Hello, reader! If you intend to post a link to this blog on Twitter, be aware that for utterly mysterious reasons, Twitter thinks this blog is spam, and will prevent you from linking to it. Here's a workaround: change the .com in the address to .ca. I call it the "Maple Leaf Loophole." And thanks for sharing!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tell Me Why You Blog

So, as much to my surprise as anyone's, I'm not only talking at NCTM in April but they made me a featured speaker? Only freaking out a little. I applied in response to a few people who shall not be named (unless they want to out themselves) proposing "a possible blogging strand with maybe a panel or something." So as you can imagine, the idea for what I'm talking about is super well thought-out and fully baked right now. (That was sarcasm, if that wasn't clear.)

The benefits to written, public reflection are, to me, by this point, so internalized that I find them hard to articulate. And, "reflective practice" as The Thing to Do seems to have gone out of fashion. Now it's all about data. Data is the new Reflection.

Ahem. If you would, comment on this post and share with me some things:
1. What hooked you on reading the blogs? Was it a particular post or person? Was it an initiative by the nice MTBoS folks? A colleague in your building got you into it? Desperation?
2. What keeps you coming back? What's the biggest thing you get out of reading and/or commenting?
3. If you write, why do you write? What's the biggest thing you get out of it?
4. If you chose to enter a room where I was going to talk about blogging for an hour (or however long you could stand it), what would you hope to be hearing from me? MTBoS cheerleading and/or tourism? How-to's? Stories?

And, please, link your reply back to your blog, if you have one. I'll make every effort to cite appropriately. Feeling a little weird about crowdsourcing this but I should get over that already. This community has already helped me crowdsource lessons, units, math research, and recommendation letters. Lots of us like to say we got involved and stay involved in this so we can suck a little less. I only get one chance to not suck in New Orleans, and I'd love your help. Let's hear you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Today's Stats

Emails sent: 7
Tweets sent: 3
Times scolded by strangers on Twitter: 1
Nice @mentions by friends on Twitter: 6
Scantron forms ordered: -23,500
Phone calls made: 13
New Desmos features requested: 3
Spreadsheets dominated: 4
Cupcakes eaten: 1
Steps! 8,235
Google Hangouts: 3
Dead leaves on front porch: all of them
Earbuds destroyed by cat: 2
Pots of chile made: 1
Jamie Foxx/Channing Tatum movies watched: 3/4
Kitchens cleaned: 0

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tools Smart People Made That Make My Life Easier

Boomerang. It's a Gmail plugin. If you use Gmail, you should get it. It does two really great things.
  • Write an email now, schedule it to be sent later. Say you want to get an email written so you can stop thinking about it, but you don't want the recipient to know you are a freak who writes work emails at 2:30 AM on Saturday morning. No problem. Write the email, and tell Boomerang to send it Monday at 8. Boom. Erang.
  • You email someone a question, but this person maybe doesn't always, you know, answer. Without help, it's easy for a month to go by, and then you're like, oh, snap, I really needed an answer to that. You can use Boomerang to Boomerang the email back to your inbox in a few hours, or a few days, or a week, if there is never a reply. I'm pretty sure that's why it's called Boomerang. (This feature also makes people think you have super memory powers, or at least that you are somehow On Top of Things in a way that they are decidedly Not.)
Evernote. Replaces my URL bookmarking, notebooks, filing cabinet, and to-do list. There are a zillion wonderful articles that go into great detail about why it's so great, so I won't reinvent the enthusiasm wheel, here. Here are a few specific things that I am loving it for, lately:
  • I find myself writing what are essentially the same emails over and over again. For example, instructions for teachers in our online PD project to join an Edmodo group. I have the instructions saved in a note in Evernote in large, friendly letters and upbeat prose that I wrote after a glass and a half of wine. Instead of spending ten minutes to write that email from scratch several times a week, I just copy it from Evernote, tweak a few details, and boom. (I realize that the text is agnostic about where it is stored, and you don't need Evernote for this. But I like having all the things I need to keep and remember in one place. It's just one more thing I use this app for.)
  • The Secret Weapon. Seriously. "Weapon" is not an overstatement. If you tend to forget to do things because the tasking gets buried in your email inbox, or you keep writing the same thing on hand-written to-do lists over and over again, this is worth a read. Check this out:

Tasks and to-dos are entered as notes. They're tagged with what project they are for, when I need to do them, where, and who is involved. By clicking on any of those tags in the left column, I can see what I need to get done today, or everything for one project, or everything I need to talk to Karim about. When done, I move the note from the Action Pending notebook to the Completed notebook, so I have a record of everything. EVERYTHING. It's pretty magical.

Doodle. The next time you have to schedule a meeting, avoid an interminable chain of reply-all emails that say things like "I can come Wednesday between 9 and 11, Friday after 3, or any time on Sunday." Send those people a link to a Doodle instead. They can all click on the times they're available, you can easily see a time that works for everyone, and they will think you are a genius.

Certain OSX shortcuts
  • Spotlight search. I've loved keyboard launchers for a long time, and I used Quicksilver for a long time. That functionality is in OSX now, and it's super fast. Instead of having a million icons in the dock, or opening Finder every time I have to open something, I type ⌘-Space and then the first few characters of the thing I want to open. It's so fast.
  • Insert a link with ⌘-K. Instead of sharing a gross, ugly URL with someone (Google Drive shared documents are particularly heinous), highlight text and type ⌘-K then paste in the link. Voila, pretty hyperlink.
  • This is a Chrome thing, but you can right click on a tab, and close all the other tabs. Take that, other tabs. Aaahhhhhh.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Treading Lessons

Mildly frustrating couple of days at the Lish. Yesterday we tried to write a lesson about Scrabble. Is the letter distribution of the tiles correct? Do the assigned points values make sense? How do these things compare to Words with Friends? Lots of data. Lots of good math questions to ask. But we couldn't find a compelling overarching structure. Frustrating, because I heart Scrabble.

Today we tried to write a lesson about Black Friday. When should stores open? Do stores pay a price for opening the earliest, because they get negative publicity? Is there a race to the bottom? Or rather, to the early? This was one of those lessons where my Economics-major colleagues start invoking concepts I don't understand, and I can't help but kind of zone out and work on something else. (I prefer things we can measure. Sorry.) Which is actually fine, because once some questions are written, I will be able to come at it fresh and help evaluate if the story in the lesson makes sense.

Yesterday we were visited by the great and powerful Max Ray and his sensei Lois Burke, and I am so glad. I'm embroiled in this online teacher professional development research study this year (I would like to write about it here, but oy. Its tentacles are many), and we're having trouble with the online part. Max has lots of experience in what works with the online part. He very patiently let me describe our setup and offered some suggestions. What I appreciate about Max is, he's very calm. Being around Max is to feel like everything is going to be okay.

For Elizabeth: my cooking lately has leaned vegetarian. I made an awesome yam coconut curry soup last weekend, and have made two of these crazy rice bowls. Yum. Right now I have a CSA half-share in my kitchen that is mostly squash, so I think there is some roasting in my near future.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I Feel Guilty about My Blogging

Hey, Internet. What's up? I miss you. 

I only write anymore when I think I have something unique and important to say. Scratch that, I think that's been my threshold for a while. But there's been lots to learn at new job. I've been less trusting of my "what's unique and interesting" radar. 

But, here's a thought. A hubristic one, but still. There aren't that many people writing real-world lessons for middle and high school and selling them on the Internet. And coordinating a research study about the effectiveness of online teacher professional development. And helping to write unit blueprints that teachers can use to give some structure to high school CCSS courses. Things that happen around me are probably unique and interesting, and maybe occasionally important. Last week I spent 2 days on the other side of a booth on a conference exhibitor floor. I taught, over email, grown-ass adults how to use the Internet. Chris taught me how airlines make decisions about overbooking flights. I still learn alot. I believe in making learning public.

So this is what's happening: a post every day this week. I've never put myself on a blogging schedule before. I need a low threshold for commitment. Five days, starting tomorrow. Posts will be up by 10 PM, and feel free to yell at me. Let's see how this goes.