I am a high-school teacher who really loves teaching and really loves computers. The digital revolution has resulted in amazing tools that have helped me immensely in the classroom. The internet revolution has put me and my students in touch with seemingly unlimited resources that have informed and enriched the classroom. The social media revolution is just underway, and it may prove to be even more disruptive to long-standing practices and attitudes in the classroom.

I am proud to be currently enrolled in a graduate program from which I hope to learn how to work with this new revolution as fruitfully as I have with the preceding ones. And who knows what effect this revolution, and my graduate program, will have not just on my classroom, but on my own profession. Disruption does not have to be a bad word.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WWW Drive

All the files I have generated in the course of my Master's Degree program are located on Google Drive. Sometimes this is required because there will be collaborative writing or editing of documents, or because an instructor wishes to leave comments on a document. Until recently, I have been able to host web files from Google Drive as well. This was really convenient - I could set up the folder structure to deliver images, script files (CSS, JavaScript), and what-have-you, and have an index.html file as a starting point. I was not building websites per se, but wanting to occasionally present web information in HTML format. Last year Google stopped hosting files, and I knew I wouldn't be able to do anything about it until this summer. There were a lot of broken links out there for me to fix!

If I were hosting complete websites, the normal approach would be to pay a hosting service for some server space. This would provide storage, hosting, and other administrative services. My needs are much more modest. For me one obvious solution would be to use a cloud storage service, like Google's or Amazon's, transfer my files over, and host from there. The monthly fee wold depend on the amount of storage I needed and how often the files were accessed. In my case, this would amount to pennies per month probably, a dollar or two tops. At some point it would make sense to handle my whole web presence (and my wife's) this way, but I wanted a quick solution so that my graduation portfolio would be up and running.

I have opted to experiment with an interesting solution called WWW Drive. This is a free service that allows me to keep all my folders and files right where they are on Google Drive (it works with Microsoft OneDrive too). After I've signed in to Google Drive and given permission, WWW Drive looks for public HTML files in my Google Drive. It then gives me a permanent URL to use instead of the Google Drive URL. In a browser, the Google Drive URL results in a view of the HTML text and an offer to download the file. But the WWW Drive URL results in a rendered web page, just like Google Drive used to do.

Here's a web app I built as a course assignment. The files involved are all stored on Google Drive. I have a public folder called Rocket. This is what WWW Drive found and gave me a URL for. In that folder is the file index.html, which is rendered automatically. There are also files held in three subfolders: js, images, and css. I did not have to relocate or rename any folders or files. I did not have to change any code in index.html. Here's the new URL, which you are welcome to click: Or just play with the file embedded below.

The only difference I have noticed is some latency, which is most obvious on my less-than-robust wi-fi. Also, a single line of code is added at the bottom of the HTML file linking to a small JavaScript file. It's a Google Analytics tracking snippet.

I can't tell you how WWW Drive works or whether there are security issues. What I CAN tell you is that it works like a charm.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Here at the ILT program at UC Denver there is an emphasis on effective design. There is a set of basic design principles taught in each class, summed up with the acronym CARP. It stands for Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity. Go ahead and Google it – there are a zillion ways available to describe, explain, and illustrate these principles.

But why CARP? CARP is certainly shorthand for something – the premise is that by following these principles, your design will be “correct” or “good” in some sense. There must be some fundamental mechanism at work, though, undergirding these principles.

Consider any document that you design. What are you trying to do with it? You are trying to communicate, at least initially. Perhaps you are trying to sell something, or convince someone of something. In my case, I am always trying to teach something. I need to consider how a person learns and try to align my document with how learning works.


There are two aspects of learning that I want to address here. One is the broad principle of engagement. Without engagement, your document is effectively ignored. Without the right kind of engagement, your document will be less effective as a teaching medium. Visual clutter and confusion, for instance, creates a kind of anxiety as the eye tries to figure out where to go. This is not conducive to learning. Nor are extraneous visual elements which can be entertaining or decorative but also distracting or confusing.

Garr Reynolds presents the CARP principles in the first edition (2008) of his Presentation Zen (p. 153). I think it’s telling that he replaces CARP in his second edition (Presentation Zen Design, 2013) with principles related to beauty, balance, and harmony, states of mind conducive to learning (p. 221). Not coincidentally, these principles are applicable to digital modes of presentation, like video, audio, and synchronous eLearning, for which the CARP principles may not apply as readily.

Coherence and Structure

The second aspect of learning I want to address is an aspect that concerns me as a physics teacher. It is possible to teach physics as a collection of vaguely related topics and practices, but I prefer to teach physics by constantly referring back to the coherent series of basic concepts on which it is built. When I design a document for my students, I try to be careful about what my design implies. Is it implying a connection where there is none, or is it implying levels of organization that do not, in fact, exist? Or does the design reflect the coherence and structure in physics that I hope my students can sense?

Microsoft’s PowerPoint is a common document format, a tool that seems to result in notoriously incoherent design. A classic critique of PowerPoint design is Edward Tufte’s essay, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (2006). Tufte explains in detail the kind of structural incoherence that can come about when a designer does not pay attention to structural levels of information.

A designer needs to know that all graphic elements carry information, not just in the literal sense (these letters form a sentence which can be understood) but in a structural sense. When a font changes color, for instance, the brain is alerted to the possibility of a new level of information for the literal text. Consider, for instance, what happens when text in a blog post changes color to indicate that the text is a hyperlink. Or consider, as Tufte does, what it means to create bullet points. Bullets are not just a graphical device for separating text. Bullets are like the headings in an outline. They indicate levels of organization arranged coherently according to some principle or concept. Hinting at organization when in fact what you are presenting is arbitrarily arranged causes confusion. It does not create a frame of mind conducive to learning.

It can take a lifetime to discover and absorb the principles of how a person learns from a document, and how that learning can be augmented or interfered with by the graphic design. With the easily remembered principles of CARP, a designer at least stands a chance of producing attractive and effective presentations without having to become a metaphysician of design, communication, and learning.


Reynolds, G. (2014). Presentation zen design: Simple design principles and techniques to enhance your presentations (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Tufte, E. R. (2006). The cognitive style of PowerPoint: Pitching out corrupts within (2nd ed.). Cheshire, CT: Graphics.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Community of Practice

A Final Reflection on INTE 5340

I am in my first year as a graduate student, and Learning With Digital Stories was the fourth course I've taken. It has been very interesting being a graduate student - it is unlike any other formal 'student' experience I have had. Here is what I have noticed, a model let's say:
  • I'm expected to learn much of the technical aspects of media production myself.
  • The professor isn't going to tell me how I'm doing. He or she is more likely to help me see what I am doing, and what I could do further.
  • The production of work isn't as important as the critical stance I take in producing the work.
  • I am expected to critique or comment on the work of my peers. The professor will model this activity for us in various ways.
  • I am expected to collaborate with my peers; respond to their critiques and comments on my work, provide encouragement and feedback, and honor my commitments to a group.
  • In these ways I become a model and inspiration for my peers, and they for me.
This course is perhaps more strongly in line with this model than any of the others I've taken. To disconnect from Canvas and use our blogs and Twitter was intimidating but very cool. The only part of Canvas I missed was the threaded discussions (which is hard to do in Twitter), though they did become unwieldy past a certain point. Most importantly, thanks to Lankshear and Knobel's New Literacies, I now understand and can analyze the model above. I see that the model is not ad hoc or accidental, but is a designed approach, a platform, for having us, as graduate students, practice taking on identities as professional academics and technicians. Reading about the graduate class in Chapter 8 made me laugh, because it sounded very much like my experience with my UCDenver SEHD courses.

I learn very quickly, I'm very efficient at it. I've found that the best approach is to fling myself at the work and see what happens. I also employ what I call The Committee of Sleep (which I made a video about for my last course). As an older student who is also an experienced teacher, I have come to appreciate the role I can play as a leader among my peers. I'm not voluble in that role, but the right gesture at the right time can mean the world. So I pick up on the modeling that the professors do, and then keep in mind that my communication with peers is modeling too. (A quick example: when deciding whose work to respond to, I will sometimes look for the student who seems to not be getting a lot of attention and give him or her some comment love.)

My main contribution to this course was in the work product. Like the disc jockey on the radio who has no idea whether anyone is listening, I created my media projects and posted them on my blog and made announcements on Twitter. Anyone who clicked the link and took a look would be rewarded with a multi-faceted project that tried to address the assignment at many levels simultaneously. This is my favorite kind of work, and in this class consisted of taking 'storytelling' seriously and creating traditional and not-so-traditional stories-within-stories, or self-referential stories, or interwoven narratives, or even just a title that was a tiny story. Even my contention that physics is 'story' is heterodox (or eccentric - you decide).

As much as I really enjoyed the media assignments and Twitter camaraderie, my greatest accomplishment in this course was understanding New Literacies. I have copied below a paragraph from each of several weekly Reflections in this course. I think these paragraphs demonstrate a progression in my understanding, and also demonstrate a consistency in what occupies my mind, and how I hope to apply my graduate work in my life.
  • As the school year winds down, my thoughts turn to next year. I want to pursue this idea I have of using story to teach physics - specifically, having the students express physics in their own stories. By reading Lankshear & Knobel on literacy, I think that I may gain a broader perspective on physics-as-story, something along the lines of a physics literacy. (Week 2)
  • Thinking more about next year, I am beginning to understand that teaching my students to use story to understand physics is going to be a multiple-literacies experience. When I imagine what I would like them to do, I see primarily the technical practices: using equations, graphs, diagrams, and charts as parts of a certain way of explaining; using online sites for finding and accessing texts, images, audio and video files, simulations, and models; and using other digital tools for creating presentation material, software like Photoshop and hardware like Smart Boards. In other words, I imagine what it is that I already do, the ways in which I am literate, and how I can model these technical practices for my students. (Week 3)
  • I'm thinking again about the next school year, and about all the instructional materials I'm constantly designing and tinkering with. Of course, this is remix as well. I steal shamelessly from the Internet and from my fellow teachers. I watch how students respond, and re-remix accordingly. The concept of remix allows me to see more clearly how my students, using remix techniques, could improve their ability to "speak" or "write" physics , and I'm eager to try some ideas. I'll be remixing, of course, from materials that already work for me. (Week 4)
  • Here's a question - a lot is written about learning and learners and communities of learners, and almost nothing is written about teaching. In these communities of learners, whether digital and online or not, who are the teachers? And more importantly, who qualifies as an engaging and effective teacher? Exploring this question has been part of my focal theme, not just this semester but for decades throughout my teaching career. In my work this semester, I am acutely aware of being both a learner and a teacher. The learning is in mastering a technique or tool to achieve an end product. The end product, for me, is always an attempt to teach, either overtly or covertly. L&K left a hint in Chapter 7 where they mention mentoring (p. 221), and I hope they enlarge upon this in Chapter 8. (Week 6)
  • It was exciting to read Lankshear & Knobel's final chapter. It left me with a lot to think about, not just concerning different approaches to literacy and learning, but also concerning L&K's language and concepts as tools for analyzing a learning environment. In other words, I'm beginning to shift my focus from the social phenomenon itself to how a social phenomenon can be analyzed. As I pointed out in Week 1, I've never studied sociology, so this has been my first exposure to a sociological study of any social practice. I'm only just now getting a feel for how sociologists see and study the world, and how I, in my small way, could do the same. (Week 7)
By the way, I'd like to point out that L&K did NOT enlarge upon the role of teaching in an overt way in Chapter 8 as I had hoped. They did use an important word in briefly describing the role of the professors in the graduate course (p. 236): elicitive. I liked that - it's a good start.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Learning With Digital Stories - a Curation

It is always a challenge to find a way to present a portfolio that somehow provides a large-scale overview with the possibility for small-scale exploration. When I looked through the Web assignments in the Assignment Bank of ds106, I came across a tool called Kumu. I immediately knew that I would try to use it to present my portfolio. What you see below is my entire work output for Learning With Digital Stories, arranged by category.

You can click on any assignment (the outermost layer of organization) and a box will appear with an image, video, or other link to media content. There will also be a link to the specific entry in my blog. If you look closely, there are a number of assignments connected to their respective nodes with a red connector. These assignments are related to my focal theme, and will be the focus of this curation and the final Reflection.

This has been a course primarily about literacies, so I have organized my commentary into four sections; media literacy practices, social media literacy practices, literacy practices associated with my focal themes, and my developing understanding of literacies through the writing of Lankshear & Knobel in New Literacies (2011).

Media Literacy Practices

The most overt aspect of this course centered on the media work the students produced largely through their interaction with ds106. In keeping with the class theme of digital storytelling, I tried to produce media projects that not only told a story but which also had a backstory. I even had the titles evoke some aspect of the story. In the Daily Create called My Classroom (see ds106/daily create/tdc1256 above), I created "openings" in my classroom through which I could view nature (celestial objects in this case). The resulting image tells a story of being confined, or blocked, and of finding relief through possible openings to the outside world. I added a poem which popped into my head about my classroom, which in fact has no windows, a detail that vexes me on occasion. The image also points to a facet of my physics teaching - I am an avid fan of astronomy.

When producing my media work, I made an effort to have "story" happening on different levels. I saw this as part of my overall literacy practice in this course. Producing media also involved technical skill, and this was another kind of literacy. In choosing which assignments to tackle, I looked for assignments that stretched my capability, culminating in my using two media tools that I have never used before (Twine and Kumu) which made use of programming skills (see ds106/Assignment Bank/AB Web above).

Social Media Literacy Practices

All of the assignments in this course were published in my blog. Doing this encouraged me to write, even if the assignment did not require writing, because I have a habit of writing in a blog. This practice resulted in my telling stories, about the assignment itself, about the media produced, or about the backstory. For contrast, you could visit my Flickr collection and see all my visual assignments, but there is little writing. The same is true for my YouTube channel. My practice in both these cases is to use the sites as archives.

My blog developed more of a social aspect as the course progressed. This consisted of comments by classmates, replies by me, an occasional Google recommendation, and my own practice when I write of documenting and linking as much as possible.

Once published, I used Twitter to announce the publication. This is a practice I have used for a long time on Twitter. This time, though, everyone in the class was also announcing on Twitter, and thus we were a community. I was not used to using Twitter in this way, and it was fascinating for me to watch myself learn a new set of practices. It started with Prof Holden favoriting every tweet, a nice bit of modeling. I subscribed to Lisa Dise's Twitter list. I practiced favoriting, retweeting, and replying, trying to understand the subtle differences. I even experimented trying to have a longer conversation, and I tried a technique called "talking to oneself." I also shared outside tweets with the group, and interacted with others outside the group who ended up participating with us.

Our connection with ds106 also had a social practice aspect which started with linking my blog with ds106 through the special class page. This page became a focal point for assignment information, a blog list, and a blog feed. On each assignment page in ds106 there was a way to submit one's work so it would appear in that page, and I made sure that my work was included. Looking at the work of others was both instructive and inspiring - if it seemed that people were having fun with an assignment, I was more likely to join in. When I created my own Daily Create (see ds106/daily create/tdc1303 above) and submitted it, that was my gift back to the community.

Here are a few example interactions:
  • A Twitter conversation.
  • Some retweet encouragement with a classmate.
  • A nice group of comments and replies on one of my blog posts.
  • Two comments on a blog post from people who were not students in the class! Kathy and Mariana were associated with ds106, and they started following and commenting on the work of our class.

Literacy Practices Associated With my Focal Themes

I chose a focal theme, but to be honest, it was not really a choice. I live my focal theme - it's what I do for work, but it is also a practice that I examine critically all the time. I am a physics teacher, and as such I am interested in physics, effective ways to teach physics, and ways of understanding and describing teaching itself. Thus it was not difficult to stay focused on my themes (actually a single continuum in my mind) of teaching physics/understanding teaching. It was in this context that I eagerly joined this course - I regard physics as a great big story.

Any physical phenomenon takes place in time and involves cause and effect. It has a beginning, middle, and end. This is, in effect, a story. My goal as a teacher is for a student to be able to, at least, repeat a story accurately. If the student can reconstruct a story in his own words, that is better. Best is when a student can examine a phenomenon and venture a credible story on his own. Physics also has many technical tools that can be employed in building a story - measuring tools, graphs, charts, and diagrams. Physics also has a variety of story vehicles - equations (very compact stories), text, photos and videos, models, and simulations.

Four of my Assignment Bank assignments were related to my focal theme:
  • My design assignment (see ds106/Assignment Bank/AB Design above) was basically a hand-drawn infographic on how a tiny electric motor works and how to build one. This assignment came directly from my teaching experience.
  • My mashup assignment (see ds106/Assignment Bank/AB Mashup above) was a response to a NASA Twitter stream which I felt was inferior to an ESA Twitter stream in telling the story of their respective spacecraft. I mashed up the NASA stream with a Bill Nye stream to make a point.
  • My animated GIF assignment (see ds106/Assignment Bank/AB AnimatedGIF above) was an exercise in exploring the arrow of time, a thermodynamic concept that can be explored with videos run backward.
  • My web assignment (see ds106/Assignment Bank/AB Web above) was a trial in using Twine to construct an interactive story as a way of explaining the basic physics of rocket flight.

In all of these assignments, I explored or created a physics explanation using a story coupled with a media product particularly suited to the nature of the story.

Four of my critiques were related to my focal theme:
  • My second critique (see INTE 5340/Critique/Critique 2 above) was of a video that came from the PhD thesis of a physics teacher in Australia. His research on videos as instructional tools in physics education was an eye-opener.
  • My fifth critique (see INTE 5340/Critique/Critique 5 above) was by the same researcher above from Australia. He now makes instructional videos professionally, and this was one of his earlier physics videos.
  • My seventh critique (see INTE 5340/Critique/Critique 7 above) was of a highly professional video that told a short fantasy folk tale. In the process, it demonstrated some aspects of momentum and inertia, two physics concepts.
  • My last critique (see INTE 5340/Critique/Critique 9 above) was of an instructional video of projectile motion which I made with my students, employing three media production tools.

These critiques consisted of an examination of media:
  • that informed my understanding of using media in the classroom (Critique 2);
  • that I would actually use in the classroom (Critiques 5 and 7);
  • and that I created in my classroom (Critique 9).

Developing an Understanding of Literacies

Three of my weekly responses to Lankshear and Knobel were related to my focal theme:
  • My Chapter 4 response (see INTE 5340/Response/Chapter 4 above) was an examination of remix practices as applied to how one learns to play music in a social practices setting, and to the music itself. While this would not seem to be related to my focal theme, I use my own example of learning to become a musician as a way to understand how a student could learn physics in my classroom. In addition, I believe that teaching is an act of performance not unlike a musical performance.

  • My Chapter 7 response (see INTE 5340/Response/Chapter 7 above) examined the real-world education that takes place in the technical programs in my school. I described the shops as platforms that allow students to learn in a community of practice.
  • My Chapter 8 response (see INTE 5340/Response/Chapter 8 above) examined my own reaction to a typical packaged classroom project and how I adapted it to act more like a platform and less like a program. I used the language and concepts in New Literacies to analyze this adaptation.

I understood early on with New Literacies that I would be absorbing both new vocabulary and a new way of looking at media practices. In each of my responses:
  • I told a story that set the basis for my response;
  • I applied the language and ideas of the chapter;
  • and I made note of other ideas that stood out in the reading.

A good way to demonstrate my growing facility with New Literacies is to look at my first attempt (in the Chapter 2 response) to apply the language:
I can see that in my classroom I am trying to make my students literate in science generally, and physics specifically. I wish to create a Discourse of science students who can generate and negotiate physics meanings through the media of equations, explanations involving technical vocabulary, diagrams and graphs, digital simulations, and tangible demonstration equipment. In particular, I insist on seeing all of our encoded texts as narratives to some extent, in the belief that narrative, or story, is the most natural and accessible meaning vehicle.
I was rewarded with a nice response from one of my fellow students:
susannahsimmonsJune 20, 2015 at 10:47 PM

I love how you explore your discomfort with our sociology text in the beginning of your writing then take us through your learning journey. You walk us through the points that resonate with you such as "perform" and "orality", but then you take a stab at defining your Discourse as a physics teacher. From my perspective, you define it as beautifully and succinctly as the quote you adore, "socially recognized ways in which people generate, communicate, and negotiate meanings, as members of Discourses, through the medium of encoded texts (Lankshear and Knobel, 50)." Nice work William.
In my last weekly reflection, I mentioned how I was beginning to read New Literacies differently, to move from seeing only the content of the chapters to understanding the construct:
It was exciting to read Lankshear & Knobel's final chapter. It left me with a lot to think about, not just concerning different approaches to literacy and learning, but also concerning L&K's language and concepts as tools for analyzing a learning environment. In other words, I'm beginning to shift my focus from the social phenomenon itself to how a social phenomenon can be analyzed. As I pointed out in Week 1, I've never studied sociology, so this has been my first exposure to a sociological study of any social practice. I'm only just now getting a feel for how sociologists see and study the world, and how I, in my small way, could do the same.

Monday, July 27, 2015

From Sociology to Sociologist

A Reflection on Week 7 of INTE 5340

It was a tough week! There's a two-week stretch every summer where I am responsible for tuning the pianos at three music festivals here in Rhode Island, and this was the first week. I'm driving a lot, tuning many pianos, managing an assistant, and coordinating with production managers. One more week to go!

It was exciting to read Lankshear & Knobel's final chapter. It left me with a lot to think about, not just concerning different approaches to literacy and learning, but also concerning L&K's language and concepts as tools for analyzing a learning environment. In other words, I'm beginning to shift my focus from the social phenomenon itself to how a social phenomenon can be analyzed. As I pointed out in Week 1, I've never studied sociology, so this has been my first exposure to a sociological study of any social practice. I'm only just now getting a feel for how sociologists see and study the world, and how I, in my small way, could do the same.

I posted the following:

I would give myself a 9/10 for the week. I knew that I wanted to try one of the web assignments in the AB, but I also knew that there would be a time-consuming learning curve. I also chose another web assignment tool (Kumu) to begin working on my portfolio for week 8. I've already started climbing that learning curve. I was not planning on doing a Daily Create, but then an idea came to me for one that I submitted to ds106. But it was a tough week - I couldn't spend much time on Twitter with my classmates, and in spite of a decreased assignment load, two of my assignments were late.

Project Push, Project Pull

A Response to Lankshear & Knobel, New Literacies, Chapter 8

It is often impressed upon me in various ways that science education can always benefit by engaging students in science-y projects. I have never been terribly enthusiastic about many of these proposals. Yes, projects are fun, they provide a hands-on experience, but the connection to actual learning is murky. The physics learning standards established by my state may amount to a shopping cart of seemingly arbitrary topics, but I am bound by the standard, so time spent on any project must be pedagogically fruitful in that context. Projects are also promoted as a way to engage students in their learning, but the engagement tends to be based on competition rather than learning. Teaching science with projects seems eminently sensible, so I have found it difficult to fully explain my objections.

If I take the view presented by Lankshear and Knobel in the final chapter of New Literacies, I find that I have access to language and concepts that help me understand my hesitation to adopting projects in my classes. The curriculum that Lankshear and Knobel describe at the Quest to Learn School in New York would appear, at first glance, to be a successful project-based curriculum. Lankshear and Knobel make clear, however, that the education is situated, that the students take on meaningful roles as learners within a community of practice (p. 247). The school uses projects not as part of a program but as part of a platform. In particular, the school uses games as the main platform:
The point here is not that students are learning by playing games as such . . . Rather, the learning principles of games are used to create learning environments . . . (p. 247)

The kinds of projects I object to are projects that do not create an authentic learning environment for my students. These projects are heavily programmed in a traditional 'push' fashion. If a project is seen by the students as simply another assignment, then they are not being engaged by an opportunity to take on identities as learners, to 'learn to be' according to the 'pull' model of Brown and Adler (2008). And once I state this, it becomes clear that the same can be said of any activity I ask my students to engage in; labs, demonstrations, hands-on activities, worksheets. By using games, simulations, models, and stories as platforms, my students can take on more authentic roles as learners.

Here is an example I can describe. NASA, in its role of educator, has a programmed project available for schools that asks students to form teams of 'rocket scientists' with the goal of designing and building a rocket. There is an elaborate collection of activities with role-playing and assignments that can take up to two full weeks or more of class time. The main engagement is through the chance to actually build and launch a rocket and to compete with the other teams. The entire project is very much a 'push' project. The experience of physics teachers before me at my school was one of almost literally pushing students through a process that was viewed by them as inauthentic. What learning was accomplished or reinforced was uncertain. They did enjoy making and launching the rockets, though. The competition part was of much less interest than one might expect.

Based on this reporting, I decided right away to eliminate the inauthentic 'push' elements of the project and focus on the rocket designing, building, and launching. Students are given basic materials, are shown a few example rockets, and off they go. They are allowed laptops to research design ideas, and the rocket building is very much trial and error. They work in teams and keep a close eye on the work of the other teams. Because this is a technical school, students already have a habit and expectation of building or making things on their own. They share their varied skills, and have permission to take their rockets to their shops for raw materials, spray-painting, logo design, etc. The rockets are tested in the hallway, and often it's "back to the drawing board." There is a deadline - the launch day. This happens outside, with multiple classes, and with results that range from spectacular to comical. Everybody is happy, and it's all over in four days.

The students do learn some things about rockets per se, but the rockets are really just a platform the students use to experiment with identities as learners and makers.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

DaVinci Man Waits for the Bus

I woke up in the middle of the night, climbed out of bed, and headed for the bathroom. When I returned, my wife, who was only half-awake, muttered "DaVinci Man Goes to the Bathroom." I figured out what she meant, and starting laughing. She woke up enough to laugh with me. Some of my wife's best material comes when she's half-awake (or half-asleep).

I was able to picture DaVinci Man, or as it is better known, Vitruvian Man, in my mind's eye, walking down the hallway to the bathroom, and I realized that it could be a Daily Create assignment in ds106. I submitted it as a photography suggestion; catch DaVinci Man in a mundane everyday activity. Of course I created my own - DaVinci Man Waits for the Bus.

(My Daily Create suggestion for ds106)