Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:

   

        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook

 

EdTech Update

 Teach.com

 

 

 


Friday
Sep112009

Are the underinformed happier?

Clair and me in Havasupai, Grand Canyon, 2003

Where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise.
                                              Thomas Gray

I made the decision to go with my buddy Clair on a Rim to Rim Grand Canyon hike almost instantly. When he (more accurately, his sister) proposed back in April that a group of us do this trek, my thinking went:

  • I've hiked the Grand Canyon a number of times at the Havasupai Reservation and enjoyed it.
  • My calendar for September is open.
  • I have frequent flyer miles to use.
  • I need a physical challenge and it would be fun to spend some time with one of my best friends.

And here is what I found out only after doing just a little research and letting life intrude ...

  • The Rim to Rim Trail (Kaibab from the North Rim to the Colorado River, then the Bright Angel Trail up to the South Rim) is a four-day, 25 mile trek. (Havasupai was two half-day hikes separated by a couple nights camping.)
  • There is a 5,000 foot elevation loss (500 flights of stairs) over the first two days of hiking; there is a 4,000 foot elevation gain the last two days of hiking. (Havasupai elevation change was 2,000 feet down and back up.) People commonly lose all their toenails on the downhill jaunts. And I am guessing many lose their will to live on the uphills.
  • The temperature in the Grand Canyon area varies in September from below freezing on the North Rim to well over 100 degrees down in the Canyon.
  • One guide book of "classic hikes" rates the Rim to Rim a three on a scale of one to three in difficulty. It rates the Inca Trail a one. The Inca Trail nearly did me in.
  • People die of dehydration on this hike. And hypothermia. And snakebite. And abrupt deceleration that comes at the end of falls from great heights.(It's not the fall that killed him; it was the sudden stop.)
  • I realized that I am six years older and probably 20 pounds heavier than I was the last time I hiked the Canyon.
  • I've had three speaking engagements come up and a book draft to review this month. And I am program chair for the state library/tech conference. Oh, and that pesky day job seems to be keeping me busy.

So I ask myself, had I known in April what I know now, would I have so readily forked over the substantial deposit for this little adventure? Are we humans happier in our ignorance than we are in our knowledge?

But then would we do anything in life if we knew all the facts ahead of time?

I've continued my three-mile noon walks, but now wear hiking boots and carry a 25lb pack in training. The hike begins a week from this coming Sunday.

So far I have kept all my toenails.

(One encouraging thing is that in the book Hikernut's Grand Canyon Companion, hikernuts are recreation enthusiasts, not a medical condition.)

Thursday
Sep102009

10 Students Who Taught Me: Guest post by Paul Cornies

Paul Cornies is a virtual friend. We've never met or spoke in person, yet I feel a kinship and bond. His Quoteflections blog is a must read for me - and it should be for you as well. Displaying an amazing range and depth of intellect, Paul has obviously taken his own writing instructions to heart and has the heart to share his wisdom with others. I'm delighted he agreed to allow me to host this guest post...

10 Students Who Taught Me: Guest post by Paul Cornies 


Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself. ~Cicero

How true. And yet this post gives advice.

I am a teacher retiree, someone over the hill, sent out to pasture. And, yet, many teacher retirees still have the fire of education and learning within and seek out meaningful post retirement opportunities, many of which are an application of the valuable skills they have gained over the last 30+ years. ( Quoteflections is one engaging pursuit for me.)

The National Education Association (NEA) has a post entitled 'The Voice of Experience.' Fourteen retired teachers, a total of 515 years of experience, provide their advice to new teachers about the profession. They include: avoid isolation and burnout, relate to your students, be real, ask for help, develop positive relations built on trust, show you care...

I thought I would share my advice to new teachers through the lessons I learned from 10 of my students over the last 33 years as an English teacher and cross-curricular literacy coach:

-Marianne loved to write. She didn't say much in class but her assignments sparkled with sensory appeal and metaphor. She loved to be challenged and given meaningful work. Ten years later Marianne published her first book of poetry. Did I give all of my students adequate mental stimulation to develop their unique gifts?

- Steve was the jock exemplar. Gym and after school sports allowed him to develop his trophy physical skills and sportsmanship. He was an average student in English with a positive attitude. Years later, as a physical education teacher he said, "I like how you got us thinking outside of the subject once in while." Did I provide enough encouragement to all my students and provide them with meaningful connections to every day life?

- Carol was a quiet student in my grade 9 class who emigrated to Canada three years earlier. She struggled with English and had to work hard to keep up. She also signed up for badminton where I was her coach. Her gifted singles play earned her medallions through high school. Could I have connected with more of my students in extra curricular ways outside of the classroom?

- Mark was in a very large applied Grade 11 class with a lot of his guy friends. He was in one of the most challenging classes of my career. He would rarely shut up and get down to work, and I had to hover over him to keep him quiet. Did I engage him adequately in class? Should I have incorporated more diverse strategies including kinesthetic activities?

- Julie found it hard to learn content and do well on written evaluations. I caught her eyes drifting out the window occasionally to the clouds and fluttering leaves. Then, she surprised me with her independent projects, her mind maps, dramas, and visual displays. Was I sensitive enough to pick up on the surprising diversity of student abilities?

- Jeff hated to read and told me never to ask him to read aloud. I could tell he rarely completed the readings for homework. I sat with him on occasion to help him with his skills. Was I aware enough about the potential depravity of certain home environments and the lack of support and nurture some students receive? Could I have provided more individualized assistance?

- Amy was active in Student Parliament and was quite the social butterfly. One day she handed in a paper which was clearly a rambling bowl of verbal spaghetti. I got fairly upset and said, "Why are you compromising your abilities?" Years later I saw her in the supermarket and she was the most gracious young lady. Was I demanding enough on all of my students to do their best?

- Blake was a student teachers liked to talk about in the staff room because of his insubordination. As a cross curricular literacy coach I saw him in different classes and how he reacted to his teachers. In one class Blake was student gold. He sat attentively, obeyed directions, and worked reasonably hard. What classroom management and teaching strategies did this gifted teacher use to work pedagogical magic?

- Jill had a silver tongue and could converse comfortably with adults. On the other hand, she was late with her essays and other assignments. One day I took her aside and thought I would concentrate on her strengths and said, "Jill, you have very good oral communication skills. I think you should consider a career in something like public relations." Years later she came to me and said how she appreciated that advice. Did I give enough recognition of individual student skills and provide some seeds of aspirations for all of my students?

- Ben was suspended for five days because of a serious fight. When he returned he sat bored and listless. I kept him after class and asked how he felt about coming back to school. He said that he felt like quitting because he was so far behind and had no interest in school. I told him I'm here to help; when can we meet? I want to help you catch up and feel comfortable about school. Ben did come in for extra help and he salvaged his year.

I am reminded of the saying: Be real, be kind, be true, be you. It's valuable advice for your students and yourself.

The four minute video "The Message" helps to embrace the quest of learning and living for both teachers and students. The film has wonderful applications for classroom learning.

Thanks to Doug Johnson for the opportunity to provide this guest post to his wonderful blog. He has been a real source of encouragement as I develop my blogger's voice.

OK, Skunk Readers - tell us about the student who taught YOU. I'll start here, a story about Chinedu that I've shared before...

Few people know this, but Paul also serves as inspiration to the fashion industry.

 

Thursday
Sep102009

Format Bigotry presentation in SecondLife

As you can tell, the crowds were overwhelming last night in Second Life for my presentation on eliminating our biases about the containers in which our information and entertainment come. I'd have thought Obama would have rescheduled his address to Congress knowing he was going up against this compelling address, but I guess he just decided to take his chances.

Actually there was a nice turn out of avatars and I enjoyed the discussion very much. You can find the slides of the preso here and the original post on which the talk was based here. And the conversation continues on the ISTE Ning here.

As always, Lisa Perez (SL Elaine Tulip) did an outstanding job helping get this SIGMS event organized, promoted and working. THANK YOU, ELAINE!

 


This machinima thanks to Valibrarian Gregg. Thank you!