Monday, December 8, 2014

This Was Going to be a Top Ten Blog Post List....

Yes, I realize this isn't a top ten list but I don't really care. Who decided ten was the perfect number for a list anyway? Stephen Davis suggested I go through my blog and pick the ones I would like to list as a kind of 'best of' thing, so here it is.

Student Commenting: A Letter to Students One of the few posts I was hoping that teachers would share with their students. I am actually pretty proud of this one.

I Had Cancer Sharing personal stuff can be hard, or very rewarding.

Hard Questions 8 questions that purposefully pushed thinking.

More Thoughts on Blogging (With or Without Students) I get these ideas through observing students and adults through their writing. This is a thought dump about blogging.

Why Blogging Isn't Transformational for our Students Yet I argue that our expectations are a bit out of whack.

EdCampKC: A Rather Painful Reflection  Because "online connections are not a good enough replacement for the relationships we develop off line" is just as true today as when I wrote it.

Maybe This Is Why We Don't Share Our Failures This one still stings a lot.

That Time My Network Didn't Become Trolls There is a story behind this, be prepared to invest the time when you read it. It is definitely worth it.

I Hide My Disability I credit this post for helping me become more comfortable in public. I have also had a lot of conversations with others who have similar issues.

A Teacher's Manifesto Occasionally something we create takes on a life of its own. I still get comments about this post. It also happens to be very much a work in progress.

Maybe Your Progressive Teaching Ideas Are Not What's Best for All Your Students This seems to be a theme that has cropped up again in my thinking.

Bambie, Frankenweenie, and Storytelling Emotional experiences are incredible learning experiences.

Today I Lectured My Class I didn't choose this one because of the content, but rather because I was willing to share something I wasn't really that comfortable with. I am still not for that matter. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Quick Rant: Stop Complaining about Teaching Methods

Quick rant:
Quit speaking in absolutes about how any teaching method is bad. There are great worksheets, drill and kill lessons, and even valuable homework activities. When you talk in absolutes you immediately make teachers defensive. Instead of complaining about what you don't like, how about doing some real teaching and share what is working with your students. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

It's a Quote, It's a Pic, It's a QuotePic!

So I have been seeing pictures with quotes in them on Twitter for a long time. I decided that it might be fun to make some of my own so I found a site called Quote Cover and made a few.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Emoticons,Bernal Diaz del Castillo and Tenochtitlán

The Aztec people used glyphs to communicate. (Here is a great page that describes their writing system.) Why then would it not be appropriate for students to learn about the process of writing about an event in their history using our own modern glyphs, emoticons?

Today I will be reading experts of the excellent article Imperial City of the Aztecs: Mexico-Tenochtitlan by Inga Clendinnen to my students. (BTW if you don't know about Common-Place you definitely need to.) In it she describes Bernal Diaz del Castillo's astonishment at the magnificent of the Aztec capital city, Tenochtitlán. If you still have any misconceptions of the ability of the people in the America's abilities to create cities you will also be amazed.

The students will be place themselves in del Castillo's boots and write his story as if it were their own. Then they will transfer that story into emoticons. Students with phones or tablets can write them there and send them to me. Those without will do as the Aztecs did, write them by hand.

There is a myriad of things I am hoping my students learn. The students will have the opportunity to internalize the amazement of del Castillo. They will have the opportunity to use glyphs to write a story and reflect on the process of using pictures to convey specific meaning. They will be exposed to the idea of using emoticons in their daily interactions as well, if they aren't already doing so. There is also the bonus of students connecting today's technology with history, and for some of my Hispanic students it is really their history. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why Audience Size Is Important

I was recently in a conversation on Twitter that helped me solidify some thoughts on the need for a large audience for student blog posts. Many students have passions or hobbies that simply are not shared by their peers locally. When a student is sharing what they love, the larger the audience the more likelihood there will be others who share that same interest. Boom! instant community. Simply put, students need a large audience to help build their own community.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Some Questions Don't Have Answers Yet: Ferguson Protests


Robert Dillon, @ideaguy42, did a Google Hangout into my classroom today to share with my students a little about the events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri.
One of my students asked, "Who is Michael Brown?"
I answered, "He was an 18 year old man that was shot by a policeman."
Another student asked. "Why did they shoot him?"
"We don't know yet." was my reply.
The story of the Ferguson protests is much larger and more nuanced than a couple tweets can manage. Watch the video and see if you don't gain a better picture about what is happening. Those of us who have been following the story have lots of questions. Some questions won't get answered, some will and some probably don't have even answers that are coherent. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be asking them. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Case Against Expecting New Technology to Drive Engagement

When I first introduced my students to my 2:1 eMINTS classroom I thought my students would really love using computers to learn. I spent a lot of time teaching how to use them, how to keep them running (Windows...) and eventually how to access information with them. My students were very, very engaged. They weren't, however, engaged in the content I was supposed to be teaching.

Don't get me wrong, I am a slow learner. It took me a long time to figure it out. Their behaviors met my engagement checklist:

  1. Were they active? Check
  2. Were they excited? Check
  3. Did behavior problems decrease? Check
The problem was I forgot the real purpose of the technology, which was to make it easier for me to give my students great lessons to learn the school's curriculum. Notice that wasn't on my list?

Over the years I have noticed that students are very engaged when introduced in new technology. More often than not the engagement is with the tool though and not the content being taught. The truth is, until the technology, hardware or software, is less 'new' the students will be more engaged in the tool than what they need to learn from the content. 

Once again I will point out, new technology is no substitute for great lessons. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Admit It, I Am Biased. I Prefer Classroom Teacher Led Sessions

Taken at #EdCampKC in 2010
I admit it, I am biased. I can't help it. When I go to a conference I want to hear classroom teachers talk about tools they actually use in class.

I have attended so many sessions on new tools facilitated by those not in a classroom who have not used the tool they are showing with students. I often leave those sessions baffled by how/if I can use them in my class. Usually the potential for use is limited, if it can be used at all.

I often talk about how instruction/learning should determine the tools that are used. (Usually I prefer to let students choose their own tools when possible.) Honestly, aren't we better than 'Here is a new tool that I found that I have never used in class but it is so cool. Why don't you use it in your class and be my proof of concept?'

I have never presented at a conference and shown tools I have not used. I always share what worked for my students and what I felt didn't. My goal is to add value to the session by sharing my experiences, not just introduce a bunch of new things that the teachers might be able to find some use for. Is it too much for me to expect the facilitator for the sessions I attend do the same?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Do I Have to Learn History?

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Strange

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Strange

Funny how a little question, only seven words long, can throw one for a loop. I had a student ask me that question an hour ago and I am still reeling from it. I'm reeling because I can't verbalize an answer.

The first thing I did was look online for an answer. Surely somewhere there is a cogent, well reasoned and yet simple answer. If there is one, I didn't find it. Google the question yourself and see what comes up. Better yet search videos using the question, plain horrible. Honestly, I doubt anyone can answer this one for me anyway.

I have always loved history, I have loved the stories that come from history. I love the connections I see between seemingly disparate events. I love recounting stories like Peale's Mastadon because of the connections between art, science, and exploration.

Now I am stuck trying to justify what I teach without any cogent thoughts appearing. Why do they have to learn history?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Owning Our Choices and Accepting Ourselves

Today my 7th grade students are creating Russian nesting dolls (Matryoshka). This is the art project for our geography chapter on Russia. Students can make their nesting dolls out of any characters they want, from typical pop culture choices to ones they make up on their own.

Later this week they will reflect on their choice in characters. Why did they choose superheroes? Why cartoon characters? Why did they want to make their own, new characters? The real goal of this activity is less about Russian art and much more about students identifying the choice they made.

 Too often we make choices based upon the people we surround ourselves with. We succumb to peer pressure or that inner voice that has been telling us for years we aren't cool enough and we need to work harder to fit in. The reality is the only people that we need to make happy or impress is ourselves and we can't do that hanging on to the old social pressures that used to make us question every decision we made. We need to take a stand in our classrooms and give our students opportunities to share their inner nerdiness. Give them their voice.

This post has been reposted on the #SKoN blog.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Eastern Mediterranean Unit

Here is the link to my students' expected workload. I will attempt to explain the reasons behind my choices. 

Day 1 the students will label and color a map of the countries covered. I want the students to have a good idea of where the countries are and their physical regions. They will also reflect on the map and what they learned from the process.

Day 2 the students will define and draw the six vocabulary words from the chapter. The students will have to define the words using their own words, not just copy them from the book. They also will draw a picture of what the word means to them. This requires them to both access and store information in different parts of their noggins.

Day 3, 5, 7 and 8 the students read from the text and answer comprehension questions. Many/most of us learn a great deal through reading and this is great practice for them to read with a purpose and learn to find information in text. 

Days 4 and 6 the students will watch videos on Turkey and Israel by Rick Steves. I love that series since it covers so much of the culture of the areas in a relatively short time. The students will have a worksheet to keep them on task and a reflection after the video is finished. 

Day 9 the students will do a review over the material covered as well as write a comprehensive reflection. If you think that I am having my students reflect a lot, I am. If I believe that reflection is the most important practice in learning (and I do) then I need to make sure my students have the opportunity to do it regularly.

Monday, January 27, 2014

TigerCorp Part 2: It's Lending Time!

TigerCorp (those from our junior high that invested in our group) made our first loans today. Each class has a representative that chose from a varieties of lendees that I chose over the weekend. I had each one sit down and review them and vote for which three they thought would be best to donate to. Here are the three loans we made. 

We ended up making micro loans to people living on three different continents. The loans will be used for helping outfit a market stall, expanding a poultry house to meet demand, and to help buy more cows and pigs. The choices the students made not only reflect our cultural diversity but also our local agricultural culture here in Noel.