I've been getting some new readers lately who are also new to blogs in general, so this is intended as a brief guide to help them dive in right away and enjoy reading what I've been up to. If you're reading this via an email subscription, you'll need to visit my actual website (click here) for any of this to make sense. If you ever get lost while browsing my site, just click on the big Tryangulation title that you see on every page.
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can see links to the last 10 months or so. If you’re looking for something
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A project I've been working on for the last two years has been the cultivation of a critically endangered wildflower that's found only in the vicinity of our school (click here for more background).
Yesterday our Botany Club got in the mud to plant some of the seeds I collected this summer (about 2000!) in some new beds next to our original yanar döner plot. We also took another step toward our long term goal by adding another endemic species, Centaurea cyanocephala. There are 25 endangered wildflowers in our province, so we've got big plans for our big new campus!
The C. cyanocephala are biannuals, so now we'll have to be extra careful to make sure that our well intentioned school gardeners don't clean and hoe the area next summer. To see what we did and how we managed the problem of the biannuals, look at my Flickr set here. Some of the photos have notes attached to them which you can see if you pass your mouse pointer over the image. Maybe this will give some you new ideas for using photographs in your lessons.
As winter approaches, we'll start work on the the club website, and I'm looking forward to trying some other cool tools with the group.
Fellow Michigander Doug Hart is helping his IB students with an e-zine project where his students write essays and opinion pieces about their daily life, and then invite IB'ers in other places to comment. Family life, dating, and curfews might have been a little cliché if it weren't for one thing.
The school is in Ramallah, Palestine, where the life of a teenager is anything but a cliché.
The name of the 'zine is Behind the Wall, and their third edition just came out. I was happy to see how so many students from other countries have started participating. But what really impressed me was the acknowledgments page and the long list of schools and individuals in more than a dozen countries who have contributed to this project.
Congratulations and tebrikler (as we say in Turkish) to Doug and everyone else involved!
The International Baccalaureate Organization's Africa/Europe/Middle East regional conference was held in Athens in October 2006, and Powerpoint presentations from that conference are now available for download from here:
In recent weeks several of my favorite blogs have hit on the clash between the learning about paradigm and the learning how paradigm in the goals and practices of schools.
First, Kathy Sierra's discussion of the failure of university science programs to teach students how to do science. She says "What experts use to do their work are the things we don't teach. We focus almost exclusively on how to talk about the work."
Will Richardson's recent post says "the thing that seems to be missing from most of my conversations with
classroom teachers and administrators is a willingness to even try to
re-envision their own learning, not just their students."
Then while tidying up my del.icio.us tags I found this by Ewan McIntosh: "if ... we are looking to give learners
the opportunity to direct their learning then what is the role of the
teacher? Well, in order to teach you have to be the person you want
your students to be."
Last week I had more conversations yet again on the topics of (1) a recent teacher seminar on innovative instruction, delivered as usual in a classical lecture style, and (2) the irony and contradictions of implementing a portfolio based curriculum in an environment where all K12 education focuses on performance on ONE 195-minute university entrance exam (if you read Turkish you can visit this link to read more).
And then today in a meeting colleagues and I discussed how to institutionalize the IBO's recently released Learner Profile when, no matter how much we value the characteristics of the ideal learner, those characteristics really aren't the kind of thing that show up in the standardized tests required by our students to graduate from the national high school program.
Will and Ewan are talking (mostly) about the implementation of Web 2.0 tools to free up learning in schools, and Kathy is talking about the future of innovation (one of the pillars of the US economy), but they're all talking about learning how to learn. That's why it's good that we learn the scientific method or web-based research tools or collaborative writing with wikis. That's why we also need to learn to risk failure, to embrace error and to reflect on our own experience. I'm liking my recent metaphor of burning rubber more and more.
So in our nicely compartmentalized subject areas like chemistry and history we learn all kinds of facts and theories, but the tools and skills used for creating knowledge in those fields don't look very much like chemistry or history. Even more ironic is that we also teach tools (Internet research, PowerPoint, DreamWeaver, whatever) outside the context of using those tools to communicate and create knowledge.
Imagine four years of art class where all you do is learn about brushes, and never get to paint!
Here's the view that was waiting for my at my office this morning. We moved to Ankara seven years ago this month and I think this is the earliest first snowfall we've seen yet. It snowed all night Saturday night, and off and on during Sunday. The school is out of town at a higher elevation, so there was even more here than we have at home. Click on the image to go to my Flickr photos.
Over the last month everyone's been seeing lots of bees around, even indoors. I wonder if they knew this was coming?
I've written before how feed aggregators like Bloglines are very useful for collecting and managing feed subscriptions, and how this can be an important tool for research on the web. For an example you can look at my public feeds --that is, the subscriptions that I allow others to see-- at this link.
Right now there are about 83,000 people like me who have public subscriptions on Bloglines, and about 35% of these people (like me) organize their subscriptions into topical folders, and (like me) average about 20 feeds per folder.
Now the clever people at the University of Maryland have created Feeds That Matter. FTM interprets all that information about nearly 3 million individual feed subscriptions to generate lists of the most popular feeds in the most popular categories. If you are researching one of these categories, you can quickly find the most reputable bloggers for that category and find information and resources that have already been filtered by like minded people.
I did a spot check of the education category, and found that I am already subscribed to 6 of the top 20; not bad. But if I want to branch out into a new area, this is one of the first sites I'll visit.
As I got to work this morning I remembered that today is All Saints
Day, and for all I know I'm the only one around here that knew it. This
is a really big holiday in Guatemala though, and a few times today my
mind wandered off to our former home. Late in the day when I had a
conversation with a colleague about the research project I had worked
on there, I couldn't take it anymore, and had to look at the kites
In Guatemala, All Saints Day comes as the rainy season
finally ends and the weather turns crisp and clear in the highlands.
People pack picnic lunches and spend the day cleaning and decorating
the tombs of departed loved ones, and as the breezes pick up they head
to the higher parts of town for the main event.
Many towns have a tradition of building and flying enormous round kites on All Saints Day. Some of these barriletes measure 3 or 4 meters across and require a small team of men to fly them (or else the kite will fly the man!). Tacaná,
where we used to live, is less than an hour's walk from the Continental
Divide, at the head of a long gorge leading up from the Pacific coast.
Good place for big kites.
I don't have any scanned photos of the kites of Tacaná, but I found some nice ones on Flickr (click here for my search results) from other parts of Guatemala.