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The Understatement of the Year

Posted by: | February 22, 2009 | No Comment |

“Students who are living and learning with technologies that generate dynamic forms of content may find the current formalism and structure of scholarship and research to be static and “dead” as a way of collecting, analyzing and sharing results” (Johnson, Levine, & Smith, 2009).

Correct, except they forgot to include the “torture, sheer torture” part.  A colleague informed me that she has just had the *privilege* of experiencing the “we’re doing this for you–it is the latest technology” speech at the dissertation formatting workshop this year.  Dare I admit that I was comforted to hear that she also had to call on every ounce of willpower to restrain herself from walking out of the presentation on the spot.

It was explained to her that the dissertation formatting requirements were designed to ensure that all of her hard work would be preserved for posterity in *the* most state-of-the-art manner–microfiche.  “Just think,” she was told, “if something were to happen to all of the computers, someone could still read what you write by candlelight!”

In the first place, if I am having to read by candlelight, I guarantee you that someone’s dissertation will NOT be my biggest concern at that moment.  Secondly, have they ever READ a document stored on microfiche?  It isn’t a pleasant experience even WITH the right kind of equipment.  I, personally, view the speech as a desperate attempt to justify a refusal to adapt to new writing spaces.  I don’t hear very many people still trying to convince me that a scroll in a cave is *the* best way to store my data, and I expect that this argument will eventually disappear in a similar fashion.  But when I think of the meaningless hours I have spent on a task that has incredible potential to be rich and rewarding, but because of the way it has been framed has instead become nothing more than a meaningless hoop, it makes me physically ill.  And to think, once I finish my revisions, I will theoretically have the authority to inflict the same torture on others!  Woe to the student who comes to me eagerly anticipating conventions!


Johnson, L., Levine, A., & Smith, R. (2009). The 2009 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2009-Horizon-Report.pdf

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Random Ruminations

Posted by: | February 1, 2009 | 2 Comments |
“Her restlessness was not easily appeased. . . . Everywhere she turned there was a blinding sameness. She could no longer distinguish one moment of her life from another, and the events of each day were forgotten as soon as they had passed” (Graham, 2001, p. 99).

In transition? Clearly. But transition to what? While waiting, I’ve polished off a number of books, but so far, the nuggets I’ve encountered in them haven’t coalesced into a particularly coherent set of understandings. However, it occurs to me that many may prefer the raw data without the commentary anyhow. Sometimes it is safer that way too. ;-) So, think of what follows as random graffiti that various authors have spray-painted on the walls of my mind. As is the case with graffiti from time to time, at least some of these quotes have artistic qualities that extend beyond the functional purposes they were intended to serve within the context of the books in which they appeared.

“All educational growth is loss … teachers in higher education are pressured to construe their work in oppositional rather than relational terms, pitting teacher against student, separating knowledge and identity, and describing the world in black and white terms” (Stengel, 1998).

“Living matter and clarity are opposites–they run away from one another” (Gilder, 2008, p. 100).

“John had always been drawn to the invisible: more specifically, the invisible connections between things. As a child he had puzzled over the phenomena ordinary men take for granted in modern life: the connection between a flick of a switch and the sudden appearance of light, or sound, or image. He tore things apart–looking for the connections. But his interest went beyond the engineer’s obsession with mechanical cause and effect, with deconstructing and reconstructing physical reality: he searched for things that would leave him awestruck, things residing in mystery and obscurity. Invisible connections” (Graham, 2001, p. 106).

“Co-existence is not the same as communication or connection” (Montgomery, 2009).

“When two particles interact with each other, they exchange energy and/or momentum” (K.C. Cole in Graham, 2001, p. 98).

“It is a gift, you know, to see and to be moved” (Graham, 2001, p. 14).

“Schrodinger nodded . . . ‘And matter is like light,’ he said, ‘and it diffracts’” (Gilder, 2008, p. 89).

“Everything . . . starts with a fall” (Guedj, 2000, p. 17).

“I’m in a constant state of beta…perpetually reinventing myself…” (Adam Schokora)


Fleischman, Paul. (2001). Seek. Chicago: Cricket Books.

Gilder, Louisa. (2008). The age of entanglement: When quantum physics was reborn. NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Graham, Janice. (2001). Sarah’s window. NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Guedj, Denis. (2000). The parrot’s theorem. NY: Thomas Dunne Books.

Montgomery, Cherice. (2009, January 11). A random thought.

Schokora, Adam. (2008). 56minus1::

Stengel, Barbara S. (1998, Sept. 10). Review of Burbules, Nicholas C. and Hansen, David T. (Eds.). (1997). Teaching and its Predicaments. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. EdRev. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from http://edrev.asu.edu/reviews/rev37.htm

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Posted by: | January 4, 2009 | No Comment |

“Any time two entities interact, they entangle. It doesn’t matter if they are photons (bits of light), atoms (bits of matter), or bigger things made of atoms like dust motes, microscopes, cats, or people. The entanglement persists no matter how far these entities separate, as long as they don’t subsequently interact with anything else–an almost impossibly tall order for a cat or a person, which is why we don’t notice the effect. . . . . It starts when they interact; in doing so, they lose their separate existence” (Gilder, 2008, p. 3).

I find the conceptual implications of the above quotation (and the Wikipedia definition of entanglement) captivating. It comes from a book on the history of quantum physics which I am currently (if somewhat guiltily) enjoying. Like most non-fiction books, this one is also organized much too chronologically for my taste. However, the author has done a beautiful job of grounding the development of quantum theory in the daily lives of those through whom it was revealed to the world. She also does a brilliant job of reconstructing conversations from historical documents in a way that highlights the significant influence the scientists’ personal and social “entanglements” had on theoretical developments in the field of physics.

It is interesting to consider the degree to which we are consciously aware of our “entanglement” with others, the relative strength of each of those connections, and how intensely the connections persist in the face of prolonged separation (due to death, the decay of a friendship, divorce, or simply increased absence from the realities of one another’s normal, daily routines). Have you ever spent time trying to isolate and unravel the “entanglements” that are most persistent in your life? Are there people who are no longer physically part of your daily routine with whom you continue to be deeply entangled (in terms of the influence they exert on your thoughts and actions)? Do you ever wonder why THOSE particular people seem to have such a disproportionate influence within your sphere of existence?

From an alternative perspective, have you ever wondered what noticeable effect your individual existence has on the rest of the world? Do you ever ponder whether the brief comments, insignificant interactions, or trivial activities in which you engage affect anyone else in deep and lasting ways? Have you ever thought about the degree to which the effect of those tiny expressions of self may be magnified by their absence in someone else’s life? Have you ever considered the effect that your unspoken musings would have on the world if you were to share “the real” you with more of the world? Conversations about the concept of entanglement merit a much greater investment than the time and space inherent in a midnight blog post. For now, I’ll suffice to say that the manner in which we live would surely change if we truly believed and viewed ourselves as connected to others and our environment in physical ways.



Gilder, Louisa. (2008). The age of entanglement: When quantum physics was reborn. NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

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Hearing the Harmonies

Posted by: | December 28, 2008 | No Comment |

“[But it is clear] that in these muddled notes Wassermann heard the melody that hummed within him but was inaudible to those not involved. He and his co-workers listened and tuned their instruments to the point where these notes became selective and eventually the melody could be heard even by ordinary laymen” (Fleck, 2005, p. 60).

I suppose this is my quest for the coming week–to revise my dissertation until both the melody and the harmonies that support it are unmistakable to even ordinary laymen. One frustration is having to do it in words. As Gilder (2008) notes, “Nothing is better than language for drawing an intricately vague veil over truth” (p. 41). But perhaps the 3 little letters after my name will give me the systemic access I need to begin to change that.


Fleck, Ludvig. In Smith, Barbara Herrnstein. (2005). Scandalous knowledge: Science, truth, and the human. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Gilder, Louisa. (2008). The age of entanglement: When quantum physics was reborn. NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

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Posted by: | December 21, 2008 | No Comment |
“. . . and I feel like my world is changing. Again. And there’s nothing subtle about it. Everything has shifted, like when a symphony suddenly modulates to a different key. And I wonder how many times the world can change in one week. I’m beginning to think that it’s a large number” (Clements, 2006, p. 92).

There is no question that the harmonies of my life and the tectonic plates of my world have shifted. However, in my case, the chords haven’t yet resolved, resulting in an internal dissonance that leaves me feeling just as unsettled as an audience.


Clements, Andrew. (2006). Things hoped for. NY: Philomel Books.

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Woefully Neglected

Posted by: | July 11, 2008 | No Comment |

I Cannot Play Today

Energy expended

Joy wilted

By the heat

Too hot to play anymore

Too tired to care

Creativity crushed

And stories smeared

Like sidewalk chalk

In the “Reign” of Tears

Dissertations are such bullies.

This blog has been woefully neglected since I began “dissertating.”  I haven’t the energy to do any more academic writing at the moment, but am finding my personal blog to be a good way to maintain some creative balance.  Hence, this professional blog will be the equivalent of an abandoned playground for at least another month or so.

under: energy, engagement, joy

A Bittersweet Day

Posted by: | April 29, 2008 | 1 Comment |

My student teachers are now, officially, my colleagues–and very deserving of that title, if I do say so myself! They bring a tremendous amount of creativity to the profession, as this parody about their internship experience based on the One Semester of Spanish Love Song will attest!They are also filled with initiative and enthusiasm, as evidenced by the fact that after learning about (and living) True Colors throughout the year, they had these shirts made!

For those of you who don’t know about True Colors, take the True Colors Survey. (It is only 5 questions long. Wait for all the flashing to quit, then drag the numbers into the circles.) When you have finished, mouse over the bar graph that will appear at the end in order to see a very basic interpretation of the results. If you want more details, take a few minutes to read through Jennifer Niskanen’s True Colors Pages. For additional information, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the color(s) that apply to you.

I like to use True Colors because I find that it offers useful perspectives on why relationships in the classroom sometimes break down. It also provides simple, telegraphic language that can be used to address those breakdowns and to sketch out potential solutions.

(This is a visual representation of some of the key characteristics of the various colors.)

Consequently, it was incredibly amusing to me when my colleagues appeared on the last day of class wearing these shirts, and then presented me with one of my own. It captures our journey together very poignantly!

(Team Advanced Low refers to the fact that student teachers are now required to demonstrate that they have achieved Advanced Low Proficiency in the language they intended to teach in order to be certified.)

And I guarantee that although golds may drive their teachers crazy, they make GREAT colleagues. So if you know of a school that needs a creative, enthusiastic, and very responsible language teacher, be sure to add it to our wiki: Job Postings & Job Search Tools!

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A Blip About Blogging

Posted by: | March 29, 2008 | No Comment |

Blogging is a way of taking experiences we value and sharing them with people who didn’t have the good fortune of experiencing them with us–in many ways, analogous to a set of snapshots, I suppose, except that the blogger “frames” the shot with their perspective instead of with a camera.

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It occurred to me this week that some of the things we ask students to do in schools these days are the equivalent of someone insisting that we do all of our professionalwriting on a stone tablet with a chisel. From our perspective, that wouldn’t make any sense at all, but for someone who has “always done it that
way,” and isn’t familiar with (or comfortable with) the alternatives, it maybe difficult to imagine anything else. The analogy can easily be extended and extrapolated, but I’ll refrain! ;-) My point is that it is no wonder students are disengaged, disinterested, and sometimes even difficult to “manage!” Life and learning are, for the most part, what happen outside of school. Obviously, these comments are not true of every teacher, but I think they are true of education in general.

The typical textbook takes life and decontextualizes it, divides it into pieces that are so small they are
almost unrecognizable as ever having been alive, dehydrates them, and then wonders why students don’t find them appetizing. Why are we so tied to textbooks anyway? (That was a PURELY rhetorical question!)

One of the many things about new technologies that has been particularly powerful for me is the way it has pulled me outside of my own paradigm. The more I play with it, the more my perspective about EVERYTHING changes–and especially with regard to the ways I think about knowledge, learning, teaching, understanding, relationships, and living. It isn’t always comfortable, but it has been SO worth it.

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ReQall, Remember, Reflect

Posted by: | March 25, 2008 | 3 Comments |

I’ve been playing with ReQall today. It is a service that allows you to record 60 second reminders to yourself in English using your cell phone. It then transcribes what you have said, posts it to your private web account, and e-mails the transcript and the accompanying audio file (as a .wav) to the e-mail address you have provided. (You can change your settings if you don’t like this feature.)

You can then access your account online, view your memos, and listen to a looping audio recording of them as you read the transcripts (which are available almost instantly). You can also share your memos with other users (so students could share the things they’ve recorded with their teacher.) Set-up takes about 15 seconds, the interface is beautiful, it is easy to use, and you can access it online or offline. I’m also intrigued by the promise of a visual component (as they are currently soliciting images that people are using as memory aids).

Aside from its obvious applications as a tool for personal productivity, I think it could be interesting to experiment with it as a way for ESL students to create private, online audio portfolios that they could use to self-evaluate their progress over time. (I tried it in Spanish. It records just fine, but cannot transcribe even the most Americanized Spanish, so you get a lot of gibberish in the written transcriptions.)

For additional ways it might be used both in and out of the classroom, see Liz Kolb’s blog post about it.

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