Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

National Poetry Month 2009 4.5 The Fizz

For Bud’s prompt 5, I submit this one inspired as I watched my son immediately dive into his drink after it was dispensed from a soda fountain machine.

The Fizz

He likes to drink the fizz

            From the top of pop

Fizz! Fizz! Fizz!

            His eyes bulge

His lips pucker

Slurp! Slurp! Slurp!

            And a grin

His eyes twinkle

His lips curl at the edges

He’s captured the fleeting effervescence

            Of bits of dancing bubbles

Too quickly the fizz flattens and flees

            Into the air

Like the breath of youth

            Which, once exhaled,

            Becomes the vapor of memory

In the mind of a father


April 5, 2009 Posted by | poetry | Leave a comment

National Poetry Month 2009 4.4 Bottles

This poem, while inspired through the  photo prompt, stands well alone and is better with it. In response to Bud’s prompt for today, I thought I would experiment with structure, form, and meaning even more.

As an English teacher I sometimes find it annoying when writers seemingly leave us in the dark, grasping to find the light they may have only seen. This feels particulary true with poetry and often shows up in the popular attitudes that poetry is inaccessible only to a few learned so as to not be understood,  or that it is pedantic and trite  warranting no further intellectual investment. As a a result, poetry has lost its place among everyday people and I find that very disturbing on so many levels.

Anyway, I digress. In the poem below, I have deliberately played with the structure intending each though to be encapsulated in the three lines in the 1-2-3 form. That form has multiple meanings for me (and I hope for the reader): person-other-whole; you-me-us; creator-created-creation; and, well, you get the point. Additionally, the poem stands as a whole when read traditionally left to right, but each column is intended to be a complete poem in itself representing another perspective or dimension of the idea. The last phrase ends two of the four poems and can end the first and second column poem as well.

I didn’t intend to write it like this from the begining, but after the 6th line, I really didn’t have a choice. I hope you enjoy it.


Photo Credit: gierszewski via Bud Hunt

Photo Credit: gierszewski via Bud Hunt

     With intention
            Filled with purpose
     Life flavors 
            Our experience splashes
     In moments
             Of human hues
     For us
            Revealed by others
     Fleeting feelings
            And subtle shades
     Unique contrasts
            Illuminated in prisms
     To be
            Filled with light
     Wholly made
            As is intended

April 4, 2009 Posted by | poetry | , , , | Leave a comment

National Poetry Month 2009 4.3 No Time

Bud’s Prompt 3 led me to compose this one. If I had more time, I’d make it better ;-D If you want to make it better, feel free and count that as your National Poetry Month exercise for the day.

Without time for a poem
Our minds will stop growin’
The rub, while not right,
Is that even to write
Doesn’t stop time a goin’

April 3, 2009 Posted by | poetry | , , , | Leave a comment

National Poetry Month 2009 4.2 A Book

In response to Bud’s prompt 1

A Book

A book
Full of words
Line by line
The story revealed

A book
Pages numbered
Turn by turn
The story told

A book
Letter by letter
The story crafted

The page
Contains its lines

The lines
Contain their words

The words
Without their links
Before and aft

Each word hangs on the next
As each breath mists into another
Each grows
As the days grow to weeks
And the weeks to months
And the months to years
And the years
A lifetime

The letter second
The word minute
The sentence day
The page month
The chapter year
The book lifetime

Authored artfully
Made meticulously
Crafted carefully
Composed consciously

As randomness contradicts purpose
So does meaninglessness life

The chapter complete
In its number
Fails the book
In its sole telling

The sentence powerful
In its wholeness
Fails the story
In its only completeness

The word essential
In its purpose
Fails the sentence
In its isolation

The letter necessary
In its formation
Fails the word
In its scrutiny

The letter makes the word
The word makes the sentence
The sentence the page
The page the chapter
The chapter the story

To disentangle a sentence from a book
May reveal a morsel
The sentence hangs in the air
But a brief moment
Revealing itself
Hinting at its purpose
In the grand design

But it falls
Lifeless as a petal plucked

Its purpose lost in the extrication and isolation
Pointless parsing
The whole lost
On one

April 2, 2009 Posted by | poetry | , , , | Leave a comment

Education Bears the Brunt of Colorado Budget Cuts

Everyone is falling on hard times. I get it. People are losing jobs, consumer spending is down, tax revenue collections are down, and the Colorado has an almost $632 million shortfall for the current fiscal year 08-09 with a potential $385.5 million shortfall for 09-10. I get all that, too. But, here’s a few items I don’t get:

  • From Governor Ritter’s State of the State address on January 8, 2009: “I’ve seen the promise of Colorado in every corner of our great state, in classrooms…the best economic strategy is an education strategy…we can’t shortchange hope…Now, more than ever, we must focus on policies like this, which will help us rebound from the downturn and put us back on the path to prosperity.”
  • Of the $201.1 spending reductions and program cuts, k-12 and higher education shoulder ($45.8 million+ $30 million= $75.8 million)  or 37.7%, larger than any other area, according to his budget balancing plan.
  • Of the $289.7 million in transfers and diversions to the general fund, The Higher Education Maintenance and Reserve Fund will lose $47.2 million, again, larger than any other area.

Add those two together and education in Colorado is out $123 million of the $631.9 million, 19.5%, this year alone. This is the “best economic strategy” the governor can propose? Really?

So now, schools (here and here) and colleges (here and here) are left to sort out the mess. We get to do more with less. (Yes, more, didn’t you see that enrollment is up nearly 2%?) What it certainly feels like is that education only really matters when politicians want to introduce “bold education-reform legislation.” By sacrificing education on the political altar, disguised as “protecting life, safety and public health,” Governor Ritter is doing exactly the opposite and revealing that he and all those who support such cuts are actively pursuing the destruction of public education, despite what their press releases say. And when the terrible test scores start coming in and the dropout rates continue to rise and kindergarteners enter first grade miserably prepared and those who do graduate from high school find themselves ill-prepared for post-secondary education or careers; it won’t be the politicians who bear the wrath of public discontent, but those ridiculous educators who need to reform but just aren’t willing to do it. 

So much for “push[ing] hard against the status quo and creat[ing] a bold new vision for education in Colorado,” right Governor? So much for your “moral document” reflecting our values (6th paragraph on page 4). I have a hard time reconciling your actions (especially when you use education as a political tool) with the “sacred trust” you mention at the beginning of your State of the State Address. Perhaps what would be truly bold would be to stand resolute and not cut a single dollar from the State’s education budget, in any form, this year or any hence. That, Honorable Governor, might be the only way we can truly believe you when you say, “Our children deserve nothing less than a world-class education.”

January 17, 2009 Posted by | Education | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New (Old) Component of Postsecondary Readiness

If you’ve lost track of the ongoing conversation, especially here in Colorado (but generally across the US), about college and workforce readiness. There’s been lots of buzz about it. The Colorado Department of Education is town hall forums meetings all over the state. All this, you may recall is a result of Senate Bill 08-212, the “Preschool to Postsecondary Education Alignment Act” also known as the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4Kids) legislation introduced by Governor Ritter. According to one CDE news release,

The town hall forums will focus on such questions as:

  • What do students need to be workforce ready?
  • What do students need to be postsecondary ready?
  • Are there special considerations for the workforce or higher education in your region of the state?

S.B. 08-212 requires that the Colorado State Board of Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education adopt a description of “postsecondary and workforce readiness” by Dec. 15, 2009.

Further, S.B. 08-212 seeks to establish a seamless pathway from preschool into college or the workplace. Essential to that pathway is an understanding of what it means to be ready for education or the workforce after high school and a plan to ensure that students take the necessary courses and master the content to do so.

These are good questions, no doubt, but CDE is missing a critical element, a new (old) component of postsecondary readiness…


I don’t mean how much all this legislation is going to cost. (That’s a whole post in itself.) I mean the cost of going to college. Consider an article from today’s New York Times that reports “…college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent.”

Sure, we need to prepare our kids for postsecondary and workforce readiness; I’m not arguing that -yet. But, once we get them ready -especially for college -then what? Student loans, multiple jobs, navigating college over 6-7 years, scholarships and grants (not for all)? Not likely, probable, viable, sustainable, or practical. How many financial crises do we need in this country until we learn massive debt is NOT a good thing?

Unfortunately, massive debt is what we are really making our kids ready for as long as postsecondary education is a commodity to be brokered on capitalistic terms. That is our fundamental problem at the intersection of democracy and capitalism. We simply want postsecondary education for all, but we really can’t provide it for all. We can’t pay for it because we have to pay for it. No government “ism,” assistance programs, or bailout plans are going to help; no legislation introduced by and governor, president, mayor, or whomever will make a difference until we decide that education is a fundamental right for everyone. We’ll fall miserably short of our readiness goals until we restructure our social, economic, political, and cultural priorities to make it happen.

December 5, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I (We) Can’t Go It Alone

This summer and much of the last 9 months have been one of tremendous personal and professional growth -although I’m not sure there’s really a difference in many cases. The obvious learning is simply encompassed in the title of this post: I (We) Can’t Go It Alone.

Duh, right?

It seems obvious especially in for those of us in the blogosphere and in education and in just about any human endeavor. However, I (and I suspect a few of the “we” out there) must continually have this lesson reinforced. Too many times I get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent and pull back from my various support networks only to find myself realizing that I need those very people to move forward. Here are two reflections with that idea in mind. I had what I thought was an insightful post about about personal learning networks (PLN) and the testing and evolution of ideas, but I deleted most of it in favor of the following.

The first is the life the post before this one took on. Like many posts on this blog (and comments on others’ blogs), I felt the need to respond to something. I didn’t intend to write a post that more than tripled the average hits on my blog. I simply needed to express an idea in a sort of fit of reflection. I was testing a thought out. You can see by the comments there that others have extended and challenged my thinking. I am better because other have made me better. That happens because a collective “we” are online and it’s humbling, exciting, and wonderful to be part of the conversation.

Which brings me to my second item, a poem, which was, in a bit of synesthesia, inspired by a hearing quote attributed to Will Rogers while I was flipping through the tabs I had open of blogs I was reading. I often write poems, but they are an intimate form of writing and thinking for me and I’m a little reluctant to reveal some of those elements of my thoughts and personalities most times. Maybe it’s really because they are terrible and I’m willingly blind to that fact and I don’t want someone to point that out to me. Anyway, here’s the quote that inspired the poem, which follows that. The poem is, as of now, untitled. I hope if it’s good or bad, you’ll let me know. Linking to it if you find it good and if you think it bad, sending me a direct message to @RickTanski on Twitter-so no one else can see my public Internet failure ;^D. Also, if you’d like to suggest a title, post a reply and extend my thinking.

“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” -Will Rogers

To go on so and others deny
Down paths apparently clear
Follows the way Icarus did fly
With motives we think sincere
So like his lofty wings of wax
Pride-melted more than sun
We pay our independence tax
Levied against the one

To see the future uncertainty
Of dimly shadow-cast years
Gives us pause in the alacrity
Firing fiercely our fears
In imperatives to succeed
We consider it wise
To stop sowing important seed
And gorge ourselves on lies

In our veiled appeals for ways made safe
We realize the road’s been blocked
Prudence rules rightly, though she may chafe
Our thinking now, locked and hocked
Venture not down this fear fueled route
Children with little sense
Plainly the hidden truth comes out
They think us all just dense

Further fuel we add with speech made cheap
For outside the times fly there
With us inside time is wont to creep
Here transformation is rare
Sedately seeming standing still
At us they legislate
Righteous and raucous rail we will
Yet moving much too late

Disbelieved we are still doomed to be
Unless we realize this fact
More In others’ wisdom we must see
In our favor that is stacked
To go on and others accept
We build on their success
And then the truth cannot be kept
To grow more means us less

July 27, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BLC08 Excerpts -Tainted by Digital Racism

Alan November‘s Building Learning Communities conference in Boston, MA started for me on Tuesday with a pre-conference session with him about leadership. As I look over my personal notes, I have almost nothing there. That’s because I happened to sit at a table that Alan assigned to manage/edit a Google Doc. If you (do or don’t) know anything about Alan’s Students as Contributors approach, he had some of us participate along those lines. It was great stuff and I actually have never been so worn out from a conference session. That’s great stuff, really. It was also an extremely effective way to model his aprroach. I think he has plans to publush the Google Doc, but If you’d like an invite, send me your email and I’ll get you one.

On Wednesday I got to hear (in person) Ewan McIntosh. He’s a challenging and thoughtful educator who actually wants us to focus on the teaching and learning -with web tools, if necessary, but not exclusively and certainly not at the exclusion of deliberate and purposeful thought. His thoughtfulness came through in his post-keynote session to his respose when asked what “effective technology use” looks like. His response was elegantly complicated: there’s no one way; it depends on what the teacher hopes to accomplish. These aren’t his exact words, but I believe the paraphrase encapsulates the thinking there.

Earlier today John Davitt delivered his keynote about everything and nothing in a sort of stream of consciousness approach. His British wit, subtle and engaging, left the gears turning. For a bit of “what if” be sure to check out his Learning Event Generator on his main page. If you have some of your own, find his contact information there and send him an email.

Later I attended a Marc Prensky session titled “The Death of the Classroom and the Rebirth of Learning in the 21st Century: How Technology Changes the Meaning of Teaching.” Especially in the past few years I’ve read Prensky, read what others have said about, but never heard him directly. Now I have. [Warning: Fit ahead in case you’ve missed the blog title above. I may have to apologize for being critical, but I can’t let some of these things go.] I’m not sure my personal opinion matters too much, but I was, on a fundamental level, offended.

I regularly use my laptop to gather some background information on a speaker and this time was no exception. I found Marc Prensky’s site and clicked on his blog link. At first I thought I was having connection troubles because no headings came up and no recent entries, but that’s how it shows up. I’m not sure if he’s changed his blog lately, but articles can only be accessed by the archive link. I couldn’t use the link at the bottom to subscribe either. Okay, we all have tech issues sometimes.

Prensky has lots of experience behind him and has received a certain amount of attention for the Digital Native/Immigrant ideas. Far too many people absolutely stuff themselves with this artificial, divisive, and damaging distinction. Several, including George Siemens, Jamie McKenzie, and Gary Stager, have been critical of the distinction and David Thornburg even apologized for using it. One of my issues here is that by setting groups against each other with this kind of language only serves to widen a divide between teachers and their kids, producing at best, adversarial relationships founded in insecurity and assumed expertise. Additionally it provides some with excuses not to change by allowing them to sit back and point at the “immigrants” and how there’s so much to know so why bother at all. Further, any kind of language which has such polarity becomes prejudicial, judgemental, and discriminatory. Immigrant/Native language smacks of racist talk and all we have to do is look to most any example from history to see categorizations have significant negative impacts for the categorized. By the way, teachers who struggle with new technologies are not new: did anyone else help out with the film projector, slide projector, opaque or ditto machines? I mean all the Web 2.0 items are projectors in themselves, right? I wonder if there are any documented cases of some student helping her teacher out with that new fangled fountain pen? Nothing new, Mr. Prensky.

He calls himself a visionary and futurist but used a PowerPoint with distracting animation, overused sounds, and far too much text which he often rushed through to plug his upcoming sessions. Has he read Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen? How many of us have worked with kids who discovered animation and sound effects but didn’t realize how distracting they were and counseled (taught) them they could do better? The horns and excessive buzzes were annoying and many times condescending because we ignoramuses obviously couldn’t get the point -maybe because we hadn’t finished reading the slides. I also found it ironic hypocritical that for all his proclamations of the death of the classroom and teaching -gravestone graphic included -he still found it necessary to address us, via direct lecture and 20th century PowerPoint. Revolutionary…

Despite all these things, he received quite an ovation from a very crowded room. And, as people dispersed I heard many accolades and I wondered if some had finally found the excuses they were looking for and were relieved an MBA from Harvard and MAT from Yale told them they didn’t belong in this digitally-racist world and that it was okay because the kids have all the knowledge they need.

As long as educators continue to thoughtlessly buy the immigrant/native schism, they will undermine their own credibility, impair their abilities, and destroy their capacity.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

NECC Days 2 and 3

The past two days at NECChave been full of great learning and excellent experiences. I received a tweet asking our favorite session. I was having trouble deciding on just one, so I responded with several sessions. Most of the sessions have had something to offer, but Chris Lehmann’s School 2.0: Combining Progressive Pedagogy and 21st-Century Tools stood out.

In this packed session (notes below), Chris gave us his take on education first and then took us, as a group, the process of developing an UBD lesson. Along the way he masterfully facilitated the development, asking refining and clarifying questions, redirecting as needed. I could almost put myself into his school and see how he works with his staff through this process. really, really good stuff. I think I want to work at the SLA.

Although they appear below, they bear repeating when considering our approach to education, leadership, and related technologies “Tools don’t teach, but they change the way we teach. AND It’s not about the tool; it’s about the teaching.”

That’s the truth.

One of the other benefits of the session and also the conference is that I got to meet several of the authors of the blogs I read including Wes FryerWill Richardson, Karl Fisch, Bud Hunt, Stephanie Sandifer, Chris Lehmann, and Ewan McIntosh. For all of our online interactions, it’s very nice to shake hands and talk with people face to face.

By the way, before Chris Lehmann’s session ended, Ewan McIntosh had already posted about the session. When Dean Shareski asked how he could post before the session was over, Ewan tweeted in response “McIntosh always posts before the session’s done. I’m tomorrow’s NECC today ;-)” Good humor.

Chris Lehmann’s Session Notes

In our hurry to learn “What’s new,” we can’t lose sight of “What’s best?” Examine using the new tools in a school-wide, constructivist manner.  Recommended by ISTE’s SIGTC



·         We work best and learn best when it matters to us

·         Create caring institutions

o    Who the direct and indirect objects of our sentences are

§  We teach kids first, subjects second

·         It’s not about us

·         It has to be inquiry driven

·         It has to matter

·         It needs to be metacognitive

·         Technology infused

o    Ubiquitous, necessary, and individual

·         It has to be driven by understanding

·         How do we get there?

·         Pedagogy matters a lot

o    (it matters for everything)

·         Progressive teaching

o    Using 21st Century Tools

·         How to prevent Technology Overload

o    What’s good is a better question than what’s new

§  The best one is the one we decide to use

·         5 things for kids

o    Research

o    Collaborate

o    Create

o    Network

o    Present

·         A Convenient and Reasonably False Taxonomy

o    Tools for each

·         Tools don’t teach, but they change the way we teach

·         What are your goals and what tools get you there?

o    It’s not about the tool; it’s about the teaching

·         Understanding by Design

o    How much more could kids learn if they didn’t have to spend all this time figuring out the adults

§  Transparent Learning

o    Step 1: Desired Results

§  What transfer goals and content goals will be met?

§  What should students come away understanding?

§  What essential questions will students explore and address?

§  What knowledge & skills [content] will students leave with?

o    Step 2: Assessment Evidence

§  How do we authentically assess?

§  What performances and products will reveal evidence of understanding?

§  What other evidence will be collected to reflect other Desired Results?

§  (the schools we need) Tests and quizzes are dipsticks to see if kid get the skills

§  (Authentic assessment is not just an end game)

o    Step 3: The Learning Plan

§  What activities, experiences, and lessons will lead to achievement of the desired results and success at the assessments?


July 2, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NECC Day 1

My first day at NECC started with a SIGTelForum: Connectivism, Curriculum, and the Virtual Classroom in 21st-Century Telecollaboration with Manorama Talaiver, Judi Harris, Allison Powell and David Thornburg. Some notes below.

Session Description

How is the read-write Web appropriated for connectivist learning and teaching? What are the implications for teacher knowledge-building, professional development, and assessment? This forum will connect theory with practice to address these questions.


Special Features

·         iEARN –International Education and Resource Network


o    From the About us Page

o    iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) is a non-profit organization made up of over 20,000 schools and youth organizations in more than 115 countries. iEARN empowers teachers and young people to work together online using the Internet and other new communications technologies. Over 1,000,000 students each day are engaged in collaborative project work worldwide.

o    Since 1988, iEARN has pioneered on-line school linkages to enable students to engage in meaningful educational projects with peers in their countries and around the world.

o    iEARN is:

§  an inclusive and culturally diverse community

§  a safe and structured environment in which young people can communicate

§  an opportunity to apply knowledge in service-learning projects

§  a community of educators and learners making a difference as part of the educational process

o    Brief description for linking: iEARN(International Education and Resource Network) is the world’s largest non-profit global network that enables young people to use the Internet and other new technologies to engage in collaborative educational projects that both enhance learning and make a difference in the world. Established in 1988 as a pioneering online program among schools in the the Soviet Union and the United States, iEARN is now active in more than 25,000 schools and youth organizations in 125 countries.

·         GlobalSchoolNet


o    About GSN

·         KidLink



§  Kidlink is a non-commercial, user-owned organization that helps children understand their possibilities, set goals for life, and develop life-skills. 

§  Its free educational programs motivate learning by helping teachers relate local curriculum guidelines to students’ personal interests and goals. Kidlink is open for all children and youth in any country through the age of 15, and students at school through secondary school. Most users are between 10 – 15 years of age. Since the start in 1990, used by children from 176 countries.

§  The Kidlink knowledge network is run by 500 volunteers in over 50 countries. Hundreds of public and private virtual “rooms” are used for discussion and collaboration. Information is available in over 30 languages. Statistics.

Assessment and Supervision of Online Teachers

-Allison Powell, Vice President NACOL


NACOL Standards



Education in the Post-Digital Age

-David Thornburg

·         OR Going Back to Tomorrow: Leaping Past the Future

·         In the beginning

o    Mainframes

o    Dumb Terminals

o    Smart Terminals

o    Truly Personal Computers

·         Where are we headed

o    From Personal Computers to Networked Personal Computers

o    Online Applications

§  Smart Terminals

o    Dumb Terminals

§  With built in web client connected to distributed servers

o    Will we leap past the future?

·         Entering the world of Cloud Computing

o    The network is the computer

o    What happens when bandwidth approaches processor speed?

·         Thinking Influenced by

o    Lev Vygotsky

o    Henry Jenkins

o    George Siemens

o    Pierre Levy

·         Technology as a pedagogy amplifier

o    Stand-alone computers support Piaget’s cognitive constructivism

o    Networked – Vygotsky

o    Seymour Papert

·         Reality of the Cloud

o    Beyond hardware

o    Knowledge lies outside ourselves

o    Thoughts exist in space and time

o    Learning is a network forming process

o    Our view comes from node

·         Pierre Levy

o    Everyone knows something; nobody knows anything; what anyone knows can be tapped by the group

·         Networked Learning  is about

o    Connections, not just content

o    Connections between nodes builds understanding

o    Moves beyond content and concepts to causes

·         Groups and Networks

o    Different

·         Rhizomes vs Trees

o    Deleuse and Guattari

o    Hierarchical vs Non-hierarchical

o    Hierarchical impose structures

o    Non-Hierarchical reveal structures

·         Henry Jenkins Participatory Culture

o    Affiliations

§  Second Life

§  Orkut

o    Circulations

§  Blogging –Introduces concept of beta reader

§  Podcasting

§  Skype

o    Collaborative Problem Solving

§  Cmap

·         Can put inside own firewall

§  Wikipedia

§  Moodle

o    Expressions

§  Fan Fiction

§  Flickr

§  Scratch

§  YouTube

·         Today’s Learning Space is all the above

·         Small World

o    Six degrees of separation

o    The power of the network increases as the square of the number of users

o    Powerful jumps when every student has networked computer

·         Are Schools Ready? [No]

o    Bandwidth limited

o    Many ban blogging

o    Many ban social spaces

o    Filters are mandated


Connectivism, Curriculum & Telecollaboration: Shifting Knowledge

Judi Harris, School of Education, College of William and Mary

·         Her site







common goals

competing needs

global view

local view





o    Happens via networks

·         Telecooperative VS Telecollaborative



June 30, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment