How to respond to learning-style believers

How to respond to learning-style believers

“What do you mean, I shouldn’t accommodate people’s learning styles? You can’t tell me people don’t learn differently! I see it in the classroom all the time!” Maybe you’ve heard that from a classroom presenter (I have). Or maybe you’ve heard this from a client: “Be sure to include narration for the audio learners!

Debunking as a community service. Why has educational research been such a slough of despond over what appeared at first to be solid ground? Anyone who has ever taught can sing a litany of reform ideas that have ended up on the heap. What I am fascinated by is how long debunked ideas keep on living, zombies by other name. These walking dead include Dale’s Cone, right/left hemisphere, mindsets, and my personal fav–learning styles (although “grit” is charging hard along the rail as my new bete noire).

It’s not that any of these ideas are wholly wrong, it’s that teachers have come to accept them without reflection as wholly right. Are teachers just true believers who not only want but need to have certitude? As one famous jurisprudent said, “Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so.” So what is going on?

This article is certainly worth a read not only for its specific critique of learning styles, but also for pointing us to sites like SkepticalScience with their free Debunking Handbook ( and the DebunkerClub ( Besides that, the tone is very gentle and understanding. Debunking can be painful all around.

And that is the best part of the article–its moral sensitivity to those who want to set the record straight without making believers hate their guts. I classify this under the category of “course-in-a-blog-post”. Much to view, many hyperlinks of value, and much to return to. Brava.

140 Is Dead, 140 Is Dead! Long Live the 140!



Many thanks to Ian O’Byrne’s G+ feed which pointed to a Lifehacker article on how Twitter helped the author become a better writer.  I agreed at first, but then I drew back a bit.  Is it really better for me?  Or has it just made me a different writer?

Here was my comment to Ian:

Twitter certainly made me a different writer.  All containers constrain.  Rhetorical containers are no different.  A piece of paper can only hold so many words.  Does that constraint make you a better writer? My first thought is that it doesn’t.  Constraints also have the nasty and predictable habit of giving you a gift with one hand and taking another away with the other.  The gift of less clutter in one’s prose might also be the curse of fragmentation in your longform works. The gift of brevity comes at the cost of concrete sense and image. Of course, any observations the Lifehacker author might draw are idiosyncratic and ‘sample of one’. I respect that.

Now let me Twitterfy that:

Twitter made me a different writer, but “better”?  Constraints cut both ways.  Maybe more versatile. Maybe more distracted and fragmented.

But if I want to include the url, then I have to take away 22 characters. OK. Done.

Twitter made me different writer,but “better”?  Constraints cut both ways.  More versatile but more fragmented,too.

Here is the embedded version of the Tweet.

I would have to get even more radical if I wanted to address some friends or add a hashtag or two.

I think in the end that Twitter has made me a different kind of writer.  Perhaps it makes me better because I need to reconsider and edit based upon a simple set of initial conditions, fairly rigid editorial guidelines like the 140 character limit. Perhaps it makes me better because it makes me write more then less then more again like the exercise above until I get it right enough.

It’s all moot since Twitter is hinting rather loudly that tweets will no longer have 140 character limits. I can imagine a world where we will have old school tweeters who keep to the limit and look down their noses at the undisciplined noobs who can’t function inside those editorial constraints. Others will look at twitter and say what makes this messaging so special? Forget about it. And others will roll with it all, using the new constraints to writer more and better and occasionally writing a “140”.   I also know that eventually everything I know is wrong.  Why should this prediction be any different?

Only time will tell. (No, it needs to be pithier.)

Time alone tells. (Not quite.)

Time tells. (Noun-verb and simple, but…)

Timetells. (Closer, but now it sounds like a science fiction title.)

#Tt. (Almost there.)

Tt (Yup, that’s it.)





#Twistedpair : Epictetus and Mojo Nixon.

In the spirit of infinite play I am following a recent prompt from Steve Wheeler:

Choose a strange pairing from above (or make up one of your own, the weirder the better). Let your imagination run wild, go very slightly unhinged and dig deep into your knowledge of those characters. Some of the connections may be tenuous. That’s part of the fun.  Come up with an inspirational, satirical or thought provoking blog post about teaching and learning. Share it and include the tag #twistedpair. Don’t forget to also challenge at least three other people. If we get enough responses, I will create a page that links them all together.

My twisted pair are Mojo Nixon and Epictetus, the profane rocker and the profound Stoic.

OK, I am feeling resistance here.  I have had my fill of writing prompts over the years.  They often feel false.  Other times I recognize them for what they are–pump priming fuel that gets burned up in order to start the engine.  In this case we are asked to play.  I like play, but generating inspired, satirical or thought provoking stuff about teaching and learning?  This feels like managing chaos and a little forced. Isn’t the nature of the imagination that you don’t so much as give it permission as it seizes it?

It is true that both of these figures taught me something. I learned from both of them.  It is also true that I could draw many other connections.


So I get to have cake and eat it and save some for later.

Here’s some Mojo to listen to, his only big hit, “Elvis Is Everywhere”

Here’s some Epictetus to listen to, his biggest hit, “The Enchiridon”

I recommend that you play both at the same time.  Twisted, dude, twisted.

A Date with October: A WIP (Work in Progress)


I get a daily poem in my email from Today’s is by a younger Robert Frost before he became the scary old man of American arts and letters. No, really. If you thought that “The Road Not Taken” was truly suitable for commencement addresses, then you need to dig down into its cruft. Not that nice. I know he must have laughed at the thought that others considered it an ‘optimistic’ poem. In truth it is a devastating one about death and despair. But not this poem, not “October”–I don’ think.

I was struck by the heartbeat of the iambics in it-lubDUB, lubDUB, ad heart-finitum. I wanted to read more and connect more with the poem and I wanted to connect the poem to the world it describes, my world on the farm here in Kentucky in October.

I want to have a date with October today starting with Frost’s poem.


So many approaches, many of them redundant, but in the good way that the walnut tree makes more nuts than the squirrels can ever remember to eat.

This post will be a work in progress as I have lots of little micro dates with October the poem, October the month, October the place. I will return as I add links to this post. Consider them as reports from along the edges, the hedgerows, the bramble tangles, the fallen leaves, the wool and warp and weft of October’s loom and shuttle.

For example, I could go the annotation way:


Or invite others to go the Hackpad route? This is a collaborative path that converges or diverges as much as anyone could wish. Create your own adventure, mild or wild.

Or I could go with a Storify slideshow?

Or maybe Z33ga?

Or Pocket? (The mobile version will read it back to you.)

Or Soundcloud? (Perhaps you would like to read the poem to us and I could put it here or on Hackpad or make a playlist there.)

Many stances. Some analytic. Some juxtaposing. Some emotional. Some analogical. So many stances to choose from, but all arising from the passion that arises from getting to know someone or something more closely.

Perhaps a Youtube feldgang and a Vialogue annotation?

What am I hoping for, what do I expect on this date with October? What is my null hypothesis? Where will this take me?

I know not.


that is OK.


Messing with Our Sotto Voce


In a previous post I had been trying to respond to my friend Susan’s tough week with some words of my own– word processed, hand-written and spoken.  Simon grabbed the words and ran them through the transmogrifier of his own grand voice and then poured them into the new glass below. Here is what he did.


I responded on the Soundcloud site with annotations to his sound file (one of the best parts of their cloud application as far as I am concerned).  It isn’t every day that someone holds up a mirror to your words to see if they are still alive.  That is what Simon did.

Then I got to return the mirror to his words with more words, recursive and echoing.  I took all of my responses at his Soundcloud site and refashioned them into a single piece here in the Hackpad below where it starts as a ‘found’ poem of sorts and can be collaboratively transformed if anyone wants to play.

View Tuesday 9:03 a.m. on Hackpad.

I am reminded of the potlatch cultures of the Pacific Northwest who measure status in a community by one’s capacity to give to others. When I get involved in these back and forth gifts of attention and care, I feel like the richest man in the world. We give away all and we get all back, but somehow it never feels like an exchange of commerce. It is a different kind of back and forth, a totally made up game with the rules improvised through friendship and loyalty and fond…hacking? Or something like that, only better said, huskier and with more feeling. And quiet as a 24/7 laundrette at 3 a.m.



Four Friends in a Boat

In a previous post, three of my friends responded. Glorious. And I wanted to expand upon that by exploring the river’s flux even further.

I am reminded of Ratty’s response in The Wind in the Willows to the practice of ‘being about on boats’.

“What?” cried the Rat, open-mouthed: “Never been in a—you never—well I—what have you been doing, then?”

“Is it so nice as all that?” asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing—about—in—boats; messing—”

“Look ahead, Rat!” cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

“—about in boats—or with boats,” the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. “In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not. Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?”

The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, spread his chest with a sigh of full contentment, and leant back blissfully into the soft cushions. “What a day I’m having!” he said. “Let us start at once!”

This is my way of inviting my friends and more of you to climb aboard to play on the banks in this boat:

View Old Nobody on Hackpad.

Week’s Coolest: A Collection of Idiosyncrasies for September 13-20, 2015

I will be pulling interesting items from my Google + Collections to share here. If you like them, then I will keep doing them.  We shall see.

I yearn for a workshop to make cool stuff. Yearn.


File this under memes begging to be carried on.

Well, don’t that just beat all.


Let’s annotate and discuss

Finally, check out Nick Sousanis’ new comics course. Fer realz, fer sherz, and wishing it was fer allz.

I Am an Old Nobody and I Love What I Do


I’m a teacher — a peer of yours,
peering at 60 in my rearview
And I’m stuck.

Teaching is about connecting.
Why can’t I connect?
I’m honest in my work.
I try hard.

What’s wrong? What’s missing?
into the void.
in a circle.
tired of my future

May I please quit?

Hunkering down with my friend Larry yesterday morning.

He’s got a colostomy bag and a foot infection so bad they lopped off a toe.
He wouldn’t ever advise “follow your dreams”.
He would never be picked by Oprah.
Larry would laugh, contagious,
and be pleased to get another wagon of square bales out of the field.

But I’m… scared
By a million terrible doors
Opening all at once.

How will that help?
It won’t.
I must embrace the suck that is me
And must foist
as much of this inner cruft onto the world
as I can
without apology to others anywhere.

I turn over the odd rocks in my heart
I confess that all I want is
to find out what I’m thinking,
to look at what I see
and see what I mean
and what I want
and what I fear

Share that you crazy fuck
and give not one ragged fuck.
It is so much easier to care
about this myself
and draw strength from not caring
whether what happens here amounts to anything
to anyone else.

Less distraction that way, repeating, shadow boxing in my corner:


Thanks to Joan Didion and Heather Havrilevsky. I ‘borrowed’ extensively from both without much attribution other than the general one here. Suffice to say: I translated freely.

Didion, Joan. “Why I Write.” Online Magazine. Idiom. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.

Havrilevsky, Heather. “Ask Polly: Should I Just Give Up on My Writing? — The Cut.” Online Magazine. New York Magazine. N.p., 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.

Longing to Belong: A Handwritten Response


I am spending most Sundays now ensconced in farm and school work. Freaking ensconced.  Today I have carved out some time to create and reply to my friends for some of the good works they have been doing.  Earlier today I replied to a post by Sarah Honeychurch.

Now it’s Simon Ensor’s turn.

This workflow has been a while in coming and arose out of some help I lent Rebecca Pogue in helping save a Periscope presentation that was set to expire.  One of the tools I used there helped me create a single movie out of a set of smaller files. For those interested in the workflow see bottom of page for the breadcrumbs.

I might write more later about this process, but for now I just wanted to respond to Simon’s post, “Be longing”.  The post begins with Camus and ends with Magritte (“I am not a word”) or is it Nicki Minaj.  Like most of Simon’s work I have to view it slant… to go against the fish’s scales, to find toeholds before I can climb and take time to find more.

That’s why I chose this method of finding meaning by ‘hand’.  I think our handwriting is as unique as our voices and thumbprints.  In fact it is a visual voice especially when you can use tools like the Sync Boogie Board to capture and digitize that handwriting.

Like a good summary, I leave out much that I am sure Simon intended. Much, but I now have a purchase on the face of the post and am climbing steadily around and around.  I am not particularly interested in scaling to the peaks.  I don’t think there are peaks in Simon’s posts, only the fun of finding new ways in and discovering how your own ways fit as well.  In the end doing honor to the writing around us requires us to get down to where we can see the grain in the rock, the fissures intended (or not) for our fingers and toes, the burn of the rope, the cinch of things as we circle around the meaning. We move around the post, not seeking a summit,  just looking for the next place to put our foot and catch our breath.


Workflow breadcrumbs

Created handwritten notes using Sync BoogieBoard–> saved each screen and viewed on Android using Sync app–>uploaded to GoogleDrive as an mp4 video with Sync app—>joined 20 short files with MacX Video Converter Free Edition (Windows folk use FreeMake)–>uploaded joined mp4 file to YouTube and added music there. Posted here on

I have created an alternative version of my reply using a song that I could not use on YouTube and I provide it here as a testimony to how much music matters to the gestalt of a piece.  At least I think it does.