Thursday, January 30, 2014

Choosing the Given

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by
Marko Kivelä:
I would like to live as I should, as the weasel lives as he should. And I suspect that for me the way is like the weasel's: open to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will." ~Annie Dillard

Another bitter, cold day hold up in my den. Time to recognize the gifts the world offers that we rarely notice because they are given with such nonchalance. Ice crystals on the windowpane. The merry whistle of the tea kettle. The warm body of a sweet companion.

It is true that we tend to undervalue that which is freely given. And yet, these "daily presentations"* are so often the very things that make life worth living; kindness, comfort, rest, everything in the natural world. As important as it is to pay attention to these serene miracles, it is equally as vital to tell others. 

You may find it odd that I choose to tell about a tool and the generosity of the company that provides it. However, I was so completely blown away by the folks at EduCanon and their support for the technology they offer educators, on the house, that I simply must. For those unfamiliar, EduCanon is a relatively new service that allows teachers to post video content on YouTube, TeacherTube, or Vimeo to their class with pop up questions embedded at intervals of their choosing. For each assigned video and questions, teachers get a response spreadsheet with information on student log ins, graded scores, and unanswered questions. Essentially, it allows educators to flip their classrooms while holding students accountable for viewing the instruction. Through EduCanon, students can rewind and rewatch the video as many times as is necessary, but they cannot fast forward through the process. This was the missing link my brave, innovative colleagues needed to make flipping their classrooms successful.  

I shared EduCanon a couple of months ago with my staff at Grosse Pointe Academy because many of them are using the vast wealth of educational videos out there for instruction, or creating their own videos for students to watch at home. Then, using person to person class time to coach learners as they apply the lesson. The greatest setback to this process was the students who did not complete their homework and actually watch the videos. Or those who grew impatient after thirty seconds and fast forwarded through the meat and potatoes of the teaching. You know of whom I speak.

My headmaster latched onto the enormous learning potential of EduCanon and charged me with making it so that every student in middle school could log in easily and have a consistent experience each time. I wrote to EduCanon asking for their assistance in this. And, they gave it. Kindly. Patiently. And Consistently. This was no small task, mind you. We had to match every student's schedule with every teacher and every class. Add to this confusion the fact that classes are titled one thing in our school database, known by another by each instructor, and listed under a third on student schedules. I give tremendous kudos and thanks to Susan, and especially to Benjamin Levy, at EduCanon for never failing to ask me questions and persist in accomplishing our goal. And so, dear readers, please do yourself a favor and also support them by exploring their wonderful tool and telling others.

*Mary Oliver talks of daily presentations in her wonderful poem "Mindful"

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