Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

Looking for the 21st Century in a School Supply List

Ah, it’s that time of year when kids lament the impending end of summer, when frazzled parents and care providers look for oncoming respite, when camp counselors and sports clinic coaches heave sighs of relief, when retailers of every kind look to capitalize on three simple words:

Back to School

Duty bound to support their local economies, schools dutifully publish, copy, distribute, post, email, mail, broadcast and anyway possible advertise the pinnacle of educational readiness:

The School Supply List

Please pause and bow your head in solemn reverence…Thank you, continue on.

Without the sacred and all-important School Supply List, many a poor soul would be relegated to shame and Trapper-Keeper (do they even make those anymore) want,  left to navigate a cruel world of humiliation and incomprehensible un-preparedness. Woe to he that lacketh supplies! Woe, woe, woe!

…And that’s if the parent buys the wrong brand of binder or paste when a glue stick is obviously required.

So here I sit with the 2009-2010 School Supply List (only slightly modified since the 19th century) for my son’s 7th grade year. (It’s the actual one.)

-1 box of facial tissue (turn in to homeroom teacher on 1st day of school)
-1 roll of paper towels (turn in to homeroom teacher on 1st day of school)
-One ream of white printer paper (turn in to homeroom teacher on 1st day of school)
-One small package of graph paper (turn in to homeroom teacher on 1st day of school)
-Dry erase markers (turn in to homeroom teacher on 1st day of school)
-Large Binder (3″ or larger)
-Three pocket folders with brads
-8 subject dividers for Binder
-Five 70-80 page spiral notebooks
-College-ruled loose leaf notebook paper
-Pencil/pen bag or case- unless the Binder has one built in
-Blue/Black ink pens (no gel pens)
-Personal pencil sharpener
-24 count Colored pencils for core classes (these are separate from supplies for electives)
-Colored markers
-Red pen/pencil for checking and editing work
-Highlighters (yellow, green, blue, pink)
-#2 wooden pencils (must have for CSAP practice)
-Metal ruler with both standard and metric measurements
-Glue stick
-Scientific calculator (TI-84 if in Algebra I)
-Highly recommended but not required, 512 MB memory stick

I can only assume by the first item that there will be much weeping either because so many trees will have been sacrificed in the name of paper-based education or because the kids have to surrender the first five items to the homeroom teacher on the first day of school. It could also be that kids should have 8 subject dividers but only 5 spiral notebooks and everyone knows that 5 divides into 8 evenly to represent the 4 quarters he has 7 classes each. I mean, duh!

Happily for us, my son apparently can expect to be very organized with his bag case and pocket folders (with brads! -are they related to chads? Hmm, I wonder…)  Organization is a very important skill, one he hasn’t mastered despite heroic attempts every year to manage and file all that paper he’s using.  As his report cards attest, he hasn’t done well in the neat and organized category when compared to all those compliant, neat-writing types who don’t fill the margins of their papers with doodles and comic illustrations.

It seems a little strange that in all this focus on organization, they’re going to ask kids to write on all that unlined printer paper. Hey, that’s what the ruler is for. So they can practice making their own college ruled paper. Absolutely brilliant!

It’s also nice to see an early emphasis on post-secondary preparation by requiring kids to have college-ruled paper.  

I know we’re facing some economic troubles, but in a school that has computer projectors in each room I have to wonder about the dry erase markers. They’re usually four in a pack times 630+ kids, equals lots of un-archived whiteboard writing kids won’t have access to in order to reflect on their learning. Oh! How could I be so silly *that’s* what the 3″ or larger binder is for -to write all that stuff down. I’m assuming my son will use the paper towels to write on and keep like a scroll if his binder fills up. That will test his organizational skills for sure. I don’t want to undermine the organizational educational process, but I’m going to tell him to use his glue stick to keep his papers together.

Although he’s enrolled in a science class, his scientific calculator appears to be destined only for use in Algebra 1.  While we’re on the subject of subject isolation, that must be why he can’t use his colored pencils in his electives. Band and Guitar must require a unique kind -maybe the colored markers.

When I asked for a 512 MB memory stick, the kid at the electronics megastore looked pitifully at me and took his Captain Morgan one off his key chain and gave it to me. Other than that, the only other ones I’ve been able to find are the  novelty ones the vendors gave away at NECC. I’m not sure what my son is going to do with all that space anyway. I don’t think there’ll be much computer use anyway – he doesn’t have a computer class this year.

Let’s review what’s important…*Lots* of paper products; organizational items like folders, binders, and bags; colored pens, pencils, markers, and highlighters; and wooden pencils for standardized test practice -because everyone knows you can’t practice with anything else but a #2 pencil and loose-leaf paper. Well, I’m hoping he won’t need any foam board since it’s not on the list and our local Tar-Mart and Wal-Get didn’t have an opportunity to stock it.


July 23, 2009 Posted by | Education | , , , | 6 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

TxDLA 2008 Conference -Day 1 and A Crazy Man

Today I’m attending the Texas Distance Learning Association Conference in beautiful Galveston, Texas. Alan November delivered the opening keynote and had a follow-up breakout session. At both presentations he rather strongly suggested insisted that we redefine student roles in the classroom. I have included an excerpt from his page below.

Student as Contributor: Digital Learning Farm
Before tractors and combines, more that 60% of the population in North America was involved in farming. Today less than 2% lives of the population works on farms. Farm children made a vital contribution to the family with real chores. While technology eventually eroded the meaningful work of children, we have enough technology today to restore the dignity of real work in school. All of our students can use collaborative online tools and research and global communications skills to add value to the learning community.
These contributions include:
* Curriculum Review Team
* Tutorial Creation/Organizing/Design Team
* Global Communication Team
* Official Scribes
* Resource Finders
* Technical Editors

If you are unfamiliar with Alan November, I would encourage you to check out the November Learning website and all the resources there. I’ve already registered for his Building Learning Communities Conference in July. Alan is crazy. I heard him say so today. And you know crazy people have dangerous, sometimes blasphemous ideas. The excerpt above makes myhis point. That’s dangerous stuff when you think about it. Are we ready to have kids do those things? (For an expansion on those ideas, check out TxDLA’s “blogstress” Harriet Watkins’ post about the keynote.)

As for his blasphemy, he suggested we actually let kids use Wikipedia with all its errors and unreliability! Only he took the insanity one step further when he suggested that we use that type of technology to give our students a global platform for publishing, commenting, and idea refinement. That kind of crazy talk will surely have some reaching for their benzodiazepines. (If you are going to click on that link to see what that word means, you are risking your educational sanity by using an unreliable source even if you get everything you need to know in the first sentence. You’ve been warned!)

Maybe we only want to give lip service to this whole 21st Century Learning stuff. Alan doesn’t. He made his doctoral students actually contribute to a Wikipedia article for their peers to review. Wow! I want to be crazy like Alan November!

March 25, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 2.07.08 –What’s the big IDEA?

As part of the blog and discussions, I have developed some points overall and for each chapter to spark thoughts and conversations. In keeping with the Whole New Mind theme, I call it IDEA. No, not the special education acronym, but one for the book as a whole and then each chapter on the aptitudes.  I ask A Whole New Mind book study participants to consider…


  • Intersection
  • Discovery
  • Examination
  • Application 

For Design

  • Incorporation
  • Democratization
  • Engagement
  • Alignment

For Story

  • Intention
  • Direction
  • Explanation
  • Association

For Symphony

  • Innovation
  • Determination
  • Elevation
  • Assimilation

For Empathy

  • Intuition
  • Demonstration
  • Emotion
  • Amplification

For Play

  • Invigoration
  • Distribution
  • Enjoyment
  • Advancement

For Meaning

  • Implication
  • Discussion
  • Epiphany
  • Analysis 

One of the interesting parts is that any IDEA in any chapter could be applied to any other chapter. I don’t define the bullets very much leaving the connections to the individual members. My goal is to get them looking at each bullet and find intersections of the book and their professional practice, uncover discoveries of ways to engage themselves (and later kids) in the big-picture ideas, examine the way they (and kids) do what they do, and apply all of it in a 21st century (or a Whole New Mind) context. The results are as mixed and as varied as you might think.

As a side note, besides Dan Pink, I have to give credit to Dan Maas who first made a presentation about A Whole New Mind at a CASE conference session that provoked some thoughts that wouldn’t stop needling me. As a result, I read the book and began thinking about the implications for education.  I needed to hear from others and the book study was born. I still need to hear from others, which is why it’s here now.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment