Piping You the Emails

Months ago, I turned off Jetpack on my blog. I use WordPress and Jetpack is a package of apps which handled email subscriptions, comment management, social media posting, etc. Unfortunately, it also collects a ton of information about visitors to the site for their own use.

I’m not in the business of passing your information along to another company. So, I turned off Jetpack. And off it stays.

As a result, I lost some things, one being email subscriptions. I just activated a new plugin which will handle subscribing to posts via email if that suits your fancy. Fill out the form at the bottom of the page with your name and email to opt in. Make sure you confirm your email address in the confirmation email you get!

As a matter of policy, I don’t collect any information about you without you knowing.

Email opt in is voluntary. Your email address stays private. Always.

If you would like posts mailed physically, send me a tweet, @bennettscience or leave a comment below and I’ll get in touch with you. Completely serious offer.

DIY Recipe Cards

My wife had been hinting that she wanted to use recipe cards in the kitchen rather than her phone all the time. So, I took a few hours and made some up using Inkscape. They’re clean and minimal and print out as 4×6 cards on cardstock.

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The font is a Futura clone, so no need to worry about royalties or licenses.

You can download the Inkscape files if you want to tweak the design (front, back). Or here’s a ready-made PDF for your printing pleasure.

Christmas 2015

I’m overwhelmed by the feeling of immense blessing and immense wretchedness each year. The birth of Christ – King of Heaven, seated at the right hand of God Himself – born in a barn…the lowest of lows. Entering our world to serve as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, a plan set in motion from the moment the fruit touched the lips of man, as a baby, completely dependent on those he came to save.

Parallel to his birth, Christ dying on the cross as a criminal. Crucifixion was saved for offenders who needed to be examples. Cruel and torturous, saved for the worst of the worst. Broken and returned to the lowest of lows.

From Ann Voskamps’ book, The Greatest Christmas:

… and on a chilled night under stars, there is no grand mass of people whose efforts pry the stars into place.

In an obscure caved barn, down some backstreet of Bethlehem, there is no great host whose good works unlatch heaven & impress God into coming.

Tonight, at the foot of the cradle of Christ, like at the foot of the Cross of Christ, there are no big ­people—​­no powerful, no proud.

Tonight there are only those who tramp to the manger with nothing; there are only the manger tramps, the men who lay down all the ­self-​­made, the women who lay down all the ­self-​­sufficiency, the children who lay down all the wants. We, the manger tramps, who kneel where thrones tremble and demons fall and the self-​­made crumble and the ­self-​­righteous weep.

Tonight there are only the manger tramps, who tramp in with all our poverty of spirit . . . so there can be an abundance of God.

And the bulk of all your worn shreds slip off the weariness of your back.

You have tried to polish enough for Him with these rags.

You have tried to patch together so much for Him.

You have tried to produce too much for Him with these rags.

And ­you—­we—​­who are the manger tramps see it tonight, what He’s written in red on all our filthy rags: “But I did it for love.”

All of conquered heaven and grateful earth echo and throb tonight with the heart cry of the ­God-​Child: “I did it for love.”

What can all the manger tramps do but wrap the vulnerable God in strips of our bare, broken hearts so He can lodge in the intimacy of us?

The greatest Gift laid into our empty hands…Grace is weightless.

Even the winning stars singing it over the manger tramps tonight.

God came because he chose us.

Merry Christmas.

Graduate School Final Project

I promised Stacy Lovdahl I’d post this the other day and then promptly forgot. Sorry, Stacy.

I took a graduate course on curriculum development and implementation this semester through Ball State. Not many of the assignments were open-ended enough to make for interesting blog fodder, so I didn’t post much. For my final project, I chose to redesign the course of study for my school based on an inquiry model. There are two components: the redesign document and the theory backing it up. They’re both available as Google docs with comments opened.

Many, many thanks to Michelle Baldwin and Kelly Tenkely from Anastasis Academy for late-night questions about inquiry mapping, standards reporting, and pretty much anything I couldn’t wrap my head around. Check out the work they’re doing…it’s amazing.

Futility

The end of the semester is bittersweet. It’s exciting to think of the long break coming up. At the same time, the burden of work to be completed feels futile for many. I’ve been fighting significantly lower effort patterns and I don’t really have a good way to bridge the gap. Part of the issue this year is that I missed an entire week to stay home with the new baby.

Not that I regret that time at all. By any means.

The theme for this week seems to be, “Why should I try? I can’t do anything about my grade now.” In some cases, this is true, and it’s a result of systematic, deliberate choices to not engage at any point along the way.

But.

I’m still responsible for helping my students learn. I’m constantly reminding myself that I cannot do the learning for them. There has to be an inkling of effort to engage with the tasks.

“No, we can’t take a day off.”

“Yes, we do have things to do today.”

“Yes, this will be on the test.”

(that last one kills me.)

I need to take each class as they come and make the most of it.

Updating the getText Extension

In October, I wrote about a bookmark application to get the text of a website for analysis in the Lexile analyzer tool. It’s a pain in the keister to copy text from a website, open a document, paste the text, save as a plain text file, then reupload to the Lexile website. The bookmark tool does the hard part for you (the clicks…all the clicks…) so you just download the formatted file and upload it to the Lexile site.

Depending on what you try and analyze, you might get an angry message like this one:

Seriously, who uses ASCII?

Nerdspeak, engage!

The only reason you’d use ASCII is if you, A) want to support legacy browsers (Netscape Navigator 1.0 anyone?) or, B) need to speed up query time on a string or a database. Modern web browsers are so much more efficient now, most sites use something called UTF-8. I’m guessing ASCII is needed for the Lexile analyzer so it can give you the score faster than it could with modern encodings.

Anyways, I pushed a fix to the applet tonight. It works by taking the text you highlight and encodes it to ASCII before downloading. So, still no conversions. And no angry red messages. And no more worrying about encodings.

You can grab the extension here or take a look at the source for yourself and tinker around.

Actions Beget Standards…Kind Of.

I wanted to write this down while it’s fresh in my mind (and because it’s late).

I’m finishing a graduate semester on curriculum theory and practice and the final project I chose to complete was a redesign of a school’s curriculum. I decided to really push the boundaries and go for an all-inquiry, mixed age thematic classes. It’s a real swing from the norm. But, I think it can be done (mainly because it is being done).

Michelle Baldwin was kind enough to endure a ton of questions as I worked through some of the stickier points. Mainly, how does one lesson plan and account for mandatory standards in a school where students direct the exploration and topics for learning.

What happens is linked back to the standard. Themes exist, but specific demonstrations come organically through exploration and play. The teacher’s job is to find those demonstrations and reconcile it with the student. Preempting the demo via planned assessment activity undermines inquiry.

Thoughts from Home

My wife had our second daughter last week. I’ve been fortunate to be able to stay home with them this week and help out with the newborn and our two year old.

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In the in-between times, usually late at night, I’d think about school stuff. In no particular order:

  • I don’t do a good job recognizing culture in my classroom.
  • I also don’t do a good job of having performance evaluations for students. Work is limited to the scope I set.
  • At the same time, I don’t have a good way to have students access outside content. Many have devices, but many don’t.
  • We’re moving into chemistry soon and finding those connections are difficult.
  • I don’t want to give multiple choice tests anymore, but I have to stick with the other teachers in the department with the same course. So, how do I evaluate differently but maintain parity?
  • When issues with ed tech are brought up, people take it really, really personally (I’m included there).
  • Sometimes those personal feelings get in the way of good decisions (yep. Still including myself).