Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Downside to Being an Intelligent Teacher

Our ever-so-late Spring Break is winding down, and when it's over it'll be an 18-school day sprint to the finish line and we'll put another school year in the books. Of course, on 27 May when we hand the students their report cards and disperse for the summer, it'll probably feel like we've stumbled across the finish line than anything else.

This Spring Break, I haven't done much of anything apart from catching my breath from the previous week where I presented at a conference and took two Praxis exams. I've been spending some time with pretty much my closest friend and his wife, mainly because I haven't found anything to do. This evening I was looking at my bookshelf and realized the sheer paucity of books I've read this year thus far. Normally I'd down thirty books a year, but nearing the halfway point I've only read ten or so. This really concerns me because this a symptom of the biggest problem I've had teaching middle schoolers--I feel like I'm not learning when I'm teaching them.

I know it sounds a bit oxymoronic to learn while teaching, but I personally get my kicks when my brain is fully engaged and I'm learning and discussing. In these three years that I've been teaching middle school, I feel like I'm not being mentally stretched because the content I'm teaching requires very little mental effort to teach the content itself. After all, what I'm teaching is really ground-level skills, so I'm really only teaching what I've learned long ago. Simply put, the subject matter bores me because it's not challenging me. On many occasions this school year I've found myself literally daydreaming when I was teaching. Sure, my kids and even my observers didn't know it, but the mundane tasks of discussing simple plots, making sure students acted like normal civilized humans, and keeping students on task simply bored me.

I think this is the biggest hurdle that a middle school teacher who has a mastery of the content knowledge they teach has to master. When I taught high school, especially upperclassmen, discussions often strayed into territory that was not covered by the textbook, and I got a real kick out of pulling out something I read recently or some old research to bolster the discussion or activity. Even with my really bright students, questions that extend from our reading are really simple. So since there's really no need to stay sharp, my learning and reading has decreased--and that's not good by any stretch.  The last thing I want to be is someone who feels as though they've arrived in terms of knowing the content that they teach. If I were to do that, I would instantly stop being a good teacher.

I see too many of my colleagues, especially when I go to conferences, fall into this trap. They teach a fairly easy subject and decide to rest on their content laurels, instead focusing on new tricks for their classroom. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter, but if we're teaching a content area, I think we as teachers should continue our learning in the areas that we teach so we can bring new information to the table if need be. And to be honest, a lot of teachers need to be hitting the books so they can be at least a bit more competent at their subject field than the teacher's edition than they're teaching out of. We as teachers are our subject's ambassadors, and why would our students care about the subject we teach if we can't show them that we love the content of what we teach enough to have the knowledge to answer their questions with confidence, rather than shrugging our shoulders and saying that we don't know, only to change the subject.

In a perfect world, I'd get a phone call tomorrow from a principal begging me to teach honors and Advanced Placement (AP) social studies at a high school, but that isn't happening. However, I took the Praxis exam for Science as a step to getting an add-on to my certificate in Science, and I'm thinking about making the jump to teaching science in the near future. It's a subject that is near to my heart since, though I have a degree in history, I began college life as an aerospace engineering major and took six science classes in high school (As opposed to only four social studies!). Even if I don't quite get a job in a high school in the immediate future, middle school science offers me avenues to not just use knowledge I already have, especially in the field of earth science, to teach kids, but also give me subjects that I could read and increase the depth of my knowledge in. I've been dying to find some reading material on the history of Dutch land reclamation efforts as well as the science of flood protection, and becoming a science teacher would give me the proper itch that reading about that stuff would scratch.

Until next time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Going Mad over Mad Men

I have to admit that I'm not really one for television, even though I pay $70 a month for digital cable. In reality, I spend all that cash to watch soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse. I'm not a terribly big fan of a lot of today's dramas mainly because their topics either don't interest me, or they're a LOST clone where the scriptwriters make the narrative complicated for its own sake because that guarantees a cadre of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder that will bicker and fight over every easter egg in the show--real or imagined. However, there are three shows that I do watch, mainly because I find them entertaining and they tell a good story.

Of late I've been rewatching AMC's Mad Men, and have found it entertaining and thought-provoking. The show is set in the early 1960s, and through the story of an ad firm on Madison Avenue in New York, explores the changing social mores in that timeframe in addition to the lives of the story's main characters. Having watched the previous three seasons a couple of times and having just finished the first season again, I've come up with some observations about various things. Needless to say, if you're obsessed with not seeing spoilers, well, don't read the rest of this article, or any article I write for that matter. Revealing spoilers is a matter of course for me.

Five Things I've Picked up while watching Mad Men 

(1) The show really nails the visual feel of the 1960s.

One of the draws of Mad Men is really how they nail the visuals of the 1960s. My grandparents' house was built in 1961, and the interior of the Drapers' home is virtually a carbon copy. Their dress? Couldn't have done it any better. Pete Campbell's haircut? Everyone wore that back then. And the office furnishings look straight from the era. Simply put, it looks like the show was filmed in a community that was tossed in a time capsule in 1960 for use at a later date.

(2) If you lived in the 1960s, you smoked like a train and drank hard liquor like a fish.

I think I've damaged my liver and upped my risk of lung cancer by at least 10% just by watching this show. In virtually every scene on the show, the characters are lighting up cigarettes, drinking hard liquor, or both. Sterling Cooper (the ad firm in the series)'s apparent response to anything positive to happen to them is to break out the glasses and the decanter. I understand that times have changed and that I'm completely clueless as to actual people's drinking and smoking habits in general since I do nor have ever done either in the past, but the drinking seems a little more excessive than what I would expect. However, knowing how attitudes toward smoking were in the past, the amount of smoking displayed isn't too shocking.

(3) There's a little too much presentism going on in the show.

On one hand, I do understand that one of the pillars of the show's plot is to show the changing mores of society during the early 1960s, but it seems to be a little hard to believe that Don Draper comes in such close contact with a civil rights activist (Paul Kinsey), two closeted homosexuals (Sal Romano and and a short-term ad executive named Kurt), some beatniks (Midge, one of Don's mistresses, as well as her friends), and an alleged friend of Ayn Rand (Bert Cooper) within such a short period of time, especially for being a guy with no more than a high school education. Like I said, I understand why it's done within the context of the story, but it still feels shoehorned into the plot. It would have been a little more believable had Don interface with perhaps the hipsters, and some of his coworkers have some brushes with the other groups mentioned, rather than Don having personal contact with all of them.

(4) Mad Men does storytelling right.

I absolutely loathe what LOST has done to dramatic storytelling. In their quest to make an immersive story experience, the screenwriters seem to have the idea that a plot that's complicated for complication's sake is somehow better than your normal narrative experience. To their defence, it's done well for them as people with no life and an obsessive-compulsive disorder have duked it out on Internet message boards for years over the minutae of the series and what they may or may not mean. However, I think it's pretty dumb to be honest. I much prefer how Mad Men tells its story. The narrative is rather straightforward, but the characters are written in a way that allows the viewer to not just see the characters operate, but also use them as a mirror to view their own lives and analyze their decisions and motives. Perhaps the best example is character of Pete Campbell. Sure, Pete is an obnoxious corporate ladder climber, but once the story explores Pete's motives, you find that Pete's motives are more for showing his family and his in-laws that he is his own person; not so much climbing the corporate ladder solely to make a name for himself and boost his ego. If I had a literature class that was mature enough to deal with the themes, I would gladly use Mad Men as an example of good plot development and characterization.

(5) Don Draper's lack of introspection is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the entire series.

Don Draper has the perfect life. He's the partner in an ad firm on Madison Avenue, has an attractive wife and two (now three) children, owns his house, and truly is a self-made man, since he took on a new identity in order to escape from the Korean War, after all. However, this secret proves too much for him to bear, and in the process he throws all of his perfect personal life away through an ever-increasing series of affairs. By itself, Mad Men proves to be a compelling investigation of how people throw away everything through completely illogical self-destructive behaviour.

However, I think something that hasn't been explored in depth in the series thus far is exactly how Don Draper feels about this. Why does he think that the best solution to expunging his past from his present is to sleep with a wide variety of women, after all? What does he expect to gain from his unfaithfulness, a couple of hours where he could just forget about his problems? A way to have control over a situation that he feels is becoming less and less under control? If the latter is the case, what caused him to want to be unfaithful in the first place? It's questions like these that I would like to see discussed in the next season of Mad Men, because it is something I find fascinating.

Maybe it's because I feel that I'm missing those things in my life that I find Don Draper's actions so reprehensible, but at the same time, I also realize that we as humans are never really satisfied with our situations no matter what. I'm sure my more evangelically-minded readers will immediately jump to the conclusion that Don Draper needs to become a Christian and all would be well, but I tend to disagree. In looking at my own life, I am by all measures a mature Christian, but I'm not satisfied with my current situation in the least. I've always thought that I would be in many ways complete  once I was a husband, father, and schoolteacher. Even though I only have one of those checked off, I don't think for a second once I check off those other two objectives that I will feel satisfied, as each of those provide new challenges, and to be frank, opportunities for indigestion for me to deal with. We're always striving to improve and refine our situations, and I don't think there's ever any true solution to this, much less a nice, neat solution that only takes a sentence to state.

So there you go. Those are my observations from watching Mad Men thus far. Considering I'm off of school this week, and there's not much going on educationally wise, much less anything for me to complain about at church to catch some flak, so I figured some media discussion would do nicely. Hope you enjoy it, and feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments section.

Until next time.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

LMSA Post-Mortem

So after a really grueling week of studying, presenting, and testing, I'm really looking forward to this coming week without school. Of course, I still have college school work to take care of, but I'm over the hump of some heavy duty stuff--which makes me very happy. This past Wednesday-Friday I attended and presented at the Louisiana Middle School Association's annual conference in Lafayette. I had a much better time than I did last year, especially since people actually presented things that interested me. So here we go, these are the things I learned:

(1) Men are an Endangered Species at Conferences.

One thing that really stuck out while I was there was that, well, I stuck out for the single reason for being a guy. It was like the inverse of when I was at LeTourneau where there were nine guys for every gal. It wasn't threatening or anything; just different. The biggest sign women were the primary target of these conferences? The peddlers selling kitschy jewelry and home decorations outside the presentation room. I could feel the testosterone draining from me every time I got near them.

(2) Attending Conferences by Yourself Stinks.

It's true, especially when you tend to get a bit overwhelmed in unfamiliar crowds like I do. I went to my sessions like a good little conference attendee, but did little talking to anyone in any way, shape, or form. It's a bit hard to do when (A) you can be a bit awkward at social situations at times and (B) No one would want to talk to you anyway because they're too busy talking to their colleagues. Worst of all was the opening session, where I ended up being tucked in a corner with no one else sitting at my table for eight. I was tempted to carry sign that said "LEPER! UNCLEAN!" after that, but decided not to. Regardless, having a sidekick would make making snarky comments in some sessions a lot more fun.

(3) Lots of Teachers don't know the Content Knowledge in their Subject.

Yes, this is one of my pet peeves. Yes, I know I am the massive exception to the content knowledge rule because I scored two 200s on my Praxis II exams for Social Studies. And yes, I know nothing I can say will change the situation. That still won't stop me from being perturbed at how little my colleagues know about the subjects they're teaching. My top three moments were as follows:

  • Having to explain to the session presenter and the rest of the attendees that the reason the example of a diary entry of the girl from around Gettysburg was so blase about the battle as opposed to the Confederate diary entry was because the Confederacy only made two incursions into the North: Maryland campaign (Ending at Antietam) and the Gettysburg Campaign. OK, so the details may not be known, but to hear a teacher tell me that they didn't know the South actually invaded the North was a bit unsettling.
  • In a session on astronomy, I was the only teacher out of thirteen earth science teachers that could point out the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion, Canis Major, & knew that the centre of Orion's sword is the Orion Nebula, Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, and that Polaris is a circumpolar star. Considering that discussing the night sky and the constellations is an entire chapter of earth science textbooks, at least someone pointing something out would have been nice.
  • In a session on Science in the News, an earth science teacher asked the presenter why Iceland has volcanoes. I literally facepalmed myself.
(4) There's a lot of Teachers Presenting Cool Stuff.

Now that I vented at the general incompetence of several of my colleagues in the profession,  allow me to point out that the sessions I went to were well done and I got several ideas on doing some really cool stuff--especially if I teach science in the near future. I really enjoyed the reflection lab that used laser pointers to hit targets around obstacles with mirrors, the floor map with strings and cardboard, and the session that took us outside and taught us how to have a functional class outdoors teaching traditional topics.

(5) Always have a Plan H, Just in Case.

My session that I presented at our ShareFair in January was a modest success by my low expectations, and I expected similar for LMSA. However, it still ended up being a bit of a fizzle, mainly through technical problems. My session was immediately after one involving making large maps of the world, and the class was packed with fifty people. By the time I was ready to roll, there were five people in the room, including myself and the two presenters who would go after me. As you can guess, I was rather deflated.

My PowerPoint presentation went along just fine, though I lost my hardy band a couple of times. When it came to the demonstrations, my products made by ESRI, which were the cornerstones of my demonstrations, refused to work, and crashed. I internally panicked, but on the exterior I blamed it all on bad luck, and opened up Google Earth, showing some things you could do with regards to drawing polygons that I had used in my reading class. I then showed off the Night Sky, Moon, and Mars functions of Google Earth, and all five of us were wowed. The crowd thanked me for the presentation and said they were impressed with my quick thinking. However, I was embarrassed by the fickleness of the programs and how unprepared they made me look.

As an aside, let me throw the LMSA under the bus by mentioning the fact I had to pay $32 for Internet access for the day. Why? Because they refused to buy wireless Internet access for the conference and didn't let anyone know until the day of registration. Good thing I shelled out the cash, because I would have been sunk otherwise. Real small-time move by LMSA that should not happen again next year.

(6) Even Though your Session is a Miserable Failure, you don't have to Mention that on your CV.

Because all that matters is that you have this to put it on your CV.

OK, I may be am a bit vain (They forgot to give me my presenter ribbon at first, so I wrote it on my tag), but I put a lot of work and heartburn into making sure I got that little ribbon attached to my name tag. :^)

Until next time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Programming Note

Just a quick programming note here: I've been trying to get into a routine of posting three days a week, but for the next week I probably won't be able to keep that commitment as I am preparing for my presentation at the Louisiana Middle School Association convention on Thursday as well as two Praxis exams (PLT and 7-12 Science) two days later. Needless to say, as much fun as it is to blog, those things are a little more important. If you're dying for my irrepressible wit, just follow me on Twitter.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different...

With iLEAP testing in full swing, there's not too much to do with regards to being a teacher apart from reading directions aloud from a testing guide verbatim, wandering around your classroom aimlessly, and envisioning your school's SPS plummet because your entire class completed the maths portion of the exams with a full two hours to spare. So, I'm sitting here in the back of my classroom writing this blog entry instead of dying of boredom.

I freely admit that I haven't blogged too much about my school lately because, well, my classroom experiences have been a bit mundane. After all, it wouldn't be too exciting to have a pile of articles with the topic of "Student Who Never Does Anything in Poor Grades Shocker." The only real item of note was the fifth fight of the school year in my seventh period class that, in all reality, was more amusing than violent. But enough of the usual; here's some good news about my school for a change!

(1) Our Chess Team is Flippin' Awesome.

Due to the diligence of our school's counselor and one of our social studies teachers, we have a really thriving Chess Club. It meets every Thursday after school, and averages about 40 students on a very consistent basis. Last weekend, they attended the district middle school meet, and completely dominated. They won individually first place in the K-6 category (Won by the social studies teacher's son--a Kindergartner), first and third in the K-8 category (two of my history bee members), and won the overall trophy. The state meet is in a couple of weeks, and though it will be tough competition, I won't be surprised when the come back with trophies.

(2) We had a Program That didn't Stink for Once.

Face it, most school programs are terrible. The topic is uninteresting, the teachers are miffed class time is being interrupted, the student are bored, so they search for ways to get into trouble, and the administrators and speaker are shocked that this is all happening. He had a speaker earlier this year who did a Huey Long impersonation. Long was definitely an interesting human being, but this guy was boring, muddled in his focus, and talked over virtually the entirety of the student body's heads.

A reward for a recent fundraiser was a traveling BMX show. Kids who sold enough stuff got in for free, and everyone else paid $5 for the honour of attending. All that was there was a ramp, so my skepticism was naturally high. Thankfully, they put on a show that dazzled our students, and proved my skepticism wrong (for once). The guys were former X-Games participants, and took time out after the show to talk to the students. Having met some similar folks in my days of playing Paintball, it was nice to see these guys living the best life one can have: getting paid to do what you love to do.

(3) One of Our Teachers is presenting at a Conference.

In a sign that our faculty does not rest on their laurels--rather continually seeking to learn and share with other what they learned with other professionals, one of our own is presenting at a professional conference. Who is it? Why it's me of course! I submitted a proposal for a session at the Louisiana Middle School Association's annual conference, and on my first try it was accepted! The session will be on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the Middle Schools, and I will be talking about what GIS actually is, and showing how to use GIS tools in all subjects in middle school. As you know, I presented at our parish's Technology Share Fair earlier this year, and it was my first session I did solo (I rode shotgun for one the year before). Considering how successful it was, as well as the fact I enjoyed doing it immensely, I decided to step up to the plate and share with fellow teachers what's been percolating in my head about the profession. If I manage to not screw it up, I'll take the really big step and apply to present at this December's LaCUE conference in Baton Rouge.

So there you go! As amazing as it sounds, there's actually positive things going on in schools these days, much less in the circus that my school tends to be at times. Hope it (slightly) restored your faith in the American educational system.

Until next time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Of Multi-tools and Spud Wrenches

Aaron Eyler, my favourite educational technology blogger, made a tweet yesterday about differentiated instruction and standardized testing. He said "It is hypocritical for any educator to advocate celebration of ind diff and standardized testing simultaneously (You heard that [DoE Secretary Arne] Duncan?)" I think it's an interesting statement, to say the least, because both seem to be on polar opposites of the pedagogic discussional spectrum (See what I did there? New buzzword!) at the moment. What I want to talk about isn't exactly the merits or flaws of that statement, rather the line of thinking I took when pondering the tweet, and specifically differentiated instruction. Now, I'll freely admit in advance that what I'm talking about isn't based on any sort of real research or anything, but rather something I was thinking about. As a result, you can put your stones down... for now.

I must admit that I'm a bit divided on the whole differentiated instruction/multiple intelligences bandwagon, mainly because it seems the only folks who seem to really buy into it are educators, and cognitive psychologists pretty much have thrown the theory into the dustbin. On the other hand, I do see how students tend to respond better to certain types of assignments that are out of the ordinary paper-and-pencil type. I can see how providing a variety of assessment types can be beneficial to all students, but I think the concept of really differentiating our instruction to meet all students may have unintended consequences.

Simply put, the idea that a student should only be assessed in the manner which he does best seems a bit disingenuous to the concept of truly assessing a student, because we are merely providing a path of least resistance to a grade, rather than focusing on the content that they are being assessed upon. Related to that, I've found personally that most methods of assessing student work outside of objective test instruments (e.g. anything that needs a rubric) tends to become subjective very quickly, no matter how detailed the rubric or how extensive the professional development. Maybe it's the analyst in me, but if I want to see how something is performing, I want a datum that is as objective as possible. At times I've just had trouble wrapping my head around the concept of assessing students' knowledge of the Great Depression by allowing one student to create a collage since they were a visual learner, whereas a traditional learner pumps out a term paper or a test on the same topic. I might be wrong, but I just don't think they provide the same rigor and ability to extract objective data, no matter how many hoops you make the visual learner jump through.

What also piques my curiosity are two implications of differentiating instruction. The first is that the real world, which educators are constantly stating that we are preparing our students for, is remarkably non-differentiated. No matter what field you work in, from sales to construction to IT, the fact of the matter is that if you can put your thoughts down in a logical fashion that is readable to your audience, you're going places. Even in the visual learner's paradise, graphic design, the ability to write and demonstrate competence in a "traditional" manner is very important. So, by constantly assessing students in ways that come easiest to them as opposed to the unpopular idea of leaning on "traditional" methods will end up crippling our students when it all comes down to it. You may be a mean collage maker in high school, but if you can't write a good resume or introductory letter, you're going to come in second-best to the one who can--no matter how much better you are to them at the job.

In addition to this, I find it very worrying that we as educators are pigeon holing students into these differentiations at a younger and younger age, and even if not intentionally, we are doing a lot to determine their academic future to possibly their detriment. By telling little Kelly that she's a kinesthetic learner from Kindergarten onward, and focus our efforts on teaching her in that manner, with only token measures of teaching in other ways, we are severely hampering her ability to become a well-rounded learner, not to mention a person in general. I find this most disturbing in the fact that we label so many students as "visual learners" and do so much to teach them through images and visuals. As a result, I think we're creating a generation of people who will see and believe anything they see because that's the only way they know how to gather and process information. In the quest to ensure that all students can do their best, we're creating people that are the cognitive equivalent of a spud wrench: great at doing one thing (removing a flush valve from a toilet), but completely useless at anything else. Rather, we need to be creating multi-tools--tools that can tackle a wide variety of jobs within a single package.

In other words, let's create people with the ability to gather, process, and create knowledge through a variety of means, not just in the method that's easiest for them. I know I am far and away the exception to the rule, but you can't tell me someone who's a very good visual learner who's really good at what they do is better off cognitively than someone like myself who always pegs out learning style inventories in four to five categories. It defies logic to think otherwise because knowledge comes in so many formats that even though I might not be as strong in visuals as other people, but I can easily gather visual information, fill in the cracks through learning in other formats, process it all, and create new knowledge in whatever format I need to present it in.

Let's stop funneling students' capabilities into the path of least resistance, especially when that path is crippling their ability to function at a level below their capability in the real world. Let's make more multi-tools and less spud wrenches. They'll be better off for it, even if the grades don't always show it initially. The human brain has a remarkable ability to adapt and learn when giving challenges that are off its traditional operational paths; if we push our students to excel in new and different ways, they might just surprise us with their versatility.

Until next time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Teaching on Mars Vlog

In a fit of insanity, I decided to sit down and create a vlog in response to the post last week of Groupthink. For being a teacher, I sure do have a problem being on camera as it took a good two hours of takes in order to get it down the way I wanted. I apologize in advance for not meeting your expectations in what you had in mind in terms of yours truly (Especially the preview image for the video. Crikey!). Hate to tell you, but you're far from the only one. Enjoy! (I think.)

Teaching on Mars Vlog, Episode 1: Tone from Loren C. Klein on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

How to Create a Buzzword

I've been tinkering with a response this week to my last post, which hit me with some vitriol, albeit fully expected by yours truly. I was wanting to make it a direct successor to the post, but in the end, something whimsical came up on Thursday evening that will allow for a bit of a decent buffer, not to mention allay the fears of the teacher crowd of my blog's fandom (All two of you!) that I've forgotten about talking about what I actually do for a living.

I'm taking a course offered by the Department of Education entitled "Effective Instructional Technology." It's the first of a series of courses that, when complete, will allow me to add on to my teaching certificate certifications in Educational Technology Facilitator and Educational Technology Leadership. The course I took was pretty much a introduction to utilizing technology in the classroom. As with all things dealing with education, there were plenty of opportunities for reflection, and at times I was growing tired of saying the same things over and over and over (and over!) about using technology in the classroom. My first efforts to break free and really speak what was on my mind were rewarded with lower scores than everyone else who was posting, apparently.

Being one obviously to take the concept of sticking to my opinions to heart, I was at a loss as to how to attack the assignments for the remainder of the class. I did not want to sit there and mindlessly parrot the party line with my reflections, but I wanted to make sure I scored well in a way that truly represented the work I put in to the assignments. The obvious solution was to post using vocabulary that served extra helpings of educationese that made my points, but also used the appropriate verbiage to the point it became a parody. Simply put, I decided to be subversive in my work, something that is a hobby of people like me.

The work received its desired effect, and in an instance of sweet, delicious irony, I think I created what could be the Next Great Buzzword™ in Educational Technology. In a discussion on how to use technology in the classroom to maximum effect. I chimed in with a comment about how the teacher could maximize the use of technology. Throughout the entire course, I was making the point that perhaps the key to maximizing technology's effectiveness in the classroom was to stop treating technology as some neat trick to get the students' attention--rather to utilize it like any other tool in the classroom. So in a fit of insanity, I unleasshed a message that claimed that claimed that the key to success when it comes to using technology in the classroom would be for it to become an "organic instructional component."

Organic. Instructional. Component.

What? I don't even know what that meant!

The response from the moderator stunned me even more than the fact I couldn't even figure out what I said. She complimented me on my comments and singled out that statement for particular praise due to its creativity in merging biology, technology, and pedagogy into a perfect comment. I thought that there was no way that in the process of trying to be a bit silly I created a brand new phrase. So I googled the phrase, and alas, it had never been said before. I sat there scratching my head at all of this, then it dawned on me that this is how buzzwords are created. Some fellow is sitting there at his desk trying to sound impressive and creative for a presentation, and he throws a bunch of ostentatious words together, and Presto! A buzzword is made. I have to say I was a bit proud of myself for not just pulling the wool over some educators' eyes with some high-sounding language, but also I had managed to accidentally create a buzzword.

Of course, I usually go through the more direct route of creating a buzzword when I'm in the mood, but it was amusing to see how far a little bit of frustrated imagination took me in a mundane assignment. So, if you're stumped in your presentation and need the perfect phrase to sell your clients on your training product, tell them that it's the perfect vehicle to provide an organic instructional component to their enterprise. I won't even ask for a slice of the profits--consider it a free gift.

Until next time.