metaphor of schools as delivery systems (makes them sound like either UPS or a saline driP) has failed. The two million words is classis post-hoc logic. I saw programs like this in middle schools where I taught eighth grade only it was called Accelerated Reader. Students would read books, take tests over the books (always multiple choice, T/F, matching) and then earn points. More points was always better. Kids who already loved to read (and there were never very many of these in my school) uniformly hated the things. It reduced a joyous act into a numbered one. The kids who didn’t love to read (for whatever reason and there are many) just said, “Screw this.” and opted out–failed. The vast middle of “strategic” students simply figured out how to game the system and did so. Those who succeeded were the extrinsically motivated “achievers” who learned that the purpose of reading is to pull out facts for a test. That’s really what most of what we do in school amounts to–showing students how to prepare themselves to be the perfect piece of toast.

And I believe that search for a set of standards is a chimera. I think that the process of helping students become ready for the future cannot come from the top down except in the most generic fashion. Look at the dinosaur we call schools and tell me with a straight face that they can move as quickly as the world around them. That’s why my kids were homeschooled. I never trusted any expert (admin, legislative, or otherwise) or any other expert to be on top when it came to defining what my kids should know. Which isn’t to say that I might not agree with 90% of what Ellsworth might come up with as a standard for geometry, for example. Nathan, your point, I think, is that it is a systemic problem: it is not possible under our current system to do what Jim Ellsworth suggest that we do. What we should be teaching students is how to come up with their own learning standards. School then becomes a very different game then. I am not even sure how to imagine such an institution except to say it would be centered on the student as a learner. This is the classic battle between the perennialists who believe there are ideal forms in the world and the constructivists who believe that what you see is what you get and that ideals change with circumstances. Nobody likes a fence straddler, but that’s what I am.



Friday, May 20, 2005

apcampbell :

apcampbell :

“Curriculum is for kids, discovery is for adults.” Jay Cross

T’aint necessarily so. This is opposite of what Alfred North Whitehead said that there are three modes: romance, precision, and generalization. Kids need discovery more than curriculum. Without the romance of exploration there will be no power to drive them through to precision and synthesis. Learning is emotional before it is rational. You have to have a feeling toward learning before you have a reason to learn.
For example, informal learning in a master/apprentice situation is knitted with the emotion of respect, (perhaps mixed with fear, but not too much). Informal learning of peers--the emotion of shared experience--is why games like World of Warcraft succeed. The shared learning goal is folded in with respect, desire to win, comradery. You buy into an idea emotionally before you learn into it.
Therefore, let us change Jay’s remark (which to give him credit might have been off the cuff) and paraphrase E.M. Forster by saying, “No matter your age, do what it takes to always connect.” That means formally (curriculum) and informally (discovery).

Here is a nice graphical representation of Whitehead's ideas.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Quixtar Blog: Blogging 101 - You Don't Need a Blog

Quixtar Blog: Blogging 101 - You Don't Need a Blog

Cogent reasons not to blog.  Yet… I continue.

Flash / Learn to Dance with Napoleon Dynomite

Flash / Learn to Dance with Napoleon Dynomite

Gawwwd, this is flippin’ sweet! News | The lies that led to war News | The lies that led to war

“The question would be, What did George W. Bush decide about Iraq, and when did he decide it?”

Juan Cole’s article in Salon should blast open the door on the lies associated with the run-up to the Iraq debacle.  This is an impeachable offense.  Will the Republicans now change the rules in the Congress to make impeachment constitutionally impossible?  Is anything unimagineable in the vile climate of Washington these days?  No act is too disingenous or despicable for the Republican majority at this point as they rationalize the shipwreck course they are launching us all upon. When all of us will go down, a select few of us will have access to the lifeboats.  The rest of us?  Locked in steerage.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Scott Wilson's Workblog

Scott Wilson's Workblog

Novices learn best through formal learning, for it provides the structure, signposts, and scaffolding a newby lacks. Old hands learn best informally, because they already have foundation knowledge, familiarity, and a framework for understanding.  Jay Cross

I think that we learn best by having each of these threads in our hands knitting them both at the same time.  So much of learning is guided which is followed by get-the-hell-out-of-the-way followed by guiding again and so on and so forth and doobie doobie doo.  Now can someone explain to me why we put students through the infernal and seemingly eternal novitiate we call high school?  Yeah, I know you know. It doesn’t have anything to do with learning and has everything to do with command and control.  That’s why my three children have spent a grand total of less than a year in public learning institutions.  (My youngest is in a private arts academy for dance that requires a morning of academic work, a compromise for her and us in order to get what she can’t get here for love or money—dancing every day)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom :

Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom :

The public scandal should be that we're not doing our jobs to model and teach students the appropriate, educational use of technologies they are already using outside of school. Sure, they may come across something we don't want them to see, but let's teach them how to deal with that. Let's talk to them about why what they see is inappropriate or demeaning or harmful or whatever. Denying access only teaches them that we're either at a loss for how to deal with the reality or too scared to do so.

Will Richardson

Oliver Wendell Holmes called it “the marketplace of ideas” and I still think that metaphor has legs. Here are his words in Abrams v. United States

"But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market ... . That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment."

Get me to freakin’ Tattoo Charlies so I can have him make this credo a part of my skin. This is as close as I get to libertarian. I have always felt that if schools are so hidebound and hamstrung that the sight of, no, wait, the mere threat of the unsightly is enough to make them refuse one of the protean tools of our age, weblogs, then they are well and truly fucked. Why? They have shown the intellectual bankruptcy in their position through their unwillingness to risk their capital in the marketplace of ideas. Make no mistake—weblogs are an idea : glorious, appalling, chaotic, and dangerously liberating. That's why what Will says above bears repeating,

Denying access [to blogs] only teaches them that we're either at a loss for how to deal with the reality or too scared to do so.”

I feel the sweet breath of a brave idea driving away what Milton named 'darkness visible'. And like Milton, we must not despair. We must, " Awake, arise, or be forever fallen!" (Paradise Lost. Book i. Line 330.)

Big Student is Clicking You!

Continuous, on-the-fly student assessment at their fingertips? I don't know about the value of these bad boys, but I do think that administrators might say, "Heck, let's substitute this for the the end of year assessment." Or some typical admin nonsense that would not measure what it intended. But what if you used it to measure "student engagement"in some very rough way for personal assessment purposes. Any communication instrument that allows backchannel talk is of interest to me. Think feedback loop and I believe you will see the value here. Of course, a good teacher can create his own channels of communication with existing high and low tech. The comments at the bottom of the post in Engadget are priceless. I especially liked this one, "Do we really need a high tech way to raise your hand?" I think that misses the general point of connection for the specific point of "Is this retarded or what?"

Staying What Course? - New York Times

Staying What Course? - New York Times

Why did the administration want to invade Iraq, when, as the memo noted, "the case was thin" and Saddam's "W.M.D. capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran"? Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.


Krugman writes about the “Downing Street Memo” and then takes it that final step that I cherish so much in my students’ writings, the “so what” factor.

But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?


Why indeed o ye fighting 301st keyboarding divisions of the right blogosphere.

 The point is that something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq.

Sorry that Krugman felt the need for the false dichotomy at the end here.  There is rarely such a stark fork in the road if reasonable people are trying to reason with other reasonable people.  I can forgive this as a rhetorical flourish, but I also acknowledge that Bush and the neocons live in a faith-based reality that neither needs or wishes to be reasonable.   With them it’s my way or the highway, love it or leave it.  I guess Krugman’s implied point is that if we get backed up into this corner much further we won’t even have stark choices.

BTW:  get your fill of Krugman and Frank Rich now because it looks like the NYT is going paid subscription with its columnists and op-ed page.  I don’t have fifty bucks a year for that.  That’ll end up biting them in the ass.  Newspapers continue to dive in “pulp” circulation and this will only serve to drive down web circulation.  I guess they have moved Judith Miller to circulation management. 

Monday, May 16, 2005


David Baldwin Night Photography

Hossein Derakhshan of the Iranian (via Canada?) blog Hoder speaks with Chris Lydon in his new pod/broadcast (broadpodcast?) effort Open Source . He draws three useful metaphors for weblogs:

  • Windows (culture, information)--allows us a look into and a look out from those who come to the weblog,
  • Bridges (society, activism)--cross gender, political, and social lines with weblogs, and
  • Cafes (politics)--"a discursive arena that is home to citizen debate, deliberation, agreement and action." Public Sphere (Jurgen Habermas)
    Equal power for everyone to question, express, and introduce
So where do you stand in your blog? What are the consequences (or in critical terms the extensions) to teaching and learning from each of these metaphors? Are some metaphors better that others? Some better from a civic point of view and some better from an informational standpoint? Many more questions here than I have good or even feeble answers for.

Let Us Wash in the Waters of the Creek

Elaine hard at work being a scientist. My wife is a mainstay of the effort to measure water quality where we live. She runs the volunteer training and sampling database for the entire Upper Green River Water Basin. On Sunday, we traveled from the upper forks of the Bacon Creek to its mouth on the Nolin River. It is a solid feeling to traverse an entire watershed in one morning. I have a dream of one day walking from the rise of each of the three forks of the Bacon all the way to its mouth. I think I know someone who just might do it with me. Our farm fronts on Bacon Creek. Someday it will be clean again through the grand efforts of the fine gal in the picure above.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Category:Life hacks - 43FoldersWiki

Category:Life hacks - 43FoldersWiki

Handy as a pocket on a shirt.  This collection of “lifehacks” (geekspeak for tips and advice) is worth a visit or two or ten—and because this is a wiki it is constantly being added to and updated by the readers.  If you want to really explore the possibilities here, grab  TiddlyWiki and put in on a flash drive along with Firefox.  You have an instant journal.  Or if you are into David Allen’s Getting Things Done, then you can download this thematic GTDTiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki is a classic collaborative tool.  Start a dialog with a friend.  Send them your TiddlyWiki (it is an html file). They comment and return.  Each iteration is actually a webpage of growing complexity so that the knowledge is being managed as it is created.  When the collaboration is done, the resulting page is posted.   Does anyone appreciate the pedagogical resonance here?  I think that one immediate application is in how it can work in tandem with  email, leveraging it into an uncommonly handy collaborative tool.  Include encryption and you have security as well.