Not your Normal Black Friday Events

Black Friday–the largest shopping day of the season.  I think it should be renamed “How Americans Can’t be Content”.  It was bad enough when stores started to put Christmas things up before Halloween and then opened WAY TOO EARLY the Friday after Thanksgiving now stores are starting their sales on Thursday night.  Can people really not wait until Friday to start shopping?  Are the deals that good?  What about those who actually work at the retail chains many of us frequent?  I’m guessing many had to cut their holiday celebration short so they could get some sleep and be ready to work late that evening or early the next morning.   Why must we go as fast as we can from one holiday to the next?  When do we get to stop working, reflect, savor time and enjoy a meal with our families?  Is it just Thursday afternoon and then get ready for shopping on Thursday night into Friday?

This year I said “No” to Christmas shopping on Friday.  Christmas, and gift shopping, should be more than this or this.  Instead of shopping I want to share what we did instead on the day after Thanksgiving.

This year my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were nice enough to take on cooking the meal so we went to Metro DC for our Thanksgiving.  Thursday was a wonderful day and we really enjoyed the relaxed environment and slow pace of the day.  When we were trying to think about what to do on Friday I mentioned going to the new King Memorial on the Mall.  WOW!  What an amazing sight!  My only complaint is that I didn’t have enough time to view all that was around the monument.  One of the most touching scenes (there were many) was of a little boy standing in front of a quote from King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize  Acceptance Speech.  MLK Acceptance Speech

What I love about this picture is the combination of the little boy’s smile and the strong words of King.  “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”  I wonder if the boy read the words above him or if he was just told to stand and smile for a picture.  I would like to think that the boy read the words, was so moved by them that he had to have his picture taken.  I also like to think that he is going to take up King’s audacious belief and strive to live a life that gets us one step closer to this goal.  So while others in our nation were knocking each other over to save some money, this boy, and others, were spending their time helping others by taking a picture of a group standing in front of the monument who traveled all night to get to DC, staying out of the way so two sisters could have their picture taken in front of the monument, and contemplating the words that challenge all of us to be better and do better.  Shopping can wait.

TPACK Talk Opportunity

This semester, along with my doctoral course work, I have been working on my internship. I am doing a college teaching internship for few reasons.  First I should back-up and tell you more about how my program does internships. There are three choices.  First, if your goal is to be a Curriculum Supervisor for a school district, there is a specific internship you have to do.  I’m not interested in becoming an Administrator.  Actually, there is one administrator position I would be interested in (Reading/Literacy Coordinator) and I’m thinking I would not have to go through getting my Supervisory Papers.  Internship option #2 is a Community Service project.   This internship is designed for those who are already teaching in Higher Education and are not interested in becoming a Curriculum Supervisor. Internship choice #3 is the College Teaching internship.  I am interested in possibly teaching in a college/university setting (one of the reasons I’m in the program to be with) so this internship makes the most sense.  The class I choose was an issues and trends in literacy masters level class.  I teach a lesson about once every 3 classes and I also attend most classes.  I have really enjoyed this opportunity and it has actually given me my idea for my dissertation (but that’s a post for a different time).

Back to the original story.  One of the last class sessions the students were talking about what they were doing or planning on doing for their big final project–a theory into practice project.  In small groups, the students discussed what their idea were and shared any data they had collected.  After listening to some of the conversations the professor and I noticed that some students were not talking about who they were basing their theory into practice on.  When we came back together for a general question and answer period the professor first had to fix the misconception that some students had and stress that they were to take a theory/strategy we discussed in class, try it with their students, document, and write how it went.  Once we got that cleared up, we were able to answer some general group questions.

After most questions were answered a student, who hadn’t started her project yet, wanted to bounce the idea off the professor and I.  Her idea was to look at using an iPad app with struggling readers to increase their fluency.  While trying to work out what she really wanted to look at (reading fluency) and how she was going to use the iPad (for repeated reading practice) I totally surprised myself when I said “A framework you might want to look into is the TPACK model”.  Then I had to stop a moment and just be in awe of myself for mentioning the TPACK model outside of my Tech in Education class.  In this student’s case, it was very fitting.  She understands her content (reading fluency is important to becoming a proficient reader), her pedagogy (repeated readings), and the tech piece (iPad app) and this framework would help her see how each of those three pieces fit together to make a stronger learning experience.  I think towards the end of our conversation she was starting to make sense of it all but had a lot going on in her head as the Professor and I were both trying to help her have a stronger study.  I am excited to see her results and see if the students who used the app did have an increase in their words read/minute.  I will let you know.

The moral of the story, at first when something is introduced to you and you can’t wrap your brain around it, give it a few months and maybe an authentic purpose will come around and then you might surprise yourself at just how much you know.  The piece to remember is the authentic opportunity!

Task Avoidance

Is something I’m good at.  I know how to completely avoid a task.  I think I was recruited by the pros while I was still in elementary school.  While “cleaning my room” I would find old papers to read, notes and pictures to look at, clothes to try on…anything but clean and put away objects in my room.  Now, fast forward 20 years and I’m doing it again.  Here I am in the library with the knowledge that I need to really get to work on a paper but instead of actually buckling down and getting to work I have found other things to do instead.  I have checked the different blogs I like to read, I checked people.com (one of my favorite task avoidance sites to visit–I love the pictures), looked at the different comics available on Yahoo! News, checked all of my email, I haven’t called my mom or sister but that’s a usual, and now I am writing a new blog post.  While working on this task avoidance activity I got thinking: if I didn’t have the internet what would I do for my task avoidance activities?  Would I have a cleaner house, would I have all my lesson plans done from now to after the winter break, would I find a new way to cook kale…I don’t know!  Right now I KNOW I need to get this paper done and it’s not that I do not enjoy the topic I choose or the books I read (this one and this one), it’s just the starting.

So how does this feeling and knowledge get transfered into the classroom (at any level)?  As a teacher I know the task avoidance behaviors of many of my students (one of the favorites in the past years has been the bathroom) and have a pretty keen sense of when they need to go and when they need a break.  When do I allow this?  Does the observed task avoidance behaviors in many students mean the assignment is too hard, not hard enough, not interesting enough?  Did I explain what the assignment throughly?  Did I really give them guided practice?  Or is today just a day they don’t want to write?  Those questions are hard to answer, and while I freely ask those questions I understand that I do not have the answers to my questions.  Instead I want to remember that I avoided tasks when I was young and I continue to avoid but now the important change is after a good bit of avoiding, I do get to work.  So now, if reading this blog post was part of you avoiding a task I’m going to gently and loving tell you to STOP READING AND GET TO WORK!

Time to take my own advice!

Twitter, Knitting, and Football


Martha Made Me Do It Shawl
Knitted Shawl

First you are probably “thinking how can anyone connect those three things in a blog?”  Well folks, I’m going to try.  Many of you who know me know that I enjoy knitting.  Okay, that statement is a lie.  I LOVE knitting.  If I weren’t working on my D. Ed in Curriculum and Instruction I would probably be working on a MFA with a concentration in textiles and fiber.  Maybe in my next life.

Anyway, I had this afternoon free so I was able to spend sometime at my LYS (Local Yarn Store/Shop for those of you would don’t speak yarn).  While there I remembered that today was also the big Penn State vs. Nebraska game (or as my relatives would say “The Nebraska game”).  I have a few friends at the game today and also know that there are mixed emotions about the game and what has happened on the Penn State main campus this week so I was concerned for their safety.  Also just wanted to know how the game was going.  With my new iPhone handy I searched Google for the score.  This gave me a few choices but there was a bit of a time delay as most sites where writing small postings about the game.  As the game was quickly coming to an end I wanted up to the minute and second reports.  That’s when the great idea hit me.  I have access to Twitter and I’m sure many people are tweeting about the game.  #PennState was listed under trending now and without having to so much searching I could find out about how many seconds were left in the game, that Nebraska was still ahead but Penn State had a chance, and then that Nebraska had won.

This whole scene is a strange juxtaposition.  Here I was using a very old form of technology with a very modern.  The most shocking part was that the world did not end, one activity did not take the place of the other, but both were used, at pretty much the same time, and while I can’t say my life was enriched I can say that I was able to inform my other knitters with the information they wanted to know.  If I was able to use both and not be injured why are some teachers and school reluctant to use technology with their instruction?  One reason is the fear that it takes too long to learn how to use it and incorporate it into the school day/lesson.  Another is that other teaching tools they have used will be deemed unnecessary.  Some teaching tools we have used have and might continue to become obsolete but many will remain important items of use because it is the best way to teach something.  There might come a point when the best way to teach something is using a computer but sometimes, you have to have the real object to learn.  For this reason I am sure that while I will continue to find new uses for my new toy, it will never replace the yarn and needles I use for knitting.

My new toy

After many years of waiting and wanting, I finally broke down and got one.  And yes, mine is white.

I got an iPhone 4s and I think I’m in love.  I haven’t downloaded many apps but I have loved being able to get my email anywhere.  I know that I will need to be careful when using it so I do not become one of the rude people who are always on their smartphone.  That is my challenge to myself.  I will not check my email while having a meaningful conversation with another person.  I will not play Words with Friends during school or dinner.  I will not ask Siri anymore funny questions.  Ok, I might ask her one of these especially if I’m showing off my new phone to friends.  I also will not treat Siri like HAL.  I promise to only use my powers for good not for evil (though evil can be fun!).

The purchase of my new toy, I mean phone, has me thinking about how I might use my phone for educational purposes while I’m working on my doctoral classwork or how it might make my life simpler.  So far I have enjoyed checking my email, getting weather updates, listening to my itunes music, using the maps app to find nearby coffee and food while away from home, and taking some fun pictures.  I am sure I will find more and more uses as I have more and more time to use it.  I know many of you already have iPhones and so I am interested in how you use it and what apps you find yourself using the most.