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Day 02/10/2012

…* {The Childish Creature}

I’ve had the poet on my mind ever since watching John Lloyd’s animated TED talk on the invisible, where he ends with a quote from W.H. Auden: ‘We are here on Earth to help others. What the others are here for, I’ve NO idea.’  Here are four (I, VIII, XXI, & XXV) of the 27 sonnets that make up Auden’s In Time of War, that I was (serendipitously) reading yesterday ~

 

Love Me sticker by Curtis Kulig, photograph my own.

I

So from the years the gifts were showered; each

Ran off with his at once into his life:

Bee took the politics that make a hive,

Fish swam as fish, peach settled as peach.

 

And were successful at the first endeavor;

The hour of birth their only time at college,

They were content with their precocious knowledge,

And knew their station and were good for ever.

 

Till finally there came a childish creature

On whom the years could model any feature,

And fake with ease a leopard or a dove;

 

Who by the lightest wind was changed and shaken,

And who looked for truth and was continually mistaken,

And envied his few friends and chose his love.

                               

VIII

He turned his field into a meeting-place,

And grew the tolerant ironic eye,

And formed the mobile money-changer’s face,

And found the notion of equality.

 

And strangers were as brothers to his clocks,

And with his spires he made a human sky;

Museums stored his learning like a box,

And paper watched his money like a spy.

 

It grew so fast his life was overgrown,

And he forgot what once it had been made for,

And gathered into crowds and was alone,

 

And lived expensively and did without,

And could not find the earth which he had paid for,

Nor feel the love that he knew all about.

 

 XXI

The life of man is never quite completed;

The daring and the chatter will go on:

But, as an artist feels his power gone,

These walk the earth and know themselves defeated.

 

Some could not bear nor break the young and mourn for

The wounded myths that once made nations good,

Some lost a world they never understood,

Some saw too clearly all that man was born for.

 

Loss is their shadow-wife, Anxiety

Receives them like a grand hotel; but where

They may regret they must; their life, to hear

 

The call of the forbidden cities, see

The stranger watch them with a happy stare,

And Freedom hostile in each home and tree.

 

XXV

Nothing is given: we must find our law.

Great building jostle in the sun for domination;

Behind them stretch like sorry vegetation

The low recessive houses of the poor.

 

We have no destiny assigned us:

Nothing is certain but the body; we plan

To better ourselves; the hospitals alone remind us

Of the equality of man.

 

Children are really loved here, even by police:

They speak of years before the big were lonely,

And will be lost.

 

And only

The brass bands throbbing in the parks foretell

Some future reign of happiness and peace.

 

We learn to pity and rebel.

-1938

 

Source:  McClatchy, J.D., ed. W.H. Auden: The Voice of the Poet. New York: Random House Audiobooks, 1999. Print.

Developing Thoughtfulness in 5K: E-portfolio archiving and Self-Assessment

“A link to the design of core academic experience becomes clear: any genuine learning has to involve perspective on what is learned, not an authoritative march through Official Knowledge[…]”-Grant Wiggins


The rethinkED team started off this fall working with a 5th Grade teacher at Riverdale Country Day School. The driving question behind the project is: can alternative portfolio assessment, namely e-portfolios, be used to more effectively assess students and to increase students’ capacity for critical thinking and self-evaluation?

From there, we developed the questions: How can students become active participants in their own learning and assessment? How can students develop the communication skills and metacognitive practices necessary not only for assessing themselves but also for communicating that assessment to others?

Developing Thoughtfulness in the 5th grade seeks to draw the line between self-critical vs. self-congratulatory analysis by developing an appreciation of the process and an understanding of what “good” means. This involves finding ways to make students comfortable with their own shortcomings and successes. That is, this project aims to give students permission to fail and creative confidence in designing their own educational futures through portfolios.

Many students feel they are engaged in a “race to nowhere,” to use the title of the widely acclaimed movie. Students are trained to seek the approval of teachers without learning the critical thinking skills to evaluate their own work and dialogue with their peers about their work. Research has begun to show that portfolio evaluation, especially beginning at an earlier age, is an excellent way for students to learn critical thinking, argumentation, and dialogue skills to assess their own work, the work of their peers, and their own learning in a broader sense.

This rethinkED project will influence the ways students and teachers think about the work produced in school and at home, about grades and student report cards, and most importantly, about the educational goals of RCS and the kind of thinker the school is trying to develop.

Working with one 5th grade teacher at RCS, the rethinkED team interviewed, brainstormed ideas, and developed a proposal that included step-by-step instructions for setting up a Google site for e-portfolioing until we can find an ideal e-portfolio platform (a project another team at the school is working on). After further interviews, readings, and conversations, it became evident that even before students could fully engage in the process of e-portfolioing, they needed to become engaged in learning about their own learning.

In order to hold student-led parent-teacher conferences and have students reflect intelligently about their own work in light of shared sense of a standard, it became evident we had to take a few steps back and engage students more in critical thinking about their own work.

Inspired by Grant Wiggin’s piece “thinking about thinking” and the Visible Learning work coming out of Harvard’s project Zero, the rethinkED team worked with the the 5th grade teacher to develop a menu of strategies for creating habit, language, mindsets, and character traits for portfolio-archiving work.

Sample of ideas from our Menu of Strategies:

1. Outward Bound/ Experiential Ed Games

  • Use games to begin to develop a metacognitive sense of the learning that is happening.
  • Have student begin to be aware of the character traits they are using in their learning processes.

2. Have a workshop where students think about how they learn
ideas:

  • Have conversations about homework.
  • Run a reflective portfolio hour–maybe as a group analyze a shared piece of work?

3. Interview students to develop rubric

  • How do you know something is good?
  • What standards do you set for yourself?

Depending on the assignments, some could use a rubric and others have reflection and critical thinking as part of the work. A generic rubric that could be applied to all assignments could be similar to the Visual Thinking Strategies three questions:

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

4. Culture and Conversation of Archiving

  • What did I learn today?–daily blog entry

5. Using Google Docs
5th grade students can look at their own revision history using Google doc.

  • Self-control mindset example: How early did you start the assignment? Did you start it the night before or a week before? This kind of decision making is reflective and involves self-control.  Helps avoid a student being pushed to plagiarize.
  • Alleviate the concern of “getting it right” the first time. Learn through experience that its okay not to get spelling right the first time. Possible to go back during editing process and correct spelling.

The next step of the project for the rethinkED team will be to observe students, interview and begin to conduct workshops in class. Stay tuned for more!

…* {John Lloyd’s Animated Tour of the Invisible}

An absolute must-see:  An animated video of John Lloyd‘s–the man who has founded his entire career on eliciting a sense of wonder– classic 2009 TED Talk, which will make you question what you actually know.

What’s the point? The point, what I’ve got it down to, is there are only two questions really worth asking: Why are we here? and What should we be doing about it while we are? To help you, I’ve got two things to leave you with from two great philosophers. Perhaps two of the greatest philosopher thinkers of the 20th century. One a mathematician and an engineer, and the other a poet. First is Ludwig Wittgenstein, who said, “I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure it’s NOT in order to enjoy ourselves.” * He was a cheerful bastard, wasn’t he? And secondly, and lastly, W.H. Auden, one of my favorite poets, who said, “We are here on Earth to help others. What the others are here for, I’ve NO idea.”

*Then again, legend has it that Wittgenstein’s last words, which he uttered to his landlady, were “Tell them it’s been wonderful!”
Source: TED.com
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