Category Archives: global collaboration

“Students 2.0″ website back up

students 2.0 screenshot, new url 2012Just a quick mea culpa and news of a resurrection: The mea culpa? I let Students 2.0 url lapse in the transition from Korea to Singapore. Then I fell into several fathoms of off-web seas — three years of graduate study (and a new Masters in Ed. Leadership last year), and three years of China voraciousness — and only recently surfaced to get the site back online.

So Students 2.0 — with help from “Arthus” and a nudge from Lindsea — is indeed back up, but with a twist: it has a new address: students2oh.net.(Originally it was .org.)

Apologies to all for that lapse. Better late than never. And it’s nice to revisit that stretch of the path.

On Student Genius, How Not to Grade a Wiki, and Making the World a Stage

clock pictureScot Aldred asks how I assessed projects like the Broken World Wiki textbook, and I tell him I haven’t the foggiest idea. It was too long ago. More to the point, he notes that since I said in my Australia keynote that whatever I did at that time led to burnout, the better question is, “How are such edit-heavy projects best assessed?” This set me to thinking of a speech I saw a brilliant Korean student give in the Original Oratory competition at the IASAS Cultural Convention in Taipei, Taiwan, earlier this month, and how it challenged a lot of what I’ve been taught is “authentic” writing instruction and assessment.

But this post is as much about that brilliant young speaker, and how he and the other young prodigies at that event need to learn to showcase their brilliance by harnessing the power of the web. So, first, that Korean kid.

The Spoken

Slouched in the back rows of the auditorium, high above the stage, I looked down on this kid approaching the podium with a bit of amusement. Straight bangs down to his mad scientist glasses, thin and slightly hunched frame, he didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Even less when he took a few beats too many, it seemed to me, to adjust the microphone, pause, survey his audience left, center, right. Had he forgotten his lines? Finally, he hunches forward into the microphone and peers out at the audience from beneath those low-hanging bangs:

To the left: “Tick.”  To the center: “Tick.” To the right. “Tick.” Pause. “Time is passing, and you’ll never get a moment back.”

My cliche-meter activated, I’m already plotting a path to the most discreet exit. But he keeps going: “And that’s why I want to talk to you today about what we’re told is one of the great evils of student life: Procrastination.”

He belts that last word out with such surprising flair, both vocally and physically, wheeling his body in such a way that he takes in the whole audience with his eyes, that I’m inclined to nibble at his bait. I’ll give him a few more seconds.

“You’ve all heard it a million times from a million teachers: ‘Don’t wait until the last minute to start your essay. You’ve got a week: start drafting now.’ Or, ‘Don’t put off studying for that test until the last night.’ ” Pause. “But I’m here to tell you: the teachers are wrong. Procrastination is one of the wisest strategies for living the Good Life.”

The pleasure of the hook piercing the cheek. I relax into my seat to enjoy being reeled in.

The Heard

The student went on to marshal all sorts of evidence that real people often wait until the deadline to do their work, and they do just fine. He’s got me thinking of how I teach writing — the Six Traits of Effective Writing, using the Writing Process to revise, trait by trait, over a number of days — versus how I do it, and have always done it: in one sustained outpouring of words that normally begins around 10 pm with a full pot of coffee, and ends around dawn the next day at the bottom of the second pot. And yes, that day is the day of the deadline.

It worked for me in college, where my professors almost always praised my writing. And it has worked for me since, in all the (admittedly modest) ways my writing has been successful.

So why was I making my students practice a model I myself didn’t practice, had never practiced? Why was I forcing them to sacrifice on its altar so many irrecoverable ticks of the clock, and forcing myself to sacrifice hours as well to assess each of those revisions?

Pitchforks down, readers. I’m a strong advocate of the Six Traits, and sing its praises whenever the topic comes up. It’s a beautifully focused model for zeroing in on the fine points of the writer’s craft, and its internal logic makes it a baby worth keeping. My way of teaching it, though? That’s the bathwater this kid was making me think should be thrown out. (And that points toward my first gut answer to Scot: assessing wikis shouldn’t excessively weight the number of edits. It’s the quality of the final piece that should be assessed. For some writers, excellent quality will take many edits, and for others, none at all. The proof is in the pudding. If the final product lacks polish, the student should be able to show edits as proof of effort. Otherwise, ignore them.)

The Echoes

Then came the moment of the speech that lifted me powerless onto the deck, happily flapping at this young speaker’s feet: “And now let me close by warning you of your fate if you don’t procrastinate: you become that most unhealthy of things in modern civilization” — and he wheels on the next phrase, and spits it out with fire-and-brimstone perfection — “a workaholic!”

Laughter and applause all around as he speeds through the details of a life lost to obsessive perfectionism and a work ethic gone berserk, before putting on the brakes, slowing to a pause, and closing where he started, with the “Tick, tick, tick” of that precious clock that, unless we rule it, rules us: a healthy reminder that some cliches earn their status for good reason.

Toward a Bigger Stage

I left that Original Oratory event the way I had left so many others — the Impromptu Speaking, the Oral Interpretation, the Extemporaneous Speaking — at that Convention: amazed by the talent of the students, and depressed at how boxed-in it all was. That Korean student (Sung Jin J. of Jakarta International School) struck me as nothing less than a young, Asian David Sedaris, able to use his wit and verbal skills to turn his quirky physical package to his great advantage; another student, a Pakistani young man named Raheem of the International School of Manila, spoke in multiple events with such polish and intelligence I would have paid admission to see more; likewise Zach at my own school, with his Original Oratory speech about the degeneration of high school into a breeding ground for “fakes, hypocrites, and cheaters,” an institution devoted no longer to “college preparation,” but to mere “college application preparation”; and an Australian young man whose name I forget but whose speeches I never will: all of these students showed nothing less than genius. And while IASAS deserves kudos for celebrating these prodigies on the same level that we usually (and depressingly) reserve for people skilled at getting a rubber ball through a hoop, across a line, or over a fence, it still falls short of promoting them on a far broader, and at the same time far less labor-intensive scale.

You know what I’m getting at: all that genius disappears into silence or, only slightly better, onto some school website that gets ten visits a month. If they truly had the savvy popular wisdom suggests these “digital natives” do, they could be getting thousands, tens of thousands of viewers a month. And that could lead places for them.

The missed opportunity to showcase them as they deserve killed me. I approached many of them, gave them my card, told them they deserved a wider audience than the auditorium, and I wanted to help them reach it. It was all unplanned, so I cast about in my mind for possibilities: I could propose to my old colleagues at Change.org that they publish these students as guest-writers. I could see about interesting them in reviving Students 2.0. I could feature them on this blog.

But all of those ideas are more complicated, it seems to me now, than necessary. It seems to me that all those students need to do is start their own blog, or YouTube channel for their orations, and share their talents with the world that easily. When they launch, they can tell me, I can tell you, and we can all promote them and send viewers their way. And then the unpredictable possibilities of “Open Living,” to quote Alan Levine — the possible job offers, interviews, feature articles, and the million other serendipities — are given their opening. And maybe these young geniuses can be discovered before they graduate high school.

Image by zoutedrop

How to “Smart Mob” against Creationism in Textbooks (video)

Picture this: enterprising students in cities in Texas, particularly, and other cities nationwide – along with counterparts in Romania, which just mandated a Creationism-only science curriculum (I kid you not), and maybe Turkey, for good measure – organize Smart Mobs to strike, peacefully and simultaneously, out of the blue to demand only 21st century science – yes, I mean evolution – be included in their biology and other science textbooks.

And they do it quickly, before Texas’ Creationist-dominated Board of Education votes next Spring to insert Creationism yet again into its science standards. (See this post.)

They happen at such places as the Texas capitol building, the lobbies of textbook publishers’ headquarters, science museums, the national capitol, and wherever else seems like a good idea.

And they simply follow the steps of this excellent video (h/t to the Personal Democracy Forum):

And, because they’re good, peaceful citizens showing the will and responsibility to act for the education they deserve, the students who organize these events (more than once, please) include this as a bullet on their college application, to show that they’re more original and more consequential than the herd that joins the schooly National Honor Society and such. And the admissions officers at the best colleges see that bullet, and place their applications in the acceptance pile.

And they live actively and powerfully ever after.

If Obama’s doing it, kids, maybe it’s something you should consider as worth your time to learn. It might just help your future more than a couple hundred extra points on your SAT.

(Add to TheIndyDebate map)

My Wikispaces in Education Webinar Presentation Video is Up

Last week, Wikispaces invited me to give a Wikispaces in Education Webinar about four wiki projects I’ve done in high school English and history classes: The Broken World Wiki Textbook, a student-made textbook of modern world history from WW1 to WW2, featuring text, images, and embedded videos and student video lectures (and linked to a companion reflective class blog); the French Revolution Ant Farm Diaries, an historical fiction Writing-to-Learn unit in which student-created fictional characters interracted with their classmates’ characters in interlinked diary entries; King Lear Street Talk, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, forcing the close line-by-line reading of 16th-century English necessary to adapt it to “Sopranos”-style modern English; and the 1001 Flat World Tales, a global creative writing workshop using the Six Traits of Effective Writing and a peer-reviewed Writing Workshop joining students from Hawaii, Colorado, and my classroom in Seoul.

The first three projects listed above were “local” collaborations, the fourth one global. I discuss in the webinar my thoughts on the relative merits of both approaches in the webinar. (I posted about those reflections most fully here.)

Thanks to Wikispaces for the opportunity to look back over two years of experiments in wiki pedagogy and introduce them all in one fell swoop.

If you want to read the “think-aloud” posts I wrote when designing these projects, check January to June or so of the Archives.

Here’s the event (it should start when I do, at almost 26:50, and finish a half hour later. The first 30 minutes are a tour of Wikispaces for beginners. The black blob on the screencast will disappear within a few seconds.):