Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

A beautiful morning here in the Merrick household. Lots of presents, lots of love, lots of funny Christmas memories.

Fave gift? Don't know whether it was the humidor with a selection of 'gars, the new Samsung phone, or the Leatherman set, wow...

However, I have to say that my new ability to read the time on my wrist in binary has to be right up there!

http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/watches/6a17/zoom/

I'm uploading a pic from my new cellphone as we speak :)





MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 24, 2007

My RSS Feeds on Education are Achieving Consensus!

Interesting, or at least it is to me...

I use Netvibes to aggregate my RSS feeds. It's a cool tool that I would love to share with you, so here it goes on my list of "to be created" instructional videos. More on that later.

Meanwhile, I have been struck this week with how posts from so many of the education-related bloggers I follow (or "arse"=RSS, according to one particular German-British friend of mine) via my Netvibes interface are reflecting rather dramatically on how they are personally striving to re-examine the relevance of their own teaching practices, toward incorporating social networking, Web 2.0, and as-yet-unimagined new technology tools rekindle the relevance of education.

Vicki Davis, "coolcatteacher" blogger, starts with a poem, and cross-posts at the TechLearning bloggers' outlet. She argues that blogging is not the "death of writing," as many old garde have argued, but its evolution, and continues, warning about changes to come, that "...as we move forward to a society that can send and receive education any place any time from anyone, the best teachers will become SuperTeachers and the worst schools, districts, and teachers may find themselves completely without a job."

Sandy Wagner, "Ed Tech Administrator" blogger and head of a 5000 student school district in western NY, describes a student panel whose work resulted in his realization that "our students had anywhere from 60 to 600 contacts on their 'friends' lists. They are spending upwards of two hours a day communicating using these tools. More importantly, students said they would like to be able to contact teachers using these tools."

Jeff Whipple, prolific commentator at his "Whip Blog, musings about technology and education," points out challenges by writing, "Certainly the ability to build a global learning / work network will be a valuable tool in the next few years. My concern lies in the methods students used to generate traffic. Global citizenship will require not just connectedness, but value to that connectedness. Students soon found that more traffic can be generated by questionable content that content of redeeming social value. What do they learn from this? Where do we start the discussions of digital citizenship when the biggest library is but a click away from the world’s largest arcade, the world’s largest “TV/movie/music” store and the world’s largest porn shop?" I discovered Whipple's post, which you can read here (and should, since it talks about one educator's use of social networking to measure their grade by traffic on their websites) via David Warlick's commentary on it at David's 2Cents Worth blog.

It's all interconnected, ya'll. It's all common sense. It's not just some "kool-aid" radical trend. It's the way things are going. As Vicki opines, we are the teachers, we are in the best positions to help our students cope with what Ian Jukes calls "information overload." Let's all go out of the locker room, onto the playing field, and make a difference--one infused with kindness and love of learning...

Happy Holidays to you all, and to all a good day...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Teaching College Math Technology Blog: A Clever Video about Fair Use

Maria Anderson, math teacher extraordinaire, posted this today. I'm viewing it as I type. This is fantastic! Enjoy!!!

Teaching College Math Technology Blog: A Clever Video about Fair Use

Don't Let Go


Recorded in the hours wee, December 23, 2007. Music, guitar, lyrics, pretty much everything by Scott Merrick. Click the lyrics for a readable-sized one...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

YouTube After Dinner

Okay. I don't know if anyone else's family is going through this, or if we are as unique as we'd like to believe we are. But again (perhaps for the third time in a month or two), after dinner, my senior-in-HS daughter invited us to the family computer to share a video, which turned into two sharings, punctuated by my middle school son's insistance to watch the "remix" of one fo them, which turned out to be hiLARious. Here are the links:

Charlie Bit My Finger--Again!
Little Kid Trying to Say "Blood"

and the "Blood" remix

Times have changed: We didn't even turn ON the tv tonite...

YouTube reports views in the millions for one of these and near that for the others. Clearly, times have changed...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone

From Merrick Central in Nashville, Tennessee, I want to wish everyone on the face of the planet a Merry Christmas and a Happy (you fill in the blank). There's a lot of talk about "Killing Christmas" in the media this year, the phenomenon of "politically correctnessing" the holiday by tailoring one's greetings to embrace any possible faith or belief. Coming from a background of very uncommitted Methodism--we only made it to the occasional Christmas Eve service and always to "Sunrise Services" on Easter Mornings, I suspect because those latter were held outside in Centennial Park--I have mixed feelings about this. I do tend to agree with my friend Walter Jowers' words in a recent "Helter Shelter" column for the Nashville Scene:

You people who want retail clerks to holy up Christmas for you, listen to me. They’re clerks. They don’t make the rules. They’re just doing what the corporate weasels upstream tell them to do. It’s just like the greeters at PoFolks restaurants hollering, “Howdy! Welcome to PoFolks!” They’re just trying to move some merchandise while pissing off the minimum number of customers. Nobody’s going to kill Christmas.

--Jowers, Walter Sprucing Up the Holidays. (2007, December 6). Nashville Scene

All that said, by the time the winter holidays come rolling around every year, the Nashville Merricks are ready to party. We attend Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Nashville, joining a rich community of diverse folks in an annual Christmas Pageant that is as down-to-earth and full of cheer and reverence as any event I can imagine. This year, the pageant organizers asked Miranda to sing "O Holy Night" and she did so with characteristic beauty and style, bringing joyful tears to many of us, myself included. I videoed her sound check with a Flip Video cam, not the best audio but enough to enjoy a tear or two for yourself if you're of a mind. Note the random guitar tuning at the start. Here it is, ripped from the video file and unedited, accompanied by Geoffrey Butcher, a glowing human being in his own right.

Miranda's college audition CD, three songs recorded in songwriter and friend Kent Agee's home studio in about an hour and a half a couple weeks ago, went out to the two higher education institutions of her choice last week. She sang, from memory, an Italian piece, a German piece, and "Butterflies and Moths," a piece by British contemporary composer Andrew Carter. I won't share these recordings here because of copyright restrictions, but suffice it to say that they are masterfully performed. Dear friend and Miranda's childhood mentor Margie Proctor accompanied her (on very short notice!) and I will cherish the record of Miranda's youthful and evermore beautiful voice always. When she's onstage singing with Josh Groban, I will remember when...

The rest of us are doing fine, and to keep this from sounding like one of those annual "What's up with the Merricks?" epistles, I'm stopping now. It's the last week of school and there's work to do. Friday at noon, I'm off for two weeks hanging with my family. I hope you're as lucky in your own way. Cheers, Peace, and Love,

Dad

P.S.: Moose Nuggets for Christmas and The Elf Who's King of Country :)-- smile and hold close those you love...





Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Just One More Book!

Podcast shareshare time! My University School of Nashville colleague Karen Knox, also known as Comma Momma (and coincidentally the English teacher of my 6th grader son) just published an article in Borderlines, The quarterly newsletter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, reviewing a wonderful website/podcast called Just One More Book!

Whether you're a teacher of young'uns, a momma or a poppa or any other flavor of caregiver, or even if you're just a grown-up lover of illustrated books, this project, as Karen says, "is impressive in its scope. It covers the world of children's read-aloud books with an array of authors, illustrators, publishers, agents, and others involved in children's literature."* I just listened to episode number 281 of "Just One More Book" and I highly recommend it to you. The hosts are knowledgeable, clever, and literate, and it's a shortie (~8 minutes).

Podcasts are a way to learn on the go, ya'll. If you have a long commute (or even just a short one), you owe it to yourself to treat yourself to this free, rich learning tool. Someone at a teacher's conference once made the remark that there are so many of them that "if you want to learn about cigar-smoking nuns in Wisconsin," all you have to do is seek out that podcast. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it is true that there are at least tens of thousands of podcasts available for free download, and most of them are free.

I have a linkset at del.icio.us that offers ways to learn about podcasts and extensive resources for learning how to do one yourself. Go learn!

*Knox, Karen. ""Just One More Book"." Borderlines, The quarterly newsletter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 64(2007): 1-2.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

All Day CS3 Workshop

I'm sitting in what is by all early indications a marvelous Adobe CS3 workshop. All day...Mike and Liz from Compumaster will guide two tracks through 5 sessions roughly broken out into print design and web design courses. I'll focus on Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, Photoshop and Illustrator. There's a team of 5 of us here from USN, well neigh the whole tech team (we left David at school to handle the flashfires that breakout every day). We're bifurcating to catch everything and I need now to shutup and start listening and working! Cheerio!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Agony and Ecstasy

So, the agony is in all the shortfalls one has regarding actual instruction and affect. The ecstasy is the good stuff (though the agony has its place in that queue). I'm doing a day long workshop tomorrow on aspects of Adobe CS3, an opportunity located by my Technology Director and supported by my school administration, and I'm reeeeeallly excited to be going. We just purchased Adobe CS3 and I want to know how to lead my teachers to places where they'll use it.

Today (the Ecstasy) I facilitated a fabulous interactive videoconference offered by the Vanderbilt Virtual School, a program about classical music featuring a chamber orchestra called Alias. Wonderful. Marvelous. Underappreciated and underutilized by the tens of thousands of classrooms across the nation that might have benefited from the chance to ask questions of professional classical musicians: The agony.

This week, my kids are all creating holiday cards for homeless folks and retirement village residents who may otherwise not receive anything loving or celebratory from friends or relatives, since--guess what--there are a lot of our fellow humans in the world who have neither. This will be facilitated by technology (.jpg files created in Powerpoint and the freeware Drawing for Children program) and by the local radio station Mix 92.9. I only hope they will utilize our kids' work even though some of it may not fit their "Christmas" mold. Our kids, in our eclectic, diverse, odd, inclusive, wonderful, one-of-a-kind independent school, will be creating "Holiday" cards. Sure, many will be Christmas cards, but we will provide Kwanzaa, Diwali, Hanukkah, and other cards as well. By the end of the week we'll have over 300 of them that I'll print and deliver to the station. Wish us luck. In the long run, of course, it's all about the process, now, isn't it?

Today I also witnessed and archived some fabulous presentations from the freshman class at the School for Math and Science at Vanderbilt, using ustream.tv, and I hope that those experiences will inform my presentations in San Antonio come summer, at NECC2008. Wish me luck.

Peace to you and yours as we barrel into the holiday season. Remember balance, and strive, ever, for that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The "Big Conversation"

I thunk anyone interested in what I thunk might be interested in this, the first draft for an Enrichment Team newsletter I drafted tonight. I rewrote it for submission (interesting term) to my administration, then more or less completely rewrote it before I sent it off. But this forum is larger and I have faith it can absorb the first draft. Interestingly enough, or not, the print newsletter-posted article may lead people here. Ah what a tangled internet we weave! Here goes...


The "Big Discussion"
by Scott Merrick, Lower School Technology Coordinator

Those parents who may not be aware of the USN Lower School Technology for Learning webpage might add this resource to your set of tools to keep in touch with what’s going on with your child’s education: http://usnlstech.blogspot.com/. I have a serious interest in keeping up with the "Big Conversation" about what is needed to prepare our children for the world they will inherit from us. My developing knowledge about this conversation informs what is brought to the curriculum in our computer lab. It’s kind of a loop, actually, assuming one can stand back and look at it that way. Much of the larger conversation I keep track of and participate in through my main personal/professional blog at http://scottmerrick.net/. Here’s a picture of the "Clustrmap" that notes the global locations of people who have read that blog since just since April 2007:



In an era when lots of energy in the public schools seems to be going into, as Jeff Uctech notes, preparing our children to be experts in filling in circles with number two pencils, I believe we teachers need to be skating on the outskirts of perception and collaboration. Uchtech elaborates, "Standardized tests don’t allow a teacher to walk on the side of chaos in fear that what they might teach, what may be a different way of learning, will not be acceptable when filling in circles." http://www.thethinkingstick.com/?p=500

Our children’s lives when they are adults will be far different from ours, of that there is no doubt. Assuming that we are, as we like to think we are doing, educating the future leaders of our society, the future architects of our culture, I believe we owe it to them (and to those they will lead and for whom they will design) to expose them to the amazing colaborative tools that are being developed at such a rapid pace that no one can really keep up with all of them. They really need to "learn how to learn," because we do not know the facts they’ll need. We can’t.

That’s why what Chris Dede (along with others) calls "distributed knowledge" may be the key concept our students will need to grasp and embrace if they are to lead in a future we cannot even imagine. Long ago, to paraphrase David Warlick, our great-grandparents needed to memorize everything in order to access it, or to have it on the shelf in their library. If it was not in a book they had read and had purchased, information really wasn’t of much use. An expert on any topic might be three days’ communication time away from them. Today, because of email and Web 2.0 (anyone else using twitter.com?) an expert’s response may be only seconds away. You no longer need to "know" all the facts: You do need to know how to 1) find the facts, 2) discriminate between valuable, authoritative, and valid facts and those that are insubstantial or unreliable, and 3) be able to assimilate valid information into a useful format for whatever task you need it for.

Seems simple. It’s not. Many educators are just starting to sort it out. In the course of that, many of us are teaching on a day-to-day basis and trying to make sure that we’re doing the best we can. Be patient with us. Support us. And trust that we care and that we will proceed with both caution and informed instincts.

U.S. Students Below Average in Science and Math

From THE Journal*, a favorite source for current trends, a report that I'll add to my resource bank for an upcoming presentation in San Antonio about university outreach to K12 schools. Go read the article, and what's up with Canadian science education that places it in the top 5? Mind you, results are based on one of my favorite whipping-boys, standardized testing. But still...








And in math...


See the line at 500? That's the international median line. Clearly, something's wrong with the long-running argument that the poor performance of our students in science and math is "urban myth."
We clearly need some work here. My sense is that there are a passle of well-meaning educators out there working as hard as they can with out-dated tools and restrictions to teach kids content and skills, but if they were to be set free to innovate and energize the imaginations of their students, engage them, draw them into the larger context, "performance" would follow. What we need is teachers who are knowledgeable in both the current collaborative learning technologies and in ways to make sure that new ones don't fly under their professional radars. Wheels turning again...
*Nagel, Dave. "U.S. Students Below Average in Science and Math." THE Journal December 200712 December 2007 1,2. 12 December 2007 .

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Google Apps for Your Domain

My son, a 6th grade student at a progressive independent school at which I happen to teach, cratered tonight about the fact that he hasn't been allowed access (by his team members) to what should be a group-collaborated Powerpoint for a Social Studies project, and he's worried about his grade for participation--the assignment is due Friday. Early on, I suggested the three 11 year-olds use Google Presentation for the task, but the teacher said no.

There are so many things wrong with the above sentence, I won't even begin to rant: I've already ranted once today. But consider this, Google Apps for Your Domain in Education, capably and appropriately blogged by good ol' Chris at the infinitethinkingmachine. I want to say, "WTF," but the "W" is not "What" but, more to the point, "Why?"

This post is also a bit of an experiment. Check my Clustrmap in the right-hand column. There seems to be a lot of verified interest in this blog. Are my colleagues reading it? If you're a colleague of mine, please comment here. Hmmmmmm... If you're a teacher who cares about the future of our children and whether or not they'll be ready for it, please comment here. If you're a parent who is wondering about my sanity, please comment here.

I'll take a "Yo." More, if you have the time...

What Teachers Need (According to David)

Sitting in an outpatient surgery clinic waiting room awaiting my love to come out of her anaesthetic swooze after some fairly minor surgery, I'm online with the practice's lobby-only wi-fi connection. How civilized!

Catching up on my Netvibes I popped into David Warlick's 2cents worth blog to note his reflections about recent conversations at the myriad conferences that make up his professional life. His bulleted shortlist of the things he repeatedly tells teachers and administrators that teachers need in order for our educational institutions to pull their virtual heads out of their virtual back rooms (hey, pretty nicely paraphrased!) deserves a reprint here, so here it goes--

"I tell them that teachers need:

  • Time to plan, collaborate, research, assess and adapt, build, and innovate (I tell them 3 to 4 hours a day — everyday).

  • Classrooms that are equipped for learning in an abundant information environment, rather than an information-scarce environment (This means wifi, a laptop in every teacher and learner’s hand, one or more projectors in each classroom, and access to the emerging technologies that channel contemporary literacy).

  • Permission to safely innovate and facility to engage in professional conversations about the changes needed for relevant education."

So, taking these items one at a time, how do we provide teachers with these necessaries? Well, I know for a fact that the most innovative teachers I know either get up early or stay up late in order to plan, collaborate, etc., and what--is that just a requirement of the profession? Remember we're talking about a profession universally undercompensated and often disrespected ("those who can't, teach") and currently manacled by massive government oversight and bureaucratic control. I simply don't think anything short of revolution will accomplish the meeting of mindsets from the myriad groups of human beings who have legitimate claim to a stake in the outcomes. Fly up the Freak Flag!

Secondly, where are the funds and the programmatic consensus to allot those funds going to come from? It may well be that a Democratic White House is a hope for steps toward this Warlickian Requirement (I am not a Democrat, by the way, nor a Republican), but who might doubt that most of the first years of any such administration will be spent working to undo the damage 8 years of Republican war-mongering has already (not to mention the further damage that might occur over the next 411 days, 10 hours--see the Bush Timer website to see how many are left when you are reading this)?

Lastly--and knowing David I'm certain this isn't really a completed list: he'll come up with more in future musings--who's going to grant those permissions in the current atmosphere of "accountability" measured by standardized test scores aligned to an agrarian educational system tied (even in some of the best private schools) to "sage on the stage" teaching methods?

I sigh. There's my rant. I don't often do that (I'm well aware that I'm criticizing without offering solutions) but David's reflections needled me into it. It's his fault: Go read the post that started all this. Cheerio...

Image Citation:TWM, “Clocks Go Back.” Twm™’s Photostream. 29 Oct 2006. 4 Dec 2007 http://flickr.com/photos/twmlabs/282089123/ via David Warlick's 2CentsWorth blog, http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/.