Jan 24, 2013

Four things Obama should do for education in next four years

Read this. Good stuff. Here are the four things:

1. Restore Title 1 to its primary purpose as an anti-poverty program.  
2. Invest in teaching.
3. Invest in innovation.
4. Change the rhetoric.
Texas House eliminates funding for standardized testing

Two things stand out. First, while the House makes a reasonable decision, the "Senate’s preliminary budget has about $94 million allocated for the... STAAR." In spite of a lack of success, the research against it, the loss of instructional time, the Senate wants to spend more money. Speaking of a loss of time, "during the 180-day school year, high school students now spend up to 45 days taking various standardized exams." 

How do we rationalize the loss of that much time? Some argue that, in order to know where we stand, we need to assess the students. Fine. At the end of the year, assess them. Once. Better yet, assess them at the beginning of the year and the end of the year. Compare. Let's not waste time with benchmark after benchmark. Do it the right way, Texas, and you'll see evidence of teaching.

Jan 6, 2013

Classroom Game Design: Paul Andersen at TEDxBozeman

From TEDx: Paul Andersen has been teaching science in Montana for the last eighteen years. He explains how he is using elements of game design to improve learning in his AP Biology classroom.

Cybrary Man's Educational Web Sites

From the site: The internet catalogue for students, teachers, administrators & parents. Over 20,000 relevant links personally selected by an educator/author with over 30 years of experience.

After seeking social asylum in Twitter, I also came across Cybrary Man and his website. It seems to have an endless number of links.
Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education 

From TED: Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script -- give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help.

12 Things Kids Want from Their Teachers

So, I closed my facebook account and signed up for Twitter. Instead of celebrities, humorists, and athletes, I decided to follow educators. Angela Maiers is a name that came up on a list of suggested tweeters. In addition to her tweets, she maintains a blog, writes books, gives talks, has a family, etc. Whew. 

This is an important list because it's so easy to fly from 8:05a to 3:20p, cramming as much crap as possible into the day, and forget that we're dealing with children. Not objects. Not numbers. In fact, they are the babies that other people had. 

Click the title to see the list and her blog.

As an added bonus, here is a video of her talk, You Matter. The video is a bit wonky, but the audio works fine, so don't freak out.

Stephen Round, Providence Teacher, Quits Over Standardized Testing In Viral YouTube Video 
"Unfortunately, in the attempt to conform and abide by the misguided notions of educrats, the school system in which I had so much pride drastically changed," he says. "Rather than creating lifelong learners, our new goal is to create good test takers. Rather than being recipients of a rewarding and enjoyable educational experience, our students are now relegated to experiencing a confining and demeaning education."

Jan 5, 2013

Streamlining Procedures and Ensuring Proficiency

Strategies to Improve Transitions and Time Management


From the site: CoSketch is a multi-user online whiteboard designed to give you the ability to quickly visualize and share your ideas as images.

I want to work this into Math soon. I don't know how, yet, but, right away, geometry comes to mind.

Jan 4, 2013

Busy Teacher

This site is packed full of stuff. Worksheets. ESL articles. Posters. Flash cards. Word search creator. And more.

On the front page right now, you'll find a number of article links, including:

As a bonus, here is a poster that someone posted on Pinterest--it's from Busy Teacher.


From the site: ThingLink helps you create and discover rich images. Be creative! Make your images come alive with music, video, text, images, shops and more! Every image contains a story and ThingLink helps you tell your stories. Follow image channels from your favorite bands, bloggers and friends. Your ThingLink interactive images form a channel that other users can follow.

I can see using this for Social Studies so easily. Using morguefile, I'll have the students download a photo that reflects the topic, and make 5W1H notes. Quick and easy and visual. You could do this with a Science topic or a character study.
Twitter Cheat Sheet

I hate facebook. That didn't really need to be said, but it's my blog and I'm surprised that I haven't said it before now. I've been told on a couple of occasions that I should be using Twitter. Not to make unnecessary comments about celebrities and athletes. Folks actually tweet on important topics, such as education--it's quite informative.

For the other Twitter noobs, here is a sheet to help.
The Best of TED for Teachers

I quite enjoy TED presentations. There are amazing things happening in the world. Creative people are doing remarkable things. While many videos are meant to inform and entertain, so many more are truly inspirational

 I'm totally ripping off this list from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

To Improve in Math, Motivation – Not IQ – Is Key
"One’s ability to cope with math could be less of a function of a student’s IQ and more a function of their ability to apply themselves to a task. According to LiveScience.com, recent research shows that motivation is key when it comes to conquering mathematics, although the motivation has to come from the student and not be directed by parents, guardians or teachers."

"Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be a correlation between IQ and improvement in math skills."

"The children of parents who applied consistent pressure showed no significant improvement at all."
This is one of those studies that causes me to yell, Ah-ha!, at the computer screen, followed quickly by Oh, crap!  

Whether or not they want to admit it, decision-makers ignore the factors outside of school and they ignore the factors inside the students. Motivation plays a part in education. Teachers know it. Some administrators know it. What do we do about it?

We need to be honest, though. It's this kind of information that leads to laziness and excuses. It's easy to blame the students for their lack of effort. All the while, we're creating ridiculously boring lectures, dictating silly activities, force-feeding worksheets and textbook pages. We rely on algorithms and short-cuts while ignoring discovery and cooperation. We have access to incredible electronic tools, but we still insist on telling them what we want them to know. We need to spend more time assessing and less time grading. Rather than Scott Foresman or McMillan/McGraw-Hill, we should consult with Tomlinson, Marzano, Van de Walle, and many others. We must become better students as well as better teachers.

We may not be able to motivate students to learn math, but we can try to trick them into learning it. 
Elementary School Bias Against Boys Sets Them Up For Failure: Study
"The researchers analyzed data from 5,800 elementary school students and found that boys performed better on standardized exams in math, reading and science than their course grades reflected. The authors suggest that girls are truly only outperforming boys in "non-cognitive approaches to learning" -- defined as attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization -- leading to better grades from teachers."
My first reaction to the article was No, duh. I wasn't going to even post it, but I enjoyed reading a few of the comments.

Comment from eceresa: So the authors' contention is that the boys know the material (as evidenced by test scores) but the girls are more persistent, organized, and attentive (evidenced, probably, by doing more of their work). And the higher grades that the girls receive in this situation are, according to those authors, indicative of a problem? They're wrong. They're indicative of TWO problems: first, that the boys need to become more persistent, organized, and attentive, and second, that the authors need to learn that students' grades do and SHOULD reflect more than just test scores. 

Comment from educatedsoccermom: Add the elimination (or drastic reduction) of PE and recess, increased academic pressures at younger ages, and spending hours upon hours drilling for standardized testing and it's no surprise at all. One of my boys was miserable in public school by third grade. Desperate we moved him to an independent school that had PE and gym every day plus more time for art and music. He thrived there and more importantly liked school again. He had great teachers but the system is broken.

I've not used this, but I'm intrigued. I'm definitely going to play around with it. Here are some reasons for using Edcanvas...

Web quests, project-based learning and class presentation

Easily gather and annotate online resources

Share content using just one link

Make your class come alive with rich multimedia
School Design, Classroom Layout Can Heavily Affect Student Grades, Learning: Study
"[A] new study out of the United Kingdom suggests that a school's physical design can improve or worsen children's academic performance by as much as 25 percent in early years."
The study focused on classroom orientation, natural light, acoustics, temperature, air quality and color.
"Environmental factors studied affected 73 percent of the changes in student scores."
If I feel like I'm walking around a prison, I'm sure the students feel that way. 

I can't help but think of Ron Clark's Academy. The classrooms are painted and decorated to match the teachers' requests. The school is colorful and open. A big blue slide welcomes visitors. And they've decorated the restrooms.

The article goes on to discuss the conditions of American schools and cost to repair and improve the buildings. Schools are where we send our children to learn and grow--it seems silly to procrastinate over money.