In 5th grade, for our last project, students are picking a favorite technology in their lives to concept a future version of. To jumpstart their thinking, I asked some questions based on Five 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.
My Famicase Exhibition, fan-made NES cartridge designs (for generating game ideas)
Teach Like a Champion: Wait Time technique, giving students more time to raise their hands before calling on anyone
“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.
OpenMoji, CC-licensed, monoweight emoji/icon set
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.”
PICO-8: Blocks For Life, resource-management platformer
04b03, 4×5 pixel typeface
“On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your favorite color of the alphabet?” — CGP Grey
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
It’s been a long two months since my last satisfying movietheater experience. Moviegoing is still the best way for me to disconnect, and I feel like I need it regularly.
“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
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.
“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.
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
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.”
Diary of a Song (New York Times), video series
I learned today that there’s a Mr. Sparano Fan Club in 4th grade.
GoBites, travel utensils (sporks)
Merrell Ontario (Dark Earth), waterproof hiking boots
This week, I’m subbing in a few 8th grade art classes (Photoshop), 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. @t
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).
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).
Learn X in Y Minutes, programming language overviews
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].”
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
“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 for 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’.”
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 a lot more pressure now 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 about the design of video games — specifically exploring: “How are games designed to be compelling or addicting?” 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, they’ll choose two games to deconstruct the design of and use those techniques to design prototypes (in Scratch) of: 1. compelling/addicting game they can, and 2. a game that’s compelling in a healthier way. @t
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.”
Bitsy: A Month to Look at the Moon, long distance love story
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
“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!”
“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.
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.”
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).
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
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.
Bought a GameCube-to-USB controller adapter
The 8Bit Deck, pixel art playing cards
ethical.net, more ethical 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.”
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.”
“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.”
→ San Francisco #treatjoeself
“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”
Google Sheets: Pivot Tables, adding a third dimension to spreadsheets
Mike Caulfield: Network Heuristics, using the properties of the Internet to verify information
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.
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.
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!
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
‘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
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) — it’s one of the things I love about it: my success (or my perception of my success) relies on a whole network of other factors. It’s too complex a network, too unreliable a measure, and too dependent on things I have no control over. I need another creative outlet that I can control, exclusively — where my success is my success, definitively.
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.
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. I want them to think deeply about technology as a concept. And generally, 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.
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”
Generative.fm, endlessly unique ambient music
FR Kraken Slab, chunky slab serif typeface
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
“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”
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.
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).
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!”
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).
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. #teaching
Bought an IKEA LINNMON Tabletop (oak + white)
Gale-Shapley Algorithm, a system for optimizing the pairing between two groups of people, matching them with their most-preferred available partner from the other group. (Essentially, a metaphor for how heterosexual dating works.)
“The matching is optimal from the [initiator]’s perspective.”
“[the algorithm] results in each man getting the most desirable lady he has a hope of snagging, and each woman getting the ‘least bad’ of all the available men.” — The Guardian
The thing that stuck with me most from reading Modern Romance is that, in the US, it’s so widely accepted that men make the moves that initiate relationships that it wasn’t even worth discussion — in a book about relationships.
I mean, I know that’s how the system works (heterosexually, in my case), but it seems so ridiculous to me. The system: 1. puts all of the risk on the guy (why not share in the risk/responsibility?), 2. favors guys who approach the maximum number of women (which seems like a dumb behavior to encourage), and 3. seems bizarrely conservative and reliant on gender roles to still be the trend. I really don’t get it.
PICO-8: Micro-8, fantasy console inside a fantasy console, i.e. “Console-ception”
“Sometime in 2019, the FTC is predicting that there will be more mobile phone calls attempting to defraud people than there will be mobile phone calls not attempting to defraud people.”
This does a classic graphic design industry thing, where subjective and shallow critique of how something looks (in this case, calling it “bad” and laughing at it) is treated as a critique of its entire design. These flags might’ve been the ideal solution to whatever goals and constraints they were designed around. Who gives a shit if it’s “bad ass” enough for you? Or if you could redesign it in a vacuum?
Also, people are responsible for these flags. It’s not OK to introduce something as a “trainwreck” and then pause while the audience (naturally) laughs at it. Especially not having participated in the process of how that thing came to be.
I’m having a really hard time managing talkouts in MS Coding & Robotics. Generally, they start talking about whatever’s on their mind, the moment it occurs to them, no matter what I’m doing. The class is (intentionally) more loosely structured than a normal class (it’s more of a workshop, where I’m teaching ⅓–½ of the time, and they’re working on their projects the rest). I’ve asked them to choose to help and communicated my expectations (to what feels like a stupidly-obvious degree), but it hasn’t been effective.
I know it’s something I’m doing (or not doing). There’s no way these students are this disruptive in the rest of their classes. But I also feel like I’ve been fair, clear, and measured.
At the end of class, I feel deflated and trivialized. I haven’t been looking forward to class, and I’ve started to get cynical about it. I know that’s probably coming through, and it’s probably making things worse. I just hate it, though. I dread teaching moments because (cynically) I know exactly how it’s going to go.
This is a hard thing about managing classes. As a teacher, I can’t ever give in to cynicism or frustration. I can’t ever act angry or annoyed. I can’t reveal that I’m feeling the feelings that are totally natural in those situations. Because an ounce of negative emotion — just one reaction, one moment in time — has long-lasting effects on the dynamic of that classroom.
Didn’t get the iD Tech job. Which is OK, actually. I’d mostly lost interest — the hours and pay are kinda silly (40–50 hours @ $525/week). But still — it’s crazy how hard it is to get a job around here!
Which means I’ll have the summer off (11 weeks, June–August). I won’t be teaching at UW (which I’m disappointed about), but my CWA after-school clubs (Coding & Robotics, Game Design) are covering extra cash I would’ve made there, so I’ll be good financially for the year.
Started a Summer of Joe list. #summerofjoe
A strange thing about teaching in the MS is that most kids won’t acknowledge me in the hallway (not just me, they seem to ignore most adults). The little kids rarely do this. Everyone in the LS smiles at each other and acknowledges that they exist — another reason the LS is feeling like a better fit for me.
I know it’s not personal (probably). Early adolescence is the point in our lives when we — out of self-consciousness and insecurity — start to pretend like we don’t notice other people. It’s depressing. #hello?
My LIFX lightbulbs are the only smarthome gadgets I use (I bought another one this week). And they’ve been a helpful gateway into thinking about the weird mix of helpfulness and anxiety of smart stuff. A few things: 1. When I interact with a smart bulb, I have to think about the whole system and whatever ‘smart’ things it will do later. (If I flip the switch on a smartbulb to turn it off, it won’t turn on in the morning. And I can’t ever not be thinking about that.) Also, 2. I have to use another totally separate interface (my phone) to turn the light on or off at all. I can’t interact directly with the thing, and that feels disempowering. And 3. my lights are now beholden to other totally separate systems (the WiFi in my apartment, the Internet generally) which compounds the likelihood that my smartbulb system won’t work either. #digitalanxiety
“Is your absence from social media helpful for your anxiety or is it a product of your anxiety? Why can’t it be both?… So you’re too strong and independent for social media, but you’re also too fearful and weak for it.”
The watches on the Rolex product pages sync to local time.
#tweetcart #pico8, PICO-8 carts that fit in a tweet
During my copyright lesson with 3rd graders, one of the students (Rowan) asked if the Wikipedia entry on copyright (which I showed for the list of things that can be copyrighted) is itself copyrighted. Awesome.
I have a couch! It took almost two months, and the only reason I managed not to drag it out any further is that a friend (Aubree) was selling hers. Buying second-hand saves me some cash, but it also relieves the anxiety of even having to choose a couch. These kinds of decisions (expensive, long-term, stuff-acquisition) are really hard for me.
The 8th grade TI-BASIC class I’m subbing in (for two more days) has felt like more trouble than it’s worth. It’s required quite a bit of preparation, but without any particular excitement or interest from the students during the lesson. (Their excitement and interest is my responsibility, but I haven’t figured it out yet.) And it doesn’t help that it’s a middle school classroom at 8:00a, with students I barely know.
Also got a Tomons Wood Tripod Bedside Lamp
AudioKit Synth One, free/open-source iOS synth
Prepping for my TI-BASIC classes this week is a helpful reminder that actually building something — making it work and struggling through it in real time (instead of just listening-to or reading-over the steps of the process) is the truest way to understand — to connect all the dots.
How do Christians believe in ghosts and astrology?
Orientation, stencil typeface
Still need to figure out how to make more time for reading. (I’m reading a lot, just not many books or Instapaper.) It’s possible I could cut out TV completely — no Bachelor, Survivor, or Shark Tank. Shows I really enjoy, but (in the end) are more a way to chill out than they are creatively or intellectually fulfilling.
Did some IKEA shopping (and I love IKEA so much), but in outfitting my apartment, I’m finding that shopping (especially for furniture) has become a really fraught exercise for me. I think about — the whole time — that all this stiff will end up in the trash some day. After my minimizing last year, buying big stuff feels like a more serious commitment than ever. I’m aiming to only buy stuff (except the obvious) that I intend keep for a really long time. Which is maybe unnecessary anxiety, but it also feels the right thing to do. @t
This week and next, I’m subbing in 8th grade Honors Geometry, introducing TI-BASIC programming on the TI-83/84.
Which, man, is bringing back some memories. My first coding experience was on the TI-85 (in high school). I built a few small programs, but it was more my introduction to the the ‘underworld’ of customizing and re-purposing devices. @t
And, of course, I loved the grayscale pixels.
ticalc.org, TI programming resources
I’m pretty sure this is the same site I was using 20 years ago!
Unicons, free monoweight icon set
Laurent Durieux, movie poster illustrator
The Guardian: The life and death of John Chau, missionary to the Sentinelese
I rarely talk about my feelings on religion (even on this site) because it’s so difficult to be honest without alienating people I know and appreciate (mostly Nebraskans). But freedom from religion (mostly Christianity) is one of the reasons I moved the PNW. And it’s been such an incredible relief — to be mostly done with the worry that I might accidentally reveal how I really feel.
For the record, I tend to be pretty skeptical of diehard Christians, and I see Christianity in the same way as any folklore or mythology: it’s a story — fiction. It just happens to be a fiction with current critical mass. But it’ll eventually seem (to some future group of people) in the same way we see the beliefs of Ancient Romans.
If you believe in heaven and hell then what he did was the most loving thing anyone could do.”
I now have four extra Pebble watches in storage (bought two more today). I love the thing, and they aren’t producing any more of them, and it’s hard to imagine a watch that I’d ever like as much.
For me, one of the most pervasive, anxiety-inducing aspects of digital technology is the leap-frogging of software updates. Bugs are found and vulnerabilities are exploited, so bugs are squashed and vulnerabilities are patched with new features and technologies — which opens the door to new bugs and vulnerabilities. There’s no end. So there’s no end for me either: to continue using these things, I have to participate. I have to spend my time updating and reconfiguring — just to get back to the way it was yesterday. All that work, and I’m just catching up. #digitalperson #digitalanxiety
This occurred to me updating Firefox on all of the LS lab computers — 80 of them (an update which has to be done manually). The app was “critically out of date” after just five months.
Using this to add visual category tags after posts on this page. (I was already adding a category CSS class to each post on the FoldingText side, so this was super easy to do.)
“in our globalized economy, where prices have been driven down to the lowest common denominator,… everyone… is chasing margins. We’ve had relatively low inflation, and so now this data surplus, this behavioral surplus, which we can sell into these new markets that trade explicitly in bets on the future of human behavior”
Use & Modify, open source typeface database
It’s sounding more likely that I’ll also be teaching 1st and 2nd grades next year. Which, I still think could be a fun move for me.
Although, I’m recognizing that it’ll be important for me to continue splitting my time between the LS and MS (if not also, some day, the US). The little kids are so optimistic, curious, and full of life — which is important for me emotionally. The older kids are significantly more capable and their work is more complex and meaningful — which is important for me creatively and intellectually. I want both! #teaching
No doubt, these are intricately-connected trade-offs. As we grow up and gain awareness of how life works — that’s exactly the thing that tempers our optimism and enthusiasm for it. #growingup
Trying a new incentive to encourage kids to practice Typing Club more often: a competition/leaderboard.
Helping kids learn to type is part of my job (and I think it’s a super important skill), but I haven’t been spending class time on it this year because it feels like a major waste of the hour I have with them (using an app they can use from home that’s intended to be done solo anyway). But many of the kids haven’t been practicing enough, and if they don’t learn to type faster, I’m gonna be held responsible (rightfully).
Google Sheets: Sparklines, miniature charts
macOS: ⌥ + F1/F2 (brightness keys) = open Display Preferences + ⌥ + F9–F10 (volume keys) = open Audio Preferences
PICO-8: Elias Grey, existential story of unfinished goals
“Without permission, without compensation, and with little in the way of resistance, [Google] seized and declared ownership over everyone’s information. It turned the details of the lives of millions and then billions of people into its own property.”
“The bullying style of TOS agreements also characterizes the practice… of threatening users with a loss of ‘functionality’ should they try to opt out of data sharing protocols or otherwise attempt to escape surveillance.”
“Lead with imperfection. Try things you’re not good at, right in front of them. Demonstrate a spirit of experimentation. Speak of your mistakes without judgment.”
“Lead with humility. When you don’t know something, say so. Allow for the possibility that you might occasionally be wrong. Check your ego. Apologize.”
I do both of these, pretty often, I think. It feels unusual, though, and I think students are thrown off by it, but I think it’s the right way to teach.
Bitsy: Mystery Dungeon, exquisite corpse adventure (34 rooms, each designed by a different person)
“[Facebook] can predict your interests and intentions before you even know them. And this is what gives rise to the illusion that our phones are recording our words and feeding us ads for cars just as we’ve finished a conversation about cars…. ‘I get that it’s creepy to imagine they listen to your conversations. But isn’t it more creepy that they can predict what you’re talking about without listening in?… You are super predictable to these platforms. It’s about persuasion and prediction, not privacy.’”
“Some suggest that dress codes that use words like [‘distract’ or ‘disrupt’] send a complex message to all students: girls are responsible for the way that others see them… and it relays to boys that… others’ bodies are theirs to judge.”
Turing Tumble, marble-powered mechanical computers
“We’re gonna lose games, but if we don’t have no attitude, we don’t have no toughness, we ain’t having fun… you know, it’s gonna be a long season.” — Marcus Morris #basketballquotes
Got my first issue of The Guardian Weekly, which is legit.
life admin: “the office work of life [healthcare/insurance/lease paperwork, booking appointments, responding to texts/emails, online banking, charging/updating/fixing gadgets].”
shadow work: “unpaid labour that benefits someone else [commuting to work, self-checkout, self-service gas, travel planning, posting to social media].”
“It’s ironic… that technology should bear so much blame for this. Automation was always supposed to take care of the tedious jobs, so we could enjoy more leisure time. In reality, it’s taken paid work away from humans, while also… transferring tasks from employees to consumers.” #digitalanxiety
Hebitsukai, illustrator (isometric, colorful cluttered spaces)
Jogaq, pixel illustrator (isometric rooms)
Brandon James Greer, pixel illustrator
Kenze Wee, pixel illustrator (animated cityscapes)
turtle.audio, shape-drawing music sequencer
PICO-8: Cheat Sheet, code reference
Bitsy: WELCOME_OWNER, smart home story
Bitsy: M.E.C.K. 415, mech preparation story
“Hi,… it’s real me.… Or is it?”
Dmitry Petyakin, pixel illustrator
I’m spending so much time right now reading and thinking about video games, but spending very little time playing them (yet). I’m realizing that the reason for this is that video games are about system design. More than anything, the thing I love about video games is the system.
It’s the same reason I’m drawn to coding, magazine design, and concept-driven horror and sci-fi movies: I like the challenge of building a self-sufficient little world, throwing something at it, and (based on the design fo the system) watching what happens. #pleasurepoint
“that’s what makes systemic games fun. Instead of finding the single, authored solution to a puzzle, you can use the inherent behaviors of the game’s systems to find your own way to overcome the problem at hand.”
And teaching is system design! Projects/exercises are more fun and interesting for kids if no one (not even me) knows what’s going to happen — but I’ve engineered rules (the system) that keep students moving towards a specific learning goal, no matter what they create. #teaching
Here’s A Thing, inside baseball stories from the video game industry
I like this as a coding analogy. One of the things I’m discovering about teaching coding is that, when a student’s code doesn’t work, they often want to blame the the tool (the code editor) for being broken, instead of considering how they (with the code they’ve written) might be responsible for the problem — which is way more likely.
Although, sometimes the tool is broken, which is a frustrating thing about teaching with technology. #digitalanxiety
PeerTube, decentralized, not advertising-supported video hosting (YouTube replacement)
“when you share your learning and doing, you don’t make them also love (whatever); you DO show them how great it is to do meaningful work”
“Find out who you are and then be that on purpose.” — Dolly Parton
Firefox: AdNauseam, automatically click ads to pollute tracking data
“For those of us contemplating whether or not to have children, the message is dark but consoling in its bleakness: you will be at points very unhappy whatever you choose. With either option, you will feel that you have ruined your life – and you will be correct. We do not need to add to our misery by insisting that there would have been another, better way.”
FUAY GIF (or sticker or embedded video clip)
Idea: teach a graphic design class in the US (high school) next year.
DeLorean Ipsum, random lines from the Back to the Future script (for sample text)
Retronator, pixel art and gaming news blog
Norton74, LEGO builder (Americana)
First snow day as a full-time teacher, and damn, I got so much done! (I was already at school when the day was cancelled, and I worked all day.) Mainly, two big projects that I’ve been procrastinating on for months (the LS bike rack design and cleaning/updating the last laptop cart). Awesome.
I tend to stack stuff up on my table and desk (things I need to put away, do, or otherwise deal with). I tend not to do these things right away, and it’s stressful to watch them pile up. But… I also tend to procrastinate on other, totally unrelated tasks, because I have this constant reminder of already being behind.
This is part of a bigger issue for me. I have so many to-dos and lists — all of them, things I want/need to do (including journaling, which feels as much like a burden as it does an essential part of my day) — that I have trouble keeping up. I really don’t know how people manage it all.
Just ordered one. I’ve been looking for a way to PICO-8 games and (for even longer) a way to play Game Boy games. Stoked. #treatjoeself
This is money I might’ve spent on a Switch, but it doesn’t feel like the right time to open that door. I’m clearly in a video game mood right now, but I’d rather go back and play the games I’ve had on my list for ages.
More PICO-8/emulation options:
sudomod, DIY handheld gaming blog
Pixilart, pixel art editor
DIY Classroom recording booth, organizer cube + foam
Code.org: How encryption works exercise (Unit 5, Lesson 6)
“Phil is designed to be a character that seems like he could never change.… The brilliance of Groundhog Day is that once all these elements are setup, the protagonist’s change is the inevitable result of the premise.… There’s literally nothing left for Phil to do but change.”
“Groundhog Day is a great example of what it looks like to fully commit to a premise.… the film fully explores every avenue within its simple premise, mining the idea for every funny, moving, and heartwarming scenario Phil could find himself in”
BrickLink AFOL Designer Program, crowdfunded LEGO projects
Backed Eight Studs, a LEGO brick-shaped modular tiny house
Lunark, pixelated cinematic platformer
In 4th grade, I’ve been having consistent problems with kids talking without raising their hands (aka “talkouts, blurts”). This morning, tried a new strategy: turning it around. I said, “I need your help. I have a really bad habit of responding to talkouts. If you catch me responding to a student who hasn’t raised their hand, let me know.” It was really effective! The kids were pretty intrigued by the challenge.
Here’s an idea I struggle with: it’s important to me that other people, at least sometimes, recognize that I’m doing my job well. (Which, honestly, hasn’t been happening much lately.) Is that self-involved? And if I really believe I’m good at what I do, shouldn’t that be enough?
At CWA today, I met a woman (Melanie) who was visiting from a private school in Salt Lake City. She was working in the library, and I walked over to introduce myself, and we talked for a few minutes about our jobs. I mention this because she is extremely my type: really open, curious, and friendly, not at all pretentious, lots of eye contact — just really genuine and kind. And it’s interesting to recognize that the things I’m attracted to are the opposite of the things that really piss me off: phoniness, artificiality, bullshit.
Programming Fonts, monospace typeface tester
Arduboy, credit-card-sized, 8-bit game system (i.e. Arduino + Game Boy)
Littlewood, pixelated, town-building RPG
Recognizing how important it’ll be for me to continue making space in my schedule for teaching some kind of creative elective (like Coding & Robotics) — no matter how/if my job evolves. The meat of my job (3rd–5th technology) is going well, generally. But at the end of the day, those classes aren’t (and could never be) as fun or meaningful as working with a group of kids who are all stoked to be creating and learning for themselves.
It’s been a fun few days with the new MS class (learning HTML with Code.org and building sites on Glitch). It warms my heart when kids are working on their projects outside of class (voluntarily) and getting hyped about something like <a> tags (which they learned today).
Neither C&R has been a walk in the park, management-wise. But these kids really want to be here, doing what we’re doing. As a teacher, there’s nothing better. #teaching
ClipGrab, download YouTube videos
It’s irritating how difficult this process can be. The browser extensions that work always inevitably stop working.
Man, it’s been a rough couple of days for classroom management. 3rd yesterday, then 5th and both Coding & Robotics classes today. Mostly, it’s constant talking, with resets that last just a few seconds before the talking resumes — as soon as I say/ask anything at all, turn around momentarily, or change anything on screen. Seconds. In those moments, I’m staying cooler than ever, and I’m able to appreciate the frustration about half the time. But deep down, it’s still frustrating as fuck.
I’m spending so much energy, and the net result is… what? A lot of spent energy and very little forward progress. I feel foolish, ineffective, disrespected, exhausted. I feel bad, professionally and personally.
I’m even doing the things I’m supposed to be doing: 1. clearly communicating my expectations, 2. practicing/demonstrating those expectations with students, 3. calling out students who are doing those things well (instead of dwelling on misbehavior), 4. handling misbehaving student issues privately.
detectportal.firefox.com, force the login page when using public WiFi networks
social factory: “When branding appeared at the apex of industrial capitalism, the means of production were still largely confined to literal factories…. These days, however, that distinction isn’t so clear.… In consumer culture, brands are a primary source of meaning, and it’s (in part) up to us to make them meaningful [by doing the work of promoting and embodying the brand], creating value for capital in the process.… We’re used to thinking of production and consuming as separate activities, but in modern branding, they are one and the same.”
I told the 3rd graders a story about how the (current) 4th graders (who are a real joy to work with now) were (a year ago) also a talkative, distracted (hard to manage) group. I said this: “You learn how to be 4th graders in 3rd grade.” Which feels real deep.
Talking to (Nick) the lower school principal, I mentioned that I’m open to the idea of picking up 1st and 2nd grades technology next year. I said this because: 1. these classes are currently taught by the science teacher (on top of K–5th science), which doesn’t seem fair, and 2. I’m jiving with the 2nd graders way more than I ever expected to, and I think it’d be a fun age to work with, too.
The paradox of the software update: you need the latest update to fix the things that the last update broke. #digitalanxiety
Post-it Room, drawing
At-home, doorway-mounted boxing equipment:
Notable, Markdown note-taking app
PICO-8: Upward, puzzle platformer
Bought a PICO-8 license for testing (potentially, for the middle school game design class).
Applied to teach at iD Tech Summer Camps this summer, which looks pretty legit.
I have $5,000 set aside from 2018 for retirement savings, which I’d intended to invest before tax day. But I’ve been thinking that it might be smarter to use that money for dating — an investment towards the life I’d like to live. And which could, actually (as Uncle Al pointed out) also be a smart investment financially.
Bitsy: Palettsy, palette generator
Seattle Smol Games, tiny games meetup (e.g. Bitsy)
Thanks to the new apartment, on days when I can work from home, I actually prefer working from home (instead of coffee shops or going into work). I don’t remember that ever really being true.
I’m really happy with the unit I picked: 1. since there are two walls with windows, there’s a ton of light, 2. since I’m on the corner of the building, it’s really quiet, 3. since I’m on the bottom floor, I can stomp around all I want without ruining anyone’s day (a constant worry in both Seattle apartments), and 4. since the 1st floor is the cheapest, I’m saving money vs. the top floor (which I considered).
A couple of drawbacks: 1. since I’m on the corner and above the parking garage, it can get pretty cold in here, and 2. since I have upstairs neighbors, I have to deal with their stomping around (but I’m learning to be OK with it, and they’ve been pretty considerate, actually — and even mentioned that they could hear their upstairs neighbor stomping around — which pays-off a theory I had about avoiding apartments where my upstairs neighbors don’t have upstairs neighbors).
I’m investing that difference in rent ($210) in my retirement account every month, which gives that decision a nice extra layer of meaning.
“Instagram Stories reveal how people actually are rather than how they’d like to be seen, or that’s the idea.”
I’ve noticed that several of my friends post more Stories than regular photos/videos now. Which seems like a response to what regular Instagram feels like: a burden — of constructed, performative, curated, anxiety-inducing bullshit.
“An idea for birthday celebrations: Celebrate nice numbers of days since the year you were born; 1,000 days, 11,111, 123,456 days old etc.” — Daniel Eatock
Compagnon, historic typewriter typeface
PICO-8: Feed the Ducks, surreal duck-feeding puzzle game
“I’d rather be here, now.” — Ram Dass
Over the last few days, my classroom management has been sharper. I’m: 1. intentionally planning for it, 2. breaking lessons into smaller chunks, 3. being as. clear. as. possible., 4. communicating my expectations more often. It’s clicking again! Next level, actually.
The switch in my mindset after the break — of recognizing that I love the frustration (or at least, that it’s an inseparable part of the job that I love — is helping me see that my management has to come from the same place. The strategies I employ have to come from a place of sincerity, empathy, kindness, and respect. Strategies that feel mechanical, patronizing, or authoritative don’t feel comfortable when I use them. I want to maintain my connections with the kids at the same time that I’m managing the room. I don’t want to draw a line between me and them.
I want both (the connection and the well-managed class), and I think it’s possible. #realness #teaching
“We want to live in public but also control what happens to the slices of life we publicize. Or we recoil at the thought of our foibles being turned into one day’s entertainment on Twitter, but we nonchalantly consume such entertainment when someone else is the victim.”
“Privacy flourishes in the attention economy to the same degree that contentment flourishes in the consumer economy, which is to say not at all.”
“all of this is just an extension of what used to be the case with celebrities in the age of electronic media and print tabloids. Digital media simply democratizes both the publicity and its consequences.”
Another bonus of the Digital Design Lab is that the kids who’ve been showing up lately have been mostly 1st and 2nd graders — kids I don’t teach. So I’m getting to know them, too.
There’s a chance that I’ll pick up teaching those grades next year (and move away from middle school), which… might be good, actually. Considering it.
Pangram Pangram: Grafier, edgy serif typeface
“Amateurs have long provided much of the patchy knowledge we have about nature.… The Latin root of the word ‘amateur’ is, after all, the word ‘lover.’”
Working on progress reports (grading) for the first half of the year. Even though I’m responsible for more students now (100+ little kids vs. 15–60 undergrads) I don’t dread grading as much as I did. It’s less frequent and more personal, but now that I’m working with the same students for much longer, I’m getting to see them mature and change. I really feel protective and proud of these little people — I know these kids pretty well. And grading (as a reflection of that long-term relationship) feels newly significant and worth the energy.
Thinking of taking a solo vacation to Vancouver for my 40th birthday. The city has a special place in my heart, and it was the inspiration for moving to the PNW, and so, seems like the appropriate place to celebrate having arrived at this next phase. And I want to take the train. #thenextphase
“[Nintendo’s approach to difficulty is] to make the main game pretty easy and accessible — and then add additional challenges… for more dedicated players to tackle.”
This is what I’m trying with my new LS Coding & Robotics class, where I have beginners and advanced kids in the same room. My plan is to use the same projects for everyone, but include multiple, increasingly-difficult challenges for each project. That way, everyone is working towards a specific goal, but each student is at a level of difficulty they’ve self-selected. #goals
“Nintendo games might be weird and unpredictable, but they’re not just a messy hodgepodge of random ideas and mechanics.… the unique gameplay is often reflected in the game’s presentation. Take Splatoon’s punky aesthetic, which came from the graffiti-style ink mechanic. Or Mario Sunshine’s tropical [style], which was inspired by the Super Soaker gameplay. There’s certainly some of that in Mario Odyssey, with a race of hat-like creatures, living in a hat-based kingdom, flying hat-shaped crafts around the world. And everyone in the game is wearing hats”
Library Genesis, pirated ebook database
Sutori, timeline creation tool
Cloudflare Registrar, cheaper domain registration
Using this to block
browsers any app but FoldingText after 7:00p 8:00p (Sunday–Thursday), trying to make more space for reading, journaling, and meditating — away time.
MakeCode Arcade, web-based game coding (using the same interface we’ve been using for micro:bits)
MakeCode for Minecraft, and for Minecraft
Again, seriously, I would’ve been a perfect pick for working on MakeCode at Microsoft Research. But, also again, I’d rather be teaching and working with kids in classrooms every day than sitting at a computer, designing interfaces and lessons for teachers and kids to use.
Still bugs me. Why, though, if I really believe I ended up with the better job for me? I think, because when I was applying for that job (plus other design industry jobs: SMART, Microsoft Education, LEGO), I failed to present myself in a way that really captured what I’m capable of. Which led to a lot of stress and disappointment in the year afterward. And existential questions about whether or not I’d ever find my place professionally, or even understood myself in the way I thought I did. (And the money would’ve been nice.)
Part of that failure is in my portfolio, which was more focused on research than interfaces. But also in having not-selected UX projects in grad school. That said, even then, I didn’t want a UX job. But it was naive to think I could bypass that step.
“a book is also a collection of things you pick up in the process of writing it.” — Kyle Chayka’s editor #theprocess
Bitsy: I can’t find my glasses!, one-room puzzle game
At the end of MS Coding & Robotics yesterday, one of the students who’s not returning next quarter (Elliott) asked if I’ll be teaching this class in the spring. I said that it wouldn’t be the same class. Instead, I’m thinking it’ll be a game design class (using Bitsy), and he was pretty stoked about that idea.
We could break it into multiple units: story, sprites, puzzles, custom music, scripting. And all framed by design process: goals, inspiration (dissecting existing games), limitations (pixels), prototyping and feedback (play-testing). Oh man!
Bitsy: The Fever, educational game about coral reefs
Mike Caulfield: Another example of the news fact-checking strategy, this time, for the “Trump resignation”
Typewrite Something, typewriter simulator
machine learning: “Every algorithm has an input and an output: the data goes into the computer, the algorithm does what it will with it, and out comes the result. Machine learning turns this around: in goes the data and the desired result and out comes the algorithm that turns one into the other.”
Paradiddle, VR drumming
Gaming Historian, retro video game video essays
Firefox: Page Info window: Media, the easiest way to save the source images, SVGs, etc. from a page
Got a new nickname, this time from (mostly, Iyla) 3rd graders: “Joe Froyo”.
People in meetings are weird, including me.
Had another bumpy-ish lesson in 5th grade (introducing the Design & Technology project). But my perspective has changed since the last (much bumpier) lesson. The reason in both cases is that I spent less time planning than the lesson deserved. Having spent most of the fall feeling stressed and overworked, I’ve decided that I’m giving this job as much time as I’m willing to (and more than I even should, considering my salary), so if I have a hastily-planned lesson here and there (which tend not to go very smoothly), I think I’m OK with that.
First LS Coding & Robotics class (once/week after-school elective). It’s my first class in the LS that’s truly mine, and… it was harder to manage than I anticipated. Not surprising at all (in retrospect). One of the students even asked, “Do you wish you had two teachers?” Which suggests it was worse than it was. I don’t wish that, though — I want to figure this out.
One reason I signed up for this is that I thought it’d be fun to work with the kids who really want to code and build robots. But it didn’t occur to me until now that maybe it won’t be fun or worth the energy I’ll be investing in it.
A thing I need to get over: the way kids (usually boys) are compelled by apps/tools not working: “glitching out” (usually just everyday tech quirkiness) and “hacking” (usually just features they think are bugs). I think they like the idea that they’ve mastered the system — which I can respect. But I’m irritated by it because they usually haven’t done that, and (at times) they’re more excited to have broken it than in using it the way it was intended.
Here’s something I keep returning to: I think I’m a pretty innovative teacher. I’m using digital stuff in fun and interesting ways. I’m trying lots of new things this year, and way more often than not, they work (I’m upgrading this shit!). And it’s all relevant to the things kids are into outside of school (I know what’s up!). But I don’t feel like that’s been recognized or appreciated much by other teachers. That bugs me. Should it?
Learned that the dad of one of the CWA kids is a current NBA player (DeMarcus Cousins) — a multiple-time (4×) All-Star, even. What!
Security Checklist, online privacy and security resources
A bonus of the new apartment: when you’re the only person who uses a washer and dryer, there’s no need to use a hamper — the washer is the hamper.
It occurred to me, watching this, that I might be doing them wrong sometimes. And it’s true!
r/MagicEye: Inverted images?: “Q: so you mean to tell me that crossing my eyes has been the wrong way to approach these images? I’m not suppose to see the image indented? It's supposed to be embossed? A: Most likely it’s because instead of ‘relaxing your eyes’ you're crossing them.… try focusing on something far away from you and then looking at your screen while still holding the previous focus.”
r/CrossView, stereograms intended to be viewed cross-eyed.
MeArm Robot, micro:bit-controlled robotic arm
PewPew, little game console for teaching game development
“[one] of the things that… newcomer [game designers, but this also applies to any kind of design based on appearance] don’t really understand is that consistency is a lot more important than quality.”
Wrote (copy-and-pasted and trialed-and-errored together) a script that fetches the latest movie I watched (from this page) and displays it on About.
mui, wood panel digital display
“It… feels to me like for something to be true, there ought to be an element of feeling and intuition.” — Christoper Nolan
PuzzleScript, puzzle game engine
“the hair color’s progression signals to us the symbolic seasons of Joel’s and Clementine’s relationship: [spring = green, summer = red, fall = orange, winter = blue].”
“This is perhaps the most profound truth in the movie: that acceptance sets us free.”
“And if I ask an English speaker to organize time, they might lay it out… from left to right.… very egocentric of me to have the direction of time chase me around every time I turn my body.”
Over the break, telling friends and family how much I enjoy my job, plus having some distance from it, is bringing me a new ability to recognize — and appreciate — in real time, that the frustration is the job. In those tricky classroom management moments, I haven’t been working to keep a smile on my face, I’m actually smiling. I love the job. I love the frustration … ? #teaching
In MS Coding & Robotics, did an all-class, post-project reflection on micro:bit games (Project 2). It’s been so cool that one of my favorite things from my UW classes works with the younger kids, too. Reflections are never not worthwhile.
Procedur.al, made-to-order generative art
Bitsy: minimalist, reflections on minimizing game
In 5th grade, did an exercise/discussion on whether or not a pencil is a technology, using the definition they created at the beginning of the year. In the midst of that, one of the kids (Ayden) mentioned that his favorite pencil had “Round & Round” printed on it — which is cool because Justin had sent that to me, and I’d dropped that into their classroom. #worldscolliding
B.M. Pixel, 5 × 4 pixel grid typeface
Teleport Bot (@bot_teleport), randomly generated scenarios
Alterego, bitmap/pixelated typeface
More Bitsy resources:
Borksy Game Hacker, simplified add-on scripts
Fontsy, import custom fonts
I have a lot of good, long convos on these trips back home. The theme of this trip has been parenthood (specifically, being a dad). How do you manage it all? Is it what you imagined? What are the hardest parts? What are the rewarding parts? In the hardest parts, what are you thinking about? What’s your schedule like? What do you sacrifice? Do you have time to yourself? I wouldn’t ask: is it worth it? Because of course it is. But it sure looks about as hard as something could be (to do well, anyway). @t
I’m asking these questions because I want to be a dad. But I also worry (a lot) that maybe I’m not cut out for it — that I’d have a problem losing the isolated Joe time that I seem to require. And I’m not all that interested in doing the work it’ll take to find a partner to build a family with anyway.
Watched Rockets vs. Warriors on the NBA VR app, which was pretty sweet.
I’ve said several times on this trip that my job at CWA feels like the ideal job for me. It’s hard to imagine a better fit — it matters, I think I’m good at it, and it’s fun (the criteria for A Good Day).
Strong Songs podcast, breakdowns of popular songs
This is it. The year I turn 40. How?
The Myth of Invisible Design #design
readiness-at-hand: “using a tool to accomplish something and you’re not aware of it (e.g. writing with a pen).” vs. presence-at-hand: “when you’re aware of the tool as a tool (e.g. imagine the pen running out of ink. You become cognizant of it as an object in your hand.)” — Heidegger
There are three great themes in design: making something beautiful, making something easier, and making something possible. The best designs accomplish all three at once.”
This is a classic design industry assumption: that design = product design. That a designer is always designing a beautiful tool for a person to use, by choice, to accomplish a task delightfully — that a designer is always trying to incentivize a person to use the thing.
But sometimes a design isn’t good for the person using it — not all design is intended to be beautiful or make things easier (I’ve said this, too). A design can be abrasive (barbed wire), distracting (billboards), cumbersome (privacy policies), disorienting (buying a car), fear-inducing (local news), etc.