Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CrowdSourcingLove: Day 6 - Voice

Note: As a lead in to Valentine's Day I will be posting some ways that convey I love you that do not rely on purchasing gifts and am inviting you to do the same where you blog.  If you make a post could you link it to this post?  At the end of two weeks I am curious as to what interconnected posts about love we might make collectively.

Wild Nights! Wild Nights! (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

- Emily Dickinson
Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.
Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!


Read to one another and/or listen to love poems together.



A few poetry recommendations:
"First Poem for You" - Kim Addonizio
"Chance Meeting" - Susan Browne
"Beautiful Signor" - Cyrus Cassells (Scroll to the bottom of the page)
"Night Club" - Billy Collins
"American Smooth" - Rita Dove (Video
"The Weight" - Linda Gregg
"XXI The World" - Jen Hadfield
"Those Winter Sundays"  - Robert Hayden
"Mossbawn Sunlight" - Seamus Heaney
"Parkinson's Disease" - Galway Kinnell
"Passing Through" - Stanley Kunitz
"Recreation" - Audre Lorde
"In Time" - W.S. Merwin (Perhaps my favorite of the group)
"Love" - Czeslaw Milosz
"First Love" -Jan Owen
"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" (excerpt) = William Carlos Williams (Audio)
"Love Song" - William Carlos Williams (Audio)
"When You Are Old" - William Butler Yeats (Read by Colin Farrell)



5 things I want my teacher to know about me Or Why I Would Opt Out of School

Cristina (@surrealyno) challenged me to write five things I would like my teacher to know from the perspective of a child.  This was a challenge I accepted and wrote, but could not post. I simply couldn't push publish and wasn't sure why, so I slept on it and was awake at 4:30 this morning thinking again. When I thought about my younger self--such a vulnerable child--I came to the realization that I wouldn't choose to participate in school if offered that choice. Bottom line: I wouldn't go to 'school' now as I would find it too restrictive, too 'otherly' directed.

Here's what I had intended


to post:



Portrait from Ireland by Mary Ann Reilly
Me in Ireland. Circa too many years ago:)




  1. I learn & play anytime, anywhere, anyplace. The borders between formal and informal spaces of learning interest me and I prefer not to be limited. In short: I prefer but/and to either/or.
  2. I often don't even see the proverbial box, let alone do I easily think inside it. I ask you to trust my process and afford me great latitude to learn which means that location, context, time, and direction need to remain in our collective hands.
  3. I like to go outside and walk about. I like the rain and getting messy. Being outdoors is important to me. Travel is important to me. I want to connect.
  4. I live a wide-awake life in a connected world and desire tools of my choosing to think with/through and the time to do so. Choice matters greatly to me, including the choice to say no. Please don't restrict my capacity to compose.
  5. I think team trumps solo most of the time, but not all of the time. It is important to me to have both solitary time and team time. Did I mention choice?

So how realistic might it be to find a school where these five conditions were present?  Even with that aside, I still would not opt for traditional school.  The world has decidedly altered and new options are present.  I would want to chart my own course and be able to design learning, not simply participate.  Years ago I attended an experimental college as an undergraduate where I was able to design my college study.  This was valuable to me.  I think about this for my son, almost 13, and know that both my husband and I are not so sure he will actually attend high school--and certainly not for four years. We would like to explore alternatives to high school with him. I can't imagine him sitting in x periods a day, five days a week, 40 weeks a year and dutifully going from course to course. This seems less relevant than being in the world. This is not to say that we don't want excellent teachers for him. We do.

Excellent teachers are life altering.

I'm no longer convinced though that excellent teachers can only be found at that place called school. Truly, we want more for him.

Monday, January 30, 2012

CrowdSourcingLove: Day 5 - Say, Yes


Note: As a lead in to Valentine's Day I will be posting some ways that convey I love you that do not rely on purchasing gifts and am inviting you to do the same where you blog.  If you make a post could you link it to this post?  At the end of two weeks I am curious as to what interconnected posts about love we might make collectively.

Etta and Butch Go For a Ride (M.A. Reilly, 2009)


...Yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.” 
From Ulysses - James Joyce


Say, Yes.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Being 12 & Being Literate: Looking at Boys' Out-of-School Multimodal Texts and Game Play


From Redstone Tutorial, Part 3: TNT Canons
Before the printing press existed, those training for scholarly roles wrote down word for word what a master or teacher read from his text. This text, of course, was most importantly the Bible; and one might suggest from an anthropological perspective that this may explain the inherent belief among those of the SAE world view the validity of the printed page regardless of what one's senses may tell one. An individual's own experience becomes secondary to what the accepted point of view may be, which is of course, precisely what the "Book" says.    - Terry Tafoya. (1989). Coyote's Eyes: Native Cognition Styles. Journal of American Indian Education.
Copying isn't composing. Much of what I see my son doing at middle school resembles the pre-printing press times.  For example he recently had to access a teacher's notes from an online site and copy these into his physical (paper) notebook.  In this post I want to take a look at the important literacies that young boys are participating in that are done outside of school.

As many of you know, I have been taking an extended look at my 12-year-old son and several of his friend's Minecraft play this last year. In part, I have been trying to understand the boys' literate behaviors that emerge during their game playing and making multimodal texts, such as: screencasts, livestreams, and videos.  By observing the artifacts the boys compose, I have begun to note some similarities and important differences between adolescents' literacies developed during play, and those privileged via school-based essayist assignments*.

Additionally of interest to me are the literacies these young boys engage in, specifically I am wondering about how they:
  • connect with others across the globe through Skype and multiplayer game sites
  • collaborate to build/rebuild/remix, maintain, and refine fictional worlds; make and upload multimodal texts to the Internet; write code; develop and maintain a Minecraft server; attract, support, and ban server clients; and develop and enact a business plan
  • compose written code and multimodal texts (such as: screencasts, trailers, livestreams, videos)
  • contextualize environments in which play occurs 
  • participate in on-line play
This post represents some tentative thoughts and I welcome your insights. 

Screencasts, Essayist Prose and the Problem of Authorship and Audience

One important difference between the literacies these adolescents develop as a result of out-of-school play and essayist prose style privileged inside school relates to the authenticity of author and audience.  In thinking about essayist authorship and audience,  James Gee (1990) writes:
A further significant aspect of essayist prose style is the fictionalization of both the audience and the author. The 'reader' of an essayist text is not an ordinary human being but an idealization, a rational mind formed by the rational body of knowledge of which the essay is a part. By the same token the author is a fiction, since the process of writing and editing essayist texts leads to an effacement of individual and idiosyncratic identity (pp. 60-61).
In contrast to essayist prose, the mulitmodal texts developed by the boys are imbued with voice (often literally) and they are created with specific audiences in mind.  For example, when I ask my son who he imagines the audience to be when he makes a Minecraft screencast, he says that the viewers will likely be gamers interested in the specific topic, but who don't know how to do what he is explaining. The author, like the audience are ordinary and may well become participatory in some aspect of the play. Many of the texts the boys compose are how-to screencasts related to games.  To give a sense of audience, one of the boys, James (pseudonym) routinely has between 5,000 and 15,000 viewers for each of his 300+ video uploads on YouTube.  This represents a sizable audience.

In the comments section of one video, a viewer wrote:
dude this lets play is gold i watched this and bought mysims agents/thanks to you man/i like these lets plays very cool! 
James responded, "Never thought that I would influence someone/thats great and am glad you like it so much."

There are significant philosophical differences between essayist prose and the literacies the boys compose.  When "literacy" is understood as being a transferable commodity not influenced by any social context and considered an independent variable, an autonomous model of literacy (Street, 1984) is being embraced.  An autonomous model of literacy is based on the belief that any student learns skill x and who the learner is, is not, the context of where the learning is occurring and when is meaningless.  The skill is understood as being independent from actual human context. Stripped of gendered, social, racial, historical, technological, and economic overtones--literacy learning exists as a cognitive task to be mastered.

In contrast to an autonomous model, a group of theorist, the New London Group**, published an influential paper, A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures in the Harvard Educational Review (1996) that asked us to understand that "literacy" learning is multi-dimensional and socially situated.  Skills do no exist outside of a given context and how we learn and even come to name something as a "literacy skill" is culturally determined and bound.  Literacies are not isolated events.

An autonomous belief about literacy (note the singularity) informs the pedagogical decisions one might make.  For example, if you believe that 'literacy skills' are transferable commodities, then having students complete practice worksheets in order to develop correctness and to attend to surface structures of writing would make sense.  Similarly, one who held this belief would likely believe in the production of a single correct product.

In contrast, the boys' literate behaviors are steeped in multi-literacies as social practice.

The Essay as Multimodal Text

In education we make much of essayist prose style and certainly here in the States with the Common Core, the focus on essay is even more pronounced.  Methods to help students learn to compose essay often range from simply assigning the task to engaging learners in a process approach. It is not unusual for students to be provided with professional and student models of essays. What I believe is less usual is for teachers or learners to map essayist composing skills on to other types of texts that students want to compose, such as videos when possible.

Several years ago I was teaching a group of 8th grade students. One of the students helped me to learn that writing skills could be learned by composing other types of text. I chronicled this in Difficult Flows and Waves: Unfixing Beliefs in a Grade 8 Language Arts Literacy Class (English Education, 1998).

As the school year progressed—hyperlearning occurred. For example, I watched as Tony’s command of writing responses to EWT-like writing prompts improved, even though he was not spending much time actually doing this specific activity. Rather, Tony spent a lot of time creating Hyperstudio™ projects by working with story boards. To do this he had to begin to organize information and locate pieces of the information on different Hyperstudio™ cards. He also had to create transitions and did so by using musical cues that served to join his cards into a coherent whole.
“I need a button, here,” Tony tells me one morning, pointing to a written
essay he had been working on.
“A button?” I ask, unsure.
“Yeah, you know, like when you move to the next card.”
“Oh, like a transition,” I say, beginning to see that Tony understands that the essay is like a Hyperstudio™ composition.
“Yeah.”
I suspect Tony drew upon that deeper structure of thinking he frequently
used to create his Hyperstudio™ projects when writing responses to EWT
prompts. Tony had indirectly learned how to elaborate and better organize
his written responses by creating and using story boards when composing
through hypermedia (p. 39).
Thinking about Tony makes me wonder if we have we begun to map our students' multimodal work in order to ascertain what similarities there might be between these works and the essay they are often assigned at school? Are there associational bridges we might build between work students choose to compose and the types of composing, such as analytic essay that are frequently assigned at school?

For example, if we look at this trailer produced by a 12-year old--are there entry points we might leverage to make sense of the work and relate it to school-text types?  This represents this boy's first attempt at creating a trailer to advertise a Minecraft server. The text is meant to be persuasive.




Would it be possible to make use of this text as an entry point into a discussion about persuasion? Might this be a bit more compelling for the learner than the countless 'practice essays' he has been or will be assigned at school in preparation for state assessments? Might there be better transfer of learning if the studied text was one the child had composed?

What does this young boy know about point of view? About narrative? About linkages between story and persuasion? Community and persuasion?  Citing sources?  What does he still need to learn? What confusions are present in his text?

I can't help but think how different learning might be, if we began with the important products students are composing out of school and worked from there.





*Essayist examples from CCSS: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence; Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content

**Theorist included: Courtney Cazden, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education, USA; Bill Cope, National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia, Centre for Workplace Communication and Culture, University of Technology, Sydney, and James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia; Norman Fairclough, Centre for Language in Social Life, Lancaster University, UK; Jim Gee, Hiatt Center for Urban Education, Clark University, USA; Mary Kalantzis, Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia; Gunther Kress, Institute of Education, University of London, UK; Allan Luke, Graduate School of Education, University of Queensland, Australia; Carmen Luke, Graduate School of Education, University of Queensland, Australia; Sarah Michaels, Hiatt Center for Urban Education, Clark University, USA; Martin Nakata, School of Education, James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia.



Work Cited
Street, B. V. (1984). Literacy in Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

CrowdSourcingLove: Day 4 - Listen As If Your Life Depended On It

Note: As a lead in to Valentine's Day I have been posting some ways that convey I love you that do not rely on purchasing gifts and I have invited you to do the same where you blog.  If you make a post could you link it to this post?  At the end of two weeks I am curious as to what interconnected posts about love we might make collectively.

M.A. Reilly, 2/2012


Listen, as if your life depended on it.

Close the paper, the screen, the video game. Silence the phone. Quiet the world. The laundry will wait and the 16 things you thought to do today. 

Set aside the pile of work you brought home. Unplug and connect.

Right now, right here, lean in and just listen to the one you love.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

CrowdSourcingLove: Day 3 - The Found Poem and the Altered Page


Note: As a lead in to Valentine's Day I have been posting some ways that convey I love you that do not rely on purchasing gifts and I have invited you to do the same where you blog.  If you make a post could you link it to this post?  At the end of two weeks I am curious as to what interconnected posts about love we might make collectively.

Mixed-Media altered page by Seth Apter. Found here.


The found poem. With words, or images or both.  Like the love letter, this handmade offering is one to treasure. A found poem is one you make from an already established text.

From Wikipedia


 1. Altered Page and Found Poem

Stately plump
Found Poem/Altered Page by Sherry Chandler. Found here.
An easy method to make a found poem as visual art is to simply take a page from a text and color the words you don't want using a black crayon (use a light touch) and then circle and color the words, phrases, that you want to remain.

Sherry Chandler takes the opening page from James Joyce's Ulysses and alters it, forming a poem in the process. This is her poem:


Buck Mulligan
mounted the round gunrest
blessed gravely thrice the tower
the awaking mountains

Stephen Dedalus,
displeased and sleepy
leaned
looked coldly


soul and blood and ouns. Slow music, please.
One moment. A little trouble about
the loose folds of his gown,
sullen oval jowl

Stephen Dedalus
wearily halfway
watching him still


2. Found Poem and Altered Art Page
A found poem can be incorporated on an altered page.  Beginning with a random page from a book or a newspaper sheet, isolate the words you want to remain--the one's that are your written poem.You might want to tape over the words/letters you want to remain. Then cover the remaining page with white gesso, thinned white glue, or gel medium. Apply this lightly so that some of the words can bleed through a bit. 
Then it's time to play with a bit of color, if you like, photo transfers, line drawings, etc.

Found Poem, with gesso, watercolor, and image. (M.A. Reilly, 1/2012). Source: Pride and Prejudice, Chapter III, p. 6.

3. Altered Pages 

The altered book can feel like a big, big project. Worth doing, for sure--but it might not fit well into a two week window.  I like the idea of taking a few pages and altering them as an extended composition.  These can be presented together as a completed composition. I love Will Ashford's work and find his art is highly motivating. He couples sets of pages together as slideshows.  Works well.

Will Ashford's work.

The idea behind this gift is discovering what you feel by working with words and image and conveying what you come to discover to the one you love. 

FYI: You may even want to submit your work to The Found Poetry Review (they are accepting submissions up until March 31, 2012 for the spring issue).

Have fun.



Friday, January 27, 2012

CrowdSourcingLove: Day 2 - The Dance

Note: As a lead in to Valentine's Day I have been posting some ways that convey I love you that do not rely on purchasing gifts and I have invited you to do the same where you blog.  If you make a post could you link it to this post?  At the end of two weeks I am curious as to what interconnected posts about love we might make collectively.


The Dance (January 2011, by M.A. Reilly)

Somewhere, someone is waiting for you to dance.
They may be wanting to join you.
They may be unsure.
They may be wanting just to watch.

You will need to be bold.

This is a gift you give yourself.
A kind of tempered abandon.
When you can do so with another, true love.


There's a lake, frozen just waiting for you to step out on or perhaps you are in a city and it's the laundromat which will be your backdrop.

It doesn't matter. 

You may be footloose, dancing down a staircase, dancing & singing in the rain, or you may be forging a new way to walk, or or a new way come down the aisle, or a new way to be presidential,perhaps you want to be dancing cheek to cheek, or perhaps you are kindling a desire to dance in the dark, or to wait for moonlight for a moondance (if so, full moon on Feb 7).
Maybe you want to dance with a crowd? Or parallel dance? Or dance dreamy in a diner or bold in a bowling alley. All you need to do is hear it, feel it, so that it's easy to move your feet






Really, 
the only question 
left 
is who will you share 
this dance of love with?

be cool.
be real.
be you.





and don't forget to have some fun.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Part III: Bold Schools - Community as Knowledge

Community is Infinite (January 2012, by M.A. Reilly)

This is the third post in a series where I explore bold schools. In the first post I examined the learner as knowledge worker--a knowmad. In the second post I situated the teacher as time traveler. In this post I deconstruct the idea of content and connect it to community, rhizome, and complicated conversations. These posts were composed in response to Will Richardson's query about bold schools.

1.  What Is Content?
from here.

In bold schools, 'content' is situated and experienced as stable and unstable, bound and unbound.  In this manner, tensions are often present and we may characterized these tensions as rhizomatic.  Although Deleuze and Guattari (1987) tell us: “A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo” (p. 25), they also remind us that "there exists tree or root structures in rhizomes; conversely, a tree branch or root division may begin to burgeon into a rhizome”(p. 15).  At bold schools, what becomes important content is conditioned by lines of flight, stratification and context. Nothing is primary.

In traditional schools, content remains mostly a matter of stratification and is hopelessly decontextualized. Content is often seen as autonomous--something that can be listed and transferred to another to enact, to know, such as a list of standards and learning objectives that have been developed elsewhere and handed down to the teacher to enact. In such schemata, the most we can hope for is mediocrity.  The 'stuff' we learn has always been a movable force, incapable of being fully contained.  Learning is non-orientable and each time we position it in a limited space we kill a little bit of hope, narrow the range of what might be learned, while guiding learners to reach the unfortunate conclusion that x represents the whole of some matter.

In situating content as rhizomatic, it allows for possibility, not certainty; context, not decontexualzation. Experiential ways of coming to know, gain a foothold in such schools--a requisite for lines of flight.  In an earlier post, I wrote:
Lines of flight represent the creative impulses we compose while thinking and doing that offer a seemingly novel way to disrupt concepts cast as dualities. In fact, one might argue that it is the duality that may at first spark the line of flight: a way of moving beyond what is given to explore what might be. 
In bold schools--neither the State, the institution, the teacher, or the student own the curriculum.  It is a shared matter that is made and remade based on emerging intention by learners, regardless of their role. You can't place it in a binder. You can't post it on the Internet and say it is our Common Core. This is a model for a past century. It cannot hold us in good stead now.  Bold schools understand that curriculum--the content that is learned-- is a made thing that happens inside a context and is impervious to prior mapping.  This is not to say that such curriculum isn't informed by State, institutional, teacher, or student resources.  It surely can be.  What is essential though is that it does not exist as a closed system. 

2. Social Participation and Community as Sources of Knowledge

In bold schools, learning is recognized, even celebrated as being social, experimental, and experiential.  Bold schools make use of digital and non-digital technologies in order for learners to connect, collaborate, contextualize, and create knowledge with others. Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown (2011) explain:
The learning that happens through blogs, social networks, and other new media may be deeply grounded in experience and personal expression, but it also arises from the contributions of multiple people and voices. Expertise and authority are dispersed rather than centralized, and once a digital space hits a point of critical mass, it is very likely that some member of the community will have valuable expertise to share about a given topic (Kindle Locations 924-927).
Thomas and Brown point at the role of community in content knowledge. A second shift in understanding how content is situated then, is to recognize the role of the community as knowledge maker.  In "Community as Curriculum" Dave Cormier (2008) writes:
In the rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum.
 A few years later (2010) he adds:
We need to return to community as a valid repository for knowledge, and away from a packaged view of knowledge and expertise. Knowledge can be fluid; it can be in transition, and we can still use it. We need to tap into the strength provided by communities and see the various forms of community literacy as the skills we need to acquire in order to be effective members of those communities.
Bold schools tap into and contribute to local and extended communities of practice. Neither the teachers, nor the students are contained by the school.  They are mobile learners, who have presences beyond the institution, and in fact many who play a role in student learning will not be officially employed by the school. Networks abound.  In bold schools the conversation is not about whether the students will have an Internet presence and will collaborate with 'strangers', but rather how such presence is mediated, conducted, and (re)presented.

The curriculum composed is generated in the lived moments of learning.  As such, the rhizomatic possibilities become quite pronounced. In these schools there are bold teachers and learners who understand, even celebrate, that such curriculum is complicated conversation (Pinar, 2008) that occurs among the teachers, students, and extended community. In an earlier post, I defined complicated conversation, quoting William Pinar:

William Pinar tells us that curriculum is a “complicated conversation.” He suggests curriculum is situated in space and time where teacher, student, and text meet to co-produce self, other, and culture. The curriculum documents that are produced in schools and standards that are produced by states and nations offer possible curricula, but not the lived one. To mistake one for the other often leads to reenactment or miming and divorces "school curriculum from public life and school curriculum from students' self-formation" (Pinar, p. 186).  Pinar writes:
Instead of employing school knowledge to complicate our understanding of ourselves and the society in which we live, teachers are forced to "instruct" students to mime others' (i.e., textbook authors') conversations, ensuring that countless classrooms are filled with forms of ventriloquism rather than intellectual exploration, wonder, and awe (p. 186).
Intellectual exploration, wonder, and awe cannot occur if learners are thought of as receivers of curriculum, be it the teacher who is handed the curriculum to deliver or the student who receives "the content".  Intellectual exploration, wonder, and awe require an organicism that is not relevant, nor possible, when the task at hand is mere mimicry or translation.
The community, both local and extended, represent a new culture of learning that Thomas and Brown (2011) contrast with teaching-based education:
...the primary difference between the teaching-based approach to education and the learning–based approach is that in the first case the culture is the environment, while in the second case, the culture emerges from the environment—and grows along with it. In the new culture of learning, the classroom as a model is replaced by learning environments in which digital media provide access to a rich source of information and play, and the processes that occur within those environments are integral to the results. A second difference is that the teaching-based approach focuses on teaching us about the world, while the new culture of learning focuses on learning through engagement within the world. Finally, in the teaching-based approach, students must prove that they have received the information transferred to them—that they quite literally “get it.” As we will see, however, in the new culture of learning the point is to embrace what we don’t know, come up with better questions about it, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more and more, both incrementally and exponentially. The goal is for each of us to take the world in and make it part of ourselves. In doing so, it turns out, we can re-create it (Kindle Locations 374-387).
We cannot conceive of bold schools and do so in the former guise of the teacher-based (or I tend to think of this as State-imposed) approach to education.  We need to stop asking, did the student learn X, and instead ask what did the students create and how and why did they do so?

In bold schools there is an understanding of, appreciation in, and a felt necessity to recognize teachers as caring intellects who know how to teach well and place responsibility for curriculum into their capable hands--a responsibility they share with learners and the larger community beyond the school.  These are teachers who connect with the world beyond the school. They live wide-awake lives (Greene, 1988). Bold schools don't simply mouth platitudes about valuing teachers--they live it.  In 2010, I had the pleasure of visiting High Tech High in San Diego. While there I spent part of a morning talking one-to-one with Larry Rosenstock. We talked about a lot of things, and one topic that resonates still was a discussion about a teacher who Larry described with great affection as being avant-garde and utterly essential to the school. He recognized that the teacher makes the school, as does the student and the community.

Bold schools are places where the critical role and brilliance of teachers are recognized and this knowledge informs how curriculum is understood. What this means in practical terms is that the teacher and his/her students are expected to make decisions about learning.  This would not seem so amazing if not for the times in which we live. We have recast the role of many a teacher from decision maker to mime.  Mimes cannot exist for any length of time at bold schools as they are sorely out of place. The culture does not support mimicking. 

3. We Have What We Need


Bold schools may feel unfathomable--impossible. You might be tempted to begin to list all of the difficulties you might face in composing bold schools.  You may begin to list the specific teachers you would need. The specific type of student you would want to enroll; the type of community where such boldness might best occur. You might begin to think about budgets, policy, boards, facilities and come to a halting stop, well before you have even gotten started.

You will need to resist these impulses as they allow for standardization to be used as an antidote to complexity.  Resist.  This has never been about you or me.  Rather it is about us. There must be an us for bold schools to come of age.

Monika Hardy recently reminded me that we have what we need, with an emphasis on the we.  I think about that for a while and recall having what we need is one of the 8 principles in Walk Out Walk On.   I am reminded of South African community leader, Dorah Lebelo, who explains that leadership happens in concert with one's community.
I don’t exist outside my community; they create me. And I in turn create them by believing in their leadership, by trusting that we have everything we need to create the world we wish for (Walk Out, Walk On, p. 95).
Being bold requires the understanding that it carries with it an uneasiness. Deborah Freize, one of the authors of Walk Out Walk On explains that she helped to create the Berkana Exchange as she needed "a community of fellow pioneers, people willing to experiment with groundbreaking work, people willing to fail over and over again and yet to persevere in their yearning to create a new future" (p.233).

When I think of bold schools, I think of Michael McCabe ,who along with others, is composing The Kornerstone School in Wisconsin.  This is a new venture, a public school serving students in grades 8 through 12.  The Kornerstone School's Mission is:
Provide a learning environment where students’ passions direct the day-to-day learning. Students create projects and become active citizens in their community. Kornerstone School will provide students with the foundation to get into their profession of choice and make a significant impact on their community.  
Passion matters. I think of the work I did with Scott Klepesch, Mark Gutkowski and others from Morristown High Schools when we began a Classics Academy. The Academy was begun as the result of four teachers' collective passion about classical times. The Academy which operates within a traditional public high school, includes student-selected mentors who are often external from the school. Although I have left the school system, I will have the pleasure this year of mentoring a student in the Academy, a talented photographer, Jon Stone, as he composes a final work for  public exhibition in June. What connects Wisconsin and NJ is the idea of community as an evolving entity, privileging the passion of all learners, and the understanding that failure will accompany success. In our situation in NJ, we also made good use of visiting bold schools that were established. Specifically some of us went to Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia and High Tech High in San Diego, as well as visiting smaller, but nonetheless powerful innovations happening within schools such as Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, NJ. I hope this year to make it out to Loveland, CO to visit Monika and The Innovation Lab, another bold project.


This rests in our hands. Boldness has always been ours to compose and to come to know. It may mean that for some of us, we will need to walk out from the way--and perhaps even the place where--we currently work.  Without question, boldness will require us to walk on.
Walk Ons find each other and connect. Together, they learn quickly, take greater risks, and support one another to continue their pioneering work. A new system is born from their efforts (Wheatley & Frieze, p.12).

Community is infinite.
Are you willing to chance?
To join?
To commit and walk on?



Works Cited

Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic education: Community as curriculum. Innovate, 4 (5). Retrieved from http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=550
Cormier, Dave. (2010). Community as curriculum: Vol. 2. The guild/distributed continuum. Retrieved on 1.25.12 from here. Dave's Educational Blog: January 27, 2010.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Continuum. 
Greene, Maxine. (1988). The dialectic of freedom. New york, NY: Teachers College Press.
Pinar, William F. (2008). What is curriculum theory? Taylor & Francis e-Library.
Thomas, Douglas; Seely Brown, John (2011-03-12). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. CreateSpace. Kindle Edition.
Wheatley, Margaret and Frieze, Deborah (2011-04-11). Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition. 


CrowdSourcingLove: Day 1: The Letter

Note: As a lead in to Valentine's Day I will be posting some ways that convey I love you that do not rely on purchasing gifts and am inviting you to do the same where you blog.  If you make a post could you link it to this post?  At the end of two weeks I am curious as to what interconnected posts about love we might make collectively.



The Love Letter (January 2012 by M.A. Reilly)







Madeleine Peyroux -"I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter"

 

The love letter.

The one you have been meaning to write.
You know, the one where you take the time to tell your partner how you're feeling, what s/he means to you.
Perhaps you mention some small, seemingly inconsequential noticing that conveys how closley you really do see your partner.
Perhaps you recall a time past and why it is a memory you treasure, want to retell.

Only you can write this letter and that is what makes it so compelling, so necessary.


Brief, or not--the love letter is a keepsake.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Makes a Task Meaningful?

(Note: this is work I will be doing with administrators, lead teaches/coaches in Morristown, NJ this week).


What Makes a Task Meaningful?

We know what meaningful tasks are in our everyday lives.  We aren't apt to confuse meaningful from meaningless.  For example, Rick and Dick Hoyt participate together in marathons.  Their work is meaningful.  Take a look at this video and as you watch think about what are some of the conditions that give rise to meaningful tasks. (BTW, you may need a tissue or two as you watch.)





In classrooms though, identifying meaningful learning tasks may be less obvious, less heart felt. So what makes a learning task meaningful? What might we borrow from Rick and Dick Hoyt that can inform our own practice?

The North Central Regional Educational Library (NCREL) offers this criteria:
In order to have engaged learning, tasks need to be challenging, authentic, and multidisciplinary. Such tasks are typically complex and involve sustained amounts of time. They are authentic in that they correspond to the tasks in the home and workplaces of today and tomorrow. Collaboration around authentic tasks often takes place with peers and mentors within school as well as with family members and others in the real world outside of school. These tasks often require integrated instruction that incorporates problem-based learning and curriculum by project. from NCREL
PCF4  (Fourth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning) offers this:

  1. Learners are active partners in the process, rather than passive recipients of information and data;
  2. Learners are engaged in learning by doing;
  3. Learners are engaged in problem-solving tasks and activities;
  4. Learners are engaged in critical reflection during and after their activities;
  5. Learning is situated within the context of real-world or authentic problems;
  6. Learning scaffolds support and promote cognitive apprenticeships;
  7. Assessment of learning outcomes is closely aligned with the learning context and the learning activities.
Using the NCREL description and PCF4's 7 points as a framework for viewing, take a look at these videos of Dr. Jay Vavra, science teacher at High Tech High and his students as they explain the learning tasks they are composing. What do you notice?



African Bushmeat site
Trailer

Vavra Video II 




Improving Student Products through Critique

An example of a meaningful task can be critique. Interestingly, Lissa Soep notes four conditions necessary for critique:
  1. intense stakes attached to the work
  2. standards used to critique the work need to be collaboratively negotiated
  3. accountability for the quality of the work needs to be distributed across the group
  4. the work being critiques is interdisciplinary
Take a look at these two brief videos of Ron Berger as he explains that one important condition of critique is offering specifics that if enacted will help to make the work better.

Part I: Ron Berger


Part II. Ron Berger



Part III. Read interview using 4As Text Protocol to guide the group's reading and discussion.

An interview with Elizabeth 'Lissa" Soep.  Learning as Production, Critique as Assessment


Please note this is a fuller work on the topic by Soep, Critique: Assessment and the Production of Learning which was published in TC Record.




Monday, January 23, 2012

iPhone Art

Red Hydrant (iPhone, M.A. Reilly, January 2012)


Today was a wonderful weather day in northern New Jersey and I went out to make a few images.  I normally shoot with a Nikon D300 and then process images using Lightroom and then Photoshop.  I haven't even looked at those images because along the way I also made images using my iPhone.

Specifically I made about two dozen images using different apps and my iPhone.  The apps I used included TtV Camera, Hipstamatic app, and the regular camera that comes with the iPhone.  I imported the images into iPhoto and made the following 1-minute slideshow that I posted to my YouTube channel.  The music is from iPhoto (Skating by Vince Guaraldi).

Simple and so much fun.

It will take less than 90 seconds to view the slideshow.
Hope you'll take a look.






Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Snow Man

A Certain Wonder (M.A. Reilly, 2011)
The Snow Man

By Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mis(sed)Reading Yeats: A Problem with Gr 7 Common Core Curriculum Maps



Yeats

More than 4 million people viewed The Common Core Curriculum Maps and now they are offered (at a fee) in their second iteration. At the middle school level, 6 units of study per grade level have been developed and offered as models--exemplars if you will.  I recently composed a blog post that highlighted examples of instruction I proposed in response to "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by William Butler Yeats which is listed as a middle school exemplar text via the CCSS.  After I finished the post, I was curious as to what Lynne Munson and her Core Curriculum mapping team had developed in response to the Yeats.  What I found was disappointing.  I rarely would say something was misread, but in this case I do think that the authors of the grade 7, unit 4 map that highlights "The Song of Wandering Aengus" failed to actually comprehend the poem.

It helps if you take a quick look at my blog post before moving on as I am contrasting what I designed with this Common Core exemplar map.  You will find a copy of the poem there as well.

For me the Yeats's poem is steeped in Irish mythology and one of the challenges young readers might face is understanding the mythology upon which the poem is based, what a quest is, and how magic and the imagination (in)form a quest.   In contrast, the authors of the Grade 7, Unit 4 Common Core Curriculum Map understand this poem as a survival story akin to Call of the Wild and Hatchet. The Grade 7, Unit 4 is titled, "Survival in the Wild."  The overview reads:
Students read “The Song of Wandering Aengus” by William Butler Yeats and use it as a springboard for discussions of characters’ pursuits of the unknown. Students analyze the development of the theme of survival across various texts, evaluate nonfiction text structures, and present their analyses to their classmates. Students compare and contrast character experiences across novels, as well as the points of view in narration, and are encouraged to research the authors behind the stories, many of whom are wilderness survivors themselves. This unit ends with a review of Yeats’s poem in order to see how this unit led to deeper understanding of the work. In addition, students are asked to write an informative/explanatory essay in response to the essential question.
The essential question for the unit is: What similarities and differences exist among characters who survive in the wilderness?

I am baffled as to how the poem actually fits into the unit about surviving in the wilderness.  Here are some of the recommended sample activities:

Reading Poetry, Speaking and Listening, Language Usage
Introductory Activity: Read "The Song of Wandering Aengus” by William Butler Yeats. Talk with a classmate about what you think the poem means, both literally and figuratively. Write your ideas down in your journal or on an online document. You will revisit this poem at the end of the unit to see if your thoughts and ideas have changed. (RL.7.2, RL.7.4, SL.7.5)
Informative Writing, Language Usage, Language Mechanics
Based on the novels read and discussed in class, write an informative/explanatory essay in response to the essential question: What similarities and differences exist among characters who survive in the wild? Cite at least three specific details from texts read. After your teacher reviews your first draft, work with a partner to strengthen your writing and edit it for the grammar conventions studied so far this year before final publication. Upload your essay to the classroom blog and consider posting your thoughts on a class wiki about survival in the wilderness. (W.7.9a,b, RI.7.8, RL.7.1, L.7.1,L.7.2a,b)
Reading Poetry, Speaking and Listening, Reading Fluency, Performance
Re-read the first poem read in this unit, "The Song of Wandering Aengus.” After this unit of study, describe how your understanding of this poem has changed. What new insights have you gained? Add these insights on the shared spreadsheet created in Activity 1 (in a new column next to your initial thoughts). Memorize and/or recite the poem aloud while emphasizing different words. Record them using a video camera so you can see and hear the different phrasing. How does changing emphasis change the meaning of the sentences? Follow the performances with a class discussion about how this poem relates to the theme of this unit (survival in the wild). (RL.7.5, SL.7.6)
Here are the texts for this unit:
“The Song of Wandering Aengus” (William Butler Yeats) (E)
Call it Courage
(Armstrong Sperry)
Far North
(Will Hobbs)
Hatchet
(Gary Paulsen)
Incident at Hawk’s Hill
(Allan W. Eckert)
Other Will Hobbs survival tales, such as Beardance
The Call of the Wild
(Puffin Graphics, Jack London) (graphic novel)
The Call of the Wild
(Jack London)
The Higher Power of Lucky
(Susan Patron)
Touching Spirit Bear
(Ben Mikaelsen)
Woodsong
(Gary Paulsen) 
Black Hearts in Battersea (Joan Aiken)
Guts (Gary Paulsen)
Jack London: A Biography (Daniel Dyer)
Will Hobbs (My Favorite Writer Series) (Megan Lappi)
Into the Ice: The Story of Arctic Exploration (Lynn Curlee)
SAS Survival Handbook, Revised Edition: For Any Climate, in Any Situation (John "Lofty" Wiseman)
Albert Bierstadt, The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak (1864)
Frederic Edwin Church, The Heart of the Andes (1859)
Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819)
Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm - The Oxbow (1836)
Winslow Homer, The Gulf Stream (1899)
Mark Griffiths, dir., A Cry in the Wild (based on Hatchet) (1990)
Peter Svatek, dir., The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon (1997)
Richard Gabai, dir., Call of the Wild (2009)

 Art as Ancillary Text

In addition to the misreading of Yeats, the authors also decide to have students view and  analyze Théodore Géricault's The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819) with Winslow Homer's The Gulf Stream (1899). Specifically the students are assigned these tasks:
Art, Speaking and Listening, Narrative Writing
The works by Géricault and Homer are considered to be classic images of man’s survival at sea. Study the works separately, beginning with the Géricault. Note the many ways in which the artist emphasized the high drama of the situation (e.g., the dramatic surf and sky, billowing sail, imposing wave). Observe that half of the men are reaching toward a barely visible ship on the horizon, while the rest slip slowly into the surf. Then turn to the Homer and identify similarities with the Géricault (e.g., the coming boat). Which work do you think documents a real event? Listen to the story of the Medusa shipwreck. Write a short story describing the events that you would imagine either led to or came after the scene in Homer’s work. (SL.7.2, SL.7.4, SL.7.5, W.7.3)

As an artist, I find it difficult to even comment on this list of arbitrary tasks the authors attach to the art  for students to do.  Both images were controversial at the time of their painting as each disturbed the sensibilities of some of those who came to view.  I have read about the Géricault painting and don't feel expert enough to comment on it.  I have read more about and actually viewed the Homer work. There's a slim little book (Weathering the Storm: Inside Winslow Homer's Gulf Stream) based on a lecture historian Peter Wood delivered in 2002. Wood contends that matters of race and slavery offer an important insight into the painting. None of this seems represented in the tasks students must do.  Here's the image:
Winslow Homer's The Gulf Stream.
It seems odd that asking students to guess which painting was based on a 'real' event would trump exploring the human condition, exploring race and social position exploring that the works seem to attend to. My only hope is that when students navigate to the Met page to view The Gulf Stream they click on the link that says Black and then take some time to listen to the visual essay by Aimee Dixon.


What concerns me with many of the "art" related tasks that are featured in these maps is that the art is situated as an extension of the fabricated unit 'themes'.  There's no mention in what I have read as to how students might enter in or engage with the visual, musical or film arts.  Rather, these works seem to serve as mere extensions to the rather contrived themes. 

As the CCSS are situated by so many as that which raises the 'academic' bar, this unit in particular ought to call such claims into question.


Bold Schools Part II: Teacher as Time Traveler



Time Traveler (M.A. Reilly, January 2012)
Will Richardson's search for bold schools nudged my thinking too.  In a former post, I wrote about the learner as knowmad, borrowing heavily from Pekka Ihanainen and John Moravec's concepts about knowmads.  In this post I explore teacher as time traveler. In the the third post I will explore community as rhizome. All three are conditions present in my conception of bold schools.


1. Clocks
And so I told myself to take that one. Because Father said clocks slay time. He said time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. The hands were extended, slightly off the horizontal at a faint angle, like a gull tilting into the wind.  - William Faulkner, The Sound and The Fury.

About two years ago I stopped wearing a watch.  This wasn't done for any philosophical, literary, or even political reason, but rather wearing one seemed a bit archaic--unnecessary even.  As time is relative, what exactly is being represented by the movement of hands on a watch?  I sometimes think the early Egyptians had a finer sense of time via their sundials as they recognized that an 'hour' was not a constant. Variations in time clicked on until the medieval period, when the pendulum clock was invented and along with it, time and commerce co-mingled.  Purchasing time moved from concept to guiding reality--one that remains with us (just consider interest on loans) and (in)forms our understanding of school.

Lewis Mumford in Technics and Civilization (1934) rightly observed, "The clock, not the steam-engine, is the key-machine of the modern industrial age."  The clock regulates.

It regulates you.

Me.

Schools.

In bold schools, there is the recognition that in addition to 3-dimesnions of width, height, and length--there is a fourth dimension, time-space.  In traditional schools, acknowledgement of relative time is obscured by regulation and standardization of the day, the term, the school year.  

Let's take a closer look.


2. School Time

The schoolroom clock was worn raw by stares; and you couldn't look up at the big Puritanical face of it and not feel the countless years of young eyes reflected in it, urging it onwards. It was a dark, old spirit that didn't so much mark time as bequeath it. Tod Wodicka, All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well: A Novel

There's always a clock, isn't there?  Prominently displayed, the schoolroom clock is a staple, representing the regimentation that manages the coming and going of all.  And yet, the classroom clock in many ways is a testament to the fact that time does not flow at a constant rate, regardless of the ways we choose to represent it.  Just recall a time of tedium that informed a classroom stay and surely the concept of relativity becomes more embodied, less esoteric.  The orderliness of the clock as a single representation of time misrepresents the complexity of how we experience time just as the standardization of schools misrepresents learning.

Within any school environment multiple representations of time are present, yet not privileged in the way learning is organized.  In this manner,  schools are work like factories with all adhering to set starting and ending times, lunch breaks, passing time, and allocated 'minutes' by subject. Like factory lines, children are given x number of minutes to complete task y or task z.  Failure to adhere to the established scheduled is considered failure of the task. Time is an odd  constant. The tasks are predetermined and issued.  In many states, high school diplomas are granted based on seat time: literally the number of minutes one's seat has sat in a schoolroom chair. Yet, learning, like time, is conditioned and responsive to context.  Both are relative.

At a bold school, the environment is not set and a learner's time is local. The teacher travels across learners' notions of time, as establishing and managing time is understood as critical learning.  The teacher is a time traveler insomuch as s/he works in a fluid and changeable environment populated with learners whose time experiences are varied.

3. Local Time at the Bold School

The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behaviour at the boundary. - Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes

Boundaries are interesting. Specifying behavior at the edge of a boundary is a most frequent task teachers enact with students in traditional schools for in a regimented world, boundaries are prolific and one might even argue, necessary, in order to maintain power.


This is the way you line up to leave the classroom.
This is the way you ask for a pass to use the bathroom.
This is the way you exit a burning building.
This is the way you sit during an assembly.
This is the way you write a heading and format our compositions.
This is the divider you place on your desks when taking a test.
These are the hallways in which you do not run.
These are the guards who come to the classroom door to bring you to be disciplined.
This is the way you signal when you want to speak.
This is the way you keep a notebook.
This is the specific notebook you must have in order to write notes.
These are the notes you must copy and do so exactly as indicated.
This is the time you may use a computer to complete a task.
This is the task you must complete in x minutes.
This is the reading quiz you take when you finish reading a book.
This is how you walk to a special.
This is how you enter the school.
If you are a minute late to school, this is the line you stand in for 15 to 20 minutes in order to indicate you were late.
This is how you line up to get lunch.
These are tools you need to learn with and this is how you ask permission to use them.
This is the way you huddle in the corner of the classroom in case an intruder with a gun shows up at our door.
This is how you sit to learn.
This is fear. This is the way to wear it daily.
Boundaries abound and stripped of institutional context, the absurdity seems more apparent, doesn't it?


In a bold school, time is overtly relative by design and learners are knowmads who "work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere" (Moravec, 2008) As such, regulating behavior is less needed and teachers' roles shift from maintaining order and adhering to institutional and self-imposed sets of behaviors to understanding learners' intentions.   In such an environment,  teachers are situated as time travelers--those who negotiate their students' multiple and varying time frames, and in doing so are reflexive in order to support, teach, and guide these knowmads on their journeys.  In such a world, the term, teacher, is a placeholder for multiple types of people who guide, instruct, apprentice, and co-learn both within and beyond the physical classroom.  Some of these teacher-guides travel alongside a group of learners for years, while others fade when no longer needed.  Teachers visit, but do not live in the varied temporal realities of their students.  Susan Sontag notes:
To be a traveler...is to be constantly reminded of the simultaneity of what is going on in the world, your world and the very different world you have visited and from which you have returned home.
Teachers, in bold learning spaces, hold such simultaneity in hand and that knowledge allows them and their students to craft important learning. This role requires new language, similar to the verb tense conundrum that Robert Heinlein discusses in his novel,  The Door Into Summer:
Nothing could go wrong because nothing had...I meant "nothing would." No - Then I quit trying to phrase it, realizing that if time travel ever became widespread, English grammar was going to have to add a whole new set of tenses to describe reflexive situations - conjugations that would make the French literary tenses and the Latin historical tenses look simple.
Time-traveling teachers recognize that listening well in order to better understand their students' locations is a critical teaching skill one that compliments a shift in what counts as important knowledge. These teachers work in an environment where what constitutes important knowledge has shifted from learning prescribed and explicit content to composing knowledge collectively.  Dave Cormier (2008) in Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum captures this idea well when he writes: “The community is not the path to understanding or accessing the curriculum; rather, the community is the curriculum." Learning in these times is less about absorption and more about participation.

4. Embodied Location

“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” - James Joyce, Dubliners.


In lieu of the solitary schoolroom, a bold school recognizes a field of potential spaces to learn, beginning with an embodied self.  As such a learner's 'school' is the self in a community: his/her home, libraries, coffee shops, book shops, parks, state forests, museums, various storefronts, recreation centers, art and music spaces, dance studios, government buildings, beaches, the ocean, research centers, shelters, labs, a corner diner, bakery, architect's studio, dentist and doctor's offices, the hospital, the town hall, the police station, garden, farm, morgue, petrol station, amusement park, machine shop, theater, and so on.  One only has to look at the learning spaces Monika Hardy via the Innovation Lab is creating in Loveland, CO community to see how this might work.

Oddly, a bold school is inherently local, especially for the time traveling teacher.  Against the uncertainty of time, one revels in an anchor of sorts. I think here of Michael Doyle's blog post where he dreams of teaching his students clamming. Michael writes:
I dream of teaching my students how to clam. It's a local activity that will never be part of the national standards because it's a local activity. That may sound innocuous enough, but it gets to the heart of the sickness in education today, our love of the abstract.
Bold schools recognize that learners, including teachers, arrive in bodies, and do not ask them to check those bodies at the proverbial door. In bold places, teachers offer what they know and are learning, not the long list of things they have been told to mimic that most often comes from those who have rarely set foot in a school as an adult.  Much is learned through the close study of the local.  This may well mean walking about--perhaps along a beach with a teacher who knows the tides and clams and ways to read such landscapes.  It is in these situations that teachers remember who they have been and perhaps even why they sought this work.  (Shh. Look, you've known in your bones you have much to give. The failure of the traditional school has been in requiring you to stop being the impossibly human person you are and requiring you to become a talking head.) 

In addition to the local geography a learner might map, there is also a virtual community s/he belongs to that is far more resistant to mapping.  Participation in these virtual spaces may well lead to a redesign of the physical geography as learners come to know and name other places in the world. This naming though is informed by what learners come to know through local matters. Some of these places may become new centers that the learner visits and dwells in. The development of these physical and virtual learning spaces occurs horizontally: translocally. Helping students to determine, enter into, manage, complicate, compose, and grow such spaces of learning is complex and represents a critical teacher role.

Teachers and students co-learn with each other in self-, peer-, family- community-, and teacher-sponsored learning.  These networks are inherently nomadic as learners make, merge, mash, remix, and break connections in multiple ways.  Part of the work a teacher does is to guide learners in the development and articulation of learning plans that remain in many ways emergent. Learners participate in temponormative, pointillist, cyclical, continuous, and overlapping learning engagements. During temponormative learning, a teacher offers and/or arranges explicit instruction in which learning outcomes are less surprising, more predictable and explicit knowledge is made.  In contrast, during the remaining types of learning (pointillist, cyclical, continuous, and overlapping), a teacher engages learners in dialogic discourse that occasions them to pierce beneath the skin of the ordinary, the obvious--to uncover and compose with greater depth.  This type of 'teaching' is associative, not causal and requires a teacher to create conditions where learners have an opportunity to determine pathways to learning, to name explicit knowing, to codify tacit knowledge, and to fold/unfold/refold conceptual space. 

There are many truths. One truth in bold schools is that learners will exit with holes in what they know and they will know deeply that which they have named as critical. 


5. PLNs

Central to a teacher's role is the responsibility to cognitively apprentice learners so that they compose intellectual and social independence. Independence is learned through the development of and participation in personal learning networks (PLN) which are both local and virtual.  Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli (2011) in Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education write about PLNs and explain:
With a PLN, we can learn anytime, anywhere, with potentially anyone around the world who shares our passion or interest. We can literally build global, online classrooms of our own making on the web that include networks and communities of learners with whom we interact on a regular basis. We can learn around a particular topic at a particular time, or simply tap into an ongoing stream of knowledge from which we can sip anytime we like. And we can build things together, things that can have a global impact in ways that were impossible only a few years ago (p.2).
They describe how learners within the next ten years will all have personal Internet-enabled devices. I agree with them that this time frame is conservative and imagine that such access will occur sooner. These devices allow learners to connect with others--to form PLNs,  guilds, or collectives across geographic spaces.  How they connect and what they do via these connections of course matters. Will and Rob say: "What really counts is the power to plug into networks for learning under the guidance of a teacher who knows how to do that" (p. 139). What I want to urge here though is that much of the important learning will have local roots.  The many walks taken along that beach with a teacher will likely prepare learners to compose and navigate the unmapped space of a PLN. The teacher here, knows both times as well as the need for learners to get lost in these emerging landscapes.

Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown (2011) in A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change  list three principles upon which this culture is based: 
(1) The old ways of learning are unable to keep up with our rapidly changing world. 
(2) New media forms are making peer-to-peer learning easier and more natural. 
(3) Peer-to-peer learning is amplified by emerging technologies that shape the collective nature of participation with those new media. (Kindle Locations 578-583).
Peer-to-peer learning matters at bold schools.  It is privileged and central, not a thing one gets to after the 'real' work has been done.

6. Affinity-Based Spaces as Sites for Learning

Within networks are passionate affinity-based spaces that are learner-determined.  Important literacies are learned through play in such spaces. For example in massively multiplayer online games like Minecraft or World of Warcraft, learners have the ongoing opportunity to participate in complex systems, which in itself is a critical skill.  I have previously written about my son, his play in Minecraft and the learning he is composing with his guild and have come to see how powerful and socially complex the learning among these players can be. (I discuss this here, here, here and here).  James Gee and Elizabeth Hayes (2011) in Language and Learning in the Digital Age tell us:
...affinity spaces are about sharing a common endeavor were people learn things, produce things or knowledge, and can, if they wish, become experts...Even these experts believe there is always something new to learn, more to discover, and higher standards to achieve (p. 71).
What drives this powerful learning is commitment and passion.  For example, in Rob Cohen's 8th grade class, students are composing literary worlds in Minecraft. It was interesting to note one day that a student who had been absent from school was nonetheless present for class via the class's Minecraft site.  He was motivated to participate from home.  In this class, students can be found using the chat feature in their Minecraft site to guide homework they have from other classes. The site is a home of sorts. Thomas and  Brown (2011) explain that "[s]tudents learn best when they are able to follow their passion and operate within the constraints of a bounded environment" (Location 1050).  In Rob's class, student interest in Minecraft signals a passion and the means by which they compose through the software represents a bounded environment--one not always easy to negotiate.

In bold schools, learners' passions and knowledge guide curricular decisions, not state standards.  I think here of Rob's latest tweet in which he asks:


Simply put: it is illogical to think a single list regardless of how clever one might be can encapsulate what is important to know.  Thomas and Brown (2011) aptly remind us: "Making knowledge stable in a changing world is an unwinnable game" (Kindle Locations 522-523).

7. Unknowing

What is knowable?  What is curriculum?

As knowledge is not stable, then how does one determine what represents important community knowledge? In the concluding post about bold schools I discuss learning content by situating content as knowledge a community of learners compose. As community is understood as rhizomatic,  the representation of knowing is varied and complex.  Hope you will take a look.