Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Self Portraits

Last year, Lauren Gaffney gave me an assignment she had created to connect students with some of the aphorisms that Wilde uses in his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The project asks students to take a close look at themselves using two of Wilde's quotes:

1. “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors” (Wilde 3).
2. “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter” (Wilde 8).

and to construct a self portrait that reveals how the student sees him/herself, and another portrait as to how others see him/her. The portrait can take any form that the student wishes. I wanted to share a few done by my seniors. All are very different and show various modes of interpretation of the assignment. After looking throuhg them all, I am so inspired with how personal they all were to reveal themselves to our class. Well done!

Alex 1 and 2

Hopefully, I can convince these students to blog about their self portraits so there is a better understanding behond their pictures.

A Whole New Meaning

Friday was the last of our fishbowls on Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind with emphasis on the chapter of "Meaning". We had a plethora of live bloggers in period 2 (Julie Lindsay, Will Richardson, Stephanie Sandifer, and Kristin Hokansen) and period 5 (Judy O'Connell, Lucy Gray, and our own Superintendent of LPS, Scott Murphy).

Both sessions went very well; interesting, thought provoking, and of course, both flew by. Second hour seemed to really focus on the change in education. What is necessary to change school to create a more meaningful learning environment? How do grades fit into the process? How does personalized learning fit into Meaning? I think my favorite part of the whole process was finally getting Karl Fisch to go on one of his famous "Fischrants" about Math and how Math is taught.

Fifth hour was equally as impressive.This class took Meaning to a deep level that I didn't realize was possible. Not only did have the Superintendent of their school district sit in the inner circle with them, but they also managed to carry on a deeply philosophical discussion of what is meaning? what is happiness? They also connected their discussion to their history, science, language arts, and theater classes, as well as extra-curricular activities. My favorite part of this class was when one of my students revealed why she loves acting when prompted by her acting teacher. At first, she gave a very surface level response, but then was asked to really think about it, she explained that she loved acting because she loved communicating through a character what one's feelings and emotions would be in situations to help others understand one another better. It was a great response! It put the biggest smile upon my face as well as the rest of her classmates and even Mr. Murphy.

Overall, I am so impressed by my students from their willingness to try something new, for being put in the spotlight with a number of really intelligent people having to blog what they think of these senses as ninth graders, and for most of all, caring about the process and learning and education. They honestly want to change the way learning looks and I hope after this experience they realize the power resides in them to make the change.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Video Games Drive Me Nuts

Such a hard hitting title of my blog post must mean that I have something important to say. Sadly, I am feeling I don't. Reflecting on this past week's live blogging just seems to be not what my brain is thinking about. I just came from the Colorado Podcasting Summit where I learned everything I ever wanted to know about podcasting and more. However, I know that I want to look back on all of the efforts of my students as well as Maura and I and have a journal of our ups and downs. So, I keep on writing...

Period Two had some wonderful in class participants for our live blogging session on Play, Dan Maas and Sue Chandler as well as Cathy Nelson in the outer circle. I am not sure if have two guests in class threw off the discussion or if the kids were just stuck on the topic of "video games" but the discussion wasn't of the high caliber I have come to associate with this group. I don't think the conversation was horrible but I was just dissappointed. They were asked some really good questions from Sue and Dan but they didn't seem to "get" the questions. Also, I need to debreif with this class again about thinking about what you are going to say before saying it and not monopolzing the conversation.

I don't know what my problem is with the video game industry- this is turning into a stream-of-consciousness reflection. I understand all of Pink's arguments about what it does with creativity, collaboration, thinking skills, but I have to say, I would rather have my own children create their own games as I did when I was growing up. Why confine them to sitting in front of a television? And yes, I know some games are portable but they kids are still staring at a screen. Ironically that is what I am doing right now :( I don't think I am lacking in terms of any of the qualities that Pink says video games enable in us (I am opening myself up here for criticism); I just think there has to be a better way to incorporate Play into the Conceptual Age rather than using a video game.

On a side note, Play happened to be one of my favorite chapters/senses. I identify so much with Play existing in our lives. I learned more from my extra-curricular playing than I did at school. My coaches taught me team-work/ collaboration as well as probelm solving when situation became difficult. They also taught me to think for myself and enjoy what I was doing everyday because you never know when it can be taken away from you. I hopefully comminucate these ideas to my own students. I want them to love learning and see learning as a form of play especially with my wonderful sense of humor!

Period five did a great job really getting into school as a place of play. We had some excellent outer circle participants with Mike Porter chiming in from our district as well as Karl putting in his two cents every now and then. Eric Grant was solo with the outer circle and did a fantastic job keeping up with the kids pushing their thinking. This class also seemed to move on quickly from video games and focused more on other issues such as humor and joy. One thing I am proud of is that they posted another post continuing the conversation....

Overall not a bad day, but I think the kids are losing their steam. Heck, we don't spend 6 weeks on a novel let alone all the incredible thinking these kids have been exposed to and creating for themselves over the past 5 weeks. One more week to go! I can't believe how mcuh fun we have had playing! Next up- Meaning.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Empathy with Pink

Empathic or Empathetic

First of all, WOW, WOW, WOW, WOW!

On Thursday, I had one of the best experiences in my educational career while I watched my students live blog and discuss A Whole New Mind with its author Daniel Pink. The expectations were high on Thursday as a lot of responsibility was placed on my students’ shoulders. They needed to show up on time, get logged-in to their laptops, and ask meaningful and relevant questions because a lot of people were watching what they were doing including the author who had given his time so generously to this opportunity. The students did all that was expected of them and so much more. I can’t express how proud I was of them and continue to be amazed at what kids can achieve given the opportunity to succeed. They all came in prepared and ready to show the world what they could do.

Mr. Pink logged into MeBeam with no issues, he listened to the inner circle conversation, participated in the live blogging with the outer circle, and to top it all off- wanted to talk with our students as well because he was so excited by what he was hearing them say. It is really fun watching a best-selling author appearing in jeans and a t-shirt in front of all of my students.

Watching this from the outside, I often just stood looking around at all that was occurring and was amazed. Here were my students communicating with a living author of a book they were reading. They were having intelligent conversations about Empathy and the role of empathy/ sympathy in education, in the world around them, and how they dealt in their own lives with empathy. Kids were jumping in and out of the inner circle, they were asking good questions of one another, and the teacher was not even participating. They were doing this all on their own! Although, I couldn’t resist chiming in my two cents a couple of times.

My other great take away was watching the administrators marvel at what these kids were doing. They were so taken back by their level of thought and engagement. I felt such pride in my students to have not only knocked my socks off, but those of the faculty as well.

The technology worked so well for us on Thursday despite all my nervousness. Pink was able to MeBeam in successfully both through the audio and video. He was able to live blog with the students (and I think he was a little take back by the prolificness with their comments- what can I say, they have a lot to say!). As I said previously, he even talked to them at the beginning, waving hi and letting us see where he was. He also had them conduct a little experiment about Empathy, and finally with the last couple of minutes, left them with a message to not always believe authority figures. (That tied in perfectly with what we have been telling our students when reading anything)

We spent some time fifth hour debriefing with what they thought of the combined 2/5 hour classes and having all those kids blogging with Mr. Pink. There were positives and negatives, but overall, the kids expressed such gratitude at having this opportunity. They really got it and I think they will never forget this moment in their lives.

So, thanks to Mr. Pink, Karl Fisch who continues to put all his energy into making this possible, and Maura Moritz for putting up with all this craziness in her class too! WOW!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Creating Symphony

This last week we focused our fishbowl discussions on the “Symphony” chapter of Daniel Pink’s AWNM. We had some very good, in-depth discussions. I have to attribute some of the reasons for our good conversations to introducing our students to a blog post written by Gary Stager who has some serious issues with Daniel Pink’s book and theories. Stager especially disagreed with this chapter on Symphony making for intriguing points of discussion. Most of the students read his blog post and some were able to even live blog with Stager as well. (This makes me think immediately of what a great educational opportunity this has been and continues to be for my students. Here they are in Centennial, CO reading a book from a guy in Washington, DC and will be able to communicate with the author this coming week. They have also been able to read criticism of the book and live blog with the author of the critical review. I am just awe struck for a moment. When does that ever happen in education that we put students in contact with authors and their critics allowing for students to make up their own minds?) So, my greatest reaction to this past week is the fact that my students are confused. Some are still standing by Pink, some are in the middle, and others are in disagreement with Pink. What a great classroom environment! I think the best comment came from a student in my second hour who said, “I don’t know what to think anymore!” Isn’t that what we want in education?

I have to admit after the first couple of blogging sessions I wasn’t sure where my students were going with Pink. They all seemed to be in such agreement with what he said. Because of this, the discussion seemed to be very surface level. This can also be attributed to the fact that it is different discussing non-fiction than the fiction books we have previously read and discussed. Now, we are all over the place in terms of our understandings and connections. I love the differences of opinions. And I also appreciate how willing they are to listen and learn from one another. Although they disagree, they do it in a respectful manner. I don’t know where we are going from here, but I am extremely anxious about this upcoming week and blogging with Mr. Pink. I am wondering if the students will confront Pink with some of their problems in the book (hopefully in a respectful manner) or will they simply revert back to agreement.

So, thanks to those who contributed to our Period 2 discussion Eric Grant, Tim Stahmer, and Renee Howell, and our Period 5 conversation: Judy O'Connell, Christian Long, and Gary Stager.

Feedback from our participants:

Christian's comments

Judy's comments

Gary's comments

Tim's comments

My favorite part of the day was when Mr. Stager informed one of my students that she had won a scholarship:

Gary said...

I love this kid!!! (the one who doesn't like the Pink book)

You win a $15 Gary Stager college scholarship!

I am highly encouraging her to collect.