29 January 2008

Are Schools Killing Creativity?

This video is worth your time since the speaker is a key person at the J. Paul Getty Foundation which studies education.

Education is supposed to ready our future leaders .... is that getting done?
What are the accomplishments of schools and how does school nurture creativity?

I think this is an excellent talk and well worth your 18 minutes to view it.

28 January 2008

Students Motivate Themselves in Environmental Education

K-12 students in Kenya, Paris, or San Diego all have one significant commonality: the environment. What Inconvenient Truth did for raising the bar on environmental education is, without a doubt, “global awareness.” I think whoever watches it, even if they don’t agree with the message, gets a clear picture of how different aspects of the environment are directly connected to our life styles. Every class of my high school students watching that movie have concluded with the question, “What can I do?” Young people today do care about what happens with the environment; yet many feel overwhelmed or powerless in dealing with environmental issues. My experience leads me to believe that the time has arrived to capture their interest with learning experiences to discover appropriate care of tomorrow’s healthy environment, which means providing environmental education that is academically focused and civically pointed.

Service learning contributes to student education, along with building social skills: character building. Service-learning is considered a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. Constructivists (e.g., Brooks & Brooks, 1999) propose that students actively create their own knowledge using real world situations to examine essential concepts in a context that is personally meaningful. Service-learning has been around since for almost 100 years as a method to enhance education. Since the early 1990’s there have been more and more legislative efforts and comprehensive national programs to emphasize and support this learning. Today, there’s a growing interest on the part of educators as more studies point out the cross- curriculum benefits.

Producing projects that combine service learning and environmental education is easily accomplished to fulfill lesson objectives and it can be molded to fit class characteristics. Here are two examples of projects for grades 5-12: A) students in a middle school science class studying the environment help preserve the species of birch trees, local to their area, by raising money to purchase some small birch trees and then plant them at a local park or forested area; B) students concerned with the quality of the environment organize a recycling effort at school by establishing and carrying-out a schedule of regularly picking up recyclable materials from classes and offices; then depositing that material in a campus bin that is picked up by a recycle vendor. There are volumes of benefits for students in a doing project.

Educators have to take the lead in class environmental projects. The teacher has to get them pointed in the right direction, assist them in getting organized, and keep them on track. When I hear my students asking about what they can do, I take their interest down to our local level. We begin talking about ideas to clean up the campus, teaching other students about the environment, or doing some work in the neighborhood. We begin with brainstorming on ideas as a class. The next step is alignment, making a commitment as a class to take some action on at least one project we have discussed. The last step is the most comprehensive because it involves the actual project work. The pivotal point is the students taking control and running the project work, which happens when the teacher becomes a resource or Subject Matter Expert.

Brooks, Jacqueline Grennon, Martin Brooks. In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA; Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,1999.

25 January 2008

The Law of the Garbage Truck

In my classes we are doing a project in pairs to explore genes, traits and other genetic concepts. One of my teaching goals, most of the time, is to not answer student questions directly but to encourage them to think.

In my professional development classes and in the research reading I've done, it seems students stop, or significantly decrease, their thinking when teachers give them an answer. I make a concentrated effort to encourage and encourage them some more to think the situation/problem through and arrive at their own conclusion.

Yesterday there were two students who were struggling with the exercise. One was energetic and the other was doubtful and not contributing a lot of positive thinking to the work that needed to be accomplished. It was an excellent opening for me to share the law of the garbage truck with the class......

A husband and wife were on vacation in NYC when they hopped in a taxi and took off for Grand Central Station. They were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of them. Their taxi driver slammed on his breaks, skidded, and missed the other car's back end by just inches! The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and started yelling bad words at us. Their taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. So, they said, "Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!" And this is when their taxi driver told them what is known as, "The Law of the Garbage Truck." Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. And if you let them, they'll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don't take it personally. You just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You'll be happy you did. So this was it: "The Law of the Garbage Truck."

22 January 2008

Change is Commonality: USA K-12 education & USA economy

Nothing but the bad sate of the economy in the news today. I’m no expert there but listening to the facts, it sounds like us folks living in the USA will have to borrow money from another country to “stimulate” our own economy. Somehow that just doesn’t sound right at all.

Are you wondering why I’m talking about the economy in my blog that deals with K-12 education?

The economy and K-12 education both need change to benefit the citizens. For example, let’s look at the schedule and curriculum of K-12 education. The schedule today is the same as it was in the 1950’s. Students start school early in the morning and get out in the afternoon. Is that still the best structure? Has anything else changed in the last 60 years? Everything about cars has changed since the 1950’s; except they still ride on four wheels. Wardrobes have changed more than once. The power of the dollar has change many times. What is considered to be nutritious has changed and so has our idea of smoking.

Computers and iPods weren't even available 10 years ago. Why is it we can't fund some research on what schedule works best for young people to optimize their time tables? After all, their brain is still growing as research has already detailed. Perhaps, maybe, they might retain more and participate more in class if the schedule began later and ended later in the day?

Then there is the curriculum. Today, just like in the past, states are still driving their own Standards for what needs to be taught. Classes are still taught in segments; math in one class, reading in another, science in a different one, and so forth. What about cross curriculum schedules where students learn multiple content areas while working in a class or project? Here's a novel idea, what if students worked on a project team to build a robot that competed with other student teams; where the awards are based on demonstrating respect and gracious professionalism in your team and with other teams? We’re talking about science, math, reading, writing, and serious life skill building now. Cool idea – right? I think so. BTW, this already exists at FIRST.

Another perspective, are we teaching K-12 students what they need to know when they graduate? I’m not sure we can answer this question since we are busy focusing on getting them prepared to pass a test based on locally determined education priorities. What about the basics? Can they balance a checkbook? What about a profit and loss statement, can they understand the differences and plan accordingly? Based on recent research of small business failures I think not.

There's a long way to go on answering the questions here and I know there's no quick fix. Yet, we didn't know how to get to the moon and we did it in a relatively short period of time with a focused effort. For some background material on the state of education there are links to five key reports produced by leading education researchers available at the ERI web site.

I’m no pundit. I do think we deserve to give our K-12 students the best education possible. When we do that, the future for this great country will get brighter.

Here is a great read on the questions raised: Are Schools Failing Kids in 21st Century Skills?

21 January 2008

The best FREE lunch in education you'll get

I think we're all going to agree that education should be free after K-12 - yes?

Here is your source for that .... from prestigious university classes: MIT, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon and many more: click here.

This site has all content areas. It has languages. It even has ear training software. Most classes are videos taking during the class - excellent. I heard that MIT has said they are going to get all classes taught at that university on this free distribution system by end of this year.

You have to check out this site. If not for you than for you kids sake. This resources supplies what, to me, education is supposed to be: filled with quality and free. It's not a replacement for sitting in the class as an enrolled student but it sure is a darn good start.

20 January 2008

Take Green Action Next Week - Focus the Nation

It's Sunday night and tomorrow is a holiday here in USA, which means I'm not preparing my lessons until tomorrow.

Something exciting and important is happening on January 31st that I read about today:Focus the Nation.

Focus the Nation examines the greening America and reducing global warming with different strategies. It's an educational initiative and includes civic engagement.

= One effort is to engage and work on green democracy
= There is a National Teach In on January 31st where you can participate
= You can cast your vote to choose the green options you think are best
= The 2% Solution is a webcast you can attend on January 30

This seems like a great opportunity and I plan on getting an event scheduled at my high school for January 31st, attending the webcast, and voting too.

18 January 2008

Classroom social dynamics - where do they come from?

Yesterday I had small groups discuss some questions in class related to the key concepts we were learning this week. I gave them three to five minutes depending on the question, the incentive was that the table(s) with correct answers would receive bonus points.

As I wandered the room and monitored each table, I saw something that didn’t surprise me much. At tables where there were lively discussions everyone had an equal vote, no one really swayed the conversation – unless someone produced a note they had taken as evidence. Conversely, key students – those students with a “reputation” as being smart” due to their grades and comments in class – could sway a conversation just with a comment …. They didn’t need any evidence – there was an inherent trust in what they said.

Today I gave a quiz that I had been talking about all week. In scoring it, I noticed the students that were actively participating in the discussion yesterday scored higher on the quiz. In case you’re wondering, yes – the questions yesterday were about the topics on the quiz.

As a teacher, what did I learn from this?

Social dynamics is a key part of class and no one taught me this in my bachelors to get a teaching certificate. In my Master’s we covered it indirectly. Yes, I was taught classroom management and that was/is immensely helpful. But, social dynamics is different.

For me, social dynamics equates to students getting “out of their thinking box” and looking at situations/conversations freshly. This is much easier than is sounds.
We began a new semester two weeks ago and now I have all the new students I will get – schedules are finally settling down. The difference in thinking levels between the new students and ones who were with me last semester are night and day.
I use a lot of discussions in my teaching. I’m convinced that students learn more from each other in these group discussions than any time, energy or material I present. I always have discussions after I present material to let students absorb it.

I ask a lot of questions to students in my teaching. What was apparent from the discussion yesterday is I have to be careful about the mix of students in group work, given the high number of new students I have. I need to mix the old students with the new students, otherwise the new students are bound to get off track … both in groups and in seating and also in class discussions. This takes an enormous amount of focus and concentration on my part – stamina.

I think that stamina comes from my business career. To be successful in business you have to dissect situations and examine them against your goals – at least I had to do that as a project manager. Honestly, I don’t see where they young teachers – just out of college – get that knack – that insight. I know there are no college classes teaching social dynamics.

The push in assimilating new teachers seems to be focused on college grads. Are we setting them up to lose? What if we focused on pulling successful business people into teaching …...would they stand a better chance for success?

People skills. Without those skills a teacher is going to be hurting, perhaps trying to make friends with students rather than teach them. I think we need to hire teachers with strong people skills and equally strong content knowledge.

Hiring a nerd won’t work – students will eat them alive. At the other end, hiring someone with no content knowledge won’t help the students learn much. We need a knowledge skill and people skill balance in teachers.

That’s my two cents today.

BTW, here is an excellent video about getting out of the box. (grin)

17 January 2008

What is teaching ....

Being a teacher is an awesome opportunity.....having some insight into making my self a better teacher makes it more meaningful. Teaching gets boring or turns into a J.O.B. when I don't have my full energy ... without a doubt, it's the most demanding effort I've undertaken.

This video expresses so much and because I enjoy learning visually, I had to share it with you here.


16 January 2008

Want a stellar experience?

Today, like other days, I just need a break.

Ever wonder if there is noise in space .... outer space?

Maybe it's just quiet out there .... maybe not.....

15 January 2008

So much more going on ......

A busy day indeed today and yesterday in very unexpected directions.

One strange detail that I encountered in class was some students adversely affected by a former student, and their friend, who committed suicide. When students get on these tough topics I’m not sure which way to go … usually I end up being honest about what I’m feeling and I’m not sure that’s the best policy … so although I was saddened by the suicide I talked about the courage that young man had. He took his own life by hanging himself in the closet. Apparently, he had to lift his legs off a box and keep them up intentionally to not touch the floor and thus achieve his objective. To me that showed determination … even in his final moments …. he made a continual, diligent effort.

Of course, the next comment out of my mouth was that IF he had applied that determination to being happy …. and not depending on other for his happiness ….. he would see the opportunity and joy in being alive.

At the same time, I began working with a fury the last two days to organize my thoughts for setting up an effort in education to promote project based learning that includes character education. I wasn’t sure where all this energy was arriving from until a few moments ago when I began reflecting. That suicide and talking to the students really pushed a few of my own buttons …. getting me stirred up.

Teaching is so much more than lecture and presentations and assignments …. So much is based on relating to people…. covering so much more than just subject content.

What did I get done? My mission statement and here it is …

Develop programs, train teachers, produce materials, and facilitate a service learning network that consistently produces local opportunities for K-12 teachers and students to apply academic knowledge and grow life skills to be better global citizens.

What do you think?

13 January 2008

Games and learning

I was working on my web page in Ning and found some excellent resources for learning using games. Wanted to share these with you after my post on games yesterday.

In the late 18th century, tensions between the British Empire and its colonies on the eastern coast of North America were reaching a critical point. From Georgia to Massachusetts talk of revolt hung heavy in the air, and the threat of war lingered on the horizon. The colonists were about to suffer the bloody birth of a nation, a nation that would eventually shape the course of human history. But this couldn’t be known by the people of the time, who went about their everyday lives much as anyone had through the ages -- one day at a time, their only goal to make their way through the world into which they were born.

Tim Rylands
This a excellent of teacher quality as far as I'm concerned. Tim is using his creativity and technology to keep students engaged, which in turn helps them learn.

Watch this video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcaE5NwfgUA, from teacher using a virtual world in class to inspire students in creative writing assignments. The results speak for themselves.


Need a lesson plan?

Researching the web today I was amazed at amazingly high count of sites offering lessons plans for K-12 on all subjects. I mean .... there are hundreds and hundreds of these sites. Do teachers really use all those lessons plans?

I have been teaching for four years and never once went to a site to get a lesson plan. My most useful resourced are teachers at school and in the District who have been around for a while. They usually have stellar ideas and materials I can borrow or steal .... then tweak for my style, student requirements, and objectives.

I want to use more educational games. Well, I want to but I have no computers in my class – try as I may. We have two computer labs at school with 30+ computers, when they are all working, for our population of 2,000+ students. Granted, using computers would be brainless if they were in my class. Hey, there is nothing wrong with dreaming about the perfect classroom environment.

So, when I saw all those teacher lesson plan sites .... I morphed what I was researching into finding quality educational games. That info will be published in a day or two on this page: http://www.educationreporting.com/rssfeed.aspx.

There are plenty of online games and free downloadable games to use. But, what I really want are interactive games where students play roles to help them learn about science.

Looks like some of the most popular virtual entertainment games are: 1) Second Life, 2) Utopia, 3) Zano and there are the oldies like Sims, and Supple.

All those are fine for entertainment .... but I want one where students are learning too. You know a game where students are faced with a situation, they have to use specific concepts to work through the issues at hand. Well, let's take an example ..... the temperature is climbing, they live on an island, and what can they do to channel the water or build different homes to combat the water? Or, what will they do to modify their food supply since their farms will be wiped out in a a matter of time.

You probably have a better example, I agree.

Anyone know of such a virtual world?

12 January 2008

Will we always keep the same high school model?

I have some nagging ideas about reinventing high schools (hs).

Let’s see, today a hs is set up with students take content classes to meet certain requirements that then promote until they graduate. I think it’s safe to day the goal of high school is to graduate students. There are hs counselors that support student in managing their schedules and other social issues. Too, there is the administration – principal and vice-principals – that manage the polices and processes of the school which are usually handed down by the district office, along with overseeing and being responsible for the day to day events that occur on campus. Teachers deal with issues in class and teach content to help students learn. As an overview this is pretty much it, I realize I may be over simplifying things.

Here are my nagging ideas for reinventing hs ….. in brief.

- Student will graduate with content knowledge and global citizen skills
- Each hs will be financially self sufficient based on student revenue and other revenue derived by school operations.

The district office is abolished. The work done there is outsourced to companies who do it for less and more efficiently.

A committee made up of vice principals from all district schools will produce district polices and processes, including curriculum development and so forth.

On the campus, a committee is made up from senior teachers, 7 or more years experience, to manage and mentor teachers. These committee members only teach limited classes since they spend the majority of time developing teachers.

Principals are responsible for the fiscal management of the campus … much like the CEO of a business. Vice principals work with teachers and other contracted Subject Matter Experts to iron out and carry out directives from the principal.

Schools still get federal revenue based on attendance. Additionally, under direction and guidance of principal the campus creates projects to engage local/national businesses. Those businesses make a financial contribution in one form or another and in return get receive tax credit. Why? Each hs is the center of the neighborhood and trains the future leaders of this world.

Teachers expand from solely teaching content to combining teaching content in class with organizing and completing projects within the community and on campus. This translates to project based learning activities, which research shows are extremely successful in having students learn. These projects will naturally teach the students the content they need to pass exams, along with building life skills. These projects are done by partnering with local/national businesses, government agencies, and non governmental agencies, which may or may not get tax credits.

I’ve been in business. I’ve been teaching hs. I think this will work with a few tweaks here and there.

11 January 2008

Influencing Young Minds

Today in class I had my ideas about television and youth validated – again.

I showed a short – 7 minute – video clip in my biology class to briefly introduced DNA. It went into some detail about project that a scientist was doing on DNA as an art project – the riddle of life. This particular guy happened to have one peg leg, which became visible about half way through the clip.

At the end, when I was requesting students do a “ticket out the door” … three things they have learned about codes, two questions they have about codes, and one item they want more info on ... one student - now it’s true that this student is not recognized for his academic rigor or focus on work – but nonetheless he did ask - is the man with the art project was a pirate?

I made a teaching decision in the moment to use this as a learning opportunity about brain washing. I asked the class where they saw this notion that displayed people who have a peg leg are a pirate. Over 80% of the class responded they got it from watching television or the movies. I then went on to point out a “what if” …..

Instead showing a pirate with a peg leg in those shows and movies, what if they had shown a pirate as someone addicted to strawberry ice cream, or a person who couldn’t stop reading ….? If either of those was the case, then would they would be thinking differently right now about the fella in the clip? After some time for reflection and class discussion the majority of class agreed with me - their impression would be different.

Hey, I’m all for entertainment. This is just one of many potent reminders I see as a teacher about the power that television and movies HAS on young minds – the future leaders of our world.

09 January 2008

Active learning - building thinking skills

Invigorating is the best word to describe my classes today.

We are beginning to study DNA, yesterday for homework we read an article on deciphering DNA in types of dogs and comparing that to mice DNA and people DNA. That article opened the topic of “codes.”

I have found it works to use the scientific method in class. I reviewed it by talking about almost everything uses the scientific method, the example I used today was walking though buying a car. After that sunk in we agreed the best question to study codes has to be, What is the code for living things?

In the discussion that followed we uncovered some misconceptions about DNA students were holding. I’m not sure we removed them, but we got them out in the open. The next step was breaking into pairs and getting the instructions to create a code with the outcome being each group will give a presentation on their results.

I knew the instructions would make the gears start turning so we did it slowly. Students need to create a code to code a specific sentence. All students are working with the same requirements: 1) only alphabet characters can be used in the code, 2) it takes two characters to make a letter, 3) each group must code the same sentence … All living things are made of cells in Los Angeles, CA, and 4) they have to make a table as a key to the code they make.

Observing them as they opened their brains and creativity to write a code was inspiring. At first it was an impossible assignment for most. Then, as we broke it down into steps the frustration level decreased as they saw light at the end of the tunnel using a step by step approach. Isn’t process building cognitive skills – looking at a large task and then breaking it into smaller segments? I think so.

The beauty of this exercise was engagement. The entire time students, when on task, were comparing/contrasting and carrying out peer discussion to build their code tables. I was only the facilitator, student were driving the decisions about the code.

After some 10-15 minutes one student invariably asked about spaces, commas, periods, and capitals. That took us into a deeper discussion with students realizing they needed to code for those also, along with a coding for a “start.” Otherwise, a person, say from the far east, might come in and read the sentence from right to left …. instead of left to right. This whole segment of discussion had students struggling newly with the additional aspects of creating the code, which for me translates into they were actively learning and uncovering new understandings.

Once we get this code assignment done and can discuss the presentations we will have a class experience to use and apply when examining how DNA and amino acids code proteins. That we will be able to draw some parallel between how the sentence code works and how proteins get coded will be a strong support to students in assimilating required genetic knowledge.

08 January 2008

Learning Dynamics

This is a five star teaching day ... serious learning going on in my class.

One twenty minute exercise we are doing is based on reviewing key concepts, about 15 of them, that we covered last semester. To do it we are using paired groups, a white board, a marker, and an eraser. The instructions are to build a concept map with the 15 words. How do those words relate to each other - what are their associations? Students have 15-20 minutes to work through it and then we review the words and their work.

I am seeing students build their knowledge using the understanding uncovered in their discussions while making the maps. They are researching notes, comparing, contrasting, and arguing ...... lots of thinking going on. This is why I got into teaching – to see learning and thinking skills in action.

I'm not after the "right answer" …. I am after the right word association and the opportunity to work one on one with some of the students who are still struggling with the ideas. Much of this exercise I'm acting as a resource on this aspect or that; for the most part students are configuring and discussing on their own.

Before I got into teaching, I was never a big fan of believing that technology can do much to help students learn. Over the last few years that idea of mine is morphing due to what I’ve seen in today’s type of dynamic learning situation. I'm not saying teachers will be replaced by computers.

And, I think computers can be a productive tool in many significant ways. One is that they can act to reduce the information gap - they become the technical resource for students leaning fundamental concepts. Yet, in order to do that the computer will have to be more than a read and watch mechanism..... it’ll need some serious interaction … a certain level dynamicness to it in order to hold students attention .... the computer will need the same dynamicness offered up when the students are working, in person, through a problem or situation with a class peer …. as in the case with my class today.

The science of education has changing requirements as the needs of our civilization grow. I hope that the politicians come to terms with that and fund the appropriate programs to maximize the opportunity for young people.

07 January 2008

Nuts and Bolts

Yesterday I had such lofty ideas of bringing our character education in my lesson. Today, the first day back from a winter break, I deal with reality.

It's raining in AZ and that never happens - almost never. Makes it worse since we have a "campus" school, in other words not all the classes are in one building. As I make jaunt to the other side of the campus in the rain to Registration .... I am wondering, why are these registration rosters for the classes only ready in the wee hours of the first day back? I see all the other teachers streaming to the nest to pick up thier rosters - we're all getting wet.

We do our grades online here. Over the break they installed a new version of the grade book software on all the computers. AND, they also sent out the instructions on how to install the serial number before lunch.

The server with the with online attendance was down - non operational - for the morning ... that's five classes. So much for comparing the students who show up with that info source.

Almost comical ... the bells aren't working today. All these energetic teenagers with no place to go .... fresh from break with no place to go. This one is a first in my teaching - an entire day no bells to signal its time to start/end a periods/class.

Hey, at least I got my seating charts done in the nick of time this morning, so the battle to thwart chaos was definitely won there. Oh yeah, those registration sheets ... the students on each one were listed n random order .... not alphabetical. Go figure.

I was amazed today by a student. Walking down the hall, she was late to class but looked oddly familiar. The scar across her forehead stood out ... I tried not to stare. Click. She was in my class last semester when over a weekend she was in a terrible car accident - they thought she would have brain damage or not live at all ... that scary scar says it all. We never saw her again.

I had organized students to donate money to her flowers … and when they didn't produce enough -I put my money in. Not going to let one of my students pass without some beautiful flowers.

As she settled in her seat, I was passing out papers to students. When I arrived at her table I told her I was glad she was back. Her face lit up - literally lit up - she smiled ... then said thanks for the flowers. After all she had been through she remembered those flowers - amazing.

Moving on ... from the lofty to the nuts and bolts. Leaving the corporate world to enter high school teaching is the most self rewarding effort I’ve made yet.

05 January 2008

Character education - am I reaching it?

It's Sunday evening after a long two week break for the holidays - ahhh, surely this is the golden reward for leaving that corporate job - real holidays with real time off. :-)

I have always wanted to do some character education in my lessons, so after I did my prep work this afternoon for this week I began feeling a little disappointed with my work ..... there wasn't any noticeable character education present.

The next step was to look at what I did put in my plan. That lesson material surprised me ... I was extremely focused on getting students to work together in small groups and then doing exercises to link what we are studying, heredity, to their life. How come? I begin pondering that for the next few hours. Walla. The answer/insight came to me why I was eating ....

How will I measure my success as a teacher when my students leave my class? Thinking. I will measure it by IF they improve their ability to think - to analyze data they collect. If they improve their thinking, then I'm doing successful teaching practices.

At the same time I remembered this, I also remembered I want my students to improve their social skills, starting with relating to their peers in class, which is reaching ... remember when you were in high school? I do.

Clearly, group work is the key, I've had that answer handed to me on a platter. At the end of every semester, I ask the students to anonymously tell me what worked in class to help them learn from the activities and exercises we did, along with what didn't help them learn anything in class. They have no issue telling me what's so for them on this.

Resoundingly, they tell me the that working in small groups helps for one reason or another. Bingo. I admit, it'd be easier on me to give them worksheets or book assignments .... it's managing chaos .... with all those groups my room gets loud ... but then I definitely get opportunity to see what everyone is doing and for the most part they are on task.

So this pondering question I had about "why" I was planning my lesson the way I did is solved now ... but at the same time I connected all those dots, I also had a "basement" goal of mine revealed to me. That's a goal I don't show anyone cause it's off the Standards list ... what is it? Have my students be better global citizens.

Have worked through this nagging disappointment I'm breathing easier now. I see that I do have character education covered, ain't that what being a global citizen is all about? I think so.

Fresh and ready here I go into another term of learning and growing with the students...


Technology Worth Using in Class for Curriculum

Hey, it's Saturday morning and what am I doing working on this blog? Call me crazy.

There is a this place on the web, so rich in ideas and thoughts for the K-12 students ... a fertile oasis in the dusty desert: Ted.

Why? Ted is the leading ideas in thought ...to my knowledge, it's the only repository of these gems. It's FREE and it's easily accessible.

As a teacher, my big challenge is fitting it into class. Lately I've been doing it during it homeroom, but that is only one class. I found Ted from another teacher, F. Lajvardi; he is an amazing guy .... talk about phenomenal teacher. He has project based learning in action happening.

Using Ted always stirs up some interesting questions ... they are better when the content we are studying segways in the Ted topic we watch. The last one I used was Jane Goodall where she discusses her work. There are so many that I have a hard time keep track of ones I can use ... I also recently showed E. O. Wilson, a biologist exploring the world of ants and other tiny creatures ... about the way all creatures great and small are interdependent....talk about driving home those core concepts of variables, ecosystems, habitats and niches.

Guess you can decipher by now that I'm a biology teacher.

That's it for today, just want to put my two cents in to promote Ted.... a five star lesson tool ... the brilliant and aspiring minds of our planet - to lead the next generation of leaders.


04 January 2008

Teachers Using Technology - What ya doing?

Well, it has come across my email waves that there are a multitude of questions about "how" to set up a web site and then "what tools" are available to do that with.

For me, I am used to creating web sites with Dreamweaver since my days as a Project Manager with IBM and American Express. However, in this myriad of emails crossing my screen I see there is much confusion and doubt about what direction to use in moving forward. I will offer my tips .......

In my high school science class I have found a web site and blog to very useful in 1) administering class work and 2) in stretching student skills to expand what they can do with technology. For example, we use a blog with a once a week assignment. they have to go to the blog I created, for free, and read the weekly assignment and then post an assignment. BTW, I work in a school where 90%+ are on free lunch program so there are not a lot of computers at home. :-)

The students have given me much positive feedback about the blog this semester so I will keep it going for next semester too.

Free web site hosts - place where teacher can establish web sites, blog, or wikis for FREE:

Web Sites:
1. Create Google web site - free account required
2. Microsoft Web Site = use Internet Explorer - free account required

1. http://teacherlingo.com/
2. http://www.blogger.com
3. Edublog

1. http://www.wikispaces.com/

If you know of more. help us all and post them in your comment. These resources mentioned have extensive help files, if you have questions let me know and I'll do my best to answer them.

Cheers, steu

Teachers and testing - what is all the fuss?

Most people won’t make an effective teacher. Why? Teaching is a complex job, requiring multiple skill sets. Three essentials teacher skills are being a nerd in the subject content, another is sufficient social skills to maximize organized chaos - classroom management, and one more is being a quality decision maker. Blue ribbon teachers, again and again, correctly choose among conflicting “A” priority tasks.

How do teachers really know what works? That's simple, they are in the class and can see the results, or no results, in many different aspects - all day long - including social skills, content assimilation, language skill, and so forth.

But as far as politicians, most parents, and administrators are concerned .... it all comes down to how students do on the test. Something not talked about much is what the "test" is measuring .... is it an equitable test for all students ..... is it measuring what was taught ..... does the test make any assumptions that will inadvertently discriminate against certain students? Everyone hears the word "test" and assumes that it's a fair measurement of content assimilation, but there are a host of factors to consider when building a test. As a teacher, I have heard little to nothing about how the test are being constructed..... no matter if they are a CRT, Criteria Referenced Test, or another high stake test that are more prevalent than ever.

Teachers know what works best and they are telling us in the surveys they complete on this site in the free "members only" section.

Sadly, what we are hearing from teachers is that they cannot use the testing methods they know work the best. You can read the results by clicking here.

Green Education - Global Web Cast - Jan. 30/31

The Face It webcast, being held Jan. 30 & 31 - 2008, will build on the info provided during Architecture 2030’s highly successful 2007 webcast, The 2010 Imperative Global Emergency Teach-in seen around the globe.

Use the broadcast to get yourself and your students involved. What about using this in class as a real world application of what your are studying?

read the press release

2008 - the best year ever to improve k-12 education

I'm back from a long absence that was necessary to process some sad and frustrating events in my personal life. Am looking forward to this year and the work I can do with others to move forward with improving quality education in schools around the globe.

Nurture a thought…scratches the seed of volition.
Sow volition…reap an action.
Sow an action…reap an habit.
Sow an habit…reap a character.
Sow a character…reap a destiny!