Upside Down with Standards

It’s that district mandated time of the week again: workshop day. It’s time to triangulate the world of standards and outcomes with the world of working with students. Notice, however, how few “student choice” workshop days there are or “learning & learner focused” days there are mandated in any given district. 
In scouring over all of the academic standards and essential learner outcomes thoughts instead drift to the Upside Down Academy. It’s model, structure, and standards are all quite simple.

"The best way to learn is to try and teach."

    1. Learn something.
    2. Pay attention to what you find confusing.
    3. Come up with a way to make it less confusing / more fun for the next person.
    4. It can be a blog post, video, dance, song, smoke signal, what ever.
    5. Create a lesson and make it a little easier for the next person 
     I find the idea of planning learning environment with this kind of an outcome or this kind of a structure in place to be far more engaging than anything conceived of by a standards committee. 
    The technology exists to make this a reality. We just need the will to make it happen. And to have the savvy to reconcile that new world with what things like this. 

    It sounds like a challenge worth accepting, don’t you think?

    Poetry and Crowd Seeding a Sonnet

    In the upcoming unit I’m planning I am encountering something that teachers everywhere fear. No, not just Shakespeare; poetry. Go ask a teacher if they would like to go impromptu substitute teach in a poetry class. Go ahead. I’ll wait. No volunteers? 
    I’m one of those “weird” guys that actually likes poetry. Poetry has been a part of my life since before I was a teenager. Yes, for that long a time. But teaching poetry still gives one a sense of trepidation. So in the spirit of transparency I thought I would try a new approach in working with students writing poetry. 
    The process is one that comes from the writer Chuck Palahniuk. I recently heard him speak at the Fitzgerald theater in St. Paul Minnesota. He brought up a process of writing that he has spoken about and written about before he calls it “crowd seeding”.
    To develop his themes, Palahniuk also conducts experiments in what he calls “crowd-seeding”: At parties he tells people what he’s working on and freely hands out his phone number to generate ideas….

    All of his books are packed with this group expertise “so that you feel like you’re learning,” he says. It’s the Google-era technique of novel writing: social composition. “I’m simultaneously testing my material or premise with people and tweaking it,” he says. “Plus, it’s a fun game and gives people a role to play.”

    This brings to mind a different author, one that I’ll be seeing in the near future, Jane Mcgonigal. Here’s a bit about where she is coming at the whole technology/education interplay:

    Given that Mcgonigal says in her book that

    All games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation

    So I’m thinking, why not crowd seed the writing of a sonnet? One could even make a game of it.

    Hopefully more to come…

    The Upside-down Syllabus Pt. 2

    Yesterday’s work was aimed at creating some “free write” beginnings for the class syllabus, but instead resulted in an interesting social experiment on anonymity, human behavior, and Google Docs. Yes, it will be the subject of a future post once the video is edited… For now the YouTube video below will be the starter text used in conjunction with classwork thus far in the first Socratic Circle Discussion being held Friday. Enjoy.