Monday, December 15, 2008

Skookum Presentations!

So, my two Social Studies 10 classes have been presenting "Heritage" projects for the last few days and I am "caught" (as an old prof used to say) by the powerful sentiments and connections the students have revealed. Their job was to ask some questions of their own past (family trees, interviews, story-gathering, etc.) and report on interesting findings and connections to Canadian history (where do I come from? where do we come from?). We've heard of new languages learned, sod houses built, businesses started, wars fought (one g-g-gfather fought in 3!), and doing things "the old way" (heritage skills). The Irish Potato Famine came up, as did the Royal Wardrobe of Elizabeth I, Japanese internment, the RCAF, racism & residential schools, Ellis Island & Pier 21, the potlatch, the smudge, the Stock Market Crash, Nazi spies in Prince George, escape from terror, family break-ups, sad deaths, and and also times of healing & celebration & humour. I've learned (again) that students are hungry to ask questions when their identity is involved. For example, one student talked about interviewing her grandmother who used to jump on the frozen river and ride rafts of ice... she asked "why don't we do stuff like that anymore?" A student then asked "what will we tell our grandchildren?" Another student suggested her generation watched the world go by: our grandparents talked of their adventures and "we talk about going on facebook" -- many thoughts turned to "what difference will I make in the world, in the lives of others?"

We got to see, and have explained, photo albums, ration cards, old leather books with curious hand-writing, moccasins, teapots, an A.R.P. helmet, and lederhosen. We are, it turns out, Aboriginal, American, Chinese, Dutch, East Indian, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Jamaican, Metis, Phillipino, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Scottish, Slovakian, South African, Syrian, Thai, and Ukrainian, and probably a few more... as one girl said "I'm a typical Canadian Calico kid." We got to eat tea biscuits, samosa, egg tarts, gingerbread cookies, and canned wieners. We thought we were going to meet a cat. The classroom walls are festooned with photos and family trees -- trees shaped like trees, like charts, like maps, and even one shaped like a dream. The students have been wowed by the presentations and many have caught a genealogy bug which they will pursue beyond this course -- "this is something I'm going to look into later" or "I didn't get ahold of this story but I'm going to track it down at Christmas." To all the students who have so thoughtfully made connections with their/our past, I thank-you!!! This project, and these two wonderful Socials classes, will occupy a special place in my memory. I'm talking about it like the semester is done but I wanted to get this out while the gratitude was fresh.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It's just hair!!!

I'm amazed how many people freaked out when I put in the dreads and then later when I cut them off. Most comments implied that it all meant something. Can't a guy just have long hair or short hair without it being about subversion or complicity with the system? Can't a guy wear a tie without people asking him if he has a job interview? O.K. who am I kidding. I don't really have a tie and I'd have hair 6 feet long if I wasn't going bald. Speaking of subversion, I'm reading a fantastic book right now... "Teaching as a Subversive Activity" (Postman/Weingartner 1968)... one of my dad's old books which found a home in my library. Their focus was on the problems if the US education system as it entered a new era, and a call for inquiry-based learning. What's amazing is that the "charges" they level against the education system of the 1960s, the slow response to change, the teacher-knows-best attitude, and the factory system of classrooms, could be used effectively today with very little change in syntax or semantics, although I think many modern proponents have hijacked inquiry-based learning for privatization agendas. I am reading it slowly (nothing new there) because it poses many challenges to my teaching practice which are not easy to resolve. Like the dreadlocks, my thoughts are bound tight and hard to work with, but also provide some joy, interest, and concern to others. There's the meaning you can take from my hair.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Paris of the North

Saw this on the CBC News website story on the big plywood plant fire and subsequent fires in the BCR industrial site in Prince George. The interesting part comes in the comments, where PG's industrial zone is elegantly slandered and someone rebuts... a good case study in heartland/hinterland dynamics!

Punchinello's comment #1 "Yes, Prince George is the Paris of northern BC. This cultural icon, the industrial district is the Champs d'Elysée of the Cariboo with it's famous neo-baroque second empire poured concrete cinder block truck stop. I think it was about to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site too. What a loss."

kristahuot's response: "To Punchinello: I see a Vancouverite has seen fit to grace us all with their perspective on Prince George. Congratulations on knowing the main street in Paris, how extremely worldly and cultured of you. It is industrial cities like Prince George who provide BC's economy with most of its revenue, so this fire is actually more devastating than your comment implies. Many of those hardworking people will be out of jobs, and they are already suffering enough due to the pine beetle infestation and the softwood lumber crisis. I grew up in Prince George, and I lived in Vancouver for 5 years. I've also lived in Toronto and Montreal which are both 5 times the city Vancouver will ever be. Call Prince George whatever you like, but Vancouver as a city is nothing but a cultural black hole, with the artistic merit of a condo developer's sales model made out of used syringes. The beauty in that city is its natural surroundings, not the city itself. The poverty and addiction in Vancouver are an absolute disgrace, something that most Vancouverites turn a blind eye to, while they hang out in Yaletown sipping lattes and toting around tiny dogs. Maybe Main and Hastings can be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site too?"


I had a chance to hear Romeo Dallaire speak to delegates at a Colleges Conference in PG. Wow... he had a few interesting loose ends that left me with some questions (military simplicity vs political ambiguity), but I came away with a renewed sense of the difference between management and leadership. He suggests we have too much of the former and a vacuum of the latter in Canada ("there is no one selecting and maintaining a vision for Canada"). He also suggested that Canada has stumbled onto world power status and thus needs to be more responsible on the world stage in preventing and addressing humanitarian issues (perhaps starting with keeping the Americans accountable for their human rights abuses in Gitmo). He figures the way forward is better cooperation between gov't, military, and NGOs.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

All grown up

My Nephew Matt has moved to Squamish! He's the first of my siblings' kids to leave the nest and has set a unique standard for doing so. After years of biathlon and related training, he is off to work with a world-class team near the 2010 Olympic venue. I think he might be a year too young to compete at Whistler, but he has kicked some butt this year, winning the PG Iceman and grabbing a gold for his age category at biathlon nationals. We're proud of Matt and a bt anxxious, too... will he starve? Will he understand the saltwater and the cedar? Will he fall victim to a shameless timeshare scheme?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Identity Curriculum Technology links

wikis and currikis - online community used to develop and share open source knowledge and curriculum

Wikispaces --
PB Wiki --
Curriki -- http://www.curriki.or

blogs - web journals for teachers and students

Education Blogs --
Blogmeister --
Google's Blogger (blogspot) --

ipod extras - using portable players for quizzes, notes, references, news feeds

ipod in education --
iPrep Press --

podcasting - audio (and visual) storytelling for learning, review, expression

Zencast --

Variety of podcasts --

Variety of podcasts --

tags and social bookmarking - labels on web entries and web-published bookmarks for easy access and sharing
Delicious --
Digg --

Technorati --

online communities (com/unities) and forums - many kinds, some to join, others to watch, others to mine for curriculum and inspiration -- add community to your google search

Technology, Entertainment, Design --

Amateur musicians sharing work --
Historical Recreation --
Teacher's forum --

Matching goals with others --

online conferencing and collaboration - shared documents, video/online classroom tools, communities focussed on contribution (other than wikis)
Virtual Conferencing --

Collaborative Editing --

Amateur writing community --

youtube on education

Session Handout
Great Primer on Web 2.0
TechLearning New Literacy

Monday, January 28, 2008


I've been reading The Essential Gandhi (edited by Louis Fischer), and have emerged with both guilt and hope. Guilt because I recognize the truth about my complicity with consumer culture, but hope because of the strength a non-violent, self-sufficient, and power-resistant mindset affords.

I've been trying to think about how the concept of Swaraj (independence, beginning with self) applies to some of the power-structures I interact with: family/social, classroom/school/district, community/society. Also the identities of self, space, and landscapes (natural, human, and imagined). For example. what my classroom look like if I refused to exercise coercion in any form? What would our school's interaction with the district be like if we engaged in passive resistance to the policies and language which are ill-conceived for our context and collective goals? I often think that there are many fights which deserve my involvement, mostly educational crusades of one kind or another, but I'll admit that my motive is often not peace , love, and understanding so much as exposing bizarre thinking and thoughtless action in others with the hope that they'll leave me/us/them alone. Hmm... I'll read some more Gandhi before I pick this up again... the sleeping anarchist in me needs more time.