Friday, June 7, 2013

school's out

Hi Everyone,

Next week I will clean up the finals posts, finish curating your presentations, and add a post or two with resources that will help you continue what you started this year-- but right now, typing this from the graduation ceremony (way to host, Roman!), I just want to thank each and every one of you for all your contributions to this year's Open Source Learning community. I wish you every success.
Sapere aude.

All the best,
Dr. Preston

Now that it's official, here is one last song:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Monday, June 3, 2013

awesomeness: early final presentations

Thanks to the groups who presented their projects today.  Here they are in case you missed them:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 3*

Psych.  There isn't one.

Today we'll be setting the program for the final presentations.  Please be ready to report exactly how long your presentation will take and what you will need to make it happen.  If you have tech needs please be ready with links or media to test so that everything is ready to go.  Same with catering and set design as necessary.  After today no changes will be made.

[PLEASE NOTE/1: Every member of your group must post blog statistics in order for the group to be eligible to present.  Mahalo.] 

[PLEASE NOTE/2: At lunch we will have a meeting for next year's Expository Composition students.]

[PLEASE NOTE/3: See me if you're interested in doing a Twitter resume.]

Friday, May 31, 2013

submit your blog stats here

Please click this link to submit your blog stats. Mucho mahalo.

osl showcase 12 june

I've been invited to present Open Source Learning at the SMJUHSD Board of Education meeting on June 12.  The meetings are open to the public and you're invited to attend.

May 31*

This is your last journal topic for the year.  What do you want to say?

1. Journal
2. Early presentations


Thursday, May 30, 2013

cal poly senior project survey

Below are links to Cassidy's surveys.  If you complete the surveys and you'd like to read her paper, please include an email address where she can send a copy.

May 30*

As you stand at the edge, after nearly a year of thinking together, does this poem mean anything different than the first time we talked about it last summer?

1. Journal
2. Yearbook
3. Logistics/tomorrow's program

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29*

Think of a recent book or movie you read.  What other (previously read/viewed books/movies did it bring to mind?  Why?  Was the connection the product of an intentional reference (allusion, parody, satire) or your own associative thinking?

1. Journal
2. Presentation sign-ups
3. Resume conferences


Post to your course blog.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28*

What have you learned from writing-- and from not writing-- in your journal this year?

1. Journal
2. Project status reports/final exam decision
3. Planning rest of the week

1. projectsprojectsprojectsprojects
2. Post something about your project and your progress on it to your course blog

Monday, May 27, 2013

expository comp'ers

If you're taking Expository Comp next year, please let me know which day this week you'd like to have a lunchtime orientation meeting to get ready (nothing heavy, just blog prep and news about college admissions and scholarships-- if you wait until fall to start preparing your applications, you will be at a competitive disadvantage).  If you have any friends who are taking the course please feel free to bring them along.  Comment to this post or let me know in class tomorrow.

in observance of memorial day

There is no better way to honor the men and women who have died in the military than to celebrate our freedom and live our lives to the fullest.  Do and think great things on this Memorial Day.  Looking forward to your project news tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24*

Describe your worst class/teacher ever.  Why was the experience negative?  How can you learn from it?

1. Journal
2. Turn in resume
3. Project planning

1. Projects
2. Final review (just in case)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23*

JOURNAL TOPIC: Write a short story based on the following picture [Source: Van Allsburg, Chris, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston: Massachusetts (1984)]:

1. Journal
2. Resumes
3. Projects

1. Fine tune resume 2. Project work

jp bouvet with matt halpern

Friend of the course JP Bouvet interviews Matt Halpern about taking the risk and doing what you love: "If you do what you love enough you'll get good at what you do and you'll be able to share with others." (Thanks, Ricky!)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22*

Why do people make spelling errors on words they already know?  It's been famously observed that, "To err is human."  Why?  What is the connection between imperfection and humanity?  Is imperfection a flaw, or a glorious, romantic state of being, well... us?

1. Journul
2. Resumes conferences

1. Post what you worked on in class today (title: PROJECT IN PROCESS)
2. Refine your resume based on our conversation and bring updated draft to class tomorrow (Thur 5/23)

big questions

Here's the list:
  1. How do movie writers that write about scary stories think of those freaky things.  For example, the human centepede sic and shows where they have ideas that no one in their right mind could think about.  My question is how is that possible without being mentally ill or crazy?
  2. One of my big questions would be, and when I ask this, I ask to everyone: Are you sad?  Are you sad that you will never truly know yourself and the people around you?  Life will go on and in a couple years we won't be thought of anymore.  Unless you do something memorable.  Are you sad that nothing in your life will ever actually matter because in the end we will all die?
  3. My Big Question is, Are there really mermaids in the ocean?  I watched this documentary about how the government set off a nuclear bomb in the ocean and killed a lot of species and found bodies of mermaids and covered it up.
  4. Do you have to live in a big city to be a forensic psychologist?
  5. Do shrinks go crazy because they listen to other people's problems and do they even care about the people?  In movies all they say is "How does that make you feel?"
  6. How did Osama Bin Laden and the rest of Al Quaeda get through the airport security and on planes on 9/11?
  7. Is there a true right answer to everything?
  8. How was Earth created?
  9. What would we do if all of a sudden technology disappeared?
  10. How would the world be without the Internet?
  11. Why do people believe in so many religions and try so hard to prove others wrong when neither of them are right?
  12. Do psychologists really, truly, and genuinely understand what you're going through, do they actually know how to help or are they just types of social workers who abide by all rules given to help?  Do they want to go out of their way to help you feel better?  Who made the coping skills and why do they assume they'll work?
  13. Why? Who? How? Where? When?
  14. How do earphones work with all those wires connecting to make noise?  How did house music/electronic music make all those unique noises synch into music?  I want to make music as well.
  15. Can marijuana increase your IQ and overall health?
  16. Why does our body show sudden ticks or movements that reveal how we feel?
  17. Is there life out there besides Earth?
  18. How many people in the world are actually unique?  How many people in the world have someone in the world with the same personality, or characteristics, or humor, or past-- and doesn't even know the person who is like them.  I came up with this question because one day I was talking to my friend about twins.  There is that saying that everyone has a twin.  Me and my friend both were actually born twins so we were wondering does that mean that we do not have another twin in the world?  Is that saying that everyone has a twin true?  Is anyone in the world the same?  These questions bother me, because there are so many people in the world that you may think how could there not be someone like you because there are so many mixes of personality traits, pasts, etc. that how could anyone else have the same mixture. Is there another world, or some sort of life form besides ours?  If we are only one galaxy within a universe it seems completely possible.  Although we would not be able to ever know for sure, and the Bible does not refer to any other world.
  19. How can you tell if someone's insane or just really creative?  What are the qualifications to be insane?  Aren't we all a little crazy in our own way?
  20. What inspires people to make war not love?
  21. What time is it?
  22. How did people think to smoke plants to feel relaxing effects?
  23. What makes us attractive to others?
  24. For the people who thought that the world was going to end: How many of you did really stupid or crazy stuff?
  25. Does Bigfoot exist?
  26. Why are humans so curious?
  27. Why do humans need interaction?
  28. Why am I the person I am?  Do I have a purpose in life?  Was I created to affect the world in a good way, a bad way or nothing at all?
  29. Why is the world so stupid?
  30. Why do creationists think they're right despite all of science telling them they're wrong?
  31. What happens when you die?
  32. What will I accomplish in life?  Will it have to do with work or something totally different?
  33. Are video games good for us?
  34. Why do people make stupid decisions?  How do people make decisions?
  35. What force of nature controls how the world works?
  36. If we were to face the end of the world, how would it take place?
  37. Do you think the world will make better choices to stop global warming or will it just get worse?
  38. How long will society keep advancing?
  39. What makes people so complex?
  40. How can I excel in swimming to become faster than I already am?
  41. Who can determine what's perfect, who can determine what's wrong?  Can you say my handwriting is horrible?  Can someone have a perfect life?  People believe a mirror is perfectly smooth.  But scientists can tell it is full of bumps.  My real question is, who was the first person to define the word perfect?  Everywhere you look whatever it is television or a magazine.  Their people telling you what perfect looks like, feels like, or what perfect is.  Is being perfect means you're a saint?  Or a killer if you are in the army?  What is perfect?
  42. What's your passion?  What role does it play in your life?
  43. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."  How do other people's words affect you?  Has anyone's words ever inspired any of your life's choices?
  44. What is your outlook on the Big Bang theory?
  45. What's your favorite childhood memory and why?
  46. Could Batman defeat Spiderman in hand-to-hand combat?
  47. Why can't people get along and treat each other as one?  Why do we have to judge people and make them feel crappy and insecure, instead of happy and in love with who they are?
  48. How come we form mouths if our belly buttons already serve as one in the womb?
  49. What's going to happen with Obama becoming president for a second term?
  50. Why do the people of our world not worry about our world and live their lives without even looking at how fast it goes by?
  51. What is going to happen to the world?
  52. Why are people so fast to point fingers and blame someone when something goes wrong?
  53. Will I fail in life?
  54. Will I go through with what I want to do in life?
  55. Do I really need to go to a university or expensive college rather than a state or community college to have a successful career later in life?
  56. Why can't we fly?  Are there real superheroes?
  57. What's at the bottom of the ocean?
  58. How big is space?  Are there other planets like Earth?
  59. Are there aliens?
  60. Why can't we remember our dreams?
  61. What happens after you die?
  62. Why do people die?  What would it be like if no one died?
  63. Why can't I just be happy with myself?
  64. Where will my life be in three years?
  65. What makes color so appealing to the human eye?
  66. What is a nightmare?
  67. What is the meaning of life?  Why are we here today?
  68. What causes people to go crazy?
  69. How are rainbows created?
  70. Me and Diego were talking about what the meaning of life is, and we narrowed it down to one question.  Who defines what's right and what's wrong?  Now taken at face value, that wounds like the cliche question theists and atheists have been talking about for centuries, but really it opens a plethora of ideas.
  71. Why do we have these English words?  Are they slang from French and Old English?  Why did some words get chosen for certain subjects/objects?
  72. What is going to happen with technology and the Internet in the future?
  73. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
  74. How do people train horses and get them to do tricks?
  75. If you find a baby cow, and you have no idea how old they are, how do you tell?
  76. Why do people not take things seriously?
  77. Around what time does the narwhal bacon?
  78. How does our brain work, how does it think, how does it keep memory inside and how does it distinguish one thing from another?
  79. How do black holes work and how long do they last?
  80. Why are we instantly negative about everything?
  81. Why do we all tend to take life for granted?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21*

Think of an object in your bedroom that you've owned for at least 8 years.  Now make it the narrator of today's journal-- what story would it tell about you?

1. Journal
2. Project proposals
2. Resumes

1. Review the resume materials we discussed in class (here and here). 2. Create a hard copy draft of your resume (12-point Times New Roman font) and bring it to class tomorrow

***(Can anyone advise on how to add an accent on the "e" so I can spell reh-zoo-may instead of ree-zoom?)

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20*


Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden once described character as who you are, and reputation as the person others think you are.  Compare & contrast your character and your reputation.

1. Journal
2. Showcase Q & A
3. Brag sheet

1. Post your brag sheet to your blog

Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17*

Which do you prefer, cyberpunk or gonzo journalism?  Why? (Use at least 3 qualities of each genre in your reasoning.)

1. Journal
2. Essay exam

1. Think back on the year and reflect on what you understood/did best.  Post to your blog under the heading "BEST OF AMERICAN LIT"
2. Write a proposal for your final presentation and be ready to present it in class on Monday (you don't have to post to your blog, pieces of paper/notes OK).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16*


Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, "The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over." What does this mean to you? Do you agree with the idea? Based on this type of thinking, what do you expect his writing to be like?

1. Journal
2. Cyberpunk wrap-up
3. Gonzo journalism & Hunter S. Thompson

1. Read the articles about the 1970 Kentucky Derby after the jump. 2. Post your active reading notes to your blog (title: DERBY REPORTAGE)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

hacker research

A Hacker Broke Into 420,000 Computers To Bring You This Stunning GIF Of The Entire Internet At Work

microdonations when you like, favorite, or star

Flattr calls itself "the easiest way to support creators."  What do you think of the idea?  Are there any other platforms that do this, or related alternatives you like better?

teenage heroes

Read this and show it to an adult who doesn't know how awesome teenagers can be.

May 15*


What's your earliest memory of what you wanted to be when you "grew up"?  How has your vision evolved over time?

1. Journal
2. Cyberpunk

1. Read "Johnny Mnemonic" by William Gibson.  Explain the story and why it's postmodern/cyberpunk in a blog post entitled "JOHNNY CYBERPUNK"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14*


William Gibson wrote, "The sky above the port was the color of a television, tuned to a dead channel."  What did he mean?  How does this description/exposition set the tone for a novel?

William Gibson also said, "The future is already here; it's just unevenly distributed."  What did he mean?

Think on either or both of these quotes and interpret/explain.

1. Journal
2. Finish postmodern projects
3. [?]

HW: Start thinking about your end-of-semester showcase

Monday, May 13, 2013

two articles from my high school

I was in LA this weekend and caught up with some friends from the neighborhood.  They told me about an incident at my old high school.  I found the articles on the Los Angeles Times site; feel free to share the next time someone tells you students shouldn't have access to social media on campus.

May 13*

Summarize your favorite cyberpunk/gonzo journalism piece. What made it cyberpunk or gonzo?

1. Journal
2. Write an essay in which you declare yourself a cyberpunk or a gonzo journalist. Explain why/how your writing qualifies you as such.

1. Make sure you understand the basics of cyberpunk and/or gonzo for tomorrow's conversation and ensuing pandemonium.

Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10*

What do you want to say to your future self, the person who will be reading this journal topic in 2018?

1. Journal
2. Finish postmodern presentations
3. Favorite cyberpunk/gonzo pieces

1. Talk to your future self here and curate the experience on your blog (title: FUTURE ME)
2. Start thinking about your semester showcase

Thursday, May 9, 2013

my best day

In some ways, every day is my best day.  It's a privilege to wake up above the dirt and live this life.  Sometimes, though, to be honest, it's easy to get mired in things [stress, problems, other people's dramas] that distract me from how amazing thinkers really are. And sometimes amazing thinkers are too shy or used to playing the "school game" to declare themselves and do their best work.

Today there were several presentations on postmodernism that rocked, and I'm grateful, because they didn't just teach us about the subject, they taught us about their authors (sorta like we got to know Vonnegut through Slaughterhouse Five). This is why I do what I do.  I especially want to thank Jon & Analyssa for stepping so far outside the box that for just a moment I forgot there was a box.  Your presentations were terrific and I've embedded them below.

To all the quiet people who haven't yet discovered their opportunity to shine in this course: I can't wait for your best day.

May 9*


Walking through the halls I often hear this exchange: "How are you?" "Not much." When we're young we ask for information and we give it freely in return-- why and when do you think people stop telling the truth ("Fine") or even listening to each other?

1. Journal
2. Postmodern project presentations

1. Choose one of the cyberpunk/gonzo pieces in yesterday's comments; read it and be ready to answer/ask questions & discuss tomorrow

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 8*

How would you go about writing a p05Tm0d3rn1sT story?

1. Journal
2. Write a postmodernist story (due at end of period) about the making of your postmodernist project

1. Finish your project if you haven't already (due tomorrow)
2. Find a cyberpunk story or a gonzo journalism story and post a link in a comment to this post

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

is anyone interested in doing something like this?

May 7*


What order difference make does have chronological story in a sentence or?

1. Journal
2. Perception and understanding
3. Postmodern works in progress

1. Write an essay about Slaughterhouse Five and postmodernism, and publish to your course blog under the title, MY SLAUGHTERHOUSE

Monday, May 6, 2013

May 6*

Describe last Friday's class.  What happened?  What did you learn?

1. Journal
2. Postmodern discussion/debrief
3. Project status

1. Finish your project

Friday, May 3, 2013

teaching, learning, postmodernism and criticism

Teaching is hard, especially in today's school culture. Standing up in front of the room and suggesting that everyone think about what you have to offer puts a bullseye on your forehead and practically begs people to ask questions like, "Who do you think you are?" and "Why should I listen to you?" I want to thank Ashlie for giving it a shot, especially in my absence.

As you know, postmodernism can be confusing to people who don't have much experience with it. We are surprised by the unfamiliar, and not always in a fun, exciting, opening-a-birthday-present kind of way. This is as true in life as it is in literature. It must have been a shock for the sub to see a student acting as teacher, in the same way some of you were taken aback by Vonnegut inserting himself as a character in the fictional novel he wrote. And, just as some of you were unprepared for Vonnegut's language, imagery, and humorous treatment of war, apparently the sub was unprepared for the language and subject matter addressed in the videos Ashlie used to illustrate elements of the postmodern project you're doing over the weekend. (I don't know what she showed and I'll ring on that when we see each other next week.)

All too often we communicate in ways that don't bring us closer to the truth or each other. I was sorry to hear--from several sources-- that the conversation between the sub and Ashlie turned negative and disrupted the class. I'd like to propose that we learn from it.  Here are three ways off the top of my head:

First: Please be sure to complete your postmodern presentation: the in-class exchange does not in any way change our itinerary or your obligations.  It may change the way you see viewer/reader response to postmodernism; do you think there is a generational difference?  Can you imagine a reader feeling irritated at the breakdown of the fourth wall?

Second: Please read this letter from Kurt Vonnegut to the Superintendent who burned copies of Slaughterhouse Five because the book contains "obscene" language.

Third: Please understand that no compelling/impactful/innovative/disruptive new idea or presentation is ever met with universal acceptance.  Innovation and entrepreneurship of any kind require a combination of resilience and the ability to refine & strengthen practice in light of critical feedback.  ONWARD!

All comments/observations are welcome.  

May 3*

Write about your experience learning with/from one of your own.  How does it help to learn about a book & a way of writing from a peer? 

1. Journal
2. Pick up where you left off yesterday
3. Plan for the assignment you agreed to with Ashlie


p2p Pomo Assignment

Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 2*

How would your favorite author describe this morning? Write in his/her style; if you can't think of a favorite author, make fun of the style of an author you didn't like reading.

1. Journal
2. Discuss Chapters 1-7 with Beka and/or Ashlie
3. Continue reading

HW: (Per class progress-- you should be on pace to finish the book over the weekend.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1*


Over the last two days we started the most important conversation of the year.  Now that you've had a chance to reflect, how will you use this class to your greatest advantage in the month remaining?

1. Journal
2. Odds/ends from yesterday
3. Your 3 "burning questions" from Slaughterhouse 5
4. Quiz threat
5. Chapter 6
6. (if we get this far) Begin Chapter 7

1. Finish reading Chapter 7
2. Choose a favorite quote from Chapter 7, publish to your course blog, and explain both why it jumped out at you and what you think it means (title: SCHLACHTOF SIEBEN-- also include your active reading notes)

yesterday's socratic seminars

Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion yesterday. Periods 1 & 2 handled the conversations very differently; both were extremely productive and generated a lot of good ideas. Following are my notes-- they're organized by period but all ideas are open to anyone, and you're welcome to change/create new possibilities. If you have any additions or corrections please comment to this post. We will be continuing the conversation and developing your ideas into paths of inquiry and projects next week.


  • Self-expression is key
    • each individual has something important to contribute
    • each student is living a learning life
  • No rules
    • community/network standards of excellence are more important than authority-based "do's and don'ts"
    • remove "one size fits all" limits so each person can re-establish their personal sense of self and identity
    • our work shows who we are and what/how we think
  • Idea: "Sh*t students say" video
    • challenge: learners want to step outside the box without playing to stereotype of lazy, goofy teenagers
    • lots of interest/discussion around video idea-- students can record their own message/s, upload, and use in a variety of ways
  • Idea: letter to ourselves with a goal, inspirational message, action plan, reminder of who we are today
  • We need to do something--individually and as a community-- that blows expectations away
  • Idea: end-of-semester presentations of our learning journeys
  • Idea: watch "Pulp Fiction" as example of postmodernism
  • Students want to learn about authors & why they chose to write the way they did (especially the American postmodernists)
  • Learning is personal
  • Students weren't sure about outcomes yet, decided to go around the room and start with interests:
    • Analyssa: photojournalism
    • Rudy: music
    • Easton: creative writing
    • Mia: teenage lives & culture
    • Ashley: academic essays & decision-making/goal-setting
    • Adam: improving blog design and content
    • Uri: music, specifically creating & critiquing electronic music
    • Des: music/vocals
    • Christian: sports and how they teach us about life off the field/court
    • Austyn: Greek mythology
    • Chase: resumes
    • Andrew: scholarships for college
    • Eli: SMART goal (in pursuit of a career in engineering)
    • Whitney: ideas communicated in different media/idiom/metaphor
    • Sarah: world cultures (geography, language, social norms/behaviors/beliefs)
    • Jon: acting
    • Kristian: literature from other cultures
    • Erick: music
    • Jared: hack school as a cultural anthropologist ("I was watching people during the passing period, and thinking...")
    • Francisco: music as literature
    • Lissette: watch the new movie version of Gatsby and leave QR codes all over theater
    • Ricky: drumming/skateboarding-->transcendentalism
    • Nathan: figuring out what I want to do now that I know what I don't want to do
    • Malik: coding/gaming

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30*

Imagine if your education was postmodern and didn't follow someone else's curriculum or chronological order.  What would you learn about next and how would you go about it?

1. Journal
2. Socratic seminar: our postmodern education

1. Make sure your blog is up to date on the first 5 chapters of Slaughterhouse 5
2. Read Chapter 6 tonight and publish your active reading notes under the title of "SCHLACHTOF (what's German for 6?)"
3. Come to class tomorrow with 3 burning questions you want answered about the book

Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29*

One of the most extremely postmodern authors of his/our time was Hunter S. Thompson, who (after copying Gatsby word for word) once wrote, "There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and to rare to die."

Hunter also wrote, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

You have a choice: either apply the first quote to Billy and/or Kurt Vonnegut, or apply the second to yourself... (more on these options in class)

1. Journal
2. Review/discuss S5 chapters/notes

1. Double-check your active reading notes and comment on >3 of your colleagues'.
2. Read/take notes on Chapters 4 & 5 (and publish to your blog under the title SCHLACHTOF FUNF)

Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26*


Prove that you weren't kidnapped last night, taken to Tralfamadore, and returned this morning in what look like your clothes.

1. Journal
2. [!]
3. Discuss Chapter 2
4. Embark on Chapter 3

1. Finish active reading notes on Chapter 3 & and post to your blog under the headings SCHLACHTOF DREI & SCHLACHTOF VEIR (respectively)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

If Horace Greeley was speaking at your graduation he might tell you to go north.

April 25*


What makes sense to you about life, and what do you find confusing?  What made sense to you in Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse Five, and what did you find confusing?

1. Journal
2. Discuss Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse Five
3. Begin reading Chapter 2 (if time)

1. Finish reading Chapter 2 of Slaughterhouse Five
2. Publish your active reading notes to your course blog under the title SCHLACHTOF ZWEI
3. Define the word absurd, think of something in life that you find truly absurd, and post both to your course blog under the title THIS IS ABSURD

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

sandwich bag art

Here is the site where I saw this, and here is the entire collection on Flickr.

April 24*

Remember the old days, when not being in class meant not having to think about class?  Those days are long gone.  Even though we won't see each other today (apart from standardized testing), we have a golden opportunity to share ideas about Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.  Please click through the following, compare with your understanding of Chapter One, and don't forget to publish your active reading notes to your course blog (Title: SCHLACHTOF EINS).

As we discussed in class yesterday, postmodernism is characterized by merry rule breakers who:
  • Mess with the reader's sense of time and narrative structure
  • Mess with the "fourth wall" by directly engaging the reader/viewer
  • Mess with the boundaries of non/fiction and occasionally insert themselves as characters
  • Mess with denotation, connotation, conflation and puns
  • Mess with previous genres and social issues through humor
Following are some resources that may help you with Chapter One (pp.1-22).  Please take a moment to see what's of value and feel free to comment.

standardized testing today

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

for mr. denike and teachers/learners everywhere

Some of you knew Mr. Denike or had him as a teacher before he retired.  On his last day as a teacher he stopped by, handed me a book by George Carlin, and said, "Remember: f**k 'em if they can't take a joke."  Mr. Denike was one of those unique individuals who didn't think of teaching/coaching as a job or even a calling.  He simply WAS a learner/thinker/teacher-- in the best, most human sense of the words-- whether he was in a classroom, on the basketball court, or just hanging out over a cup of coffee.  I will miss him and my heart goes out to his family.  Here is a piece from one of his former students that appeared this week in the Santa Maria Times; even though Mr. Denike is no longer with us, the spirit of learning lives:

The true art and beauty of educating

  •  Gabriela Spears-Rico 

It has taken years of reflection to grasp the significance of the impact teachers like Greg DeNike had on my life. He impacted my intellectual growth as a writer, my self-esteem as a person, and the convictions that shaped me well into adulthood.

I was not the typical Advanced Placement student at Arroyo Grande High School. I came from a home broken by alcoholism and domestic violence. I was poor and ashamed of my poverty. I was an immigrant who struggled with learning English and understanding my place in American society. I felt isolated and undeserving as one of the only Mexicans in my AP classes.

I did not always receive support or validation of my dreams to go to college. In fact, another AP teacher actually denied me a letter of recommendation my senior year. Yet, even with my struggles over self-esteem and my feelings of isolation, Mr. DeNike's class was a haven where I could question issues without feeling exiled or silenced, and where I felt that my presence mattered.

These validations might seem insignificant to people who grow up hearing they matter on a daily basis, but they meant the world to a child who felt she had no voice.

I was coming to consciousness about issues of racialization and my identity as a person of color in the United States, and I often felt ridiculed for expressing differences of opinion in other classes. I struggled to find my voice, and did so in Mr. DeNike's class.

Mr. DeNike promoted diversity in a way that few teachers at AGHS did. In his class, I felt free to express my feelings of isolation from American society. 

Mr. DeNike welcomed my perspective. He felt that students like me had invaluable lessons to offer. On one occasion, I wrote a commentary to the school newspaper about stereotypical caricatures of Mexican American students in the ASB plays. My article caused much controversy and anger. I was mocked for writing the piece, and most teachers said nothing. Mr. DeNike actually used the controversy as a teaching moment in his class, praising the piece for its stylistic strength and asking my classmates to consider how my article spoke to certain issues. Mr. DeNike publicly praised me for the piece at a moment I felt ostracized by the school, validating my voice and my writing.

Now that I am in the process of writing a dissertation, I realize I still use many of the strategies and writing lessons Mr. DeNike taught me in AP English. To this day, I find myself thinking of him when I use a metaphor or hyperbole in my writing. In those moments, I think of the stern, yet humorous and compassionate way Mr. DeNike taught his students. We engaged in critical and analytical thought. We laughed at his jokes, and we knew to shape up when he gave us a stern look.

On the last day of classes my senior year, I visited Mr. DeNike's classroom to ask him to sign my yearbook, and he gave me a copy of John Nichols' “The Milagro Beanfield War” as a graduation gift. He thought I might enjoy critiquing Nichols, yet what stayed with me was a line from Zora Neale Hurston that Mr. DeNike wrote in his inscription, "Go forth and 'jump at the sun,' Gabby. Go get 'em at Stanford!"

Had it not been for teachers like Mr. DeNike, who saw potential in my writing and who encouraged me to love myself despite all I had endured, I don't think I would have accomplished everything I have. I think he would be very proud that the defiant Mexican girl in his AP English class, a product of migrant education and ESL programs, has become a published poet and a Ph.D. student.

It is because of teachers like Mr. DeNike that I learned to jump at the sun.

April 23*

Welcome to postmodernism, where time and traditional boundaries of storytelling are bent, blurred, and ridiculed.  One of the things we'll study is how story tellers in all media use elements of previously produced works (viva la remix!).  For example, the video below made the Internet rounds in 2011; now it's back as background music in a commercial.  Write a short biographical story in which the singer is the protagonist; you can either explain his song or presence on the show in a narrative plot that includes exposition, rising action, a climax, and falling action/resolution/denouement, OR you can imagine how a Russian TV personality came to be trapped into singing in a convenience store freezer.  (OR you can hijack the narrative altogether and create your own premise.)

1. Journal
2. Return Gatsby tests
3. Introduce postmodernism
4. Kurt Vonnegut & Slaughterhouse Five

1. Read Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse Five (pp.1-22)
2. Post ten active reading notes (points of dis/agreement, points of dis/like, and questions) to your course blog under the title "SCHLACHTHOF EINS" (bonus if you translate and explain)

standardized testing today

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 22*

[Today this is HW-- after you finish tonight's essay, please reflect on the experience in your journal.  How did you do?  What will you have to do in order to improve before the end of the semester?]

1. Gatsby final exam

1. Please publish your answer to the Gatsby essay prompt below on your course blog
2. Journal

GATSBY ESSAY (adapted from CollegeBoard)

In a novel or play, a confidant (male) or a confidante (female) is a character, often a friend or relative of the hero or heroine, whose role is to be present when the hero or heroine needs a sympathetic listener to confide in. Frequently the result is, as Henry James remarked, that the confidant or confidante can be as much “the reader’s friend as the protagonist’s.” However, the author sometimes uses this character for other purposes as well.

What are the various ways Nick Carraway functions in The Great Gatsby?  How does he help give us the tour through Gatsby's world?  How does he help us get to know Jay Gatsby?  How does his presence change the course of the plot, the interactions between other characters, and/or the reader's understanding of the tone and theme of the novel?  What else (if anything) do you think Carraway's character accomplishes?  How would the book be different if the narration was provided by an anonymous, omniscient voice?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

you want to learn slaughterhouse 5 from beka

Apparently Casey wasn't the only RHS reader to whom Vonnegut mattered.  Learn more at her Eng Lit Comp blog.

so it goes

Words matter to people.  And you never know which ones will make a powerful impression.  Casey Harms (RHS '09) came back to show me how he'd taken Vonnegut's words to heart (and right arm).

April 22*

1. Hope you finished Gatsby.
2. Tighten your seat belts.  The ride through time, Dresden and Tramalfador can be quite a ride.

So it goes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

please reach out

Hey, check this out (sorry for not posting sooner, Teanna!)

April 19*


How do you think Gatsby ends?  (If you've already finished the novel, describe your reaction-- did you see it coming?)

1. Journal
2. Discuss chapter 7
3. Begin chapter 8

1. Finish the book and publish your reflective active reading notes (title: THE END OF GATSBY)
2. Create your own characters that are modern versions of the characters in The Great Gatsby.  Write a short story in which these characters embody the social rituals of today's society.  (For example, you can substitute proms/grad nights/quinceaneras for Gatsby's parties.  You can also have fun imitating FSF's writing style, like Key & Peele did.)  *You can also hack the assignment (put the story on Mars, write as a poem, or [?]) as long as you demonstrate your understanding of what FSF did and how he did it. (Thanks for the idea, Ashlie!)

April 18*-- no class today due to standardized testing

April 19*


How do you think Gatsby ends?  (If you've already finished the novel, describe your reaction-- did you see it coming?)

1. Journal
2. Discuss chapter 7
3. Begin chapter 8

1. Finish the book and publish your reflective active reading notes (title: THE END OF GATSBY)
2. Create your own characters that are modern versions of the characters in The Great Gatsby.  Write a short story in which these characters embody the social rituals of today's society.  (For example, you can substitute proms/grad nights/quinceaneras for Gatsby's parties.  You can also have fun imitating FSF's writing style, like Key & Peele did.)  *You can also hack the assignment (put the story on Mars, write as a poem, or [?]) as long as you demonstrate your understanding of what FSF did and how he did it. (Thanks for the idea, Ashlie!)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17*


Reflect on today's tests.  What was the point?  How well did you do?  What do these tests suggest about you as a learner and/or school as an institution?

1. Journal
2. No quiz on chapter 6 (3 hrs of answering questions is enough for one day)
3. Begin chapter 7

1. Finish chapter 7
2. Publish active reading notes on chapter 7 to your blog

standardized testing today

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 16*


What do you think Gatsby's secret is? (Who IS this guy, really?) What do you think about the way he courts Daisy and tries to impress Nick?

1. Chapter 5 quiz
2. Discuss ch. 5 & begin ch. 6

1. Finish reading ch.6
2. Publish ch.6 active reading notes to your blog

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15*


[choose your own for HW]

Here are a couple of quotes worth considering if you need a start:

"Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain."
- Frederick Schiller

"Without ambition one starts nothing; without hard work one finishes nothing."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

1. Chapter 4 quiz
2. Discuss ch. 4 & begin ch. 5

1.  Journal
2. Finish reading ch.5
3. Publish ch.5 active reading notes to your blog

Friday, April 12, 2013

what's in a name?

Today in class there was some discussion about the detail with which Fitzgerald reports on the guests at Gatsby's parties.  A taste:

From East Egg, then, came the Chester Beckers and the Leeches and a man named Bunsen whom I knew at Yale and Doctor Webster Civet who was drowned last summer up in Maine. And the Hornbeams and the Willie Voltaires and a whole clan named Blackbuck who always gathered in a corner and flipped up their noses like goats at whosoever came near. And the Ismays and the Chrysties (or rather Hubert Auerbach and Mr. Chrystie's wife) and Edgar Beaver, whose hair they say turned cotton-white one winter afternoon for no good reason at all.

Clarence Endive was from East Egg, as I remember. He came only once, in white knickerbockers, and had a fight with a bum named Etty in the garden. From farther out on the Island came the Cheadles and the O. R. P. Schraeders and the Stonewall Jackson Abrams of Georgia and the Fishguards and the Ripley Snells. Snell was there three days before he went to the penitentiary, so drunk out on the gravel drive that Mrs. Ulysses Swett's automobile ran over his right hand. The Dancies came too and S. B. Whitebait, who was well over sixty, and Maurice A. Flink and the Hammerheads and Beluga the tobacco importer and Beluga's girls.

This sort of exposition conveys the zeitgeist and culture that permeates a particular community and set of social rituals. The names that Fitzgerald chose (and the descriptions & back stories) create a sense of reality while simultaneously commenting on it.

Here is a contemporary twist:

an author wants to know what you think of digital college essays

Mitchell Fielder sent me the following email about this article he wrote about tech & college essays/ admissions processes.  Please comment to this post with your impressions.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 12*


What would Montag think about living on East Egg?

1. Journal
2. Chapter 3 quiz
3. Reading/discussion

1. Read ch.4
2. Publish ch.4 active reading notes to your blog

April 11*


Describe your first impressions of Gatsby.  What do you think of Nick, Tom, and Myrtle?  How do you see their neighborhood and their lifestyles?  Are they happy?  Are they worthy role-models?

1. Journal
2. Quiz
3. Continue reading

1. Read Chapter 3
2. Publish active reading notes (questions, reactions, observations) to your course blog

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April 10*

JOURNAL TOPIC: (today's tunes [they're back!]  "Resignation Superman" by Big Head Todd & The Monsters; "Working Class Hero" by John Lennon; "My Hero" by Foo Fighters)

Write a vignette featuring a sock puppet-as-hero.  (Whether s/he's a traditional hero, a tragic hero, an anti-hero, or your kind of hero is up to you.)

1. Journal
2. Quiz
3. Gatsby: intro, recap ch.1, read ch.2

1. Finish ch.2 and read ch.3

Monday, April 8, 2013

registration for 2013-14

This is a reminder that juniors in this course will register for next year's courses during periods 1 & 2 tomorrow (Tuesday, April 9) and Wednesday. 

Please bring whatever paperwork/ideas/questions you already have and make sure to get the information, paperwork, and courses you need.  Tomorrow we will meet in the Sword & Shield; Wednesday we will meet in 608 and the guidance techs will summon students who still need to register.

April 8*


What did you forget about this class over Spring Break, and how will you remember it now?

1. Journal
2. Essay

Writers often highlight the values of a culture or a society by using
characters who are alienated from that culture or society because of gender,
race, class, or creed. Choose a play or novel (BRAVE NEW WORLD)

in which such a character plays a significant role, and show how that 
character’s alienation reveals the surrounding society’s assumptions and 
moral values. 

1. Reflect on your writing performance today.  What did you do well and what could you have done better?

Friday, April 5, 2013

what year is this?

"A group of four teenage girls in Rochelle, Ga., are raising money to hold an integrated prom. Which raises the question, 'What year is this?'"

Rest of the story here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

March 27-28*


This is one topic for two days.  Part I of your story should be on Wednesday, Part II should be on Thursday.

Write a poem or short story in the style of your Modernist author.  Reflect back on your author's choice of subject, tone (humorous?  melancholy?  angry?), and syntax (to the point? flowery/descriptive?).  Your story must include the following ingredients: a classroom full of students, a professional drummer, and a sock puppet named Reginald.

1. Journal

1. Finish BNW

14 words that are their own opposites

Check out these most efficient contradictions in terms.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

our chat with jp bouvet

For anyone who missed it or wants to relive it, here is this morning's chat with JP, who appears to be made of pure awesome.  Once again, thanks to Ricky for making this happen!


high school students sells to yahoo for $30m

Check this out.

March 26*


Today's topic is journal-as-quiz.  Please answer the following questions in your journal based on last night's homework (chapters 7-10 in Brave New World):
  1. Why does the Director summon Bernard to the Bloomsbury Center?  What does he say to Bernard in front of all the other employees?
  2. How does Bernard respond?
  3. Who is John?
  4. How does Chapter 10 end?
1. Journal
2. Presentations
3. JP Bouvet (2nd period)

1. Finish March literature analysis by Friday 3/29
2. Finish reading Brave New World by Thursday 3/28

Monday, March 25, 2013

27 Delightful Obsolete Words It's High Time We Revived

I fully expect to hear at least some of these around campus in coming weeks.  Bonus: owls.

your phone vs. your heart

Here is an interesting perspective on how our use of technology can affect our relationships and our health. (Thanks, Dave Pell!)

study on test performance

According to this, "The belief that you have access to the answers makes it more likely you will get them right."

March 25*


As you think about the modernist author you chose to research, can you imagine that person as a human being?  Someone who came home, kicked off his/her shoes, and sat down to write?  How would s/he want to be remembered?  Explain your answer.

1. Journal
2. Modernist author presentations

1.  Read chapter 7-10 of Brave New World & summarize on your course blog (due by class tomorrow, Tuesday 3/26)
2. Watch the two videos in this post.
3. Thanks to Ricky we'll be meeting with JP on Skype tomorrow, so think about questions/ideas you'd like to share.

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22*


Eminem once said, "Rap is my drug."  What did he mean?  How was his experience with rap similar to or different from Bernard's experience with Soma in Brave New World?

1. Journal
2. Quiz chapters 5 & 6
3. The brink: MAPs

1. Finish your MAP for presentation Monday

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

students skype at dml

Last week I presented Open Source Learning at the Digital Media & Learning conference in Chicago.  On Thursday I gave a talk you can see here (around the 18:00 mark, will re-embed if/when they sync the A/V).

Watch live streaming video from connectedlearningtv at

The real highlight was on Saturday when I hosted a Skype call with SMJUHSD Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction John Davis, Cal Poly SLO English instructor Melanie Senn, and-- most importantly-- students Samantha Garrison, Beka Castillo, Cameron Reese, and Matt Reynolds

Skype video (first segment)

Skype video (second segment)


Picture of the room

Happy St. Patty's Day (video)


Happy St. Patty's Day (pic)

March 19

Great to be back and catch up with everyone yesterday! If you weren't in class, the journal topic was to reflect on the previous week and analyze what's working for you and what you can improve in order to achieve your academic and project goals. Look for the DML Skype (featuring Cameron and Matt) and St. Patty's Day green river video from Chicago later today.

Describe what you want and need out of today's Socratic seminar in order to succeed on the Modernist Author Project hack (due next Monday, March 25).

1. Journal
2. Socratic seminar: Modernist Author Project hack

1. Post your Modernist Author Project plan (title: MAPLAN)
2. Comment to this post with the most interesting idea you've had/heard about your modernist author and this assignment so far.
3. Read Chapter 5 of Brave New World and take notes.  Bring questions & ideas to class tomorrow.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

this week's unpost march 13-15

Hey, remember how we said you're in charge? Well, I'm supposed speak in 19 minutes and I just realized that yesterday's post is still in "Draft" and I didn't post anything today.

So, consider this proof: You really are in charge. Looking forward to seeing how you hacked the Modernist Author Project. You'll have a week from Monday to execute your plan, so be ready to discuss (and feel free to comment to this post or email if you have questions).

For journal topics this week, please write a daily reflection on how you're learning. What's working well? What's not, and what can you do about it? Already got a nice email from Mr. Leone and I look forward to hearing/reading how this self-sustaining learning community succeeds.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12*

JOURNAL TOPIC: What are you learning this morning while we're stuck testing and you're free to move about the world's cabin?

AGENDA: 1. Journal 2. Brave New World & projects per the understanding in our brave new world: as Howard Rheingold likes to say, "What it is is up to us." HW: 1. [whatever you think will enhance, amplify, accelerate, and ensure your ability to achieve the goals we set out yesterday.]

Monday, March 11, 2013

modernist author project

Here is the assignment the way I shared it on paper back in 07-08.  HACK IT.


Part I: Individual Research

  1. BIOGRAPHY/IDENTITY of the author
    1. “I Am…” statements for your author (minimum 5)
    2. Paragraph explaining how “I Am…” statements influence author’s worldview
    3. Brief descriptions of 5-7 events in the author’s life that YOU (not some website from which you cut/paste) believed influenced his/her sense of self and writing style
    4. 3 quotes from the author’s work that show how the author’s identity is evident in his/her writing

    1. Use one quote from the author that you believe clearly states his/her philosophy on life or “words to live by” (If you can’t find one, write one for him/her and write a paragraph to explain why you wrote it the way you did.)
    2. Paragraph explaining the quote
    3. 3 quotes from the author’s work that support the credo

    1. In a brief essay (no more than two typewritten pages), describe the genre with which your author is associated and why
    2. Select five (5) quotes from your author’s work that illustrate the elements of the genre.  For each one, include a brief explanation (2-3 sentences) of how the example illustrates the genre.

  1. YOUR PRESSING QUESTION and the fifteen (15) answers/examples to which it led you in at least three (3) different works by your author. (see PRESSING QUESTION handout for more on this.)

    1. Brief (1-3 paragraphs) descriptions/summaries of each work you read by your author (remember that you need to read at least 3 works).

  1. ARTWORK. Pictures or drawings that convey what you believe your author would look like today.

Page 2

  1. ESSAY. A brief paper (2-4 pp.) which explicates the answer to your pressing question.

  1. BIBLIOGRAPHY/WORK CITED SECTION.  Properly cite any work by your author or others that you quote or indirectly reference your essay.  We will discuss format in class.

  1. RESEARCH LOG.  This is your record of the times and places you spent working on this project.  You must spend at least one hour in the RHS Library, a city library, a used bookstore, or a college/university library.


What IS a pressing question, and how do we know what to ask?

As you begin to explore the work and life of the author you’ve chosen, you are bound to become curious about something.  For example, when I first read Mark Twain’s writing I stopped at some point and wondered: “How did this guy manage to make fun of everything that people took seriously, and not only get away with it but leave his readers begging for more?”

Now that you have done some “author shopping” and you have identified an author about whom you’d like to learn, it’s time to think about what you know and how you can use it to learn more.

When I write a pressing question, I first ask myself some questions to determine what I know.  Here are some examples:
  1. When did the author live and write?
  2. For what audience did the author write?  
  3. In what form (poetry, short story, novel) did the author write?  Why?
  4. Is the author identified with a particular genre?  Which one?  Why?
  5. What was the author’s purpose for writing?  To inform?  Amuse?  Persuade?  Get something off of his/her chest?
  6. What effect does reading the author’s work have on me?  When I read this author’s words, how do I feel?  What does it cause me to think about?

In answering these types of questions I find myself feeling more like a detective than an English teacher.  I have to search for evidence in the author’s writing, the author’s biography, and the general history of the author’s time.  I also have to use my own logic and imagination, because not every answer is spelled out on a page somewhere. 

Once I have answered some of my questions and I write down what I know, I think about what I’d like to discover.  For example, once I knew that Mark Twain was an iconoclast who used his sense of humor to question serious things, I wanted to know more about how he could do that without insulting his audience.  Another example is a very different author we’ve read, Edgar Allen Poe.  After I learned the tragic details of his personal life, I was motivated to search for examples of how he expressed his pain in his writing.

Now it’s your turn.  Use the following steps to write your own pressing question and begin your search into the life and writing of the author you’ve chosen.

  1. Ask yourself what you know about the author (you can use the sample questions above as a starting point) and write it all down.

  1. Ask yourself what the author’s goal in writing was (Note: I promise it was NOT to make money or entertain, so really put yourself in your author’s shoes and ask the question from his/her point of view.).  Write that down too.

  1. Ask yourself how the writer achieved his/her goal, and—you guessed it!—write that down too, in BIG, BOLD letters.

  1. Search for 20 examples in your author’s work that support your answer to the pressing question

Due Dates

Tuesday, November 13
§  Author “taste test” paragraphs and all-star selection

Monday, November 19
§  [1] Biography/Identity
§  [3] Description/Analysis of Genre

Monday, November 26
§  [2] Author Credo
§  [4] Pressing Question with answer/examples
§  [5] Synopses

Monday, December 3