Writing and Reflecting: Is Writing Truly Reinvented?

Yes, I may just be a glutton for punishment. I began three classes yesterday! Two classes are for college credit and one class is directed by Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) via her new book Reinventing Writing. I know, all of this is self-inflicted but surprise of all surprises the one that matters the most and that will help my students be successful is the one that will not count for any credit. I am taking a political science class and a Mexican history class, both online. These online courses are just like the traditional classes that I took from 1990-1995 in my undergraduate days. The only real difference is that instead of going to a lecture hall, I have to sit at home and read, do vocabulary (in .doc or .docx format only), and take essay exams once a week for four weeks. In one of the courses there is weekly discussion but it’s nothing like spending an hour in an education related twitter chat. In both of these classes regurgitation of factual information will be rewarded with grades. No premium is put on original thought. To quote one of the professors, “I am measuring your reading comprehension and engagement of what I assign.” 8-(  Really, I mean really? NO OUTSIDE SOURCES!

When I reached the end of chapter one of Vicki’s new book, I was revved up and ready to set off on a further exploration of writing. According to my college transcripts, I am a social studies teacher, but in my heart I am a teacher of students and a lead learner. I love learning, especially learning about topics that are meaningful to me and lead by people who are also passionate about teaching and learning. 


Reinventing Writing Book Cover

Mrs. Davis asks three questions at the end of chapter one of her book, “Is writing truly reinvented? What is different? What is the same?” These are the questions I will grapple with in this blog post.

The Same Old Words in a New Way

Writing is the same as it has been in my lifetime. I think of words or phrases, put letters together to form words, that are then (I hope) linked into grammatically correct sentences that make a point. When writing with paper and pencil, a person can always erase words and write them over. When using ink on paper if a mistake is made anyone reading it can see there is a mistake unless the entire page is completely rewritten. I remember having to type papers on an electric typewriter in high school. We had correction ribbon but it never quite worked right. So, if I made a mistake, I would more than likely have to type the entire page over again. I could try to use white out, but it wasn’t readily available and it tended to make things look messy anyhow. It seemed that if I ever moved the paper from the typewriter carriage it would never line up with any of the words properly, so it meant retyping a page.

When I was in college, the world of writing had moved into the dawn of word processing programs. There was Word Perfect and various other word processing and computer writing tools, but things began to standardize when Microsoft Word came out. Word is pretty much the world standard for writing papers today, or is it? I write my blog posts into my Evernote account and they are then accessible from every device that has the Evernote app or access to the web. A lot of people that write for a living use Scrivener and many other organizational writing tools. We seem to be moving away from the large ominous corporate behemoths like Microsoft and writing anywhere at any time misstake free!

Writing is the same but we are free to write any way our brains tend to process information. Let me give you a personal example. I hate outlines. There, I said it and I stand behind it. I probably have some old English teachers turning over in their graves right now. I don’t like to free write either. Some people can just write and write without a thought about spelling and grammar as they feel that it frees up their mind and they can go back and correct mistakes after they have their great thoughts down on paper. I process things first (mull things over in my mind for a while- – this can sometimes be for a week or more), then I sit down to write. I edit as I type and there is an inner dialogue that goes on in my mind. I am actually saying the words in my head and at my lips without moving my lips. If I don’t like something, or I type something incorrectly, or if something doesn’t make sense, it gets edited immediately. 

Writing for the World

Personally, I think that the greatest change in writing is that of audience. In my blog alone I am writing for a worldwide audience. I would like to think that most of my audience is made up of other teachers who may be looking to learn something new or teachers who read what I write and come to the conclusion that they can do a better job than that guy, but I also know that there are pre-service teachers who are reading this right now and asking, “can I really take the risk to put something that unpolished out there for the world to see?” Hey, I’m not perfect. I do, however, enjoy writing. I just never thought that I would be writing to be able to understand myself better or that my audience might be other people in the field of education.

I believe that I learn the most from my writing. Writing is my way of reflecting on things that have my mind in a tizzy or ideas that might actually be half-baked. Writing also allows me to see if I understand something clearly and from that see things that I do not understand so clearly. Our students can take their ideas to the world at large to get feedback, constructive criticism, to move people, to persuade people, to understand others in far off places, or to share their understanding of the here and now. Young people today can start a movement through writing. 

The written word is the same today as it always has been, but the words that we write can have a far greater impact without the need to be great or famous. I love the written word! Old or new I love to read the written word. Now, because I can write in a style that is comfortable to me, I love to write. My only hope is that my words make sense and that my words are helpful to someone else.

What do you think about writing? Do you feel that your writing could have a positive impact on someone? Is writing truly reinvented?


The Search for 21st Century Pedagogy and Minecraft in the Classroom

Right from the start I will state that as a teacher and life-long learner I am not an expert at any one thing but that I have knowledge of and interests in many different things. My university adviser used to call this type of teacher a generalist. I would like to eventually get an EdD but try as I might, it would be very difficult to specialize in the general. I hope I haven’t lost you yet.

Doctorate Degree

For the past couple of weeks I have been dwelling on an image that Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) uses in his book Digital Leadership. The image has 21st Century Pedagogy at the center of a web diagram take a look at the image here. I am still wondering what a 21st Century Pedagogy is?

Why is This Important?

I know that many of you might be thinking, don’t worry about it, just go with the flow, or golly gee willakers man it’s summer! Well, for me and the students I will be serving in the future it is very important. Is there a true 21st Century Pedagogy? What is going to help me help my students become the best that they can be? Along with Mr. Sheninger’s book I have been reading Dr. Steve Wheeler’s (@timbuckteeth) posts on his blog Learning with e’s. Steve’s last fifteen posts each center on a different pedagogy. There are so many different pedagogies that my head is spinning just trying to keep them all straight. Add to that the Digital Overload I blogged about last week and, BAM! Instant headache Batman.

MinecraftEDU in My Class?                                                                    MCEDU

Why not? I believe that Minecraft (MC)  can and should be used in at least one class per year. The pixelated block sandbox game designed by some Swedes is super awesome! At my house the two youngest kids (ages 6 and 8) have been playing the game for about six months. The impact it has had on my kids as consumers of information and creators is nothing short of amazing. The conversations that we have around the supper table have changed. We now hear words like spawn, ether, mobs, biomes, armor, health, creation, design, recipe, and creeper. The kids are also researching videos to learn about others who have embraced MC (these of course have to be approved by mom or dad). Their spelling has improved. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing my six year old so excited about her “creation” that she is showing me, except when she gets to introducing me to her tamed wolves and self corrects the spelling of the name she gave to one! My son is so excited that we spend time looking for family friendly servers to play in multi-player mode, and he wants to create MC videos to put on YouTube.

Minecraft EDU is a version of regular MC that can be controlled by and designed by teachers. It also has a store house of lesson plans and its own Wiki. As a humanities teacher, I love the World Of Humanities lessons as it is a ready built world that kids can be directed through and teacher created creativity can be added. 

But I Heard You Were Teaching Religion

Yes I will be teaching religion, but I will still use MC or MinecraftEDU. How? I haven’t figured out the particulars yet, but I have this vision of my kids going through the Book of Exodus and designing and collaborating on designing the world as Moses and the people of Israel saw it. But, you don’t want to turn religion into a game. I know, but what’s wrong with using a game that has kids using 21st Century skills and tools to better understand the BC world and scripture? Nothing. 

Of course, the results will come out this coming school year and I will have to process through the entire process, standards, and assessment pieces, but I’m still going to use it to get kids hooked on sacred scripture. What are you going to do to get kids hooked into your class?

Digital Overload: Have I Reached My Potential?

I am a digital leader and a teacher or lead learner and I need help finding my niche in the educational universe. I feel overwhelmed by information. This coming fall, I will begin teaching full-time again after a five year hiatus. I can use and share any web 2.0 tool because I’m not afraid to take risks, try them out, and learn how to use them in the classroom. I skim through A LOT of information on a daily basis. My twitter feed is constantly notifying me of updates, I check Feedly every morning as I enjoy my cup-o-Joe. I re-tweet things that sound interesting and favorite things that are neat, cute, or should be followed up on later. I have IFTTT shunting information around from various accounts to various repositories (Diigo, Pocket, and Evernote) with the idea that I will follow up on it later. The thing about all of this is that I am never able to get around to revisiting my “saved for later” materials.

Left Unchecked and Floundering check_mark_green* Public Domain

With that being said, I rarely get around to checking Facebook, Google+, my Scoop.It information, Paper.li, Pinterest, Rebel Mouse, Tumbler, Zite, Flipboard, reddit, Goodreads, or various podcasts. See, I know how to use all the tools, but I just do not know how to manage it all. I don’t know how the #EduRockStars out there manage all of their incoming digital media sources. This may be exactly why many teachers and administrators are fearful of getting involved with social media. It can definitely be stressful and a bit daunting.

A couple of nights ago I was involved in one of the regular weekly edchats and I remember stating to my colleagues that I have given up things that I used to enjoy doing like fly tying or working with medieval miniatures, to engage in educational research via social media. Now don’t get me wrong here, I love learning, it is my passion, but I am beginning to wonder if we can succumb to a passion too much? Am I trying to do too much in the limited time that I have, or do I simply need to have someone teach me how to manage it all? I really hope that someone can offer to teach me how to become a better manager of my social media information work flow and maximize my learning potential.

21st Century Pedagogy

All of this pales in comparison to trying to understand 21st Century pedagogy. Here are a few things that I know about and want to implement in my new teaching role:

     1. Standards Based Learning/Grading
     2. 3PIBL (Project, Passion, Problem, Inquiry Based Learning) – Thanks @SKwikkel for the 3PBL
         idea, I modified it though.
     3. Gamification
     4. Game Based Learning
     5. Personalized Learning
     6. Portfolios
     7. The Maker Movement
     8. Coding
     9. Minecraft EDU
     10. Digital Citizenship

When I started to write this, I had no idea that I would be coming up with one of those “ten lists” that come up in various blog posts throughout the year. This has put an idea into my mind about the possibility of blogging about my understanding and resources for each topic over the course of this summer. Will this year be perfect? Yes and No. Yes it will be perfect because I get to spend my days touching the future, but no it will not be perfect because I do not have a firm grasp on the pedagogy. I know going in that I will struggle, and even (gasp) fail at something. After all I cannot do everything and I am far from perfect. I guess that the best I can do is model perseverance, model my thought processes on learning, and try to have as many meaningful/authentic experiences for my students as possible.

I don’t even want to get started on listing all the books on my summer reading list. They are all, with the exception of one, based on content, pedagogy, or leadership. My reading of science fiction and fantasy went out the door last year when I never completed the list and pile of books I accumulated for my summer PD reading.

Where is the Pedagogy?

I joined a book chat a couple weeks ago centered around Eric Sheninger’s (@NMHS_Principal) book Digital Leadership which is awesome, but I became confused by the following diagram:

21st Century Pedagogiesby-sa_2.5_80x15
What exactly is the 21st Century Pedagogy or is it the information I listed in one through ten in the above section? And, do learning experiences need to include all of these ideas EVERY day? I have many more questions than answers. I am reaching out to my PLN. If you have any answers please, please reach out and offer your advice.