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Thursday
Dec312015

I shipped in 2015 - you can too

Doesn't matter whether it was a hit or not, it just matters that you shipped it. Shipping something that scares you ... is the entire point.. from What did you ship in 2010? by Seth Godin

"What did you ship?" is a great question for all of us to ask ourselves. What, beyond just doing one's job, did you accomplish (not try to do, not intend to do, not think about doing, not hope to get done, not plan to do - but actually DO) in 2015? What did you do that was a little bit scary? That you might have drawn criticism for? That may changed the world just a little bit?

Considering what one "shipped" is a good thing to do every year as it closes (or as a new year begins). With a new job in full swing and an intentional backing-off of some professional work, this list looks a little slender compared to previous years. I still shipped...

1. Gave presentations and workshops for Norwich and Oneota (NY) BOCES, Richardson-Plano Schools,  I spoke at our state conferences ITEM (MEMO), TIES and MASA (Minnesota Association of School Administrators). I did an onsite evaluation of library programs for Princeton Day School. I was guest speaker for the classes at St Thomas, St Catherines, McHenry County College, Joyce Valenza'a and Jennifer LaGarde's classes. I did virtual presentations for the Ontario Library Association, Saskatchewan School Library Association and Nashville Public Schools.

2. Presented internationally at the EARCOS Teacher's  Conference in Kota Kinablau Borneo and a Librarians Conference at Colegio Jorge Washington in Cartagena, Columbia.

3.Teaching Outside the Lines: Developing Creativity in Every Learner. Corwin Press, was released in May!

4. Published the article:  "The Cloudy Future of the School CIO" CIO Review Magazine, December 2015.

5. Published these columns:

Head for the Edge in Library Media Connection:

Power Up! in ASCD's Educational Leadership:

6. Published 182 blog posts.

7. Served as co-chair of the state library tech association legislative board and IF liaison, as school representative for the St Catherine's and University of Iowa library school advisory boards, and a member of a state digital learning advisory committee.

8. I was recognized by ISTE for my contributions to field by being awards a "Making IT Happen" award.

9. Spend a week-long road trip with my wife and the two oldest grandsons on a great trip to Washington DC. Canoed with oldest grandson Paul and Boy Scouts in the Quetico region of the Boundary Waters for a week. (This may be the accomplishment of which I am most proud in 2015.) Did five, day-long organized bike rides over the summer and fall. Joined a couple biking/hiking MeetUp groups and participated in evening hike rides and walks. Did jungle hikes in Borneo and Columbia.

10. Walked 3-4 miles a day, 5 times a week; worked weights at the Y twice a week; and lost a few pounds! Camped out for a fourth year in a row with my grandsons at the Boy Scout's Camp Klaussen. Read, according to GoodReads, 37 books - mostly for pleasure.

Writing and speaking and most of this stuff is more fun than work. My home (usually) contains no small children or other dependents to care for. I don't play golf, fish, or square dance. Television bores me. My Saturday and Sunday mornings and many an evening are spent writing and designing presentations and workshops. I have, through plain dumb-luck: good health, a supportive family, an interesting job with great co-workers, and lots of opportunities work toward the betterment of education. At least that's what I hope I'm doing.

I measure my days not whether they were happy or unhappy, but whether they were productive or unproductive. Did I have a fruitful conversation or meeting? Did I get something finished? Did I write something worth sharing? Did I read something challenging? Did I do an hour's worth of physical activity? Did I clean up a mess, revise an article, or organize something for the future? Did I do something that made my own life or someone else's just a tad better?

All of us need to "ship" - do more than is necessary beyond our jobs and professions (especially librarians and tech integration specialists), at home (as spouses/partners/parents/grandparents), and for ourselves (exercise, healthy eating, recreation, and the occasional reward). We should strive to do the maximum in our lives, not the minimum. Wear out, don't rust out. I am by nature a lazy person of middling intellect - so if I can ship, you can ship.

What did you ship in 2015 and what will you ship in 2016?

Monday
Dec282015

Strictures and creativity: the five-paragraph essay

Strictures and creativity: the five-paragraph essay

The five-paragraph essay is a form of essay having five paragraphs:

  • one introductory paragraph,
  • three body paragraphs with support and development, and
  • one concluding paragraph. Wikipedia

I learned to write and taught writing myself using the five-paragraph essay as a means of structuring  writing. I can't say that I use the form specifically any longer, preferring a more narrative voice, but I am I glad I was taught the form and required to use it. Despite reading that its day has passed, that  teachers are stifling creativity by asking students for supporting evidence, a thesis statement, transitional phrases, and a conclusion, knowing the rules of the five-paragraph expository essay is beneficial for all writers.

Good writing is well-organized writing. By asking one's writing students to outline their thoughts, the form helps the reader navigate the topic as well. The old admonition "Tell'm what you're going to tell'm, tell'm, and tell'm what you just told'm helps to effectively structure one's ideas. Stream of conscious writing may work for avant guarde literary types, but an organized essay is a good foundation on which to build solid writing skills.

Organization does not make a compelling piece of writing without credible supporting evidence. By asking for three supporting ideas, reasons, or pieces of evidence, the five-paragraph essay form moves the writing from pure opinion to opinion that has some thought behind it. While not popular among many contemporary politicians, readers like knowing the "why" a stand is taken. Asking students to demonstrate through evidence why they might make a statement is one of the more important whole-life skills one can use - one more human beings ought to practice.

But don't strict rules of organization and evidence restrict creativity as critics suggest? Yes, when creativity is not an expectation. Other strict literary forms - the Elizabethan sonnet, the haiku, even the limerick - have not kept poets from writing original and impactful works. The PechaKucha, a presentation format that allows only 20 images to be shown each for 20 seconds, forces speakers to think qualitatively rather than quantitatively about their message. While teachers need to be careful not to over prescribe requirements of any assignment (As Chris Lehmann warns, "If you assign a project and get back 30 of the exact same thing, that's not a project, that's a recipe."), being creative within the confines of a classic writing structure, can be challenging, but is certainly possible.

The usefulness of the five-paragraph essay is not diminished by word processing, social media, or texting. Structure, organization, and creativity shaped by rules are all attributes of good writing that the form demands, when a good writing teacher demands it as well. Call me a traditionalist, even a sentimentalist, but along with attention to grammar, spelling, and other hallmarks of good writing, I hope teachers keep using this essay format as a tool. Consider how well it served this blog post.

Cartoon source

Thursday
Dec242015

Season's greetings 2015