Archive for April 2006

Another Design Studio

April 29, 2006

So, we just finished hosting another Design Studio. I think it went pretty well. We had some very enthusiastic and focused participants from Blue Springs school district in Missouri. The group I facilitated chose to focus on further establishing personalized learning at their school by restructuring their advisory program and piloting some teams with two sophomore groups. I hope everything goes well, and I wish them lots of luck.

If you are wondering what a Design Studio is exactly, then you are probably in the same group as about 3/4 of the teachers at my school (where we host one twice a year). Basically, a Design Studio is a school which has been chosen to be a model for the implementation of a SLC (Smaller Learning Communities) grant.

I think the most important part of the Design Studio experience is getting to see and discuss things that are happening at other schools and time to complete a Gap Analysis and focus on what is happening at your own school. Even if you can’t ever attend a Design Studio, I suggest getting a group together at your school and completing a gap analysis every other year or so. I think it helps to keep the school focused and working towards growth.

You can access some of the materials we used for the Design Studio at this link.

Pre-made PowerPoints

April 29, 2006

I came across a new blog today, Education in Texas, which had some links to some pretty useful sites. Both of the links are from the Jefferson County School District in Tennessee. The first link has some instructional PowerPoints for the core areas, and the second link has some Tech Tutorial PowerPoints. Hope you find something you can use. 🙂

What is Happening?

April 25, 2006

Running in the back of my mind the last couple of days has been the question of where we are failing our students and our community at large. The question is a result of the report about the students in Riverton, Kansas, who posted on Myspace about their intent to conduct a Columbine-like killing spree at their high school.

Within a couple of days, I read about a “foiled plot” at an Alaskan middle school where a group of seventh graders compiled a “hit list” of students and staff members who would be the victims of their assault.

Today as I read The Education Wonks, I learned about three more intentions of school violence planned by high schoolers in Washington, Minnesota and Louisiana.

So, what is going on? What is happening to these kids to cause them to act out in such a vengeful and violent manner? I realize that April 20th was the anniversary of the Columbine shootings, but could the anniversary really be what is inspiring these students to formulate these plans? What are we doing as educators, parents and community members to make sure our children do not fester into these alienated, malicious students (and eventually adults) who are bent on revenge?

I don’t know… maybe I am making too much of this. Maybe this sort of thing happens all the time and the media is reporting on it more avidly since it is the anniversary of Columbine, but even if this is the case, it is still disturbing that within a week’s time there have been so many instances of violent school plots.

So, as educators, what do we do? Do we install metal detectors in all the schools and conduct schools as if they are prisons in lock-down mode? I hope not. I hope we try to figure out a way to reach these students before they get to their breaking points. I hope we attempt to install in our students an appreciation of differences, a love of humankind, a desire to improve their lives and help others. I think this is the only way we will save our schools, our students and our future.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

April 25, 2006

Today is Yom Hashoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day. I was reminded of this as I drove to work this morning and heard this broadcast on NPR. It is the account of Rudy Katz as told by his son Jeffrey Katz. It is a concise and moving account of how the Holocaust impacted one family.

I have heard many educators state that too much time is spent teaching the Holocaust at the expense of other time periods and occurrences in history. I am not sure if this is true. I certainly think that there are other important topics to study, but I definitely believe that time should be spent on learning about the Holocaust. Time needs to be spent not just learning about the event but about the lives it affected (and continues to affect), about the ordinary people who committed atrocities, about the danger of following blindly, about the people who risked their lives to save strangers. It was an unconscionable event in history, but one from which humanity can learn.

I have visited many of the concentration camps – Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka. The memories and power that continues to exude from these remains is powerful and life changing. The trip reinforced the importance to me of the power one leader can have to either help or hinder humanity. It also made me more aware of other instances of genocide which have occurred (and are occurring) in history.

Please take a moment today to remember those who perished during the Holocaust and those who continue to lose their lives to hatred and intolerance.

You may also want to look at some of the following resources:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Yad Vashem
The Ghetto Fighters’ Museum
Voices on Genocide Prevention

Poem Podcasts

April 24, 2006

While reading Miguel Guhlin’s blog (which is apparently blocked today), I came across a great idea to have students share their original poems as podcasts. Students routinely write poems for their English classes (and sometimes for themselves), but students rarely publish the poems or even read them and share them with others. Publishing them as podcast would allow them to do both while affording the reader/listener the opportunity to hear the poem read by the author.

Random House is doing something similar by publishing a poem a week as a podcast. The website is a great resource for students/teachers studying poetry.

Games and Other Fun Stuff

April 24, 2006

Eric Creeger sent me this site the other day, and I thought I would share. It has game templates created in PowerPoint, Excel and Word along with timers created in PowerPoint. Look through them and see what you think. Hopefully you will find something you can use. 🙂

This I Believe Student Podcasts

April 21, 2006

This I Believe is an exciting national project that invites you to write about the core beliefs that guide your daily life.” NPR has most recently been hosting this essay/podcast series which was initially begun as a weekly radio segment by Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s.

The Academy of Irving has attempted to “borrow” this idea by encouraging students to write and record their own This I Believe essays and publish them for others to enjoy. I extended my technical assistance to the English classes here on campus, and Ms. Tole decided to take me up on the offer. She has had several classes write essays, a couple of students record, and so far one student who has sent me his for publication (I believe he submitted it to the NPR site as well).

So, please take a moment to listen to Jerry’s This I Believe essay about the power of music. I am sure he would enjoy your feedback. I think he did an excellent job.

I will post more submissions here as I receive them.