Year3-Week12: The Value of Pressure in Learning

2018-11-05 STEAMLab_wk12 pressure_12_steam-lab

The original idea was to post at the end of every week something with much more reflection and thoughtfulness than my previous daily social media posts that I had done over the past two-years. I was able to keep to that schedule for the first eight-weeks or so, but have faltered and failed since then. Continue Reading

Year3-Week8: “Classroom Management”

The key to school/student/learning success is student engagement
by 24-years experience in the classroom

I should have known that “classroom management” could be a problem for me going all the way back to when I was doing observations/volunteer work as part of my teacher training program back in the early 1990s.
Continue Reading

Year3-Week7: Course Adjustments

2018-09-24 STEAMLab_wk07 teacher-training

I’ve gone on record saying that you make (teaching) plans so that you can pivot and change them based on the circumstances. This was that kind of week. Continue Reading

Year Three Week Two – The Plan’s First Trial

“No plan survives contact with the enemy,” Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, German Field Marshal

I think I scared myself last week when posited the difficulty of teaching a single subject across six grade levels much less five subject areas across said six grade levels. Oops.
Continue Reading

We’re Back… Second Half of the School Year Adjustments

Back when the Washington Redskins were winning Super Bowls (circa 1991), one was always wise to be aware of coach Joe Gibbs’ incredible halftime readjustments where they’d take what they learned in the first half and crush the opposing team in the second half. Now that the first half of the school year has passed I wish that I could say my break was spent plotting the conquest of learning that was going to take place in my STEAM Lab over the next half of the year. I mostly slept in every morning. Obviously I really needed the break. But what are my second half adjustments?

Alas, I’m still working on classroom management stuff that should have been taken care of in August, but will make things a bit more manageable going forward the rest of the year. The other ever-present concern is how to best use the 18.5 50-minute lessons we have left in the school year. I’ve scheduled three weeks/lessons of EV3 robotics for the three 5th grader classes, I’d like to have all grades do some animation work with their drawings, I don’t feel like we’ve done enough with our Augmented-Reality 3D systems and we have a 3D printer that needs to get some attention. We have a classroom set of WeDo LEGO robots on order, which are more elementary school appropriate, which I would love to fit into the end of the school year. So many ideas, so little time left to implement. Not Joe-Gibbs-level adjustments, but I’m getting a better picture of our limitations and therefore where I should devote our resources. Go, sTEAM, go!

Thoughts from the “Mountain” – My Kingdom for A Single Grade Level

2017-11-15 STEAMLab before class waiting for students

Thoughts from the “Mountain” – My Kingdom for A Single Grade Level

Is it a bad sign that after 18-years as a teacher in an ongoing series of “Specialist” positions that I’m thinking about the virtues of having a single grade level (aka, my own class)? It must be this cold/sore throat that I’m attempting to fight off… in my weakened state and all. I should know better. This really feels like this is just a case of “the grass is greener” syndrome.

Whenever we talk, mom asks me if I’m happy and I have a hard time coming up with a real answer. Not a good sign. Fourteen weeks (out of 37) into the school year and I haven’t gotten any sense of rhythm getting things done except that I’m not keeping up with creating my podcast, my blogging, my photography, etc., etc., etc. I really enjoyed my first real summer off, but maybe I didn’t give myself enough time before students arrived to get things set up. I thought I was handling all of the items that were delayed that were out of my hands… But I’ve missed too many deadlines to have a real positive attitude about all of this. Damn.

I know that my non-specialist coworkers work like crazy to stay ahead of everything and that for every thing that is complicating my work responsibilities that I’d gladly give up, it would only be replaced by something else were I to switch positions. I’m tempted to complain that I’m too old for this shit, except for my coworkers who are plugging away everyday who happen to be older than moi. I guess I just need to suck it up, buttercup. Next week is our Thanksgiving week break (yes, they now are giving us the whole week off!). Let’s see if I can’t get enough things off my To-Do list so that I can enjoy my Turkey Day with family and friends and not feel like I’m falling further behind.

Consumer-Grade Technology Won’t Cut It In the Classroom

Nothing will shake out the bugs and defects in anything quite like exposure to the energy and intensity of elementary students. I’ve seen nicely manufactured kid-friendly robots happily fail to drive forward after only two-weeks of exposure to elementary students. And we’re not talking about driving them off tables or running them into walls or any other forms of robot/technology abuse. Just the normal-but-intense usage by seven- to 12-year-olds during 40-hour a week summer camp sessions will show the weakness or flaws of any technology (or plan).

Broken Stylus Wire

Broken Stylus Wire

Currently my latest frustration is realizing that computer/technology equipment that was designed to work with either the military or university students doesn’t stand a chance when faced with a room full of 5-year-olds. Within less than a week my students had exposed a fatal flaw that would cripple every expensive 3D-augmented-reality-Windows PC. The styluses, necessary to run the 3D software, were vulnerable to eager 5-year-olds playing tug-a-way with said styluses. The wires, the wires were not designed to withstand 5-years tugging at them. So, if the wires attaching the styluses break, no 3D-augmented-reality functions and we’re left with very expensive PCs with no 3D interface. And no matter how much I might pre-test the machines before the school day begins, several students will complain when things are most hectic that “my computer isn’t working” and I have to troubleshoot on the spot, running through the list of possible problems, one that might be the stylus-wire has died a tog-of-war death. It can get to the point where I question the wisdom at creating curriculum that is dependent on the styluses to perform without failure.

Ever the one to work on the bleeding edge, I completely understand why teachers choose against using technology in their instruction. Sometimes it’s just not worth it to go the extra mile when three out of eleven computers don’t perform per plan. This is why NASA does everything with at least triple redundancy, anything goes wrong and people die. Mine isn’t nearly that dramatic, but when I’m really pushing the students to engage with learning material that isn’t easy, I do not need the technology to add another layer of difficulty by being unreliable or faulty. The 3D-AR PC vendor is great and more than ready to replace any stylus in the midst of death-throes. It’s just exhausting to work around these design flaws that always present themselves at the worst possible moments. That’s also probably why military expenditures are so costly, no one wants things breaking down at the worse possible moment (though I’m sure many a soldier quickly learned to work around faulty equipment when under fire!).

So, you want to see if there’s anything wrong with your design or technology? Just one day with my students will expose the weaknesses and faulty-thinking. We should really offer this as a service. I have my doubts whether many “innovative” tech companies have the balls to accept my challenge. It could be interesting (and more than a little frustrating for all parties).

Spelling Out a Few Things

DailyRandomShit for 2016-06-08

I don’t exactly agree with every point of this essay, but LaMonte M. Fowler pretty much spells out many of my thoughts… One of my biggest feelings is that if your largest effort is on complaining and/or blaming others and not in finding solutions I’m pretty much done with all of the Internet whining. Thank you very much. I’m generally willing to listen, I understand your concerns, but I also know that some folks are all about the fear… sad. jbb

By LaMonte M. Fowler:

I feel the need to drop a little truth on y’all. So buckle up…I’m about to be politically incorrect.

We don’t need to take America back. No one stole it. It’s right here…you’re sitting in it. Chillax.

Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall and we’re not going to deport millions of people and break up families. If you think either one is a good idea, you’re not smart and probably not a person I want to hang out with.

We don’t live in a democracy. Technically we are a Federal Republic. But in reality we are ruled by an oligarchy. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. Reading will do you good. You probably need to do more of it.

FoxNews, CNN, and MSNBC have an agenda and are not “fair and balanced” or in any way unbiased. I’ll reiterate…read more. Read newspapers (even online ones). Read lots of opinions and sources and then (stay with me here), THINK! Form your own opinion based on as many facts as your can brain can tolerate.

Speaking of facts…there actually is a difference between facts, opinions, and propaganda. You should learn the difference. (Another opportunity to show off your mad reading skills.)

Science is real. We know things because of science. Don’t be afraid of it. You have an iPhone and Facebook because of science. It’s your friend.

Global warming or “climate change” as the cool kids call it IS REAL. Anyone who tells you it’s not real is not a smart person and probably should not be dressing themselves or caring for children.

Racism exists. And you are probably a little racist and should work on that. Seriously.

American Christians are not under attack. We are not being persecuted. We wield so much power in this country that politicians pretend to be Christian just so we will vote for them. No one is trying to take your bible away from you. The gay people are not destroying our families—we don’t need any help from them, thank you. We do a fine job of that by ourselves. So stop saying we are persecuted. You sound stupid.

Poor people need help. If you’re not helping them but complaining about how the government helps them with your money you are not a nice person.

Be nice to the people who teach your children. Don’t send them nasty emails or yell at them. Their job is 10,000 times harder than your stupid job. You are not a professional educator so just shut your mouth and be thankful someone is willing to teach your offspring.

You don’t know what Common Core is. You think you do, but you don’t unless you’re a teacher. So stop complaining about math problem memes on Facebook. You can’t do the math anyway.

ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States. We do not need to rebuild our military. Our military is the strongest, scariest, most badass killing machine the world has ever seen. So stop being afraid and stop letting politicians and pundits scare you.

Guns do in fact kill people. That’s what they are designed to do. If you feel you need a gun to protect yourself in America, you are probably living in the wrong neighborhood and should move before you go out and buy a gun. There are like a billion places to live where you won’t need a gun, or even need to lock your front door.

If you do own a gun, then make sure you know how to use it really, really, really well. Seriously…get some training because you still don’t know how to record stuff with your DVR. Go to the gun range and shoot the thing a lot. Learn how to clean it properly and be able to disassemble it and reassemble it with your eyes closed. It’s a freaking gun and it deserves that level of care, proficiency and respect. And for God’s sake, keep it locked up and away from your kids.

If you are even a little bit crazy, sad, or pissed off…you shouldn’t have a gun. And the Founding Fathers would totally agree with me.

Stop being suspicious of American Muslims. I guarantee the guy sitting next to you in the cubicle at work is probably more of a threat to you than any Muslim. He has to listen to your uninformed ranting day after day and has probably already imagined very colorful and creative ways to end you.

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and all the rest are ENTERTAINERS! Stop getting your opinions from them. (Here’s where that reading thing can really be an advantage.)

Stop sharing Facebook memes that tell me to share or else Jesus won’t bless me with a laundry basket full of cash. That’s not how prayer works. And I don’t want money delivered (even from God) in a laundry basket. Nobody ever washes those things out and they just keep putting nasty dirty clothes in them. Yuck!

We are the United States of America and we can afford to house every homeless veteran, feed every child, and take in every refugee and still have money left over for Starbucks and a bucket of KFC.

Unless you can trace your family line back to someone who made deerskin pants look stylish and could field dress a buffalo, you are a descendent of an immigrant. Please stop saying that immigrants are ruining our country. Such comments are like a giant verbal burrito stuffed with historical ignorance, latent racism, and xenophobia all wrapped in a fascist tortilla.

That’s all for now. I feel better.

LaMonte M. Fowler

Portfolio v Posts v Pages in WordPress

2015-08-13_academic-portfolio-mindmap 2015-08-13_academic-portfolio-mindmap

Remember what I said the other day about not having the time or energy to be working on my blog? Yeah, I lied. Having scanned in over 30-years of papers, projects and school notes and over 50-years of photos, I’m attempting to be a lot more systematic on how things get posted/shared. After looking over dozens of themes, I thought that I might pull out the old white board and try to wrap my head around what I’m trying to accomplish. With the academic material, I kind of wish that I would be able to create a starting page with the universities/degree programs I’ve participated in, than have that branch off to a page listing the courses that I took for each degree, than have each course branch off to info on the course (date, title, instructor, syllabus) and break that down to the projects and papers that I produced.

During my studies I went through several versions of this idea with my MA work at Pepperdine, which fit, given that we turned in and worked entirely online. Then, when I was putting my resume together, I revisited the idea of posting my work online and decided to create a separate blog just for the MA work using the Imbalance 2 theme (Click here to see the blog). I chose this theme primarily because it surfaced all of the work in a scrolling multi-column view.

2015-08-13_pepOMAET-blog 2015-08-13_pepOMAET-blog

On the plus side all of the work is there. But, except for it’s chronological order, there’s no apparent organization or flow and thus it comes off as too much to absorb (TLDR). And this was for a one year course of study, it’s unlikely that using this same approach with my four-year degree programs would come off well. The point is to surface the work without overwhelming the viewer. I wish there was a theme that worked like a branching mind-map…

Resources: