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“Next Practice” or “Curiosity Actually Saved the Cat”

I love finding useful, thought-provoking and oddly congruent ideas from other disciplines. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Wikibon lately and this post’s graph is a good example. I have always railed against the notion of a generalized ‘best practice’ because it is so contrary to complex and diverse systems like classrooms. You may have your own best practice, but only if it is customized to you.  But I do like the idea of ‘next practice’ . We should be wandering about inside and outside our disciplines foraging for not just the new new thang, but the idea or practice that is both practical and unique. In other words it must be both do-able as well as be appealingly fresh to our brains. If it is practical then we won’t reject it out of hand and if it is unique, then it sets off all kinds of interesting and happy chemical cascades in our brains.

I use my social bookmarking tools, Diigo especially, to find these handy and ‘deviant’ tools. (Deviant in the statistical sense of standard deviance.) Here are a couple of qualifying samples of  the unique and practical.

Productivity guru, Mark Forster, has developed a method for getting stuff done that he calls Autofocus .  I am considering giving this tool a whirl, but the little piece of deviance I have found is in a reference to an animation created by Andreas Hoffman that demonstrates how the technique is done.  When you click on the ‘animation’ you download a pdf.  When I first opened it I thought Forster had the link wrong, but then you notice that the pdf has over 600 pages.  Hoffman has used each pdf page like an animation cell.  This is certainly a deviant use for pdf, but one that is unique and practical.  Are there other uses for this ‘animation style’?  Could I combine this pdf with a screencast?  Acrobat has an automatic scroll function so you could start your screencast and then autoscroll.  I am sure others can come up with something sweeter and better with a little thought, but this a prime example of a deviant use that is completely handy.

Another example is the messaging/threading function I have just discovered in Diigo.  Below is a screenshot from my account with annotations:

Annotated image of diigo messaging system

Like I wrote in my annotation, I don’t use anything like this anywhere in my toolkit. I think it is very practical for the classroom in light of the very safe, secure, and social “Teacher Console” within Diigo for K-12. In higher ed it encourages social connection inside and out of the classroom as well as legitimizing right click research for students. This is the first tool I teach my students each semester and with this new messaging system, it, like the rug in “The Big Lebowski”, really ties the ‘room’ together, dude.

Last, I am always looking for new presentation tools and styles for my students.  I have adopted the pecha kucha for the last couple of years for its sheer fun and effectiveness.  Students love it, too.  Although this style doesn’t lend itself to improvisation (which I am very attracted to in my own teaching) I have recently discovered a way to combine two familiar tools into one that could be instructive and fun in the classroom.  It is called “Battledecks” and can best be described as powerpoint karaoke.  This link is a rather profane video of Anil Dash putting battledecks through its paces.  Very funny and rhetorically spot on.

Will I use this in my composition class this year? It is fondly to be hoped. Perhaps after we research a particular topic and write a paper I will put together a battledeck or two or ten based on that topic and see where my students take it. This means that I will have to practice battledecking myself. I find that tools owned are tools shared.

My larger point here is that we need to have our internal radar up as we free range for new stuff to integrate into our classrooms. All you need to do is to stick out those antennae that sense what piques you. It is a capacity we all have, but sometimes we don’t allow it to come out and play. The affordances it offers are staggering. You never know what glorious fun will come from a spin of that wheel, but I guarantee it will be interesting especially if you offer your students the same opportunity.

About tellio

This website will be dedicated to the miscellany of living la vida English. The audience will be weblog companero: students, teachers, and fellow travellers down this road barely trampled. I will be adding occasional posts about where I am going, where you might be going, or wherever I please. The map ain't the damn territory. I am doing this because I know it makes me feel better about the trip if I have a notebook along with me. All the better to make it digital and public.


4 thoughts on ““Next Practice” or “Curiosity Actually Saved the Cat”

  1. i love this post Tellio.. [is that your first name?]

    it’s 2am.. forgive me i can’t follow the pdf idea just now… perhaps another day… perhaps i’ll need more from you.

    next practices – is so it.
    we don’t know what they are. defining them keeps us as teachers and not learners.

    i wish the Anil Dash piece was more shareable [or do i wish we could all laugh together more because we weren’t playing so much defense] because you are right – so spot on.

    i’m so into fractals.
    that glorious fun… it’s what kids want, it’s what we want… it’s all the same… and more available today than ever.

    Posted by monika hardy | August 11, 2010, 4:18 am
    • No, my real name is Terry. I took my nom de Web from my first ISP name–first initial + last name and they only allowed six characters.

      I forgive all about the pdf’s. They are not very sexy. Next practices struck me as such a strong countervailing force to the overdone/overgeneralized notion of best practice. I really like the phrase “playing defense” because that is what we all do when we become encrusted with the the cruft of our own disciplines. Way too serious. I have to tell myself all the time to lighten up, dude.

      Fractals and play seem to go together. I think you are right that if there isn’t that recursive element in your ‘work’ then it is wrong and needs to be reconsidered. Thanks for the ‘impressionistic’ comments. Lovely.

      Posted by Terry C Elliott | August 12, 2010, 7:15 am
  2. Tellio, thanks for pushing us to learn from other fields. I really enjoy the Coöp’s willingness to push one another into new places in thinking about education.

    What do you think about curatorship as a “new” pedgagogy for K12 education? So many Web 2.0 tools allow for some combination of collection, creation, and commentary. It seems like the kind of connection-, meaning-, and pattern-making done by curators would be a useful skill for students to have, and that the ability to assemble content and/or curriculum might be rewarding. What do you think? Is it too passive a model of learning?

    Thanks again –

    Posted by Chad Sansing | August 11, 2010, 5:52 pm
  3. HEY Telio, Totally cool! I love the idea of NEXT PRACTICE and really think of my work in this way too. Checked out AutoFocus4, signed up for the newsletter, the tweet feed, Petchkucha. Yeah! You are really tying the room together.

    I’m about to post on folks who are not thinking about their teaching lives in terms of next practices. Why? How to activate them? What’s your theory?

    Where are you, and who are you? Tell us more.

    Whatever you’re drinking, do you want another?

    Posted by Kirsten | August 12, 2010, 9:52 pm

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