Dec 02

Welcoming Ashley to the World of Blogging

I wanted to extend a warm welcome to the world of blogging to Ashley Brichter, Beacon sophmore, captain of the girls Ultimate team and all-around nifty person!

So this got me to thinking (and since I’m putting off grading logs…), so far, I think much of what is cool about Beacon-blogging is how it’s building community. I love what Kate is doing in her New Media classes, and what Mary is doing in Social Justice, and despite myself, I think the kids are doing cool stuff in my New Media class… but I also admit that I love reading Zana’s and Jeremy’s and Jessie’s and Kate’s personal blogs. And here’s what I’d love to explore… or get comments on… does it make a difference when kids blog on a school site as opposed to just getting LiveJournal or another blog? For my money, I think it does. I think that writing for a school community does change the writing — probably for good and bad, honestly — but I like that, as a school, we now have a tool to encourage writing and community for kids. It’s one more thing that I hope makes Beacon more of a community that kids want to take part in. And I do think that it won’t take long for the blogging to make its way from the personal blogs into the classrooms more and more. I know Alison Tolpin wants a blog… and I need to follow Will R.’s example and set up the newspaper with a niftier layout that they want to use.

Comments? Thoughts?

Dec 02

Ms. Lacey Gets Famous

Yes folks, Beacon’s co-founder and former director, Ruth Lacey has been profiled in today’s New York Times. I think it’s a really well-done piece, and for anyone who knows Ruth, you can really hear her voice in her quotes, which is rather cool.

I admit that reading it made me sad that Ruth isn’t here anymore. She is one of the folks who really take primary responsibility for making Beacon such a wonderful place, and we miss her presence. And I do hope that someone at Tweed reads that piece and thinks about how a brilliant career public-school educator is now able to focus on education, rather than deal with all of the insanity of public education.

Public education lost a brilliant educator when Ruth went to Columbia. It’s an amazing opportunity for her, but it’s also a great opportunity for those of us in pubilc education to think about what it takes to keep us here.

Nov 30

Some Catch-Up Links

O.k. — I admit, I’m due for a long piece of writing here, but for the time being, I’ve got to get some homework logs graded, write up a summary piece for a grad school class, and figure out how I’m going to teach the next text for both English classes, so I’m just going to post some interesting links I’ve found in catching up with blogging:

(Oh… and in the wonderful world of bloggers everywhere… my father just found my blog and found a way to introduce it into conversation last night. Very funny, Dad.)

From Kerry’s Blog, a fun Geek Quiz (and yes, I tested out at 194 — Mega-Geek.) And a really powerful piece of anti-war flash animation. (And yes, I’m considering teaching flash in New Media so people can make cool pieces of propaganda of all stripes.)

From Joe Luft, a link to a collection of articles about School Vouchers from Boston Review. Good reading.

From Brad Delong: a link to the New Yorker article about the mess that is our government. I’ve got the New Yorker at home, and this article is a must read.

From Lawrence Lessig’s blog, we have the Creative Commons Moving Image Contest, and Connor, Jeremy, Loren… if you are out there, I STRONGLY suggest you apply. And if you win, Beacon will happily take the G5 off of your hands. ":-)"

From Will Richardson comes a cool post in his journalism class where students sound off about blogging. If I felt like I had done a better job in using the blogs in my New Media class, I think I could spark some really cool meta-discussions about it… but we’ll see. I’m still not happy with how I’ve set that up as sort of a "when you aren’t working on your movie, blog…" kind of activity.

O.k. — back to work…

Nov 29

Blogs as Building School Communities

So the one and only Jeremy Spry posts about why he likes blogging. He writes as part of his entry:

Not only does my blog allow me to vent about the stuff going on in my life but it also makes me laugh out loud. Only at Beacon would my English teacher, My advisor, and my friends post on a blog. I mean an online journal is something very personal (and geeky) and at Beacon to have the this sort of openness that can go from joking to serious and back again while not fearing anything from inside or outside Beacon.

And it just reenforces my beliefs about how blogs and forums and such can really build the bricks-and-mortar communities that schools have. I still love that alumni write on our forums… and keep blogs… and visit…

Anyway… just thought it’d be cool to post some testimony from one of the kids.

Nov 24

A Poem I Just Read

I was reading Zana’s Weblog, and she shows a picture of her interview with Taylor Mali, the teacher-turned-slam-poet. So, intrigued by her worship of Taylor Mali, I hop over to his site, where I find out that his manifest is to create 1,000 new teachers by 2006. Rock on, Mr. Mali.

He has several really amazing pieces of work up on his site, but in honor of Jessie and Zana and Yael and all the Beacon students who have felt the need and found the voice to speak in a declarative voice, I wanted to post this one. I hope you enjoy it. And thanks, Zana.

Nov 24

!@#$!@# Road Runner

So… I wake up Saturday morning, and I cannot connect to Beacon. I start poking around, trying to figure out what’s wrong when Danny calls me, and he cannot log into Beacon.

I find out from a student via AIM that they can. I then route my way to Beacon by ssh-ing in from another account. (Thank you, altschools.) Danny and I fear the worst… someone is messing with us… someone has hacked us… someone has hacked our firewall and blocked Danny and myself. You can imagine.

Six hours later, we get it confirmed that Road Runner’s routing is messed up, and they are the reason that Beacon people all up and down the West Side of Manhattan cannot log in.

About two hours ago, I was able to get back on.

I had time to write a long blog entry. Instead, I just spent a bunch of time reading the Beacon forums that all the other folks were writing this weekend, uploading all the work I wrote offline, and now I’m off to bed.

Sorry about the lack of blogs… going to try to get back in the swing of things this week.

Nov 20

A Big Announcement

So… all the parents are told, which means this is no longer a secret to keep….

Kat’s pregnant!

She’s due May 19th. We’re excited and nervous and thrilled and scared and all the things prospective parents are supposed to be.

We don’t know the gender yet… hopefully soon… I’m realizing as I write this that I really have no way to express how excited I am about this….

Yay! ":-)"

Nov 13

Teacher Magazine: Small Schools, Diverse Schools

Ronald Wolk has an article in this month’s Teacher Magazine (free registration required) entitled Our Best Hope about how in cities like and including New York have small innovative schools movements — and how this movement is both promising in and of itself, but also threatened by the political educational climate these days. As Wolk writes:

To survive, these schools could be forced to abandon or compromise the very philosophy and practices that make them successful. The Beacon School in Manhattan, for example, has led the nation in the use of student portfolios for learning and assessment. But in the name of uniformity, Commissioner of Education Richard Mills decided two years ago to cancel the exemption from the Regents exams that his predecessor gave Beacon. Now that its students are compelled to take the Regents, Beacon has been forced to modify its curriculum and cut back its portfolio program.

As an old colleague used to say, "If you want exceptional schools, you have to make exceptions."

I think that the "Standards Movement" is on its last legs, but all of the smaller, innovative schools that I know of are trying to come up with strategies to survive until then. To me, that mindset — necessary as it is — is a tough one to live in. It’s hard to think about innovation when you are always battling to keep what you’ve already built.

And with all the problems facing us in education, you’d think our political leaders would support the small schools that work, rather than trying to get us in-line with policies that do not work in our schools.

Nov 12

Three Years Ago…

… I was in Lynchburg, Virginia on a beautiful fall evening, complete with a full moon and deer frolicking, getting married to Kat Stein. Our wedding day was an amazing, idyllic day, complete with twinkly lights… but it really was just a starting point. As wonderful as the wedding was, the marriage — more real, more filled with highs and lows — is even better.

Thank you, Kat. I love you.

Nov 10

Open Source Music Lessons

This link comes from Prof. Lawrence Lessig, and it’s just really quite cool. Berklee College of Music has created Berklee Shares, a free music lesson site with lessons for eight instruments and four topics, such as production and technology, improvisation, and more. Looks like some of the lessons, if not most, are by Berklee professors, and I can imagine that this site could become a widely tapped resource for high schools with decidedly limited music budgets. I’m planning on showing it to Brian Letiecq at Beacon ASAP, as I could imagine him using this with his music program extensively.

Why should Berklee do this? Several reasons, I can imagine… one, it only increases Berklee’s visibility as it recruits students. Two, many of the lessons are then linked to DVDs that Berklee Press sells, so it will, I am sure, drive their publishing division, which is cool, and three, maybe they actually want to see more people become musicians than they know can come to their school, and this is a way to achieve that goal. Is that naive? Maybe… but the other piece is that, with luck, that’s going to happen if they intended it or not. Me, I’m hoping they did.