School As T-Ball

I worry that school is becoming like T-Ball.

T-Ball is a sport based on baseball and is intended as an introduction for young players to develop baseball skills and have fun.

In T-Ball, there is usually no pitcher. The ball is placed on an adjustable tee atop the home plate at a suitable height for the batter to strike. The game is played on a smaller field. Usually, they don't keep score. An inning is completed not when there are three outs, but once each child has had a turn at bat. All extra players of the defensive team play in the outfield every inning. No extra bases on overthrows and runners may not advance after the ball is in possession of an infielder.

Everyone is a winner - or no one wins, depending on your point of view.

We might call this approach in education "scaffolding" - that instructional technique whereby the teacher models the desired learning strategy or task, then gradually shifts responsibility to the students.Except I'm not sure if we are taking away the tee or actually shifting the responsibility.

I was thinking about this last night as I sorted through articles and clippings that I have collected the past year to use for blog posts. The article that caught my attention was from the The New York Times and titled "Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes."

Talking with professor at UMD, the reporter finds that Professor Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes. “Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement. “I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”That is something I hear from teachers at all levels K-20.

The article also references a study at the University of California, Irvine, that found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

Though the researchers say this sense of entitlement might come from increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members or a heightened sense of achievement anxiety, I think students just don't want us to take away the tee when they get up to bat.

Serendipity35 Back To School Edition

This week teachers and students are either headed back to classes or preparing themselves mentally to be back in school. Whether it's kindergarten or graduate school, there is something about the back-to-school season that gives me a strange combination of excitement and dread.

Part of the excitement comes from that optimism I have always felt because it is a fresh start, a new chance to do it right. In earlier days, it meant shopping for school clothing, new notebooks and supplies. For the past few decades it has meant preparing lessons, syllabi, and assignments. And for the past five years, it has also meant making podcasts, uploading to Moodle or Blackboard and checking email and discussion posts.

And part of the dread, comes from the thought that this year will be no different from the others and things will still go wrong.

We live in the middle.

This week I will try to post on topics to kick off the new year. Some optimism, a touch of dread, some resources and maybe something new to try out in the classroom.

Serendipity35 lost a good number of readers this past summer from our server and URL change and from the normal attrition caused by educators who really do take the summer off. (I imagine lots of inboxes and department mailboxes overflowing.) Thanks for dropping by the site - I hope you'll follow us through the year.

What Facebook Quizzes Really Know About You

I came across this in Facebook. A quiz authored by the ACLU of Northern California that will give you a scare or at least make you pause before you take one of those Facebook quizzes.

You know - these are the ones that will tell you what writer you resemble, or what your mermaid name is, challenge you to try to beat your friend's score on the name the drunk celebrity quiz.

The surprise that the ACLU is trying to give you is about how much of your personal information these quizzes can access.

And it doesn't matter if your profile is "private." When you take one of those quizzes some unknown quiz developer can access almost everything in your profile. Depending on what you have there, it might mean religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, pictures, and groups.

These quizzes also have access to most of the info on your friends' profiles, so, even if YOU avoid taking the quizzes, friends could be giving away your personal information.

So, the ACLU created a Facebook quiz that you can take that will show you just what they can see about you. It's at

Of course, the irony is that they are warning you about Facebook quizzes by asking you to take a Facebook quiz. As they say at the start of the quiz, "at least you know who we are and that we have a real privacy policy that we're committed to upholding. Can you say the same for every unknown author of every quiz you or your friends take?"

Symposium for the Future

logoThe NMC Symposium for the Future is a special 2-day, live online event October 27-29, 2009. They commissioned a few "thought pieces" to get folks thinking before the event about technology and the future. help us to all think about the topic broadly and deeply.

One is from Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society,called "It is easy to fall in love with technology."  Gardner Campbell, Baylor University, contributed "The Stars our Destination" and Holly Willis, The Institute for Multimedia Literacy at USC, wrote "Tactics and Haptics and a Future That’s Now."

The symposium tries to look at technologies and practices that are just beginning to show promise in an educational or social context, and the applicability of technology to the social, environmental, and educational challenges we face today.

The Symposium is an outgrowth of the NMC’s Emerging Technologies Initiative, which seeks to answer the question of how to keep abreast of emerging technologies that may be important to our collective work as educators. At the core of this initiative is a focus on emerging technologies and the ways they can be applied in the service of teaching, learning, research, and creative inquiry. A major goal is to stimulate systematic thinking about our society and the future of education.

This Symposium is designed as a forum for discussion of the real challenges that face our world and our society, and in particular, how emerging technologies might be applied to solve them.