Looking into the past through today’s eyes

Last year in my World History class, we focused a lot more on current events than the typical history class did, looking at what was going on in the news and tracing it back to its roots. We were able to spend a lot of time studying ISIL, for example, and looking into how the Iraq War led to their rise, and how the country’s religious and social turmoil in the past made it ripe for such extremism. It was a ton of fun, and very interesting to students as they saw things develop on the news—they didn’t have to ask why something was happening, as we’d already looked into it.

Another area we studied was disease, especially focusing on the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. As we were going into that, I remembered an older Radiolab episode I’d heard, and while it focused on HIV, I remembered it having a lot of similar ideas that I wanted my students to look into, so I assigned them to listen to that and then write about how it applied to Ebola.

What’s my takeaway from this? Honestly, doing the current-events-for-a-world-history-class thing was more of a trial thing, as I had never taught a history class before, but I’m a news junkie and was certain that I’d be able to teach current events better than historical events, or at least teach historical events in the context of current events. It turned out to be a great experiment, though, and one that I’m looking forward to duplicating this school year, but better than ever!

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My mantra for this year—”Work is love made visible”

I was messing around online, reading a few of my favorite websites on my Feedly 1 feeds, when I stumbled upon this beautiful comic via one of the coolest sites out there, ZenPencils. It’s a bit of a longer read, based off of a poem by Khalil Gibran, but well worth it:

Khalil Gibran's "Work is Love Made Visible", via ZenPencils

I’m on the tail end of a “vacation” 2, so my mind is really turning back towards what’s happening at home and, soon, starting school back up. When I saw this comic, I absolutely loved the point Gibran was making, and how even though being a teacher can be grueling, occasionally thankless work, it is absolutely my love letter to my students. I would love to have this image up in my office, staring down at me for those days when I just want to quit.


  1. RIP Google Reader.
  2. Visiting two sets of grandparents on the other side of the country has been a lot more fun than I expected, but I can’t help but think of all the work I have piling up on my desk at home in the last week of “real” summer before two weeks of pre-school teacher meetings. Yuck.
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Talking about my generation: discussing digital natives and immigrants

***Apologies for this being late. I flew from SF to Orlando today and had a supremely fun (not really) 4 hour delay 1 that screwed up my publishing plans. Better late than never 🙂 ***


This week’s Edtech 537 Masters class assignment got me thinking about what I’d consider my generation, or at the least, the generation(s) after me, and how they interact with technology. Some of the important voices in the educational technology world have begun classifying people into two camps:

  1. Digital natives, or those who have grown up with technology around them.
  2. Digital immigrants, or those who didn’t grow up with technology and have actively had to learn how to use the technology.

Looking through some of the articles in this class that have focused around those idea, the “big three” seem to come to an incomplete conclusion. Marc Prensky probably set the tone with his controversial 2 “Digital natives, digital immigrants… Do they really think differently?”. In it, he makes the case that students today have just totally different brains than the old guard, that they value images over text, movement over static, interaction over spoon-feeding. He goes on to say that teachers need to change our minds to find new ways to use technology, especially games, to help our students better make connections.

In response to this, Jamie McKenzie wrote a pretty scathing response where he 3 attacked Prensky’s sources 4, his selection (or non-selection) of journal information, his interest in video games for education, and even his non-academic tone! I was surprised to read something in the academic realm that really was so aggressive, and truthfully, regardless of its truth or validity, the whole piece rubbed me the wrong way.

Finally, the third piece came from Thomas C. Reeve, who really seemed, more than the other two sources, to best analyze research and dissect what information we know about the different generations and how they think. It was a pretty long-and-winding piece that sometimes seemed to lose its way, but by the end of it, it was pretty clear that what we knew for sure was just that the current generation of students is much more narcissistic than their predecessors.

So what do I think? Truthfully, this is tough, being that I understand that the statistical and research information is almost nil, so it’s hard to base my opinion on much more than an opinion, but for me, most definitely I think that the current generation is a lot more at ease and, frankly, better at technology than those so-called “digital immigrants”. I buy that there are these different classes of people, and I feel like I can point to circumstantial  and personally-experienced evidence to support that.

But here’s the thing—that’s not the right question to ask. The real question is “So what?” Does it matter if there is one group or another? I personally don’t think it does, so long as the two groups can find ways to coexist and work with each other, and as the adults in the relationship, I feel like my duty as a teacher dictates that I go to where my students are and help them the best way I can, and I truly feel building my courses around my students’ skill sets is the best thing I can do.


  • Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
  • McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html
  • Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper104/ReevesITForumJan08.pdf


  1. Proof:
    Exhibit AExhibit B
  2. More on this to come…
  3. Or she… Sorry, sexually ambiguous name.
  4. “Coming next fall—Mark Whalberg stars in Who is Dr. Bruce Berry, on NBC.”
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Guest post: Thank you to my teacher, Ms. Brundula!

For a guest post, I asked a friend of mine, Becky Dewey-Daniel, to share an interaction she had with a teacher that left a mark on her. This story touched me, and I hope it reaches you as well.

I was in high school and arguing with my religion teacher…again.

I was asking questions and sharing opinions that weren’t memorized—ideas about things I had been studying in the Bible on my own time about sex, marriage and prostitution. The pastor who was teaching us had a hard time hearing anything that wasn’t canonized and I felt he wasn’t considering anything I had to say. He was only trying to “win” an argument and didn’t care about me. (Not a great strategy for convincing a curious teenager).

I felt completely defeated. None of my classmates cared. They just wanted to zone out and make it through the class. To make it worse, one the teachers I looked up to came in during the class to pick something up from her desk while the pastor was lecturing me. I was horrified. What was she going to think of me? Some sacrilegious trouble maker? I was doing well in her math class. Now I was just embarrassed and wanted to stop offering my opinion to a teacher…ever.

Class ended.

Day went on.

Math class started. I barely looked up.

Math class ended.

Teacher gave me a note as a I left the room.

Ms. Dewey~

It is good to think —it is good to ponder. Being in disagreement with someone doesn’t make you stupid or wrong, it only makes you smarter. It is hard to defend your ideas—especially when they are so abstract. Don’t ever think your ideas don’t matter—because you especially carry a unique view on life. Your views are totally interesting! I know what it felt like for you today. It ‘s happened to me too! 🙂

Ms. B.

It felt like redemption. And ok, the part about being smarter than someone I disagree with might not always be 100% accurate, but as a teenager about to give up on having any more meaningful conversations with my educators, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I kept my head up. I learned when to fight for a new opinion and when to hold my opinions for someone who would listen….and going on seven years, the note has stayed in my wallet. Thank you, Ms. B!

Becky Dewey-Daniel is the Director of Enrollment Marketing at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Jumping out blindly, or “my greatest fear(s) about SBG”

Red Bull Cliff Diving


What is it about that picture that freaks me out the most? Is it the 300 foot 1 drop that this psychopath is going into? Is it that he’s clearly falling into not-that-deep water, nestled between jagged rocks that could smash his body into a bag of human confetti? Is it that he’s flippity-flopping all over the place, punishing his equilibrium for some heinous crime it must have committed against him recently?

Nah, man. What freaks me out the most is that he’s standing at the top of that diving board, aiming towards jagged rocks, throwing himself into a which-way-is-up tizzy… while his back is to the water 2. What is that?! How can he do what he’s about to do without really knowing where he is going? What does it take to take aim, turn around, and drop throw yourself into the abyss all of of information that isn’t the most up-to-date? Who is this crazy man that looks, then leaps, then deals with the (hopefully not-dire) consequences afterwards?

I ask because I’m on the cusp of my own big jump. This summer, I’ve been doing a lot of work on brushing up on Common Core standards—knowing them backwards and forwards, unpacking and repacking—in an effort to be a better teacher next year than I was last year, my first at my new school in California. All this studying has led to a re-realization 3 that grades are junk, and that I truly should be joining a brave group of colleagues utilizing standards-based grading (SBG) in at least my English classroom 4.

Here’s my big issue, though—where does it end? I understand the theory, I know how to set up my gradebook, I get aligning assessments to standards, all of that. But… What does it look like at the end? In January (or June), what’s my gradebook going to look like? Will I have over-assessed Reading Standard #1:

Screenshot 2015-07-23 13.44.32

at the expense of Reading Standard #9?

Screenshot 2015-07-23 13.44.40

What happens if I have students who start out weak, get stronger, then inexplicitly get weaker as the year goes along? How do I deal with translating each standard’s “grade” 5 into a letter grade for the registrar? 6 Isn’t it kinda unfair to develop a brand-new system, introduce and sell it to students/parents, and then, at the end of the semester, to pull a “Wellll… it turns out…”?

So this is my issue. It’s the big thing I’ve been battling over the summer, especially in the last few days. As I see it, then, I only have a few courses of action:

Jump Don't jump

And that’s the big battle.


  1. Approximate.
  2. WTF reaction (Tim Gunn)
  3. Before moving to Cali, my colleagues and I in our school in Taiwan studied the heck out of standards-based grading, especially in a PLC group where we read Rick Wormeli’s “Fair Isn’t Always Equal“. By the time I was done with that (and my own side-research), I declared myself an “on-paper SBG expert”—all I had left to do was to put it into practice. *GULP*
  4. I’m still relatively early on in being a history teacher, and technology standards for my Computer Applications classes seem iffy-at-best, but I do have a few years of teaching ELA, so no excuse there, right?
  5. In many SBG systems, grades are done on a 0-to-3 or 1-to-4 scale of mastery as opposed to a 100-point-scale of vagueness.
  6. Suspiciously little (of value) is written about this one. “GRADES SHOULDN’T BE A THING!” they yell. “WE SHOULD JUST BE PREPARING THEM FOR SKILLS THEY’LL NEED IN COLLEGE.” Ok, well don’t I need to tell the college how well they do those skills? Huh? Is this thing on?

    Silly seal.

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JUST SAY NO… To Homework?

Recently, this tweet showed up at the top of my timeline:

I’m personally pretty averse to homework—as as student, I always felt like too much was given out 1, but it could have been worth it if we were learning from it. Usually, it just seemed like a time-waster. What’s the point?

One rep, two rep...I understand that sometimes, students just need “reps”—after all, that’s how we physically build muscles—but does it really help in the long run? Read the article that Alice shared, then share your thoughts.


  1. DUH.
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This is happening: hosting an online Edcamp #teachSDA

teachSDA ''Daily Planet'' BaBuFor the last couple of years, my mentor and former high school History teacher Stephen Bralley and I have been leading a group of educators in a weekly chat, called #teachSDA. The “SDA” part of that is Seventh-day Adventist, our church, the 2nd largest parochial system next to Catholics. Our goal has always been to find a way to help Adventist educators, scattered all around the world, make better connections with eachother. It’s been a slow process, but we’ve been able to amass almost 60 weekly chats over 2 years.

Last week, our church has a really big meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and there were lots of people tuning in to see the way some decisions were made. As I was online, I saw hundreds of Adventists 1 Tweeting and Facebook posting about what was going on, and it made me wonder how many of those people were teachers, and if those teachers were plugged into the utilizing-social-media-for-PD system. I did some querying, and after a little while, posted this blog post, declaring that #teachSDA was going to try to parlay this San Antonio meeting into an Edcamp!edcamp

It took a couple of days of more tweeting, asking questions, etc, but it turns out that we’re going to actually be doing this next Sunday or Monday! This is a really big deal for #teachSDA, and we feel like the stakes are really high, but this might be the thing that gets our chat numbers quite a bit higher and gives us a bit more notoriety within our community.

As I’ve been laying in bed, thinking about what’s coming up, I keep coming back to “what are the goals of this Edcamp?”, and I think it’s important that we consider them before actually moving too much further. What is this Edcamp all about? What do we want out of this? What do we need to learn? I’ve got 3 big things I’ve determined:

  1. Edcamp #teachSDA is about growing myself. No matter what happens with this, I need to come out of this experience better off. It seems really selfish to focus on my own needs, but really, why put so much work into something that ultimately won’t make me a better teacher? With all the organizing, PR stuff, tech support, and so on, I’ve still got to make sure I take the opportunity to sit in chat rooms with other teachers and learn from them.
  2. Edcamp #teachSDA is about growing my PLN. Again, a bit self-serving, but I think that putting so much work into this has to be something that grows the number of teachers I can go to to support me, and to support them. My own circle (as in my own @webby37 circle and my #teachSDA circle) must increase through this experience.
  3. Edcamp #teachSDA is about growing my church. Selfless, huh? 2 Bralley and I have really gotten a lot out of learning on Twitter, through our own PLNs, and we truly want to make sure that other teachers have the great experience that we have from all of this. How can we help our fellow teachers have great experiences as we do ourselves?

More to come on this. Wish us luck!


  1. To call Adventists technology-phobic would be an understatement.
  2. Only took me 3 bullet points to get to others. :)
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