Website Wednesday: Blank on Blank

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

Check out Blank on Blank, a (new-ish) YouTube channel (here is the home site) associated with PBS Digital; this is their trailer:

It features voices of the past (John Coltrane, Grace Kelly, Fidel CastroLouis Armstrong, John and Yoko) and the present (Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou, Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Murray) talking (in five to six minute excerpts from interviews) about some topic that is timelessly contemporary over cool animation. I can imagine it serving various purposes in various classrooms–as a writing prompt, as a tool for practicing argument (or visual) analysis, as an introduction to important figures of pop culture, music, and cinema history, as a knowledge probe in a sociology or anthropology class, as a model for a project in a digital media class (or other art class), as a snapshot of an historical moment or period, and much more.

On a personal note, a couple of days after I first ran across the site (the Vonnegut video was featured as ‘Video of the Day’ on “The Browser“), I came home and my beloved said, “Hey check this out–David Gerlach (a former teaching colleague of hers at a Chicago High School) has an awesome new project!” and it was Blank on Blank. David was a history/humanities teacher, and now he’s an Executive Producer for a digital video series. I’m not sure what he studied in college, but I’m sure there’s no straight line from what he chose as his major to what he is doing for a career. But I digress. It’s always nice to see cool people doing great things, and this is most definitely that.


All CCC Faculty Potluck, this Saturday in Humboldt Park

You’ve received e-mails for this, but another notice can’t hurt!

The Harold Washington Faculty Council is hosting a potluck mixer one week from today, and they’ve asked me to invite you! The potluck is open to all CCC Faculty (full and part time) as well as partners.

“All CCC faculty” is not an oversight. We are indeed inviting faculty from across the seven colleges.

Here are the details:

When: Saturday, November 21, 4p.m.

Where: The home of Maria Ortiz. Check your CCC e-mail for the address.

Potluck: Please bring a favorite dish or beverage, or bring some money to chip in.

For more information, contact Maria Ortiz. Her e-mail can be found in the invitation e-mail.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Women to Remember

Written by Michael Heathfield

Only a fool would look to the future without serious regard for the past.  So while I look forward to my reinvented future at HWC, it is impossible to not look back. Especially as I am teaching courses this semester I will not teach again as social work and youth work programs close at HWC in the spring.  I work hard in my classes to get students to make diverse connections and pull past narratives into their futures. We public educators don’t have to reach too far back for narratives to be informative.

The stories of two women keep resonating in my head and my heart is continuously trying to learn from both. The first is Mary Parker-Follet (1868-1933) who was very much an innovator and management guru way ahead of her time.  Indeed, many of today’s famous male stars of management theory owe a debt to the writing, theories and principles originating from Parker-Follet.  Peter Drucker acknowledged her important contributions to business administration that is ethical and grounded in the human interactions and connections that bind us together.

She was a social worker who studied at Radcliffe and spent a year at Cambridge University. She established community centers in Boston and wrote about how important community interactions and relationships were for success.  She was an innovator in establishing group work as an important method for social change. In her 1924 essay “Power” she differentiated between coercive power and coactive power.  Power “over” was very clearly about control, manipulation and setting up win/lose dynamics.  Power “with” provided mutual growth and opportunities that would now be framed as win/win. She was very clear which kind of power contributed to community and democracy. One of my favorite quotes from her body of work is, “life and education must never be separated”.  Democracy was about something we do together.

She was an early advocate for opening up schools as community resources, extending them from their traditional schooling roles and functions in the communities that they serve.  She was a very early advocate of youth work and of conflict resolution strategies in which all parties could participate in negotiated settlements in which “reframing” the dispute was the means to helping all parties move forward to successful outcomes.  She also wrote persuasively about what we now call “life-long learning” and how the world of work should always be connected to learning.

The second woman was more recently lauded as an education innovator and looked upon by politicians, from both parties, as someone who would be a game changer for public education.  Her name is Michelle Rhee, who for a very brief time (2007-2010) was the Chancellor of the D.C. public school system.  She was a bold political choice who was proud of her lack of experience in any public education system and she rapidly surrounded herself with friends and colleagues who also lacked both experience and expertise in public education.  Her oft-repeated mantra was that she was driven solely by the vital needs of D.C. school children.  She was appointed because of her connections to clout-heavy politicians and billionaires. She got to sit on Oprah’s couch.

Her one driving goal, above all else, was to lift up the test scores of D.C. school children.  In her very short tenure she created a culture of fear and retribution within both schools and their administration.  She presented a public persona unafraid of taking difficult decisions. One of the most demeaning examples of this was the firing of a public school principal in front of television cameras.

She received inordinate levels of publicity as the new face of school reform but abruptly left D.C. public schools surrounded by evidence of test score cheating on a systemic scale.  She continued her education reform goals through leading her own advocacy organization “StudentsFirst” which was publically committed to raising a billion dollars to support the election of political candidates equally committed to the kind of reforms she espoused.

StudentsFirst high profile tool is the “State Policy Score Card” that judges a state’s progress made against the group’s education reform goals.  The reality of StudentsFirst is that it has repeatedly missed its funding targets and has begun withdrawing paid staff from a number of states.  It has distributed a mere $5.3 million to political campaigns and has significantly underperformed on its own targets.  Rhee, a declared Democrat, has now stepped down from leading this organization too. She has recently been appointed to the board of Scotts Miracle Grow Company and has dedicated herself to supporting her husband’s career and her own children.

A belief in the central role of teachers in the education process was the hallmark of one of these memorable women.  The other clearly identified them as the enemy to be dismissed and disrespected at every opportunity.  I hope our ever-growing business and management students get to study both women and think critically about their contributions to education, management and leadership.

Think, Know, Prove: Degrees of Difference (@ Harold Washington)

Think, Know, Prove is an occasional Friday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

As promised, long ago, I have school by school installments of the degrees awarded. Unfortunately, my numbers do NOT include the remarkable 2015 numbers, as I have not been able to acquire a school-by-school breakout of those yet, but even still, the trends are still relevant. Here’s the picture for Harold Washington (click on the picture to make it bigger):

Degrees--HW 2014

As you can see, the total degrees for Harold tripled (!) from 2008 to 2014, with increases across the board. Almost a quarter of that growth, however, is due to a spike in AGS degrees. I do not have any accounting of how many of those 332 AGS degrees granted in 2014 were retroactive (probably not many since CS9 was not yet operational) and I’m also guessing that few of them were reverse-transfer degrees, since many of those articulation agreements (and, again, the software) were not in place either in 2014, which means that, likely, most of those were degrees actually granted to students finishing in 2014, a year that saw us grant more AA degrees in 2014 than we gave out degrees of ANY sort in 2008, which is an undeniable positive, double the AS degrees over the same period (again, a positive), and a year in which nearly 4 in 10 of the degrees were AGS, up from 1 in 10.

So, what do you think, what do you know, what can you prove?


Website Wednesday: Chicago and Guns

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

When fall rolls around–and I mean real fall: crunchy leaves, frosty ground, 40 degree mornings–I get excited about going hunting. Growing up that way, and continuing to do it (and love it), give me a little different perspective on guns than most of the people with whom I share political commitments (somewhere between hippie and pinko, according to my father). But guns and gun usage are undoubtedly a problem in Chicago and in the United States.

Four pieces for your consideration:

~”America’s Mass Shooting Capital is Chicago

~And it’s not just your imagination–it really is worse this year

~But it’s also true that some of the most notorious, recent mass shooters got guns that they shouldn’t have been able to get if the current laws were enforced

~And it’s not clear that an outright prohibition would be better

And sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly is going on, since crime data (like all data) isn’t exactly (ever?) truly raw data.




Website Wednesday: Active Learning Protocols

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

Over the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve had a number of colleagues ask about or ask for ideas related to discussions and active learning. For a long time, my primary recommendations was Stephen Brookfield’s Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. It’s a great book, but maybe a little wonky and philosophical (in the sense of being really thorough in its consideration and discussion of discussion), which maybe not everyone is as enthusiastic about as I am.

Happily, this summer I read a book called Discussion in the Classroom by Jay Howard, and it is my new first recommendation. Howard is a sociologist and so the book features his findings on the sociology of the college classroom (with a nice overview of others’ research, too) and makes a few critical, simple points about a couple of classroom culture obstacles (e.g., norms like “civil attention” and “consolidation of responsibility”) to good discussion. The book also integrates multiple various, easy, effective (in my experience) remedies to address them. Some of the ideas I knew from my own trial and error, some I learned from other sources, including colleagues, books, and (mostly) my personal teaching hero (to whom I’m married). For me the book was less helpful in terms of providing new strategies than it was helpful in clarifying why some of my favorite approaches turn out to be effective (and why some others that I liked before trying them didn’t work so well). It also includes chapters on grading participation and online participation, among others, and it’s short and easy to read.

But maybe you don’t want a book to read. Fair enough.

Lucky for you, some of my favorite strategies are published in slightly different form on a website dedicated to Common Core-related teaching resources. They are published in the form of “protocols” which are basically recipes for action. The site describes them as practices for elementary and middle-schoolers (3rd to 8th grade), but they are easily adaptable to our classrooms given the similarities in size and set-up. In truth, the protocols could be used with first graders as well as college students–the complexity of the task derives from the complexity of the text, not the protocol (though, the protocols can be adjusted in that regard, too, just by taking the basic structure and altering the specific task or questions as appropriate. Favorites  for processing text (and, in the process, learning to effectively summarize/analyze/compare texts) include: “Concentric Circles,” “Jigsaw,”  “Say Something,” “Written Conversation,” “Rank, Talk, Write,”  “Popcorn Read,” “Tea Party,” and “Take a Stand.”  Check ’em out.