Bags bags bags!

Unloading all the overnight gear…

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Grounded.

I used to be famous (or maybe notorious) for taking my shoes off to do presentations. I can’t tell you how this habit started, but I CAN tell you that it felt good.

I stopped doing that. I started being a “professional.”

Except, every now and then…I needed to get down and dirty with something I was teaching–usually an interactive projector (they lend themselves to down-and-dirty) or something I felt extremely passionate about. I’d end up totally in the zone, barefoot, occasionally on my knees and flinging my arms around like I was a bird (or, perhaps, more gracefully–a ballerina).

And it felt good.

For whatever reason, this popped into my head today–this former barefoot-ness. And I thought, “I should do that again.” And then I thought, “I should most certainly NOT do that again!” After all, I’m a professional! Right?

Call me insane, call me a hippy, call me Meadowflower Junebug or something, but there is something incredibly grounding about being barefoot–about taking off your stupid, uncomfortable (yet professional) heels, your Target wedges, your whatever, and just being rooted. I think we could all use a little more grounding lately.

SO I’M BRINGING IT BACK. 

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt to present to a bunch of strangers with my shoes off. I’m going to make a thing of it. It’s going to be my thing (again). Because, after–what feels like–ages of feeling like we were all making it up as we went along, scrambling, searching, and responding to countless initiatives sent from above, I finally feel grounded.

I promise to get a pedicure.

Sincerely,

Meadowflower Junebug, barefoot hippy

We have to stop pretending

So I just came across a post by Rodney Turner (who came across a post by Beth Still–who came across a post by Scott Mcleod), listing five things we have to stop pretending in Education.

Here’s my addition…

We have to stop pretending:

  • that acronyms are necessary to make an Education initiative or tool official. (See this list.)
  • that teaching special-needs and under-served students is in any way similar to teaching average and above-average students.
  • that we actually know what good teaching looks like.
  • that standardized testing is a decent and useful way of assessing kids.
  • that any of us really know what we’re doing. (We’re just doing what we think is best.)

Feel free to make your own list and tag it with #makeschooldifferent.

The Glowing Scantron

There is only ONE THING I hate more than numbered list titles–you know: 12 Great Apps for Engagement! 27 Reasons This Dog Is Having A Better Day Than You! 195 Ways Evernote Can Change Your Life! Seriously, I despise numbered titles. Just give me a good, old-fashioned article or blog post without the uber-convenience of numbered headings; your lists are dumbing down what could be good writing.

So, back to the thing I hate MOST: computer-based, high-stakes assessment.

Join the club, right? I know that this is a hate that’s pretty widespread and easy to support. But here’s my specific problem with testing: it’s a technology priority. All chromebooks go bye bye and get handed off to a silent lab of testers. All computer labs are shut down and become a place of gloom and doom. Great learning with technology stops and the tech becomes, once again, a typing and clicking machine–no longer a transformative tool. Desktop support becomes the testing troubleshoot squad. Teachers start saying things like, “Those third graders really needed time on the computer so they could learn how to type better for the assessment.

I could barf.

The thing I spend all year championing is suddenly a device of doom–an insular world of judgement and right and wrong, a multiple-choice machine, a locked-down, secure-browsered testing tool. What–three weeks ago-was a path to information, a global community, collaboration, and creativity is now, basically, a glowing Scantron.

And, dear SBAC, no matter how interactive you make that glowing Scantron, it’s still a standardized test. Having the ability to drag and drop an answer or hover for definitions of words does not (not not not not NOT) make a test more valid or accurate or real-world or ANYTHING. It just makes it harder to TAKE the test, because–now–in addition to content literacy, kids need pretty extreme amount of computer literacy in order to SHOW their content literacy.

This is not a new thought by any means. But, I figured it couldn’t hurt to add my opinion to the giant stack of negative opinions of this thing. One day, that giant stack of opinions will fall over on someone’s head.

Until then, carry on, minions of the glowing Scantron.

The Red Badge of Doom

I am starting a new tradition. As a part of my new-formed anti-stress campaign, I’m doing something that might seem totally uncharacteristic of someone who is so tech-minded.

I’M DISCONNECTING ALL WEEKEND.

Well, sort of.

After reading one-too-many articles on how blue light affects sleep, how lack of sleep affects everything, and how the constant beep of updates from my Family group text affects my sanity (wait–I didn’t read that; I just know it), I’ve decided–for the second weekend in a row–to shut it all off.

Last Friday, I uninstalled Facebook from my phone. (Admittedly, I kept Messenger.) I took off Instagram. Deleted the Twitter. I turned off any and all notifications, badges, and sounds from everything that was left. Gone. It was all gone.

Granted, it’s easy to do things like this, because–really–it’s not all gone. It takes a whole 5 seconds to re-install the apps and everything is there, just like you left it. I can’t imagine deleting ACCOUNTS. So the step I’ll take is to delete the app. Let’s not get crazy here.

At first, I was very confused. Actually confused. I kept reaching for my phone and lighting it up and staring at it, but no red bubbles of happiness (or doom, depending on the app) were staring back at me. I realized very quickly that I pick up my phone at pretty much every possible interval–at stoplights, in line for checkout, when I pass the phone walking from room to room, during commercials, during boring parts of TV shows, on the toilet (yeah, I said it). A few hours into no-notification life, I stopped the knee-jerk phone checking.

BUT THEN WHAT DO YOU DO? You’re telling me I have to stand in line at Walgreens and–what–read the bad headlines of the Star? I’m supposed to look at the traffic lights when I’m stopped at them? I’m not supposed to Instagram my salad? How am I supposed to eat this PERFECT salad without sharing how beautiful it is?!

Granted, I’m exaggerating, but not that much. My constant connectedness was ridiculous, and was actually starting to mess with my ability to function. I didn’t feel comfortable being in just one conversation at a time; I had to have three other digital conversations going on simultaneously. I couldn’t just watch TV; I had to watch TV and text and Google “can you propagate ivy” and be alerted that my sister was picking up the comforter my mother had washed that afternoon. One can imagine how that might wear a soul thin.

When Monday rolled around, I couldn’t help but re-install Instagram. I convinced myself that seeing pretty pictures was less harmful than most of my smartphone activities. I also follow a tiny and select group of people on Instagram who can be counted on to only post photos of their dogs, babies, and flowers, so there I’m guaranteed to not have a stream full of depressing news or overshares.

Wish me luck on weekend #2 of disconnectedness (lite). Just don’t do it on Twitter or Facebook, because I won’t get the notification.

Keep your money. I want good learning.

If I had a dollar for every time a teacher asked me what app they should use or what website they should send their kids to, I’d be richer than Richy Rich.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m not.

But I AM frustrated with this kind of thinking. I guess, several years ago, this WAS how technology was integrated into learning–you had some great sites that you could plop kids on and they’d be able to explore some corner of the internet they didn’t know about. Or (in my day) you got to play Number Munchers or Oregon Trail when you were done with your assignment.

Nowadays, we care more about what we want the kids to learn, and THEN what or if technology should be involved. This makes it harder on teachers in some ways, because we have to run through the list of resources and devices available (if we even KNOW of what’s available) and choose the right one. The hardest thing–maybe–is realizing when no technology is the right one.

And then, even more difficult, is the option of providing students with choice as to what device or tool they use–or if they use one at all. They’re no longer all doing a prescribed PowerPoint with set information on each slide; they’re:

  • creating a lesson to teach the class a concept or skill
  • demonstrating a scientific principle using video or animation
  • publishing a collaborative blog about a lit circle book
  • etc.

They’re creating something with an objective in mind, and–if a teacher has the guts–deciding how they want to do that.

This–I believe–is the most powerful shift in instruction with technology in our district: student choice. It requires a teacher who is willing to introduce different platforms or devices, allow (possibly) unknown programs or devices to be used, allow students to teach themselves and each other, and embrace the chaos of non-uniformity.

So, even if I COULD have a dollar for every question about the “magic app,” I DON’T WANT IT.

Keep your money. I want good learning.

I am not engaged.

It is 3:10 on a Friday (well, it was when I started drafting this post). The coffee buzz is gone. I’m starving, I’m squirrely, and I am most certainly not engaged.

I’m not whooping and hollering and raising my hand. I’m not running around playing four corners with a big ole smile on my face. I’m not curiously seeking answers to well-posed questions.

My boss is not in charge of keeping me entertained. It is not his responsibility to make sure that every hour of every workday we’re all enthralled and actively participating in inquiry. It is absolutely not his job to make sure that–even now, when I have 17 minutes left of work on a Friday–Evyan is ENGAGED.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my job. I am genuinely happy to do what I do (just about) every day. I have all of the tools I need–and more–have a glorious amount of autonomy and the support to make meaningful things happen. I work for a school district that’s just big enough to hold weight and just small enough where it’s kinda like Cheers.

But, unless you’re–say–Kim Kardashian and you get to go shopping on an unlimited budget for a living, there are plenty of times when work isn’t engaging. So why, then, are we putting so much emphasis on engagement in the classroom? If the aim is to prepare kids to be “college and career ready,” shouldn’t we teach them–at least part of the time–how to power through stuff that (generally) isn’t really all that fun or interesting? Are we doing society a great disservice by discouraging traditionally un-engaging things like old-school lecturing and note-taking? Will our kids be able to sit quietly at two-hour meeting without falling asleep or screaming obscenities because they’re bored and don’t know how to handle it?

I’m not arguing that we should purposely torture students in order for them to be stand-up, well-behaved citizens. Well, not entirely. I’m arguing that we seem to be leaning towards a world in which teachers are expected to provide students with a learning environment that is bell-to-bell active and in which students should always be happy participants. It’s just not realistic, and–I’d say–it probably isn’t a good idea.

This, my first post, may make me one of the most unpopular people on the internet–especially if Charlotte Danielson reads this (which–I mean–I’m sure she’ll do–right?!). I encourage you to argue with me. And I look forward to arguing back.