“…academic environments are artificial environments.”

Thought provoking interview with Laszlo Bock from Google in the New York Times. Interesting how Google is using “big data.”  Here is an excerpt:

Q. Other insights from the data you’ve gathered about Google employees?

A. One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.

Q. Can you elaborate a bit more on the lack of correlation?

A. After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different. You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.

Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.

Reflection on Edcampusa #2

I tried to write out my thoughts after attending Edcampusa but it became a giant multi-page unwieldy document.  So I figured i would throw out individual posts that draw on some of the things I reflected on after attending…the posts still might be somewhat random, but maybe a bit more manageable if you would like to wade through them…

In almost every “conversation” session I have been in at an edcampusa, any edcamp, or at a more progressive conference the outcome of the conversation is becoming more predictable unless you are new to alternatives to traditional schooling.  When you fill the room with people that you have attended conferences with before, or follow on twitter, or read their blog posts the conversation becomes even more predictable.  If you attend a session on “What does a great lesson look like?  I guarantee you can predict 90% of the bullet points.  The sessions are becoming more predictable at larger edcamps that attract the “popular folks.”  At edcampusa I probably recognized by face 75% of attendees.  Let’s face it, twitter is a lot like high school.  Kind of like meeting the quarterback of the football team ten years after graduation and saying hello Jimmy, and they say who are you??  There seemed to be cliques that travel together from session to session.  There are cool kid sessions, and sessions for others.  I was the only participant in one session, in another session at the same time there were none, so everyone else must have been concentrated somewhere. If there were about 75 people then 71 were split amongst three sessions being led by the more popular names.   I thought it was really interesting that I picked sessions by people I had not heard of before and they tended to be filled with participants that I had not heard of before, and by the end of the day a few people joked that we had been in all the same sessions together all day.  The above is NOT a knock…it is an observation.  I do not know what it means (maybe popular people present on popular topics), but I know that many people in the lower ranks of twitter have made the same observations…which means nothing, just trying to see if the pattern means something, or it is me trying to find something in a pattern that does not matter.  

I do think it is time for the folks who come and jump at the board at every edcamp to take a step back and let other people fill the void.  How do we build digital leaders?  The current ones do not hold sessions at every conference they attend.  They come to be participants.  And please don’t tell me that everyone has an equal opportunity to fill the board.  At two edcamps I attended the board was practically filled before the time that was listed to even start posting on the board.

There were 20 sessions held at Edcampusa.  By my unofficial count only one was led by a classroom teacher. A couple were held by librarians.  Unless I counted wrong, the rest were held by people outside of the classroom, and some by people outside the schools. Because you don’t teach or decided to work for a business does that make you less of a teacher?  Not necessarily. Some people led or co-led 2, 3, and four sessions.  It would have been nice to have had 20 sessions all being led by different people.  It would have been nice for people who always lead sessions to step back and let others in.  

At this conference like others,  there is always this talk about how great teachers are.  If teachers are doing such great things, then let’s see them. I would like to have seen sessions being lead by more teachers and with teachers sharing what they are currently doing inside of their classroom.  I believe it was Steve Anderson who tweeted that it is our moral obligation to share…let’s stop sharing about about what we should be doing or want to do, and let’s share examples of what is being done.  We were at the Department of Education and had the opportunity to show off what we do (I believe Steve also tweeted about how teachers should not be afraid of being accused of showing off when they share), instead we talked a lot about what we want to do.  We had the chance to show an alternative to test prep, an alternative to standardized testing, a chance to show that kids can do fantastic things when not placed in a standardized environment.  I think we blew it.  One staffer mentioned they need specifics, not ideas.  Why did we not have sessions focused on showing off what was going on in the classrooms?  Maybe because there weren’t many classroom teachers there??   I am not blind to the fact that almost everything I have written is my perception based on my baggage, my guess as to what each session was about based on the title, and attending only part or all of five sessions and hearing about several others.  I am positive what I have written was not true of all sessions, it wasn’t for one of mine, but it did seem like a pattern.

On twitter, in edcamp sessions, on blogs, we talk, and talk, and talk about what would be great to do or how to do great things.  I don’t hear from many people giving  concrete examples of what they are doing.  Let’s share, and share, and share awesome things we do with the kids.  How about a break from philosophical conversations.  It is time to ante up and show and tell, and to not be afraid of being called a show-off. Conferences should be full of teachers super excited to share the awesome things they are doing in their class that push corporate ed-reforms off the table.  If we cannot do that, than how can we possibly be qualified to talk about what we “should” be doing.  Stop telling me how great teachers are.  Stop telling me that teachers need respect.  Let me see what they deserve respect for.  Why do you think common core standards and all the testing has slid in so easily?  Because it is not much different from what was already being done.  Some parents still have no clue what has changed because you just can’t tell.

Yes, conversation at conferences energizes.  But so does coming back to school with amazing ideas to implement and a connection to someone who is already doing it. Amazing things being done in the classroom are catch on to the classrooms next door…philosophical conversations?   Not so catchy.  

Your next tweet, your next blog post, in your next session, in your next conversation…share something you do that is awesome.  

Blogging and being on twitter is not the answer, being connected is not the answer, having 5000 people in your PLN is not the answer, having educators come to the Department of Education is not the answer…being awesome is.  Next year I hope that the sessions revolve around not what we want, but what we do that is awesome.  #eduawesome was supposed to be one of the strands this year, I hope it makes a comeback. Being awesome is the number one defense teachers have against the corporate ed-reforms being pushed upon us. 

Awesome is catchy.

By the way….here is what woke me at 2am after Edcampusa:

Reflection on Edcampusa–Post #1

At Edcampusa on Saturday there was a lot of talk about creating environments to let kids flourish. I was hearing ideas to fix the consequences created by schools–ideas to fix problems that standardizing and warehousing education creates.  To reform schools we could talk about improving them by stating what we need to do to fix the consequences and problems created by our actions, or we can stop doing what is creating the problem. Think about how we flood animals with medication so that they can be warehoused together to be quickly market and table ready in the least amount of time. That makes them grow but does not fix what is causing the problem. Maybe we need to start thinking about it in terms of what are we doing that is getting in the way?  What should we remove? What should we stop doing…how can we get out of their way.



24 Assessments that don’t suck…

One year ago I posted “15 Assessments that don’t suck.”  I have added nine new ones that we did this year to the list.  Click on the titles for more information on each.

RSA Videos

RSA videos are a huge crowd pleaser.  The kids really enjoyed making them.  Post production can be teacher intensive depending on your tech tools available and tech expertise of your kids.

Note card Confessions

I am still tweaking this in my head for next year.  This year it got placed into a unit that was chopped up with half-days, snow days, and scheduling changes.  There is a lot of potential with this.

Full class music videos

What can I say…my favorite.  Not everyone has to sing.  Many different roles are involved for kids of all levels.  Here is one from this year.

Commoncraft Style Videos

I haven’t done Common Craft Style videos in a couple years, but it is a neat gateway project for teachers looking to do something different.

Reader’s theatre

Alright…I know this one seems so simple.  But it can be so powerful.  Take one story and split it into parts…split paragraphs, splits lines, to make it more powerful than if read straight through. The link is actually to one that we did with a primary source.  The students have done them in a variety of styles.  One that stick out is three kids who wrote letters home from the Oregon trail.  Each one read one sentence at a time, but when read it sounded like one single letter.  Again, simple idea, but they take time to play with the information and the processing produces some great learning.  Can be done with two kids, small group, or an entire class.


I am a fan of the assessment that doesn’t smell like an assessment.  We did PSA’s on current problems using the technique’s of 19th Century Progressives.  Each of the PSAs did not on the surface seem to connect to 19th Century United States History. But for example, the student who created the PSA in the link could make a historical connection for each part of her video.  They were all collected onto a Posterous site, but Posterous has since closed!  Here is a link with a little more info on what we did.  I almost deleted this after re-reading this post simply because it is hard to see how this is an assessment, and how it really does connect to our 19th century history unit.  You’ll have to just trust me.

1000 Words

Neat idea that I am refining.  This was the first year I tried it.  I think there is some potential to use it not only with images, but text as well.

Stop Action Animation

An idea that can be very complex, or very simple (the link is to a simple one).  Here is one from this year.

Lip Synch

Take a famous video clip, and have the kids synch what they leaned to it.  Seriously…these always feel like a train wreck when I have tried them.  I always say never again…but then one kid will convince me to try it again.  Not sure about the value, but I can say that it takes so many attempts and practice that they certainly remember the facts.

Reverse Poems

Ok…I have to admit I have not successfully completed these with a class.  They are SOOO hard.  The link brings you to the one that inspires us to keep trying, and here is one from last year and one from this year that was pretty good.  The idea is one perspective when read one way, and the opposite perspective when read the other.  While we have done a bunch on paper, putting them into video can be challenging.

Black-out Poems

These are really neat.  Nothing had the class so quiet and focused this year.  They really need a student to present and explain, don’t really do well standing alone in a blog post.  In person they are a hit.


I loved this assessment.  I really learned a lot from it and and it started a trend for me to start using less technology in class.

Lip synch, dances, and more

Just a bunch of random ideas in this link

Poetry Slam

Simply the one unit that kids talk about years after they graduate.  It is also the unit that is most dependent on the teacher.  I have watched another teacher do the same unit and it simply did not fly.  If you cannot motivate, energize and kick some butt….leave this one alone.

Fish Bowl Discussions + another

Neat way to have more of a conversation rather than a back and forth between teacher and students.


A fun activity that can be used with primary and secondary sources that automatically injects creativity and imagination into the final product.


I don’t often recommend a tool to use with all kids, but I will  recommend Powtoon.  Kids love it.

Personification of Primary Source Documents

I great idea for a lesson I wish I created, but I just ripped it off someone else!

Playing with Blocks

I have been trying to work more “play” into my lessons.  The type of play in which learning is the surprise ending.

Instagramification of History

This is one of those very quick witty assignments.

Making posters

I know, posters are boring, they are tech free, old fashion….but they still have a place in a classroom.


You might have heard of Genius Hour or 20% Time…this is our version.


I realized that because we use computers a lot, there was no physical evidence of our learning anywhere in the school.  From the front door to my door on the top floor, there was no evidence of what anyone in the school is learning about.  We had to change that.

“My Darling Wife…A Civil War Letter”

One of my favorite assessments this year.  It included no original words from the students, but a lot of digging around in primary sources.



“My darling wife…” A Civil War Letter

I have always loved videos that take the lines of many different people and compiled them into one story.

You might have 30 different voices in the video, but they all add up to one shared story.  I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate this idea into into one of my units for over a year.  During our Civil War unit I decided to give it a shot.

To research what life was like during the war for soldiers the students had to find their letters, look for patterns, and then settle on five that exemplified the pattern.  But that never happened.  What then ended up coming to the table with a couple days later were five letters that were simply pretty cool.  Letters that they thought gave them insight into a Civil War soldier’s life.

They came together in groups of 3-6 and looked for patterns.  In each group they had between 15-30 letters.  It was awesome listening to the conversations as they discovered the shared experiences and feelings that soldiers had.  I learned sooo much.  Normally I find letters to meet my lesson’s objective.  I read the letters with a pattern in mind and only look for with letters that fit my predetermined pattern.  Because they went in with no expectations, they found things that I never would have seen.  It really has altered how I will use other sources in the future.  I now realize that even when I wasn’t trying that my questions and the way I used them predetermined their perspective and what they would find.  

The one thing they found that I always missed, was the emotion buried into each of the letters.  They really “met” the soldiers writing the letters and saw the humanity behind them, whereas I had only previously seen the letters as a collection of facts.  I was taken aback, I am not sure how or why it happened.

The video below I picked simply because of the back story.  The group stumbled upon a site that had all the letters of a particular soldier.  Only one girl had come with a letter from the soldier, but at some point the group had all gone back to the site where the letter was found and started reading all of his letters in chronological order.  They fell right into his shoes.  Suddenly half way through the period there was a gasp by all group members.  Everyone’s heads got close to the computer screens as they shouted to re-read a letter because their interpretation must be wrong.  The last letter in the collection was not from the man who wrote love letters home to his wife with descriptions of his battle exploits, but from his commander writing his wife to tell her that her husband had passed.  The man who stopped in the middle of a battle to pick a flower for his love, was not coming home.

The groups compiled one letter made up of lines from all the letters that they found.  All the words they used to build their letter had to come from the primary sources they used. They used complete sentences and often started a sentence with one soldiers words, and ended it with another’s.  The end results were awesome and I saw something that I had never seen before.  Every single group was proud of what they had created.

A Civil War Letter from Moran Mustangs on Vimeo.

We filmed the video in our new room (check it out).  If you do a video like this here are some keys.  Make sure you film close-up.  If they could do it again I would have them go in even closer. Being close is also very important if you don;t have a good mic–fuzzy video is ok, fuzzy audio is never ok.  Use the rule of thirds and don’t put every single head in the middle of the frame.  Make people’s brains readjust and re-focus on each person.  If you only use auto focus (and this is an important one folks) have the kid stand in front of the camera, auto focus, and then place your camera on manual focus.  Place a mark on the ground and have every kid stand on the mark.  I do a line of tape and do “toes on the tape”  which is much better than “stand on the X.” When they are that close 6 inches closer or farther makes a difference.  When the student comes into the camera I clap, and then the student counts to three and talks.  When they are done talking they count to three and walk off after I clap.  That give space on the file to have it fade into the space on the next one.  The clapping creates a spike in your movie editing software that allows you to see when you have to cut the video–we did one continuous shot.  Easier than putting together and editing 50 individual files.  When each kid walks into the frame change the camera angle–one kid on left of frame, next kid on right, one in the middle, etc…easier than having kid stand in different spot.

Ok…next part will sound complicated but it is not 🙂  After video is edited and before music is added, we save it as an MP3–so only a sound file.  We take that sound file and use audacity’s noise removal tool to get rid of the constant air blower things that go non-stop in our rooms.  You find a space in between the words…ahhh  just follow this or youtube it.  Most of that background noise you can easily remove.  Now export the file from Audacity as a WAV file.  Download Levelator, if you don’t know what levelator is and you world with audio and kids be prepared to let me rock your world.  One of the biggest problems recording multiple kids with one mic is that they all speak at different levels.  Levelator will take your kids voices and level them out so that the volume of each is nearly equal.  It can’t work miracles, but it does a pretty great job.  Place the wav file back into the video, place some music in and you are all done 🙂

I let the kids pick there own groups, which in my grade usually end up being male and female.  It was so interesting to hear the final results from both groups.  The girls picked up on how the soldiers were always requesting things from home, missed their loved ones, and the sadness post battle.  The boys talked about battles, being wounded, and lack of supplies.

I do worry about doing this again because I didn’t do anything.  I think it just was given at the perfect time of year when they were ready to dive into something with no help, and it was the time of year when they just started seeing patterns on their own.  I also think because Civil War letters are so easy to find on the web, that every kid was able to find a letter that spoke to them.

“My darling wife…A Civil War Letter”  A neat little assignment that you should consider.

For the social studies teachers, yes there is a major mispronunciation of a city.
She knew it right after she did it. I like leaving stuff like that in there
It’s what happens when 12 year olds get nervous 🙂

One non-negotiable rule…

Five years into teaching I removed the rules from my board. It was school policy that we post them. What happens when a kid talks, how many strikes before getting a detention…

That was the year I realized that rules, policies, and strategies make no difference in student performance. It was the year I realized that classroom culture trumps all, and by removing my list of rules, I removed the unwritten message that told the kids that I will try to catch them when they were “bad” so that I can punish them to make them stop.

In place of the rule poster I put a quote. I don’t remember what it was…one of those touchy feely inspirational quotes. And then I hung another…and another. It made my room feel very different. It went from a room in which motivating and inspiring became more important than consequences and punishments. It took me five years to figure that out.

Soon after that I found that I had unwritten rules being slowly developed. There were rules in my class, but they were not written on the walls. They were subliminal messages sent by me with every interaction I had with a kid, with every assignment I handed out, and with every conversation I had with a kid after each problem.

I slowly started to realize that many of the “negative” behaviors were not caused by “bad” kids, but by kids who were afraid to be awesome. Kids who kept control of their dignity by purposely failing, messing around in class, or any number of other things because if they did not try to be awesome, then they could not fail. It was not about being afraid to “think outside-the-box,” It was bout remaining in control. Getting a kid to move outside of their comfort zone can be very uncomfortable because you have to first convince them that it is ok to lose control of the results. For that to happen you need a room where everyone feels safe, where everyone knows that they will fall, but when they look up, they will see a hand being held out to help them back up…not a set of rules ready to push them back down.

My non-negotiable rule in my room is not for the kids, it is for me.

When they fall, help them up.

It sounds too simple to make a difference, but it is the only rule that does.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Above edited quote from Marianne Williamson

Did I sell my soul for Rock n’ Roll?

Back in January I wrote a post “Should I sell my soul for Rock n’ Roll?”  Well after months of dragging our feet…Phil n’ the Bubbles decided the day before the sbac (no I will not capitalize it) rally that we would do it.  We picked a song, changed the song, and thirty minutes of practice later had it down…kind of.  

Every person on the stage was there to make kids smile.  Every kid in the audience was there to smile. After talking about it with the kids, it was not a rally for standardized testing, it was celebrating getting out of class 🙂  and the opportunity to have unstandardized fun for ten minutes. I had a lot of fun playing the g-tar, and the kids talked about it all day.

It’s too bad the only way we can pull the entire school together to have fun is to throw a pseudo-celebration for the devil in disguise.

I kept the entire recording for historical purposes, the song starts at 1:50.


By any means necessary…

You can skip the post and vote right here(we’re the fourth school down): http://moourl.com/votemoran
(Voting ended May 9th, but maybe they forgot to close it so feel  free to click an attempt!)

I choose Stonehill College 28 years ago because their teaching program put you into the classroom first semester freshman year.  I was placed into an elementary classroom and my professor was Allan Leitman.  Our first job was to produce a video with the elementary class.  It was a big clunky video camera, and we used two Beta decks to record and edit.  If you are of a certain age you know what I am talking about…    I don’t know if all the videos we produced for Professor Leitman count as “digital story telling,” but I know when I first heard the term coined I thought to myself that I was glad I met Professor Leitman way back in 1987.

Digital story telling is powerful stuff.  Putting a video camera in a kids hands and giving them the opportunity to create a story, instead of consuming one, is powerful stuff.  Over the years I have spent lot of money buying cameras to use in my class.  It is difficult to do digital story telling with 1 camera and 100 kids.  It’s even harder to find a place to edit all those videos.  It is even scarier to watch middle school kids pass your camera around that is supposed to be recording your own kid’s concert later that night 🙂

This is yet another year in which our proposed school budget will get cut further.  There will be no video cameras and editing equipment in this budget, there hasn’t been any in the last 24 budgets that I have been a part of.  As I come to the twilight of my career I finally can smell the chance to put a video camera into the hand of each of my kids.  My class entered the ACER Classroom Makeover contest and we are one of the finalists.  If we win we get a set of class tablets.  Not only cameras, but an HD camera, editing station, and research center all-in-one tool.  I simply cannot imagine the freedom it will give a kid to be creative.  No longer will our digital story telling and other video work be confined to “special” projects only when I can bring in my camera.

My kids created a pretty cool video for the contest

It was a blast and we have finally figured out how to green screen and looking forward to being able to produce higher quality green screen videos in the future! 

One of the most influential books that I ever read was the Autobiography of Malcolm X.  I am going to try and get votes for my kids “By any means necessary.”  I have written my high school, my elementary school, wrote a post a month ago, have tweeted it out, every conference session my kids have led this month has ended with a “vote for us” advertisement, and here is yet one more post asking for your support.  

I hate having to ask for a vote, so instead I ask that you visit the site an vote for one class.  If you like our video above, we are the fourth class down on the Acer website which can be found here: http://moourl.com/votemoran  Voting ends May 9, 2014.

If you are worried that you will be putting it into the hands of a class that will just use it as an expensive notebook,  here are some examples of us singing songs, making complicated things simple, making simple videos about complicated things, making complicated videos about complicated things,  taking other’s ideas and adding our own twist,  just having fun with history, and we do audio only too!  For a deeper look into our class please watch our “classroom commercial.”  I think you will see that we will put the tablets to very good use.

Please consider voting for us.

Please consider passing along the link. (Here is a another!)

Thank you.

And yes, we will use the tablets for things other than digital story telling, but that is what I am most excited about!

No experience necessary…


I have three degrees.

I have taught for 23 years.

I have spent 10 years in the toughest urban school.

I have spent 13 years in the typical average suburban school.

I have taught with rules on the board and zero tolerance when broken.

I have taught in classrooms where no rules are needed.

I have given tests that last three days long as a behavior management technique (not proud of it).

I have taught in classrooms where there is total academic freedom.

I have spent years using the textbook everyday.

I have spent years never using a textbook.

I have taught without any money for anything.

I have taught where I can get a laptop cart whenever I wanted it (almost).

I have used construction paper and crayons for activities to decorate our walls.

I have used computers to connect with classroom and professional across the world.

I have done a lot.  

I have a lot of experience as a teacher.

I am and will always be amazed that my experience, and the experience of others like me is totally disregarded when making decisions impacting my kids.  I can talk with people making decisions about what I have to do in the classroom and describe in detail the negative impact it will have on student learning and I will be totally disregarded.  Somehow people who have just taught a few years know more than me. Somehow people who have NEVER taught know more than me.  

Is there any other field in which in order to be considered an expert no experience is needed?

Click–>Education Reform Is Destroying Childhood as We Know It <–click


First I saw this:

And then I went to the post and watched the video there.

After watching the video I walked down my hallway.  You know what I saw?  Nothing.  If you were walking down my hallway you would never know that there were 200 kids behind the doors on the third floor.

Using computers is great.  But I have found that the more I use computers, there is less evidence of what we are doing for the people that we come into contact with each day.  If another teacher, parent, or kid from another class walks down our hall all they might see is a kid working on a laptop.  After that kid creates something maybe we show it once in the class, and then no one on the team or in the school or community ever sees it again.

We are approaching 1000 videos on our youtube channel that anyone in the world could see, but did not have 1 thing a person walking down the hall could see.

We were working on a unit that included the Trail of Tears and I decided we needed to change that.  I took Kevin’s idea and made it ten steps.  “If you could walk for ten footsteps on the Trail of Tears what would you be thinking with each footstep?”  In my head it sounded great, when it came out of my mouth in class it sounded ok, but the kids got pretty excited about it–or maybe because they were going to be able to use scisssors.

We had done a readers theater class with a primary source story from the Trail of Tears to peak their curiosity, and then they spent a couple days researching.  Front of the step had the thought, back of the step has the source.  First step was in Georgia, last was in Oklahoma.  They ended up turning in everything from poems, to very “essay” like steps, to single footprints with QR codes leading to Powtoons, to drawings with thoughts written in the person’s teardrops, to videos such as this one:

In the end we had foot steps all over the place.  Everywhere you looked coming up to our team you passed footsteps.  I have not seen a single kid stop and read every footstep, but one kid will stop and read a step walking up the stairs, another while waiting to come into class will read a step, and when waiting for the buses kids will read them. They read them every day, they see them every day, they are reminded of what they researched and wrote everyday. I have caught almost every adult visitor to our floor stopped in front of a wall reading what the kids wrote. In their essays on Andrew Jackson I saw a passion and ownership of the paragraphs on Indian Removal that I have not seen in the past.  Something else also happened this year, they also included more opinion in those paragraphs than in past year.  I kept commenting to include some evidence because I was reading mostly commentary without any facts.  I don’t know if it was happening because of the foot steps all over the walls…but they do look cool for just some cut-out construction paper and sentences written on them, and there was a vibe making them, sharing them, hanging them that you just don’t get when sharing most things on a computer.




It’s Complicated…

I have been reading a book by danah boyd (yes, lowercase letters for her name).  I am not even done with it but would like to recommend it to anyone who works with teens or has a teen.  The book is Its Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.  A link to buy the book is here.  You can also download it or read it as a PDF here.  If you don’t want to read the PDF on your PC, download the Kindle App to your tablet or phone.  Go to your Amazon account and click on your name, and then Manage Your Content and Devices.  Then in the column on the left click on Manage Your Devices.  If you have more than one device click on it and you will see it’s email.  Go to the PDF version of the book here, and right click save as an Adobe Acrobat Document.  Next email it to your device as an attachment with “convert” in the subject line.  It will now read just like any other book on your phone or smartphone.

Bammy Awards, popularity, sharing…

It is once again time for the Bammies.

The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline honor that identifies and acknowledges the extraordinary work being done across  the entire education field every day– from teachers, principals and superintendents, to school nurses, support staff, advocates, researchers, school custodians, early childhood specialists, education journalists,  parents and students.  The Bammy Awards were created to help reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field.

As I watched them unfold last year I was undecided about whether I should be supportive of a teacher award show, or rail against it.  Many people wrote angry posts, a few in support–or maybe that is just what I saw.  

As nominations open up this year I have been stalking the lists. Many folks who wrote against the Bammy Awards called it simply a popularity contest.  I have not heard of almost all of the people who have been nominated, but most are involved in blogging or social media in some way. Maybe you have to be popular in social media to know who is popular?  The ones I do recognize aren’t popular because they tweet a lot, it is because they share a lot, and they are authentic when they do.

Last week there was a meeting at my daughter’s elementary school in which they brought in state officials to introduce common core standards.  They used language so nuanced that you could not say they were lying, but the ideas they were presenting had the backing of Billions of federal, corporate, and Bill Gates dollars and it was hard to present an alternative.  There were handouts made with Gates billions from the PTO, and misguided quotes about PISA scores and crazy statistics about how happy teachers in CT were.  An individual teacher simply does not have the clout…or the $$$ for lobbyists to fight back.  As I sat there listening to the “rigor” my daughters school will embrace, I was wishing that I had the $5+billion dollars that they have spent on common core to push a different agenda of play based early childhood education, project based learning in all schools, and maybe give some to those South Carolina teachers who really haven’t had a raise in like eight years.  I wish I had some major backers that could help me in my own district to introduce project based learning into our school, and inject inquiry into our social studies classes.

I have checked out many of the Bammy Nominees.  I wonder how many are like me.  How many feel as though they are an island.  As I checked out their blogs I could not help but be impressed and I did not get the feeling that their classes were filled with workbooks and work being done solely for a grade, work done solely to meet the standards.  It seems as all of them are not getting nominated for doing what they are supposed to be doing, but because each day they make a difference in someone’s life by doing an extraordinary job of doing all the little things right.  Sure some may be popular, but my guess is that they all change kids lives. Apparently popularity is just one side effect of sharing lots of great ideas and making people think. 

I would take a guess that not a single person nominated really cares about the award.  I would also guess that most would say that it is a bit embarrassing.  That ‘s too bad.  I wonder if it is because of the folks in social media who have knocked down awards like the Bammies as nothing more than popularity contests, the same people who ironically can do that because of their popularity, and the same people who can’t celebrate a teacher being honored, but will spend all night tweeting about the hit by a player being paid $15 million per year, or celebrate a 20 year old kid because they threw a ball through a hoop.

There are some nominated by the committee whose write up sounds like the first three bullet points on their resume, but look past those.  Look at all the rest.  If they can achieve some legitimacy through this event as it grows, I feel as though maybe I can acquire some of that mojo so that the next time in a meeting I suggest we utilize project based learning and inquiry maybe someone listens. The reality is that awards equal power.  Not power inside the classroom, but outside of it.  I am sure many of the nominees feel like I do–we make a huge difference in our own four walls, but when we suggest to others outside of our four walls that there is a different way of doing things we are snubbed.  I re-read a post from Josh Stumpenhorst  today in which he writes: “I used to think I could be a superhero and was responsible for saving the kids in my classroom. Now I realize I can’t do it alone and my responsibility reaches far beyond the walls of my classroom.” It has taken me decades to realize that.  And maybe, just maybe, a celebration of teachers who are doing some awesome things in their classrooms that have more to do than just meeting test scores is a first step to getting these folks some extra power to reach beyond their classroom’s walls. It certainly can’t hurt. 

In a comment on Pernille Ripp’s blog someone asked how can we “measure who is better?”  I would hope that it is never about who is better, it’s simply about someone who cares about kids, and shares how they do that.  Will that measured in some degree by who is popular? I suppose so, but so are teacher-of-the-year awards, Presidential elections, and pretty much every award given out that recognizes anyone for anything.  Let’s face it, any teacher who is not on twitter probably has never heard of the Bammy Awards, and right there that eliminates more than 99% of the teachers I know.   

Another comment on Pernille’s blog said “I’ll suggest that the daily successes of what you do in class with your kids is infinitely more important and of the highest value possible.”  I settled for that for 23 years. And as I valued the successes in my class, the world outside of my class turned into a test driven standardized world.  I was able to do battle each year to keep the corporate reform movement and all their standardized testing vices away from my kids until this year.  Now I am starting to feel like I have a responsibility beyond my walls, and I bet the other nominees do as well.  

After taking four or five days to complete this post, I think I will come down on the side of “for” the awards.  If just a single teacher being honored can have their voice amplified in their home district because of them I think it will be worth it.

By the way, I am a nominee this year.  My last eight posts have been tweeted out nine times and have one comment…must be because I am so popular 🙂


**edit 6/8/2014**

I would like to place in an edit here after what the Bammies have just done.  I have read that Bob Wise will be hosting them.  If I knew that ahead of time, I would not have written a post supporting them.