Be kind.

Here we are in Wildwood, NJ. Our friends, Rachael, Brian, and their daughter Sophie, and me along with my beautiful wife and just as beautiful daughter Annabeth are here for an entire week Today the kids played in the surf and rode the waves on their boogie boards. They dug holes in the sand that resembled nothing other than the type of fun that can engage a five year old for more than five minutes. We retreated for a little lunch in our beach chairs where Rachael kept a lookout for sandwich-snatching seagulls while we all balanced eating our subs while holding onto the butcher paper in which they were wrapped. Then it rained.

manwithoutcountryHowever, before the rains came I was able to find some time to return to Kurt Vonnegut’s, A Man without a Country, a book Marybeth bought me four years ago. One I hadn’t read until now. No real plot. Just a series of memoirs from an old man who died nearly two years ago. Memoirs that tell me that in spite of the world going to shit at the hands of psychopaths, I must persevere to be honorable and educated and to embrace and consider my doubts. Decision making should evolve. Especially when you’re considering invading a country, but I digress, but heck, so did he.

Here are a few of my favorite snippets from Vonnegut’s little book:

A man named Joe wrote Vonnegut with this. “Please tell me it will be okay.” To which, Vonnegut responded:

“Welcome to Earth young man,” I said. “It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, Joe, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule I know of: Goddamn it, Joe, you’ve got to be kind!

This next one made me laugh out loud, so much in fact, that my wife looked up from her beach chair a few yards away. A man wrote Vonnegut with no return address:

If you knew that a man posed a danger to you—maybe he had a gun in his pocket, and you felt that he would not hesitate one moment to use it on you—what would you do? We know Iraq poses a threat to us, to the rest of the world. Why do we sit here and pretend we are not protected? That is exactly what happened with al-Qaeda and 9/11. With Iraq, though, the threat is on a much larger scale. Should we sit back, be little children that sit in fear and just wait?

And now, the punchline from Vonegut that caused my minor outburst:

Please, for the sake of us all, get a shotgun, preferably a 12-gauge double-barrel, and right there in your own neighborhood blow off the heads of people, cops excepted, who may be armed.

A Man without a Country takes just a few hours to read. You get to learn a little more about this author of Slaughterhouse-Five, of which I need to read. Vonnegut is funny, goofy at times, but is unapologetic as he paints a rather dark picture of the world in which he believes we’re destroying fully aware of our costly actions.

So to honor his death as the humanist he was I use his own words, “Kurt is up in heaven now.”

For all our sakes I hope so.

What I’m reading

Photo by foxypar4 from Flickr
Photo by foxypar4 from Flickr

In the interest of the greater good, and for selfish reasons to help preserve my own education, I thought it would be helpful to list what I’m reading now as it relates to teaching and learning as well as to the technical world in which I find myself for many hours of the day:

Some materials I am, have, or want to be reading:

  • Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
    I thought this would be an interesting read because it focuses on how social computing (e.g., blogs, YouTube, social bookmarking) can be used to grow a business. I think there may be some application to education by accident in this book, but I’m not far enough along to be sure. Once I return it, this book will be available at the Lafayette library.
  • Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser (Just finished)
    This was a good read, especially after the first few chapters of gloom and doom. This is a book that every parent, teacher, and administrator should be required to read. I think more people would be able to put into context any fear mongering the media has wrought of online predators as well as find the value in being content creators and not just consumers. This book is available at the Lafayette library.
  • Weblogg-ed, a blog by Will Richardson
    Will is short of an educational wizard in my opinion. He’s someone who understands that schools need to change their approach and that technology can help serve as a means of assisting, but is by know means the driver. He updates frequently and gets a lot of comments on his posts. I also follow him on Twitter @willrich45 and he is offering change through his Powerful Learning Practices professional development model. He wrote a great, easy-to-read book titled,
    Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.
  • Leading and Learning,” a publication from ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education)
    This is ISTE’s major magazine publication, which I swipe from my wife’s bag all of the time. I find some useful bits in here. The issue I’m reading now is focusing on how much flexibility online courses provide high school students, though my wife tells me they’re a major drain on district budgets.
  • Journal of Research on Technology in Education,” a peer-reviewed journal published by ISTE
    I was thrilled to know Lafayette subscribes to this journal. The most recent series in the archives has a major research project all to do with student response systems (a.k.a. clickers) and varying pedagogical approaches to using them. I realized tonight I need to start devoting more time in my work day to reading these types of materials.

I’d love to know what others are reading as it relates to more project-based, student-centered teaching and how technology is transparently helping to make that happen.