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Tuesday
Sep232008

Blocked Bytes Week

Banned Books Week

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 27–October 4, 2008



Yeah. OK. Let's keep Harry on the shelves. Banned Books Week is a good thing.

But ALA (and ISTE), if we are truly committed to "Freedom to Read" what we really need is...


Blocked Bytes Week

Celebrating the Freedom from Filters

September 27–October 4, 2008


Americans need the freedom to read more than just books.


Monday
Sep222008

Joy in the classroom

Steven Wolk begins his article, "Joy in School" (Educational Leadership,Sept 08) with a great quote:

What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win the ability to read and write, if in the process the individual lose his own soul? - John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

and goes on to ask

If the experience of "doing school" destroys children's spirit to learn, their sense of wonder, their curiosity about the world, and their willingness to care about the human condition, have we succeeded as educators, no matter how well our students do on standardized tests?

Mr. Wolk is my kinda educator. He writes that the following essentials can bring joy to students' school experience.

  1. Find the Pleasure in Learning
  2. Give Students Choice
  3. Let Students Create Things
  4. Show Off Student Work
  5. Take Time to Tinker
  6. Make School Spaces Inviting
  7. Get Outside
  8. Read Good Books
  9. Offer More Gym and Arts Classes
  10. Transform Assessment

Nearly 10 years ago, I wrote Designing Research Projects Students and Teachers Love. I am still as proud of that article as of anything I've written before or since, and it echos many of Wolk's points.

Education that is not enjoyable is a dead end street - learning on a subject will stop as soon as a child is out of range of the educational institution.

How do you bring joy to learning in your classroom, library or computer lab?

Does your school worry about increasing joy as much as it does increasing test scores? (And might there be a relation between the two???)




Monday
Sep222008

Fall Odds and Ends

This was the perfect fall weekend here in God's Country - aka southern Minnesota. Highs in the 70s, blue skies, light breezes. Trees and shrubs are beginning to turn color. I had no writing assignments due nor presentations for which to prepare. So other than mowing the lawn and puttering a bit, I read, I napped and I ate.

Is this what retirement will be like one day?

Anyway, a few things caught my eye and here they are...

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Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a downloadable comic book, Bound by Law?, that tells the riveting tale of a documentary film maker tying to figure out the in's-and-out's of Fair Use and copyright in her work. The authors do a good job of presenting a balanced assessment of both the need for and excesses of copyright law from the views of both the consumer  and the creator. 

One of the problems they examine is the "permissions culture":

...the belief that copyright gives its owner the right to demand payment of every type of usage, no matter its length, or its purpose, or the context in which it is set.

and observes

One of the under-appreciated tragedies of the permissions culture is that many young artists only experience copyright as an impediment, a source of incomprehensible demands for payment, cease and desist letters, and legal transaction costs. Technology allows them to mix, to combine, to create collages. They see law as merely an obstacle.

Hmmmm, echos of The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy that shows the same impact in education.

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In working on a column on RSS feeds, I found this list of imaginative uses compiled by Christina Laun at VirtualHosting.com -  “Top 25 (Non-Obvious) Ways RSS Can Make Your Life Easier”.  She suggests tracking everything from job openings to overdue library books to television schedules. Go RSS!

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For other manly readers out there, Stephen King has a short essay on "manfiction" titled What a Guy Wants on the EW website.  King pays homage to Travis McGee, but writes "The best current manfiction writers? I'd say Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Richard Stark, and Lee Child." I concur - pretty much. But I'd add:

  • John Burdett
  • James Lee Burke
  • Stephen Hunter
  • Daniel Silva
  • Martin Cruz Smith

Other manly writers?

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Jennifer McDaniel in her article The Case for PEDs in Teacher Magazine intriguingly begins:

For the first time this year, my entire 9th grade class is on task.

What miracle has Ms McDaniel used to create such a learning environment? She allowed students to use PEDs (personal electronic devices) - their MP3 players during Friday independent study time. It was against school rules, she has since conformed to the rules, and adult needs have been met.

Sigh.

When will educators learn to use these tools to meet instructional goals rather than simply give the knee-jerk response of banning them?

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Taken last evening, this is a photo of Pirates' Tree on the boat cut between Middle and Big Jefferson Lakes, about a quarter mile from our house. Pirates Tree is so named (by our family anyway) because we have always told the grandsons to keep a sharp eye out for pirates ready to leap from its limbs and commandeer any pontoon boat passing through the cut. So far we've been lucky. Very lucky.

The boys also know about Dinosaur Island which can be seen from our dock. Happily for humans, the dinosaurs that inhabit the island can't swim and hibernate in the winter so they can't walk across the ice.

I believe I once had my son fairly well-convinced of the presence of the nearby Lake Henry Monster whose tentacles could reach well onto the country road and drag unsuspecting cars (and small boys)  to Lake Henry's watery depths.

It is an important job for adults to impress a sense of fantasy on the children in their charge. I doubt either Frodo or Dumbledore would exist were this not the case.

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