Friday, August 31, 2012

*August 31

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes (and our first student pick!): "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin. I'll throw in Stanley Jordan's version]

Those of you in the on-the-ground course have all seen the sign: "There is glory in the attempt." Describe how this idea applies in your life.

1. Journal
2. Vocab/reading test
3. Recap of where we've been and preview of where we're going

1. Check the course blog and double-check your blog.
2. Read "Meanings, Signs & Symbols (Part III)" (below)
3. Re-read "Young Goodman Brown" and select ten symbols that you think are important to understanding the story.  For each symbol describe: 1) the symbol, 2) the referent, and 3) how your interpretation influences your understanding of the story.  Please post to your blog.

meanings signs and symbols 3

Thursday, August 30, 2012

*August 30

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Lady Writer" by Dire Straits; "Everyday I Write the Book" by Elvis Costello; "Paperback Writer" by the Beatles]

What is the hardest part of writing? Is it facing the blank page, keeping track of your ideas while you write, editing, or having your work read/evaluated by others? Explain your answer.

1. Journal
2. Vocabulary
3. Young Goodman Brown
4. Prep for tomorrow's test

1. Study

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

*August 29

[Note: YIKES! I forgot to post this until the end of the day.  You have until Friday 8.31 to do the homework.]

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: radio silence]

What song do you sing when there's nothing on the radio? What thoughts do you think when it's quiet and you have the chance to think about whatever you want?

1. Journal
2. Discuss "Meanings, Signs & Symbols (Part I)" & relate to "Young Goodman Brown"
3. Online security briefing with Ian May

1. Describe something you learned about online security and how it will guide your decisions in a post to your blog entitled-- you guessed it-- "Online Security"
2. Read "Meanings, Signs & Symbols (Part II)" (below) and come to class Thursday prepared to discuss. Mahalo.

 meanings signs and symbols 2

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

intro to online security tomorrow

"How do I ennumerate a 128-bit cryptographic sequence?"

That question won't be answered in class tomorrow.

BUT... in the spirit of Open Source Learning, any of your other questions might be.

SO... what questions do you have?

We'll be covering the basics of digital identity/literacy: passwords, pop-ups, and social networking. If you have a specific question or an idea about what you'd like to see, please comment to this post.

This is the beginning of a longer conversation, so if you get an idea after the presentation, please post that here too. Thanks!

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

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

*August 28

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Symbol in My Driveway" by Jack Johnson; "Vital Signs" by Rush]

Describe three symbols in your life that give people a clue as to who you really are.

1. Journal
2. Vocabulary
3. "Young Goodman Brown"

1. Read "Meanings, Signs & Symbols, Part I" (below)
2. Post notes/comments to your blog and be ready to discuss in class tomorrow meanings signs and symbols 1

breakfast club

Good Morning!  I see a few people on the blog; start your day and our conversation by commenting to this post with a question or observation about Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Vocabulary: Fall List #2


*August 27

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. Vocabulary: Fall List #2
3. Have you recited "Richard Cory"?
4. Status: resumes & peer editing

1. Post vocabulary definitions/sentences to your blog

Friday, August 24, 2012

california scholarship federation app

Here is the application; please print, complete, and deliver to Ms. Dolan in Room 225.

 California Scholarship FederationRHSAPP09


The first people had the questions, and they were free.
The second people had the answers, and they were enslaved.
-Wind Eagle, Modern Indian Medicine Woman

How do you interpret this quote-- what do you think it means?  Given what you've learned about Earth on Turtle's Back & Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," can you make any connections between the creation myth, the morality tale, their authors, readers, and the quote? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

*August 24

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Reflections (I Remember)" by Mary J. Blige; "Short Memory" by Midnight Oil]

When we read we make connections between the text and what we already know.  Sometimes we find ourselves surprised when a book calls to mind an old memory we haven't thought about in a long time.  What are your earliest memories?  What makes some things impossible to remember and other things impossible to forget?

1. Journal
2. Vocab quiz/correct
3. "Young Goodman Brown" continued

1. Post answers to the "Young Goodman Brown" questions to your blog.

young goodman brown questions

Please answer the following questions in a post on your blog entitled, "Young Goodman Brown."

(questions after the jump)

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, evaluate and modify things to make them work better.

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

So, at Back-- er, Hack to School night, 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 Digital Life" 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 an interested adult 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.

Here are the questions:

student led conference script

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

*August 23

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "You Talk Too Much" by Run-D.M.C.; "Communication Breakdown" by Led Zeppelin]

So many phrases say the same thing: Talk is cheap. A picture's worth a thousand words. It's not what you said, it's how you said it. Since words are so easy to create, we tend to mistrust them. We use our intuition to "read between the lines" and figure out what someone means. Using what you learned in lecture yesterday, describe 2-3 ways we can listen, read, and learn-- without depending on words.

1. Journal
2. Discuss Paul Auster piece
3. Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"

1. Finish reading "Young Goodman Brown" and create a post for your blog with three questions and/or observations from your reading
2. Study for vocabulary quiz (which will also include questions from class on communication, literary elements and "Young Goodman Brown")

*August 22

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Wankatakiya" and "It Is a Good Day" by Spirit Nation]

Since the words of these songs are unfamiliar, just listen to them as part of the music for now.  It's a good time to think about tone and moodTone is the author's attitude toward the characters, the subject, and/or the audience.  Mood is the emotional state of the reader.  How would you describe the tone and mood of these songs?  How would you describe the tone and mood of Earth on Turtle's Back?

1. Journal
2. Recap of yesterday's seminar
3. Literary elements in Earth on Turtle's Back
4. Vocabulary quiz

1. Please read this and come to class tomorrow prepared to discuss:

auster reading

learning is our living bridge

I used to think learning was an individual capacity that each of us builds for our own purposes-- now I see it as something bigger, something we all participate in and steward for the next generation.

Monday, August 20, 2012

*August 21

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "The Logical Song" by Supertramp; "Argument" by Monty Python; "Think" by James Brown]

Why do people argue?  What factors should determine who wins an argument?  Describe a time when you won or lost an argument.  Did the experience change your mind?  What would have?

1. Journal
2. Vocabulary review
3. Socratic seminar: "The Right to Your Opinion" (featuring an introduction to rhetoric & Earth on Turtle's Back)

1. Recover: get your blog together and complete assignment #1.
2. Reflect: post your notes from today's Socratic seminar to your blog.
3. Prepare: for the vocabulary test, >15 minutes each night.

"do things that have never been done before"

Eventually we all come to realize that our education is an amalgamation of many sources: family, school, friends, books/media, the Internet, and sometimes an old man in a coffee shop.  Comments welcome.

(Thanks, Dave Pell!)

earth on turtle's back

Here is the first myth our leaders selected-- thanks!  (Ironically, I think it's also the one that's in your textbook, so if you'd rather read a hard copy you already have it at home.)

Before this Earth existed, there was only water. It stretched as far as one could see, and in that water there were birds and animals swimming around. Far above, in the clouds, there was a Skyland. In that Skyland there was a great and beautiful tree. It had four white roots which stretched to each of the sacred directions, and from its branches all kinds of fruits and flowers grew.

There was an ancient chief in the Skyland. His young wife was expecting a child, and one night she dreamed she saw the Great Tree uprooted. The next morning she told her husband the story.

*August 20

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. Journals
2. Observations on Week 1/feedback on journals & assignments so far
3. Vocabulary
4. Poetry
5. Review "The Right to Your Own Opinion"
5. Creation myths and the beginnings of American literature

1. Read "Earth on Turtle's Back"
2. Now that you've had a chance to use the tools and think about how reflect, 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, cell phone, transportation? Family that can help or hassle? Friends that can help or hassle? Scheduling factors that can help or hassle?) 
  2. Think of an awesome (or the best ever) learning experience (or an experience where you changed) What was it you learned?  Where were you? What happened? Who else was there? Did it teach you anything about how you learn (or pay attention... 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?


This weekend I needed to read and grade:

  • 168 blogs
  • 168 journals
  • 168 vocabulary tests
  • 74 vocabulary test add-ons
  • 188 essays
  • 94 essay add-ons
I almost made it.

Spending time with your work gave me a few ideas:
  • Since some of your work is either personally sensitive or data-sensitive (e.g., a resume that contains your home address & phone number), we need a secure place besides your blog for work that you only want to share with people you select.  Using an online portfolio will also give you a way to showcase your best work if you want to use it as part of an application or presentation in the future.  I like pathbrite but I'm open to suggestions-- click the link, play around with it, and see if you can find something better by Friday, August 24.
  • Peer-to-peer feedback is going to be especially important in a writing-intensive course with so many members.  Long-form writing is a huge key to success in learning this material, and obviously I can't do this every weekend, so this week we will talk about peer-to-peer feedback strategies and tools to reward success, including Project Infinity.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

extra credit in the next sixty minutes

If you post one paragraph to your blog in the next 60 minutes about one thing you want to improve this year and how this course can help you do it... will receive THREE TIMES the usual assignment credit.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

so it goes

As you create your blogs and recruit a following you join the ranks of authors whose words and ideas touch others in ways you just can't predict. Casey Harms (RHS '09) took the spray-painted words of Kurt Vonnegut from our back wall to heart (and right forearm):

vocabulary quiz #1 redux

Since so many of you bounced back and recited "Richard Cory" in class, and time was short on your vocabulary quiz, demonstrate your expertise (and claim full credit for it) by writing to your blog. Write 1-2 paragraphs describing the first week of this course and your hopes/expectations for the future using all of the vocabulary words. (Please capitalize, use a different font color, or highlight the words so they're easy for your readers to find). ***NOTE: I didn't forget about "The Right to Your Opinion"-- we'll talk about that Monday as an introduction to logic/rhetoric.

Friday, August 17, 2012

blogger how-to

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 done. Around 2:30 he gets into posting and design, layout, and embedding pictures and videos.

unfinished business

The way we stormed through the first short week left a couple of loose ends.  To make sure we're all ready to go on Monday without feeling behind, please take care of these items over the weekend (if you haven't already):

  1. Launch your blog and email the URL to you're going to need your blog this weekend.
  2. Comment to the original post on the course blog-- it's important for everyone to know that everyone else is on board.
  3. Finish today's vocabulary quiz by writing 1-2 paragraphs about the first week of the course and what you expect/hope from here on (bonus: you can include thoughts about "The Right to Your Opinion"-- I didn't forget about it, but since we were short on time I pushed the discussion to next week).
  4. Follow the course blog-- or check back over the weekend-- so that you can see when I post the course syllabus.  (I waited to write it until I could get your input at our first meeting on Tuesday.)  Please print the last page, sign it, ask your parent/guardian/[respected-older-person-who-takes-an-active-interest-in-your-success] to sign it, and bring it with you on Monday.
Mahalo and have a great weekend!

*August 17

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/challenges in your life once seemed HUGE but got smaller as you gained a greater perspective on things--as you learned? As you reflect, step back and "watch" yourself go through the process of remembering; how does the way you tell yourself the story reinforce ideas and feelings: how does it teach you? [Update: Watching students, re-reading this and thinking the topic needs more seasoning: a) How does gaining a greater perspective motivate you to make the world a better place; and b) when is it appropriate to use words that have an emotionally cathartic effect?

1. Journal/turn in
2. Vocabulary quiz/correct
3. More "Richard Cory"

1. Launch your blog and email the link to
2. If you aced "Richard Cory" you get to pick our next readings. Have a look at these sites-- Native American Culture, Native American Myths of Creation, and American Folklore-- and then do your own research to find other sources that may have better choices. Identify your top 3-5 and email to
3. If you did not ace "Richard Cory" you can go double-or-nothing. Get two As--and probably mad tribute on Project Infinity-- by reciting Jimmy Santiago Baca's "Immigrants in Our Own Land" on Monday. This is a poem we'll all get to in Spring; if you learn it now you can teach it then.
4. Think about the week in this class. Reflect on where you felt strong and where you felt like "[gulp]." Think of something you need to work on and change. Think of ways your colleagues and I can help. Post these ideas to your blog. I'll plan to read at 8:30 Sunday evening.

immigrants in our own land/jimmy santiago baca

Immigrants in Our Own Land

Thursday, August 16, 2012

online sharing and community

As I learn about new tools and opportunities I will pass them along. For instance: Shannon Fahey (RHS '12) introduced me to a relative who works for When I emailed to suggest the company collaborate with you all, she shared a little about the company, including the CEO's initiative, which was created in response to the shootings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

As you think about our work together and the work you're doing to get where you want to go in life, do you see these online tools (and others with similar features and values) as opportunities for self-expression and community-building? How might you use them for the purposes? Comments welcome.

PSAT announcement

From the fine folks at RHS:  

The PSAT will be Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 from 8:00 - 11:00 A.M. The cost will be $14. The test is primarily for 10th and 11th graders, but only juniors are eligible for fee waivers (limited amount) and for the National Merit Scholarship. The PSAT is a comprehensive assessment program that measures college readiness and provides students with the tools they need to start planning for the future. It measures skills in three academic areas: critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills. Please contact Mr. Blanco if you have any questions.

*August 16

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

What is your favorite music? How would you describe it to a deaf person?

1. Journal
2. "Richard Cory" LIVE

1. Quiz tomorrow on Vocab #1 and "The Right to Your Opinion"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

blog instructions

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 exposing yourself 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][rhsenglitcomp]
  3. The title of your blog should be "[first name] [last name]'s American Lit Comp Blog"
  4. You can choose your own layout and template design features, and don't be afraid 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. Michelle Arriaga has already done a terrific job of setting up her 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 you're ready for assignment #1.

Write 1-3 paragraphs that explain:
  • your reason(s) for taking this course;
  • what you're excited about and what makes you nervous;
  • your goal(s) for this course;
  • how you expect your knowledge and thinking to be improved by taking this course.

the right to your opinion

It's such a simple way to end an argument: "Well, I'm entitled to my opinion."

Not according to logic. As author Jamie Whyte points out, one person's entitlement creates another's obligations. Think about it: if you are entitled to cross the street safely, I am obligated to not run you over in my car. But what if you're wrong in your thinking? What if we're in London, about to cross the street, and you look the wrong way and think the coast is clear? Am I obligated to watch you step off the curb and get crushed? Comprehension questions will accompany the vocabulary quiz Friday, August 17.

The Right to Your Opinion -

vocabulary: fall list #1

Quiz Friday, August 17


August 15

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. Online eval
4. Vocabulary #1

1. Define/study vocabulary [quiz Friday 8/17]
2. Read "The Right to Your Opinion" [questions may accompany vocab on Friday's quiz]
3. Poetry assignment [due Thursday, 8/16]

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

richard cory

Here is the text of the poem.  Please begin memorizing it (it's short, but Thursday isn't that far away, and if you struggle tonight you can get help in class tomorrow). 

For more on the author/background click here.

Richard Cory
Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

August 14

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes: "Move on Up" by Curtis Mayfield)

Hunter S. Thompson observed, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."  How do you respond to challenges that arise from circumstances you didn't predict?

1.  To be an Open Source Learning network or not to be an Open Source Learning network?
2. Journal
3. "Richard Cory"

1. Memorize "Richard Cory"-- due in class Friday, 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 agree.

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

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

Last year students used Open Source Learning to create a wild variety of personal goals, Big Questions, ventures (several of which are becoming actual businesses) and online portfolios of work that helped them get jobs and college admissions.  You can see their course blog here and their personal blogs here

Some of them are aspiring filmmakers.  They 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 interview with Howard Rheingold, the man who invented the term "virtual community." 

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 defining characteristic is transparency.  What we learn and how well we learn it is right out there in public for everyone to see.  And it's Open.  That means we're not limited to one source for curriculum or instruction.  A mother/daughter team in another course is presenting a lesson on Dickens & Dr. Seuss.  If we read something that makes an impression we can email the author.  We already have a full slate of online conferences scheduled, including authors, authorities on the Internet and social media, entrepreneurs, and others.  As you get the hang of this you'll come up with your own ideas.  And when you do, see how you can use the Collaborative Working Groups and Project Infinity 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 the conversation?-- or what we should learn about.  Maybe that's why we use the term "learning experience" to describe a moment that kicks us in the butt when we least expect it.  Open Source Learning provides an outlet for self-expression that shares thought processes, not just assignments.  This way you can learn about how you and others learn, while you're in the act, and you can fine-tune your game accordingly.  Improving your own mind, in addition to mastering the core curriculum, 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 online.  If we move forward on this 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 American literature and the habits of mind that make readers and writers successful. 

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 prefer the security 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 opinion may be obvious, but I'm just one voice.  Please add yours with a comment below.