Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fare thee well 2014...

Like so many other folks work I've been reading have stated, I'm ready to say fare thee well to 2014 on many, many levels.

Throughout 2014 I found myself thinking about this clip from Alan Moore's great story, the Watchmen.

"What is, really, the 'American Dream' these days? A great and messy question for an inquiry based ed project I think.

Picture from José Vilson's post:
The Race Discourse
(So hopefully you won't have to go through that)

The events in #ferguson and death of Eric Garner have hopefully started a much deeper look into #BlackLivesMatter and the horrible ripples of #WhitePrivilege and white perceptions that exist in this country. 

The opportunity to Dig Deeper and More Thoughtfully into those discussions is hopefully at hand, especially with kids.

We have a very long, long way to go and much work to do. 

Will it take another series of lost lives or tragedies of a larger scale to push us into changing practice?

History says, unfortunately, yes.

My fear is that we'll fall, once again, into...

"... evidence of decadence, escapism, and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live."
Edward R. Murrow

Of trials and excess...

I found these two items in my tech and sports sections of my aggregator recently... a house selling for 70 million, and yet another mega-deal in professional sports. Then I saw this:
Michigan state taxes earmarked for schools will be used to help fund a new $450 million arena for the Detroit Red Wings." 
from the Hack Education Weekly News, by Audrey Watters
Bud Selig, the retiring baseball commissioner, will earn $6 million a year annually in retirement. I pondered that headline over breakfast one morning. Six million, annually...

My mind wandered a bit... 

Could the nations wealthiest 1%, a few billion dollar sports franchises and leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS), the venture capitalists, or the wealthy movie and music industry help rebuild crumbling school facilities - and ask 'real' educators how to do so?

What if all the profits from the Lord of the Rings trilogy went into rebuilding decaying schools?

Budget: $285 million (all three movies combined)
Worldwide box office: $2.9 billion (all three movies combined)

Could gains be accomplished without trying to commercialize education toward more profits? Could authentic and meaningful learning be the goal? Or would it be more standardized curriculum and testing, or more the development of more 'for profit' schools?

An important question I keep thinking of... if educators were around the table instead of movie and music stars, tech moguls, and politicians... would we, the masses, be interested in listening?

Sarcastically... I came back to think of Murrow's speech again. Maybe Kim Kardashian should join the educational debate... in the nude. It'd likely draw a lot of attention and possibly much needed money in sponsorship for the event to help schools renovate decaying facilities and improve programs.

I keep thinking... what if we valued children as much as our entertainment?

It sure as hell doesn't look like increasing taxes will help rebuild crumbling schools.

Schools as community learning centers. It's still possible.

Of book and blog on education...

Every year I pass on many educational book and blog recommendations to friends.

The best education book, and any book for that matter, I read in 2014 was from first time author José Luis Vilson called This is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and the Future of Education

Pretty simple... if you're in education, and even if you're not, I'd recommend you give Vilson's book a read.

Many of my favorite blog posts about education in 2014, again, came from Audrey Watters on her blog Hack Education.  Watters latest site refit - 'The Pigeon's of Ed Tech' motif is... perfectly sarcastic.

I keep thinking...

If I could, I'd love to commission Watters to investigate LMS work in k-12 education (most of her work focuses on post secondary). The LMS debate needs escalating in k-12 education. Work within and around the LMS in k-12 ed is something I've struggled with mightily over the years for a variety of reasons.

More grimacing about our marble...

Just a few of many that made me cringe in 2014.

Domestic violence came to the forefront again courtesy of NFL player Ray Rice and 'the elevator tape' where he attacked his wife. As if we should have needed an incident with an NFL player to bring this issue to the forefront. When will we see a push in our society for stiffer penalties for domestic violence? Child abuse? I think we're still waiting for someone to make it happen instead of making it happen.

Malaysia flight 370... vanished. It still seems unbelievable to me that a modern airliner can just... disappear.



132 children and nine adults lost their lives in a school massacre in Peshawar...

Seeking comedic relief? All good things...

" Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says 'But Doctor… I am Pagliacci.' "

Billy Crystal might have summarized the death of Robin Williams best in a simple tweet that said "No words.Williams comedic rants, his ability to improv at hyper speed... I admired him greatly and I'll miss his wit, riffs, and character portrayals in movies. I'll think many times I'm sure about what could have been over the coming years. I'm certainly grateful for what I did see. So long Robin, we'll miss you here.

One of my favorite old school comedians, Bill Cosby, hit the news recently and grimly so. Accusations of sexual assault by many toward Cosby have spread. I don't know if these accusations are true. It'd be unfair for me to speculate. I haven't researched it in the least. I'd like to think, as many times I've laughed over Cosby's comedic routines especially in the skits called "Himself,' and '49,' that the accusations could turn out to be false. If the accusations are true... I wonder what will be done, what we'll do, what we'll learn from it all.

On a more positive note... but still sad in the fact that I'll miss the show...

On my daily work...

The trials of Burlington School District in Vermont, well documented in the Burlington Free Press, have been interesting to say the least. In a budget crisis there's an opportunity at hand so few schools take... to restructure - to tackle those things, those practices that simply don't make sense for kids or adults. It'll be an intense couple months ahead on this front.

The progress we've made with VITA-Learn, PD for Vermont educators, was well received by our audience. I'm thankful for the work of my peers and the energy to stir things differently. We've got some good ideas brewing.

Being invited to attend #mozfest in London to explore and develop the project I'm working on... was truly a gift. Work continues... and it's growing interest and support.

As a product of less travel, I've finally started to write more again. I've signed on for 12 or more articles for Edutopia in the coming year, for a number of presentations and consulting work with schools looking to shift to more student and family centric practices, and I'm going to press forward on the book I'm writing.

I'm ready to recharge at #educon in Philly in late January with three folks I work with, and also to present there for the first time.


We settled into a new house in September and, at long last, a year of heavy commuting to and from work was over.

My family stayed healthy, new house with new routines developing, and we're exploring the resources of this great community and area. Loving it so far.

... and, after nearly 10 years, I cut off two and a half feet of extra hair. Having short hair again has been both odd and refreshing.

And at last I've gotten this year end review of sorts off my chest. It's something I've felt the need to write for a few weeks now just to clear out my head from a weird year.

I'm lucky to have another full week of vacation to delve into some reading, take in a few good movies on my list, and to get some extra rest.

We'll say farewell to the trials of 2014 but there are many opportunities ahead in 2015.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Colbert Report, it's been a privilege

The Colbert Report closed up shop this last week, and it's an understatement to say that I'll miss watching.

The show came off so well so often I've often wondered how things worked behind the scenes. It's something I never really researched to see what was out there. Then this podcast below from SlateRadio called 'Working, a podcast about what people do all day,' by David Plotz dropped on me (thanks Gary Stager for the link) to give us a glimpse.

It's a reflective time of year, and my mind tends to drift when I settle into Holiday season vacation. My mind drifted toward how teams should work and collaborate within schools... and how they so often don't successfully. Students, educators, and administrators so often function in a silo without this level of collaboration and shared development that Colbert describes in the podcast to build the show. I thought about so many students missing out on this level of collaboration in schools. How too many students miss out on discussions on current events in our world, and also the opportunity to talk about them more deeply and apply them to some historical context.

Then I listened to the podcast again... and just listened  ; )

The Colbert Report was one of those shows I could watch again, from the launch episode to it's finale a few days ago and laugh even more than I did when I saw it the first time. My thanks to the writers, production team, and to Colbert - the character and the actor - for nine great years.

The show provided me the opportunity to end the day with a good laugh. It gave me more insight into the absurdities in our world through the lens of a great character and great comedic writing. The show helped me add a lot to my work with students to teach them about the world. And best, it poked fun at some things, well, that need to be poked.

Colbert's new gig will be succeeding David Letterman on Late Night early in 2015. The character from Colbert Nation won't be there, but all the comedic wit and experience the real Stephen Colbert gained will be. Ready and waiting.


photo: ColbertNation

Friday, December 5, 2014

Digging Deeper and More Thoughtfully

Give this video a listen.

I think often of Edward R. Murrow's speech from 1954 to the RTNDA, paraphrased and recast in the excerpt above from the movie Good Night, and Good Luck. Murrow's words draw important questions on how we use the technology of the time, modern media and journalism, and the importance of our personal and collective resolve to learn about our world vs be entertained.

Hopefully more people will be questioning and investigating what's happening in Ferguson, and with Eric Garner… and learning, especially with students.

Some will say "you don't know how difficult a Police officers job is. You're not a Police Officer." True. I'm not. 
Brutality and racism are real, though. They shouldn't be justified by simple, boastful, shallow statements. It's not enough to say inquiry should stop in a statement like that.

Some say, "he deserved it. He shouldn't resist arrest."

At what point is death an acceptable result?
At what point should we stop looking at the deeper issues involved?

Do some reading on 'white privilege.'

Don't accept superficial statements and move on as if these issues don't exist.

Too many lives are lost.

Corruption is rampant.

Greed is rampant.

Racism is rampant.

"What have we become?" I asked, again.

It's time to face the fact that we've always been this way, actually.

What we are is still far less that what we should be.

Too many care more about bout being entertained than we do bout gaining an understanding about the world in which we live.

Hate… is learned. Too often it is accepted.

We are not as caring or compassionate as we could be to all others. Not yet. I still believe there is hope.

I've read a lot recently. I offered some of the resources listed below to get students started in some reading and encouraged them to find other resources that spoke to them.


I wonder if we will ever see the end of racism. Truly. Or live in a time when it's not so paramount in our world.

We have a lot of work to do. Education, I still think, is the key. 

I cringe, perhaps daily, at our resolve in education to cram 'subjects' instead of placing higher value on making real connections with kids, developing empathy and compassion for each other, and continuing the hard work toward… hope.

We can do better. We can use our resources better to educate ourselves. We can care more about making positive changes on these fronts. We can help students make this mess we've created better in 'their' future.

Hopefully sooner than later.

Readings / Viewings:

#ferguson #fergusondecision #listen, The Becoming Radical

Mike Brown Dies, A Generation Comes Alive, The Daily Beast

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress, Washington Post

Ferguson and Fox News, Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (reported by Fast Company)

Race Ya, http://iambeggingmymothernottoreadthisblog.com

Educators Say The Darndest Things About Kids of Color, Jose Vilson

I honestly don't know what to say, John Stewart (from the Washington Post)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"I Just Don't Know What to Say"

... at least tonight I don't.

"We are definitely not living in a post racial society, and I can imagine we there are a lot of people wondering, how much of a society are we living in at all?'
Jon Stewart

A scene from Alan Moore's Watchmen flickered across my brain…

"What happened to the American Dream?" 
"You're lookin' at it."

If we could…

  • listen.
  • read. Explore different opinions outside your 'circle.' 
  • watch. 
  • put yourself in the shoes of others… and are more informed about how others feel.
  • take a stand not to tolerate racism

Eric Garner... died.

That's tragic on so many levels.

This happens far too often.