I’m so lucky to work with this guy! He is doing some amazing stuff with students at our school in Wells, ME. Check out the video below:
I’m so lucky to work with this guy! He is doing some amazing stuff with students at our school in Wells, ME. Check out the video below:
I’m sure many of you have already seen the video of Chris Hadfield (the astronaut) covering David Bowie‘s Space Oddity on YouTube. At the time of this writing, almost 15 million people have watched it. Me: I would have probably missed it except for my dear colleague, Inger, bringing it to my attention.
She brought it into the Computer Lab and put it in the lesson plan. What unfolded was “Wonderful Wonder!”
First off, the students LOVED it. It is a very well produced music video, full of incredible images that evoke deep emotion. But, we found that there are so many layers that teachers can go into with this video.
Chris Hadfield made Space (and by proxy, Science) cool again. He not only made the first music video in space, he made many other videos about space, which he shared with students and learners all over the planet during his 5 month stay at the International Space Station. He worked with students by way of social media tools to teach them about science and space and even did a sing-along with a school! Not to mention his duet with the Bare Naked Ladies! And he gave the world some of the most beautiful pictures from orbit during his journey. But most importantly, he made all of us remember that SPACE is still really, really amazing in a time when our country, as well as Hadfield’s Canada are cutting way back on funding space exploration.
But let’s get back to the video.
First, my young students were introduced to David Bowie, who wrote on his Facebook page that Hadfield’s cover was, “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created.” (In all probability, it might not have been the Thin White Duke himself who wrote those words, but rather one of his minions, but still, he gave it the “thumbs up.”) I would have to agree with that assessment. Even though Hadfield changed some of the words to fit his own journey, I was more moved by watching and hearing his video than I have ever been listening to Bowie’s version.
Questions quickly arose after our viewing. I first asked students this question:
“Do you think that when David Bowie wrote that song, so many years ago, he ever thought — in his wildest imaginations — that it would ever be sung in outer space?”
To which the students answered a collective and emphatic “NO!” Then I asked the students:
“Do you think you’ll ever have a chance to go into space?”
At that point, I pulled out my iPhone and asked Siri to tell me how old the “Space Oddity” song was. In seconds I had the data: 43 years, 6 months, and 20 days. Magic. I couldn’t help but call it that, and go on to say:
“Look at all the changes that have happened in the past 40 years! Who knows?!? Travelling to space in the future might be as common place as taking an airplane now!”
I used Siri to drive this point home, and told them that the computer in my iPhone is much more powerful than the computer that put the first men on the moon. What future “magic” will they get to witness in their own lifetimes? The possibilities are quite limitless.
In showing the video, the following topics were uncovered:
Those are just a few of the things that we were able to talk about with students. Please, add more themes to investigate in the comments below.
Thanks to Chris Hadfield AND thanks to David Bowie for building a wonderful lesson for my students.
Now, just in case you haven’t seen it, here it is in all its glory:
“This is what it’s all about!”
Published on May 6, 2013
Special correspondent John Tulenko of Leaning Matters reports on a public middle school in Portland, Maine that is taking a different approach to teaching students. Teachers have swapped traditional curriculum for an unusually comprehensive science curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving, with a little help from some robots.”
Published by PBS. Filmed by Bill Rogers of the Coruway Film Institute!
“Maine School Engages Kids With Problem-Solving Challenges – YouTube.”YouTube. PBS, n.d. Web. 9 May 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i17F-b5GG94&feature=youtu.be>.
(note: this post is from an email exchange that I had with a colleague earlier this morning. She graciously allowed me to reprint her email Question and my reply. We hope others find the exchange beneficial.)
I am working on a final paper for my grad school class and have hit a wall. I am sure it is just a brain block, but am hopeful you see this before the end of tomorrow and can help me.
So I have been building a homonym game on Scratch and had great success until I tried to fix something! Of course I had not saved a copy of the successful one and have to almost start over! Ugh!
Anyway, aside from the obvious problem solving benefits of using Scratch with students, what are some of the other benefits for students? I know that seems like a rather obvious question, but my brain is fried on Scratch and I need to branch out to other resources!
Here’s my reply:
First, I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble fixing it… I hope that works out for you today. IF it doesn’t, here is my main advice: GRAB ANY MIDDLE SCHOOL HELPER AT 2:00 AND ASK THEM TO HELP YOU FIX IT!!! Or any student, for that matter!
Now, as to the benefits, I could write an entire book about that, so I’ll just put a few things in, and then we can chat in person
First: the sentence that I put above (“GRAB ANY MIDDLE SCHOOL HELPER AT 2:00 AND ASK THEM TO HELP YOU!!!”) sort of answers the question itself. KIDS are able to take over, teach the teacher, figure out stuff by exploring, try things, make mistakes, etc. THIS is the true intent of Scratch. Mitch Resnick made Scratch with his team at MIT. The team is (purposefully) called “The Lifelong Kindergarten Group” because in kindergarten we are allowed (or used to be allowed) to try things out, build things and knock them down, make a mess, experiment, fool around with tools, CREATE! Resnick says that we should be allowed to be working like that ALL the time —for our entire lives—because that is HOW WE LEARN BEST. It is the natural way the brain operates.
I believe that we, as teachers, do too much of the work FOR students. Learning how to program in SCRATCH puts the learning completely in the hands of the students. There are infinite paths a student could take with the program. There’s no way that we, as teachers, can prepare for the direction that the student will head towards. The student is going to have to figure out how to succeed without the teacher. For instance, by getting help from other students on the site, or watching a video about a particular code, or by “reverse engineering” someone else’s Scratch project. This “reverse engineering” is the BEST way to learn Scratch. By downloading someone else’s project and picking it apart, the student becomes detective and learns the new “literacy” needed to program.
It is essential that we teach our students to code. I point you to the ads that Code.org has been showing lately. Learning coding will help our students succeed in future jobs that we can’t even dream of yet. I actually believe that it is as important to teach coding/programming as it is to teach how to read. Not that programming is a new literacy, but that it is an extremely important one for future careers. I believe if we’re not teaching coding from elementary all the way through high school, then we are doing a grave diservice to our students.
Many skills are imbedded in Scratch:
Algebraic Thinking — We, as teachers use this term all the time, but I never really understood what it means until I got to see Greg Tang explain it. Algebraic Thinking is when you know how to do one thing and then are able to do another thing in a COMPLETELY different environment with different variables, because you have mastered the skills necessary by accomplishing the first activity. Scratch forces the student into these unknown territories all the time.
Social Networking — The Scratch site is a social networking platform as well. Students go there to connect with other students to do WORK. They are learning the skills necessary for future jobs where they WILL work with people from all over the world to solve problems. The social platform at Scratch is monitored by adults for abuse, but the site is mostly kept safe and appropriate by other students: they want this platform to stay true to its purpose and will take on the responsibility of “flagging” inappropriate comments or content to keep their learning environment pure.
Scratch teaches all the important skills that the NETS (ISTE’s Standards) are trying to reach. Specifically: Information and Communication Skills, Thinking and Problem Solving Skills, and Interpersonal & Self-Directional Skills. Here’s a great page to back up “Why We Teach Scratch.”
Also, I’ve had the pleasure to hear Mitch Resnick speak on several occasions and he granted me permission to record his talk at the Building Learning Communities conference back in 2010. You can hear it HERE:
I hope this helps and welcome to the wonderful world of Scratch!
As you may have noticed, things have been pretty quiet on my blog this year. It wasn’t for lack of things to write/talk about, that’s for sure! However, I want to explain the “radio silence,” as I feel it’s my duty to offer an explanation to my Professional Learning Network—which has continued to offer me so much over the many years—and report out why I’ve stopped writing and why Seedlings’ shows have been missing.
In short, I’ve been dealing with a health issue for about 6 years now, which many people call “meshoma,” or “FBR” (Foreign Body Rejection) of mesh that was used to fix a small hernia I had 6 years ago. (If you’d like to learn more about mesh-related issues, here’s a great source: Mesh Medical Device News Desk.) Since that time, I’ve been dealing with increasing levels of pain to the point of needing to take medical leave for this school year. It got so bad, that I could only sit at the computer for a limited time, and therefore, decided to stop blogging and podcasting.
I also thought this was the end of my career; that I was not ever going to be able to work again.
I want to clearly state that not everyone reacts to mesh used in hernia (or other) operations as my body has, so please don’t freak out if you have mesh in you. I am only reporting the results that I had.
Well, it’s taken a lot of doctor visits and many approaches to try to overcome the pain I was dealing with over the years, but finally I had an operation in February to have the mesh removed from my body. It’s been a slow recovery, but I am happy to say, I am almost completely back “to normal,” and deal with hardly any pain at all. Best of all, I am returning back to work as Technology Integrator at Wells Elementary School!!!
I cannot even begin to express my joy and excitement about returning to school. In all honesty, this year has probably been the worst year of my life because I was unable to do the thing that I love to do most: teach.
I am incredibly indebted to so many people for helping me along this journey to recovery. My family, first and foremost, has made significant sacrifices and been my “rock” of support during the worst of days. I have so many health professionals to thank as well, especially the doctor who was willing to take the mesh out (not all doctors are willing to do that, due to the risks involved). I have so many people around the world to thank—people I’ve never met—for it was due to finding the right support groups on the Internet that helped us finally understand that the problem was my body’s reaction to the mesh, rather than nerve entrapment, as was my (mis)diagnosis for many years. I have my Professional Worldwide Network to thank for helping me to stay active with my professional development through my recovery. And lastly, I have my amazing colleagues to thank, who came to my aid in supporting me through visits, phone calls, cooked meals, and by donating their sick days to our Sick Bank (that I was able to draw from during the recovery period).
I feel so very, very lucky. And please—I beg of you— as you read this, don’t feel bad for me. I am more than OK! I have my life and my job back, and really do feel like I’ve won the lottery. Every new day of teaching at school will be a gift, and I see my return as “Act 2,” where I promise to “be on fire” and serve my district, my PLNs, my colleagues, and most importantly, my students with the very best that I have to offer.
I’ve learned many things through this journey. Much of what I’ve learned will probably take me years to be able to articulate, but here are a few things I know now:
As a technology-guy, I’ve learned that new (such as the use of mesh, rather than other, older approaches) is not always better.
I’ve learned how to find my way (a bit) through the many mazes and “hoop-jumping” of the medical world, and believe that it is better to work with a team of professionals (who communicate with each other) on a particular problem, rather than receiving “fragmented” care.
I’ve learned that there are many people, in all of our lives, who walk around with constant invisible pain. I’ve sat with them in many waiting rooms and read their stories on the Internet in support forums. As we have all seen in the news these past weeks, there is an abundance of pain out there. But, I’ve also learned that there is an infinite amount of love and caring in this world as well.
I must make every day count. I must help others who are suffering. And I must be a conduit for light and happiness and goodness in this world. I know I do that best as a teacher.
I am so lucky to get this second chance.
(note: If you’re not making a connection with my above title, then you were probably born after the 70′s and don’t have a “jaunty” little tune playing in your head right now. If you would like to check out its cultural reference, then click HERE. Fair warning: it will never leave your brain. Never.)
Please forgive me as I take great pleasure (albiet, scientific fascination) in the images below:
Why do I take pleasure in these images? Because they’re so FREAKIN’ COOL! We have the ability to track (almost in real time) just how the flu is making it’s way across the country and the world:
(also from http://www.google.org/flutrends/)
Now, I know Flus are caused by Viruses, and Viruses do other things than spread the Flu, but I am fixated on the FLU at present because my poor daughter is suffering from it, miserable in her bed upstairs, as I write this. (Shhh! She’s finally asleep… I’ll be waking her in an hour to get her to the doctors).
I could show these maps to my little Les Misérable upstairs, and say, “See? You’re not the only one suffering!!” but I suspect it would have little comfort. In fact, it might freak her out a bit, because when you see all that RED, it does feel a bit hopeless, doesn’t it?
Anyway. I got FLU on my mind. And VIRUSES, and in between bringing her juice, tissues, warm compresses, and movies and magazines, I need to get a post done. Look: I can still be a “good” dad and take care of my daughter’s suffering, while looking at the above maps with wonder and glee, so back off, okay!
For the benefit of my daughter’s suffering, and for the benefit of the argument of this piece, let’s just call this whole thing VIRUSES. We as humans are great at spreading them: sneezing and coughing all over each other and everyday things we touch. We tend to think of Viruses as BAD.
But we could think of Viruses as a GOOD thing as well. Laurie Anderson and William S. Burroughs did. I’ve never read Burroughs, but quite like the Anderson song. I also like the term that Richard Dawkins came up with: “Memetics,” from his book, The Selfish Gene (note to self: must read book, not just Wikipedia page), which is the theory that, like an evolutionary model, the transfer of “cultural knowledge” is brought about in the same way as Viruses transfer.
We can see this in our daily lives, and if anyone knows of, say, a Google map that tracks the transfer of ideas or memes, please let me know about it. I haven’t found any yet, and one reason is, I believe it’s more difficult to capture the movement of ideas than it is to capture the data on Viruses. I heartily believe we have rudimentary tools that have already tracked ideas to some degree (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc), but it would be lovely to see actual “Pin Points” on a map, collecting in real-time, as we see in the first map above. It would be even lovelier to be able to see the “WEB” of where that idea came from, where it is going, how strong or fast its movement is, and what kind of influence it has on the world. (A “meme map,” if you will.)
Right now, I am infecting you with a Virus. I’m sure you’ve probably thought about some of the ideas that I just put forth, but if you haven’t, then I’ve “infected” you with them, or made the “strain” of this particular idea/meme stronger… or, I guess, perhaps, possibly weaker within you.
But here is something, that if you haven’t seen it, will undoubtedly move you, infect you, change you. Watch the following video:
Now, I recently had the good fortune of working with my daughter’s Guidance Counselors in setting up their website. In truth, I did very little; they did all the heavy lifting, and even taught me a bunch of stuff about Weebly (which is where they created their site).
I think my only real contribution is that I shared the above video with them, and they’ve included the following form on their sites, stating:
“Don’t have time to stop by guidance? Do you find it easier to communicate through writing? Is there something you want to let me
know? Send me an email.”
Wow. So very, very cool.
Now, do I take credit for this? Certainly not. I was just being a good virus. Someone sent me the link to the video above, I shared it with them, and they (they’re the HEROES!) decided to “become infected” and add it to their site. (I’ve asked that they keep data on how many referrals come in via the website, compared to the ones that come in as “walk-ins” as I think it would be really interesting data to look at. What a geek I am!).
This is what we do, have always done: we humans, infect each other with IDEAS. Sometimes good ideas, sometimes bad. I’ll bet if we asked the teacher, Ms. Kornowskis, in the video if this was entirely her OWN idea, she would probably point to some other, outside influences that made her create this amazing (and quite frankly, simple) tool to help students.
I like being a “connector;” a virus carrier (of the good kind of viruses). I’ll bet you do too, that’s why you’ve stuck with this article for so long, and why you’re going to Tweet it out when you’re finished with it.
Ideas and solutions used to take a long time to travel the world. Now, it can take a nanosecond.
So, as you grab for that 4,000th tissue, and drink down your juice and take your medicine, then hear me when I say, “I’m sorry you also have the flu/virus.”
But aren’t viruses cool?!?
I look forward to our next infection.