Randumbness

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We live in an age of randomness…an expectation that things don’t have to make sense. And the more we celebrate it, the more it distorts our frame of reference. From Flo the Progressive agent to Jan the Toyota receptionist to Aaron Rodgers’ discount double-check, it’s almost a competition of mindlessness, pushing us to the point where things not only don’t make sense, they don’t matter. It’s randumb…a mindset without context.

What started as a fad of ironic detachment has become a shift from substance to style: if it looks good and sounds good, then that’s good enough. There’s no actual vetting of ideas or working to find the facts. If it feels good, go with it. If enough people buy it, believe it. We actually purchase status via brand identification…self-identifying with corporate mythologies…and losing ourselves in the process.

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To be randumb is to be intellectually lazy. If nothing matters, then anything goes…flocking as birds of a feather around opinions that conveniently support biases and beliefs. As long as we feel good about it, we can discount anyone who questions us, insulating our thinking. It escalates from randumb to randumber…like Lloyd and Harry playing out their magical, farcical thinking to its ridiculous-yet-logical conclusions…

It’s so much easier to laugh at self-constructed chaos that defies any sense of responsibility. Want to poke a jab at reality? Post a meme! Want to counter someone else’s jab? Post another meme! None of it matters. We like and share and post and comment, and none of it has any impact on reality. Idiocracy is not just a bizarre cult comedy; it is a cautionary tale.

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This escapist anthem is as old as Mick Jagger’s scowling “get off of my cloud” and as recent as Aloe Blacc’s smarmy, “I didn’t know I was lost.” What was supposed to make us more communal has driven us underground into exclusive randumb bunkers…and we can wait anything out, so long as it doesn’t impact us. What could possibly go wrong?

While it is quirky and fun, randumbness isn’t reality resistant. I can create my own little insulated existence, but right outside lies real world contexts: disease, hunger, injustice, ignorance, hate…and it is in these contexts we can make a real difference…impacting the real world as profoundly as it impacts us.

As educators, this is especially true, because it is on our classrooms and communities that all of these very real challenges manifest themselves as we work with children and their families. Our charge is to help them reach their full potential by making school a place where they can be healthy and safe and engaged and supported and challenged. There is no smug, aloof, irony-embracing mindset for dealing with reality. We have to be immersed in it to impact it…and there’s nothing randumb about that.

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The pendulum will swing back again, and this age of randumbness will be a faint memory. That’s how reality rolls. But after we’re done looking back, shaking our heads, wondering what we ever saw in it, where will we be? Where will our children be? What is the impact of this current no-context culture on our future?

Should we form a bubble to discuss and come to agreement on what makes us feel good…or hunker down and get to the hard work in front of us, immersing ourselves in contexts that are not relative nor negotiable, being responsible for forging our own legacy as educators?

No brainer?

I hope so.

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Video

Sing Out!

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We Americans love our freedoms, and we’ve thrived for four centuries singing our own original make-no-excuses, know-no-limits song. From east coast colonies to westward expansion…liberating Europe to landing on the moon…we’ve sung with the pride of taking center stage. And in the process, we’ve developed our own theme, our own style, our own voice. It has served us well. But the world has changed…so quickly we may not yet appreciate how much. And as world leaders, we can’t simply sing our own song anymore. The entire world is connected and creating an entirely new kind of music. Everything people, companies and nations do contributes to the score. We have a responsibility to contribute to humankind…to what is in the best interests of people everywhere…a soaring score that celebrates not just U.S.-centricity, but us-centricity…all of us on this earth.

A good example of why we need this shift is the recent controversy over an American-made farce in which two bungling characters are asked by the American government to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. With tensions escalating over the impending opening of the film in theaters, Sony chose not to release it…but the tensions continue. Yes Americans are free to make and view whatever films they wish. Yes, it is illegal to hack into a network and then steal and publicize the information accessed. But these facts miss the true origin of the problem: making a film, no matter how tongue-in-cheek, that targets a real head of state for murder is a provocative act in a world where actions, reactions and ramifications occur in real time. We need to acknowledge the difference between a film built around fictitious characters and a film targeting the intended demise of a named world leader. Today, citizens of the earth all share one stage and we must sing a new song…a song that resonates with hearts and voices worldwide.

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A characteristically American refrain might be, “We’re a free and open society, and we won’t be pushed around,” decrying the acts of cyber-terrorism…demanding that the criminals be held accountable. This is an authentically American response to adversity. But making claims that “North Korea now runs Sony” or “Now countries all over the world are going to dictate what Americans say and do” are disingenuous and self-serving coming from members of the very industry that created this crisis in the first place. Clueless arrogance creates aural dissonance; where is the harmony?

Recognizing the world has changed and that we all need to get along together, show each other respect, and help each other contribute to an emerging global society, we need to be more mindful and responsible in singing our song. It’s not reasonable or acceptable to make a film about assassinating a current leader of any nation. It incites anger and retaliation, regardless of that leader’s standing on the world stage. And refusing to accept our responsibility for this in the name of free speech and free enterprise rings hollow. We can help set the tone and tempo for an anthem welcoming in a new global age, but we need to be willing to change our tune, to do so.

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Remaining true to our own American song is to turn a deaf ear to the rest of the world. We need to recognize and respond to new music we hear in the air, and make it part of who we are…not just as U.S. citizens, but as citizens of the world. We’re actually well-positioned to do this. China, India and Brazil are all singing and seeking their parts. So is Russia, though it too struggles to hear beyond its own musical tradition. Leading from strength, thinking and acting more globally and inclusively, Americans can help compose a new theme of a caring, connected, collaborative global society…and in doing so, create a place for our children, their voices resonating with the voices of children all over the world.

No one can make us change our world view. We need to choose to no longer be exclusively U.S.-centric, but us-centric…because “us” is no longer three-million people inhabiting the United States, but seven-billion people inhabiting the entire planet…we are all in this together. And in choosing a more global view, we can’t rely on media, political and business interests to call the tune. We have witnessed first-hand the mess that can create. No, the only way we’re going to build a caring, collaborative global society is through education…teachers, students and families working together…our voices heard above all the of the bygone ballads and competing interests…belting out a new song loud and strong…together, all over our world.

Sing Out!
by David Downes and Brendan Graham

Sing a new song to the world
Let your voice be heard
Go and bring the word
This whole world was meant to be
For you as well as me
For humanity

We all travel the same road
Carry the same load
Reap what we have sowed
You are hoping just like me
To live with dignity
Hoping to be free

Sing out, sing out, sing to the world
Sing out, you will be heard
Sing the message and the word
Sing a new song to the world
Sing out, sing to the world

If your God’s the same as mine
Has been for all time
Why are we so blind?
What we’re doing in his name
Well, its a crying shame
We all cry the same

Sing out, sing out, sing to the world
Sing out, you will be heard
Sing the message and the word
Sing a new song to the world
Sing out, sing to the world

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3 Ways to Create a Culture of “Can” in Your Classroom

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Reposted from te@chthought:

“If a learner is to develop a sense of can, he or she must learn it. While some students have more natural confidence or initiative than others, can is slightly different than confidence. Can is a mix of knowledge and self-efficacy that has been nurtured through experience — by consistently meeting both internally and externally created goals judged by standards that are also both internally and externally drawn.

So how does this happen? Where does it come from?

In Developing Minds, a kind of anthology of ways to teach thinking edited by Art Costa, there are suggestions for promoting cognition and metacognition, including “creating a safe environment,” “following students’ thinking,” and “teaching questions rather than answers.”

These suggestions often have emotional roots, implying that learning must be emotional (an implication that is hard to get away from). One broad approach to teaching that works nearly every single time — and can work here as well in creating a culture of can – is the gradual release of responsibility model.”

Read More….

Whose Line Is It Anyway?! [MEME]

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A long ways back, when a linear assembly line was a breakthrough concept, the United States geared up to train its citizenry to be good soldiers and bureaucrats through its public schools. Everyone piled on: business, textbook publishers, the military. But as the American Century ran its course, hindsight began asking questions for which we still don’t have answers. How does this align with the capacity demands needed by our free market economy? How do we know students are succeeding? How do we measure, describe and treat students who don’t succeed?

The more we have been thinking and over-thinking the answers to these questions, the more entrenched we have become in measuring students which leads to measuring teachers which leads to measuring schools, and the coin of the realm has become data and nothing but data. And since politics and media have started driving the discussion, the boards and agencies that should be leading education are squarely and pointedly cracking the whip in the name of assessment accountability. After all, if we can reduce the entire discussion to numbers, no one has to pay closer attention to what is actually happening on the ground in classrooms to our children. Does it matter that students are being more tested than taught? That standardized testing in and of itself is not an accurate snapshot of student learning? That cheating scandals are breaking out all over the country? That no one is actually taking responsibility for the disconnect between public education and the needs and demands of our society?

Drew Carey mindlessly hosting public education like a high-stakes game show; if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry. Whose line is it anyway? It’s the line of every American who wants better for this country. And while a quip and a big thumbs-up from Drew may prompt a smile, the reality of the irony hits too close to home. Close enough to wake up the American public and change course? We shall see. Queue Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady…