Saturday, August 31, 2013

"how do i embed a music player on my blog?"

Several students have asked me how to embed a music player on a blog.  I have no idea.  Please help 'em out in a comment to this post.  Mahalo.

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 30

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts; "Because I'm Awesome" by The Dollyrots; "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel)

Would you rather work hard to improve and succeed/achieve your goals, or would you rather "keep it real" and stay the way you are, even if it means failing in others' eyes? (Bonus question: Describe the use of irony in "Because I'm Awesome")

1. Journal/return résumés
2. Vocab quiz/correct
3. Lit analysis update

1. Read Literature Analysis book #1

Thursday, August 29, 2013

college boot camp reminder

Please get your paperwork to Mrs. Dirkes in the college office by tomorrow, Friday, August 30.  Mahalo.

August 29*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Eat the Rich" by Aerosmith; "Junk Food Junkie" by Larry Groce; "Eat It" Weird Al Yankovic]

Are "secret ingredients" ever a good thing, or just a cynical ploy that entices us to eat cheaply manufactured nastiness?

1. Journal/collect personal statement
2. Blaudit
3. Vocab #2 review

1. Prepare for tomorrow's quiz (vocab + learning myths)
2. Make sure your blog is up to date

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

i have a dream

Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important speeches of all time.  On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, calling for harmony and an end to racism, to an estimated 250,000 people.  Here are some links to commemorate the event:
Please do your own research and contribute resources or perspectives in the comments.  Dr. King's speech represents the finest traditions of democracy, free speech, humanity, community, and rhetoric. It serves as a powerful reminder that there is more in life that unites us than divides us.  Taking a few moments to listen/read/reflect on this occasion is an opportunity to put us all in touch with the better angels of our nature.

per 1 literature analysis #1 sign-up

Please comment to this post with the book and author you chose.  Mahalo.

per 0 literature analysis #1 sign-up

Please comment to this post with the book and author you chose.  Mahalo.

August 28*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Twenty Questions" by The Beastie Boys; "Philosophers Stone" by Van Morrison]

Think back on your Big Question.  How does it relate (in any way) to what you've learned in this course so far?  How could you tweak the course to more closely connect the dots?

[*PLEASE NOTE: If you wrote on this yesterday before pictures, please either extend your thinking on the topic or pick something else to think about on paper in an attention-commanding sort of way.]

1. Journal
2. Review of our thinking
3. Brainstorm essay topics

1. Post your favorite essay topic from today's class along with a rationale explaining how writing it will help you (title: ESSAY IDEA)
2. Spend some time with vocabulary #2 
3. Read the Personal Statement Worksheet, write, and bring a hard copy draft (preferably typed but neatly written OK) to class tomorrow, Thursday 8.29
4. See you at Hack to School Night

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

meet fiddleoak

I don't normally use the word genius unless I'm being sarcastic, but Zev (a.k.a. Fiddleoak) is a genius.  He's 14.  Check out his images here.  Is anyone willing to contact him and see if he'd talk with us online about how a picture can be worth more than a thousand words?

August 27*

UPDATE: Realized halfway through 0 period that today is picture day, so today's agenda is now tomorrow's agenda.  Smile. :)

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Twenty Questions" by The Beastie Boys; "Philosophers Stone" by Van Morrison]

Think back on your Big Question.  How does it relate (in any way) to what you've learned in this course so far?  How could you tweak the course to more closely connect the dots?

1. Journal
2. Review of our thinking
3. Brainstorm essay topics

1. Post your favorite essay topic along with a rationale explaining how writing it will help you (title: ESSAY IDEA)

"Hey! Why should I be on the Internet?"

Are you smarter than a (1995) 5th grader?

Monday, August 26, 2013

not all schools are created equally

There are many, many choices in higher education, and this article reminds us that choosing one depends heavily on the oldest consumer rule in the book: Caveat emptor.

hack to school night

(my t-shirt from OSCON)

To be clear: the word hack has been associated with definitions ("sharp cough, "cut with unskillful blows," & "illegal/unauthorized computer access," e.g.) that do not describe what we do.

We make connections and facilitate conversations that help people learn.   We build, analyze,  evaluate and modify tools and working conditions to make them better.

You know how they say, "[So'n'so] just can't hack it?" Well, maybe [So'n'so] can't.  We can.

So, at Back-- er, Hack to School night this Wednesday (8.28) evening, we are at it again. Get here whenever you can. Bring whoever you want. Offer them the benefit of what you know and find a way to learn from them too. Share new ideas about technology and how you can use it to get ahead in life.

Here is the program:
1. Learner-led conference (see below)
2. Periodic "Intro to OSL" presentations
3. Sign-ups for "friend of the course" events and "digital drop-in" nights

Here is the process:
1. Think about these questions and your answers to them;
2. Bring someone who cares to Hack to School Night;
3. Have them ask you these questions, be suitably brilliant in your replies, and demand that they take notes so that you know they're paying attention;
4. Turn in their notes to me, get your extra credit, listen to me brag about you briefly;
5. Go home and finish your homework.

student led conference script -

NEW: collaborative working groups page

Later this week we will be talking about how your ideas can become innovations that lead to projects, ventures, and even businesses.  Check out the introduction and student examples on the collaborative working groups page.

vocabulary: fall #2


August 26*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Early Morning Wake Up Call" by The Hives; "Early in the Morning" by Ray Charles]

Today is the first "early out" on our calendar. Some say this is a bad idea (given all the demands on our already-crowded learning time). Others say this is a good idea (given that they'd rather be anywhere else in the universe besides school). What is your opinion of early outs? What will you do with the time?

1. Journal
2. Roundtable discussions & blog reviews

1. Post vocabulary definitions/sentences (title: VOCABULARY #2)

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 23*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Panic Song" by Green Day]

We all encounter emergencies-- illness, earthquakes, stalled cars, the occasional zombie apocalypse--so what can you do to be prepared? Describe planning or training for something that might actually happen.

1. Journal
2. Vocab/"Opinion" quiz
3. Select text on obesity
4. Discuss weekend homework

1. Do last night's assignment (write a synopsis of the text with reading notes)
[PER. 0 CHOICES: An apple a day via Rick's blog or this article.]
[PER. 1 CHOICES: McDonald's chicken heads on Alex's blog; public school "fat letters" on Johna's blog; the movie "Supersize Me" via link on Dale's blog; or this article.]

2. Find two credible resources that support the text's thesis-- and two that refute it-- and write an essay in which you analyze the evidence, explain your reasoning, and come to your own conclusion.  Post to your blog (title: PROSE & CONS: OBESITY)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 22*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince & The Revolution; "Crazy" by Patsy Cline; "Crazy Dream" by Los Lonely Boys]

On your way home, the neighborhood dog starts talking to you. He won't talk in front of anyone else, and he won't let you record him. No one else will ever see this but you. Are you crazy? Support your perspective with at least two reasons.

1. Journal/literature analysis sign-up
2. R&eacutesum&eacutes: discuss and collect (if ready)
3. Vocabulary #1 and quiz review
4. Obesity texts: roundtable reporting, analysis, and selection

1. Study vocabulary and quiz elements
2. [UPDATE: Sorry for any confusion.  We didn't get far enough to choose one.  Please peruse the Member Blogs and find a favorite to suggest in class tomorrow. -Ed.]  Write a one-paragraph synopsis of the obesity text the class selects along with your active reading notes and post to your course blog (title: TEXT ANALYSIS #1)

fat & fault

Since I asked everyone else to find articles and texts that dealt with the issue of obesity and who is responsible for it, I'm also contributing a couple resources. First, here is an article about a Stanford conference on patient-generated care. Second, here is an article that discusses the blame game itself. Tomorrow in class we'll have some roundtable discussions about what we found and we'll choose a couple texts to analyze and write about in more detail.

August 21*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Celluloid Heroes" by The Kinks, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" by Warren Zevon, and --depending on time-- "Heroes" by David Bowie]

What does it mean to be a hero? How are heroes depicted in modern movies and literature? How do you think these portrayals are different from classic and ancient ideas of heroes?

1. Journal
2. Vocabulary #1
3. Résumés
4. Non-fiction roundtable: ID topic/s for closer study

1. Reminder: please post Vocabulary #1 definitions and context (sentences, paragraph, short story etc.) to your blog
2. Update your résumé and bring to class tomorrow
3. Find an an interesting text (article, book/chapter, documentary) on the topic related to obesity, fast food, nutrition and/or health; embed or post a link on your blog with a brief synopsis (title: THIS IS PHAT!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

vocabulary: fall #1


August 20*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Freedom of Choice" by Devo; "Freewill" by Rush]

We use phrases like "pay attention" and "make a decision" all the time-- what do they mean to you? How would you teach a child to do either?  How might you improve your own abilities in these areas?

1. Journal/check lit analysis books
2. Quiz: "The Right to Your Opinion"
3. Vocabulary #1
4. Resume (REH-zoo-may) -- click this link for reference

1. If you haven't already, please post your notes from last Friday's Socratic seminar (and/or your "Right to Your Opinion" reading notes) to your course blog (title: MY OPINION ISN'T (A) RIGHT)
2. Study vocabulary

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 19*

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes: "Learning to Fly" performed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and "Learning to Fly" performed by Pink Floyd)

What did you learn in this class last week?

1. Journal
2. Observations on Week 1/feedback on journals, assignments, and overall performance so far
3. Literature analysis requirement
4. Vocabulary and grammar
5. (if there's time) "The Right to Your Opinion" follow-up & implications

1. Describe 5 "go to" sources for good non-fiction and post to your blog (title: 5 GO-TO SOURCES FOR GOOD NONFICTION)
2. Review "The Right to Your Own Opinion" for tomorrow
3. Select a non-fiction book and bring it tomorrow
4. Answer the following questions in a post on your blog entitled REFLECTIONS ON WEEK 1
  1. Are there any factors that you think are going to affect your participation or experience in this class? Access to a computer?  Mobile/smart phone?  Transportation?  Friends/family? Schedule?
  2. Think of an awesome best ever learning experience that changed you. What did you learn? Where were you? What happened? Who else was there? Did it teach you anything about how you learn (or pay attention... or remember, or think?) How did you know what was happening? 
  3. What are you most [excited/concerned] about in this class? What do you look forward to in learning?  How do you think it can/will make a practical difference in your life?

preview for mon 8.19

Tomorrow after the journal we will audit the first week.  We'll talk about "The Right to Your Opinion" and whether or not we need a testable moment.  I'll be especially interested in your thoughts on how to optimize the network and connect the dots between Big Questions and Expository Composition.  For homework I'll ask you to write an articulate, well-supported perspective on this article.  We'll also talk about vocabulary and grammar.  Without them, banana mumu baseball aphotic (*learned that one the day before yesterday! :) blech.  Plus we wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to each other.   Too many human beings are unhappy enough as it is; imagine if we all had the Terrible Twos our whole life because we couldn't make ourselves understood.  Speaking of which, remember "The Laughing Heart" (especially if you haven't taught it yet).  The Gods will offer you chances.  Know them.  Take them.  See you tomorrow.

member blogs

I've posted all the URLs I have on the Member Blogs page.  If you haven't yet, please email your blog URL to  If you need help please get it online today or in person tomorrow.

Mucho mahalo.

you are not so smart

The title of this post isn't intended as an insult-- it's the title of a book written by David McRaney, who has now published You Are Less Dumb. Worth thinking about while considering "The Right to Your Opinion." See descriptions/trailers for both books here. If anyone is interested in having McRaney talk with us about his ideas, click the "About/Contact" tab on his blog and invite him.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

help design this blog

Tomorrow I'll get around to adding features that make the blog more informative and easier to use. Any suggestions/requests?

applied journalism 101

This past week Santa Maria Sun reporter (and AG soccer coach) Camillia Lanham visited class to find out more about Open Source Learning.  Students learned about the First Amendment and what's on the record (everything) and off the record (nothing) when you talk to a reporter.  They also learned that investigative journalists do more than blog from their couch.  They go where the story is, they talk to people with different perspectives, ask all sorts of questions, evaluate the credibility of their information & sources, and do their own independent research to double-check their facts and ensure they've learned enough about their subject to describe and explain it to the public.  This is one reason to consider how we learn about the news. Not every loud opinion or blog qualifies as journalism.

When Camillia visited she took this picture

and later sent it to me so I could ask Melissa Steller if it was OK to put it in the paper.  (Melissa said yes.)  Why was it important to ask that question?  

Once upon a time, we waited for the film to develop so we could tell the stories of our pictures.  Now we snap away with our phones and let our pictures tell the stories of us.  Do you think people should have the courtesy to ask each other permission to post the pictures they take, or does this matter anymore?  Do you want more control over the use of your image? As a start, what do you think about asking each other permission to publish pictures/video on the Web or elsewhere? To my way of thinking, this is a free and easy way to show that you are considerate and professional.  I think I asked everyone in this picture permission to post, but if I missed someone or you changed your mind please let me know. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 16*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Little Know It All" by Iggy Pop and "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" by Neil Young]

Consider the following image (courtesy of the fine folks at BoingBoing). What issues, problems, or challenges in your life once seemed HUGE but got smaller as you gained a larger, more mature, better-informed perspective on things?  Does this matter in your life?  How?  Should we be using an image with an expletive in it?  Does the diction detract from the message or strengthen its impact?

1. Journal/turn in
2. Socratic seminar: "The Right to Your Opinion"

1. Read a truly interesting piece of non-fiction and post about it to your blog (title: A TRULY INTERESTING PIECE OF NON-FICTION)
2. Read the Personal Statement Worksheet and complete the Senior Resume Worksheet by Monday, August19

August 15*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: Fela Kuti's "Teacher Don't Teach Me No Nonsense"]

Think of something you're really good at.  Teach the reader how to do it.

1. Journal
2. Discussion: blog set-up, features, design, Mass Launch Monday 
3. Q&A

1. Brush up on "The Right to Your Opinion" for tomorrow's Socratic seminar

blogger instructions and how-to video

As we talked about in class, there are multiple benefits to expressing yourselves to a wider audience.  There are also multiple challenges in adopting new media.  In the next few weeks you will learn more about privacy, security, and how the Internet and its business models actually work.  This information will enable you to take full advantage of online resources without making yourself vulnerable to unnecessary risk or embarrassment.  In the meantime, both to avoid any confusion and to ensure that we get off to a good start, please err on the side of caution and email me at if you have any specific questions or concerns.

Here are the instructions for building your blog:
  1. Go to and create a blog
  2. The URL for your blog should be [first initial][last name][rhs14exposcomp]
  3. The title of your blog should be "[first name] [last name]'s Expository Composition Blog"
  4. You can choose your own layout and template design features.  Feel free to change these as the course begins and you learn more about how to organize and curate information on this platform
  5. Once your blog is set up, please email the URL to me at so that I can add your blog to the Member Blogs page on the main course blog.
  6. Francisco Ayala has already done a terrific job of setting up his blog, which you can see HERE.
NOTE: Don't be shy about asking others for help if you need it.

Once you've set up your blog write an introduction that you can put somewhere on your homepage.  This should tell readers a little about you and what your blog will be about.  You can draw on some of the thinking I've asked you to do already, such as:
  • your reason(s) for taking this course;
  • what you're excited about and what makes you nervous;
  • your goal(s) for this course and beyond;
  • how you expect your knowledge and thinking to be improved by creating this blog and getting feedback from readers.
Here is a tutorial on how to get started with Blogger. The first couple minutes are about registration and set-up, which most of you have already done. Around 2:30 he gets into posting and design, layout, and embedding pictures and videos.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

what's your big question?

Our minds are naturally inclined toward associative and interdisciplinary thinking.  We connect the dots in all sorts of ways, often when we don't fully comprehend the experience (and sometimes when there aren't even any dots).  

We have questions about the nature of the world, our experience of it, our place in it, our relationship to it, what lies beyond it, and everything else.  When we're young we ask questions all the time.  We are insatiably curious.  It's like somehow we intuitively understand that the more we learn the better we get at everything--including learning.  We don't worry about curricular units or standards.  We have no test anxiety.  We test ourselves all the time.  We love risk and we don't care if we fail.  It's always somebody else who's saying, "Hey, come down from there, you're going to get hurt!"* [*Often, they're right.  In any case they're probably more experienced in estimating the odds of that was fun didn't hurt vs. itchy leg cast for a month outcomes.  But sometimes you just KNOW you can do it and it's frustrating to be told you can't.  Pushing the edge is what learning is all about.** {**As a teacher/responsible adult I must explicitly remind you to do this (i.e., learn/push the edge/create new neural pathways in your brain that actually change your mind) in ways that will not break laws or harm any sentient beings-- most especially you-- or offend, irritate, annoy, upset, or anger your parents.***} <***If you think this is a lot of footnotes, or whatever we're calling the blogger's equivalent, you should read David Foster Wallace (especially Infinite Jest).  In fact, this is the perfect time for you to consider his commencement speech (which doesn't contain footnotes, but does contain the sort of wisdom that more people should hear while there's still time to do something about it.).  At any rate, if you're still following this sentence you'll do fine in this course.>}]  Most of us learn whole languages best between the ages of 5-12.  Our amazing brains manage the torrential inflow by creating schema

We have every incentive to accelerate and amplify our learning as we age.  Our future is increasingly complex and uncertain.  Our culture and economy favor those in the know.  Learning is increasingly your responsibility as individuals.  You're becoming more independent; in about a year you'll be heading off to college, where your professors may not know you exist and definitely won't care how you organize your binder.  As if all that isn't motivation enough for you to get your learning on, NOT learning may actually be bad for you.  We form new neurons and connections in our brains when we learn.  Scientists are investigating whether the lack of new neuron formation is a cause for depression or an interfering factor in recovery.

When it comes to thinking for yourself in the traditional high school setting, though, there is more motive than opportunity.  Inquiry that doesn't "fit" in the classroom is too often seen as a challenge to authority.  This is a legitimate problem; by definition, individualism and divergent thinking don't conform to a one-size-fits-all syllabus.  In addition, a culture of fear of punishment or embarrassment can lead the smartest and most successful learners to surrender and play the game.  When this happens, motivated learning in the presence of no opportunity dies the same death as a fire in the presence of no oxygen.  According to the authors of "The Creativity Crisis" we ask about 100 questions a day as preschoolers-- and we quit asking altogether by middle school. 

In his book Orbiting the Giant Hairball, Gordon MacKenzie describes visiting schools to show students how artists sculpt steel into animals:

“I always began with the same introduction: ‘Hi My name is Gordon MacKenzie and, among other things, I am an artist... How many of you are artists?’
The pattern of responses never failed.
First grade: En mass the children leapt from their chairs, arms waving wildly, eager hands trying to reach the ceiling.  Every child was an artist.
Second grade: About half the kids raised their hands, shoulder high, no higher.  The raised hands were still.
Third grade: At best, 10 kids out of 30 would raise a hand.  Tentatively.  Self-consciously. 
And so on up through the grades.  The higher the grade, the fewer children raised their hands.  By the time I reached sixth grade, no more than one or two did so and then only ever-so-slightly—guardedly—their eyes dancing from side to side uneasily, betraying a fear of being identified by the group as a ‘closet artist.’”  

Richard Saul Werman (the man who created the TED conference) said, "In school we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question.”  School and the way it works was designed back when things were very different and oriented around mass production; that's not the way the world works any more.  You can't just prepare for a job that may not be around by the time you graduate.  And in the age of the search engine, there is no real point in learning facts for their own sake, especially since so many of them eventually turn out not to be facts after all.  You have to develop the critical thinking, problem-solving, oppurtunity-seeking, and collaborative skills that will enable you to CREATE a role for yourself in the new economy.  (And don't worry, if you're not an entrepreneur by nature, these abilities will help you do whatever else you want to do more effectively.)

So, our first mission is to reclaim the power of the question.  Everything you ask has an interdisciplinary answer.  Show me a cup of tea and I'll show you botany, ceramics, and the history of colonialism (for starters).  Wondering why your girlfriend doesn't love you any more?  Psychology, poetry, probability... you get the idea.  And no matter what the question or the answers, you're going to have to sort the signal from the noise and determine how best to share the sense you make.

What's your Big Question?  

What have you always wanted to know?  What are you thinking about now that you've been asked?  What answers would make a difference in your life, or in the community, or in the world?  What do you wish you could invent?  What problem do you want to solve?  This is not a trick and there are no limits.  Please comment to this post with your question and post it to your course blog (title: MY BIG QUESTION).  You can always change your question or ask another.  If you need some inspiration, check out last year's Eng 3 Big Questions here.

August 14*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: Mozart's Symphony #25 in G Minor]

There is a story about Thomas Edison in which one of his assistants said something like, "We've tried this a thousand ways and it doesn't work! We've accomplished nothing!" Edison reportedly replied, "Nonsense. We've learned a thousand ways it doesn't work." What's the moral of the story, and what is your perspective on the idea?

1. Journal
2. Early adopters and the hockey stick
3. Big Questions & senior projects
4. Treasure hunt
5. What the $%&@! is "Expository Composition"? (extra credit for anyone who explains why the closing quotation mark goes inside the question mark-- you can't fudge that sort of thing when you type... comment to this post and make your claim)

1. Read "What's your Big Question?" and post yours (title: MY BIG QUESTION) to your course blog
2. Answer agenda item #5 in a post to your course blog (title: WHAT IS EXPOSITORY COMPOSITION?)
2. Begin reading "The Right to Your Opinion" for discussion on Friday 8/16

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13*

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Move On Up" by Curtis Mayfield]

"Action expresses priorities." -Mohandas Gandhi

What are your priorities? Specifically, what are you doing here? Why are you enrolled in this course? What actions can your colleagues and I expect from you this year that will express your priorities? What does success look like to you? How will we know when you've "made it"?  If you've ever set bold goals at the beginning only to accept less at the end, how can you prepare your mind to see things through this time around so you won't have any regrets next June?

1. Journal (normally we'll complete this at the beginning of each class period, but since you're writing all period today, please get a spiral notebook-- if you don't already have one-- and write/edit today's journal entry in it before class on Wednesday)
2. Introduction to Open Source Learning: get out your phones

1. Comment on "Will this blog see tomorrow?"
2. If we're a go, set up your course blog and email the URL to
3. Research the following quote, translate it, and explain its relevance to this moment/course in brief post on your blog (title: IT'S ALL LATIN TO ME)
dimidium facti qui coepit habet: sapere aude, incipe
(due by the beginning of class Thursday, August 15)

will this blog see tomorrow?

It's an open question.  Think about today's in-class discussion, ask yourself what you really want out of this semester, and then comment to this post with your decision and at least one reason for it.  (NOTE: As Benjamin Franklin famously observed, "We all hang together or we all hang separately." We won't move forward unless all of us participate.

I've created an approach to learning in which students use 2.0 tools to create their online identities, express themselves, and demonstrate what they can do. 

I call the model Open Source Learning and I define it with a mouthful: "A guided learning process that combines timeless best practices with today's tools in a way that empowers learners to create interdisciplinary paths of inquiry, communities of interest and critique, and a portfolio of knowledge capital that is directly transferable to the marketplace."

Students use Open Source Learning to create a wild variety of personal goals, Big Questions, Collaborative Working Groups, and online portfolios of work that they can use for personal curiosity, self-improvement, or as a competitive advantage in applying for jobs, scholarships, and admission to colleges and universities.  You can see a sample course blog here and some personal member blogs here

Several members of the first Open Source Learning cohort made this video about the experience:

In an era when it seems like all you hear about school is how much it sucks, it's nice to see student achievement make positive waves.  Check out this Open Source Learning interview with students and Howard Rheingold, the man who literally wrote the book on The Virtual Community 20 years ago. 

The defining characteristic of Open Source Learning is that there is no chief; all of us are members of a network that is constantly evolving.  Another key element is transparency.  What we learn and how well we learn it, how we respond to setbacks, and even some of our favorite inspirations and habits of mind are right out there in public for everyone to see.  Readers will rightly perceive what we curate as the best we have to offer.

And all this is Open.  In thermodynamics, an open system exchanges substance, not just light and heat.  To us, the important idea is that the network can change in composition and purpose.  Every time you meet someone new and exchange ideas, you're not only enriching each other, you're changing your minds and contributing opportunities for others to do the same.  In other words, you're learning and teaching* (*one of the most effective ways to learn).

We're not limited to one source for curriculum or instruction.  We have a full slate of online conferences scheduled this year including authors, authorities on the Internet and social media, entrepreneurs, and others.  Last year a mother/daughter team presented a lesson on class distinctions in Dickens & Dr. Seuss online (I'd post & link if I hadn't forgotten to click 'Record').  Ricky Luna invited a champion drummer to talk with students online about music and its connections to literature and life.  If we read something that makes an impression we can reach out to the author.    As you get the hang of this you'll come up with your own ideas.  Testing them will give you a better sense of how to use the experience to your greatest advantage.

No one knows how learning actually works--what IS that little voice that tells you what you should've said 15 minutes after you should've said it?  How does a subneuronal lightning storm somehow account for our experience of being conscious?  We are not sure how to account for the individual experience and demonstration of learning.  We are also not sure what exactly the individual should be learning about at a time when factoids are a search click away and the economy, the environment, and the future are all increasingly complex and uncertain.

Maybe this is why learning still seems magical.  Maybe it shouldn't be.  Maybe if we learned more about how we think we'd be better off.  After all, how we think is a powerful influence on how we act.  If you think of your blog work as a list of traditional school assignments/chores, you will treat it that way and it will show.   Your friends will miss your posts and worry that you've moved to The House Beyond the Internet-- or that you're still at your place but trapped under something heavy.  At any rate you'll be missing the whole point.  This work should help you connect the dots between the interests that drive you, an academic course that derives its title from words hardly anyone uses in casual conversation, and practical tasks like applying for scholarships and college admissions.  The general idea is for you to: do your best at something personally meaningful; learn about how you and others learn while you're in the act; and fine-tune your life accordingly.  In addition to mastering the core curriculum, improving your own mind is the highest form of success in this course of study.

As you well know (Put that phone away or I'll confiscate it!), many people are worried about the use of technology in education.  They are rightly concerned about safety, propriety, and focus: will learners benefit or will they put themselves at risk?  The only way to conclusively prove that the benefits far outweigh the risks is to establish your identities and show yourselves great, both online and in meatspace.  As we move forward you will learn how the Internet works, how you can be an effective online citizen, and how you can use 2.0 and 3.0 tools to achieve your personal and professional goals.  You'll also learn a lot about writing and the habits of mind that make readers and writers successful communicators. 

Because Open Source Learning is a team sport, this is all your call.  You have to decide if you want to pursue this new direction, or if you want to invent another possibility with or without social media, or if you prefer the familiarity of the traditional approach.  There is admittedly something comforting about the smell of an old book, even if it's a thirty-pound textbook that spent the summer in a pile of lost-and-found P.E. clothes.  My perspective may be obvious but I'm just one voice.  Please add yours with a comment below. 

preview of Open Source Learning

Here are a few artifacts that describe Open Source Learning and the way we've practiced it in RHS courses.

First, here is "We Are Superman," a video created by Nick Lycan, Cody Kiniry, and Ryan McGinley (RHS/OSL '12):

Second, here is a link to an online conference this year's class did with the Macarthur Foundation's Digital Media & Learning Hub at UC Irvine.

Third, here's me at TEDxUCLA: