Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Friday, December 14, 2007

neil young at the palace nyc

neil played to a packed house at the palace at 175th and bway in nyc dec 13, 2007.

the place is gorgeous and intimate. neil spoke about how he liked being in a place like this, he said, " i can actually hear what i'm playing."

pegi opened with some great folk music and got the place rocking with her girls.

neil was introduced by the "devil" from greendale. he wore a red jacket and white hat and painted in the back of the stage. he carried a large canvas with an "N" on it and as he carried it out to place on an easel stage right, neil walked from behind and took a seat stage center amongst a half dozen acoustic guitars and a banjo and lots of harmonicas. flanking him were an upright piano, stage left and an organ stage right. he moved about as if thinking about which instrument to chose and getting harps ready. at one point he said, "im working real hard up here." on another occasion, he commented on how in a place like this, he could hear the titles of his songs yelled out. he was patient with the crowd. the songs he played by himself on acoustic and assorted keyboards were from best i can recall :

playlist from neil's blog:

1. From Hank To Hendrix
2. Ambulance Blues
3. Sad Movies
4. A Man Needs A Maid
5. Harvest
6. Try
7. Journey Through The Past
8. Mellow My Mind
9. Love Art Blues
10. Cowgirl In The Sand (awesome)
11. After The Gold Rush

after 15 minutes he returned with:
w/ rick rosas, ben keith, ralph molina, anthony crawford & pegi young

between sets, neil and the band gathered at the back of the stage with the "painter" and seemed to select paintings for the playlist coming up. before each song the "devil" painter, put a new canvas on the easel with the song title.

and they played: from best i recall :
12. Mr. Soul
13. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
14. Dirty Old Man
15. Spirit Road
16. Bad Fog Of Loneliness
17. Winterlong
18. Oh, Lonesome Me
19. The Believer
20. No Hidden Path

21. Cinnamon Girl
22. Cortez The Killer

as he was closing out cortez, he was talking with ralph about something that seemed amiss and all of a sudden weird sounds came from his guitar. all the strings broke and the feedback was awesome.

the concert was fabulous. neil was superb! the weather stopped its ugliness in time to get to the show and home. only his performance at radio city when he did greendale and a great oldies set was comparable to this. so much better than MSG or nassau coliseum. it was classic neil, playing like a wildman, messing with the audience, and so classic neil.

added jan 3, 2008: from the newyorker.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

nature vs nurture

From "In Gaps at School, Weighing Family Life" by Michael Winerip, New York Times, December 9, 2007.

The E.T.S. researchers took four variables that are beyond the control of schools: The percentage of children living with one parent; the percentage of eighth graders absent from school at least three times a month; the percentage of children 5 or younger whose parents read to them daily, and the percentage of eighth graders who watch five or more hours of TV a day. Using just those four variables, the researchers were able to predict each state’s results on the federal eighth-grade reading test with impressive accuracy.

“Together, these four factors account for about two-thirds of the large differences among states,” the report said. In other words, the states that had the lowest test scores tended to be those that had the highest percentages of children from single-parent families, eighth graders watching lots of TV and eighth graders absent a lot, and the lowest percentages of young children being read to regularly, regardless of what was going on in their schools.

Which gets to the heart of the report: by the time these children start school at age 5, they are far behind, and tend to stay behind all through high school. There is no evidence that the gap is being closed.

This article speaks volumes and provides great fodder for legislators to consider especially as they review NCLB. schools cant solve the problem, that is what this article about the research from ETS says. we have to get to the children before they are 5. that will require the government to create and to establish programs in communities to assist all the people. the report shows it isnt about nature, it is about nurture. education in this country has been a bigoted enterprise. communities with the money have segregated themselves from those without the money and we know the results. we have always known the results. now ETS is speaking the truth that too many were afraid to admit or address. it is about money, pure and simple. those with money and financial resources succeed in school or have a better chance. the report states that those who are behind by 5 will always be behind. why? for the reasons stated in the report. so the government needs to step in with lots and lots of money to assist.

i know, throwing lots of money at the problem of education will draw ire from many, especially from those who spend lots of money on their own children and private school. in order for us to solve the problem we need to replicate what the monied people do. i found a website that addresses this idea of hurling money and it is intelligent.

we in the schools are doing everything we can do. we have school before school, after school, during the summer, and even during recess. we know this doesnt work and yet we are told to do it. ETS has just told us all.

why are some schools successful? well, they have children who were read to them. they come from affluent enough homes that allow for some activities beyond the television for entertainment. most of the parents themselves are college educated which gives them the ability to help their young children. they have the money for proper nutrition and a healthy environment. these schools are successful because they get the children at 5 already 5. the other schools do not get complete 5 year olds.

i think it is time we face reality and do the right thing for all of our children, not just the privileged classes. this requires that the government direct money that goes in the wrong areas like fighting wars to educating our children so they will know how to negotiate, know what diplomacy is, and know how to ask questions so they can solve problems for the betterment of humankind.

we know it is not about nature when it comes to education; it is about nurture. so lets nurture our children america.

Monday, December 10, 2007

ah the music of life

my ears were massaged this weekend.

since friday i havent been able to catch a breath. friday night school holiday party on the marco polo yacht. it was a blast. the unique part was we cruised the east river from the statue of liberty to above the 59th street bridge listening and dancing to music. the company was great and the dancing eclectic, we a truly a multi cultured faculty. many brought their ipods loaded with their music to share on the sound system of the yacht.

saturday was dec 8 and for me that means strawberry field to celebrate the genius of john lennon. i went to a matinee to see cymbeline at the vivian beaumont theater in lincoln center. it was a masterfully staged and gloriously performed performance. the costuming exquisite, the staging simple, the acting superb and moving. just as winter's tale had me tearing when i saw jeremy irons in the title role, this one had me tearing in the last scene as it cascaded to a beautiful conclusion. cloten and iachimo were brilliant in their villainy. i reflected on the fact that shakespeare two most evil charcaters, iago and iachimo, both mean james in italian. this fascinates me as shakespeare has to have been close to king james, otherwise why else would he have been able to do this, just as he had to write henry viii after elizabeth died. the music of shakespeare's prose not poesy rang loud and clear in its clarity about life and redemption. certainly an contrary story and outcome from king lear, with ian mcclellan, a play we will see at the end of the month while in london. (Prithee, nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that can teach thy fool to lie.)

after the performance a sober visit to strawberry field.

sunday, saw august rush. what a fabulously feel good movie. williams was brilliant in his evil and the boy playing august was superb and magical. it was all about the music.

the theme of the weekend was music and the power it has in our lives. be it the music of our cultures to move our feet, the music of shakespeare, the music of lennon, or the music of life to gather us together. my ears had a feast this weekend.

and it will continue as i see and hear neil young on thursday and the clan currie society's pipes of christmas on sunday.

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

cormac mccarthy

im a great fan of cormac. his books are brilliant. his writing style is refreshing.

when i first saw the trailer for No Country for Old Men, i knew immediately the book. i was so excited. i loved the book for the keen writing, the unique prose, the brevity of form so we could get to the marrow. cormac is an a brilliant author. i loved the movie, the coen's did a great job as usual. i kept staring at the llewelyn character as if i knew him. well i did, it had to be the son of james brolin. bardem was brilliant as he brought anton to life. i was fascinated with tommy lee's performance, almost a study of jones, but he did play the sheriff well and the staring off into space and his quips, very reminiscent of mcdormand in fargo. the violence didnt bother me as much as i thought it might. again like fargo. the coen's kept to the story and wove it beautifully. i even liked the ending, though i heard disapproval on my way out of the theater.

unlike the badly movie of another of my favorite authors, tc boyle, this movie of a favored author pleased me. let's hope a good tc boyle movie can be made. i look forward to a movie based on the road. will there be a sequel to No Country for Old Men as the ending suggests?

the book and movie give a whole new meaning to choosing in the coin toss.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

where do i start?

jumping into the net at this point can be overwhelming as places to go multiply and because of the amount of redundancy.

the place for anyone to start would be google, at this time, IMHO.

google is just a piece of web 2.0. the real estate covered by google is immense and growing. it is as if google were expanding the universe. it is about how we store, access, analyze, broker, assess the information. i find it is about finding the balance betwixt input and output. GIGO was an early acronym.

what to do with google. there is gmail which is the beginning of social networking. another useful tool would be documents and spreadsheets which makes it all public where the user can share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. then there is the blogger. another tool include the reader, a tool for reading from a variety of sources that include news, entertainment, sports, business. picassa is a neat tool to share photographs. then there is youtube.

google will be a place you will spend hours.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

graphic novels

take a quick journey first to see an example and one that deals with narrative style with Tom The Dancing Bug.

i love the awakening or reawakening of the graphic novel. when i was a young boy, classic comic versions of the classic novel was my way in. of course i was a stan lee fan and some of the dc comic series. mad was the ultimate. so for me a very poor reader when i was in grade school, the graphic novel was crucial for me in my transformation. this word, "transformation" was reintroduced to me after i read james bucky carter's "transforming english with graphic novels" in the nov 2007
english journal. he reminded me of a session in pittsburgh i went to about the graphic novel and then this year's ncte 's middle mosaic was all about the graphic novel. my work in a nyc public high school, the graphic novel is an important tool for that crucial transformation for each student who needs to get into reading. jeffrey wilhelm speaks about this constantly. there is much research and writing about the graphic novel from John F. Barber who cites Charles McGrath, Mary Deming, Scott McCloud, Stephen Krashen, David Kunzle, Stephen Weiner, Paul Gravett, Brian Preiss, Howard Zimmerman, Trina Robbins to name a few.

from john f. barber i learned why we teach graphic novels? he says, reading and writing inform each other. the reader "gets the picture." they help the reader verbalize their ideas, read their "world," and they lead to self-actualization. in many cases the language is more authentic to the reader. because the graphic novel is condensed it requires the reader to make inferences and help them develop the good reader skill of going from what they know to what they need to know. graphic novels serve as a bridge in literacy because they employ all the parts of literature. they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. they use all the tools of literature and introduce the various genres. the graphic novel is pared down to the basic elements. many tools are used such as dialogue, metaphors, images, satire, parody, symbol, and higher order thinking skills.

in my classroom book closet, graphic novels are beginning to take up a lot of space and are being read.
maus was one of the first graphic novels i used because it was so accessible and acceptable in our school. now we are ordering graphic novels by the gross. graphic novels complement CyberEnglish. the scholars in CE is using the components of the graphic novel when they create their webpage. they employ text, images, and sound. not only do they write in html, they may also employ flash or a powerpoint to create a multi-modal webpage. there is a very good connection between the graphic novel which is input and CyberEnglish which is output. a variation on the reader - writer relationship. what barber says about the reader of the graphic novel is true of the writing scholar in CyberEnglish.

some resources:
a list of all time graphic novels.
here is a list of graphic novels from
young adult library services association.
a place to
buy a graphic novel from powell books online.

a google search of "graphic novels" will yield much.

if you want to get started try strip a great way in for you and your scholars.

Monday, November 26, 2007

CyberEnglish's new faces

CyberEnglish became real with the creation of the WWW. with the WWW, CE could publish. before that it was merely pieces of computer applications not connected. when the WWW came to be, CE had a home, a homepage, upon which the user poured hir heart, soul, and mind. CE was when the writer became a complete artist, like hir brethren, the musician, the painter, the dancer, who were in control of their art form from conception to presentation. prior to the WWW, the writer had to turn over hir work to an editor and publisher who did things to it that did not necessarily jibe with the writer. then some would argue the editor/publisher made the writer. that's another discussion. in the beginning, scholars in CE made webpages. on these webpages they published their essays, their creative writing, their thoughts. in addition they could add images and sound. they were now writers, editors, and publishers. readers corresponded via email. these webpages became a record of their scholarship. they could be shared with family and friends. they were useful for college and job applications. but above all they belonged to the scholars. it provided a new method of education suggested by many pedagogues from the past. but instead of CE being a boon for education, those in authority, who were going to lose some control, acted to curtail this democratic move in education. filters were added. fear was promulgated. just as martin luther nailed his treatise to the cathedral doors, students posted ideas on bulletin boards in Tiananmen Square, scholars in the 2oth century were publishing their ideas on the WWW. this scared lots of people, so those in power did something about it. they enacted laws, they stepped up the presence of bad standards, and made schools more like prisons then ever. it was a step back in time. it wasnt better basics, it was just "back to basics." it was reactionary in the worst sense. education was dumbed down to multiple choice questions and little thinking.

the result in the new century has been the growth of new faces of CE. facebook and my space are certainly examples. and of course adults and those in power suggest what is done in these new medias may come back to haunt you. fear is used to dissuade users. other tools like blogs, wikis, and youtube encourage users to share their ideas. again fear and loss of revenue has the old powerbrokers like publishers and politicians scurrying to nip this democratic information sharing revolution in the bud. too late. ironic that congress and the monied minions are trying to destroy something created to withstand nuclear bombs.

it is refreshing to see that youth will forge their own path in spite of what the elders try to enforce. they will find their own way and they will explore the brave new world generation after generation, thank goodness. now yo udont have to believe me,look around. also check out youth noise.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

web 2.0

what is web 2.0? here is just one definition. for me a simple definition would be that it is democratic. there is constant interaction between writer and reader. another aspect of web 2.0 is that it is centered on social networking. one way to define social networking would be to reach back to john locke's "meditation xvii" where he says, "no man is an island." the meaning of this statement, for me, would be that "mankind is interconnected." john dewey speaks about democracy and education, a tenet of web 2.0. another precursor to web 2.0 would be pablo freire. most currently friedman's the world is flat would further this idea of democracy and education which is web 2.0. so one can easily see that web 2.0 isn't really a new idea, as much as an idea whose time has been forecast and whose time has come.

web 2.0 is people power. a cornerstone to the idea would be the applications that make up web 2.0. i like web 2.0 and its concepts because it seems to be an extension of CyberEnglish which was founded on this democratic concept. the three basic tenets of CyberEnglish: make it public, engage in peer review, and pass it on. web 2.0 promotes the user who creates hir own applications or uses applications like this one that allows the reader and writer to interact. no one person is in total control, it is democratic. essentially web 2.0 takes the power out of hands of authorities and puts it in the hands of the people. it is a further extension of open source, gnu, and wrestles it away from the proprietary software. web 2.0 embodies many of alcott's maxims. "To teach, pupils to teach themselves" is an appropriate maxim to help explain web 2.0. CyberSchool is the next iteration. in CyberSchool, the teacher and the scholar select a course of study. that study is done on the scholar's time and in the scholar's way of study. the instructor, mentor oversees and advises, but does not dictate. there is a democracy about CyberSchool and therefore a real purpose directed by and for the scholar and not the system of government overseeing the educational process. in the end the system benefits because the scholar has really learned and will apply new knowledge to hir actions as a citizen. this makes me think back about thomas jefferson and one of his reasons for public education, so that we have a educated population that votes.

will web 2.0 exist in schools? there is a fear about technology in schools. too bad, since the students can access all these things at home and not under proper supervision of the teacher or parent. using blogs, wikis, you tube, and other very useful tools are blocked by filters in public k-12 schools.

what are your ideas, reactions, comments?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

bronson alcott's maxims

alcott wrote or is attributed to writing 58 maxims about education. these maxims are the product of his work as a teacher and philosopher.

the maxims are inspirational and just as they were forward thinking and relevant in 1827, they are still relevant today. in fact they precede horace mann's important 12th report by 20 years. as i read through these maxims, i am struck by how important they still are. the one that really struck me is the 58th maxim: "To teach, with Independence." the preceding 57 each have their importance and place, but the last one intrigues me. what does it mean "to teach with independence"? as i read this maxim, i hear that i should teach with abandon, not reckless abandon, but with abandon. i should teach with independence of mind, independent of rules enforced by outsiders, with independence of our limits. essentially we must declare our independence, that is to shuck our dependence on the artificial structure forced on us, to be free of the artificial and commercial standards forced on us, to be real and not false. one very real proof of this lack of independence is censorship. another indicator of the lack of independence is the presence of filters on the schools' internet access. in a country build on democracy and the pursuit of freedom, we are an enigma and a contradiction. "do as i say and not as i do" comes to mind.

this maxim is akin to how i view CyberEnglish and now CyberSchool. a cyber class or school is independent, it is the epitome of Independence. now as view the other maxims, i see how they apply to cyber school. i wonder how alcott would view cyber school. i think he would embrace it as that is what he was doing in 1827.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

NCTE NYC 11/07

Sunday Nov 19, 2007
sunday provided some great fodder.

a late rising, read the times, drink the coffee, eat the oatmeal, luxurate in one's home all sunday morning...

head out to the javits for 11;30's that will give me hip hop, ps 234 the 911 school, and barauch where my daughter teaches; then to blau's kids; followed by vinz's kids.

hip hop is rich and young and energetic. passion and language swagger with gusto and pinache. good ideas and encouragement. following hip hop operawhere do we, i want to go? it makes for good notes i must mull over. thesesunday sessions always have a different feel than the other day's sessionsi tell tim mcgee who is introducing some of his students later and he agrees. blau and vinz are doing this too. sunday is experimentation, push the envelope day for the next iteration. after all have presented and before the interchange at hip hop, i slip out to cross the hall to jump into the end of the ps 234 presentation of surviving 911. i go cause that is the school where my daughter and son went, both were involved in wtc bombings, 93 and 01. the principal for both and the teacher of tom during 911 were there. i walked in as the parent got up to speak and spoke of with pictures of them moving into their new school for the year and closed with the pic of them returning. mary's class with tom right there. i shrugged, waved goodbye as i exited to make my way to the other side of the javits center, 4 city street blocks, to say hello to the folks at the school where my daughter teaches and went. smoozing and networking, haha.

the next round brought me to sheridan blau. i stepped into sheridan blau's session with his crew, including bob montgomery. great stuff on moodling and the research was superb. stunned with the fact that they were so unaware of CIPA and other internet restrictions. ah the ivory tower.

then after interacting with the panel, i escaped quickly and made my way back to the other side of the javits, yeah those same 4 blocks to watch ruth vinz's kids led by eric gordan wax poetic about the power of oral histories in the classroom. all print much to my dismay as when i entered eric saw me and said, hey tech guy. i taught a semester of tech at TC for him. a disaster. not tech friendly, very print rich sorta folks. they have their own press so it goes with the territory. good presentations on going into schools as TC does, hehe. then the questions of tech, i didnt ask the first question, i promise, but it did open the door and well....again lack of knowledge about tech in schools hurts the ivory tower just as lack of real knowledge of the front in education, k12 always alludes the ivory tower. the audience was filled with TC:)

as i said, sunday sessions always offer so much fodder.

now a soft sunday night at home and ACE workshop tomorrow.

it has been a very satisfying convention.

Saturday Nov 18, 2007

after a blissful morning in the garden, i sauntered over to the marriot, having done the javits the day before, to see, santiago, join in the mosaic workshop, and hear frank mccourt, before heading downtown for son's soccer chamionship game.

in the garden we planted bulbs and traditional fall plantings. the day was again perfect. then a short 4 blocks to the marriot i walked in just as santiago was being introduced by an old friend and fellow carnegie scholar, diane waff. it was electrifying. santiago was on point and tech
savvy. it was refreshing after the kozol debacle and still bad taste left in mouth and on brain. she was fiesty, she was challenging, and she was encouraging as she spoke and cajoled, and soothed. and she blogs, and video conferences, and asked us what we needed. i asked her to help us use
our blogs, and wikis, and you tube in our school libraries and classes.

then i escalated up a flight or was it down a flight to enter the mosaic with 2 minutes before kickoff. i found a seat at carol jago's table where we would speak about graphic novels. i have a closet full of them and love em. i love em cause this is how many of my scholars have operated with their webpages. they are graphic novelish, esp when they use flash and even mess with using the cartoon like approach. the use of grapphics and sound are a given. they certainly arent the traditional word essay.

anyway, cofer was brilliant and funny and so remarkable in her part.

wilhelm was jeffrey, brilliant, many voiced, and on spot.

curtis was without the dreds and brilliant as he read from his most recent. after a session at our roundtable, i walked away with much as these teachers and carol provided so much. before the second act, i left to go hear frank mccourt, who was next door and carol left to do a signing at javits.

on my way to mccourt talk, i had great phone conversation with my son who is applying to high school and we went over his final picks, due monday am at his current school. a process from hell. anyway steped into the mccourt room just as he was introduced. i have to tell you my timing was on point today. he was brilliant as always. it was a perfect day at the conference
after a great friday topped by a fun friday night evening with those talkies who did make our event, nyc does offer so much.

hopped a train downtown, that just arrived, more good timing and arrived at the field in time to see the coin toss and to hear the whistle to signal the start of the game. the game went into overtime, a shootout and the tenth shooter for our team scored to make them the soccer champs of the downtown league. it doesnt get any better on an agricultural, intellectual, and athletic level.