A Tech Praxis Story

Here we go, @le_petitjo.

I put together a newsletter on a daily basis using the Nuzzel platform. I like it because it can be a robo-newsletter (Nuzzel collects the stories from my feeds and publishes with my comments) or it can be customized so that all stories are curated and commented upon. Or any mix in between. I feel my comments in the newsletter (which are limited to about twice the length of a tweet) are a conversational snippet. I wish they would open up into full blown dialogues, but that hasn’t happened yet, but maybe I am moving toward this with a recent exchange of tweets with @le_petitjo.

Here is the template I mention in the newsletter: Michael Hyatt – Book Insights Template.  I used it in class on a sample document (a NYTimes editorial board piece) and asked my students to use it on an article of their own choosing.

Last Friday we discussed how they used the template.  There were those who didn’t do the work.  They effectively removed themselves from the conversation.  I don’t know any way around that. There were those who did the work as strategic students. In other words they filled in the blanks without really thinking about the tool itself.  (Just tell me how to get my “A”, Mr. Elliott.) And there were those who modified the template to do the work.  Our conclusion was that templates are useful, but only insofar as they help us do the intellectual work that needs doing and only insofar as they can be freely modified to do that work.  They are useful can openers.

Pretty proud of their discussion.  I find the template as is to be very helpful at the beginning of a new project, but I do have better tools for gathering basic bibliographic information.  I use Zotero.  Then I use the “Notes” section of Zotero along with the template, but I do my first read and annotation with paper copies.  Sorry trees.  I know I could do more with tools like Diigo and Hypothes.is, but I get a haptic charge out of using a fountain pen on paper along with pretty highlighting and marker pens.

Here is a link to the first page of my annotated article:  articleannotated 2.

Below is a screencast from my Zotero account I mention above:

Using Zotero with Michael Hyatt’s Book Insight’s Template

Uploaded by TERRY ELLIOTT on 2017-02-20.

As usual, thinking and doing out loud in the classroom is messy.  It needs to be.  We need to habituate good tool use and then we need to rotate in and out among the tools we use, sometimes analog and sometimes digital and sometimes both to keep them fresh AND apt.

I am lucky to have a set of open and free tools that many other folk have developed for all to use. I am lucky to have been in the position to learn how to use them and teach their use to others.  In the end, I am lucky to be able to let people find their own idiosyncratic ways to answer the important questions in their lives.

OK, le_petitjo, that’s what happened.  Yeah, I know, a bit underwhelming, but there it is, teaching often hides the extraordinary inside the ordinary, almost never in plain sight.



Schooling: A Fable of Sharks and Fish by Bertolt Brecht

If sharks were people,’ his landlady’s little daughter asked Mr. K, ‘would they be nicer to the little fish?’ ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘if sharks were people, they would have strong boxes built in the sea for little fish.
There they would put in all sorts of food, plants and little animals, too. They would see to it that the boxes always had fresh water, and they would take absolutely every sort of sanitary measure. When, for example, a little fish would injure his fin, it would be immediately bandaged so that he would not die on the sharks before his time had come.
In order that the little fish would never be sad, there would be big water parties from time to time; for happy fish taste better than sad ones. Of course, there would be schools in the big boxes as well. There the little fish would learn how to swim into the mouths of the sharks. They would need, for example, geography so that they could find the sharks, lazing around somewhere. The main subject would naturally be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that the grandest, most beautiful thing is for a little fish to offer himself happily, and that they must all believe in the sharks, above all when they say that they will provide for a beautiful future.
One would let the little fish know that this future is only assured when they learn obedience. They must shy away from all lowly, materialistic and Marxist inclinations, and inform the sharks immediately if any one of them betrayed such tendencies. …
If sharks were people, there would of course be art as well. There would be beautiful pictures of sharks’ teeth, all in magnificent colors, of their mouths and throats as pure playgrounds where one can tumble and play. The theatres on the bottom of the sea would offer plays showing heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically down the throats of the sharks, and the music would be so beautiful that its sounds would lead the little fish dreamily to the chapels and, filled with the most pleasant thoughts, they would stream down the sharks’ throats.
There would certainly be religion. It would teach that true life really begins in the sharks’ bellies. And if sharks were people, the little fish would stop being, as they are now, equals. Some would be given offices and be put over the others. Those a little bigger would even be allowed to eat the smaller ones. That would only be delightful for the sharks, for then they would more often have bigger crumbs to gobble up. And the most important of the little fish, those with offices, would look to the ordering of the little fish. And they would become teachers, officers, box-building engineers, etc.
In short, there could only be culture in the sea if the sharks were people.’
Bertolt Brecht: Kalendergeschichten
This parable was taken from Everett Reimer’s book School Is Dead.  I am shocked that I never ran across this book in my unschooling days.  He was a compadre to Ivan Illich. This is his take on Deschooling Society.  If you want to know more about Illich and his take on informal education drop in on infed (informal education) and browse their ‘stacks’.

Five Podcasts that Will Make You Hipper, Happier, and Hoppier


I listen to podcasts on my iPhone or an old Galaxy Android or on an old Asus Windows phone or on my Amazon Echo.  I have an hour commute each way to my teaching gig so I have a lot of time to listen.  I, also, listen while I do repetitive work (dishes, laundry, walking my fields, feeing the sheep, etc.). I take time and I make time for podcasts. Why?

First, they are exciting.  Many smart folk are using podcasts as their creative medium of choice and that means there are some amazing sonic deeds being done. Second, I learn an astonishing amount from the whole process of finding, curating, and tracking down new stuff to explore especially if there are transcripts and show notes for those podcasts. Third, a good podcast can be inspiring.

Here are a few that are in heavy rotation on my app of choice, Pocket Casts.  Visit that link and get it in iOS or Android. It costs a little, but it really does the job.

Reply All

I turned on my notifications for Pocket Casts just to make sure I knew when the newest episode was coming out. That should tell you something because I hate notifications.  Informative, idiosyncratic, intriguing, all those ‘ins’ and more, Reply All is a real peak into current social trends and news.  Their early coverage of PizzaGate was spot on and very helpful for an un-hepcat like me.  They have show notes and transcripts. Boss podcast.


With only two episodes out of the starting gate, Intercepted is now a must listen political podcast for me.  This is the child of one of my favorite political news sources, The Intercept.  Jeremy Scahill, one its founders (along with Betsy Reed and Glenn Greenwald), hosts and uses his serious interview chops to fine effect especially in the inaugural podcast when he questions Seymour Hersch. The site is visually a winner, lots of white space and user friendly navigation and access to social media. It has show notes and transcripts as well.  I found the work of Immortal Technique here and was able to use it in talking about didactic poetry in my Intro to Lit class.

All in the Mind

A good podcast will take you many good and useful and surprising places. This Australian Broadcasting Corporation podcast has lots of traditional production values (something I don’t think is sufficient for a good podcast) and superior content and storytelling.  If you want a really excellent introduction to  what I am referring to, then listen to “The Ghost in My Brain”.  I think science podcasts like these really can change people’s lives.  In this case if you have ever had a concussion that was life changing, this one might give you hope for recovery.  Transcipts, links, and show notes.  Superior.

Chapo Trap House

Warning:  this may be an acquired taste, but if you like your podcasts with high Scoville counts, then have a listen.  Now, how to describe this.  Imagine, if you will, a group of young men and women who have played role playing games off and on since they were pre-teens. Imagine they stayed together as friends, and imagine they got together to ‘play’ at the political questions of our times…but with the same irreverence and low falutin’ humor of those role playing games.

I get more gut laughs listening to this and learning new derogatory terms for the political morons running our grand experiment into the swamp, than even from Monty Python. For example, “maga chuds”. (You gotta listen to learn what it means.)

My favorite episode so far (and they have quite a back catalog that I haven’t listened to yet) is the treatment they give to D’nesh D’Souza’s and his hideous scab of a movie about Hilary Clinton. The podcast reminds of how director John Landis had the boys trash the mall in one of the egregious chase scenes in  “The Blues Brothers.”.

No transcripts. I don’t even know how this rapid fire dialogue could be made into one without driving the transcriber mad. No show notes.  So this breaks the rules, but I think it is supposed to. Bon appetit.

Song Exploder

There are no bad episodes.  Even if I don’t like the songs being ‘exploded’, I end up appreciating them before host Hrishikesh Hirway finishes with them.  The high concept here that the more we know about a song from its creators, the more we appreciate its construction, the greater the song becomes for us.  I concur.

For example, I really do not like Carly Rae Jepson’s…pop stylings, but Hirway does great work in turning me 180 degrees about her song, “When I Needed You”. Made me realize how much she channels Cyndi Lauper…and that’s OK.

What Hirway does with the tUnE-yArDs‘ song “Water Fountain” is luminous.  I rarely re-listen to podcasts but this one and the one by The Lumineers’, “Ophelia”, I have listened to half a dozen times each.

I will leave you with “Ophelia”. Be inspired.