19 September 2013

Don't be a node. Be a nexus.

Encountering the word 'node' in publications and discussions about networks and connected learning left me with an uneasy feeling. It sounds much too much like a pejorative nickname than how I would like to define myself. It's mentioned in George Seimens' Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age and Jeff Utecht's Reach and it just bothers me.

When I visualize a 'node', it's like a lump with wires sticking out of it. I understand the implication that we're each a dot on a matrix of lines of digital communication, but connected learning means more than that to me.

image cc European Southern Observatory

17 September 2013

My String Quartet

I've been meaning to write a string quartet for almost fifteen years. My multitude of notebooks contain dozens of beginnings, always unsatisfactory and abandoned. Even more fester in musical purgatory in long forgotten folders on dusty old hard drives.


There is an ethos surrounding the string quartet. Nearly every composer of Western Classical music has written them, and often they were the medium for innovation and experimentation. Even Ravel and Debussy, not fans of tradition, wrote one each, almost as if to prove that they could do it. I count those and the string quartets of Bartok, Ginastera, and Berg as some of my most revered artistic creations, and I can literally listen to Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Schubert string quartets all day long.
Kneisel Quartet c1890 (photo public domain)

11 September 2013

What was missing from my youth.

Learning to use digital media and observing how today's youth are steeped in a culture of connection is making me feel extremely jealous! It's not that I'm not excited to connect myself, but reflecting on my own formative years compared to the opportunities literally sitting in teens' laps now has got me feeling a bit nostalgic.

Angst aside, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on my earlier years by framing my teenage activities according to the research findings in Living with New Media. What were my friendship-driven practices? Which were interest-driven? What did I do while hanging out? Messing around? Geeking out?

05 September 2013

Musical Keyboard Inquiry

In addition to being a PYP Grade 6 teacher, I also teach music to Grades 4-6, in addition to my own homeroom. Last year, I taught music to Grades 1-6, but as the school is grows, the schedule gets a bit tighter.

The fourth graders are just beginning their musical keyboard study, so I thought we could set the stage with a listening-based inquiry.

In the activity, we listened to recordings of various keyboard instruments from hurdy-gurdy to minimoog for which I had gathered YouTube links. After each listen, students responded to the question:

How do you think it produces sound?

photo cc Finchcocks Musical Museum

03 September 2013

Back-to-School Marshmallow Spaghetti Tower Challenge!

I was first introduced to this activity during the MIT Media Lab Learning Creative Learning course. There are a few variations, such as limiting the amount of resources or including tape, but for my students' first day of sixth grade, I let chaos reign.

I gave each group a package of dry spaghetti, three small bags of marshmallows, and the simplest rules I could think of:

1 Build the tallest structure you can.
2 You may only use the materials I gave you.
3 We'll measure after 60 minutes.

01 September 2013

Five innovations for the first day of school

Although I was at school last week, tomorrow is the first day for students and I'm very excited. I've changed a few of my approaches to teaching and can't to get started. I think other teachers may be interested, so I'll outline a few of this year's innovations:

1 Organizing resources with Evernote. As I've been reporting in my 'Inquiry with Evernote' posts at Inquire Within, I have a few hundred photos, articles, videos, websites, etc tagged according to theme, concepts, and disciplines. The result is a cache of resources that can be called upon in various ways and is meant to provide provocation and support for inquiry-based learning and teaching.

2 Using the class blog as a learning hub. This year, our blog will be central to learning, connecting, and collaborating. With that in mind, I've already prepared posts in draft form ready to be published when the time comes. For example, in our first unit, we'll view two videos and read a magazine article. We'll discuss them in class, but respond on the class blog. I've embedded the videos and link to the article in posts so that they can be reviewed before students respond by writing comments.

We'll be inviting other classes inquiring into similar themes or topics to respond, as well, by searching their blogs for related posts on which to comment and using twitter to raise awareness.