Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Toy Story Generation

toy soldierThe family and I just got back from viewing Toy Story 3 at the Cinema Grill – and it was incredible. By far it was the best of the three films, but mostly because of the first two. Which got me to thinking:

Art Imitates Life - Buzz Lightyear looked more like the toy version sold at Walmart than in the original movie. Maybe it was his movements or just the proportions but Buzz seemed more “marketable”. That’s ok. Even Mickey has aged gracefully.

Characters Drive StoriesPixar has an amazing knack for cranking out quality movies. But what allowed Toy Story to last and brings us back? It’s the quality of the characters. We don’t really care what trouble they get into, we want to see THEM work through it. Great point for any aspiring writers. Plot is important but characters really drive the story.

The Toy Story Generation – I know many kids/students (including my own) who grew up with Buzz and Woody. We’ve even seen Riders in the Sky perform You’ve Got A Friend In Me live. Together, the trilogy also presents a fascinating scope of computer animation evolution. But the Digital Natives are merely recipients. Toy Story is OUR story, the Gen X kids who actually played with all those toys. We created the movies and paid for the tickets to see it.

Which explains why it was so hard to say goodbye at the end of the film. Memories are powerful and as the gang watched Andy drive off, it was like watching an old home movie. Toy Story reflects an idealistic time: MY childhood. So while throngs of teenyboppers tweet and comment about another good movie, I’ll just sit over here and smile, knowing that like Peter Pan, I don’t have to grow up.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Teaching From Memory

Last night a coworker called with a question about advanced formatting features in Microsoft Word 2007. She was combining two different documents but needed the header to be different between them. The trouble came when the second section header started numbering at 2 instead of 1.

The entire process was quickly and easily rectified. My coworker was ecstatic to have the “problem” resolved and I thought it was great that she had checked the Help section and even viewed tutorial clips before calling me. But what fascinated me the most was my ability to resolve the issue OVER THE PHONE WITHOUT LOOKING AT WORD.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What's the Point?

Do you ever wrestle with the BIG questions: why am I here (teaching at THIS school)? What is my rationale? Why do I send my kids here? What do I want my kids and my students to do, achieve, think or believe? That's the peril in having a CHOICE in your education.
Sometimes you just find someone else has said it better than you could have. Check out Greg Herrick's analysis of modern psychology's relationship to an evangelical bibliology. Then temper his academic observations with A.Y. “Fred” Ramirez's critique. Reminds me of something one of my professors said, "theology must be practical."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book Review: Horace's School

Written in 1992, Theodore Sizer's book, Horace's School, Redesigning the American High School presents an amazingly prophetic call for changes to the overall structure of American education. Written in a style that reminded me of Gordon MacDonald's Who Stole My Church? Sizer presents his observations and arguments within a framework of fictional dialog.

The book was easy to read and did not become bogged down with overly scientific observations. There is an intention to the casual, interactive format designed to draw the reader into the argument. It is as if we join the fictional Horace on his professional journey to improve the mediocrity so prevalent in his suburban school.

At the time Sizer wrote, the internet did not exist, but today's increase in online schools appear to be the manifestation of several of Sizer's postulations. Modern technology is poised, indeed has already begun, to address the need of individualized instruction with better cost/benefit ratios. As subsequent generations become more at ease with technological advances, Horace's desire for an Exhibition as the student's primary assessment becomes not only realistic but also almost necessary.

I would recommend this book to anyone concerned about the educational milieu that has become the American high school experience. Educators will find enough digestible substance to contemplate while still presenting enough flavors to whet parents' and school board members' appetite.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Padawan

This picture was taken almost a year ago and their still getting mileage out of it. I love it. My geeky padawan learns quickly.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Foundational Definitions

This summer our school is requiring staff to attend a week of training through The Architecture of Learning by Kevin Washburn. These are simply my personal thoughts and observations as I read the book. The text was required reading for the course.

Introduction: THE FOUNDATION
Defining Teacher and Designing Instruction

The fundamental concept driving this book is that learning is completely dependent on the quality of instruction. Washburn defines learning as "the brain's ways of constructing understanding and forming memories." As teachers, we are responsible to craft or design effective learning opportunities.

How can teachers accomplish this? By better understanding the ways students learn. Through an exploration of neurocognitive research, teachers (and presumably I) will obtain the tools necessary for students to achieve "long-term retention and flexible recall." This is only the introduction, so perhaps the book will answer some of my initial skepticism and questions later.

Initially I find it curious that teachers must acquiesce to students' thinking and abilities. Sure, I prefer hands on experimentation to lectures. Nevertheless, is not learning to understand through a lecture part of my education also? Why do we continue to place students rather than the content at the center of education? It seems convenient to quote Halpern and Hakel in a manner indicating our immediate effectiveness is not quantifiable. When the goal becomes life-long learners, skilled to meet unknown challenges, we may never know how effective a particular lesson was. Unfortunately, teachers are evaluated annually through the contract renewal process and students must pass standardized tests. I look forward to seeing how Washburn reconciles the apparently apposing goals of long-term retention and immediate gratification.