Friday, June 6, 2014

this is it

It was great to see everyone this morning!  So many sharply dressed success stories, so many proud families.  The bleachers are full of parents, grandparents, and little ones carrying flowers and stuffed animals. People who don't normally wear socks are wearing ties. The opening strains of "Pomp & Circumstance" are calling to those still looking for parking spots.  Time for the last official post to the 2012-2013 course blog.* (*Please feel free to join the fun over at the 2014-2015 course blog or at, which will launch over the summer.) 

I am proud to be a member of this community.  You have all accomplished a great deal this year, in so many different ways, and I hope you're proud too.  Thank you for all your contributions to this learning experience.  I wish each and every single one of you great success, and I look forward to following your adventures online and in person.   

Sapere Aude.
Dr. Preston

class of 2014 grad lounge is open

masterpiece academy day 5

(Derp.  Just realized this was still in Draft.  For posterity... :)

Maria began her Masterpiece by studying language because she's thinking of becoming a translator.  As she dove deeper into the cultures of several languages, she became interested in world religions.

Bobby & Xavier walked us to the other side of the street (wear/art):

Judith and Amparo collaborated around the concept of compassion.

class of 2014 grad lounge is open

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

kudos: final edition

Congratulations to the following students-- and everyone this year!-- on their college admissions, scholarship wins, and amazing accomplishments.  I'm honored to have been a part of this network and I look forward to hearing about your future exploits.

Miranda Nillo (Henry Mayo Scholarship $5k; Marine Honor; Filipino Seniors $250; AVU Scholarship)
Bianca & Ashley (their comic strip is getting fan mail!)
Lesther Valenzuela (Filipino American Scholarship; Filipino Seniors $250; NAACP Scholarship)
Mia Levy (PTSA Scholarship)
Ian Steller (President's Award; SMEEAA Scholarship)
Rachel Shedd (Ian Hassett Memorial Art Scholarship)
Taylor Duguran (Scholar Athlete Award)
Jacob Caldwell (United States Marine Corps)
Bailey Wineman (Y.O.Y.O. Scholarship $500)
Jenna Noce (RHS Booster Scholarship)
Paige Logan (SFSB $3k; Union Scholarship $2500; Cal Soap $1k)
Hannah Savaso (RHS Booster Scholarship; PTSA Scholarship; Henry Mayo Scholarship; Newhall Foundation Scholarship; Ivy Pergosen Scholarship; Ben Paine Scholarship)

If I missed anyone, or if you've done something amazing since I posted this, please let me/us know in class or comment below.

learning without a ceiling

Over Memorial Day weekend my wife, my daughter and I joined the (1st Annual?) Steller Family Science Expedition in Yosemite National Park.  Melissa, Melissa's dad Mark, family friend Josh, 26 RHS seniors, and a talented, dedicated team of NatureBridge educators created an experience I'll never forget.  Since the trip was Melissa's masterpiece I didn't want to post about it before she presented in class.  Now that she has, here are a few images and observations as we close the year. 

We aim high.

But sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees.

Especially when you're stuck in a box.

 [Photo courtesy of Camillia Lanham/Santa Maria Sun]

When she proposed her Masterpiece Project I saw Melissa differently.  Yosemite has been her passion since her dad Mark started taking her there when she was about my daughter's age.  Mark and I share some important values-- Sunday morning pancakes are rituals in both our kitchens-- and we both said yes to Melissa without hesitating.

That was the last major decision Mark and I made.  Melissa handled every aspect of fundraising, logistics, communication, budgeting, and paperwork--she did everything except carry our bags.  Her enthusiasm and professionalism made an immediate impression on NatureBridge, the organization she contracted with to provide accommodations and our education/activity program.

The trip was so unusual that Central Coast NBC affiliate KSBY-TV carried a story about it.

Melissa's Masterpiece began with Yosemite and engineering, but the value she wanted to share through the expedition was that simply spending time in Yosemite can transform a person.  She went to great lengths to prove the point.  Even though she is saving for college, Melissa and her father trusted our community enough to pay the contract in full and up front.  This inspired everyone to reciprocate.  We contributed our fair shares, followed Melissa's instructions, and eventually followed her into the woods.


Educators/chaperones/teenagers--> human beings--> teammates.  NatureBridge's Deeps and Christina collaborated with us in many of the same ways we have been working together this year.  Instead of a rigid, one-size fits all approach, they offered us choices, they were extremely open to input, and they asked for direct feedback.

I was in the Deeps' Peeps group-- we took until the last day to name ourselves because the name had to be right and none of the earlier suggestions fit.  Deeps is a masterful facilitator, an expert naturalist & squirrel mimic, and a wise storyteller who knows an impressive range of poop jokes and who also: won a buffalo wings eating contest in Montreal; walked the Mount Kailash Kora with his parents, where he underwent a shamanistic treatment that totally confused him but made his back feel better; won a poker tournament in New Zealand; came in second in an NBA Jam video game tournament; and puts Rooster Sauce on everything that isn't a perfectly melted marshmallow.

Deeps' Peeps quickly established a language all our own (I'll never think of "email" or "download" the same way again) and we engaged in semi-spontaneous random acts of kindness like the rainbow tunnel.

("Free Hugs" is Josh, our other chaperone.  He's an old family friend of the Stellers and it was great to meet him.  I got a free hug and it was outstanding.)

Not being in the classroom meant I got to participate and watch in amazement as Deeps' Peeps grew into a closely-knit team that, for a blazing 1.2 seconds of pure Awesome, outperformed any other I've ever seen.

In between shared triumphs we sat quietly with our own thoughts.

We looked at things differently.

We used technology to see and share better.

We learned from each other and we taught each other (whether we knew it at the moment or not).

This is the view from North Dome, where someone asked if we were hungry for lunch and Jacob replied without turning his head: "What do you wanna eat for when you can feast on this delicious view?"

As great as it is, Yosemite--and our world in general-- is even better when we answer the call and begin to see ourselves in it.

So, back to the forest and the trees: it's not really about the forest or the trees.

It's about the people in the forest, and how the people and the forest are connected in a larger ecosystem, and how being mindful of this leads us to become more fulfilled, successful stewards of a home that provides the life we so often take for granted. 


I also ate an ant.

The very first document I shared with you was a memo that attempted to frame this course as a Campbell-esque Hero's Journey.  It's the one thing I've done about the same way every year since I started teaching high school courses 10 years ago.  The reason I'm thinking about it now isn't actually the hero's journey.  It's what Campbell said about the whole point of the hero's journey and our existence in general:

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe to match your nature with Nature.”
Joseph Campbell

To preserve this value in our culture, Deeps ("Deeps! Deeps! Deeps!") reminded Deeps' Peeps that it's not enough for us to experience these elements of the world and our place in it for ourselves.  We must tell our stories.  It's important for employers, policy makers, and the public to know that a teenager can connect a community with our richest natural heritage and teach us all something about ourselves, our learning journeys, and the world in the process.

Mindful action brings dreams into reality.  Melissa dreamed that she could share Yosemite with this community; after initial attempts failed last year she found a way to succeed.  This required risk, determination and resilience.  More than 100 years earlier, on April 23, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt (pictured in Yosemite below with John Muir) gave a speech entitled "Citizenship In A  Republic" at the Sorbonne in Paris, in which he said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

Take the risk.  Put your idea out there.  Fail.  Climb a rock.  Remember that there is glory in the attempt.  The Gods will give you chances/Know them, take them.  Ask the question.  Find the edge.  Be in nature.  Make yourself constructively uncomfortable.  Be nice to someone who doesn't know you and can't/won't ever repay you.  Go out into the world and give it your all.

You can always take a nap on the way home.


Thank you for a terrific year.

Dr. Preston

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

masterpiece academy day 7

Nick & Grant are writing their own short stories and gave us a glimpse into their process and product:

Franky showed us that hip hop is deep and powerful, not just as music but as a cultural influence.

Angel helped us see how his career path in emergency medicine is the road rising to meet him.

Gabi proved compassion exists by showing us a use case and explaining how we can amplify & multiply its effects.

Lastly, Matt & Elizabeth followed up their actual Masterpiece (flying me around in a plane and letting me live to tell the tale) with a photography montage:

masterpiece academy day 6

Veronica kicked the day off with an insightful look at the music industry. DeBussy said that the music is between the notes; Veronica says musical talent is to be found between the hype.

Summer and Tiana teamed up on the philosophy & psychology of having fun:

Malik explored what he thought were "clashing interests" and discovered that engineering and physical therapy clash like peanut butter and jelly.

Jorge took me back to high school and reminded me what it felt like to try and be one of the Freshest Kids:

Mackenzie helped us see that the sex trafficking industry isn't just something that happens to "other people" in faraway places. The good news is that she and other dedicated volunteers are doing something about it.

Mackenzie DeLauer

Graphic designer Joe and street artist Derek teamed up to show us the difference between making our community beautiful and making it different kinds of ugly. (Glad they found the nighttime tagging video on YouTube before it was removed, and glad that they are advocating for the cause without breaking any laws or doing any harm. :)

Austin gave us the last laugh.

june 3: final

1. Final exam
2. Fuel
3. Reflection: individual/group
4. Inspiration: program
5. Celebration: acknowledgments

famous last words

Monday, June 2, 2014

june 2

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "School's Out" by Alice Cooper]

You've been waiting for this week for a long time.  What does it signify to you now?  How will you use what you learned in this class as you take your next steps?

1. Journal
2. Turn in essays/journals/notes
3. Plan the finale

Sunday, June 1, 2014

masterpiece academy day 8

Notes from Friday, May 30


Taylor, Matt, Alfredo, Cesilio & Dustin reported on their visit to Cal Poly's Learning Design Ecologies Studio and how they might redesign learning environments.


Alina brought us into the world of competitive cheerleading.

Maggie helped us see how compassion, empathy, and humanity drew her to the career path of a labor & delivery nurse:

Alicja shared an international perspective on how we communicate visually, through body language (below) and photography (here).

Masterpiece Alicja Kmiec

The grande finale of the day was Jacob, who used Open Source Learning to get himself a job, a mentor, and an experience that transformed his future into his present.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

open source learning survey

By now you should have received an invitation via the email address you provided yesterday, but just in case here is the link:

If you have any questions please email

Thanks & see you Monday!

masterpiece question & archive

masterpiece academy question & archive

For the last two weeks the Masterpiece Academy has been your showcase.  As you reflect on this experience, and your overall experience in this course throughout the year, please address the following questions in a traditional MLA-style essay.  Then post about it to your blog in any medium (music, pictures, video, animation, [?]) that brings your thesis to life.  (You may embed the original paper if you can't think of a better way to communicate.)

Please Note: Everything on the traditional paper assignment counts.  Please proofread and/or ask a friend or relative to help with organization, flow, and mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, spelling, grammar, MLA style, e.g.)

Masterpiece Academy Question

In the first week of the school year we were visited by a newspaper reporter who wanted to understand Open Source Learning.  Since you have spent nearly 200 days on the subject, you are one of the world's most experienced authorities-- now it's your job to be a journalist and report on yourself and your learning experience.  Have you grown/changed through this process?  How?  Have you improved your reading/writing/thinking skills?  How?  Please be sure to address the following elements as you write.

ELEMENT 1: You have been treated as colleagues and you have been given a great deal of choice in this course; this represents a high level of trust.  Did you and the others deserve it?  Earn it?  Honor it? 

ELEMENT 2: Have you re/connected with a passion that drives you?  If so, how will you continue your learning?  If not, how will you proceed?

ELEMENT 3: [Something about literature or this course that made you laugh out loud.]

ELEMENT 4: [A unifying theme that runs through a minimum of five (5) presentations; a quality of the content, or the speakers, or their communication techniques that strikes you as something important that we have in common.]  Please illustrate/support your point with specific examples from the presentations.

ELEMENT 5: Evaluate whether you completed the hero's journey.  Are you a hero?  To what extent did you respond to the call of adventure?  Did you find a mentor, conquer a challenge, and return enlightened?

Masterpiece Academy Archive

To save you some search & scroll time, here are brief remembrances and artifacts from your presentations in chronological order.  (Note: I will be finishing this today--Saturday, 5/31--so if you're looking for something in days 5-8 and don't see it yet, either send an email, look on the presenter's blog, or wait a few hours.)  Please comment to any post that contains omissions or errors.

Masterpiece Academy Day 1 (Tuesday, May 20)
Masterpiece Academy Day 2 (Wednesday, May 21)
Masterpiece Academy Day 3 p.0 (Thursday, May 22)
Masterpiece Academy Day 3 p.1 (Thursday, May 22)
Masterpiece Academy Day 4 ((Friday, May 23)
Masterpiece Academy Day 5 (Tuesday, May 27)
Masterpiece Academy Day 6 (Wednesday, May 28)
Masterpiece Academy Day 7 (Thursday, May 29)
Masterpiece Academy Day 8 (Friday, May 30)

Friday, May 30, 2014

course commencement

In the two-hour period during finals week we will be celebrating our accomplishments.  Contribute your "best of" and program ideas in comments to this post.

masterpiece academy day 4

Notes from Friday, May 23

Jared kicked things off by bringing in a ringer to help illustrate the benefits of motivation and collaboration.  Jared is working on an app for the purpose; in the meantime, his personal account was testimony to the power of keeping an open mind.

Andrew walked us through the process of writing a song.  Had his keyboard not acted up he would have played one for us too! (Maybe we'll have another chance during finals week?)  Here is his Prezi:

Loren has kickstarted her career as a journalist.  She even met with a local pro who mentored her.  Check out the stories on her blog!

Dustin, on occasion, has dared us to follow him down roads of the mind. This time he dared us to follow him on a skateboard. Since people took away different messages from this video/talk (ranging from design to physics to "huh?") you'll have to collaborate with others and interpret it for yourself.

Originally, Shane's masterpiece centered on the study of happiness.  He read books on philosophy, success, and flow theory.  Eventually this made him unhappy.  So he decided to practice happiness instead, and his focus on how theory actually works in the world led to this song (you can see him play starting at 2:00).  {Hey Shane, can you send an embed code or YouTube link so I can embed the video here?}

Roman is a man of many talents.  He designed and produced a full-length feature soundtrack (with cover art) of electronic music to commemorate his learning experiences this year. Check it out here.

Analyssa is using pictures to say thousands of words:

Jon is writing a novel-- thousands of words that paint a picture of a world that is at once familiar and totally unknown.  You can read his work here.

You know how parents call to their kids to get out of the pool?  Billy & Elizabeth aren't listening.  He wants to coach water polo and she wants to coach swimming.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

request for response: "gun rights" = absurd recipe for tragic disaster

Normally I refrain from offering opinions about politics and policy.  After all, I am in the business of helping you develop the skills to find, analyze, evaluate, and act on information in order to make up your own minds.

However, once in a while democracy demands that we stand and be counted.  The recent tragedy in Isla Vista could have and should have been avoided.  Apart from whatever fueled this young man's decision-making process, there is simply no reason for a college student to have guns in a dorm room or an apartment.  Just four days after last week's killings another UCSB student accidentally fired a handgun through a wall and the apartment next door.  He was in possession of seven weapons and over 1000 rounds of ammunition.

According to Richard Martinez, a Santa Maria attorney and father of one of the murder victims, shootings such as this-- once considered shocking-- have become the new normal because of "craven politicians and the N.R.A."  The author of the article entitled "Christopher Michael-Martinez's Father Gets It Right" agrees, going on to say that every other country that had this problem (note the past tense) went on to enact laws that made everyone safer.  We, the United States of America, have not.

Your thoughts?  (Please Note: This is not merely an exercise in rhetoric or expository composition.  Members of our own community lost friends and relatives in this tragedy.  Be mindful and base your arguments on facts and clear reasoning.)

may 30

After you see today's presentations, create a meaningful connection between them and write about it.

Taylor, Matt, Cesilio, Alfredo


may 29


After you see today's presentations, create a meaningful connection between the three and write about it.




Wednesday, May 28, 2014

epic fails

You will succeed if you are prepared to fail.  Often.  In public.  Splat.  Success depends on resilience.  Just imagine if these people had just given up and walked away.

may 28


After you see today's presentations, create a meaningful connection between the three and write about it.


Carlos Serrano
Malik Pope
Angel Vega


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

may 27


After you see today's presentations, create a meaningful connection between the three and write about it.




Friday, May 23, 2014

welcome to the unclass

This just in from Alfredo:

I agree with Alfredo, and I wish that some of our best conversations weren't disrupted by bells.  So, 608 is open to anyone who wants to extend formal presentations and/or have informal conversations with presenters to answer questions and keep exploring.

may 23

After you see today's presentations, create a meaningful connection between the three and write about it. (Alternate: write about Andrew's song: tone, mood, & how you think it should end.)

1. Masterpiece Academy



Thursday, May 22, 2014

masterpiece academy day 3 (1)

Notes from Thursday, May 22

When you look at Jonatan's blog you see a tabula rasa, a blank slate that makes you wonder: "What's this guy THINKING?"  Apart from the occasional journal entry, quiz, and hard copy assignment, I've asked this question often.  And I'm so glad I kept asking!  It turns out Jonatan has been working on a novel. It's a suspense/adventure/action/thriller about some guys who overhear the wrong conversation and have to think quickly to save their lives, the ocean, and us.   Today he read us a selection and asked us for feedback-- please check back on his blog and join the story in progress.  (Or, if he's still living the analog life, find him in person and ask to see the manuscript.)

Alex presented on senioritis.  Her original masterpiece focused on the fashion industry but she quickly found herself bored with it, and she began reflecting on why she and her friends were giving up on things they previously thought important.  Even their personal style choices deteriorated over the year: "At some point we stopped trying to impress each other because we realized it just didn't matter." EXACTLY.  Challenge: Instead of inventing words that sound like diseases to describe investing less of ourselves in things that suck, let's dedicate ourselves to endeavors that don't suck.

Lastly, Rachael explained how she transitioned from her original masterpiece topic (zoology) and focused instead on her music.  Her comments and her music (see sample at bottom) reminded all of us how our passions can lead us to learning-- and sometimes sustain us through the difficult, technical, and/or bureaucratic barriers to being our best.


masterpiece academy day 3 (0)

Notes from Thursday, May 22

"I grew up on Bunny Street in Santa Maria..." (laughter: bunnies are cute.)  "When I was 10 I heard a gunshot, walked around a corner, and saw my first dead body.  He was about 18." (silence.)  Sierra has started a petition for a program to help young people thrive in our community.  Check out her blog here and sign the petition here.

Thanks to Rick for the welding education!  Check out his welding blog here.  (I'm putting in my order for a GUADALUPE-style BBQ.)

Remember the end of Fahrenheit 451, when the people became the books to preserve the ideas?  Today Alfredo suggested that we are all living, interdisciplinary textbooks.  He used himself as an example by taking us on a whirlwind 20-minute tour through calculus, evolution, philosophy, and religion.  Please visit Alfredo's blog and contribute your own chapter.