Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Welcome to my Torture Chamber

Welcome to my torture chamber.

Come on in, I will be your PARCC test proctor.

I will force you to go against every fiber that makes up a 13 year-old boy.

Please read the directions on your screen and follow along as I read them aloud.

Stop squirming. 

There will be many tools at your disposal: highlighter, answer eliminator, calculator, etc.

You will sit still for 80 minutes then you will sit still for 75 minutes.  No talking.  No moving. No help. No interaction.

Please enter your unique test code and password.

Please stop talking, squirming, asking.

Stop telling me you are frustrated. Please be quiet.  This is a torture chamber, not a playground.

There will a series of questions, symbols, equations.  

Stop telling me you don't know how to do this.  Stop drawing. This.is.serious.

I will keep track of the time.

No, it is not time to stop.  You must keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

Please enter the seal code written on the board.

Quite. Quiet. 

Please stop drumming.  Please stop tearing a hole in your sleeve for your thumb.  Please stop drawing. This.is.serious.  

You may use a calculator.

Welcome to my torture chamber.  I want to let you out.  But I can not.

You may review the section you completed, but don't go on to the next section until directed to do so.

Welcome. I can not.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Measuring Beyonce's Butt -- Psyched, siked, siced (contains profanity)

This week's #rhizo15 task asks us to count. "What can we measure that isn't learning? Think about all the other facets of the human experience..can we do better?" Dave ends by begging us to grade him.

What the hell is he talking about? My grade for the clarity of this task is a D-.

My feeling about the fact that he is asking these questions is an A+. I embrace the mess.

Since I don't really understand the question, here's my take on trying to measure something that's rather non-linear/amorphous/constantly evolving/impossible to pin down. Like #rhizo15.

A WTF Face-Palm moment happened recently in my classroom, during which I realized we have reached the End of Times Apocalypse stage in student vocabulary.

A student was writing a story, and she wanted to say that the character was "psyched" about something, meaning excited.  However, she insisted that the word was "sīced" and pronounced with a soft c - as in slīced, without the "L." Yes.  Sīced.

I assumed she was simply making an error in pronunciation, but she (and several other students) explained to me QUITE OBNOXIOUSLY with great vigor that I was a complete moron I clearly did not know how to say or spell the word. 

The level of screwed-up-ness non-learning in this was baffling. [I did not make the following meme. The fact that it existed at all made me feel there was hope for the world less alone in my chagrin.] 

So I felt compelled to figure out how my students came to believe this.

Around the 1970's in the U.S., the term "psyched" came into common use as a way to show excitement or enthusiasm. As indicated below, its use steadily climbed through the 80's and 90's, hitting a high in the year 2000.

Shortly after that, the term "to psyche out," meaning to undermine someone's confidence, came into common parlance.

This morphed in "psyche!" Which meant "I tricked you into believing something."  In his 1983 album Comedian, comic Eddie Murphy includes a skit called "Ice Cream Man," in which he taunts a friend who has no ice cream, pretends to offer him some, then yanks it away and yells, "Psyche!" (Skip to 3:50 to see that part.)

Teenagers heard the word so often without reading it that they thought it was spelled "sike." In the 90's and 2000's, this became a common spelling in student notes and written assignments in my classes. It became such a common usage that it replaced the spelling psyche entirely in most teenagers' vocabulary.
Jump ahead 15 years to today. Student writing rarely uses the term "sike" to indicate tricking someone. My students are using the word pronounced "sīced" with a soft "c" to mean excited. They have no idea that it is actually spelled and pronounced psyched, or siked, or that "sike" actually did NOT mean excited, but rather, "I tricked you." And it is now spelled AND pronounced "sīced" by many teens as a result of some process of reverse-evolution.

As someone posted in Urban Dictionary:

Or you could spell "siced" wrong,
only in a different way:
Of course, since I love words, and am watching this information change in slo-mo like a train wreck, I had to see in what other ways this slang has "evolved."

And finally, to bring it full circle:

There is much more to discover, but I will leave further research to you.

Other facets of the human experience? All of my students have been expelled from their home schools. They have been measured and mismeasured. 

I embrace the way language changes. It fascinates me. It's when it goes terribly, erringly awry within a subset-vortex of illiteracy that I am perplexed at how to begin to start. There is no pre-test for this as it unfolds around itself.  

It is a microcosmic symbol of the millions of ways life has failed so many kids.

I respect my students and their experiences. I am heart-broken that their literacy experiences are so deficient.

And I can laugh at the ridiculousness of a word being used in a permutation so far removed from Latin or Greek that it has an ugly beauty of its own.

I have to go get sīced about cooking dinner so I don't have to syce some food from the store, so please don't slice my syce. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Once Upon a Timeeeeeeeee

One upon a timeeeeeeee,

There was #CLMOOC.

And it was good.

One the ___th day we rested.

No, actually we never rested.

There were these people.

Smart. Engaging. Thought-provoking. Kind.

There was this one person.  Terry Elliott.

He was not afraid to question. He was not afraid to be human. 

I loved that.

There was this other person. Kevin Hodgson.

He was always creating in new ways. Comics. Music. Writing.

I loved that.

There was this third person. Maha Bali.  She was prolific and connected and compassionate. Not afraid to be vulnerable and connect.

I loved that. 

There was Simon Ensor.  This other person.  His writing is poetic metaphorical literal figurative mind-blowingly beautiful.

I loved that.

There were these other folks. Lots of them. Real. And caring. And intelligent. And connecting. And creative. And helpful.

I loved that.

Months later.  A year later. I consider these folks my friends. We are in near-constant connection mode.  I think of them all. Often.

One is in Kentucky. One is in Massachusetts. One is in Egypt. And one is in France.

I am. In Maryland. U.S. 


If you are worried about #rhizo15.


These are real people.  These are people who will actually think about what you say or write.

This experience might be virtual surreal online electronic time-lapsed time-travelling for you.

But. It is real.


Relax. Jump on. Be real. 

All else will take care of itself.

And we saw that the light was good. And we separated the light from the darkness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Subjective-Learning Subjugated-Objectives Subversive-Subjunctives

Week 1 in #Rhizo15
We are asked: How do we design our own or others' learning when we don’t know where we are going? How does that free us up? What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?


As opposed to --Learning Objectives

"A statement of a learning objective contains a verb (an action) and an object (usually a noun).

  • The verb generally refers to [actions associated with] the intended cognitive process.
  • The object generally describes the knowledge students are expected to acquire or construct.
    (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001, pp. 4–5)"
--tending or intending to subvert or overthrow, destroy, or undermine an established or existing system.

"The English subjunctive – that is, the subjunctive mood, is used to form sentences that do not describe known objective facts. These include statements about one's state of mind, such as opinion, belief, purpose, intention, or desire. The subjunctive mood is also used for statements that are contrary to fact, such as If I were a giraffe."

Essentially, all learning outcomes are subjectives. 
We can try to "design learning," and we are trained to "design learning," but how our "design" is experienced by any one learner is as unique as a fingerprint, and impeded upon by the scars we have collected throughout our coarses and courses and curses.
As Virginia Woolf said, "Biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many thousand."
Our learning design is experienced in as many ways as we have learners.

Those who can meander freely through such a course as #rhizo15, whether it be maze-like or cloud-like or layers-deep or miles-wide, should consider this choice, this freedom, this perquisite of economy and culture and opportunity as an entryway into possibility.

This is not meant to be trite - because we never actually know where we are going when we design learning. We are trained to pretend to, and to actually believe it on some level.

This course acknowledges that this concept of subjectives is of value, not to be tamed, but to be ridden like a wild bronco while you laugh maniacally.
Or to be observed through periscoping binoculars, with a hummingbird in your periphery.
 Or to be subverted exponentially until all that is left is a kaleidoscope of shards to be thrown like pixie sticks.
How would one truly subvert this #rhizo15? Perhaps by mapping out the curriculum with pretentious linear learning objectives while pretending they will have a happy ending?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Writing From the Gut: A Response

Terry Elliott recently honored my Quicksand post with annotations on Genius. And when I say annotations, I mean annotations as only Terry can - GIFs, photos, technical grammar explications, questions, praise and all manner of goodness.

This is my relatively "quicks"-"and" response.


  • I write from the gut.  I had no idea that what I was doing in my first few lines had a name (aposiopesis).  My intentions were exactly as Terry posited, but my writing is more stream-of-consciousness than conscious.  

     [How in the world does Terry know all of these technical terms? His brain must be humongous; I would have to see it writ large to even begin to conceptualize how it can hold and organize so many details.]

  • I do only two things very purposefully when I write.  The first is to write as succinctly as possible.  I hate to read belabored points, and I try hard not to impose them on anyone who honors me by reading my words.

      **I use as few words as possible.**

  • The second thing I purposefully do is to try to say things--either...

In unexpected ways, or 
In a different way than they have been said before.

      [Years ago, when I taught my daughter to write poetry (she might have been 5 or 6), I told her that she should use words in ways that no one else has, and she still remembers that conversation to this day, at age 26.]

  • I teach middle school. This leaves me little time to revel in writing and interact with my PLN online the way I would like to.  It's a bit like watching your friends play and laugh outside while you are inside doing homework - simultaneously frustrating and entertaining. 
[Right now, I am stealing moments at work, a tiny rebellion but also a sweet breeze through my (cinder block) metaphorical window.]

To perfect this...
...there's no time.

~~I am humbled by the fact that anyone reads what I write.  I try to honor that by writing to the best of my ability, not wasting my readers' time, and attempting to make people think or laugh or question.

Terry has helped me become a better thinker and writer. And all of you make me better.

Thank you for reading.