Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

At the same time as the American Civil War was just wrapping up, Alice in Wonderland was taking England by storm. Lewis Carroll, born Charles Dodgson, the son of a preacher and one of eleven children, all of whom survived into adulthood, was an author, professor, and photographer. 
His legacy is highly controversial.  Read through this Learnist board on Carroll and decide–was he a genius or a deviant?  When deciding, it’s important to look at the context of the times. Can we judge people, ideas, and situations in history by today’s standards? People often do. After reading through the Learnist board, please offer your opinion on the life and times of Carroll and Alice in Wonderland focusing on the following: 
1. History: There are so many references to the Age of Imperialism, the roles of women in society and social history. 
2. Fantasy and Imagination: Some of the best innovators fall into this category. How has fantasy and imagination resulted in inventions and innovations that make the world a better place?
3. The Rabbit Hole: Have you ever encountered a person or idea that changed your life forever? That made it so you never saw the world the same way again?  How can this help you change the world? You might not have had this experience yet. If not, think of someone you admire who has had an epiphany and been that kind of game changer as a result. 
Regardless of where you fall on the issue of Carroll, his stories are inspiring. “Sometimes, I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 
That’s exactly the kind of thinking that makes us magic. 

Got Power?


This Storm of the Century has been raging out there for a good bit now, and I hope that it’s treating everyone as well as can possibly be expected. I have made some resources for you–yes, a Snowpocalypse Learnist board for you to enjoy, including valuable information on “Why this storm is not named after a fish–because that would be illegal.” I included some historical clips to the Blizzard of ’78, which I do remember. I was angry, because my dad called in sick to work, and he was not sick. Therefore, he lied. Lying is bad. I didn’t quite get that by not lying, he’d be virtuous and probably a dadsicle on the side of the road, because everyone drove those awful rear wheel drive cars in the seventies that doubled for stunt crash mobiles in police chase movies.

Yes, it was bad.

Today, looking out my window, I see about two feet or so of snow with some drifts. Please leave a comment and update us as to your power, heat, and condition. Hope you’re all doing well.

Post your photos–best snowman, snow angel, or snow activity gets a prize–once I snow blow myself out to get it! Good luck!!


[Image stolen from my friend Heather’s FB profile. It’s her first snowman, which is either a victory, or pretty sad if you think about how old we are. You decide.  Location: NYC]

Pursuit of Everything

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I fell in love with this manifesto–before you go back to playing Call of Duty or ignoring your parents, stay with me.

It’s been scientifically proven that you are what you do and who you  hang out with. Your top five friends will shape your life. Think–who are your friends? What do they stand for? Do they bring you up or down? In ten years, will your friends be game-changers, innovators, or sitting on a bar stool somewhere never making anything happen.

If you don’t know who your five best friends are, check your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Who is there the most?  If you count the positive comments and then the negative comments, which number would be greater?

What is the life you would like to lead? If you’re going out into the world next year and wonder what that’s going to look like, I urge you to read The Life and Times of A Remarkable Misfit by A.J. Leon.  He left his high-powered job to travel the world. If you read one page, you will become inspired, if you read two, you will probably start making plans to do something, and if you read the whole thing, you may just change the world.


Thoughts on Tolkien’s World and Creativity

J. R. Tolkien was an English academic. He finished university, then served in World War I, getting sent home to recover from trench fever.

He became a professor at Oxford University and was a contemporary of C.S. Lewis.  I’m linking to a Learnist board about Tolkien, to which we will add as a class.

Tolkien’s story of creativity is an interesting one.  He reported that one day he wrote the following: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”   Then, he stated, he became determined to discover just what a hobbit was.

Creativity often follows similar paths–we get an idea, we put it off or we develop it, and something emerges.  So many ideas start with a solid spark that dies out because we fail to execute them.  It could have gone this way for Tolkien, too.

This quarter, we will examine the life and times of Tolkien, who was humbled by his success but at the same time taken off guard that his work was adopted by much of the 1950’s beatnik and 60’s counterculture.

Critical Questions:

1. How do human themes like “the seven deadly sins” fit into this trilogy?

2. Do the archetypes (representations/character types) of these characters fit into other stories?

3. What is the role of language and structure in this work? (Recall: Tolkien was a linguist. He created entire linguistically correct languages for this trilogy–“elvish” is a language  in the scientific definition of the word)

4. We will look at selections from the written text, which Tolkien wrote at “an elementary school level.”  Do you consider this to be an elementary school level today? Why or why not? What does that say about literacy today? What suggestions would you make to correct this?

5. Tokien created these master works because he had an idea “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” and he executed on that idea–he decided to discover just what a hobbit was.  Give an example of an idea you have had that you began to develop or put aside.  How could you better develop that idea into a solid innovation?

Why You Read 1000 Things About Change and Never Change

This article is by Eric Barker, who is a very good author–he considers pretty much anything, but he always backs it up with science, math, and fact.  I’m not even going to discuss all of his topics, but I will say that it proves a couple of things:

1. You can write about anything, and if you do it well, people will pay you and you will get a large following.  So, write about things you love, do it well, and back up what you say with evidence–that’s basically the bottom line of every class I teach, by the way–I’ve researched some pretty obscure things, and my graduate advisor wrote about baseball in history.  If he can do that, you can do anything!

2. Math and science truly are awesome.  I love science and hated math my whole life. I cried in college–had to take calculus a million times. They had to send me to a special tutor. However, sometimes the way we learn these things is so–not awesome–that we need a word I can’t include here.  Use math and science to back up what you say as often as possible.  Sometimes you’ll be wrong, like half the news broadcasters chucking around numbers, but it doesn’t matter. You’ll sound super smart and no one will ever question you. [Note: I’m just kidding on that. Try to add right.]

3. You should be reading stuff like this more often. I’m not saying you have to read Eric or me, or anyone else for that matter, but the fact is, you all have so much technology at your disposal. When you use it to do smart person things, you get smarter.  I like to be the dumbest person in the room on occasion, because that means I get to listen to really smart people. Reading smart people’s stuff is sort of the same way. I get ideas, vision, and it lifts me up. When you spend your time doing things that don’t increase your brain power, everyone else just got that far ahead of you. It’s a scientific fact. So, research and follow a couple news channels, blogs, motivation sites.  Follow the areas that matter to you–could be anything…the environment, inspirational quotes, sports heroes, public policy people doing the right thing, the Dalai Lama on Facebook…Anything.

So, get out there, and change yourself for the better.  Start by reading Eric’s wonderful article. 

School of the Future: Science Fiction or Reality?

Two scholars stood before me, indignant.  “Why do I have to come to school to do #E%$#% worksheets? It’s a waste of my time.”

We talked. I listened.  I posed the question:

What would you do if you had to design the school of the future? If it had to motivate, engage, captivate, and produce results?

Is this science fiction? Or could it be reality?

I am throwing down the gauntlet. You know who you are…answer the question and be ready to place it here–a guest post, Prezi, video, series of interviews, or research paper will do.  Who knows, maybe you have an even better idea…


Congratulations on Your Efforts!

The Davies community really came together to help victims of Hurricane Sandy last week.  I was proud.  Ms. St. Pierre is a rock star when it comes to organizing a successful event, that is true, but you took the ball and ran with it, scoring more touchdowns than the first half of the last Patriots’ game.

If you hadn’t noticed, the press sure did.  This Sunday, there was a marvelous article about your efforts in the Providence Journal.  I wrote an article in Edudemic, which a national digital education magazine .  The entire nation knows that the William M. Davies Career & Technical High School cares.

Not only do you care and respond–it’s not always easy for you to do so because this is a regional school–you go above and beyond to take action. That’s why I’m so proud.  It is my sincere hope that this will not have been one event, but a spark that ignites a series of bigger and better events directed through your outstanding Skills USA Leadership and brought forward by you.

So, do you have an issue you want to address?  Do you want to continue bringing spirit to Davies? Do you want to keep helping improve your community and showing that Davies leadership? I do.  Let’s keep this inspiration rolling.  Nicely done, Davies!