Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Grab a cup of coffee or tea...

I had started to write a reflective post several times this week, but each day, some new occurrence would cause more reflection and give me pause. Earlier in the week I was on the upswing of the roller coaster ride that has been my summer of learning. In financial settings, upswings are a sign of an improving economic climate. On roller coasters, however, the upswing is the climb - slow and jerky. That's me.

I'm not a jerk (at least I've never been told as much) but the amount of activity and learning these last few weeks has been exponential. This has not been a gradual accumulation of knowledge, it has been an avalanche, where I try to catch as much snow in my magical net as I can. While I'm keeping up with the programs I have elected to participate in, I am wondering how I will ever manage to keep up with all I've learned once school begins again. How will I manage my fledgling PLN, read others' blog posts, update my own (for my students) maintain the classroom calendar, review and comment on student writing while implementing ePortfolios and voice-over with their Google docs, stay on top of lesson planning, emails, inevitable changes to the schedule, and more? I know there must be other educators who have successfully managed this transition. How did you do it and keep your household running, too? I know, I know. It will all work out somehow. I am the kind of teacher who does not, cannot settle for 'good enough.' Not enough time, as a recent commentary indicated is the resounding lament heard far and wide. Something about reading it in print made me feel heard.

Knowing that it is not my being inefficient (Ha! Nothing could be more ironic) but the expectations of today's educational environment helped me put my situation in perspective.

I then turned my attention one of my summer goals - getting my studio back in order so that I could accomplish some of this week's tasks: the writing hacks (more on that below), participating in EdCampHome, participating on a Google Hangout panel , writing a reflective post, and participating in the "Hack Your Notebook" day.

As the week progressed my engagement in the PLN I have developed through these MOOCs (#TeachDoNow and CLMOOC) increased and deepened. The conversations are broadening and eliciting thoughtful discourse. In the meantime, my own 'makes' for the CLMOOC are allowing me to see the continuing benefit of process learning, gaming, and (my own personal torch) creativity. I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety of writing hacks, which felt more like games than arduous composition. Why shouldn't my students' experiences feel the same?

While on a trip to MICON14, one of my principals asked me if we did any poetry last year. We only completed one poem. Doing so allowed us to study "A Midsummer Night's Dream" instead. I have to find a way to do both this year. I don't know how, but I will. I've gotten such enjoyment out of this week's fun with the various poetry generators online. My first hack was a nod to Austin Kleon. I will be forever indebted to my colleague Samara Schwartz for introducing me to Mr. Kleon's work several years ago. She "thought I might like it." Understatement of the year. The beauty of deconstruction and simplicity in his process is one that mirrors the work of the minimalist painters (Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman are two examples.) Minimalism is one of those genres that average citizens don't understand. One must know the history before and of the movement to grasp why these pieces are breathtaking in meaning and simplicity. For the writing hack, I took my first post, and "Kleon-ed" it, then shared it with other members of the CLMOOC. Here is the result:

I had planned then, to create a book/movie that utilized writing from my past - thus the need to straighten the studio - to find the pieces to work with. But as often happens with a work in progress, the piece must speak for itself. It led me in a different direction than I had planned. I'm still mulling over the idea that words are tied to space and place. Their meaning and impact changes with the environment. This is a concept I will call "Living Words" because they are in flux, in our memories, in our spaces, in our understanding. This is the result of my "words" project:

And finally, because there is no Notebook Hack Event near me, I did a modified version. Apologies to Irene Cara - I have no idea why the sound drops out of the clip. I tried mightily to fix it. Oh well! Notebook Hack Video

If you are still reading, you have earned an endurance badge! What I am loving most about the week is the intersection between literacy, arts, and science. I have always looked for those cross-curricular opportunities because the world does not work in subject areas. THIS is how I teach and how I learn. I welcome your feedback, but not here. Send comments to