Archive for June 2006

Math is Pretty

June 29, 2006

Check out this site. Make sure to browse through the galleries.

Eclectic Reading

June 29, 2006

I have had a somewhat eclectic reading list since the summer started. I began with Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence and read along side it The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. I say along side it… I am finished with Sons and Lovers but am still working on The World is Flat; it always seems to take me longer to read and digest a piece of non-fiction. Although not my favorite book, I did enjoy Sons and Lovers. So far it is the only thing I have read by D.H. Lawrence, but I have always wanted to read The Rainbow, so I think I will add it to my list.

I still have about 120 pages left in The World is Flat, but that hasn’t stopped me from starting a new book – High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver. Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I have enjoyed all the books of hers I have read: The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven and Small Wonders. While reading High Tide in Tucson, I was particularly touched by an essay entitled How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life. It is about how one person (in this case a librarian) helped the narrator (Kingsolver) find her place in this world.

I especially related to this quote,

“Now, with my adolescence behind me and my daughter’s still ahead, I am nearly speechless with gratitude for the endurance and goodwill of librarians in an era that discourages reading in almost incomprehensible ways. We’ve create for ourselves a culture that undervalues education (compared with the rest of the industrialized world, to say the least), undervalues breadth of experience (compared with our potential), downright discourages critical thinking (judging from what the majority of us watch and read), and distrusts foreign ideas. ‘Un-American,’ from what I hear is meant to be an insult.”

Interestingly enough the quote from Kingsolver echoes what Friedman says in his book as well. If you have never read any books by Kingsolver, I suggest picking one up.

So, what else do I have on my shelf waiting to be read? Hopefully before the summer is over I will get to read:

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit
The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I will also probably throw in an assortment of fiction just to keep me entertained. If you have any additional suggestions let me know.

80 Days That Changed the World

June 27, 2006

Thanks to TechLearning I came across this thought-provoking site by TIME magazine – 80 Days That Changed the World. The site is basically an interactive timeline of key events from October 29, 1923 (Turkey Forced Westward) to January 29, 2002 (The Enemy is Defined). The site offers well-written synopses of the events along with a picture and a link to view TIME Magazine covers from the year being highlighted.

I am not sure how the days were chosen (probably the same way People chooses its 100 most beautiful people… very scientifically). As I looked through the days, it is obvious that the major effects of some of the events could have been predicted on the day they occurred (November 9, 1989) and some of them probably went unnoticed by the world at large (November 24, 1989).

Take a look. It is a nice stroll through history.

Yes, I am still breathing

June 26, 2006

It has been awhile since my last post, but rest assured, I am alive an well. 🙂 I just got back from a short trip to Wichita, Kansas, to attend my fiance’s ten year high school reunion and am trying to get everything finalized for our wedding on July 15th. I haven’t had much time to write or catch up on reading. My Netvibes account is out of control! It seems like every time I log in there is an additional 50 or so posts I have yet to read.

With the wedding and all in a couple of weeks, I may be scarce for awhile but will hopefully have time to post some thoughts here and there, so stay tuned.

Shakespeare on the Web

June 19, 2006

According to an article in USA Today, Google launched yet another cool site. It is a “site devoted entirely” to the work of William Shakespeare. The site offers full-text versions of his 37 plays. The plays are categorized by types – comedy, tragedy, romance or history. The site also incorporates a nifty search feature that allows the user to search for an excerpt from a play and be directed to the page in the play where the quote appears (and the quote is highlighted). I searched Romeo and Juliet for the phrase, “You kiss by the book,” and came up with this. I like it!

The Political Dr. Seuss and Other Cool Stuff at the PBS Website

June 17, 2006

I spent a large portion of last week writing model lessons that integrate ELA TEKS and technology for Irving ISD. As I began to run out of ideas, I started searching the web for some inspiration and I came across The Political Dr. Seuss website. The site intrigued me because when I used to teach English, I often utilized children’s books to illustrate theme and other literary elements. The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss is one of the books I used to demonstrate the concept of allegory. Sometimes using a seemingly simple resource like a children’s book can have a powerful affect in the classroom.

According to the Dr. Seuss site, there is a documentary entitled The Political Dr. Seuss which is available for purchase. The site also offers some sample lesson plans to go along with the video. I can’t really endorse the film because I have not seen it (although I would like to), so if any of you have seen the documentary, I would love to get your thoughts on it.

After I got through looking at the Dr. Seuss site I clicked on the Interactive link and was brought to another pretty nifty resource for educators – Electric Shadows. According to the Electric Shadows site, “ELECTRIC SHADOWS projects present the “unflinching visions of independent producers” by exploring arts and culture via the Web, exclusively. Presented by Independent Lens and ITVS Interactive and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, these award-winning sites bring the power of nonlinear storytelling online.”

There are three interactive projects listed…

Beyond the Fire – “BEYOND THE FIRE introduces the real-life stories of 15 teenagers, now living in the U.S., who have survived war in seven war zones.”

Face to Face – “Connect the experiences of Japanese Americans in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor with those confronting Arab and Muslim Americans today in a post-September 11 America.”

Circle of Stones – “With Native culture bearers as your guides, explore the art, heritage and legacy of the Native American oral tradition.”

Apparently there is some pretty cool stuff for educators over at PBS. Take a look and let me know what you find.

All Hail the Almighty TAKS Test

June 14, 2006

I was saddened as I came across this article in the Dallas Morning News. Apparently Texas lawmakers think offering monetary incentives to teachers who produce high test scores is a good idea.

“Like top athletes who earn millions for scoring more baskets and CEOs who earn perks for boosting profits, Texas teachers will get bonuses for raising test scores… Gov. Rick Perry and other supporters insist the program will push Texas to the forefront of educational excellence.
They argue that teachers will strive to improve student test scores and other measures if they can increase their salary by thousands of dollars a year. Talented teachers will be more inclined to stay in the profession, they say.”

I am definitely in favor of paying talented teachers more, but I am not in favor of basing pay incentives on test scores. This plan seems like the ideal way to get teachers to “teach to the test.” If knowing enough to pass the TAKS test is the only standard Texas holds for its students, then tying incentive pay to test scores will probably help get this done, but if we would like to have graduates who can think for themselves, solve authentic problems, discuss current events, balance a checkbook, work in collaborative groups, communicate effectively, etc., then this plan is a HORRIBLE idea.

According to the article, most teacher groups opposed the bill. Some of the concerns mentioned have to do with cheating and teacher competition.

“I’m very bothered about the whole premise of paying out money based on performance,” said David McClure, a sixth-grader teacher at Davis Intermediate School in Wylie. “If you thought there was cheating now, you wait until money’s thrown in the mix.” This is a legitimate concern especially with cheating on the TAKS dominating the news recently.

“She [Aimee Bolender, president of Alliance/AFT, a Dallas teachers union] said the bonus plan could also create adversarial relationships among teachers based on who gets the extra money. Some teachers may not want certain students in their classroom if they believe those students will drag down test scores.” I know in my district, IISD, we try to foster collegiality and sharing of ideas and lessons; I am afraid many teachers will stop sharing if the focus shifts to earning incentive pay.

Sue Abar, a teacher in Desoto, brings up another valid point, “…she wonders how districts will decide which teachers get the money. If students score high on their third-grade reading scores, for instance, should the first- and second-grade teachers get some of the credit? The process needs to be fair, she said.” Eleventh grade students come to English III with a basic knowledge of the language, so if he/she scores well in 11th grade do the previous teachers get a cut of the money? Do they deserve it? Good question…

There are great teachers, good teachers and teachers who babysit. I think we all know this, but are high test scores the only indicator we want to use to decide who (if anyone) deserves a pay bonus?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter…