Sunday, May 15, 2011

Happy First Anniversary, BlamSpot!

Ah, the end of another school year (and the beginning of the Summer Term), punctuated by periodic blogging here at this spot. What have we learned? How about a retrospective of postings, followed by hard-core analysis by a color commentator and former big-league blogger? An option for a full-length feature film? People have always told me that Tom Arnold bears a passing resemblance to me, or vice-verse - I'd be OK if he played me in the film. Maybe he can talk Arnold Schwarzenegger out of retirement, now that he's out of a job, and apparently single.

Hmm. Too much. Let's just review the highlight reel, shall we?

May 2010: Early in my blogging career, I started with a serious tone, taking on Twitter, text messaging, online distance learning, and exploring new technologies. Very serious, I was. But the blogs lacked a little something - my voice was not very authentic. I was trying to make the blog something that someone else wanted, and not something that I wanted. That changed quickly.

June 2010: I find my voice. I started incorporating new technologies in the classroom, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I proclaimed there was no crying in instructional technology, extolled the virtues of high
speed Internet in the dorms, got my geek on, addressed my inner curmudgeon, railed at Steve Jobs, and even managed to sneak in a Blues Brothers metaphor. Oh, the heady times during the EITS summer session!

Fall, 2010: The start of a new school year challenged me to become an agent of change: adopting more technology in my classroom and advocating for more in our school. I learned that video gaming can save the world - or could lead to it. Pee breaks during class chat - is that a bloggable topic? You bet! ITEC 2010 was a highlight of the fall term, as well as our musical Chicago, where I attempted to use running a spotlight as an example of instructional design theory, and celebrated the innovation of my iPhone's light board app. A long day at an in service was fodder for another entry, although upon further reflection, I may have more optimistic that I should have been. At the end of the fall term, finals and technology failure inspired thoughts of insurrection - but only in my mind. The thoughts may have been critical, but the delivery was more light-hearted.

December 2011 - January 2011: Blog entries equalled my ID journal entries, so there was a flurry of activity. Finding my Smart Board grove, lamenting a lost blog posting, and examining the demise of the school librarian/rise of the school information technologist explored some career possibilities. These posts also reflected some issues that cropped up during the Technology in Education course. During a snow day, a cousin's Facebook posting inspired some reflections of a long distance playdate - viewing and discussing films via the PlayStation. I took some real-world experiences from both in and out of the classroom to make the connections that I had been seeking: how does technology help us learn? What can we learn from the digital natives? What can they learn from we teachers?

February, 2011: Through a well-placed paw, my faithful companion and study-buddy Bernie managed a self portrait, which resulted in a little feline reflection. (He's not as excited about instructional technology as the rest of us.) A flurry of "official announcements" from friends and relatives on Facebook begged for some commentary as well. I could have extended that to another episode in May when a colleague announced to the world on Facebook that he would be leaving his job for another. It was a little rough for the students to find this out online - which I feel emphasizes the point I was making that not EVERYTHING should be announced online.

May, 2011: With no requisite logs or blogging assignments, the spring stayed thin. This month was marked by less instructional technology and more "other things that are pressing in my world." Techies pulling double duty by coming in for the matinee of a Children's Theater production, then dropping everything to get ready for prom (and destroying the myth that techies are a bunch of trolls that are as ugly as a mud post), and a celebrity sighting during our trip to NYC that lacked recognition - or cognition, for that matter - commanded my blogging attention. Perhaps not the most academic of topics, but meaningful - and hopefully enlightening.

With the summer courses come more opportunities to blog. We begin the process of writing the graduate paper. Daunting? Yes, but with the cohort number comes strength. Issues in Technology will follow swiftly in June, with more material to delve into. Which brings me to my number one technology implementation for this year:

Blogging for Understanding. Why would anyone think that this is not a valuable tool? As a Language Arts teachers, we teach writing for understanding. Blogging just takes that into another venue - the online world - that allows for additional steps: comment and response. So I'm a big fan. And this spring, when I wasn't blogging as much, I felt like I was missing something. The break was welcome, but absence made the heart grow fonder, so to speak. There are tens of thousands of authors in the blogosphere,  many who discuss instructional technology. I sometimes still feel like a neophyte, but I need to remember that I'm not trying to teach the world - just share some thoughts and insights regarding my discoveries - and inviting commentary as well. Let's be honest - it's a little daunting to try to teach the world.

I've never been really good at keeping a journal, even when assigned as part of a course or workshop. I would always start out strong, then decide that the initial effort was well beyond expectations and throttle back. Not so with blogging. I think the appealing aspect of blogging is the ability to include multiple media in a post, and that it is a far less formal way to make commentary or observation. It was interesting to review a year's worth of postings. There has been a lot of ground traveled regarding instructional technology - and other things pressing in my world - and already I can see where my attitudes have changed on some issues.

Thanks again to my good friends, instructors, colleagues and classmates in the UNI 2010 Instructional Technology Cohort. The net we have created for each other is strong and reassuring. TECH UP!!

And now, for my favorite anniversary gift to give:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Is Why TMZ Will Never Hire Me

Image credit: Huffman, Todd. "Paparazzi." April 23, 2010

Recently my wife Pat and I received a rare treat: sitting in the live studio audience for the May 7th Saturday Night Live show, where Pat's daughter works as a writer. We were able to shake the shackles loose for four days and have a great NYC experience. The SNL show - which is rumored to be the second-hardest ticket to get in town - was amazing. Even those who may be down on the current season as television viewers would have found the experience really rewarding, especially those of us who dabble in the technical theater side of things.

There were a lot of great moments during the trip, from a very cool Sunday AM in Washington Square in Greenwich Village, people watching and listening to a great NYU jazz combo, to riding bikes on a very crowded Hudson River Greenway. We ate our weight in great food, and I even took a half hour to sail one of the remote control sailboats in the Conservancy Waters in Central Park while taking pointers from a three-year old Polish boy. (I'm sure his instructions were crystal clear. I just didn't understand Polish.) The last main event was a fantastic dinner at Spice Market in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, which is what I will use for today's point:

Know thy culture, know thy surroundings.

First, if you ever do NYC and want to really treat yourself to an amazing dining experience, make two things: 1) reservations well in advance at Spice Market, and 2) additional room on your credit card. (It'll be worth it - trust me.) When you get there, keep your eyes open. We didn't know until about halfway through our dinner that this restaurant is a destination for those who are well-known, dare I say, even famous. I happened to look up as a series of strobe flashes went off outside of the main entrance for about three seconds. It took me a moment to know what this meant - paparazzi - before a trio walked in: a large body guard type, leading a pair who were wearing trendy fedoras. There was something vaguely familiar about the woman - an attractive blonde - but I figured that if this couple were REALLY FAMOUS, I would have recognized one or both of them. Since I didn't, I figured she was a socialite or someone who was nearly famous. The pair was ushered down stairs to a private room, and that was the last I saw of them. I should mention that my wife, who was sitting next to me, and her daughter and her boyfriend, sitting across from us, were in the middle of a discussion, so they didn't see any of this. I brought this to their attention when there was a break in the talk, but when they asked me what they looked like, I said "an attractive blonde woman and a guy in a goatee, wearing trendy fedoras." (That description merely eliminated only half of the population in Greenwich Village.) I assured them that I didn't think that they were REALLY FAMOUS, because if they were REALLY FAMOUS, I would have recognized them. We finished our meal while talking about other more important things.

At this point, I should mention that when there are reports of nearly famous to REALLY FAMOUS people out and about, there is a smaller band of alternative paparazzi that hang around with cameras at the rumored locations to catch a pic that they can keep for themselves or perhaps even sell for profit. I should also mention that they are about a step-and-a-half away from being full-fledged stalkers. To be polite, not all of them are in the best of mental health. It was one of this alternative paparazzo that plays a key role in this story, because of the question he asked us (more like shouted) as we left the restaurant:


See, I thought she looked familiar, but apparently she is not REALLY FAMOUS, because if she was REALLY FAMOUS, I would have ... recognized ...

Ah, I got nothin' at this point.

Apparently I need to relax my stance of never watching reality TV or paying attention to trendy things ... and perhaps listening to current music would assist me as well ... and reading the entertainment news might help, too ...

We laughed in the cab ride home that we had to rely upon a near-stalker to tell us that I saw Christina Aguilera and didn't know it. I wasn't certain that he was correct, considering the volume of his voice and the slurred speech, but we thought it was amusing.

The next morning, as we were waiting at the airport, I decided to see if I was really that vacuous. I Googled "Christina Aguilera dinner Monday May 9." Here is what I got:

From, May 9, 2011

Yup. That's them. That's who I saw.

I suppose there is something comforting about the fact that I don't drop everything when I see someone famous. You can also argue that if I would have recognized her, I may have come completely unglued and looked like a raving lunatic. The fact that I didn't gives me said earlier comfort.

I am also well over the fact that this lack of recognition of Ms. Aguilera makes me anything between "just shy of being hip" to "old geezer." (This freedom occurred many years ago when I dropped a "Captain Kangaroo" reference in my 9th grade class and not a single student knew who the hell I was talking about.) I can live with not being hip. When you teach high school, you're hip for about your first three or four months of your career. After that, no matter how you dress, what you listen to, or the references you drop in class, you're beyond hip. There's no great ceremony that comes with that, by the way. It just oozes over you, it's irreversable, and you're usually the last one to know about it.

So, when you go to NYC, spend a few weeks ahead of time boning up on the latest REALLY FAMOUS folks and their trade. Hopefully you'll come off looking better than I did.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We Do Look Good When We Clean Up

Photo Credit: Lammers, B (4/30/2011). "Playtime Prom-py."
On Saturday, April 30th, two very important events occurred at Washington High School: the last performance of the Cedar Rapids Children's Theater production of Snow White, and the annual dress-up event known everywhere as Prom. Not only did they occur on the same date, but overlapped by an hour.


Yep. We had people in the cast and crew who also wanted to - and I know this is hard to believe - go to prom with their dates. (Where did I go wrong?) So, what does one do in this situation?

Easy. Get your hair done in the morning, do everything within your power to preserve the manicure, arrive at the theater just in time to take your postion and run your cues, get dressed up and show off the garb between the 2:00 and 4:30 shows to have your picture taken with your favorite people in the world - your theater peeps, climb back into your grubby theater gear, run your first few cues until well meaning (but experience-deficit) directors take over for you, back into the crinoline, sequins and heels, run like hell to the promenade that started a half hour after the begining of the show, and let the evening begin.

Normally we don't have this problem, but avoiding Easter weekend, State Large Group Music contest, AP testing, and other sundry events, Prom and Playtime Poppy colided. This happened three years ago, and the results were far less happy - a cast member and his date missed the Grand March by mere moments. No one - and I mean NO one - was happy about it. This year we were able to plan accordingly so that we wouldn't have a repeat of that sad, sorry moment. I'm happy to report all made it and had a blast.

Even though we techies live in the shadows of the stage, wear black and insist on having dirt on our hands, we do enjoy the momentary "dressed to the nines" moments. And just look how good we clean up.