Classical Play Project Redux / 2017 – Increasing Productivity

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The dynamic in this year’s class is very different from last year’s, largely because of size. We went from 22 in the class last year to 7 in this class this year (a bit embarrassing to admit, I agree, but there is a valid reason that it’s that small and that it ran: because of a new scheduling system, 5 students dropped the day before school began because of a scheduling conflict).

So last Friday we had a particularly unproductive day. Now, granted, it was last block on a Friday and we had rotated out on Thursday, so that didn’t entirely surprise me, but it did make me think about my role in productivity and the lack thereof.

We meet in a conference room with a big table that essentially takes up the entire space, with me at the near end of the table and everyone else around (including the other end). But this set up means I have nowhere to go. I have to be at the table with the students; I can’t remove myself to let them work without my (passive) presence. Last year, with 22 in a traditional classroom, I could sit at the back and be out of sight but still within earshot and speak-shot.

So today I figured I would remove myself. I gave the students a few options: I could leave the room entirely and go to the room across the hall, or I could sit at the table with my headphones and be there but shut off. The students came up with a third solution: put me with my back to them in the room at the countertop with my headphones on. So that’s what I did. And it seemed to work out. I didn’t hear much but I could tell by the end that they were much farther along than they had been when we began.

I think we are very nervous about not only letting go but also the perception from others, either fellow teachers or administrators, about the amount that we are working. (I was secretly hoping that an administrator would pop in just for the shock value.) But ultimately we have to do what’s best for the students, and for this project my presence was hindering them. By removing my (figurative) presence, I let them be more productive. And I’m ok with that.

I had one of the students take some pictures of my set-up:


Low-Tech Fun: Senior Project on GoogleMaps

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No, I have not hacked the NSA, nor am I running my own double-top-secret operation. I teach a sibling of a former student this year, and I mentioned to her that I noticed an addition going on the house. I know where she lives because her brother and some friends made a battering ram for their final project for my Medieval Lit class and, since the house is near the school, and I wasn’t sure how admin would feel about a battering ram on campus, we walked to his house to see it. I mentioned this to her and she laughed and said that the battering ram shows up in the GoogleMaps image of their house. Clearly I had to check that out and memorialize my Medieval Lit project’s brief moment of fame.

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An iPad (Pro) Typing Question?

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A question out there for anyone listening. When I type expressions that involve a period (e.g. E.g.), as you can see in the parenthetical there, the letter after the g. Is (again) automatically capitalized. With an onscreen keyboard, I can unshift the keyboard to type a lowercase letter, but on the Apple Keyboard the shift key does not work in reverse that way, I.e. When I try to correct that uppercase E (or I or W), it automatically capitalizes; depressing the shift key only keeps it capital (rather than, in effect, reversing the process. I can, and have, used the copy – paste approach, I.e. Finding a corresponding lowercase letter elsewhere, copying it, and pasting it over the capital letter, but that is of course cumbersome, especially when needed more than once.

Any thoughts out there? Is there a workaround, either simple or complex that I could do? I suppose I could turn off autocorrect? Not sure I want to entirely disable it (depending on the day…).

I appreciate any help, I.e. Thanks. 

Regression? (Or Why I Haven’t Written As Much)

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As my technology use develops, I find myself, well, returning to simpler times. I use whiteboard markers (more). I try to minimize my add-ons / peripherals / accessories. It’s all symptomatic of that finding the right balance between technology and efficiency, or, perhaps better, the balance between short-term efficiency and long-term efficiency.

I’ve returned to Socrative, one of the first inst-assessment tools that I came across (here’s Socrative in this blog). I did some iPad assessments, I did physical clickers (which, I’ll admit, I did like, but, again, too inefficient in the short-term), and I’ve recently been almost exclusively using the assessment tools in ItsLearning, my school’s LMS.

Socrative, however, provides that quick, no-set-up check-in that can be so useful when concluding a lesson or activity, and in the past week I’ve used it twice to survey the class for the results of an activity: once when we matched up Milton’s primary characters in Paradise Lost to modern occupations or roles, and once when my Latin class went around the room to use comparatives and superlatives to find fellow students that fit certain characteristics (one student had a size 15 foot!).

In general, either my technology use has gone down or, at least, it has not moved forward at the rate at which it had, or was, when I began the blog. I’m not a techno-hipster, longing for the days of pen-to-paper; my classes are all very much paperless and we use the laptops every day, but having those laptops in the hands (or on the desks) of students has taken much of the techno-burden off of me, i.e. I don’t have to innovate or find technological workarounds because the students have the tools they need already.

On the one hand, I miss my wild west technology days, when I was trying things to try things, and school would give me things because they knew I’d see how they worked (even if they didn’t work well; and they are still willing to give me things, I might add; there just isn’t as much to give because of the laptops). But I feel more settled, with a plan of both how I want to use technology and how I want my students to use technology.

And for me that’s the important step, that technology is now so ingrained in my teaching that I neither notice it (much) or worry about how to implement it (much). It is for me and my students no different or separate from their notebooks, textbooks, and pencils for many of their other classes.

So, no, I’ve not been updating the blog as much because there hasn’t been much to say. But, yes, I’ve been more content with my technology use such that, well, there hasn’t been as much to say.

Discipline Survey (Demerits)

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A few months ago, the issue of our discipline system came up at a faculty meeting, specifically tardies and the demerits system to address tardies. I decided to poll my students about tardies and demerits and the results are below. (I thought I had posted these already, which is why they’re being posted a few months after the fact.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 3.44.57 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 3.45.07 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 3.45.18 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 3.45.33 PMAn additional open-response question and its responses:

What would or does motivate you to get to school on time?

  • If there was a 5-15 minute grace period before school (start at 7:30 and class starts at 7:45) so people can arrive within that time frame.
    I have a fear of being late to everything, no matter if there are consequences. I would be scared of being late even if there weren’t any demerits. I don’t need any extra motivation to be on time because I am always trying to be on time anyways.
    If i couldn’t play a sport
    Later school start times.
    personally I don’t like how you can be late then give a bs reason and then it is excused. This opportunity allows me to be late whenever I want.
    I feel like a jerk if I am late, and it disrespects the teach/class.
    I don’t want to miss stuff in class.
    food, money
    Not missing anything in class.
    I tend to be 1 -3 minutes late because most of my morning classes take 1-3 minutes to start. I would be on time/more worried about being late if I felt that I was missing anything educational.
    School starts way too early. Wayland is an extremely academically challenging environment that requires a lot of rest to recharge for the school day to come. We can’t all be Sharp.
    If school started later, if there were to be less traffic
    The reaction of the teacher, but mostly I just don’t like being late.
    I don’t like being late but the traffic is really bad. I’d rather get to school on time because missing class is a pain when you have to make up work and you miss lectures.
    School starts too early, and even at the risk of me obtaining demerits, I would rather get more sleep. Too add on to that I would also be still sitting in traffic, so it’s not worth coming in early.
    Literally nothing no matter how early I wake up I can’t judge time and I’m just always late.
    my mom usually makes me late. no joke. I will wait by the door for her
    I get to school early to hang out with my friends/finish homework. If I’m ever late, it’s usually because of the traffic.
    money, extra credit, candy, food
    Im chronically punctual. I like to be prepared for class and that includes getting there on time.
    My education
    i give people rides
    I don’t want demerits to pile up
    Embarrassment/ teacher gets angry
    I’m on time
    I don’t want to get cuts or demerits because I don’t want to spend frees in restricted study.
    I would say if you’re late to school then you have to spend twice the ammount of time you were late in restricted study.
    There is very bad traffic on my route to school.
    When teachers are disappointed at a late student, it makes you feel guilty for being late. Additionally, students who are punctual are viewed more favorably by teachers. This is basically why I am chronically punctual. This probably does not apply to the majority of the student population.
    I would be more punctual if school started later.
    I am on time for the most part because it is my responsibility to get to school. Its not like you are at school forever so people should be mature and get to school.
    I always wake up at 5:50-6:00 and have the same routine.
    If there was food in your first period class and it went away after the bell rang.
    If the starting time was pushed to 7:45, it would make it easier for me to get to school on time.
    trying not to get demerits
    Teachers don’t understand that the traffic takes at least 20 minutes to get through and it is very unpredictable.
    the disappointment of my teachers is one of the main reasons i arrive to school on time and demerits also determine my tardiness.
    nothing really
    Pushing back school starting time, I feel like school starts too early and having even just 30 more minutes of sleep time would be helpful.
    less traffic
    If i have have a test that morning or i have an important class that morning or if I know that the class starts on time
    I am chronically on time because I don’t like to be late.
    I have a test that morning… or meeting with a teacher
    I can’t get to school on time because I have trouble waking up so early, and if I leave my house at 7:15 I will be late no matter what, because of the traffic.
    I am motivated to be at school on time because I don’t want to be embarassed by the teacher in front of the students and get demerits.
    Later start time. Right now it’s too early, not getting enough sleep.
    My parents
    I’m responsible.
    I don’t like to be late to school because I find it very distracting to other students. Also, if I come late to school I feel that I am interrupting the class.
    just have people do them if they dont wanna come in they dont have to #senoir #norule #beside #theruleistherisnorules

The Power of Passive Thinking

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Why is it that we have our best ideas in the shower? Simple. It’s one of the few times when our brain is allowed to wander on its own. There is no focus, there are no distractions. Off it goes and it often goes to pretty cool places, places that it wouldn’t go in the midst of the hubbub of our daily lives. It’s a similar phenomenon to the idea of walking away from a problem (temporarily), i.e. if you can’t figure something out that you’ve been staring at for a while, walk away from it; chances are you come back with a good idea.

I’ve realized for myself the power of passive thinking for a while now, but had a nice illustration of it this morning in school. I was all set to intro Dante to my senior Medieval Lit class today. I was sitting at the desk in the room, getting the technology going, and in that three minutes or so my brain wandered and in that three minutes or so I came up with a much better plan for the class. Now part of the process was that I already had a plan; I wasn’t nervous about not having a plan, so my brain could wander. Were I worried about the class, the brain could not have wandered. But it did, and the resulting plan was much better.

So give it a shot. Let the brain wander. Be willing to listen to it. And you might be surprised by what you come up with.

Samsung’s New Ad Pokes Fun at Apple’s Battery Life

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Don’t want a Samsung Galaxy but have to admire their ad (campaign). This one made me chuckle.

(fromĀ here via @applenws)

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