“Bye, Joe! See you at recess.” — 1st grader, (Lucius) who I met today.
Why. In the world. Are these kids calling me by my first name.
Seriously, though, I’m more curious about this phenomenon now than I am irritated by it.
Or Google, or Amazon. Or any tech monopoly that’s swallowing and shitting out our social fabric and our economy.
“A job is not just a job.”
“That’s how we earn our success—we’re willing to be frugal and egoless, and obsessed with delighting our customers.”
“If you’re a consumer, [Amazon is] perfect…. But, the thing is, most of us aren’t just consumers. We’re also producers, or manufacturers, or employees, or we live in cities where retailers have gone out of business because they can’t compete with Amazon, and so Amazon kind of pits us against ourselves.”
“During the Reagan Administration, regulators and courts decreed that antitrust decisions should largely be based not on a company’s size or on its bullying tactics but, rather, on any price hikes imposed on customers. By the time Facebook and Google appeared, giving away their products for free, and Amazon arose, with its devotion to keeping prices down, antitrust enforcement was a remote concern.”
I just want to eat graham crackers all day.
Analogue Pocket, classic cartridge gaming handheld + synthesizer
Arcane Office, private Google Docs/Sheets alternative
Mourning the end of the beginning.
“What these mind-blowing images do not reveal is the queue visitors have to wait in for hours to take them.” #medialiteracy
FUAY Instagram. Seriously. Social media is killing us all.
scorpionic: characteristic of a Scorpio.
It’s strange to me how often conversations about working in the design industry veer into conversations about management. (The same is true for design industry writing on the Internet.) Like, why are these two so intricately connected?
It might be possible to summarize my philosophy on teaching like this: kids create something, and it’s through that creating that they learn. #teaching
Starting The Assumption Assignment™
4th grade field trip to Central Washington, day 2. #classof2028
Kindness and presence continue to top (the list of qualities I’m attracted to) the list. Everything else that matters to me follows from there.
“we can choose what we consider, decide what has meaning, and what doesn’t. And that if we pay attention and do this consciously, we don’t have to fall back on this default setting”
“the really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty little unsexy ways every day” — David Foster Wallace’s ‘This Is Water’ speech
Makes me think of a philosophy that I discovered this year and continues to resonate: The opposite of narcissism is objectivity.
Inevitably, in everything, it seems, there‘ll be tension, conflict, disagreement, incompatible goals, disappointment, hurt feelings. The question is: is it worth all that?
4th grade field trip to Central Washington, day 1. #classof2028
financialization: “the move from an economy based on production to one based on investment, services, and rents.”
“In content and form, the aesthetic consequences of financialization play out as a substitution of technical processes for imaginative resources.”
“[CGI] produces nostalgia through over-satisfaction.”
“they are shot on location in the Uncanny Valley.”
“[A remake’s] failure to fully recapture that magic is a feature as well as a bug. Nostalgia is a shallow well to which you must constantly return for another drink — like Coca-Cola, it is sweet on the tongue but leaves the mouth sticky and gross.”
“Nostalgia wipes history clean of its pain, and makes it more desirable than any imaginable present or future, because the past is always a place immune from our death, whereas the future carries it, inescapably.”
Type it out, man. You’ll feel better.
“the average annual number of human deaths caused by the mosquito [is] around 2 million. Humans came in a distant second at 475,000, followed by snakes (50,000), dogs and sandflies (25,000 each)… The crocodile was ranked 10th, with 1,000 annual deaths. Next on the list were hippos with 500, and elephants and lions with 100 fatalities each. The much-slandered shark and wolf shared 15th position, killing an average of 10 people per annum.”
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
I have lunch duty with the 1st graders on Thursdays, and I’m meeting many of them for the first time. One of them (Braylen) is choosing to call me “Joe” (instead of Mr. Sparano). Still don’t understand why — but I’m over worrying about it. I came to terms with this weird phenomenon over the summer, and I’m choosing to see it as a positive thing.
Passive income idea: a web-based worksheet/form-builder for teachers — add questions from a library of types (choose one, lists, blank lines, tables) and the app would auto-fit the questions onto a letter-sized sheet.
I’ve been working with a UW student (Brian) to resolve an Incomplete grade from last year, so I’ve been giving detailed graphic design feedback for the first time since last summer. And I don’t miss it. Whatever I do next, I’m hoping to avoid teaching graphic design. I still enjoy it as a hobby, and I still appreciate it out in the world — but I’m so over teaching it. I would do it, but only as a last resort.
And graphic designing professionally would be an even laster last resort.
It just all feels so silly: stressing about color, layout, typography. Not that these things aren’t creative, interesting, or meaningful — just that graphic design (in most cases) is rarely, truly, important. Especially compared to teaching technology and working with kids, which feels important to me.
“Metaphors of ‘time’ and ‘space’ seem of little use in setting boundaries, as we’re asked to do more with less; admitting to the limits of our own capacities feels a little like failure. ‘Bandwidth’ presents a workaround: having ‘limited bandwidth’ is an objective, if regrettable, state of affairs, about which there is little to be done. Most of us can still remember our frustration at, say, the stutter of a still-downloading movie, mid-scene, and the total futility of any attempt to make it go faster. It’s out of our hands.”
“When we discuss feelings and relationships in terms of [the logic of computing]… it turns personal responsibilities into indistinguishable units of space. At best, they become something to be crunched, finished at the highest rate possible, like the upload or download of a file.”
I love the Guardian Weekly, but the news of the world can really depress me.
PICO-8: pakpok, bug platformer
In a meeting (that I was running), I had to ask other teachers to close their laptops. I probably came across a little irritated — because it’s irritating. Close your fucking laptop.
OK, I think this is it for me and The Bachelor universe. Thanks to post-show social media careers, the incentives for the cast to construct a ‘narrative’, to market and position themselves as influencers: the whole thing feels like bullshit to me now.
When I’ve explained my interest in The Bachelor in the past, I’ve said that at some level, the people and decisions are real — even if it’s necessary to zoom out a level or two. Now though, it’s difficult to tell where that realness ever actually begins.
And the show has started leaning into this ambiguity of reality. There’s a scene in the finale, where we see two cast members ‘reconcile’ on stage.… And then we’re shown a ‘behind the scenes’ moment, where that couple discusses that just-filmed conversation candidly, get into an argument, and (ostensibly) break up.
This is the show eating its own tail. It’s simultaneously constructing and deconstructing itself. It’s cynical. In choosing to film the ‘reality’ behind the scenes (of what was already supposed to be a ‘reality show’) — we can’t trust any of it.
Which is how all of social media feels to me. The Like Economy) incentives performances, bullshit, extremes. And so, every post becomes suspect — is this real, or has this been constructed to feel real? #realness
This month and next, I’m helping ‘coach’ after-school Running Club for JK/Kindergarten (4–5 year olds). The sincerity of these little kids absolutely kills me — volunteering their thoughts, asking questions about my life, spontaneous hugs and hand-holding, constantly. #sincerity>irony
On the first day, one kid walked up to me and said, “I’m nervous.” When would an adult ever say that out loud?
It’s an interesting dichotomy: the younger kids are, the more open they are about what’s on their minds… but the less of a conversation you can actually have with them about it.
The description for my after-school club this fall, LS Radio Show: “Students will use audio-recording tools and techniques to produce a collaborative radio show featuring interviews, news reporting, games/trivia, commercials, jingles, and more! Together, we’ll report on real stories from around campus that exemplify the qualities in CWA’s ‘Portrait of a Tarrier’.”
Clipchamp Create, web-based video editor
As much as I enjoy my job, it’s incredibly stressful. 1. No matter how much time I prep (roughly 2 hours for a 1-hour class), I’m prepping until the bell every time, and I always feel like I could prep more. 2. When I’m teaching, my mind is full (full) of details to remember and track. Teaching technology is complex as hell (it’s confusing, changing constantly, and unreliable), so I’m regularly forgetting things during lessons and fudging up my plan. And 3. there’s very little relief — there are always near-future things to replace the stress of whatever I just finished: the next class, the next duty, the next meeting, the next event. It’s just a lot. #teaching
Two teachers (Deanne and Matt) gave me unsolicited teaching feedback, during two different classes (both minor suggestions for giving kids instructions). I understand that they want to help, but I’m also frustrated and insulted by it. Teaching in their classroom isn’t a license to be critiqued. I’m a professional, and I‘m good at my job.
Or, I guess, the question becomes: am I? Would they do the same thing to another teacher?
Also, where are the unsolicited teaching compliments?
The theme of the last 8 weeks of my life could be: How I learned to stop worrying and love the selfie.
Kids are cool and (because) they have no idea what cool is.
“If it was legal to put electrocutions on TV, they’d be doing it if it garnered ratings and if advertisers would sponsor it. That’s really where the moral standard lies – with the advertisers.”
“And should [watching The Bachelor] make me feel bad? Even if I’m watching the show with a critical eye, just by turning it on every week and giving ABC ratings, aren’t I propagating some of the very things I find so troublesome to see? Perhaps. But I actually don’t think these issues would be solved if we all just stopped watching. There are bigger, more fundamental questions that we need to be grappling with: Why are so many of us desperate for the type of fame television can bring? Why is it so easy — and so fun — to judge others from the privacy of our own homes? And why do so many of us depend on romantic love to validate our worth?”
I love 4th grade. This is my third year at CWA, and the third time where this age group is the most satisfying to teach. The same kids — one year older or younger — just isn’t the same. 4th graders (9–10 year olds) are so interested in life, so compelled to learn, so excited to become better versions of themselves, so capable, so fun to talk to, so not self-conscious, so not too cool for school. They’re the best. #growingup
“Hey, aren’t you Mr. Sparano?” — 3rd grader (Ashlyn) — 100% seriously, to me, wearing a hat and shorts (which I never do at school)
Notepad Calculator, web-based running tape calculator (for showing math problems on screen in class)
IINA, macOS media player (VLC alternative)
First day of school. I felt so comfortable today: 1. it’s my third year at CWA, so I know the kids better than ever (especially the 5th graders, who I’ve known since 3rd grade), 2. I feel, finally, like I truly understand what my job is, and 3. I feel, finally, like I’m pretty damn good at it.
Ran my first meeting ever in an administrative/management/‘leadership’ role (as the Specialist Cluster Chair). And I’m so happy with how it went. I didn’t want to present myself as an admin/manager/‘leader’ — I just wanted to open channels of communication, clarify, ask questions, and defer to more knowledgable people. I don’t see myself (or want to be seen) as an authority or expert — just the person who can bridge a gap and be helpful.
Colordot, color picker
Side Quest: Generating stories through RPG, collaborative quests and chance (dice-rolling)
Fuck email. School hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already feeling overwhelmed and behind on email. I’m so far away from understanding how people keep up that it literally doesn’t make sense to me that anyone actually does. How in the fucking world do people do it? How do people do anything else in their lives? How? #email
Tailor, automatic iPhone screenshot stitching
Hi babe. hi babe i love you
Version Museum, screenshots of websites/OSes/applications/games over time
Jason Anderson, blocky, abstract oil painter
Finally installed my ilovehandles Keep Track Shelf. Which I’ve had sitting, uninstalled in my apartment for 4 months. Which is silly.
Why did it take so long? Making permanent changes (like drilling holes in the wall) is really intimidating to me. As is making permanent decisions (like where, exactly those holes should be drilled).
How did I get over it? By deciding to just fucking get over it. And I feel great. I don’t want to procrastinate on stuff like this anymore. I want to be a person who just does things and moves on.
“Experience, as the saying goes, is a harsh teacher: it makes you sit the test first and only gives you the lesson afterwards.”
“regret, while entirely understandable, is a fundamentally self-contradictory emotion: the very fact that you’re feeling it means that you’ve grown into the kind of person who can look back critically on what you did in the past, when you were another kind of person. Which means that, judged by your present values, you’ve emerged from your life experience better than before, and ought (rationally speaking, anyhow) to be happy rather than regretful.”
CopyChar, emoji/Unicode character database
Had an incredible life experience this morning. Driving to work, I hit a dog (a white Siberian Husky, I think), who’d darted into the street from the sidewalk. In that moment, I thought I probably killed her — it was awful, seeing her in the mirror, rolling, there were pieces of bone and fur in the air. I parked the car, ran to her. Her leg was bleeding and certainly broken, but that was it.
She was unleashed and trying to evade a guy (not her owner), who’d been trying to catch her. The owners pulled up, they’d been driving around trying to find her. Several people (8–10) from nearby businesses walked up — including a nurse, who (using a towel I’d gotten from my car) wrapped her leg to help with the bleeding. There was so much love for this dog!
The owners (actually the owner’s mother in law, or something like that) made it clear that they didn’t hold me responsible. “I’m glad it was such a nice person that hit her. I’m not even going to take your name or anything.” People were really sweet to me. An architect invited me back to the studio to wash up (I had blood on my hands from helping lift the dog to the car).
In the mean time, my front passenger tire had gone flat. Waiting for the roadside assistance, a woman (Judy) (who lived in the neighborhood) stopped to ask what had happened. Coincidentally, she was a sort-of vigilante for reminding people to leash their dogs, and she gave me a hug, too.
This was all really intense, but ultimately really positive. The dog’s going to live. I felt terribly for her (and she was a champ throughout). But more than anything, it was just so good to see people showing up and giving a shit. It was beautiful, really.
“Comedy is a normal person trying to do something they’re not equipped to do. That’s what we’re laughing at. And the bigger their blindspot, the more exciting it is.”
“Just because you’re offended, that doesn’t mean you’re right.”
“What could be more arrogant than praying to the god that didn’t stop the Holocaust, thinking he’d help you find your car keys?”
“You can’t help what you think. But you can help what you say.”
PICO-8: TinyTVjam, ultra low-res (10×11) pixelated games
Letting kids choose how you welcome them into your classroom, with a handshake, hug, fist bump, high five
I’ve taken more selfies in the last 2½ weeks then I have, ever. It’s a head trip, such a complex thing for me.
Trying an experiment, replacing dinner every day with a Soylent (just bought a month’s supply). This is an attempt to have a healthier relationship with food. I’d like to stop: 1. managing stress by eating, and 2. thinking about food as much as I do. This way, most days, my breakfasts are covered (coffee + a banana), lunch is covered (a salad from school), and dinner is covered. Pretty stoked about it!
Reach, pixelated alien action-platformer
Nikita Solo (@angrysnail), low-res pixel illustrator
Bought a copy of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, which means this is the beginning of the end of my summer. Which is a little depressing. #summerofjoe
Oh jesus. Would I really move back to Omaha?
There’s a very extremely good thing (Kellie) going in my life right now. I’m seriously entertaining the idea of what it might be like (some day, sooner than later) to move back home.
It’s awesome on it’s own. But a bonus is that I can’t deny the fact that — five years in — I don’t have many close friends in the PNW. And certainly no friends closer than the group I have — still — in Omaha. That became so clear on my list trip.
The weather, though. It’s the first thing I think of about living in the midwest again. I hate it. And the second thing is my job. I love it.
Still working on catching up on journaling, specifically photos and videos. Why do I go to the trouble? Why does it matter? Even if no one is reading/seeing/watching this, it’s all about the process — the reflecting and choosing which moments are significant to me. The posting (the words, images, videos) is just an artifact of having already finished the work that really matters. #journaling #theprocess
Moved “be a dad” back to the top of my life goals (it was parked in Undecided for awhile). I think about it more than most things, and I feel like I’ve maximized living life on my own. I love working with the kids at school, and it’s only entrenched that I want my own kid(s). I’m ready.
One of the biggest differences, professionally, between people I work with in Tacoma vs. Omaha is the style of our personal conversations. The people I work with here: 1. tend not to ask many personal questions, and 2. conversations tend to be battles of who can talk the most or tell the funniest story. Not everyone, but it’s more common than not.
This may be a PNW vs. Midwest thing. Or a teacher vs. graphic designer thing. Either way, it’s become my problem. I’ve gotten flack from a few co-workers recently: “No one knows anything about you, Joe.” Which is certainly not how I was perceived in Omaha — where almost all of my friends were work friends first.
Ask a mother fucking question, bro. And I’ve said this. I’ve actually said, “But you aren’t asking questions.” And it’s like the first time they’ve heard that that’s how conversations work and that’s how you get to know someone.
EverBlock Systems, life-sized, LEGO-like interior design building blocks
Considering some Kansas City–Omaha Kings gear.
Ending the haircut experiment, after 18 days (on average, I usually cut it every 2–3 days). Growing it out is only making it more obvious that I’m losing it (I think, anyway… but who actually knows how it looks to other people).
This experiment was helpful, though: 1. I’ve confirmed that having hair is important enough to me (or, at least, that I feel less attractive without it and more attractive with it — which is a feeling I want to feel), and and I might re-start medication to keep the hair I have left, plus 2. I’ve decided (after buzzing it again) that I’m still happy with how it looks short (and maybe, even a little longer than I’ve been wearing it), so all is not lost.
So much of my confidence in my looks is wrapped up in the opinions of other people (i.e. women, mostly strangers, day-to-day interactions). Which I recognize isn’t healthy, but it’s also very, very real. A good interaction with an attractive woman is one of the best feelings there is.
First FightCamp workout, and it’s just the thing I’d hoped for: 1. legit (it feels like the heavy bag I’m used to, and I can throw a serious punch at it, which I missed), 2. engaging (I was over the weird group experience of working out at TITLE, but I do like having a trainer yelling combos at me), and 3. convenient (it’s a boxing gym… in my apartment!). So stoked.
I love these movies.
“Before Sunset is brilliant because it is a beautifully-designed real-time conversation that organically takes its two characters through a full arc, and the result of that is a structure so effortless it seems invisible.… That the film feels so romantic and raw is really a signal of the immense effort and honesty that was poured into [it].” #design
McMenamins Elks Temple Hotel, hotel + restaurants + bars + music venue in Tacoma
As much as I love my job, I’ve started dreading the Wall of Stress that’s waiting for me at August 19th (our first day back). As soon as school starts, it tends to be super stressful, with an unlimited number of things I could/should be doing, until the following summer. I need to make some changes so that my job doesn’t feel this way. #teaching
Finally got a Nintendo Switch. #treatjoeself
This was inevitable, really. I’ve owned every Nintendo handheld since the start (Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, DS, 3DS, Switch). Not that I play that many games these days, but Nintendo handhelds are a thing that I continue to gravitate towards.
I’ve been saving the money I earn from after-school clubs into a Treat Joe Self Simple bucket — for buying stuff I haven’t budgeted for, and for covering the times when I’ve overspent. It’s a way of planning to be financially frivolous and celebratory, which is really working for me. #treatjoeself
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” — E.E. Cummings
Here’s something that bugs me about Christianity: when something good happens: god is at work, pulling the strings, taking responsibility. But I made that decision, I took advantage of that opportunity, I made that thing happen. Not that I do everything on my own, I’m always asking for help from people I know and trust. But in the end, if there’s a plan in action in my life, I prefer the version of reality where I made that plan. #religion
The core issue here is taking personal responsibility and living an intentional life, which is an essential thread that runs through most everything I do. #design
I think often about Adam Savage’s The Person Keeping Score is Me talk.
Flotato, run web apps as native desktop apps
This has got all kinds of pleasure-points for me: 90s technology, time-traveling, childhood, Rube-Goldbergian mechanics, puzzle-solving. #pleasurepoint
I’m noticing that good video game puzzles introduce questions about the design of the puzzle. (Examples: Why is that thing changing when I do this? What is that thing doing over there? How in the world would I get from here to there?!).
Which means that: 1. a ‘game’ is just a series of designs presented to the player, 2. a ‘puzzle’ is just a situation where the player can see the design, but doesn’t (yet) understand the goal, 3. a ‘clue’ is just the game designer’s way of helping the player ask the right questions, and 4. the player ‘wins’ by understanding/deconstructing/reverse-engineering what each puzzle is designed to do. #design
I’m feeling night-and-day better than I was before this trip.
Things that became clear in the last two weeks: 1. my friends give me confidence and reassurance in being exactly who I am — they help me stay grounded, optimistic, and connected, 2. I’ve been spending too much time alone lately, and I feel emotionally unhealthy because of it, 3. I’m not working hard enough to maintain the friendships I have, 4. I’m not as generous with my time and energy as I want/need to be (or even as much as I used to be), and 5. if I don’t make some changes, I could possibly lose the friendships (old and new) that are essential in keeping me feeling like the person I want to be.
Bought the FightCamp Home Gym #treatjoeself
Realizing that, as of this summer, I’ve been out of grad school for 3 years — a year longer than I was in grad school (2 years). And it feels like the 3 years since graduation have gone by way more quickly than the 2 years before it. And I’m thinking there’s a connection between the density of life and how long it feels. Which maybe means that I’m not doing enough to fill my life with the kinds of things that would slow it down.
Blinkist: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
“Whatever you do in life will be a struggle, so… you have to find something worth struggling for. You have to identify what you really enjoy doing. Working on something that makes you happy means you’ll not only be undeterred by the constant battle; you’ll grow to love it.” #teaching
“James realized that his misery stemmed from his belief that he was a victim of outside influences.… he blamed his situation on things he couldn’t control, and this made him feel powerless. [When] he realized that he was responsible for his life and his actions… he started afresh.” #design
“Buddhism teaches that identity is an illusion. Whatever labels you give yourself – rich, poor, happy, sad, successful, a failure – are merely mental constructs. They simply aren’t real and so we shouldn’t let them dictate our lives. You must, therefore, learn to let go of your identity.”
“convenience is not something we merely opt into but rather is to some degree imposed on us”
“Because convenience is oriented towards efficiency, it does not produce leisure. Instead, it often intensifies the demand for productivity, making us accountable for more output. So the needs served by technologies of conveniences are not, strictly speaking, the needs of consumers,… [but instead] as the needs of the production process [i.e. employers].”
“the adoption of early 20th-century technologies like washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and dishwashers rarely translated straightforwardly into more leisure time for American women. These time-saving technologies reconfigured roles within the family and restructured expectations in such a way that housewives often ended up taking on more rather than less work.… Some of the work was made easier, but its volume increased: sheets and underwear were changed more frequently, so there was more laundry to be done; diets became more varied, so cooking was more complex; houses grew larger, so there were more surfaces to be cleaned. Additionally, some of the work that, when done by hand had been done by servants, came to be done by the housewife herself when done by machine. Finally, some of the work that had previously been allocated to commercial agencies actually returned to the domain of the housewife — laundry, rug cleaning, drapery cleaning, floor polishing — as new appliances were invented to make the work feasible for the average housewife.”
This week, spending so much time with dad, I reached a new level of frustration with him (although the things I’m frustrated by are the same as they’ve always been). It was enough to realize that that frustration doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t have the capacity to be the kind of dad I wish I had — someone I respect and look up to, someone who listens and can give advice, someone with perspective and wisdom from having seen and figured out life a long time ago. Even if he wanted to change, no amount of trying or caring could rewire his brain.
There’s No Such Thing as a Free Watch, report for the Museum of Capitalism
“Maybe this explains what’s so galling to people about the Folsom & Co. not-really-scam: it simply lays bare the categorical deception at the heart of all branding and retail. The different watch values are, in the strictest sense, speech acts: the watch is $29.99 because someone said it’s $29.99. It’s $29.99 because a certain person is wearing it on Instagram; it’s $29.99 because it’s photographed next to flannel and a Chemex.”
“the entire existence of [these cheap watches] are examples of the now-household term, ‘brand storytelling.’ And the internet makes it possible for anyone to tell any story, about anything, from anywhere.”
Talking to a friend (Nick) about feeling disrespected by kids at school, he suggested that their behavior (calling me “Joe”, talking openly in class, interrupting me) may be just be evidence of how comfortable they feel around me. He asked, “What’s your goal? Do you want to be the kind of teacher that inspires that feeling in students, or do you want to be the controlling authority figure?”
Talking to dad, we remembered a story from when I was really young (4/5/6?). He and I were in a store in Omaha, and I’d found a little toy I wanted to buy. I put it in my pocket so I wouldn’t have to hold onto it, then forgot about it. When we got into the truck, I realized we hadn’t paid for the toy, and I told him. His response was to calmly walk me back into the store and then asked me to apologize to the clerk.
This was a fairly traumatic incident in my life, that I remember clearly. Not because it was a pivotal life lesson about stealing, but because dad had orchestrated this moment, where he was trying to teach me a lesson, and I was like: but I never intended to steal it (or the kid version of that). I felt like shit being seen as a person who was capable of doing something I wouldn’t have chosen to do (shoplift).
I mention this now because, working with kids, it’s so important that these teachable moments are accurate to the kids’ intent. Making cynical assumptions about a child’s character can, itself, leave the lasting impression. #teaching
A reason teaching is hard is that it shines a spotlight on personal issues… which then lead to professional issues. For me, the spotlight as been on my: 1. difficulty controlling my emotions, 2. difficulty speaking clearly, 3. difficulty planning ahead and anticipating how things will play out. It’s hard. Ultimately, classroom management isn’t about the kids, it’s about me. #management
I’m trying a summer experiment and growing my hair out, for at least the next 5 weeks (until school starts). This’ll be the longest I’ve let it grow since I cut it off (4 years ago). I’m not sure what to expect, and I’m a little nervous, but I’m feeling like it’s time for a change. I don’t feel attractive, and I attribute it to my hair — which affects my confidence… whether or not women actually care.
Bought some Levi’s 511™ Slim Fit Jeans (Dark Hollow + Khaki)
I’m really enjoying Songland.
Seeing people reach their goals, and with flying colors is a beautiful thing. Also, seeing people meet their mentors: that kills me.
“Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.”
“chasing goosebumps”: in a creative process, working until you find that mix of choices, where you know it’s right.
Bob Boozer is my new favorite basketball player. He was born in Omaha, played for the Kansas City–Omaha Kings (actually the Cincinnati Royals, who eventually became the Kings), AND the SuperSonics (along with the Knicks, Lakers, and Bulls).
I can’t shake the thought that being a dad seems like — probably — the most interesting and satisfying life experience possible, for me. And I’m thinking that adopting could be the best route. Why not just cut to the chase? (Being a dad is, ultimately, the goal of any relationship I’d want to be in — as much as finding a great lady is also something I’d like.) And why not take the opportunity to help a kid who needs a place to be?
A rare thing I miss from my life in Omaha (especially, being a graphic designer): having lots of friends who enjoyed talking about creative process, choices, relationships, pop culture — ideas-centered people. Teachers tend to be pretty practical people (I get it — I am, too.) But I’m missing a huge chunk of the kinds of conversations I used to have. And more significantly: I’m missing having people around who get the stuff that’s usually on my mind.
“The First Law is… performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks [of people] drive success.”
“The Fifth Law is… with persistence, success can come at any [age].”
Catching up on six months(!) of journaling. I procrastinate on this because it’s hard work. But I’m always happy to have put the time and energy into it: I figure things out, I make sense of things, I feel better. #journaling
After I write through my thoughts, I tend to process that writing a little further (subconsciously) and then want to make changes to what I’ve written. And that process (the iterating) leads to more fully understanding what’s on my mind and how I truly feel about it. #iter8ordie
But this process is most valuable in small chunks. Processing a few months-worth of thinking doesn’t give me the chance to process all those ideas on their own.
Demo-Man, interactive PICO-8 tutorials
Fastmail, private, ad-free email/calendar/contacts
What a movie! Made me think about essentially everything (movie-making, death, family, friends, relationships, grad school, traveling, parenting, religion, drugs). Walking out of the theater, I felt like I’d just returned from some far-off place. And it’s one of the rare movies I’ve seen recently that was still on my mind for hours afterwards. This is the power of movie-going.
“The scariest parts of this movie are [the horror of the everyday]: Dani’s lack of an emotional support system, Christian’s culturally sanctioned entitlement, and the mutual terrors of codependency.”
Alesis Strike MultiPad, compact drum kit
Designing a Rock-Skipping Robot #design
Holy shit, this will be a fantastic way to demonstrate the design process to the CWA kids (who tend to love skipping rocks).
“So often, people want to jump straight to [building], which usually won’t work. But it’s almost worse if it does, because you have no confidence that you're close to the optimal design.”
“software is eating the world without taking responsibility for it. We used to have rules and standards around Saturday morning cartoons, and when YouTube gobbles up that part of society it just takes away all of those protections.”
“the most important topics to us are increasingly complex, while we can say increasingly simple things about them. And that automatically creates polarization because you can’t say something simple about something complicated and have everybody agree with you. People will (by definition) misinterpret and hate you for it, and then it’s never been easier to retweet that and generate a mob that will come after you.”
PICO-8: Lander, spacecraft-landing game
Roli LUMI, illuminated MIDI keyboard
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon Great™ #summerofjoe
I love this series (including Show Your Work! and Steal Like An Artist). And I appreciate how they’re written iteratively: they start as ideas or discoveries → which become personal journal entries → that become published blog posts → that (over time) become a recognizable pattern of posts → that eventually become a cohesive collection of ideas in a book. I’ve followed Kleon’s blog long enough to have seen the original posts that became this book, which is just really cool. #iter8ordie
“I think trying to be creative, keeping busy, has a lot to do with keeping you alive.” — Willie Nelson
“A list is a collection with purpose” — Adam Savage
“You will someday die with items still on your list, but for now, while you live, your list helps prioritize what can be done in your limited time.” — Tom Sachs
“You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work — so do it.” — Sol LeWitt
“What I’m really concerned about is reaching one person.” — Jorge Luis Borges
“We pay attention to the things we really care about, but sometimes what we really care about is hidden from us. I keep a daily diary for many reasons, but the main one is that it helps me pay attention to my life.… Many diarists don’t bother rereading their diaries, but I’ve found that rereading doubles the power of a diary because I’m then able to discover my own patterns, identify what I really care about, and know myself better.”
Thinking about the How to Learn About Yourself class I might do some day: it could be a workshop of the techniques for finding the patterns of what you’re into/not — hands-on Pleasure-Point Analysis. #project
“The purpose of [doing your work seriously] is to keep people from despair. If people [interact with] your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.” — Sara Manguso
“I’m making explorations. I don’t know where they’re going to take me.” — Marshall McLuhan
“Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought you said.” — Alan Jacobs
“if you really want to explore ideas, you should consider hanging out with people who aren’t so much like minded as like-hearted. These are people who are ‘temperamentally disposed to openness and have habits of listening.’ People who are generous, kind, caring, and thoughtful.… People you feel good around.”
I told a friend (Melanie) recently that I’d like to meet more people in Tacoma who I have more things in common with. She asked what those things would be. Like-hearted is what I meant.
Although most of my Omaha friends were in the design industry, what really tied them together was like-heartedness.
“Like a tree, creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season you’re in, and act accordingly. In winter, ‘the tree looks dead, but we know it is beginning a very deep process, out of which will come spring and summer.’”
“It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing: productivity, profits, even comedy. No time to contract before another expansion. No time to grow up. No time to learn from your mistakes. But that notion goes against nature, which is cyclical.” — George Carlin
I feel like I’m in a season of contraction, but it’s helpful to think that it’s part of a process, and things will expand again. I don’t feel professionally very successful right now. I don’t feel friendly. I don’t feel generous with my time, energy, or attention. I don’t feel confident or optimistic about relationships.
“I don’t want to know how a thirty-year-old became rich and famous; I want to hear how an eighty-year-old spent her life in obscurity, kept making art, and lived a happy life. These are the people I look to for inspiration. The people who found the thing that made them feel alive and who kept themselves alive by doing it. The people who planted their seeds, tended to themselves, and grew into something lasting.”
“Hitler was making another speech. But Leonard had had enough. ‘I shan’t come! I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.’ He was right. In his memoir,… Leonard Wolf noted that twenty-one years after Hitler [died], a few of those purple flowers still bloomed in the orchard under the apple tree.”
Yossa Von K, low-res pixel illustrator & game developer
FightCamp, home boxing gym + workout videos
Pi0CKET-tiny, ultra-mini Raspberry Pi gaming handheld
LightNote, music theory lessons
Mini vMac, Classic Macintosh emulator (Systems 1–7.5)
Spent a good chunk of the day getting Mini vMac to run on my Kano Touch Raspberry Pi — which was a super fun and heartwarmingly-nostalgic little project. I have such golden memories of using the Macs (probably a Macintosh Classics) at Millard Central Middle School, in the library and learning ClarisWorks in computer class. It’s like time-traveling! #summerofjoe
Mini vMac Applications, ready-to-use vMac disks
After Dark in CSS, the classic Mac screen saver
Just realized that (now that I live an hour south of Seattle), I’m only a 2½-hour drive from seeing a Portland Trail Blazers game. Gotta do this next season!
“we will need to accept that how much people earn in the market is often not what they deserve, and that the tax they pay is not taking from what is rightfully theirs.”
“[All] goods and services… depend on the economic and social infrastructure, including transport networks, communications systems, energy supplies and extensive legal arrangements covering complex matters such as intellectual property, formal markets such as stock exchanges, and jurisdiction across national borders.… In sum, it is impossible to isolate what is ‘yours’ from what is made possible, or influenced, by the role of government.”
“Fewer people are buying tickets to movies because fewer people need to leave their homes to see new things. And so to draw out the homebound consumer, a theatrical experience must be an event.”
2019 is one of the worst years for movie-going I can remember. Streaming (watching movies at home) isn’t the same experience disconnecting, creatively-satisfying, life-affirming for me. And I notice, personally, when I have fewer movie-theater-movies in the queue. It’s so sad to think that this movie-going era of my life might be evaporating.
There’s also something pretty dark about a future where everyone just stays at home, watching movies and having everything delivered.
“Movies are no longer about the thing; they’re about the next thing, the tease, the Easter egg, the post-credit sequence, the promise of a future at which the moment we’re in can only hint.” — The Birdcage
“Marketers revere the idea of brands, because a brand means that somebody, somewhere, once bought the thing they’re now trying to sell.… Sequels are brands. Remakes are brands.” — The Day the Movies Died
Adventuron, text adventure game-maker
Graphical User Interface Gallery, database of classic OSs
Technology promises to simplify, but it does the opposite. The more advanced a thing becomes (the more it promises to do for us) the more complexity it introduces into our lives. (Examples: pen/paper vs. computer, walking vs. driving, talking vs. texting/email). The more advanced the technology: the more maintenance it requires, the more likely it is to break, the more it relies on other technologies to keep working, the more likely it is to eventually become obsolete and need replacing, the less certainty we have that it’ll work when we need it to. #digitalanxiety
Archive.org has a snapshot of my first website:
Switched back to a sans serif on this site: Neue Montreal.
I like to think the typeface on this site reflects something about where I’m at, personally. This time, it feels like time to undo the specificity and character I was aiming for with the last typeface. Visually, the goal (I think) is objectivity.
Calling Code, curvy monospace typeface
Keyboard Sports: Saving QWERTY, keyboard-as-controller
I’m in a funk. I’m feeling cynical, irritable, unhealthy, unconfident, unattractive, socially awkward, disconnected, like a weirdo outsider.
Most of my social interactions feel awkward, and I’ve been avoiding them. I feel like people treat me with kid gloves — like the ways I think, the ways I spend my time and the things that interest me are unusual (and viewed skeptically, especially at my age). I have no close friends nearby, and I want to make more friends, but I also avoid scheduling time with anyone. I want to be a dad, I think. But I have zero dating options in my day-to-day life, but I also continue to feel like setting up a dating profile (especially the photos) is one of the most complex and fraught tasks possible for me. And based on the feedback I’m getting from women I meet, I have few reasons to feel confident about that process anyway. My anxiety continues to feel limitless. I continue to use food as stress relief, and I continue not to make time for exercise. I wouldn’t say I’m depressed, but I’m not optimistic about the future of the world either.
This train of thought accelerated a few weeks ago, when Katie and Mandy made a concerted effort to “learn more about me and be my friend”. I believe they were sincere, but it made me uncomfortable, and it’s taken me awhile to reconcile why. Katie, especially, introduced the idea (that I haven’t been able to shake) that people at school have no idea who I am, that the way I think is unpredictable and confusing to them, and that possibly no one I work with understands me — or sees me in the way I see myself.
I’m really disappointed in how much I allowed my frustration to show with the kids in sScreen Printing. The kids were being disrespectful to me, and their behavior needed to be addressed. But I wish I would’ve responded with love. Showing my frustration (not smiling, being short, demanding, cynical, joyless) transforms those moments from professional to personal. I’m complicating the problem by introducing my feelings into the situation.
In Summer Fun Screen Printing, some of the students have been disrespectful (interrupting/singing/humming when I’m talking to the group, talking back, bending rules, doing things I asked them not to, calling me by my first name). At a level that’s slightly (but noticeably) different than during the school year.
I don’t think they’re being disrespectful on purpose. Which (I’m realizing now) is why classroom management has been so hard for me, emotionally. They’re acting in these ways because they don’t respect my authority as their teacher. They may think I’m cool. They may even call me their “favorite teacher” which one student (Ryan) said this week. But based on my style of teaching, or my personality, or… WHO KNOWS WHY, they don’t take me seriously. And it’s just hard. #management
Teaching confronting your ego. It’s a reason I think it’s so valuable — but also why it’s so hard.
A 3rd grader (Ben) is printing a poster for his YouTube channel, and (talking about the videos he plans to post) used the word “content” correctly and unironically. Oof.
sok-stories, point-and-click + drawing game-maker
Kindle Oasis: Invert colors, for reading at night (dark mode)
I’m wondering if Summer Fun Screen Printing was a good idea. It’s a fun process, and I really like the kids in the class. But I’m technically on summer break, and yet, still working full work days (cleaning/coating screens and otherwise getting ready for class). Is missing a week of summer vacation worth $1,000? Not sure.
Summer Fun Screen Printing started today. It’s been a few years since I last screen printed, but it’s all coming back. And it still feels like magic. I love: 1. the combination of analog and digital, 2. the solid colors, 3. that it requires expertise to do well, but that it’s also easy to start doing. The kids think it’s pretty cool, too.
I’ve been spending time up on my apartment building’s rooftop deck, reading and writing, and I love it. Living in a part of the world that’s surrounded by mountains and water feels as satisfying and interesting to me today as it did when I first moved here. It’s a constant reminder of not-living (intentionally) in the midwest.
Neighbor on the elevator asks: “Do you shop at Met [Market, the more expensive neighborhood grocery store] or Safeway [the discount neighborhood grocery store]?” I said: “Safeway. I aspire to be a Met Market shopper.”
“None of the actors within the system is malicious or stupid – their behaviors all make sense given their incentives as dictated by the rules of the system. This is true of television, of internet media, [politics], and of consumer capitalism broadly.”
“the objective function of a politician is optimized not results but for votes.”
“Expecting new and ‘better’ personnel to behave differently within the same structure and system of incentives is a wishful thinking (if not outright delusional).”
“Because we have (rightfully) lost faith in our institutional leaders and the systems of incentives that govern their behavior, but we do not yet have a replacement system, we now find ourselves in a dangerous transitional period.”
“I have to constantly remind myself to get into a Systems Thinking framework when I’m thinking about improving our broken institutions…. So, rather than talking about how bad an individual politician, party, corporation, or special interest group is, the discussion becomes: what are the incentives that might lead an actor with this position in the system to behave this way? How might we change the incentives or rules of the system to lead to different outcomes?”
This applies to classroom management, too. Problems with student behavior starts with the environment (which is dictated by the teacher). #management
BitFontMaker2, online pixel font editor
Bitsy: Redlander, ship-repair adventure
PICO-8: Sk8Border, anti-border-wall skateboarding
PICO-8: Brawl, 2-player, 1-hit fighting
Another recurring struggle of my life is a failure to figure out how to be honest — to say what’s important to be said — without making it uncomfortable for other people.
A hard thing about teaching is the discrepancy between how meaningful it feels for me, personally vs. how the students feel in the same situations. As an adult, I bring a perspective to the room that’s a lot different than the students, and so, I often notice really special things happening that they can’t yet see — things related to growing up, changing, making mistakes, iterating. Which is great, but I also know that my acknowledgement of these moments can be weird sometimes for the kids, and I’m not sure what to do about that (because I think they’re worth mentioning). #teaching
Visiting year-end UW Design exhibitions, I’m recognizing one of the reasons I’ve lost interest in teaching design is that although many design school projects are (on paper) intended to help other people — that’s disingenuous (in practice). Often, students do discover valuable, helpful things in the midst of their work… but rarely implement them. Ultimately, the intent of design school work is to demonstrate that a student is capable of designing. These projects are more about the designer than the solutions or the audience they’re intended (on paper) to help.
Font for Nerds, 3×3 pixel typeface
It’s amazing that this is possible!
PICO-8: Expanded font libraries, lowercase, 3×3
Christina Neofotistou (@castpixel), low-res pixel illustrator
Noticing that I have the same hair-loss pattern as Jony Ive, and that I’m responding to it in the same way (just buzzing it really short). It feels pretty great knowing that!
Why: “1. because you're already using [your calendar], 2. if you can minimize the number of applications you need to go to to figure out what you should be focusing on, you’re going to be more productive, and 3. you can see [visually] the relationship between your tasks on a given day and your other commitments.”
I’ve been looking to simplify my task management, and I think this is it.
One of the recurring struggles of my life is making sense of generally feeling misunderstood — like a weirdo outsider. I don’t feel accepted by new people in my life in the PNW (thinking, mostly of CWA teachers), as much as skeptically and confusingly patronized.
kayfabe: “the unspoken contract between wrestlers and spectators: We’ll present you something clearly fake under the insistence that it’s real, and you will experience genuine emotion. Neither party acknowledges the bargain, or else the magic is ruined.”
“Chants of ‘Build the Wall’ aren’t about erecting a structure; they’re about how cathartic it feels, in the moment, to yell with venom against a common enemy.”
“[Kayfabe] rests on the assumption that feelings are inherently more trustworthy than facts.”
Other celebrities born in 1979: Rosamund Pike, Zhang Ziyi, Brandy, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Adam Levine, Lee Pace, Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson, James McAvoy, Lace Bass, Robyn, Kevin Hart, Rose Bryne, B.J. Novak, Evangeline Lilly, Pink, Flo Rida, John Krasinski.
So, people that also turn 40 this year. There’s something… reassuring about knowing that these people are also getting older — and also don’t seem old now.
CWA Graduation. It’s fun to look forward to the day when I’ll know most of the graduating class (still several years away).
“Just trying stuff out to see what the right thing to do is.”
“nothing lasts forever, and we both know hearts can change.” — Guns N’ Roses
The Red Hot, Tacoma hot dog restaurant
Last day of school + 5th grade Moving On ceremony #classof2026
These were the first kids I really connected with at CWA (as 4th graders last year). I taught my interview lesson with them, went on my first field trip with them, and they were the group that confirmed for me that teaching technology to little kids was the right move for me.
Although, my connection with this group faded as puberty has taken hold (especially in Carie’s class) — as they (naturally) became more social, harder to manage, and lost some enthusiasm for being students. Which frustrated me, which (regrettably) showed in my teaching, which fractured those bonds and created some distance between us. And so, tonight wasn’t as difficult as I would’ve expected a year ago.
Luca gave me a hug during the high-five line, and Ayden said (talking in the hallway after the ceremony): “I’m going to miss you” (with tears in his eyes). Those were really special moments for me.
They’re the two 5th graders I connected with most, and I’ll miss them a lot. They both made it a point to walk up to me in class every week and ask how I was doing. That’s how these connections are built, and I need to work harder to do that on my side.
I want more connections with kids like this, and I have work harder. This has been a hard week for me, coming to terms with the fact that (based on generally flat interactions with kids throughout the week), I don’t have many of these relationships. I have to be outside at recess, eat in the lunch room, make more time before and after school for casual conversations. I’m not doing that now because: I’m planning, or I feel like I need to disconnect, or — more likely — I’m just being lazy.
I have a great connection with the 3rd graders, and I think I could build something really special with them if I put in the work.
“I never feel like I have a book in me. I always feel like there’s a book around me.… My job is to grab that stuff around me and shape it into something.”
This is how I feel about ideas, too. It’s why I read and watch as much as I do. There are ideas waiting to be connected and sense waiting to be made.
“My advice to you is to change your basic relationship to songwriting. You are not the ‘Great Creator’ of your songs, you are simply their servant, and the songs will come to you when you have adequately prepared yourself to receive them. They are not inside you, unable to get out; rather, they are outside of you, unable to get in.” — Nick Cave
A 4th grader (Ali) was still so stoked about the PICO-8 tutorial he completed during LS Game Design (3 days ago) that, when I walked into his regular 4th grade Technology class today, he turned to me and said: “Frog animation”.
It’s the last week of school, and it’s been a hard one for me. In (what feels like) an ocean of gratitude from students and parents to their homeroom teachers, I feel like an island. Where are the thank-yous for the work I’ve done this year?
I’m genuinely disappointed, but this is also a little silly. I need to flip my expectation. I should expect that I won’t connect or make much of a real difference in the lives of most of my students. Not that I won’t try, but I shouldn’t expect my efforts to land. And I already know there’s more I could be doing to build those connections anyway.
Instead, I should celebrate the connections I do have.
This might be a common thing for specialist teachers to feel (since we have less definitive conclusions with our students), and as next year’s Specialist Chair, I’m wondering if I could help create those celebratory opportunities somehow? #project
Email from (Luca) a 5th grader:
“Dear Mr. Sparano, / Thank you for teaching me. I am very grateful. I love your classes. They have
tough taught me many things. For anything I will need in the future. I will honestly never forget you I love technology so much in my life so this will help for years to come. You being my first person that I sent my Gmail to. This is special to me. I love you. you were always kind to me even though all the questions I asked you. You always were there for me no madder matter my question. You had no answer but you always answered me the next time. My favorite class was the time we named memes. / I loved it because I love memes and you connected are things together to make it fun. That’s the type of off teacher I like. They connect to our lives and make school which was boring really fun. That’s the teacher you are so that’s why I had such a great year. I love you so much. / You just made everything so much fun for me and my classmates. / Thank you,”
The sincerity, it just pours out of kids. I love it. #sincerity>irony
pigame.dev, Raspberry Pi game dev tools
For our last LS Game Design, I did something a little different. Instead of trying to teach a traditional lesson (which is what I’ve been doing), I allowed the kids to choose their own PICO-8 or Bitsy tutorial and work independently. It was more hands-off (from me) and more self-directed (by them).
Mostly, it was a response to having a consistently difficult time in these after-school clubs getting students to listen when I need it. I haven’t even been teaching much — but it’s been a struggle nearly every time.
This structure (choose your own adventure, I help troubleshoot when necessary, we all share at the end) was super successful. 1. For students: they were waiting on me less, working more intently, making more choices, and working more at their own pace. 2. For me: it required less all-group teaching, less management, less coordinating pace. Some students got a lot done, some not much at all — but they all felt successful. This was the most focused, easy to manage class yet. It was awesome.
When I introduced PICO-8 two weeks ago, some students were skeptical at first… but they really got into it once we started coding. It’s fun and magical to make things work, and it’s so satisfying to see kids experience that feeling.
The Guardian: When Survival Is a Popularity Contest, the heartbreak of crowdfunding healthcare
Peter D. Harris, nighttime cityscape oil paintings
“I can’t help but think about how time slowly eats up the life that I have, turning the raw, beautiful potential of the future into the hollow sadness of memories in the past, forced through a focal point of the present that is gone too quickly. I am haunted by entropy even as I am in what I think might be the best years of my entire life.”
“Not only do you believe that thinking is the key to cherishing the present more, but you also believe, at some level, that you might just be able to solve the problem of time.”
“Thinking — particularly that puzzle-solving type of thinking — speeds up time.… Feeling slows down time.… When you feel connected to yourself, and connected to others, that feeling stretches out the moment instead of condensing it, reducing it, diminishing it.”
“A US Senate committee report in 1977 recommended a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for all…. The food industry responded with enthusiasm, removing fat, the most calorie-dense of macronutrients, from food items and replacing it with sugar, starch and salt. As a bonus, the thousands of new cheap and tasty ‘low-cal’ and ‘low-fat’ products… tended to have longer shelf lives and higher profit margins.”
“Exercise [has] clear health benefits. But… it plays a smaller part in weight control than most people believe. As much as 75% of the average person’s daily energy expenditure comes not through exercise but from ordinary daily activities and from keeping your body functioning by digesting food, powering organs and maintaining a regular body temperature.… powering the brain consumes about a fifth of a person’s metabolic energy each day.”
Coca-colonisation: The point in a culture’s history when junk food is readily available.
“The calorie system lets food producers off the hook. They can say, ‘We’re not responsible for the unhealthy products we sell, we just have to list the calories and leave it to you to manage your own weight.’”
Retirement party for (Judy, Bob, and Diane) three CWA teachers. These are the kinds of things I’d love for people to say about me when I retire: 1. Joe is an innovative teacher, 2. he isn’t afraid to try new things, and 3. he models gracefully how to rebound when something doesn’t work, 4. he’s legitimately curious what’s on kids’ minds, 5. he’s surprisingly current!, and 6. he respects kids for being kids. (I'm not saying I do these things now, just that it’s my goal to be known for these things some day.)
Scratch vs. PICO-8, tutorial videos
“A good rag is not gonna save the world.”
I really appreciate this about Annabelle: she cares about graphic design while also recognizing that it’s not really that important.
I consider Annabelle a teaching mentor. She really cares about her students, and she’s full of ideas on how students can improve. And with zero ego in the way — she’s just a very real person.
“To teach is to learn twice over.” — Joseph Joubert
Two 3rd graders (Ben and Alexander) have started an improtu “Pun Club” during my crosswalk duty on Wednesdays and Fridays, where we workshop new pun ideas. I’m not quite sure how this became a thing, but it’s fun.
Originally, it was endearing how much they didn’t understand about how puns work — but now, they’re starting to get it, and it’s neat to watch that happen.
One of them (Ben) said, “It’s helping me think more creatively, I’ve been thinking of puns during the day.”
Why did I record this? I wanted to remember it. It’s a special thing for me, that these kids have chosen, uninvited, for a few weeks in a row, to show up and chat about puns and video games for 20 minutes.
Picked up another new nickname (from different 3rd graders): “Joe Asparagus”.
iPiccy, web-based image editor
“[To a narcissist,] phenomena in the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one. The opposite [of] narcissism is objectivity; it is the faculty to see other people and things as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and fears.” — Erich Fromm
I think I’m making my CWA clubs more frustrating than they need to be. (Thinking about this after another bumpy LS Game Design.) Most of the time, when I attempt to teach (asking for students’ attention, and then anticipating they could all listen or follow instructions… for just a few minutes) it’s really hard. I’m not teaching much, but it’s hard every time. Especially at the end of the day and after school (which is understandable). For everyone’s sanity, I need to teach less — these clubs should be mostly opened-ended designing/making/exploring. #teaching
Although, if I pull back too much, the kids will notice that too (which happened in MS Coding & Robotics last quarter).
I need to figure out how to make these clubs fun for me. Right now, I’m on the fence about whether they’re worth the effort (≈ $1,000 for 10 × 90-minute sessions.)
“the choice isn’t between [this environmentally-conscious product or that environmentally-conscious product]. For environmental purposes, we should choose nothing.”
“When people list unethical behavior, they often cite the illegal actions of corporations or the heinous decisions of politicians…, but what’s missing on the list are the smaller and far more numerous everyday choices we make.”
“a more moral way to handle the problem would be to attempt to resolve it — to think of [the living creatures] who are affected, production processes, supply chains, and the nature of capitalism itself — and to reach a reasoned conclusion that at least takes others into consideration.… There isn’t a simple answer to complex questions, but the ethical approach is to engage with the difficulties rather than avoiding them.”
“When considering ethics, good and evil become limiting concepts. It’s far more beneficial to consider our ability to make personal choices that [correspond to] either our higher or our lower nature.… evil lives in the conscious desire to act solely for oneself.”
“feeling guilty is a selfish response. It’s more self-involvement, which is pretty much the opposite of ethical living.… guilt is only a boon for guilty people’s egos, and will make you more likely to look away from injustices. The ethical response to bad acts is considering how to right them, rather than thinking about your personal feelings.”
“the Aristotlean view [is] that figuring out how to live the good life is fun.… A truly ethical life is joyful, lived with a clear conscience, ‘knowing that we are doing the best we can, even if that means our behavior may be unsatisfactory at times.’”
Thomas Game Docs, video game video essays
Pokémon Mini, Nintendo’s smallest handheld system (from 2001?!)
Animated Knots, knot-tying database (and neckties!)
Bought a Title Black Double-End Bag #treatjoeself
This is my solution to continuing to box in Tacoma, which has been a trickier problem than I expected before the move: 1. big box gyms are too awkward and expensive for me, 2. my apartment’s gym isn’t big enough for a heavy bag, 3. I’m trying to avoid buying workout furniture that lives in my apartment. Turns out that a double-end bag is the quiet, minimalist, but still fun and effective solution I was hoping existed!
This was a fun prototyping and problem-solving project on its own, figuring out how to mount it (adjustable nylon straps with clips and carabiners), weight it at the bottom (a 25-pound dumbbell), and protect it from damaging the wall (pipe insulation).
Demo-Man, PICO-8/gamedev tutorials
DSEG, LCD typeface
“What happens when you hit this piece of technology with a rock?… A device that can be easily damaged and not easily repaired is one where a person does not truly have possession of the device, they must always be aware that should something go wrong they will be powerless without the help of that specialized technician.”
“Waste is a problem inherent to new technologies, though it is often put off as really being a question for old technologies, but allowing this distance hides the fact that a devices death should be considered in its creation [and purchase].”
Usually, I can’t avoid thinking about the end of a thing when I buy it. It’s a not-insignificant weight on my conscience, and those thoughts feel about as ridiculous to be having as they do essential and important.
But/And, I also feel the weight of these things globally/culturally/systemically. Like, FUAY new gadget, man.
“this question… should be directed… at the sector that is frantically flooding the market with new devices.… Those who have designed, marketed, and sold a device filled with hazardous materials… have a responsibility to ensure that these can be disposed of without creating harm.”
Another contributor to my digital anxiety that’s so pervasive I haven’t officially acknowledged it yet: charging. The battery clock (iPhone, Pebble, MacBook, wireless headphones, DS) is always ticking. #digitalanxiety
3rd grade field trip, day 3.
3rd grade field trip, day 2.
A bonus of these field trips is getting to see a different group of teachers teach (our trail leaders). This time, I’m noticing that getting kids to listen and take you seriously has a lot to do with: 1. how confidently you speak, 2. how clearly, and 3. how concisely. Kids will (intuitively) not respond to wishy-washy-ness and lack of clarity. More successful teachers do all three things, and the rest don’t. There’s a 1-to-1 correlation. #teaching #management
This is another reason why teaching is hard (and good) for me. Speaking clearly and concisely has been an ongoing challenge for me.
Spending more time with the 3rd graders (8–9 years old) has brought something into focus: kids at this age have very little concept of themselves as part of a larger system (they’re constantly shout-talking, talking other each other, with no concept of how conversations work). Which is irritating (my brain is mush!) But they're also not yet self-conscious — they’re still just wacky kids who don’t give a shit what you think of them (in a good way). #growingup
3rd grade field trip to Mount Rainier Institute, day 1. #classof2028
Dropping Rowan off at school this morning, Joanna stopped to tell me that she was happy that I’d signed up for the Specialist Chair position. She said she appreciates my “quiet leadership” at CWA and the ways I’ve supported Rowan’s interest in coding and games this year.
In 5th grade, for our last project, students are starting The Future of My Technology — picking a favorite technology in their lives to concept a future version of. To jumpstart their thinking, I asked some questions based on 5 Things We Need to Know About Technological Change.
I asked: “Who’s affected negatively by your technology — who suffers?” One student (Piper) said that since her technology (3D printing) uses plastic, the earth suffers for it. Then I asked: “OK, so how could that influence your future design?,” and another student (Ryan) suggested a 3D printer… that prints with trash!
Also: “Who is your technology biased towards — and against?” As an example, I held a pencil in my hand, and I asked: “Who is this pencil was designed for?” It took some pushing, but they eventually realized that a pencil’s design is biased towards someone with the ability to pick it up — for someone with hands! That rocked their world a little bit.
I’ve been looking forward to these questions all year — a synthesis of design and technology, and I knew these kids would be interested in thinking about fairness and bias. Some full-circle, Matrix-revealing, special teaching moments, for sure. #design #teaching
In LS Game Design, I showed a Bitsy demo I’d made (Joe’s Junk Food Adventure). This school year, I’ve built several demos this way: 1. where some kind of problem/question arises in class, 2. I do some research, 3. work through the tool myself to build a demo that answers the question, and 4. then bring it back to class to show the kids.
After visiting UW this week, a few people at CWA have asked: “Do you miss it?” 1. I do miss: teaching classes that involve more creative problem-solving, really getting into the weeds of a project and watching students figure it out, having more in-depth conversations with students about life. 2. But I don’t miss: talking about design constantly, nitpicking the nuances of graphic design, or grading. I did that for 7 years, and I was ready to move on.
My Famicase Exhibition, fan-made NES cartridge designs (for generating game ideas)
“what [Facebook] realized was that appealing to outrage and fear was much more successful than appealing to happiness. Because one person’s joy is another person’s jealousy. Whereas if you’re afraid or outraged, you share stuff in order to make other people afraid or outraged [too]”
“The Google Captcha system:… touch all the photographs that have a traffic light or all the ones that have a bus.… What you’re doing is training the artificial intelligence for Google’s self-driving cars.”
Oh damn. What! That’s totally what this is!
“it’s so obviously a dodge that [Mark Zuckerberg is] looking to use end-to-end encryption to absolve himself of responsibility for content that he’s put on the site. [Because then the content would be private.]”
“the value of [Facebook’s] system is based on getting to peoples’ most raw emotional state because that’s the thing that has greatest predictive value of whether you’re going to spend money or what you’re going to be interested in.”
“there’s a fundamental flaw in their business.… [The chemical industry originally] dumped waste products wherever it was convenient…. Then one day, the country woke up and realized: this is a disaster.… And we decided… we’re going to assign responsibility to the people who created the mess.… And it went from being an incredibly profitable industry to a not-very-profitable industry.… when you assign that [financial consequence], you realize: well, actually, this isn’t that good a business. And… I don’t believe that Facebook or… Google are that good a business if they actually have to pay the costs of the toxic digital spills they create.”
In 4th grade, students finished their Addicting Game Design projects. I loved this unit, and they did, too.
Teach Like a Champion: ‘Wait Time’ Technique, giving students more time to raise their hands before calling on anyone
I love this blog! Teaching continues to be an incredibly fascinating thing to think about and try to get better at. (#teaching)
I’m committed to mastering teaching, I don’t mind that it’s gonna take a really long time. I’m excited for the challenge. It’s so interesting!
Starting the 4th grade documentary project. I showed the “Mockumentary” I made last year. I just hit play, then asked them to stop me when they identify a creative choice that they’d make differently.
They loved it — they wanted to find these things! In both classes, we discussed this (a 35-second video) for a half-hour.
This is another example where I’m satisfied with having-turned what could be a dry exercise (what not to do) into something fun.
I framed this whole exercise around choices (in video, music, pictures, sound, narration, etc.): “How do these choices help communicate the message of the documentary?” This kind of project feels like the culmination of my whole teaching life — the nexus between teaching design and teaching technology. Setting goals, communicating, and being intentional. #design
“Online I’m a designer, activist, collaborator, citizen. Offline I’m still those things, but there are other more important words I use when I think of what I am. And those real world titles I’ve come to protect from the noise of what happens online — son, brother, friend, neighbor, husband, father.”
The way we describe ourselves online seems to skew professional. We use those titles to market ourselves — to distinguish us in the “digital void”. The more important titles (the ones that describe personal relationships with ourselves, friends, and family) tend to be less meaningful to others — and so, those words are less useful as marketing tools.
And choosing to use the (private, meaningful) offline titles online means we’re awkwardly leveraging something personal for professional gain, which can make things weird. #digitalperson #weird
OpenMoji, CC-licensed, monoweight emoji/icon set
Spent the day at UW, for mid-quarter feedback in two of Annabelle’s VCD classes (juniors and seniors). It’s been a long time since I’ve given VCD feedback, and walking into the Art building, I had a moment of panic that I might not even know how to do it anymore.
“Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.” — The Book of Life
A 3rd grader (Ayla) started calling me by my first name. I told her it’s important for her to call me Mr. Sparano, but I also asked why she’s using my first name: “Because you’re my friend.”
“People like to share ideas that make them look cool, smart, in-the-know, morally superior.”
There’s a lesson in here somewhere: design a post/headline/tweet for maximum viral-ness. #lesson
PICO-8: Blocks For Life, resource-management platformer
04b03, 4×5 pixel typeface
Here’s a phenomenon The Bachelor/ette makes me think about: when people discuss the show, it’s common for them to attribute anything (everything!) eventful to a producer. Positive or negative, the most interesting moments must have been orchestrated by some outside, hidden force — which means nothing meaningful can happen naturally, nothing can be trusted. And I wonder: 1. how much of that kind of skepticism also infects our personal lives, since our personal communication is so often mediated (texting, social media), and 2. what do people actually trust, sincerely anymore?
I really can’t stand the word ‘educator’. Why create distance with showy language? Why not use a clearer word — like ‘teacher’? Why sound like a douche? And why are words like this so popular?
“On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your favorite color of the alphabet?” — CGP Grey
Kanopy, public library movie streaming service
Snetris, Snake + Tetris
It’s interesting, meeting new people in the PNW, the default assumption is I’m not a religious person. Casual, Christian-critical talk is pretty common among the people I’ve gotten to know here. Which is so different from the Midwest, and which (again) I’m so grateful for.
Last week, during my introduction to our bike rack unveiling, I mentioned that I was a graphic designer before I was a teacher. Since then, a few students have brought it up: “My mom is a graphic designer.”, “What kinds of things did you make?”, “Did you design tarriers.org?” (Yes). Which is just cool! It’s nice to know that they’re listening, and I like being able to add that context.
One of the upsides of teaching in other teachers’ classrooms is that I get to see them managing the same students in the same environment. And at times, I get to see them feeling (personally) the same frustrations I feel. It’s helpful to know that even teachers who are truly at the top of their game (and who I really admire) still get frustrated with kids — and lose their cool.
4th grade field trip, day 3.
Jammin 181 FM, funk, R&B and soul music.
This was playing in the NaturBridge kitchen.
Thanks to tutoring from a 4th grader (Will) during some of our downtime on this trip, I finally have all of the NATO Phonetic Alphabet memorized.
4th grade field trip, day 2.
One of the trickiest parts with working with kids is managing constraints: 1. anticipating what kids will want to do and designing constraints around that, 2. setting consequences that matter, 3. communicating those constraints and consequences in advance of the situation where they could happen, and 4. then following through. #management
There can be no ambiguity. Kids will find the holes and wiggle through. Every time. Always.
I’m still calibrating. I’m still learning what holes to even anticipate — which means I can’t yet seal them up in advance. Right now, I’m discovering too late what the constraints should’ve been, so I’m not communicating them in advance, and everyone’s frustrated. But this should get (and is getting!) better over time. #teaching #iter8ordie
I’m thinking of this with the kids’ bedtime. They just want to know: “How late can we stay up? Can we talk? How loudly? Can we use flashlights? Can we use the strobe mode? Can we play American Ninja Warrior [climbing between all four bunks in a room as fast as possible]?”
These kids were awesome about all of that, but I can see opportunities with the next group to just lay the groundwork in advance instead of building those rules on the fly.
4th grade field trip to NatureBridge at Olympic National Park, day 1. #classof2027
For two years now, after we get to our cabins, kids almost immediately discover that they can use the vents to communicate between rooms. It’s so interesting! What is it about secret messages that makes it so appealing? #growingup
“[Holding a pencil] Without a pencil sharpener, this is pointless.” — 4th grader (Carly)
A friend from school (Katie) discovered this site (although, not this page) and asked what it’s for. Why do I go to the trouble of documenting (in such detail) so much of what’s on my mind? 1. Journaling and list-making help me manage my anxiety and mental health. They’re the best techniques I have for processing my thoughts and feelings. And 2. this site is a way of saving ideas somewhere — so don’t lose them (individually), and for making connections and finding patterns (collectively).
One of the reasons being a dad is intriguing to me is that I like the idea of helping a kid navigate the complexities of growing up — including inevitable struggle and heartbreak. But I’m wondering: is it selfish to want that? If I don’t help bring a kid into the world, then there’s no struggle or heartbreak to be navigated.
A ‘friend’ (Katie) asked (after seeing this site and feeling that it’s an unusual amount of information to have collected… and that’s without seeing this Journal page) if I’ve ever considered that I might be on The Spectrum. Which, no, I haven’t. Not once.
However, now I’m wondering how this site reads to other people? Is it really that unusual/weird/strange?
She also said that, maybe, one of the reasons I feel like I have so few dating options is that I’m the same level of friendliness to everyone. That it might be hard for a woman to tell if I’m interested, because I’m so friendly?
It’s been a long two months since my last satisfying movie-going experience. Moviegoing is still the best way for me to disconnect, and I feel like I need it regularly.
Why is moviegoing so helpful for me? 1. It’s a true disconnect — physically (because I’m in a place that’s reserved just for this other thing) and mentally (because I’m focused, for two hours, only on this other thing). 2. With the right movie, it’s creatively satisfying — it’s a fully-realized, complete idea and I’m inspired by that (I almost always leave with new thoughts to think about). And 3. it’s an affirmation of adulthood and independence — I can eat a bunch of Peanut M&M’s, drink a big Coke Zero, and spend $25 on two hours that’s just for me.
“Social media is more about wining, it often feels, than it is about connecting.”
“The very qualities that made Snapchat fun and weird also made it hard for business and influencers to thrive there.”
There’s a direct (and sad) connection between social media’s popularity and its business-y mechanics. Posting to social media is always participating in an economy of likes. And so, a post is always marketing. People are always promoting a brand (even if it’s just a personal brand) and always selling something (even if it’s just a set of life choices). Likes are the measure of success — the market validation. Before social media, there wasn’t a way to quantify personal ‘value’. With likes and followers (any kind of social media metric), there’s no difference between a person and a business. It’s so fucked up. #digitalperson
This kind of thing really pisses me off, I can’t help it! I can remember, sometime in high school, instead of filling out a bubble sheet for homecoming king/queen, I left the bubbles empty, wrote “popularity contest” at the top, and handed it in.
Unveiled the new bike rack to the Lower School. Everyone’s pretty stoked about this.
I’m going on two overnight trips this year with the CWA kids before the end of the school year (3rd and 4th). Since the teachers announced that I’ll be on these trips, the students’ demeanor towards me has shifted just slightly towards warmer and friendlier — more personal, less distant. And this is on top of having pretty solid connections with them already.
This reinforces how difficult it is to build connections with kids during my class. My kid connections have to be built anywhere but my class — during lunch, in the hallway, other classes, even. Anywhere.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working harder to have real convos with kids in these moments (and hand out more high-fives), and it’s been helpful. Classroom management has been easier and more fun recently, and this is why. #management
“What happened to the American dream? It came true! You’re looking at it!” — The Comedian (Watchmen)
Pebble: Pixel Grid Analog, watchface
unconditional positive regard: “it is essential in any helping relationship to have an anticipation for change.… that anticipation presents as hope — an optimism that something good and positive will develop….… [It requires] the ability to isolate behaviors from the person who displays them.” #teaching
MacMenuBar.com, Mac menu bar app directory
Resolutionator, display switching
In 5th grade, I asked what makes a website different from a book. One student (Finn) answered: “ads”.
Insta-stories, anonymous Instagram
I think it’s super weird that people know when I’ve viewed their Story. I don’t think that posting something on the Internet entitles anyone to know whether or not I’ve seen or interacted with their post. I’m not your data point.
Interesting, though: with an Instagram Story (or any kind of read receipt), I’m a data point either way. Knowing that I haven’t viewed something may still be meaningful information. #digitalperson
On communicating online vs. offline: “Writing things to or about people when they are not in front of you and you can’t see their reactions makes one more prone to nastiness. Not being able to hear another’s tone of voice makes misunderstandings more common, and the escalation from confusion to anger is quick and often irreversible. Being able to publish or send things immediately — without waiting to find an envelope, a stamp, and then a mailbox the next morning — makes it easier to write things you will later regret.” — The New Atlantis
Picked up a Garfield book today (in a classroom), for the first time in years. I can remember, sometime in 4th/5th/6th grade, noticing and loving the way Garfield and U.S. Acres books were colorized — with super solid, flat color. #pleasurepoint
Bought a KÜHL KLASH (Carbon), moto/rain jacket #treatjoeself
“‘[It’s foolish to believe] that the proof of the rightness or wrongness of some way of bringing up children is the kinds of adults it produces’.… it’s a terribly incomplete way of looking at life. What about the quality of experience right now?… Judging your experience solely in terms of its future effect is to disregard the present – even though that’s the only time it ever is.”
“positive reactions… work better than negative ones.”
This has been one of the trickiest parts of teaching for me to unlearn: my instinct is to want to correct students who aren’t following instructions, but it’s so much more effective (and positive) to thank students who are (and use them as examples for every one else). #teaching
“the best kind of [reaction] focuses on how someone made you feel, not on evaluating their talent. After all, there’s something weirdly arrogant about complimenting another person for being a good writer, strategist, team player, and so on: who made you the judge of such things? But praising them for inspiring you, persuading you, or helping you grasp a complex issue, is a totally different matter. You really are the only objective judge of that.”
Bitsy: Spider, spider-perspective
Wireframe, game-making magazine
Another thing I like about teaching: I feel like I’m being helpful. I enjoy having the chance to help kids think about their lives (their decisions, relationships, goals).
Trispace, monspace-ish typeface
curious elder: “someone who manages to retain their curiosity as they age and stays interested in what young people are up to. The curious elder isn’t interested in judging youth, they’re interested in learning from them.”
Oh yeah, this is definitely me!
Diary of a Song (New York Times), video series
I feel like I might be reaching critical mass professionally. I’m feeling appreciated by the school (I got an unexpectedly big raise for next year). And I’m really satisfied with the work I’ve been doing lately: in 3rd grade (classroom management), in 4th grade (pretty dope lessons all year), and in 5th grade (the Screen Time Experiment unit, which students and parents have both really responded to).
One of the things that (I think) differentiates me from some teachers is that I try to talk with them — instead of at them. #teaching
After chatting about Basketball yesterday, Ayden said this morning, “I enjoyed talking about basketball with you.”
Merrell Ontario (Dark Earth), waterproof hiking boots
GoBites, travel utensils (sporks)
If I’m truly cutting out Amazon, does that mean I need to give up the Whole Foods salad bar (one of life’s truest joys)?
Doodle MeetMe, showing availability for 1-on-1 meetings
This week, I’m subbing in a few 8th grade art classes (their Photoshop unit), as the only teacher. The first was today, and it went as well as I expected it to go — not well. It was really difficult to get students to stop talking for the 10 minutes of my intro.
I don’t know these kids, really at all. (And there’s no reason I would or could — I’ve just had very little interaction with them.) But I’ve written off the chance that a class of CWA middle schoolers could be manageable, and I expect to feel like shit when I leave the room. Maybe this isn’t a healthy teaching perspective, but it’s true.
That said, I need to remember that, in 3 years, the middle schoolers (grades 6–8) will be the kids I’m teaching now (grades 3–5) — which I’m anticipating could/will be really great. The awkwardness and disconnection I feel now (the overwhelming feeling I feel when I’m teaching the MS should/will evaporate.)
ForkLift 3, FTP/file manager app
Hostinger, web host
PICO-8: Tic-tac-toe, a juicy version!
Pebble: Blockslide, watchface
I think a lot about how the idea of ‘selling-out’ has changed (and just within my lifetime).
I also wonder if there’s a point in the future when Internet consumerism collapses, because the components (content, clicks, marketing, products) are mostly bullshit: 1. Internet content exists to capture clicks, 2. clicks only matter as an avenue for marketing, 3. marketing exists mostly to sell products, 4. products only exist because people will buy them.
GB Studio, Game Boy game-making tool
Two very predictable life things that are super frustrating… but that I continue to participate in anyway: 1. I know that buying shit often generates as many new problems as it solves, and 2. I know that it’s foolish to trust that technology will work as advertised without lots of troubleshooting and super glue.
Examples: 1. the ilovehandles Cantilever Flatware I bought rusted on the first wash, and 2. the GameCube-to-USB controller adapter I bought/trusted-in randomly switches between 1st/2nd player input (which makes it unusable).
The only solution to either of these is to not participate: to not buy stuff and not trust technology. Is this possible?
Learn X in Y Minutes, programming language overviews
Nerdy Teachers, PICO-8 tutorials
Kirby: $field->toStructure(), building pages from simple databases (text files)
“Music is sound… that’s played slowly.”
“I wanted to make something that lets me work how I like to work rather than fighting against other tools.”
“[A cartridge is] a basic unit of expression that’s shareable”
“[The small cartridge size] forces you to think more about design than manufacturing a lot of content. And to focus on what’s important to you and to throw away things that are not important.”
One of the things that makes PICO-8 such a special idea for me is that the image of the game cartridge (a PNG file) is cartridge data, and that sharing the game is as easy as sending an image file — that’s so cool.
careful friction: “I need to put friction in the right places, so that people work on interesting problems and don’t have to think about things which are not interesting.”
This is a useful concept for teaching. Designing lessons where the friction is only in valuable places (and not in tedious places like: picking groups, logging into websites, sharing files, etc.) is hard. #teaching
“Once you have two projects, and you can see them next to each other — that gives you a frame of reference, and then you can [isolate what each of them is, relative to each other].”
freedom from boundaries: “It’s like being out in space. You’re looking at the stars in the distance and they’re interesting, complex things, but they just all appear as points of light. Whereas, if you find some boundaries it’s more like being down on the surface of a planet with a lush jungle and interesting life — but it’s just one planet.”
Finally bought a bed frame: the Floyd Platform Bed.
One frustrating thing about teaching technology is that — while usually, when students are confused, it’s because they don’t yet fully understand how the thing works — sometimes, they’re confused because the thing isn’t working like it’s supposed to. And, the only way to tell the difference is understanding how the thing is supposed to work in the first place. #teaching #technology
Learned a new technique (from Rob) for redirecting students who are off-topic: “I also like [thing they’re doing/talking-about instead]. You know what else I like? [whatever we’re supposed to be doing doing now].”
“Sorry, y’all, ain’t got no haters.” — Ice Cube
My next door neighbor and I confirmed that our living room walls are indeed soundproof (we both thought the other person was rarely home). One of my worst nightmares, averted (and I continue to love this apartment!)
Something I’ve noticed: the older, middle school siblings of the students I teach tend to be pretty cool towards me, despite not knowing each other, really at all. The most likely explanation (I hope, anyway) is that the younger kids are saying (at home) some version of, “Mr. Sparano is cool.” And I’m really proud of that. #teaching
Thomas Flight, culture video essayist
The modes of a meme’s lifespan: “1. The first time you see [a meme], you find it funny because of the way someone modified it to make a joke, but also because the photo itself is funny. 2. A meme’s ability to be remixed is crucial. This is the mode where the meme gains the most traction. A good meme has a formula that makes the application of the core archetype to many different scenarios easy. In this mode, most of the humor is generated from seeing all the ways in which people can use the meme. 3. Humor and freshness are generated by the subversion of the established formula of the meme. Now that most of the possible applications are exhausted, people begin to modify the original nature of the meme and use it to express ideas that are similar or even the inverse of the original archetype.”
“Coke did some market research and discovered… that Coca-Cola was the second most well known term in the world. The first was the term ‘OK’.”
OK Soda branding was one of the earliest examples in my life of graphic design that I resonated with (although at the time, I’m not sure I recognized that that’s why it appealed to me).
PICO-8 Mono, 3×5 pixel typeface
When all media happened at specific times (TV, movies, radio), if you missed something, you missed it. That block of time was reserved for that thing, for everyone. On-demand media (streaming movies/TV, podcasts, etc.) solves the access problem, but there are some weird trade-offs. Now, there’s pressure to fill all free time with media. There’s no time that can’t/couldn’t be media time, and there’s no media that could be missed. #digitalanxiety
With the 4th graders, started a new unit called Addicting Game Design — specifically exploring: “How are games designed to be compelling or addicting?” 1. I showed them clips from How Free Games are Designed to Make Money, How Not to Make Mobile Games, and It’s Not You, Phones are Designed to be Addicting. Next, 2. they’ll choose two games to deconstruct (looking for addicting design choices), and 3. use those techniques to design quick prototypes of the most compelling/addicting game they can.
I’ve said before that I feel most like myself when I’m teaching. But I haven’t reached that point at CWA yet. I’ve felt it most vividly in 210 at UW — I think, because I felt like the students accepted and appreciated my enthusiasm, seriousness, and sentimentality.
The closest I’ve gotten is with one of the 5th grade classes (one of the 5th grade classes) — kids I’ve been in class with for about 50 hours so far (including last year), which is (I think) a first for me. (210 is about 45 hours).
Anyway, I still feel a little uncomfortable teaching little kids, because of the stress of management, discipline, and being observed by other teachers. I seriously wonder if it’s possible for me to get to that level.
There’s really no substitute for learning how to teach than to watch other teachers teach.
“Not only is she more aware of how they did but she uses the data to make the players more aware of the root causes of their struggle or success.”
‘Show Calling’ Technique, showing student examples on screen (instead of students sharing verbally) to incentivize higher-quality work.
“all of this is fast, fast, fast.”
From these examples, I’m taking away how valuable fast-paced lessons are. I tend to be a pretty enthusiastic when I’m teaching, but I could increase the pace of my lessons for sure. #teaching
Bitsy: A Month to Look at the Moon, long distance love story
First LS Game Design. I’m hyped for this class. The limitations of the tools I’m planning to use (Bitsy & PICO-8) are the reason I love them (personally, technically, creatively) — and also why I think/hope they’ll make great tools to teach and learn with.
Two weeks ago, a 3rd grader (Ayla) walked up to me during recess to ask about a dilemma: the class field trip is happening on the same day that one of her favorite YouTubers JoJo Siwa is coming to town. She asked me what to do. (How she knew that I love thinking about life problems like this — I have no idea.) I asked if this person maybe has another show in a nearby city on a different day. She was stoked about the idea, hugged me, and ran off. During class today, she said the plan, in fact, worked, and she wanted me to know. How great is that?
“I was starting to believe that the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size. It makes the world seem not huge and empty but full of possibility.” — Susan Orlean
“Your characters must change, and the change must come from them.” #teaching
“Zach: Why don’t you just make [the thing]? Michael: I don't have a clear picture in my head of the finished product or how it will be good. Zach: Well maybe just start see what happens.”
I used to be more like Michael. And now I’m absolutely more like Zach. Prototyping, iteration, feedback — I’m all about it. #design
“You can… convey exposition through dialog!”
This is what good teaching is. Straight-up exposition in a movie tends to be boring — just like standing and talking in front of class is boring. It’s better to integrate exposition naturally, in two directions. #teaching
“Only Outlaws are outlawed.” — Waylon Jennings
Bought 3 more Pebbles. Which means I have 6 extras (and 8 total). Is this craziness?
“In a world and an economy rent and ravaged by other people’s innovations, the lesson seems to be that you can, and must, creatively fend for yourself.… we… call it innovation and entrepreneurship.”
“These keywords share an affinity for hierarchy and competition, an often-uncritical acceptance of the benevolence of computing technologies, and a celebration of moral values thought to be indistinguishable from economic ones: decisive leadership, artistic passion, and self-realization. Wealth and professional success are consequences not of fortunate birth, dumb luck, or exploitation, but hard work, hustle, and grit.”
“digitization is an intensification of the commodification of all forms of culture” #digitalperson
“pre-2000 uses of the word content [defined it as] the material in a book or on a television network, not the book or television program itself.”
“Since there is broad affinity between one’s economic and imaginative activity in the [Richard Florida] regime of creativity, you ‘live, work, and play’… as an economic subject at all hours.”
This book is written in the kind of dense, academic style that I don’t have the patience to wade through (and so, I gave up).
But generally, it solidifies a vague impression I’ve had — that words like brand, coach, content, design, entrepreneur, innovation, maker, etc. have become slimy somehow — because they mask hidden economic angles, where the goal is to: 1. sell something to someone or 2. leverage one person’s work for another’s gain.
Everything’s fucking marketing. Everything.
I’m getting dangerously close to buying a Samsung Frame TV.
I haven’t owned a TV in 5 years, and I like that. But my apartment is also pretty empty, and it feels like I needs stuff for it to feel like a home.
Ben Bruce (cephalopodunk), Bitsy game designer
Starship USS Bitsington: Tooth & Nail, space adventure
Amethyst Horologist, Radical Archaeologist, time-traveling adventure
Boss Fight Books, books about classic video games
“The idea behind the joke here is… that men who aren’t tough or manly enough to avoid being victimized are pathetic and therefore deserving of ridicule or worse.”
“emasculation jokes are supposed to be funny because, in a patriarchal culture like ours, we’re meant to think that there is no greater humiliation for a man than to be treated like a woman.”
Thinking more about how responding to a text/email often just creates another text/email. The visual metaphor I keep thinking of is Connect Four or Tetris Attack: things just keep piling up and filling in the empty spaces. #email
Controllers, gamepad-to-keyboard mapping
Choi Dambaek, LEGO builder (chunky characters)
Indepth Sound Design, movie sound design breakdowns
“The number system that most of us are familiar with is the base-ten number system, often called the decimal number system [‘dec-’ = ‘ten’]. And why 10? Well probably because… most of us have 10 fingers.”
I don’t think I truly understood until now what ‘carrying the 1’ actually means (it’s not 1, but a bundle of 1 × that column’s place value).
And just like that, I finally understand binary and hexadecimal. Sweet!
The Spriters Resource, video game sprite sheet database
mailbox.org, private, ad-free email
Still considering nixing Gmail. Still thinking it seems like a lot of work!
Truth is: I don’t want an email account at all. Which isn’t feasible. But it’d be nice to move all personal communication to texting (or something like that) and reserve email for impersonal/necessary stuff. #email
I have a bunch of un-responded-to email in my inbox again, and I feel like shit about it.
WebShot Pro, retina-resolution web screenshots
DSi Guide, custom DSi firmware (for playing ROMs)
This is so cool — playing games from every Nintendo system I grew up with on one handheld. This would’ve absolutely rocked my world as a kid.
Also interesting: one of the visual themes for this is based on the UI for the original DS — which felt advanced at the time (15 years ago), but now, feels like a beautifully-nostalgic throwback.
For years, I’ve been waiting for a time in my life when I can get back to playing some games.
Bought a GameCube-to-USB controller adapter
The 8Bit Deck, pixel art playing cards
ethical.net, app/service alternatives
Bought a Shark Rocket Handheld Vacuum (HV292)
Bitsy: Visit, a trip to the art museum
“our culture is far too critical of the individuals who eat junk foods and not critical enough of the corporations who profit from selling them.”
“The marketing comes in, and boom! boom! boom! the snacks are not healthy any more.”
With a smartphone’s ability to capture/record any moment, there’s unlimited anxiety in just the opportunity (“Should I be getting this?”) — but also anxiety about the potential of a missed opportunity (“I should’ve gotten that!”). And even if you do capture the moment, you actually miss it by having-been capturing it. #digitalanxiety
“When… someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!” — Carl Rogers
Re-read The Late, Great Stephen Colbert
“You have to learn to love the bomb. It took me a long time to really understand what that meant. It wasn’t ‘Don't worry, you'll get it next time.’ It wasn't ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”
“the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.… It’s our choice, whether to hate something in our lives or to love every moment of them, even the parts that bring us pain.”
“technology is not just something to be trusted. It’s not just something that’s objective and fair because it’s numerical, but it actually reflects a set of choices that people make.”
“The problem here is not that people are making decisions that are straight-up evil. The problem is that people are not foreseeing the outcomes of their actions.”
In San Francisco, I’m struck by how much the city feels commoditized by/for social media. So many people are taking photos (I assume, for Instagram) that San Francisco is no longer the thing it appears to be inside those photos… because it’s filled with people trying to capture that image. Every interesting thing is just Instagram content.
→ San Francisco #treatjoeself
“If I had a dollar for every woman who wasn’t attracted to me, they would eventually be attracted to me.” — Guy at the airport restaurant
“This is not to be confused with my best life or even the life I’m still on some level programmed to believe I want. I’m talking about my situational set point, the version of myself that inevitably swings back into the foreground even if I’ve managed to pretend to be another kind of person for a period of time.”
“much if not all of the reason my life hasn’t changed is that I’m not a parent. Children are life’s great timekeepers”
“I may not always live in this apartment or even in this city. I may not always live by myself. I may grow tired of the [Taco Bell]. But on some cellular level, it will always be Friday evening, 8 p.m., alone [clicking on links].”
Another thing I miss about working with college kids is that no one asks me for professional advice. No one I’m working with wants the job I'm doing. But I also don’t miss this.
Google Sheets: Pivot Tables, adding a third dimension to spreadsheets
Mike Caulfield: Network Heuristics, using the properties of the Internet to verify information
I accepted the Specialist Cluster Chair position for next year. (Where I’ll represent the Lower School specialist teachers’ interests at the higher-level meetings, and vice versa.) I’m excited about this! It’s less of a management role and more of a facilitation one, and I feel comfortable with that. It’s a way to take on more responsibility and have more influence (which I’m ready for), without needing to be a manager (which I want to avoid).
Nick asked me to apply for this, and I was initially hesitant. I still feel like a kid — which is silly. I turn 40 fucking years old this year.
There were a few new things the school asked me to take on next year (including 1st/2nd Technology classes and the Robotics Team). I said that I wouldn’t be able to do all of them, communicated how interested I was in each, and then let the school choose. This decision is totally in line with my priorities, and I feel great about that.
A major bonus of teaching with digital tools is that cleanup is really easy. (Thinking this after our last LS Coding & Robotics club, where our final project was to build a game using any combination of Sphero Bolts, micro:bits, LEGO, and paper/cardboard). Even with the kids’ help, it takes a good chunk of time to get all these physical things back where they belong.
“What’s what the money’s for.” — Don Draper
Whenever I learn that two CWA kids I already know are siblings, I’m always like, “Whoa, really?! Cool!”. I think the kids think it’s weird that I think it’s so interesting. (This has happened twice [Ben and Sophia, Caty and Alex] in the last two weeks.)
Met a person (potential new music teacher) who’s moving to Seattle because their spouse got a job at Facebook. I know people get jobs at Facebook every day, but why in the world would someone still want to work for Facebook (slash Instagram, or Twitter, Google/YouTube, or any company that’s currently destroying the fabric of humanity as we know it)?
Request a Lyft on desktop, without a smartphone
Added a new life goal: make a PICO-8 game.
“I don’t really have an idea. It’s more like: I’m having an idea.” — Student in MS Coding & Robotics (Andrew)
Thinking more about how my list-making might be contributing to my procrastinating, I cleaned up some lists: 1. straight-up deleted my movie list — it’s gone!, 2. set podcasts auto-delete after 30 days, 3. nixed everything on Links.txt older than a few weeks (I had a stuff on that list over a year old), and 4. did the same for my Spotify queue (mostly).
It’s unusual for people to keep lists as comprehensively as I do. So I’m going to try doing what most people do: either remember… or don’t remember and don’t give a shit. With all this, the goal is to eliminate the weight of lists on my life — and the feeling that I’ll never actually be caught up.
Although, I’m keeping: 1. my book list and Instapaper queue (because ultimately, I want to be reading more), and 2. my games list (because it’s relatively small).
Today is my 4th Journal-versary. Still at it! #journaling
This code is too advanced for the kids in my upcoming LS Game Design club (it’s too advanced for me. But, I want to introduce them to PICO-8, and it’s pretty magical to start with a blank canvas and manipulate some code… that’s a playable game. Neat!
I loved the Game Boy Advance e-Reader (trading cards with barcodes that contained games and add-ons). I wonder if it’d be possible to recreate that experience with them somehow using QR codes or itty bitty. #lesson
PICO-8: Super Funky Ball!, reverse Breakout
CSSeffectsSnipets, copy-and-paste CSS effects
I’ve been thinking about how my classroom management is affected by my connections with the kids. It’s been on my mind since the EdCamp unconference (two weeks ago) — where my main takeaway was that it’s only when teachers have genuine connections with students that management can happen.
I like to think I have solid relationships with the kids I teach. But the more I think about it, the less convinced I am that I actually do. I acknowledge them, I remember their work, their questions, and their contributions in my classes. But how much do I know about them personally? How many real questions am I asking and following-up on? In some cases, a lot. In most cases, not much at all.
And the students I know the best are the ones that make the effort to talk to me. (Ayden, Luca, Teo, Nolan)
Example: between the two 5th grade classes, I have significantly stronger connections overall in one class (like, significantly — connections [Luca, Ayden, Julianna, Saanvi, Kerr, Alyssa, Liv, Fisher, Camdyn, Maddie, etc.] that’ve carried over from 4th grade). And my lessons with that group tend to be way better: 1. management-wise (there’s a lot less pushing and pulling, the respect flows in both directions), 2. learning-wise (students are more engaged, productive, the discussions are better), and 3. fun-wise (for everyone). It’s a night-and-day difference, with same/similar content. #management
Granted, the better class is also my second class of the two, so I’ll always have iterated my lesson plan to a tighter version, too.
‘Trans-digital’ animated art, transforming a real-world 2D drawing/painting into an animated GIF
PICO-8: Arpongi, RPG + Pong
“There is no man… however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory. And yet he ought not entirely to regret it, because he cannot be certain that he has indeed become a wise man — so far as it is possible for any of us to be wise — unless he has passed through all the fatuous or unwholesome incarnations by which that ultimate stage must be preceded.… We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.” — Marcel Proust
“Anything mechanical that moves will wear over time. Some things break entirely and other things start getting sticky, slow, and just plain unreliable. And as the number of [components] increases, the probability of a failure increases too.”
This is a straightforward explanation for why digital technology is so infuriatingly unreliable. (In digital technology, the moving parts are metaphorical, though — affecting each other, programmatically.) #digitalanxiety
“These huge, dark and warm machines also attracted insects.… ‘When anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.’”
Sound Bible, Creative-Commons-licensed sound effects
Something I’ve learned this year in my ‘coaching’ role in the MS is that I really hate dropping into other teachers’ classrooms to do demos/lessons. (This week, Soundtrap in 8th grade.) Why? 1. I don’t really get to set the vibe for the room (or, at least, I don’t have the skills yet to correct it so quickly), and 2. I have nearly zero relationship with these kids, so classroom management isn’t (or at least doesn’t feel like) an option. Instead, I just have to roll with whatever the vibe is and however the kids choose to respond to me (sometimes it’s fun, often awkward). And then GTF outta there.
Realizing: although my job is super creative, (designing lessons and improvising/problem-solving on-the-fly, constantly) — and the creativity is one of the things I love about it — my success (or my perception of my success) relies on a whole system of factors. It’s too complex a network, too unreliable a measure, and too dependent on things I have no control over.
And then there are days where I leave school, and I wonder if what I’m doing makes much of a difference at all. It feels like an awful lot of hours-spent, sleep-lost, stress-felt, energy-expended, kids-managed… but very few moments in class that I could point to and say: that’s what it’s all for. Or where someone says: congratulations, thank you, you nailed it.
Do I care too much or not enough? Could easily be either.
I have a hard time letting go of bumpy classes — they weigh on my mind.
In 5th grade, I’ve been trying larger, more conceptual projects this year (vs. stand-alone 1–2 week lessons): What is Technology?, Memes, Design & Technology, and currently Screen Time. I’ve been incorporating more detailed research and more flexible lessons that are driven by the ideas and data they bring to class.
The goal of these lessons is to: 1. think deeply about technology how technology affects their lives, and 2. understand that they power and choices to make about technology. And generally, I think, that’s happening!
But: 1. the research steps are taking longer than I expect (I’m still calibrating to what little kids are actually capable of), so 2. half of my lessons this year have felt more academic than creative, 3. I don’t see them often enough to maintain momentum, and 4. when they run into trouble or have questions between classes, there’s really no way for them to contact me. I think these projects have potential, but not on my hour-a-week schedule.
On the upside, today, I asked them why they’re tracking screen time instead of just technology time. One student answered: “Well, then we’d have to add ‘5 minutes: pencil’ and ‘20 minutes: desk’ to our tracking sheet. [Because those are technologies, too.]” So some of this is landing.
Talking to (Riley) a MS teacher about Science Fair projects, I said that one thing I miss about working with college students is that they’re capable of so much, creatively. The creative work of the kids I teach now is still surprising, fun, and interesting for me. But not nearly as much as it once was.
This Resume Does Not Exist, randomly-generated resumes
“I have a positive helping executive with people new content and social businesses and increase scale aim to bring higher other technical experiences.”
“Assistance Assistant To Account Representative”
It’s interesting how neural networks do a pretty good job of surfacing BS. #bs
Generative.fm, endlessly unique ambient music
FR Kraken Slab, chunky slab serif typeface
PuzzGrid, pattern-finding word game
One of the reasons I like spending the majority of my day in an elementary school is that little kids default to sincerity. Sincerity is important to me. It’s real, honest, and uncomplicated — it gives me hope. This, contrasted with irony, which is phony, dishonest, and layered with pretense and guessing-games — and wears me down. #realness
Also a reason why the LS is feeling like a better fit for me than the MS — middle schoolers default to irony.
“Observe a 4-year-old child going through her daily life. You will not find the slightest bit of irony in her behavior. She has not, so to speak, taken on the veil of irony. She likes what she likes and declares it without dissimulation. She is not particularly conscious of the scrutiny of others. She does not hide behind indirect language.” — How to Live Without Irony
It makes sense, developmentally, that we fully embrace irony at the same moment in our lives that we become tragically self-conscious. It’s a way of creating distance and masking our feelings. #growingup
Sincerity (realness) vs. irony (phoniness) is one of the major threads that run through my thinking. #pleasurepoint #sincerity>irony
“Movies have taught us that never giving up is one of the most admirable traits of all, especially for men.”
“When the gender roles are reversed, and it’s a female character stalking a man, her actions are typically portrayed as manic or unbalanced, instead of endearing.”
“[These movies] serve to reinforce a variety of harmful myths about romance, [including] the idea that women don’t really know what they want”
“Contrary to what movies tell us, attraction is not the same thing as love.… Romantic love is mutual and reciprocal. It’s an exchange between people.”
Pixel Vision 8, fantasy console (à la PICO-8 with adjustable limitations)
Woke up with an idea for the big reward that kids could earn if they reach their typing goals: Typing Tournament. Teachers and kids compete in front of an audience — live and on the big screen the LS Commons — to see who can type the fastest. Pitched it to the 4th graders today, and they were into it.
Bitsy: Snail Detective, whodunnit mystery
Email continues to feel like a burden. A thing about email is that I don’t ever want to write one. I procrastinate on most chore-like things, but at least there are times when I want to (for instance) clean the kitchen, do laundry, wash my car, vacuum, etc. But email is not fun, ever. It’s always hard and time-consuming. I hate it. #email
PICO-ATE, PICO-8 tutorials and resources
Markdown Guide, syntax reference
Blot, Markdown-to-website platform
“Voice recognition is amazing. Instead of texting my wife, I can use one simple voice command to compose a message; a second to choose a contact; a third to choose which "Erica" [sic]; a fourth to confirm mobile vs. work; a fifth to send; and a sixth–eighth to repeat myself.” — Josh #digitalanxiety
With the 5th graders, I did the Digital Footprint lesson again, and I saw it differently this year. The exercise is intended to illustrate how our posts on social media reveal aspects of our personality. But this year, I noticed how quickly the kids labeled the people liars and bad people (it happened last year, too — the exercise is shallowly-designed to provoke that reaction).
macOS: ⌘ + F1 (brightness down) = toggle display mirroring for external displays.
IKEA ThisAbles, accessible IKEA modifications
I’m still all-in on Shark Tank. Love it. One of the things I appreciate about the show is its design — it’s a brilliant system: 1. it’s a flexible system (there’s no ceiling to the number of pitches it could support), and so, 2. it’s infinitely interesting to watch because every episode is entirely new, 3. when there’s a deal, the investors and entrepreneurs both benefit, 4. but if there isn’t a deal, the entrepreneurs still get a boost from being on the show at all, 5. ABC benefits because the whole thing is a TV show, but 6. since the investors are investing their own money, it’s relatively cheap to produce.
The design of Survivor (its system) is a reason I like that show, too.
All this, opposed to how I’m feeling about The Bachelor. I’m losing interest because it’s such an inflexible system — it produces the same output no matter the input.
Another thing I’m noticing about elementary school that I didn’t notice as a kid is that the teachers tend to talk with a certain kind of unaffected tone of voice. Mostly, it communicates seriousness, and clearly. But it’s also unemotional, and it sounds unnatural to me. It avoids communicating frustration (which can affect classroom management) and it’s also void of enthusiasm (which is just hard to maintain in the midst of the frustration).
Just realized/discovered that ‘Mad Lib’ comes from ‘ad lib’.
Used all of this for a teacher workshop on podcastsing/Soundtrap.
Teaching other teachers can be annoying as fuck. They think they can break the rules and be inconsiderate because… it’s all cool, right? But then you can’t use classroom management strategies on them because it feels condescending.
The closest thing I have to religion in my life is design. It helps me make decisions, it gives me purpose and direction, it’s the filter that I see everything through.
I want my computer and phone to do a lot less than they do. I want them to feel like less of a thing I have to manage and think about. But I also want them to continue to be infinitely flexible and customizable, and do exactly the things I want them to do. For me, computers are a never-ending source of anxiety and life admin. But also an outlet for incredible creativity and purposefulness. #digitalanxiety
Beautiful Dingbats, Unicode text tools
Queer Kids Stuff, LGBTQ+ and social justice lessons for kids
Nature Soundmap, nature sounds from around the world
Another bonus of Feedbin: I can unsubscribe from Twitter and Instagram feeds guilt-free (because my follow was never counted in the first place).
Castle, game dev environment/community (uses lua/LÖVE)
Officially posting the LS Game Design club for student sign-up. Really stoked for this.
The description: “Use game design tools to create your own, playable video games. Write a story, draw sprites and backgrounds, construct puzzles, compose music and sound effects. Plus (of course) play-test games and provide feedback to other game designers in the club!”
I’m only opening this to 4th & 5th graders (so, no 3rd), based on how difficult LS Coding & Robotics has been to manage. Which I’m feeling confident will transform this into the fun, creative experience I’d hoped for. This club has been fun, but it’s also been really hard. And even though they pay extra, these after-school clubs really need to be satisfying creatively and emotionally if they’re going to feel worth it for me.
As a teacher, it’s been hard for me to come to terms with the fact that every student won’t think I’m a particularly helpful, cool, creative person that they enjoy working with and learning from. But I’m not sure why I even expect that’s possible.
Nerdy Teachers, PICO-8 tutorials/videos
LEGO Technic gears explainers: Spur + Bevel + Conical + Specialty (Worm, Knob, Rack & Pinion, Differentials)
This is a major bonus of my job: getting to integrate things into my classes that I want to learn how to do myself. This year: more coding and electronics (micro:bits), robotics (LEGO Technic, LEGO Mindstorms, Sphero), and game design (Bitsy, PICO-8).
Several times this year, I stared a project not knowing exactly how the class (including me) was going to get from point A to point B with that particular technology (e.g. “Design an arcade game with a micro:bit” or “Design an animatronic robot using Mindstorms motors and gears”). But feeling confident that I could learn what I needed to learn in time to teach it — and usually in response to the students wanting to learn something specific. And in every case, it’s gone super well.
Thinking more about feeling annoyed while I’m teaching. Throughout my teaching career so far, there’s a pattern: in the classrooms where I’ve revealed that I’m feeling frustrated, 1. I also feel less invested personally, 2. I have fewer personal connections with students, 3. the classroom continues to be difficult to manage, and 4. the students tend to act more disrespectfully towards me over time (which is weighing most on my mind right now, and which I know is a reflection of the way they think I feel about them). In other words, my frustration maintains (and likely compounds) the problems that caused the frustration. This is obvious, and I’m subconsciously aware of it in the moment, but it’s worth writing down. #management
I’m struggling with this in both of my Coding & Robotics classes. Both of them end in three weeks, and I’ve been looking forward to that.
But this has happened at UW, too (in 265 and 308).