Category Archives: Teaching

An Education President for the 21st Century

The May/June issue of the Journal of Teacher Education kicks off with an editorial from Hilda Borko (Stanford University) and Jennie Whitcomb and Dan Liston (University of Colorado) inviting individuals whose work centers on teaching and teacher education to write letters to the 44th president of the United States offering their advice to ensure quality teaching and teacher education. Two themes cut across the eight letters published in the issue: improving the conditions of children’s lives and lending dignity to the teaching profession.

Christine Sleeter from California State University Monterey invites the presidential candidates to strengthen teaching and teacher education for diverse students. She provides snapshots of strong teachers of diverse students. One of the teachers, Juanita, had her second graders writing books using computers. This teacher realized that so much of the standard skills-based instruction proagram was boring and it was all about paper and pencil. She realized she could empower her students as writers and creators of knowledge.This teacher used the grade-level standards as a guide but she expected and taught more than they require. Another teacher, Christi, used narrative writing to teach culturally diverse students to empathize and communicate with each other. This is a good example of telling a story to get a point across.

I am just beginning to pour over these letters but a quick scan lets me know that I need to spend time carefully reading all 8 letters. Here’s a few highlights the editors noted in the letters :

  • Most professional development is disconnected from teachers’ immediate questions and challenges.
  • A call was made for opportunities for teachers to learn from one another both inside and outside school.
  • Teachers need to be engaged in thinking about what they need to know.
  • Opportunities need to be promoted for teachers to “open the doors” to their practice, both literally and virtually.
  • The next president was encouraged to nurture creativity and innovation in teacher preparation, professional development, and research in teaching.
  • Our nation needs the pay scales and social rituals to honor all its teachers.

Hear! Hear! There is much more. I love the way this journal is devoting the entire issue to bring education to the forefront to our presidential candidates. Education has been pretty much ignored so far. This journal is doing its part.

Listen to this excerpt from one of the letters…..
Lee Shulman asks the next president to serve as a paragon of an education person. He says:

I want you to suppport the work of teachers at all levels by serving as a persistent, relentless, and self-conscious model of an educated person.

He goes on to say much, much more but ends up with this powerful close:

I implore you to define your roles as the principal learner taking every opportunity to make your own intellectual and moral development visible and transparent to your fellow citizens.

This has made me rethink what I need to do and that is to do my part in continuing to let the presidential candidates be reminded frequently that education needs to be a priority.

Sometimes I don’t get to things I need to because I think I have to write that “perfect piece” that is just so. One easy thing we could all do is to search through all our posts and forward our thoughts and concerns to the candidates. Many of our posts might just need simple rewrites to get it up to date. I am going to do this. I hope you will consider doing the same. Take that time and just tell them that you want them to know our concerns. Let’s just keep on pushing! They need to hear the voices of many, many educators.

More from Sara on The Book Trailer

What a treat! I was sinking as I thought more about the damage high-stakes testing is doing to our schools so it was so uplifting to read Sara Kajder’s article, The Book Trailer: Engaging Teens Through Technologies in this month’s issue of Educational Leadership.

It tells the story of students creating a two-minute video using still images, transitions and special effects (generated with MovieMaker or iMovie software), voiceovers, and a soundtrack. Students present the central characters, themes, or issues of the book visually and through written and voiceover narration. All trailers have to include the title of the book, the author’s name, and a presentation that is both authentic to the text and that works to “hook” readers. I also require students to submit their trailers with a piece of writing that explores the choices they made, with an analysis of the book that shows that they made decisions on the basis of the text, and not just by using the aspects of technology that would best captivate an audience.

Sara goes on to say that….

But technology is not the goal. Student writers and readers are at the center of our instruction. And we, as mindful teachers, must thoughtfully and deliberately prepare all of our students for success by critically exploring the new technological tools and then using the ones that can help us and our students to powerfully convey what we think and know.

I can’t think of a more exciting time to teach, as we’re immersed in new possibilities for working with words and with one another. When we teach creatively with emergent tools in mind, we stand a better chance of engaging reluctant students by giving what we teach real meaning. Each day is an invitation to examine, play, invent, reinvent, and join in the conversation.

Read the whole article. I’ve posted previously about Sara here and here.

Missing out on critical skills

At the beginning of this year I gave a technology survey to a nearby high school class. One of the questions I asked was “When using a website for educational purposes do you have a method for evaluating if the information is reliable, valid, accurate, worthwihile to use? If you do have a method, be as specific as you can. Think of questions you might ask yourself or steps you take.” Here are their answers:

  • I just read it.
  • When I look at info, I believe it is true unless it is farfetched/ludicrous.
  • Don’t have a method.
  • No
  • Yes, look for author, updates
  • No, I take it as it goes.
  • When using a website for information, I look for sources cited and a clear author. I also make sure that I use multiple sources to verify information.
  • The date or domain
  • I really don’t have a method.
  • You can check the same information on many sites and compare the information.
  • I ask myself if it sounds reasonable & if I read the same information from many websites.
  • no
  • I check to see if the writer has minimal errors in the article as well as making sure that it is a website ending in edu, net, org.
  • I don’t really have a method.
  • I look for an author or publisher and a date.
  • I check multiple websites to confirm.
  • No.
  • (1) If it’s well known. (2) When last it has been updated.
  • Does it have an alternative source? Is it credible?
  • No
  • I check to see what kind of website it is. Example – .com, .org, .gov, .net

Depressing, isn’t it?I imagine many of you would find similar answers in nearby classes. I’d say we’re not getting the job done and we are really doing our students a disservice by not teaching them. Julie Coiro has a nice handout, Critical evaluation on the Internet: What’s missing in the text? What’s missing in our instruction? from the IRA 2007. Pass it along….

Different perspectives and a little humor

Comparing viewpoints is so interesting, especially when you are trying to teach. Also humor in the classroom helps learning and I love when I get the opportunities to combine the two. This comment from Michael on one of his posts made me remember a previous post from Will. We have an interesting comparison here. Will is charged and excited about making Google Maps. He begins talking about google map directions and tells us to check out step 19. (which by the way appears to be step 15 now). Will says this is “too funny.”

Along comes Michael a bit later. Michael is a student in Blogical Minds. He’s creative, imaginative and like Will he loves Google Maps too. Now in his comment on his blog Michael listed all 38 steps of his Google directions. He wanted to make his point where someone would really understand his concern. Michael pointed with great alarm to step 22 on his list. He said, “Look at the swim across part. When people rush they make mistakes. If an ultra gullible person reads that he will do it.”

The comment Michael was making to a couple of his teachers about Google Maps is going to give me some wonderful teachable moments. Plus I can share Will’s post with them and they can compare perspectives. Anyway the aspect that Will loved about Google mapping was alarming to Michael. Different perspectives, hmmmmm. Let’s talk about that. What do we need to clarify? How should teachers approach this? Let’s talk about literal interpretations versus figurative. Let’s talk about humor and different understandings. If people interpret language literally and do not understand multiple meanings are they likely to miss the humor in some writing? Then we could toss this out for discussion. Do we really need all 38 steps to understand his concern? The teachable moments are right there and ripe for the taking. I love that about blogs. You get so many teachable moments and they are so much fun.

As a teacher I am going to get a lot of mileage out of these blog postings. What’s so neat about these moments is that through blogging we get to share. And humor is a great way to start off the day!

Let’s hear it for the bouncing baby bloggers!

If you haven’t seen Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s bouncing baby blogger announcement you’re missing out! I had the distinct pleasure of talking to this emerging group this past Monday. I have a strong feeling that some really good things are going to come out of this group. I talked about my experiences blogging with elementary students.  If you are interested, there’s an archive of the session here. Let them hear from you! Head on over to these pre-service teacher blogs and give them a “warm blogging” welcome!

Darren is truly making “A Difference”

Recently I presented a workshop session on blogging at the GaETC conference. I had a Skype call with Darren Kuropatwa. I wanted him to share the positive aspects of blogging that he had experienced with his class. Some amazing things came out of that call. First, Darren shared how his students summarize what they are learning through the scribe posts on the class blog. He explains it so well on the podcast. He uses a paradigm he borrowed from med school – watch it, do it, teach it. His students are writng the textbook for the class. The examples he shared were fantastic. He shared how he uses the chat box so his students have homework help 24-7. The students use delicious to create a resource file to help each class member. Then the wiki solutions manual is the space where students solve, annotate, and correct each others’ work. Listen to the podcast to get his explanations. What is so impressive to me is that Darren has truly put this in the hands of his students. They have ownership of their learning. They work as a team. It is the best use of blogging that I’ve seen in a classroom.

Then another story developed as we were skyping. I commented on the first time that I had seen Darren’s blog and how it blew me away. I am not and have never been a good math student but as I was reading his blog I got so excited because it made me feel that I could still learn these math concepts that had alluded me in the past. See my post here: A Math Weblog to Note. I can still remember that day and how I explored his blog in depth. It was exciting. Now the neat thing here is I heard the other side of that story, as did my workshop participants. Darren recalled how how intense the feeling was for him hearing how someone a half a continent away had been impacted by the work he was doing. Now here’s the best part of the story. Darren said his first reaction was “My students need to feel this.” His first thoughts were how to give that to his students. A true teacher! Now that’s a feeling that many of us have had and have seen firsthand when students blog. I’ve had many moments to share with students when they were just blown away that someone thought something they wrote was good or someone added to the conversation about something they were blogging about in class. Darren said in the skype call that this was what blogging is all about, that motivation from an authentic audience. I thought it would be good to share this piece because it could be used to share with administrators and others to get an idea of what blogging can be all about. Teachers need to set the stage and guide it. No one does that better than Darren.
I’ve thought about it a lot since the workshop and I’ve also thought about how Darren has captured the essence of blogging and then gone that extra step to share it all with others. Then each year he has built on the pedagogy and shaped and reshaped his learning and teaching. Darren is not just a math teacher. He is an incredible writing teacher as well. He knows how to use writing, blogging, and the Internet to learn. He guides his class and steps aside to let them own it. Just check out Living in Whoville and you’ll see. It gives me chills.This digital story is a class project. You can see links to some of the other projects that tell the story of what his kids have accomplished. It is awesome.
Now listen to the podcast, DarrenAnne.mp3, and listen to the two sides of the story. Just think what could lie ahead for our students! It is inspiring. He is really empowering the student in a way that totally focuses on the pedagogy – no small task. Plus the work is in the hands of the students. They own it! It is a model to follow. I can’t wait to cast my vote this year in the EduBlog Awards 2006.

Podcasts, proofing and kids!

I just finished the first round with students where I used podcasts to help them proofread their writing on their blogs. I wanted to share the process.

The students wrote stories about photographs from Scotland. These photographs were the ones that Chris so kindly let me use. They were transferred from her Flickr pictures to a wiki. The students wrote their first draft and inserted the pictures. Their drafts needed lots of work. I mean lots of work. Once I get over my initial dismay at their lack of writing skills (which I am firmly convinced would be oh so much better if we gave them time to write – another story for another day), I just roll up my sleeves and decide the best place to start.

Teaching students proofreading is hard work or I guess I should say getting students to apply that learning is hard work. Elementary students like to zip through tasks and their idea of proofing is a quick glance. Many times though they just run out of time. The instructions were to have two windows open. They opened the podcast of their story on the class blog. They used their individual blogs to follow along. The first attempt had them here, there and everywhere. Some were mesmerized by the screen designs appearing on their podcast. Some did not even have their story up on the screen and some were off commenting. It’s hard to wait to answer those good comments. OK, time to regroup. I got everybody zeroed in on the task again. I suggested that they follow along with their finger lightly on the screen as they were listening. That helped. This time they got it but it requires really paying attention. This is a skill they have to practice. We suggested they listen again. They were willing. Then I worked one on one with a few and had them read it. Still, just like we do, they would read it as they had it in their mind, not on the blog. We persevered with this training. They were surprised at the errors.I can’t say they were wild about it at the time but they were fascinated with the podcasts and when I closed with letting the students each give “proofreading pointers” on the audio recorder they were tuned in. Here’s a sample. JhonnyProofreadingPointer.mp3 This was fun! Then they thought about it this week and some even brought in papers so they could edit their original papers. They were much better! In our discussion in class about the process I felt that they were beginning to get an understanding of how helpful this was.

I’ve never felt too successful at getting kids to proofread but this time I saw some lights going on. (Now if those lights will just stay lit for them to do that process by themselves 🙂 One thing that was apparent was that they were quite proud of their revisions. This is not something I would do with every piece but I think from time to time it will be a good tool to use. I plan to let them record for each other. It will be interesting to see how they do and how they like that. When they were doing their editing they used ideas and suggestions from people who had commented and given them pointers. I’m also finding it very interesting observing how they respond to the pointers. I also observed in class today many of them silently reading their revisions when they had completed it. Hooray! Then they began to blog some thank-you’s to their commenters. Our time ran out so that will be the first order of business next week.

I really love blogging with kids. They are my best teachers!

A Homerun for Blogging

My Teachers & Technology

site which I used with my IT3210 class last winter is now used to just

post some good internet sites for teachers. I promised the students I

would do that for a while. Yesterday’s day post was about Annette Lamb’s EduScapes. It has lots of relevant information for teachers. I especially like the 42eXplore but I want to point you to her blogging pages here and here. The last link is titled “Blogs and Blogging: A Homerun for Teaching, Learning and Blogging”. Here’s her description:

[Macro error: Can’t call the script because the name “pictureRef” hasn’t been defined.]
Blogs are the hottest new way to promote reading, writing, and thinking

in all content areas and grade levels. Through this project, you’ll

learn to create and integrate these web logs into your classroom.

Using free, simple, online tools, you and your students can add digital

photos, web links, and multimedia elements to bring writing alive! If

you want an easy way to promote thinking, address standards, promote

information fluency, and promote collaboration, let’s blog!

Check out her entire site. It is terrific!

Teachers & Technology

    I’m  teaching a class called “Teachers & Technology”, which is the name I’ve given to the class blog. You can find the student blog links there. The syllabus is 

already set up for the course and weblogs were no where to be found.  I got an OK to use weblogs instead of WebCT for

the discussion phase of the course. Yea!  The students are using Blogger.

Many of these students have not had education courses prior to the

course and quite a few are new to technology. It should be an

interesting journey. I have already connected them to my elementary

student bloggers.  I’ll keep you posted.