Category Archives: BSU Masters

#WorstToFirst #WorstToNotWorst Classroom Decor

Last year, I can remember at least 3 times being visited in my classroom by my principal, who glared around my room at its bare walls and muttered “This classroom depresses me.” 1

So this summer, I spent a little bit of time 2 working on coming up with SOME better way to get my room to my liking, and a few weeks ago, I started working on making some changes to it. The biggest was switching the orientation of the room from LONG to WIDE, adjusting the projector and whiteboard accordingly, and adding in a ginormous map to one of the walls. Also, with the assistance of my amazing wife, we got a couple of cool new paint jobs to make life a little bit easier for yours truly. Check out what we did!

I’m super happy with what I’ve got in so far, and there are still a few things to do:

  • Mount a new Samsung 2.1 wireless soundbar that I picked up from Groupon for only *muffled voice that sounded vaguely like “$120″* so my classroom can have decent sound without running all kinds of cords all over the place.
  • Decorate the heck out of those bulletin boards to start out fresh.
  • Figure out something long and skinny I can put on top of my whiteboard—perhaps a timeline?
  • Put up my handsome “Romeo & Juliet” poster from Litographs.
  • Put up my custom-designed “Double your rate of failure” poster. 3
  • Waiting on a package from China 4 with a secret weapon for my classroom—Tweet-sized/themed “I Can” statements that will live on my wall all the time and be marked as which ones we’ll be using that day. More on this to come…

However, aside from those couple of jobs, I’m jazzed about what I had! I don’t know that my principal will be able to wander into my room and just be floored by what thing we did, but I know that at least I went from easily the worst in the school to a couple of spots better than that


  1. Noted.
  2. And money… Oh, the money…
  3. … that seems to be taking forever to get here. FYI: If you have the choice to print pictures online, avoid Cheap pictures that are apparently good quality, but they clearly take the slowboat from China the long way around the globe.
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Jon Stewart’s final thoughts, or “Here’s what you need to do now”

From Jon Stewart’s last Daily Show, his “graduation speech” on what he wants needs us to know when he’s gone—how to cut through the bullshit.

Bullshit is everywhere. There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit. Not all of it bad. Your general, day-to-day, organic free-range bullshit is often necessary. Or at the very least innocuous. “Oh, what a beautiful baby. I’m sure he’ll grow into that head.” That kind of bullshit in many ways provides important social contract fertilizer and keeps people from making each other cry all day.

But then there’s the more pernicious bullshit, your premeditated institutional bullshit designed to obscure and distract. Designed by whom? The bullshit-talkers.

[It] comes in three basic flavors:

One, making bad things sound like good things. Organic all-natural cupcakes. Because “factory-made sugar oatmeal balls” doesn’t sell. Patriot Act – because “Are You Scared Enough To Let Me Look At All Your Phone Records Act” doesn’t sell. So whenever something is titled “freedom, fairness, family, health, America,” take a good long sniff. Chances are it’s been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit.

Number two, the second way, hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit… But I’m not really interested right now in reading Tolstoy’s iTunes agreement, so i’ll just click “agree” even if it grants Apple prima nocta with my spouse…

And finally, it’s the bullshit of infinite possibility. These bullshiters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry. “We can’t do anything because we don’t yet know everything.” We cannot take action on climate change until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won’t cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns.

Now, the good news is this: Bullshiters have gotten pretty lazy, and their work is easily detected. And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time. Like an “I Spy” of bullshit. I say to you tonight, friends, the best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.

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Should schools teach about morality and democracy?

***UPDATE: Something is kind of weird about the poll plugin I used for this blog, so on fixing it, I accidently deleted the previous poll answers (Only 2 for “Yes they should teach both”). FYI, for this poll plugin, you click the answer you want, and it WILL record. If it doesn’t show up, refresh the page and it will be there.***

Earlier today, I was reading an article I found via Twitter about if schools should teach morality and democracy. The author, Stanford Education Professor Eamonn Callan, recently did a Q&A where he explored the idea a bit. It’s a great piece overall 1, but this one section in particular really struck me as valuable:

Can the nation be mobilized to address the problem of climate change? How can good (much less equal) educational opportunities be made available to the millions of American children who currently do not have them?  Will we be able to contain the threat of terrorism without a steady erosion of civil liberties? How can the international influence of America be used to keep faith with democratic values in a world where they are commonly under threat or violently opposed? Although the priority of items on the list might be contested, what does not admit reasonable disagreement is this: without a public that deliberates about such questions thoughtfully, our political future in coming decades is likely to be bleak.

I’m typing this piece now as an important era in my own life has ended—Jon Stewart’s running of “The Daily Show”. I’ve literally watched all but maybe a dozen episodes of this program since he has been running it 2, and for that reason, his absence is going to be a big deal in my own life. I’m thinking, then, too, of the younger generation, who won’t have such an important voice in world events to look to—what are they going to do? Is it worth it for our schools to try to fill in more education about the BIG issues?

So I put the question out to you, blog community: Should schools teach about morality and democracy?

Yes, they should teach democracy.
2 Vote
Yes, they should teach morality.
0 Vote
Yes, they should teach both morality and democracy.
1 Vote
No, schools should not be the institution to teach morality and/or democracy.
0 Vote


  1. And short, giving it Short-Attention-Span credo as well.
  2. I’m also only 30 years old, and Stewart’s been at this for 16 or 17 years now. That means that from my rip young early-teen years, this guy had/has been as influential of a force in my political and ideological leanings as anyone, arguably more than family, friends, and teachers. My point is that JStew isn’t just a funny guy to me—he’s kinda family at this point.
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What Inspires Me: Louis CK

***Warning: The below video has some NSFW language, but I believe its big thesis makes it well worth it.***

Louis CK is one of my favorite comedians of all time. He’s brilliant, uncouth, controversial, and incredibly inventive. That last quality in particular was one that I grew to appreciate after watching the above video. Louis has taken a cue from the great George Carlin in not just reusing stand-up material from year-to-year, but in totally reinventing his act every year. He’s constantly starting from square one, not only resting on the laurels of his previous stand up specials and performances.

For some reason, stand-up comedians absolutely inspire me, especially as a teacher 1, who, to some extent, is a daily “performer” 2. From year-to-year, it makes sense that I’d keep my curriculum the same or hone it down to the best possible iteration of it, but Louis inspires me to keep it fresh, both to myself and to my students. From my last years in Taiwan, where thing became so repetitive that I hardly had to prep for each class, I’ve had to find ways to twist what I do, and I think taking a cue from this brilliant funny-man can/will help me better reach all my students.


  1. I’m SUCH a planner person—I’m absolutely averse to being impulsive or off-the-cuff at all—so seeing someone who appears to be just casually having a monologue (but clearly has rehearsed what they’re saying) is absolutely enthralling to me.
  2. I know that it’s constantly preached to put the students first, not the teacher, which I totally agree with, but one of my strength of my own teaching is me and my own personality which I use to hype up and direct my students.
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Looking into the past through today’s eyes

Last year in my World History class, we focused a lot more on current events than the typical history class did, looking at what was going on in the news and tracing it back to its roots. We were able to spend a lot of time studying ISIL, for example, and looking into how the Iraq War led to their rise, and how the country’s religious and social turmoil in the past made it ripe for such extremism. It was a ton of fun, and very interesting to students as they saw things develop on the news—they didn’t have to ask why something was happening, as we’d already looked into it.

Another area we studied was disease, especially focusing on the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. As we were going into that, I remembered an older Radiolab episode I’d heard, and while it focused on HIV, I remembered it having a lot of similar ideas that I wanted my students to look into, so I assigned them to listen to that and then write about how it applied to Ebola.

What’s my takeaway from this? Honestly, doing the current-events-for-a-world-history-class thing was more of a trial thing, as I had never taught a history class before, but I’m a news junkie and was certain that I’d be able to teach current events better than historical events, or at least teach historical events in the context of current events. It turned out to be a great experiment, though, and one that I’m looking forward to duplicating this school year, but better than ever!

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My mantra for this year—”Work is love made visible”

I was messing around online, reading a few of my favorite websites on my Feedly 1 feeds, when I stumbled upon this beautiful comic via one of the coolest sites out there, ZenPencils. It’s a bit of a longer read, based off of a poem by Khalil Gibran, but well worth it:

Khalil Gibran's "Work is Love Made Visible", via ZenPencils

I’m on the tail end of a “vacation” 2, so my mind is really turning back towards what’s happening at home and, soon, starting school back up. When I saw this comic, I absolutely loved the point Gibran was making, and how even though being a teacher can be grueling, occasionally thankless work, it is absolutely my love letter to my students. I would love to have this image up in my office, staring down at me for those days when I just want to quit.


  1. RIP Google Reader.
  2. Visiting two sets of grandparents on the other side of the country has been a lot more fun than I expected, but I can’t help but think of all the work I have piling up on my desk at home in the last week of “real” summer before two weeks of pre-school teacher meetings. Yuck.
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Talking about my generation: discussing digital natives and immigrants

***Apologies for this being late. I flew from SF to Orlando today and had a supremely fun (not really) 4 hour delay 1 that screwed up my publishing plans. Better late than never 🙂 ***


This week’s Edtech 537 Masters class assignment got me thinking about what I’d consider my generation, or at the least, the generation(s) after me, and how they interact with technology. Some of the important voices in the educational technology world have begun classifying people into two camps:

  1. Digital natives, or those who have grown up with technology around them.
  2. Digital immigrants, or those who didn’t grow up with technology and have actively had to learn how to use the technology.

Looking through some of the articles in this class that have focused around those idea, the “big three” seem to come to an incomplete conclusion. Marc Prensky probably set the tone with his controversial 2 “Digital natives, digital immigrants… Do they really think differently?”. In it, he makes the case that students today have just totally different brains than the old guard, that they value images over text, movement over static, interaction over spoon-feeding. He goes on to say that teachers need to change our minds to find new ways to use technology, especially games, to help our students better make connections.

In response to this, Jamie McKenzie wrote a pretty scathing response where he 3 attacked Prensky’s sources 4, his selection (or non-selection) of journal information, his interest in video games for education, and even his non-academic tone! I was surprised to read something in the academic realm that really was so aggressive, and truthfully, regardless of its truth or validity, the whole piece rubbed me the wrong way.

Finally, the third piece came from Thomas C. Reeve, who really seemed, more than the other two sources, to best analyze research and dissect what information we know about the different generations and how they think. It was a pretty long-and-winding piece that sometimes seemed to lose its way, but by the end of it, it was pretty clear that what we knew for sure was just that the current generation of students is much more narcissistic than their predecessors.

So what do I think? Truthfully, this is tough, being that I understand that the statistical and research information is almost nil, so it’s hard to base my opinion on much more than an opinion, but for me, most definitely I think that the current generation is a lot more at ease and, frankly, better at technology than those so-called “digital immigrants”. I buy that there are these different classes of people, and I feel like I can point to circumstantial  and personally-experienced evidence to support that.

But here’s the thing—that’s not the right question to ask. The real question is “So what?” Does it matter if there is one group or another? I personally don’t think it does, so long as the two groups can find ways to coexist and work with each other, and as the adults in the relationship, I feel like my duty as a teacher dictates that I go to where my students are and help them the best way I can, and I truly feel building my courses around my students’ skill sets is the best thing I can do.


  • Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
  • McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from
  • Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at


  1. Proof:
    Exhibit AExhibit B
  2. More on this to come…
  3. Or she… Sorry, sexually ambiguous name.
  4. “Coming next fall—Mark Whalberg stars in Who is Dr. Bruce Berry, on NBC.”
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