Thursday, July 17, 2014

Walter White and Teachers as Makers

There are ideas that sit in the back of my brain for what seems like a long time.  Slowly they bond with other ideas, growing imperceptibly.  Bobbing to the surface, glinting just enough to be noticed.

One of these is a moment towards the end of the series Breaking Bad.  Without spoiling anything major, the main character, Walter White, a chemistry teacher turned drug producing kingpin, says (and forgive me as I paraphrase) "I didn't do it for my family, although I said that was the reason, I did it for me.  I was proud of what I created."

I thought I was joking at the time when I made a note titled Walter White and teachers as makers. I knew it would be tricky to write, it was a good hook with dark implications. It wouldn't do to have people think that I was advocating teachers leave the classroom for any reason, let alone to follow his dubious vocation, but the writers of the series had something there.  The pride of creating, of putting something out into the world is powerful and often inaccessible to teachers.

If teachers are seen as curriculum clerks who manage a yearly churn of students, where is the intrinsic reward of crafting something in the real world that matters to a wider audience?

This question floats in my mind, like that scene, as I read INVENT TO LEARN, Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager 2013,  with a great book club of teachers exploring the ideas, materials, philosophy, and pedagogy of a constructionist education.  The authors quote Mark Frauenfelder, editor of Make, describing the virtuous circle of the Maker ethic.  He talks about creating something, posting it online and having others use this idea as a jumping off point.  Sure, he is talking about chicken coops and robotic light switches, but it resonates with my experience writing about video creation for my classroom.  I see how this same virtuous circle works in the world of teacher writing about what they build for their class, whether it is a lesson, an ebook, a video, or even a puppet.

In an earlier part of the text they describe students in a MakerSpace learning tools and then creating tutorials for other students.  This cooperative creation is a generative force.

If I think about it much at all, I can see a direct thread back to the poetry workshops I enjoyed in college and grad school, the spark of invention stirred us and when those sparks landed and ignited something in another writer we all basked in the light.  Not to get too far into my metaphor, but this is the process of inspiration.  In this book I find a clear arguement for creating an educational space that fosters inspiration and supports learners as they build ideas into tngs that do real work in the world.

Why blog? Because sharing your ideas can have more power than you know and when your idea inspires others, that power comes back to you.  This is the virtuous circle of sharing your learning process.  

I am on the way to a conference to talk about how flipping your class gives you more control over time as a teacher, it breaks the oppressive linear nature of time in which a moment in the classroom is gone once it passes.  My argument is that by recording the right moments in your class you can save time, literally, and allow your students control over how they use that time.

There are many other benefits to teachers creating recordings of class content, but the one I want to call out here is the simple act of making your work shareable.  Before I explored recording my class each day started, passed, and was done.  I had handouts, and plans, and always the looming stack of papers or notebooks, but to anyone outside my classroom there was nothing to show for it.  Once I started recording, I had a something.  It often was pretty or even ready to share, but it was there.  As I made recordings I used my blog to share them out.  I got feedback, often very "constructive" about the quality or length of the recordings and as I tried to make my recording "less bad" I also worked to make them more useful.

As with any tool, the more I used recordings in class, the better I got at making them.  The more recordings I made, the more useful they became to my students.  I should say, I got better at recognizing opportunities to make recordings that could be truly useful in both my classroom and the wider educational community.  Now I see video creation as an important tool in my kit and when I work with students on video creation I have a library of examples of mistakes they should avoid.  

But above all of this, I like making videos.  It amuses me and it feeds me in a vital way.  I wouldn't want to equate my videos or puppets with Walter White's drug empire, but the act of building these pieces and sharing them is a powerful force in my professional life.  I don't advocate that everyone begin sewing puppets or making videos, but I do advocate that teachers find a way to build something they can share with others in a community.  

If you like the sound of this and aren't' sure where to start, consider joining us for our Invent To Learn book club.  It is a great read and can really help any teacher to see that there are so many things about a MakerSpace more important than deciding which 3D printer to get.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Flipping Your Class with Just in Time Recording

source: Wikimedia commons
This week I am honored to be presenting at November Learning's Building Learning Communities Conference.  I have posted the slide deck I am using and links from the presentation here.  Please join the conversation in the comments or tweet your ideas and questions to me @SamPatue and use #BLC14.  Thank you for learning with me.  The theme of the preso -> flipping your class turns you into a timelord.

Flipping Your Class with Just in Time Recording from Sam Patterson, MFA, Ed.D.

Sam Patterson MFA EdD.  I began my teaching journey as a TA working the freshmen composition circuit at San Diego State.  The projectors were all overhead and the boards on the wall were only interactive if you and your students each had a piece of chalk.  From there I went to middle school and high school, teaching English, a little history, darkroom photography, and Math.  This school had Smart boards and I struggled to learn how to make them an effective part of my class.  This was during the clear skies era, not a cloud storage system in sight.  I remember when I finally learned how to connect a microphone to my computer, my students thought I was crazy.  My second school had Smart boards and even less tech sport and vision than my first.  I was innovating in a vacuum.  I launched a blog to record my attempt to go paperless, and began experimenting with content capture.  
I discovered that even a simple recording could be useful to my students because it made time more flexible, it freed me from the relentlessly linear march of time.  I can remember telling my 9th graders to pay attention because you can't rewind class and I don't repeat my jokes.  How times have changed, now they can rewind the class and I know my instruction, jokes and all, could land in a much wider audience than just my classroom.
As I experimented I learned a lot, sometimes I was lucky enough to fail forward, other times I just failed.  There are plenty of challenges to recording lessons and sharing them, let's take a look at which challenges you identified as your biggest barriers.

Links from the Presentation: 

Content capture to Content Creation, an incrimental approach 
Matching Tool with Need  -Livescribe long lecture
Screencasting - using the screen as a canvas  Screencasting for Differentiation 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

RSCON July 11-13 check out this great FREE online conference

Join the annual Reform Symposium Free Online Conference (RSCON) – an online global event highlighting “wow” moments in teaching and learning. RSCON5, will take place July 11th – 13th, 2014 and will feature 60+presentations, 11 keynote speakers from across the globe, panel discussions, tech/app/lesson swaps, the EdInspire Awards, and plenaries Dean Shareski and Kevin Honeycutt. Join the Future of Education community to keep updated with these events and connect with over 10,000 educators worldwide. See more information at
For those interested in hearing an AMAZING panel of Connected Educators discussing how they  are using Digital Media in their schools and classrooms, check out the TeacherCast Keynote Panel Revolutionize Your Classroom by Producing Mindblowing Media on Saturday July 12 at 3pm EST featuring Jeff Bradbury, Dr. Spike Cook, Theresa Stager, Sam Patterson, and Chris Nesi.