2023: A Quick Half-Year Review

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Heading into the second half of 2023, I thought I’d take a minute and review some of my accomplishments thus far. This is mostly for my own benefit as I continue to curate a digital commonplace book.

Also, it scratches my itch to curate all the things. So here we go…

Reading

  • Yearly Books Goal: 150 books
  • Pages Read Goal: 50K
  • Current book count: 59 books
  • Current page count: 22k

Writing

  • Blog posts this year: 94
  • Class papers: Who the hell knows, but it was a lot

Professional Development

  • Four full-day PD sessions
  • Two mini-sessions
  • Numerous one-on-one meetings with teachers

Music

I curate a Spotify playlist every year of great songs I find or rediscover over the course of the year. Here is the 2023 playlist, so far:



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What I’ve Been Reading

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  • Brandon Sanderson’s Secret Project #3, Yumi and the Nightmare Painter, was a fun dive into a new corner of the Cosmere
  • Street Data has added so much to my thinking and work toward my dissertation
  • The Civil Rights Road to Deeper Learning has also been an excellent companion in the past few weeks
  • I finished up the Licanius Trilogy this week. What a complex, mind-bending journey into a new realm of fantasy and magic. I came away with a couple of favorite characters and a new way of thinking about how to write epic fantasy.

If you’re on Goodreads or Storygraph, let’s connect and see where our reading journeys take us.



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The Power of Creation in Education: Lessons from Rodney Mullen

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In the world of skateboarding, Rodney Mullen is a legend. Known as the godfather of modern street skating, Mullen’s journey from a farm boy in Florida to a world-renowned skateboarder is a testament to the power of creativity, resilience, and individuality. As we navigate a transitional era in education, moving towards more student agency and authentic work, Mullen’s story offers valuable insights.

Growing up, Mullen felt like an outsider until he discovered skateboarding. The sport offered him a sense of freedom and individuality that resonated deeply with him. There were no coaches, no direct opponents – just him and his board. This is a powerful reminder of the importance of student agency in education. Like Mullen, students should have the freedom to explore their interests and passions, learn and grow at their own pace, and express their individuality through their work.

Mullen’s journey was not without challenges. As the sport of skateboarding evolved, he found himself struggling to adapt. However, this setback was also liberating. Freed from the pressure of maintaining his champion status, Mullen was able to explore and create new tricks. This resilience and adaptability are crucial skills for students in today’s rapidly changing world. As educators, we must create learning environments that encourage students to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and continually strive for improvement.

One of the most significant lessons from Mullen’s story is the power of creating something for the sake of creating it. Mullen found joy in innovating and creating new tricks, not for the accolades or fame, but for the sheer love of creation. This is a powerful message for students. In a world that often values grades and test scores above all else, it’s important to remind students that the process of creation and learning is valuable in and of itself.

Mullen’s story also highlights the importance of community and collaboration. In both the skateboarding and hacker communities, respect is earned by taking what others have done, improving upon it, and sharing it back with the community. This ethos of continuous innovation and growth is one that we should strive to foster in our classrooms. By encouraging students to collaborate, share their work, and build upon the ideas of others, we can create a culture of learning that is dynamic, inclusive, and empowering.

As we navigate this transitional era in education, let’s take a page from Rodney Mullen’s book. Let’s create learning environments that value creativity, resilience, individuality, and community. Let’s encourage our students to create for the sake of creating and to find joy in the process of learning. And most importantly, let’s remind them that, like Mullen, they have the power to shape their own learning journeys and to make a meaningful impact on the world around them.



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The Battle of Access: Mississippi’s New Law and the Fight for Information Freedom

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In a world where information is increasingly digital and accessible, a new law in Mississippi is causing a stir. The law, Mississippi Code 39-3-25, part of House Bill 1315, has effectively banned anyone under the age of 18 from accessing digital materials made available through public and school libraries without explicit parental or guardian permission. This move has sparked a debate about the morality of censorship and the right to access information.

The law, which went into effect on July 1, 2023, has left libraries across the state scrambling to comply. It mandates that vendors providing digital resources must verify that all their materials comply with the state’s definition of “obscenity.” This definition is broad and includes any material that contains representations or descriptions of various sexual acts, cruelty, violence, or anything deemed “likely to be injurious or harmful to a child.”

The implications of this law are far-reaching. Any vendor with materials in their system depicting sexual reproduction, queerness, or even images of nude female breasts – often part of sexual education, reproductive education, and biology and anatomy books for those under 18 – would be out of compliance with the law. As a result, platforms like Hoopla and Overdrive, which are not set up to change access based on age or varying laws by the municipality, may have to shut down access altogether.

This law has been seen by many as a step towards limiting public goods like libraries and creating systems where young people in some states have access to a world of knowledge and resources, while others are shut out entirely. It disproportionately affects those with the least privileges – those in unstable homes, those without regular internet access, and those without active parents or guardians in their lives.

The First Regional Public Library has already posted an announcement on its homepage regarding the changes, and the Vicksburg Public Library is still figuring out how the law will impact its patrons’ access to digital materials. For now, they’ve developed a new system of library card distribution, requiring those under 18 to have parental or guardian consent to access materials.

Mississippi is not the first state to limit access to materials and place the onus of compliance on the vendors. Texas is undergoing similar changes, and it’s likely that this will lead to similar, if not more dire, lockouts of material access for students statewide.

This move by Mississippi and other states highlights the ongoing battle over access to information and the role of libraries in our society. As we continue to navigate the digital age, the question remains: who gets to decide what information is accessible and to whom?

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