Whoever does the talking…

Gordon Wells in his book “The meaning makers” (1986):
1. At school, utterances by a child to an adult were 63% less than at home
2. Different types of meaning expressed by children dropped 50% (home to school)3. Conversations initiated by children dropped 64% (home to school)
3. The number of questions raised by children dropped by 70% (home to school)

I often hear teachers complaining about the problems they have with children coming to school from dysfunctional families. I have never heard a teacher talk about the problems families have to deal with from their children coming home from dysfunctional schools. Once again the question of ownership of the learning is central.

Will google make me stop wondering? Or my shift to “google plasticity”

This post was inspired by an interview that my Lunch Time Leader Podcast team did with Sharen McKay, a scientist from Yale University.  One thing that she has researched is brain plasticity.  Basically making all our neurons in our brain connect instead of becoming dead-ends.  See the prior link for a more accurate explanation!

By now most people have heard about how we shouldn’t focus on teaching facts because google will be just a few steps away. “Why bother learning _____ when you could just get in a few clicks from google?” Yes, if you are wondering about something google will give you the answer. I worry about getting my questions answered so easily. I worry that I will not be able to wonder about as many things. I am a big outdoorsy type. What I love about exploring in the great outdoors is not that I can identify almost every plant and tree, but that there are some that I can’t. There are things that I still wonder about when I take a hike – and google has the ability to make me stop wondering about them. An example–there is this bird that sings in the woods every night in the summer. It’s a beautiful song. I have no idea what the name of it is, or what it looks like. Every night I wonder. If I looked it up on google my amazement and wonderment would be replaced by knowledge. I really don’t believe I would ever enjoy dusk the same way again.

Do I destroy my students “wonder?” When we are deep in thought about something in class thinking about all the possible answers someone usually says “look it up on google.” When we look it up and find the answer do I end the thought process, do I destroy the wonder, do I end the curiosity? When we are in the middle of baking home made bread do I just end up buying them some Wonder Bread?

This year when some says “just look it up on google” I am going to make sure that we don’t stop our search with an answer, but that our search leads to another question. Too often google is being used as an end, I want to figure out how to make it a tool that leads students to make more connections, a tool that is used to create questions, a tool that leads to more wonder.

Maybe it shouldn’t be “google plasticity.”  I think my issue goes beyond google and can apply to almost any 2.0 tool. Maybe it should be 2.0 plasticity, maybe some other term.

2.0 plasticity — using technology to answer questions students wonder about in order to make connections that lead to the development of more questions, that nurtures their curiosity, and leaves them wondering.

What difference can one little projector make in a classroom?

Ok…I have had zero time to deal with this blog and I really, really want to comment on some of the comments on my previous post. So until I find myself with more time, I am just going to use a video from Dan Meyer’s blog that he made and posted this week. I am so happy to have found a new blog that I had never come across. So thanks Dan for supplying me with some content for this weeks post.

dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

How do kids “survive” school?

I received an email from an ex-student who moved to a large city in another state for his freshman year of high school. A brilliant kid who was an absolute joy to have in class. I will always remember the presentation he did comparing and contrasting the different eras of music, playing samples of each on his flute. I have been thinking for a while about what kind of introduction or conclusion I could add to his letter below, but I think any of my words would just detract from the power of his. Full disclosure here—the letter is heavily edited. I did not change any of his words, but I did omit any sentence about me and parts about his band experience. I did get his permission to re-print the letter on Blogush.

Here is what we are doing to the cream of the “creative class:”

…education is very different here, and I felt something wrong in the classroom when I got here. It’s is seriously, and I am not exagerating, like CMT(CT Mastery Tests) day everyday here…the teachers, I don’t know how to explain it. They are not human, nothing is human. The tests, I do not even want to get into. They are Scantron, in other words, ALL bubble in because, and I quote a teacher, the teachers simply do not feel like grading papers. I have yet to write an essay here, or really write anything. Everything is multiple choice which just takes out the human in teachers I think. Well, I think that’s enough of bashing teachers…I am doing so much reading as I don’t read enough in school hahaha. I just finished Animal Farm which I loved. Such a great book. I also re-read 1984 and I found a lot of new stuff in it I hadn’t seen before. Last week I bought Fahrenheit 451 which was grand. See, the way novel reading goes at this school is they give us the book, they play a tape which reads us the book and that’s all. The teacher simply watches us. I don’t know, maybe I am just a complaining teenager which is fine…

I want to write back something that gives him hope. This is a great mind that should not be wasting away in a classroom coloring in bubbles on a test. What do I say? Would you give him advice on how to keep his mind active by doing things outside of the school? or direct him to take action and attempt to change the current academic environment? What would you do?

How much do you and your classroom change each year?

Came upon an interesting comment on dkzody’s blog that she left in response to another reader’s comment:

“Education is the one career where you have a clean stop and start each year. You can always see the end of the tunnel.”

That is so true. Every year I teach I start off as a totally different person. Each year I grow and change so much and look forward to reinventing myself for the next year. Extending Moore’s Law to me as a classroom teacher, I think that every two years my classroom changes so much that it bears no resemblance to the previous years. Hmmm…I just went through my seventeen years and it does hold true. I can say with certainty that the kids that graduated three years ago would not recognize my current classroom(of course not talking about aesthetics). I plan on talking about some of the changes in my end-of-school fiesta post.

So…click on that little word “comment” and tell me what is the biggest way in which you have changed in the last two years? And what sparked that change. (Note that the question is not — What is the biggest change you have made? Subtle difference)

What’s your quote?

My students are doing projects on 19th Century American Heroes. Yesterday a student found a quote from Clara Barton that she asked me to help her interpret. After reading it I realized that it was a quote that describes my feelings towards education.

“I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.” – Clara Barton

I really want a quote. You know, a quote that when people hear it they say “hey, didn’t Paul Bogush say that.” A quote that will last longer than my presence here on Earth. One that is googlable. I thought I had a pretty good one awhile back. Years ago I started saying that “I don’t teach kids so that they will be ready for the future, I teach them to create the future.” Well a couple months ago I heard Wesley Fryer use it in a podcast and have seen it pop up in a couple of other places. Seems like I lost that one. Dang it.

Maybe someday I will blog the quote or post that gets sent around the internet. I really think that is the reason why I am blogging. For the hope that one day I will hit gold with some words and get my 15 Seconds of Fame. Do you have a post or quote you want to be known for?

For now I live on watching my little counter go up by a few each day, and for those of you that leave comments—I can’t even tell you how much it means to me. I can almost say with certainty that if my counter did not take a few ticks up each day, and I did not get the occasional comments I would stop blogging. That’s not a good thing, but the truth. So for everyone who visits Blogush and leaves a comment—Thank you. Thank you so much. You really do make me feel so important.

Does school 2.0 need an affirmitive action program?

Seventeen years ago a few months into my first teaching job, I was standing in an assembly when I realized something.  I was the only white dude in the room.

I was looking around Twitter today at who other people follow and I had the same feeling come back.  There are only white dudes in the “Twitter room.”  I could not find anyone who was not.  Out of every class that I have collaborated with this year only one person was an African American. Then I thought about the blogs I read, the wikis I check out, and the podcasts I listen to.  Same deal as the Twitter room.  What’s up with that?

Why do I get along better with kids than adults?

Last week I started to get involved in the “Day-in-a-Sentence” post over at Kevin’s Meandering Mind. This week he challenged everyone to use a comic to represent their “day-in-a-sentence.” Mine ended up focusing not on a entire day, but about a two minute period of time that kind of overshadowed everything else I did. Click on the comic to enlarge and read.

What kind of jobs are you preparing you kids for?

There is always someone in my local peanut gallery that brings up the fact that maybe we should not attempt to prepare everyone to be a scientist, historian, entrepreneur, or computer guru.  “You know, some kids are just going to grow up and be stuck working in a video game store.”  Hmmm… My daughter was using the computer today to research what she should buy with her Game Stop gift certificate and I noticed there was an opening for a manger at one of the stores.  Am I preparing my kids to work at a video store as well as find a cure for cancer?  I think so.

Essential Job Skills/Abilities for Game Stop Manager(partial list)

  • Ability to work alone and move throughout store unassisted, for extended periods of time (up to 12 hours per day).
  • Possess strong customer service skills, including clear verbal and written communication skills.
  • Possess basic mathematical skills, alphabetical skills, and working knowledge of computerized cash register and POS system.
  • Ability to read and interpret documents.
  • Exhibit team building and team leadership qualities. Ability to work in a fast-paced, rapidly changing, diverse work environment.
  • Strong interpersonal skills.
  • Ability to deal with problems involving several concrete variables in standardized situations.
  • Ability to meet individual sales, shrink, and special program goals.

Can you give me some 1:1 help?

I have been working on a grant (still in rough draft form) to make my class a 1:1 laptop room(due this week!). I am really questioning some of my writing, and especially my choice of laptops(at this point Macbooks). They would be used for blogging, podcasting, working our our wiki, streaming video, video conferencing, making movies, that sort of stuff. I have a few questions that I am hoping someone could help me with. Some might overlap.

If you had $16,000 and twenty-five kids what kind of laptops would you buy?

Buy “bigger” laptops and make the class a 1:2, or buy smaller ones(Asus or Mini Note) and make the class a 1:1?

Buy or lease?

Get more laptops with the basic warranty, or buy fewer and buy the extended warranty?

Thank you so much for any opinions and help!

Is my wife leaving me?

Did you know that Ethiopian imports to the United States have risen by 100% this year to over $8 million?

I just found a charge for $1900 on my credit card for plane tickets on Ethiopian Airlines.  Yes they do exist — a huge 32 plane fleet.  I had to call the credit card company and felt a bit funny because my wife is not home and was unable to ask her about it.  I hope she was not planning on running away to Ethiopia.  The agent did ask me if I was sure…well I am not positive.  Maybe it was my kids.