These are all the latest journal prompts, condensed into one page for convenience during our lunch meetings.

Wednesday, March 12

Yesterday several students commented that the last couple chapters of Brave New World seem to "happen" at a quicker pace than the rest of the novel. As preparation for today's discussion of close/analytical reading, see if you can identify the changes in Huxley's writing that create this effect. Getting the intuitive sense that something changed is an important first step; can you point to specific techniques (diction, syntax) or frame your argument in terms of tone, theme, or plot? Do your best, we will use what you say-- and what you don't say-- as the foundation for today's discussion.

Tuesday, March 11

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "The Ocean" by U2; "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2; "Pride (In the Name of Love)" by U2

Writing a song, a book, or a blog is a way of putting our ideas out into the world, of sharing something of ourselves in the hope that it will move others.  Often, new ideas carry the potential of conflict as they represent a departure from the familiar and cause people to question their own assumptions.  Sometimes new ideas--especially those, in a cruel twist of irony, that emphasize freedom, thoughtfulness, or love-- have even cost lives (think Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Crispus Attucks, for example).  Describe a powerful "new idea" that carries personal meaning for you.  This doesn't have to be well-known or modern, although it certainly can be, but it does have to represent a break in artistic, social, scientific, or political tradition that required some sort of sacrifice to achieve deeper understanding.

Monday, March 10

I love traveling, but I love coming home even more. Which do you prefer? What do you think of when you feel 'at home'-- and why do you feel more at home in some places than others?

Thursday, March 6

This week you're working independently. How does it feel? Are you making progress? Are you treading water until the teacher gets back? Are you on track to finish Brave New World? Are the in-class exercises helping (and if not, how could they be more effective)? Are you proud of your Benchmark project yet? What needs to happen so that you're proud of it by Monday?

Wednesday, March 5

Choose your own.

Tuesday, March 4

Today your journal will serve as the starting point for your table conversations. Please begin by asking a person (or two) to remind you of their Masterpiece topic/s. Then take 5-10 minutes to write down all your impressions of the topic/s. Include 3-5 questions you have as an interested outsider (even if you're not particularly interested in the subject, you share an interest in your colleagues' success, and you want them to share an interest in yours).

Monday, March 3

Tomorrow I leave for Boston to speak at the 2014 Digital Media & Learning Conference.  Since all of us will be working independently on our masterpieces, and we've been emphasizing collaboration throughout this process, help: what essential elements of Open Source Learning do you consider highlights that I shouldn't forget to talk about?  What about school constrains or challenges Open Source Learning?  Since the talk is at 11:30 Eastern (8:30 Pacific) [***UPDATE: I misremembered the schedule.  The talk will start at 11/8.] Wednesday, and we've talked about connecting period 1, how do you think students should be included?  Do you want to present your work, answer questions from the audience, or ...?
What do we need to discuss today so that we all have peace of mind for GOSD this week?  Make sure to get your questions answered.  I will also remain available via comment/email. 

Friday, February 28

As Alexander Graham Bell observed, "When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." What doors are open for you right now? What opportunities do you have to take a positive step in the world that leaves a valuable footprint in this community?

Thursday, February 27

What do you need?

Wednesday, February 26

Tomorrow morning you wake up to discover that you are utterly alone. (This is a familiar premise that narratives from "Twilight Zone" to "28 Days Later" have used.) There are no neighbors, relatives, passersby, zombies-- absolutely no one. What will you have to learn to survive? How will you determine the value of what you learn without someone saying "good job" or giving you a grade? Assume nothing and take nothing for granted: explain your next moves in detail.

Tuesday, February 25

Today the focus is on collaboration. As you think about the direction your masterpiece is headed, what additional skills/talents/resources would help you? What skills/talents/resources do you have that might help someone else?

Monday, February 24

How do you judge your work? How do you judge others'?

Friday, February 21

Your teachers see your thinking for 50 minutes a day, five days a week (if you show up every day, and there aren't any breaks in the schedule, and you share what you know). You see your thinking every waking moment of your life. So... who is the best judge of your thinking? Everything you know about school is being reversed in this course. The student is at the top of the organizational chart; the teacher, the community, and the tools of the Information Age all work for you now. As the CEO of your personal learning organization, you recognize that power brings responsibility-- most importantly, the responsibility to evaluate your performance and set a course that leads to success. So, today's journal topic is this: how are you doing on your masterpiece so far and where do you see it heading? Are you satisfied with the work you've done so far? Do you see opportunities we haven't discussed?

Thursday, February 20

Describe the elements of our real-time world that you think relate-- or don't-- to Huxley's Brave New one.

Wednesday, February 19

Reflect on the past week and imagine it as a series of pictures, videos and text on a social media site. How do the experiences and artifacts describe the person at their center? How can this be considered an exercise in indirect characterization?

Tuesday, February 18

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: Vote on a song to sing as a class. If you can come to consensus (everyone agrees with enthusiasm) in less than three minutes, organize yourself as a choir, get someone to point a phone camera at it, and belt the song out at the top of your lungs. If you can't come to consensus in less than three minutes, today's tunes will not be vocalized.]

Reflect on the experience above. What factors facilitated and/or challenged the group's ability to come to agreement? Did leadership emerge? In what form-- was it an individual who took charge, a small group, or the power of an idea? Did you see any lessons for America's democracy in the process?

Friday, February 14

How will the love you express today be remembered tomorrow?

(P.S. Help those poor people who paid 3x the price for roses this week by being a role model for love the other 364 days.)

Thursday, February 13

Think of any object or event in your life. Now imagine all the academic subjects that might have something to say about it. Driving a car becomes a study in physics, computer programming, psychology, energy... Falling in love becomes a meditation on poetry/song, (more) psychology, probability, biology... Describe something in your life that can be enriched by a deeper awareness of the leading edges of human understanding.

Wednesday, February 12

Describe your earliest memories and/or the things you remember best. How are they similar or different-- and how is your reaction to them similar or different-- in comparison with the things you are told to remember in school?

Tuesday, February 11

Write three words--and ONLY three words-- to describe your feelings about the AP English Literature & Composition exam.

Friday, February 7

Describe a time when you got so interested in a school assignment that you forgot it was for credit. If you haven't had this experience, describe a time when you got so "into" what you were doing that you lost track of time. If you haven't had that experience either, think back on your childhood and describe the last awesomely creative thing you did that was so cool it still puts a smile on your face.

Thursday, February 6

What worked well for you [on your essay] today? How well did you understand/address the prompt, organize your argument, and articulate your thoughts?

Wednesday, February 5

Write a letter to a junior telling him/her how to study for the SAT. Describe what worked for you, what didn't, what you'd do again, and what you'd do differently. Is there anything you learned during the experience that will help you in the future?

Tuesday, February 4

Cool and hack mean different things to different generations. (GNAR doesn't mean anything at all to most people, especially those of us over 40.) Explain 1-3 terms from your language to the tribal elders.

Monday, February 3

Yesterday Americans celebrated an unofficial national holiday by eating 30 million pounds of snacks and sitting around the house. Why? What is it about the Superb Owl that everyone finds so compelling? Do we watch because everyone else is, or because we all did it last year, or because...? Choose an author who wrote about the (dystopian or utopian) future and imagine how s/he would answer the question.

Friday, January 31

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word accountable (adj.) means, "Answerable; responsible." Contrary to popular belief, we do not hold others accountable-- we ARE accountable (or not). So, write a performative utterance in which you describe how you will use today's time to pursue your goals in this course and the world at large.

Thursday, January 30

My favorite elementary school announcement: "Free Play!" Little did I know then that "Free Play" is also a philosophical concept created by Jacques Derrida. Derrida argues that when there is no "center" or structure, that all ideas/actions are relative and "play" off of each other. Does your head hurt yet? No? Then let's apply this to Shakespeare: when Harry gives the St. Crispian's Day pre-game speech at the Battle of Agincourt, he depends on established rules ("Obey your king") and mutual/shared understandings of abstract concepts (honor, e.g.). These shared structures are the reasons why none of the soldiers say, "Oh man, who cares? Who died and made you king? What's the point of existence anyway?" It's clear that everyone understands the rules of engagement and the central purpose for the fight, and the only question is whether they can rise to the occasion. If they were in a state of "free play" the soldiers would be free to invent roles, use their organization for an altogether different purpose, or strike off on their own for any reason real or imagined (or absolutely no reason at all).

To summarize/simplify through gross over-generalization: To a child on a playground, "free play" means a fun opportunity for independent decision-making. To a philosopher, "free play" means that everything is relative and lacks structure.

When do you think structure is important, and when do you think lack of structure is important? You may consider this in the context of literature, learning, or life outside the classroom.

Wednesday, January 29

In thinking back on the literature analysis you should be finishing up this week (and/or consulting your active reading notes), describe 2-3 literary techniques the author used. What purpose(s) did these techniques serve? How would a Dickensian character, theme, or plot line complement or disrupt the structure/tone? Be sure to include the title and author.

Tuesday, January 28

What is it about habituated routines that make our lives both easier (more efficient) and harder to change (put down that third bag of Hot Cheetos!)? Describe a routine you want to start, describe a routine you want to stop, and describe a routine you want to continue.

Monday, January 27

What's the difference between writing fiction and telling a lie? (Hint: There is a big difference.)

Friday, January 24

[R]eflect on the process [of discussing your groups novel today in class] in your journal. What did you talk about? How did you approach the topic/s? What made sense and helped you understand? What do you still have questions about?

Thursday, January 23

If you read Tale of Two Cities, describe the conflict in the novel at each level you perceive it-- within the characters' minds, between the characters, and in the broader society.

If you read Great Expectations, describe the relationship between class and "good/evil" characters. What role do you think wealth/materialism plays in the ways Dickens portrays his characters? Do you see evidence of tone here?

If you read Catch-22, describe the use of humor to address what is arguably the most tragic topic in human experience: war.

Wednesday, January 22

Re: the Dickens novel you chose, why the title? Why Tale of Two Cities instead of Story, Saga, Account, Narrative, (etc.) of Two Cities? What's so Great about Expectations? (And, for the period 4 winners, what is a Catch-22 and why do you think the phrase has become so widely used, mostly by people who haven't even read the book?)

Tuesday, January 21

Please reflect on your performance on today's essay exam and write about it in your journal.

Friday, January 17

Please compare and contrast the spirit/themes of Henry V's monologue with your sense of tackling the last semester of your high school career and/or preparing with your colleagues for the AP exam.

Thursday, January 16

What does it mean to be accountable? To another person? To a friend? A boss? A spouse?

Wednesday, January 15

In his book The Lonely Crowd, sociologist David Riesman suggested that city dwellers surrounded by millions are actually more isolated than people who live in smaller communities with less company.  My friend Kurt calls this "The Allegory of the Trail"-- almost everyone looks up and greets each other on the trail, even though the very same people may walk right by each other on the street.

The way we relate to each other is sometimes a matter of personality; it's more often a matter of context.  No matter how happy/angry/introverted/extroverted/rational/emotional a person is, for example, she has to act just like her classmates in school.  The nail that sticks out gets hammered. Everyone conforms to the same set of behaviors in a classroom or they get in trouble.

One of the behavioral norms in school is individual performance.  Do your own work.  Keep your eyes on your own paper.  Use your own words.  You've all learned how to do this well (or at least give the appearance).  The problem is, the world doesn't operate that way.  That's why so many organizational leaders look at talented, bright-eyed new graduates and wonder, "Why can't they be better team players?" Lev Vygotsky and many other theorists have observed that we learn better when we collaborate, and in today's networked world this is truer and easier than ever.

So, today's journal question is this: how can each of us help each other succeed this semester?  There is a Chinese proverb that says, "If you save a person's life you take responsibility for it."  The term "no child left behind" has been so abused that it's become meaningless, but what if we took it literally?  How can you help your fellow learners pass the AP exam and achieve their goals?  How can they help you?

Tuesday, January 14

Write about whatever's on your mind. If you're so inclined, practice a literary technique or two.

Monday, January 13

JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter from Camp Granada )" by Allan Sherman; "Every Picture Tells a Story" by Rod Stewart]

Describe the most memorable "you had to be there" story you've ever heard.  (If you haven't heard one worth remembering, tell one of your own.  If nothing comes to mind, make a better one up.  If that doesn't work, write a short story involving a squeaky wheel, a dinosaur egg, a bottle of shampoo, a baby rhino, a space station, a prison inmate and the quirky correspondent who writes her letters, and/or a yeti.)

Friday, January 10

What were the most compelling elements of your learning in Fall Semester? Did you draw inspiration from a Big Question, Collaborative Working Group, remix, new technology, literature analysis book, outside connected project, or something else related to the course? As you think about the options available to you now, which include just about whatever you can imagine, what inspires you as you imagine the next six months?

Thursday, January 9

What did you think about as you read the passage from Siddhartha? Did you recognize literary elements? Did you wonder where the passage occurs in the book, or what happened before/after it? Did you connect it to real life? Did you compare the psychology of the character/s to your own or people you know? What actions did you take while reading (i.e., did you print it, annotate, or take notes)?

Wednesday, January 8

Describe a thought or a feeling that you'd forgotten over break and experienced again when you walked back into this room. Describe how you will create the thoughts and feelings you want to experience in this room this semester.

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