Friday, November 29, 2013

Hack, Remix, and Play

Hacking to most people conjures images of people like Andrew Snowden, people working behind closed doors and in secret to find out secrets, or worse yet, to destroy something another has made. And while this is one notion of hacking, there is another that I learned about last week.

This other notion of hacking involves the idea that we can take anything that has been already formulated and change it in order to remix it into something else, either more useful or simply more artistic. There is a whole culture forming softeware and encouraging people to hack, to remix, and to play. 

What's exciting about this maker movement is how energizing it can be to take something that's already wonderful and change it to make it useful for a different user or for a different purpose. 

I was introduced to the Mozilla maker apps this week and I had a blast! What was so fun for me is that I not only got to remix a web site, but I got to glimpse inside some wsites to see just How they are made. Using Mozilla's X Ray Goggles allowed me to glimpse at the blocks that piece websites together, while allowing capabilities to change the site so it doesn't ruin the site. Popcorn Maker allowed me to hack into a site and remix it, teaching me to change it using the same coding language website writers use. It was exhilarating.

It felt like true writing and creativity. It helped me take a look at the website design for how it is put together both technically, but also from an author's craft standpoint. This is the piece that feels exciting for my classroom. It seems a great way to use these tools that allow a glimpse at the coding of pages while also crafting a mode of writing to pull boys into the craft. 

I have struggled to bring boys wh oh I game especially into the craft of writing. I am hoping to take this new knowledge to leverage it for those boys in particular. I am going to hack and remix and play to breathe new life into my school year.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stop yelling...will you?

It always ends the same. "Mom, it's hard for me to listen to you when you're squawking and yelling at me." Every argument I have with my daughter is the same: I ask her to do something, sometimes there's an eyeroll, I get annoyed because I don't feel like she's taking whatever I ask her to do seriously, then I begin with the lecture. It usually starts something like, "I'm feeling frustrated..." and then we progress from there. I end the argument with, "I'm not yelling; I am talking to you with hopes that something will change."

"But, mom, you ARE yelling."

And...this is the point where we agree to disagree.

But the truth is that I never see myself as yelling. I see myself as lecturing, yes, but yelling? Not so much.

I teach students who struggle with writing and every Friday I go to another teacher's room to do team building. We play games and then we talk about what happened during the game. Man, was I schooled last week.

One of the students pointed out that his team was successful because no one was yelling, people were giving directions, but not yelling. So I asked him the difference. This began a discussion about the way kids view yelling.

Apparently, and I did not know this, yelling is not necessarily just a raising of the voice any more. You see, when I was growing up, yelling was simply raising one's voice. This is no longer the case. Yelling now seems to be telling a person to do something where the person being told does not play a part in the decision-making process. They are simply told to do whatever it is.

Whereas, giving directions implies all of the stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process...or, at least, they feel like they are involved in the process.

This realization I made with this group of students last week has opened my eyes. It has helped me understand my daughter. It has helped me think of her words very differently. All because I took the time to listen.