Why This Blog? Why Now? Why This title?

I am no longer blogging under duress. This part remains true: I had a blog once and I lost the password...and then, I gave up. I really am not a giver-upper, but there is a point of diminishing returns to anything that takes energy, passion, and vision and yet, doesn't work out. So, off I go again, wish me luck! AND knock on wood I have had luck. And it is sort of fun.

P.S. Why this title? I read this phrase today 6/16, don't remember where. I liked it. I'm using it. I might change it. It may or may not have relationship to the content.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Journey with Twitter in 5 poems--with a tip of the hat to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and Shea Bennett who wrote “The 5 Stages of Getting Twitter”

This is a poem I wrote for a professional development session in which we explored twitter...


Don’t wanna
Don’t hafta
Couldn’t run away fasta
Twitter has nothing for me
Don’t wanna
Don’t hafta
Couldn’t run away fasta
I don’t care if twitter is free


Twitter, twitter, twitter
Why should I care what people are having for breakfast
Why should I care what’s new on TV
Why should I care that you’ve arrived at the bank
And why do you send such nonsense to me?
Twitter...twitter....twitter....and, anyway...it’s a dumb name


OK, my friends are on twitter
My boss is on twitter
I’ll sign up ‘cuz twitter is free
My friends are on twitter
My boss is on twitter
I’ll try it so they can tweet me


I’m sad, feel bad
Twitter isn’t for me
There is nothing to do, nothing to see
Why are these people following me?
PS What is a hashtag anyway?


Not there yet
Not ready to say
I get it!
I will have to say, chats are a way
To participate
I will have to say, chats are a way
To build a PLN
I will have to say; maybe I’m one tweet away
From building a world I fit in

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Recent Conversation

I just wanted to put this out before the conversation gets cold. In a recent chat with a colleague about going with what the learner wants to study, vs backwards unit/lesson design (we were having a UbD...Understanding by Design...discussion), the idea of being locked into something by virtue of too much planning came up, at least that was my interpretation of the conversation. The conversation  made me think of Perkins' book "Making Learning Whole" and his idea of "playing the whole game". I think the relationship between the two (UbD and "Making Learning Whole") is that by planning assessments after thinking about what you want students to know and understand IS playing the whole game as the assessments, as UbD suggests, are performance assessments. Designing the learning after designing the assessment and, presumably, building a theory of difficulty, IS playing the whole game via junior versions.

I think what my colleague was talking about was going straight to the whole game and playing/living it. Wouldn't it be great if we could learn in such an organic way that you could literally put a big rock in the middle of the room and ask kids to move the rock from one side of the room to the other there by addressing all kinds of authentic, real time, performance learning...truly playing the game of problem solving. Or to be able to simply say, "what do you want to study, I'll guide, you learn and eventually you will know or be able to find out all that is important.

I believe that all who believe in the "whole game concept" would go there if a time frame and expectations of the rest of the world didn't exist, how fun would that be! but time frame and expectations do exist. I think playing the whole game through an UbD design is coming very close to the ideal.

Anticipating the Hard Parts

This post is about part II of chapter 3, Working on the Hard Parts, in David Perkins' book " Making Learning Whole". I think a teacher at my school said it best, "Always do what you expect learners to be able to do, then you'll know what makes the learning hard...you'll know where the alligators are." Perkins describes these "hard parts" when he talks about understanding competing knowledge or complexity factors (pg 101). He calls them "potholes in the learning road" rather than alligators and names what teachers are really doing when they anticipate the hard parts..."creating a simple theory of difficulty". Back to my colleague, "Do what you expect learners to do and then you'll know what makes the learning hard. Use what you've discovered to plan your focus lessons." Some versions of constructivist learning theory might say, use your theory of difficulty to create a wide range of examples that challenge learners thinking in order for learners to build new understandings...construct new understandings on the backs of competing understandings being the connection here.

More grist for the mill about "playing the whole game". If the whole game is outside the grasp of learners at the moment,  resist the urge to drill and practice until they are ready to play the whole game...simply play a junior version of the whole game. My personal learning story about this has to do with bridge. I come from a dedicated bridge playing family. Family game night was bridge night. Christmas with my aunt and uncle was a bridge marathon. My introduction to bridge was not playing the experienced bridge player version of the game, nor was my introduction to the game counting endless cards, building and analyzing hands, or practicing clue laden conversations. My introduction to bridge was a game that was actually called "Bridge Jr."! This game was a highly scaffolded version of adult bridge, AND it was playing the game.

An important lesson when designing instruction...take you theory of difficulty, design some junior games and keep playing!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Still Reading That Same Book...

Well, I'm still reading Making Learning Whole by David Perkins. I find it well written, easy to read, and rich in content worth thinking and writing about. Hence I'm taking my time and reflecting on each chapter or so. This last part I read...the chapter called "Working on the hard parts", speaks to the idea that without deliberate practice, deconstructing and reconstructing the hard parts in a task we are just practicing our mistakes. Of course one has to find the hard parts, embrace and anticipate the hard parts, and develop a theory of difficulty in order to deliberately practice, reconstruct, and reintegrate.

A thing I find interesting and affirming is that some of  the concepts I truly believe in keep coming up. One of those concepts is feedback...not just any feedback, but the type of feedback that guides the learner. Raising questions and seeking an assessment of understanding.

Perkins mentions embedded communicative feedback (pg 85). That is feedback that communicates specific information to the learner in ways that are authentic and in real time. This reminds me of what we are doing in my school both with students in reading, and writing workshops and with our teachers in coaching cycles. Teachers spend significant time during the independent learning block of a workshop conferring with students about their reading or writing. Embedded communicative feedback! Our embedded communicative feedback is based on Lucy Caulkins "conference architecture" in writing and Patrick Allen's "RIP" model for conferring in reading. Both structures work and kids and teachers benefit.

Teachers also spend significant time in coaching cycles, a process informed by the work of Linda Dorn and Carla Saffos. Like conferring during the independent learning time in a workshop, coaching cycles are coaches and teachers conferring during an instructional block. In both instances we shoot for authentic embedded feedback in real time.

The other concept I find interesting and affirming is the value of revising and redeeming one's work. The phrase "revise and redeem" comes from a talk given by Linda Darling Hammond during an Expeditionary Learning national conference a few years ago. Darling-Hammond was talking about the value of a second look and the changes that result. Perkins builds on the act of revising and redeeming by describing steps of revision as "deconstructing and reconstructing". Perkins puts a further spin on the idea by adding the concept of isolating the hard parts and he speaks of "the rhythm of isolation and reintegration" that is fundamental to learning from the hard parts. (pgs 88-89) To me this is a bit like practicing a word or sound in isolation and then taking that deliberate practice back to the text (reintegration.) I'm going to steal that phrase also. We'll combine revise and redeem with the rhythm of isolation and reintegration and the importance of deliberate practice.

More later...the ideas of anticipating the hard parts and going into a teaching learning cycle with a specific theory of difficulty.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I've Been Reading this Book...

Some times I think the phrase "I've been reading this book..." might make people at my school cringe because now I will want to talk with someone about what I've read. I'm going to use my blog and spare my colleagues...I've been reading this book...Making Learning Whole How Seven Principals of Teaching can Transform Education by David Perkins...pretty hefty promise! I like what I have read so far. His seven principals are:

  • Play the whole game
  • Make the game worth playing
  • Work on the hard parts
  • Play out of town
  • Uncover the hidden game
  • Learn from the team
  • Learn the game of learning
It maybe to simple to say that he uses sports and game playing comparisons to get across the idea of learning sticks when you learn something compelling and in context. I've read the first couple of chapters and find a lot to think about with respect to designing learning expeditions. I think the most succinct quote might be, [conditions for learning are most favorable when], "its [learning] not in a vacuum. It involves the methods, purposes, and forms of one or more disciplines or other areas, situated in a social context." Thanks Mr. Perkins...that IS what we strive for in designing learning expeditions.

Something to ponder from Chapter 2. Mr. Perkins calls it "systematic archaeological digs into people's learning histories."

1. What is on thing you understand really well?
2. How did you come to understand it?
3. How do you know you understand it?

Do your answers reflect learning "wholes" like gardening, running, cooking, Spanish...?
Do your answers reflect doing, practicing, getting feedback, sticking with it...?
Do your answers reflect that you can "do it", teach it to others, explain what you are doing and why..."

I think the answers are revealing and illustrative of what learning actually sticks with learners and why? What do you think? Does anyone want to read this book with me?

Reaping the Rewards

I have struck PLN gold! I have been participating in a weekly chat called educoach with instructional coaches, principals, and others who have classroom coaching responsibilities in their respective schools or districts. The chat has been great in the sense that it is good to connect with others who have the same job, to hear about what works for them, and to know that some questions and challenges are pretty universal. We recently read and chatted about the newest edition of ASCD's Educational Leadership  that was devoted to instructional coaching...a book club that warps time and space...pretty neat.

Ok, you may think all the above is the gold...not so! I was lucky enough to be able to skype with a principal in a school that is beginning a journey with Understanding by Design. We have a lot in common. Our approach in planning Learning Expeditions...beginning with the end in mind, planning assessments, and then learning experiences is very similar to the unit design process for UbD schools. Our focus on inquiry, working like experts with relevant content is also very similar. We had a great conversation and exchanged emails so that I could continue the conversation with a couple of teachers at the school. We've traded email and am looking forward to building a relationship that benefits all.

Ok, the first and second paragraph are both gold, my point is that I can see the point of a PLN...may my PLN live long and prosper!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


So I tried Glogster
which is a tool that helps you create "poster like" presentationy things with embedded video etc. One way to get your point across. One more way for kids to present ideas. It took a minute to figure out, and like many things, I will loose the momentum of my learning curve through non-use of Glogster. In other words, it was fun while I was creating it, but without purpose it is nothing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Designing Google Apps Introduction

By the title of this post you might think I'm already off and designing an introduction to google apps for older students at REMS....not so... I'm making plans for students to design their own introduction. This is, of course, all inspired by my latest reading..."Teaching Digital Natives, Partnering for Real Learning" by Marc Prensky (I wrote a little about this last time).  I finished the book and have decided to do the following:

  • Use guiding questions as a lead in to everything
  • Ask kids to think about learning as Verbs (see Prensky's book) and the tools of learning as Nouns
  • Ask kids to think about what makes powerful thinking, powerful questions
  • Ask kids to consider their role and a teachers role a little differently
  • Connect all to student passions
For more information please visit my wiki...I'd appreciate the feedback and suggestions
We'll see if this ever gets off the ground and to what degree. AND in the words of Prensky, "There are very few principles more important to learning and doing anything than continuous improvement." pg 159
AND in the words of Linda Darling-Hammond (which have become a REMS phrase to live by)....Revise and Redeem your work.
P.S. Mr. Prensky might be my newest crush...Jill you will know what I mean:)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Before Labor Day and Beyond

A couple of things;
Thing 1
I got to go on a fabulous underground mine tour with some fabulous teachers. It took us a while to get there as I feel I got us lost, but thanks to the kind people at the information center before Hartsel (we were headed for Victor and Cripple Creek), and some lemonade from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we made it just fine. (actually, we didn't stop for lemonade, it sounded good in the telling--that is called literacy license. I did, however, buy a bluebird pin from the nice people at the visitor's center)

The mine tour took us 1000 ft down and out guide was very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of hard rock mining. The most surprising thing to me was that burros lived their entire lives in the mine--from birth, working a lifetime, and finally, death without seeing the light of day. I marvel at the sacrifices of man and beast to mining.

Thing II
I've been reading this book, Teaching Digital Natives; Partnering for Real learning by Marc Prensky. I suppose I am behind the times as it has been out for a while and read by many. I am struck first by how closely his ideas resemble what Expeditionary Learning ought, in my opinion, to be, and at the very least we have the vehicle for promoting his idea of partnerships in real learning. I think often the "real" part is missing. That may be a function of elementary school and the headiness of some of the standards. I say we (REMS ELOB School) does some of this and we need to do more...with more intentionality than we have managed thus far.

I created a Wiki in the hopes that some collaboration around this idea of partnership pedagogy (so named by Prensky) might get off the ground. I don't know much about Wikis...read, I don't know anything about Wikis, but here is the URL if you want to leave a comment and/or give me some tips. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wildlife Photography and Other Thoughts and Tips

I took a walk this AM, (one of my newly rediscovered former passions...see past blog post) and took my camera because I often see things that I want to take a picture of (sometimes I take my sketch pad and do what sketchers...not the shoe people...call "an event walk", but that can make a walk take a really long time)

Tip #1--figure out where the sun should be for the picture you want to take...I'm still working on that one. I hope the answer is not that I (the photographer) should be looking into the sun. I would appreciate any insight on this from my readers.

Tip #2--Never wave at a bird when you are trying to take its picture. Sounds like a no-brainer. Here is the short story. I have been trying to take a picture of a bird (any bird) sitting on these cactus-looking plants that grow in the fields by my house. Of course, every time I get close, the bird flys away. Well I was walking along, not paying attention to much of anything when I saw this great bird sitting on the cactus-like plant, preening itself, close enough to get a shot...the very picture I was looking for...I was so thrilled I waved at the bird to say hi, and it flew away. Lesson learned!

I think I don't often have a lot of nice things to say about utility companies. I would like to redeem myself a bit right now. I believe that the utility company in my area installed the street light fixtures. They are very tall and have a box on top that holds the light bulb. The nice thing is that these fixtures create a great place for birds to stop by, have a chat, and a great place for folks like me to see a wide variety. So, hats off to the utility company!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cafe Sky

There is a cafe off Parker and Yale by the Hmart Korean grocery called Cafe Sky. It is my favorite Korean restaurant, not because of the food, although the food is great and inexpensive, but because of the "Waffle House" feel. Cafe Sky is THE Korean Waffle House. It is small, has a counter, a few tables scattered around, not many people at any given time, and most importantly a smily guy behind the counter that greets all who enter with a hearty "Hello"!

I always have the egg wrapped rice or rice omelette. The picture looks like a large blob, skinny at both ends, fat in the middle, with a omelette like skin, and ketchup artfully scrolled across the top. However the name and the picture are deceiving. You think you're just getting what's in the picture with white rice inside. The picture is correct, it is blob like, it is wrapped in an omelette skin, there is a ribbon of ketchup across the top, and that is where the picture and the name part company. It is not just rice. The greatest part is what is inside...wonderful, rice with ham, shrimp, more egg, assorted finely chopped vegetables and other mysterious, and delicious Korean Waffle House delights. It is yummy. I leave very satisfied, both with my rice omelette and the delightful employees that keep me company as I eat. I suggest you give it a try.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Joy of Creating, Revising, and Redeeming

There is a phrase that we use at my school...Revise and Redeem! It is not our invention, we borrowed it from a presentation that Linda Darling-Hammond (don't you just love her name?) gave at an ELOB national convention several years ago. She was speaking to the value of revision, the value of the journey and not necessarily the destination, and allowing yourself the freedom to revise and thus redeem your work--several times--over time. Well, I've just finished a round of creating, revising and redeeming--and it feels good!

Based on working with teaching teams in designing Learning Expeditions and the work of Ron Ritchhart, the  steps for designing Learning Expeditions are newly revised and redeemed to include a greater focus on assessment, collaborating, communicating, critical thinking, and creating AND some great ( in my opinion ) resources to support the both complicated and rewarding process of designing a Learning Expedition.

The creating part is my new site about iPads...really designed for a PD next week...the site itself will be short lived. And this is the cool part...you've probably heard of "flipped classroom" well...we're trying "flipped PD"! Teachers will hopefully work their way through the site, learning some care and feeding tips that would normally be the first part of PD, leaving that much more time to explore and differentiate for individuals. And another cool part is that I made my first youtube video, and also used an app called "show me" (an interactive whiteboard) to illustrate some parts and functions of iPads. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Drawing and Painting Again

This is related to my last post about again being able to do things I thought were lost to me forever--that sounds pretty dramatic, but it comes close to the way I felt. My latest diversion, or self-expression that has come back to me is drawing and painting. For those of you who have only known me for the last 10 years, don't know about my "artistic" (loosely defined) side. Well, I've rediscovered it! Yeah! It started slowly, like the frog in the water that gets hotter and hotter--only this time the outcome is good--the frog gets boiled, I get liberated.

I took a class through the Colorado School of Mines (BTW, if you are a teacher and need quick and painless college credit, take a look at what they offer) called the illustrated field journal. It was all about sketching and writing. Now I sketch and write everyday. I've also begun to paint my window panels for our library and some deck chairs for a good friend. All things to celebrate.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back from ISTE

Well, I'm back from the ISTE conference. A couple of things I wanted to say:
1. It was a great and wonderful thing. It's not that I learned so much, but that I heard so and could envision so much about what the future of teaching could be....and IT IS NOT a future without teachers...some people are afraid of that. It is a future where we (teachers) have to share, and that is not a bad thing.
2. I was not scared or anxious to any great degree, which meant I could be independent, grown up, open to hear and to learn and to experience. That is a gift. Maybe only a gift if you experience not having it. I am grateful

Thursday, June 16, 2011



Was fortunate enough today and yesterday to attend a seminar about what 21st Century Skills are, what they are not...not that anything is black and white...but there is a confusion about 21st Century Skills and the prevalence of technology without the "beef". Later I will write about what I learned. So now it is later and I want to write a bit about how the skills we talk about in relation to the 21st century ARE NOT  technology dependent. Skills (not even sure that is the right word) like creativity and innovation, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and problem solving are enhanced by technology, but not dependent upon. Maybe a litmus test is: if you take the tech out of your "activity" is it creative, innovative, or collaborative? What do you think? More later.