Archive for November, 2009

Reading Free

Nov 29 2009 Published by under borderland,commonplaces,literacy

Dina Strasser and I have begun a joint blogging venture, comparing notes on our reading classrooms this year. We set up a project blog called Reading Free, and plan to exchange posts there. I’m interested in this from a couple of different angles, one of them being the use of social media to support collaborative teacher research.

My second post, The Art of Reading, is up there now. Check it out; subscribe to the feed. Leave some comments.

So far the site has not been very active, but that can change.

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Nov 29 2009 Published by under borderland,commonplaces

The Borderland blog passed its fifth anniversary this month, and I want to recognize some people. Five years is a long time to work on something. For me, at least.

I started writing here just after GW Bush’s second term election. I had not read any blogs at all before that, and I had no ambition to become a blogger. I was simply playing with various options for publishing student work, and WordPress was one thing I was trying. I updated the blog sporadically and had no particular focus or theme for the content. In a nutshell, I didn’t know what I was doing. But that has never stopped me from doing what I want to do.

I figured I could use a bit of training if I was going to do this with students, and an opportunity presented itself in a community college course taught by Chris Lott. In that class, Chris required several posts a week from each of us, as well as comments on the posts of other class members, so I became a little more productive as a writer that winter. We also read and linked to other blogs for part of the course work. This was when blogging got interesting for me. Looking back through the Borderland archives, I see that I wrote a post called The Best, and linked to a blog post by Tony Pierce titled How to Blog, in which Pierce gave advice about blogging. It was good advice, fun to read again. And it marked the point at which I started thinking about running for real with this blogging project. Chris was enormously helpful to me, introducing me to the blogging practice.

Blogging was a lonely undertaking for many months. The first real comment I got from someone I’d never met was from Newman Lanier, who I’ve not heard from in some time. The initial comments were very encouraging. I read Stephen Downes’ How to Be Heard article and put some of his advice to work as I was by then trying to figure out how to connect to other bloggers.

The readership started to grow in ’06, and it took a real jump after Will Richardson linked to one of my posts. Since finding an edublogging niche, it seems important to acknowledge that this blog is actually the product of a group effort. There are several people who have been very helpful. Accordingly, I want to thank Leigh Blackall, Artichoke, Stephen Downes, Sarah Puglisi, Graham Wegner, Alice Mercer, Mark Ahlness, Tom Hoffman, Chris Lehmann, Miguel Guhlin, Brian Crosby, Michael Doyle, Franki and Mary Lee, Bud Hunt, Bruce Schauble, Michaele Sommerville, Charlie Roy, Bill Kerr, Susan Ohanian, Ken Bernstein, Fred Klonsky, Clay Burell, TFT, and Dina Strasser (who will be hearing from me soon!) for the help and encouragement they’ve given me.

There are undoubtedly several other people whose names should, but for various reasons, aren’t included in my list. I’m sorry about that.

This is perhaps a much too drawn-out preface for a thank you I want to offer John Connell, who nominated Borderland for an 2009 Edublog Award. I am bowled over that John thought enough of what I do here to name Borderland as his choice for Best Individual Blog – especially when I think about the zillions of other blogs out there.

Very grateful for the kind attention of my readers,

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Nov 26 2009 Published by under borderland,commonplaces

The corporate perversion of public schooling is making inroads here through what we are all coming to know as “progress monitoring,” delivered locally through an expensive corporately packaged iteration of RTI, which tracks meaningless data (counting words read correctly in a timed reading) and churns out pretty graphs, while doing nothing to increase the professional competency of teachers or the sense-making skills of students. I won’t dwell on the messy details of any of that now, except to say that under these conditions, learning – and teaching – are becoming more and more obviously political acts.

With this in mind, I conduct my own counter-testing program in which I promote play, passion, and useless skills that have no value other than to support physical and mental well-being, along with the added bonus of impressing people who appreciate whatever it is you learn to do.

I showed my students this video yesterday, and I told them that, more than anything, they should chase their dreams; that’s why we’re here. They talked about it the rest of the day.

The mom of one of my special-needs kids was in the room when I showed it, and I heard her say, “Just think how often he must have fallen, learning to do that.”


(h/t Bill Kerr)

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Alaskan Educators Discuss Common Core Standards

Nov 16 2009 Published by under borderland

Although Alaska did not participate in the development of national education standards initiative, it seems that the professional community will have an opportunity to review the proposed standards and render an opinion according to the following message I just received from the Alaska EED:


Common Core Standards Comparison

â–ª Compare and contrast Alaska Performance Standards and Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) with Common Core of Academic Standards developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Participant Activities:
â–ª In grade level groups, participants will look at the Common Core K-12 Common Standards in thorough detail.
â–ª Each group will answer proposed questions on quality, strength, and differences compared to the Alaska GLEs.
â–ª The high school level group will analyze the standards to indicate if they are at the level of college and career preparedness
â–ª Advise the department on possible recommendations to policy makers.

Application Deadline: December 4, 2009

Notification: December 11, 2009

Meeting Dates: February 17-19, 2010

Location: TBD, Anchorage

Recruitment Process:
â–ª EED will also distribute the application directly to people who have been involved in previous content committee work for the state. Please contact [email protected] for application to participate.

Selection Criteria:
â–ª Current teachers, content specialists, curriculum coordinators, and administrators with in depth knowledge experience in reading, writing, and mathematics standards at K-12 grade levels.
â–ª University/college level educators familiar with entry level academic requirements for students in the area of reading/literature, mathematics and writing.

Applicants must indicate complete knowledge and experience on the attached application.

The application is not very involved – just one page with an invitation to add an attachment. The meeting might be interesting. And hey, at least they’re asking teachers for input. How often does that happen at the policy level?

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