Friday, October 18, 2013

Ten Words to Cut from Your Writing

I don't usually even read Entrepreneur, and I contend that some of these words can be used occasionally, depending on need and poetic license.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I love my son's science teacher.

Actually, I love all my son's teachers.  And the administrators, counselors, and amazing after-school supervision folks.  Every last one of them.  So many folks in his new school environment have shared with me little passing stories of how much they enjoy having my son there.

But this vignette focuses on his science teacher.  It helps you to know, for what I am about to describe, that my son has an identified issue with visual motor coordination, as well as limited short term visual memory.  Long story short, copying stuff down, and any writing by hand really, is pretty much torture for him.

So when he gleefully reported, shortly after the school year began, that he was glad he got THIS particular science teacher because other kids had already taken "TEN PAGES OF NOTES" on the first day with the other teacher (which I highly doubt, since they're, y'know, nine years old), I already knew she had worked her way into his heart.  And I kept hearing about all these great hands-on things they've been doing to explore concepts in physical science.  "Great!" I thought, "My kid needs all the hands-on he can get!" (What kid doesn't?)

Yesterday was especially fun though.  They went on a field trip to see a play (this was not for science class), so he got to miss several classes.  Let me tell you that field trips, especially those that enable him to miss classes, are the best thing EVARRRR to my child.  So I asked, already knowing the answer would be swimming, what his favorite thing of the day was.  Without even stopping to think as he took another bite of his burrito, he blurted "swimming." (They're doing swimming in P.E. this week.)

So I returned to a question I asked every day when I picked him up from summer camp/school a few months ago: "Besides swimming, what was the best thing about today?"  Fully expecting him to tell me about the field trip to the theatre, I was surprised when he responded: "Science."

Not one to lose my composure in a Taco Bell, I replied, "Cool. Tell me what was going on in science."

"We played with wind-up toys to learn about speed."

Awesome.  Good on you, Ms. A.  This then led me to ask him if he knew the term velocity (he didn't) and some speculation about how we might say that word in Spanish.  I told him I knew the word for "speed" in French.  We then talked about some other stuff.  Much of it probably had nothing to do with science.  But that class activity made an impression on him.  Even more than being in full dress uniform, riding a bus to another city, and seeing a play did.

And that's why I love my son's science teacher.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Homework -- Where do you stand?

I've been thinking about homework a lot lately, and not just because it takes my own kid an inordinate amount of time to do what should take him less than an hour.

A couple of interesting articles, both in The Atlantic, have crossed my path recently, and I thought I'd share them.  If nothing else, maybe they'll get you thinking about how you feel about homework, and whether your ideal matches what you have found to be practical for the classes you teach.

The first one I read is My Daughter's Homework Is Killing Me.  A father shares about his experiencing doing all the same homework as his eighth grade daughter.  I have to say, I enjoyed the article a lot, and I could sympathize, but I worry that some people may find his open use of marijuana off-putting and use it as an argument to discredit the rest of what he has written.  Overlooking that, if you need to, I'd love to hear how much his experience resounds with you.  Teachers who are also parents, have you had similar experiences?

The second article, Should I Stop Assigning Homework?, has an English teacher questioning whether she should -- or even CAN -- give up this ages-old tradition of our profession.  She references some other materials on the subject, including her own previous writing on this topic, and provides links to what she and others have said, as well as some research findings on the case for and against homework.

I would absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE to get my colleagues to weigh in here with their thoughts.  This blog is also open to the entire Internet, and I would love to hear what my edtech peeps and others out there in the blogosphere have to say on the subject.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Capella Science

Even if you don't teach science, you need to watch this video.  It's a work of art on many levels, and I have no idea what they're talking about.  I know everything I know about string theory from watching The Big Bang Theory.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Weird Truth About Arabic Numerals is a MUST WATCH

I love the Green brothers, John and Hank.  They make tons of videos on YouTube and have a number of channels there dedicated to teaching us ALL THE THINGS in small doses.

Here's one from the "scishow" channel:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Excellent blog post on Learners as Producers

This post by Steve Wheeler in England really captures a lot of what I believe about the shifts happening in education, whether we want them to or not, and whether we're ready for them or not.

Gone are the days of students and teachers.  Now, we're all learners.  Teachers are lead learners, or learning leaders, functioning as coaches and advisors to help younger learners through their journeys.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What's wrong with this picture? CS is THE field, yet we don't prepare students for it.

Yes, I DO remember that this blog is here.  Life got busy and, well, excuses, excuses....

My colleague Lisa Diffenderfer brought this to my attention from, which is a great site for helping get the word out about the field of computer science.

I LOVE this infographic they shared on the site:

First, we don't have enough students taking computer science to fill the more than a million anticipated jobs in CS over the next seven years or so.

A college degree in CS brings in the highest pay of any field out there.

We have fewer students graduating with degrees in CS than ten years ago!

Most of our schools don't even offer CS courses. (Harker's got an amazing CS department, with LOTS of great courses.)

Too many states don't require CS courses for graduation, so that might be the place to start.  Harker requires a half year of CS for graduation at the upper school level.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Goobric isn't just a cute name for a Google Rubric. It's kind of a miracle.

So I've been playing around (in a serious, totally work-related and productive way) with a Google Script called Doctopus.  This fellow Andrew Stillman is approaching deity-level status in his amazing output of helpful Google Apps Scripts AND his willingness to help a n00bie teacher like myself when she's having trouble.  His latest offering is an add-on to Doctopus called Goobric, which enables the teacher to create a rubric and attach it to the documents (or spreadsheets, drawings, or presentations) distributed via Doctopus.

Yes, I know, to the novice user, I am speaking Pig Latin.  But seriously, folks, this is EPIC.  Jay Atwood, another fine fellow in the field of EdTech, has made an overview video that makes these tools so much easier to understand:

Pardon me while I fall completely in love with PBS Idea Channel.

So I'm doing research on Minecraft in education, and of course a video comes to my attention from the people out there in the Interwebz.  And that led me to an earlier video by the same crew.  And I am hooked.

First video, about how things like Minecraft and Makerbot (3-D printing) may be helping to create the Post-Scarcity Economy, which heretofore has primarily been theoretical:

And then the video that led me to that gem,  Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool?

Of course, I'm excited about the content of these, and I love the continuous stream of humor and pop culture references.  But more than anything, I really just dig the format.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why a 13 year-old kid from Tahoe is my hero

Given that I work in a more-or-less traditional, achievement-driven school, it may seem surprising how excited I am about the concept of Hackschooling.  Think homeschooling on Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Power Berries and a double espresso.

Hackschooling doesn't have to only exist outside traditional schools.  "Brick-and-mortar" institutions can learn a lot from this concept of re-tooling what we mean by the word "education."

If you do nothing else awesome today, take fifteen minutes, read Goli Mohammadi's brief article and WATCH THE VIDEO.  

Logan LaPlant, you rock, son!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The post where Diane reveals that this blog is here so she can find stuff later...

BUSY weekend doing grades and comments on top of some other fun stuff.  So of course I get a ton of excellent reading across my screen and can't keep up with it.

First up, an entire collection by WeAreTeachers of resources on gaming in education: Game On

Then, thanks to my good friend Joe Wood, the latest Pew Internet Research on How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms

And finally, a truly cool post by Jessica Pack about QR codes: How to QR Like a "G" in a BYOD World



Friday, February 22, 2013

Yet Another Reason I'm Excited About Using MinecraftEDU

I just got the green light to purchase the student licenses I need to use MinecraftEDU with my Digital World students, and I am super stoked.  The same day I began the process of requisitioning the licenses, I read this great blog post by my friend and fellow EdTech Geek, Chris Scott:

Group Problem Solving and Challenge Based Learning

I can totally relate to what he describes in one sense: my students at my previous school frequently taught each other, discovered new features, and created better work than I could have simply assigned because there was a lot of freedom within my lab, and a huge spirit of cooperation and collaboration, even though the tasks were usually part of individual projects.  I was often heard to say, "No one crosses the finish line until we all can."

I'm excited by how enthusiastic Chris is and also by how amazing it is when, left to their own devices, students will often find better solutions than we offer, and -- best of all -- they'll OWN those solutions from the start.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Emoji Literature?

If you don't know what emoji are, then you probably don't text or chat online much.

Jerome Burg, father of Google Lit Trips, tipped me off to this humorous post.  You can "read" 20 great books, it says, in 2 minutes, emoji style.

Try for yourself, by following the link below.  When you want to check if you got the book titles right, click on "Show As List" in the post.

Read 20 Great Books in 2 Minutes, Emoji Style

Friday, February 8, 2013

Teaching Introverted Kids and the Psychology of Music (two separate things.....sort of)

There's been a lot of press, chatter, and research about education and introversion lately.  I'm by my own admission a huge extravert, but I know and love many people who are not like me.  And over the past twenty years, I've had my fair share of introverted students.  While it's true the approach is much different, we really can't allow these young folks to eschew class participation when it doesn't feel good.  It's training for other parts of life, as Jessica Lahey so expertly explains in this article in The Atlantic, Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School.

And now for something completely different.

Granted, this is more or less an advertisement for UF's Music Education department, but it's extremely well done, and it makes an excellent case not only for the arts in schools, but for considering the many benefits of music to our learning, health, and more.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Feel like you need some new uses for your LCD projector?

Catlin Tucker always has loads of great ideas and practical suggestions for classroom teachers, especially where effective technology integration is concerned.  Most classrooms have a projector, right?  Here are some great ideas for integrating it even more:

LCD Projectors: Create Relevance, Capture Attention & Connect to Resources

10 Sentences Google Teachers Never Hear

This is quality stuff from my friend Kevin Brookhouser, the creator of the series of Writing Felonies videos.

by Kevin Brookhouser (@brookhouser on Twitter)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grades, eBooks, and QR Codes, OH MY!

Several interesting articles crossed my screen today, and I am finally getting a chance to take a close look at them.

What do grades, measure, really?  Do they measure real learning and valid achievement, or are they now just becoming the ends that are to be reached by any means necessary?  Paul Cancellieri shares his thoughts in this article I recommend everyone read, if for no other reason than to start a dialog and force us to evaluate our assessments.

Scholastic, not surprisingly, frequently polls their consumers to see how much traction electronic books are gaining among young readers.  Their findings are that while eBooks are indeed gaining in popularity, books in print aren't going anywhere any time soon, at least not for pleasure reading.

Finally, here's an article with a quick list of ways to use QR codes in the classroom.  There are more possibilities than you'll find shared in the article, and I can also recommend and (which Harker teachers have already as part of their Google Apps accounts) for creating QR codes.  If you're interested in finding out more, give me a shout!

Say goodbye to your grandmother's way of attaching files!

Not only do e-mail attachments have size and often file type limitations, they are still separate files you need to hunt down if you need to use them later.  You still end up with a static file that may or may not be the latest revision.

Google Drive to the rescue!  From within a Gmail message, you can "attach" files up to a total of 10 GB by using Google Drive.  This also means that you're less likely to accidentally send an attachment to an unintended recipient.  You'll be prompted with a confirmation about sharing with the recipient(s) you specified, and then they can have the access you want them to have, which may mean NOT being able to change the content of your file.

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Language Learning Killer App?

Could Duolingo be the new solution for learning a language?  A study suggests that might be the case.

Read more here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Almost as good as being there....okay, nowhere near that good, but still cool!

I frequently skim my Google+ stream for articles, posts, and videos related to EdTech.  Since most of the people I'm connected to there are in this field, I get a lot of great resources.  Also some laughs and cat videos, of course.

Yesterday, I clicked a link to a video that had me captivated for its full 25-minute duration.  Granted, that one with the amazing halftime show by a college marching band performing a tribute to video games had a similar effect, but this time was different.  I guess you could say I was over the moon.

You see, my family and I go out and spot the ISS whenever it flies over at night, weather conditions permitting.  I get a notification on Twitter that tells me where in the sky to look, as well as how long the flyover will be visible.  We've often told our son to wave, since there are people up there.  We gaze at the tiny, bold light, zipping across the sky and wonder what it's like in there.

Well, wonder no more, people!  Back in November, the outgoing ISS commander Sunita Williams decided to host a video tour of the station, with camera work by the incoming commander, just before her Soyuz trip back to earth with two colleagues from Japan and Russia.  The tour is fun, informative (I had no idea how they did their business . . . if you receive my meaning . . . up there!), and great for kids. (Just don't click on some of the recommended videos or let the kiddos read the comments.)

I am looking forward to sharing this video with my son this weekend.  I may never get to visit the International Space Station myself (and now that I've seen how they pee, I kinda don't want to), but I feel almost like I've been there already now.  (They don't show anyone ACTUALLY peeing, by the way.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Boredom vs. Engagment -- the neverending battle

Often, when I leave work for the day, I leave a few browser tabs open as I close my laptop, intending to go back to them, perhaps to read something I didn't have time for while at work.  This morning, I had two such tabs still open when I finally settled in at my desk after meetings that kept me off my computer.

The first, a HuffPo blog post by Elizabeth English entitled Why So Many Schools Remain Penitentiaries of Boredom, challenges us all, yet again, to question the predictable and tired "model" of schooling in which the teacher is the center of attention and giver of knowledge, and students are subjected to the torture of sitting still, unplugging, and being fed information as passive, empty vessels.

Right next door in the tab to its right, I see peeking at me from the Charlotte Observer's Education column, "Education and video games are no longer enemies."

Now, it's not that I think someone would jump from one of these articles to the next and suddenly be ready to lead a revolution under the banner of student-centered, engagement-rich learning experiences right after stepping down from a podium and burning one's old overhead transparencies.  I just think this is further evidence of something I am often heard to say aloud: "This is an amazing, exciting time to be an educator."

I really just wanted to share these two articles because I want to help everyone see that these conversations are happening.  Here at Harker, we're doing a lot of things right.  Students are at the center of the learning experience, even though at times it takes a lot of old-school information transfer to get them there in some cases.  Our students ARE creating, performing, inventing, learning, and living.  They are pursuing research topics related to their own passions.  They aren't just starring in shows put on by the adults on the payroll; they're directing their peers.  Daily, we use software created by alumni while they were students here.

And they're gaming.  Granted, a lot of that is happening during free periods and after school -- especially on Friday evenings.  I step over bodies and wade through crowds of gamers just to get out to my car to start my weekend.  And in the next few weeks, I am going to have an unsuspecting group of kids teach me (and themselves) how to play Minecraft.

Through these experiences, neither sanctioned nor forbidden here at school, we see our students' eyes light up, hear their voices raised in high-pitched chatter (and the occasional profanity), and sense the unbounded energy they pour into these alternate realities that capture their imaginations and enthusiasm.

I look forward to exploring the chance to try things like these with our students as part of our classes.  And I welcome anecdotes about the kinds of things already happening in classes that I'm not aware of yet.

Friday, January 4, 2013

MERIT Program Applications due January 14th!

I'd like to take another chance to encourage you to take a look at the MERIT program at Foothill College's Krause Center for Innovation.

I am happy to answer any questions you have about the program and/or the application process.

We encourage folks to apply in a team of three or more if possible (though pairs are also welcome), but you can also apply as an individual.  We're keeping a few slots reserved for Harker teachers, so we'd love to see an Eagle Contingent as part of this year's cohort.

If you're wondering about a team, don't feel the need to limit your idea to one campus, grade level, or department.  Cross-campus, cross-curricular, and other variations for teams would be very welcome.

I can guarantee this: the MERIT program transforms teachers.  If you feel like this is the summer you want your world rocked (in a good way), do consider applying.