Teaching as Performance

I understand that some people with disagree with this, but I feel pretty strongly that teaching is clearly an act of performance. We assume a persona that is not our own, and use this constructed personality as a tool to connect with students. It’s a matter of constructing (or, if you’d rather think of it as assembling, I’d be ok with that too) a series of traits that best allow you the ability to manage and captivate the audience in front of you.

It is artificial. It is not you.

Or, rather, it shouldn’t be. Our own personas are too rational. They are usually not near enough the fringes to allow the sort of radical shifts in perception that good teaching requires. As a well-adjusted adult, trained to avoid conflict and meet people on common ground, we are naturally exactly the least useful manifestation of a teacher. By pulling on the robe of disguise of teacher, we have the freedom to change into whatever the situation requires.

By ex-students, graduated and adult (and finally allowed to stop calling me “Mr. Calvin” and begin calling me Tim) a usually taken back by how normal I am in most of my thought process. How rational, how even keeled, how human I actually am. It’s jarring to them.

Mr. Calvin is a tool I have created to further allow me the flexibility required to adapt to any situation I encounter in the classroom.

It isn’t me.

Data Driven

To suppose that every aspect of good teaching can be reduced to quantifiable numbers is asinine.

It’s exactly the same as saying that via some crude scoring matrix you can quantify the quality of art in museums. Or that by a combination of word analysis and statistics you can determine the worth of a brilliant novel.

There are such things as intangibles. And good teaching is one of them.


I ignore iPads.

It’s true- I do.

Let’s sort this out, though.

I like iPads a lot. They’re not the only decent device anymore, but they’re very good, and they’re not too expensive. Blah blah blah.

I love that my students have a device with them all the time. I can’t imagine teaching without it, at this point. I’d cry (and debate a change in location/profession) if they were taken away or banned.

All that said, people keep asking me “how I use the iPads in the classroom.” And the answer- the honest truth in the answer– is that I mostly ignore them.

The device isn’t the point. I’d never try to shoehorn a device (or tech of any sort) into a lesson. That’s all sorts of backwards. The tech lubricates the lesson. It allows things that weren’t possible before. It allows things to happen quickly. It smoothes the road. So when I design lessons, I just factor in the myriad things that students can now do. It’s like a bunch more colors got added to my pallet and the pictures I’m painting are that much more vivid. I simply factor into the plan that research/writing/notes/web work can all happen on the fly. That collaboration on an essay is not only possible, but is normal. That data isn’t lost. That the classroom can extend far beyond the 43 minutes I have.

But I don’t know that I’ve ever told students to open a specific app. I know I’ve never demanded that they have an app. I know that I don’t really care about the apps that they have- just that they have apps that work for them to accomplish the tasks that I need them to do.

I know what I’m talking about here is specific to High School. That’s what I do, and that’s likely to remain the focus here.


Something I’m not going to do.

Ok, look. It’s time we had a talk, you and I. About links.

Here’s what I’m not going to do anymore: If your link is a “fb.something” I won’t click it.

I’ve discontinued my use of Facebook, and as a result, I won’t me clicking links that go there. That includes links via twitter or other social media.



Well, I was partly right…

So Apple did their thing yesterday. In case you live under a rock or in a cave, the video is here. Btw, I’m there, in a tweed jacket at about the 4:39 mark. Just saying.

About 30 seconds after they finished their announcements, Google+ was all blown up by people complaining about the EULA that comes with iBooks Author. Details about their complaints all over the ed blogs, if you care to look. The lynchpin of those arguments seems to be the following: Content that you create via iBooks Author and that you wish to sell becomes exclusive to the Apple Textbook store.

You’d think they’d killed the sacred cow from the outcry.

I don’t understand how people thought this was going to work- did they think that Apple would invest huge money in building an application that does all this cools stuff and there would be no strings attached? I keep having the example of GarageBand thrown in my face. They say “GarageBand doesn’t only output to iTunes format. Why should this?”

Because they want it to. So what? If that doesn’t work for you, and you’d like to output to an ePub or a PDF, there are loads of other tools you can use. Free tools. Open source tools, if that’s your thing. But if you happen to work in an Apple environment, this is a nifty bonus.

Oh no, they say. You’d have to be LOCKED into an Apple environment for that.

Yup. That’s true.

Well that’s not good, they say.

That’s probably also true.

I keep hearing people complain that Apple brought in the three largest textbook publishers in the world. Did we really expect them not to? Needless to say, the fact that those books are for sale in no way means you actually have to buy them. Build your own book. You should be doing that anyway. The technology for a motivated educator to build and distribute their own textbook to their own students has existed for a very, very long time. It’s even been cheap and doable without any crazy skills for a bunch of years now.

I’m not sure that iBooks Author will change everything for me. I’ll likely play with it and use it from time to time (since all my students have iPad2’s right now anyway…). But I still see a future for ePubs and PDF’s in my classroom. This is another tool for the toolbox, not the only tool. And if anything, Apple building this new tool (and, apparently, a new eBook standard… more on that later), it will prompt others to build competing software and standards.
It will get hacked.

It will get changed.

It will evolve.

But if the future of all of this really is the ability of an average teacher, with no prior experience in typesetting/book design/electronic publishing to be able to output high quality engaging digital publications- what’s not to like about that?

First Post

Please, stick with me here.

I’m moving my site from my old, self written and deeply outdated solution to this much slicker (and hopefully more up to date) solution.

That said, there are going to be a few migration issues. Patience, peeps.