Archive for July 2006

Newer Teacher Training – Day One

July 31, 2006

Welcome to The Academy’s Newer Teacher Training! Hopefully you will find all of the resources you need posted here. Please leave a comment if you have a suggestion as to how to improve the training. 

Schedule for July 31st and August 1st

Congratulations Ms. Watson!

July 28, 2006

Apparently our very own Kim Watson is in the news for being an outstanding entrepreneurship teacher.  Way to go Ms. Watson!!  Congratulations to your students as well!

India and the $100 Laptop

July 28, 2006

Nicholas Negroponte has been in the news a lot lately with his One Laptop Per Child initiative (better known as the $100 laptop).

According to the OLPC website the goal of the $100 laptop initiative program is, “to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves.”

I honestly have not followed this program very closely, but I must admit when I heard of it , I thought is was an interesting idea with much potential.  I think that most people would agree that education is the best way to help people in poverty overcome their situation and assist those around them in rising from the depths of poverty as well.  I believe that education is the intent of Negroponte and his $100 laptop initiative.  I certainly do not know all of the logistics of the program or the $100 laptop, and I have many questions.  Will the laptops be capable of getting Internet access and if so, who pays for it?  Who will offer tech support and training for the countries who adopt this initiative?  What is the criteria for obtaining one of the laptops?

As I heard about the program, I thought most developing countries would be excited at the opportunity to offer a technological advantage to their poor, but apparently this is not the case with all countries.  Recently India rejected the one-to-one program.  And after reading some opinions on the matter, I guess I can see their side of the story.  Why would a country spend $100 per laptop when many students do not have adequate shelter, food, or schools to attend?  That being said, apparently some countries like Nigeria are open to the concept. 

Do the $100 laptops have the potential to positively influence the educational systems in developing countries?  I don’t know, but I am interested to find out.  Hopefully a few countries will at least pilot the laptops in select areas and track what progress ensues.  I know when the laptops in my school district are used effectively they make a difference in the education of our students, so maybe the $100 laptops can make a difference in the education of the students in developing countries as well.

If you are interested in reading more about the project, there are tons of articles in the news, and if you have an opinion on this matter, I would love to hear it. 

Laptops for All

July 26, 2006

I came across an interesting interview with Bruce Dixon, president of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Initiative, in the latest issue of TechLearning. In the interview Mr. Dixon discusses why all students should have laptop computers.

Here are a few of my favorite answers…

“If what we’re doing with computers is the same as what we did without them, then it’s not particularly useful. The next step is significantly improving the opportunities for learning by having a laptop in every child’s hands. For instance, what are the innovative ways that I can teach difficult mathematical concepts when every child has a laptop? Or, what if every child could go online and access original historical documents? Is it going to help them want to find out more? The answer is yes.” I work in a city where all high school students have laptops, and unfortunately, I see a lot of doing the same thing with computers as can be done on paper. It is difficult to get teachers to take the leap to try something new and give students some control over their learning, but once they do their classroom is transformed.

“If you ask people how they measure the success of one-to-one programs, sadly, most use short-term, superficial measures, such as an increase in test scores. Let’s be serious about how we’re going to measure significant improvement in opportunities for learning. We’ve got to be a lot more critical about what’s happening once the laptops get into kids’ hands.” <Sigh> It is always about the test scores.

You can read the entire interview here. By the way, if you don’t subscribe to TechLearning yet, you need to. It is free and informative!

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms

July 24, 2006

I am slowly progressing through the mounds of books I planned to read this summer. I finished Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and as my initial posting on the book suggests, I am a big fan of the book. I am going to have to read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point next.

I also finished reading Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. I must admit I was a little skeptical as I opened the book. I feel like I am at least pretty familiar with these new technologies and what they mean to today’s classrooms, so I went in thinking that I would probably not learn much new information. But, as it turns out, I did learn some new information as well as some new insights into the implementation of the technologies. As I read through the book, I dog-eared the pages with information I wanted to revisit, and when I finished, there were twenty-three pages dog-eared… not bad.

I am not going to share everything I enjoyed from the book because that would take too long, but I will share some of my favorite quotes.

“On first blush, the tools on this new Web may not seem well-suited to a climate of standardized test scores and government accountability. Some will see the constructionist, collaborative pedagogy of Weblogs, wikis, digital photo and video, and others as presenting a risk instead of a solution for a system whose students continue to struggle to stay apace of their international peers. In reality, however, these tools have considerable relevance to state and core content curriculum standards, and there is much reason to believe their implemetation in schools will better prepare students for a slew of new literacies and competencies in their post-education lives.” Yes, well said Mr. Richardson.

“Whether its blogs or wikis or RSS, all roads now point to a Web where little is done in isolation and all things are collaborative and social in nature.” I think most employers would echo this statement in regards to the workplace as well. Part of our educational system needs to focus on teaching students how to work through problems together as well as in isolation (with or without technology).

“In the age of the Read/Write Web, the explosion of information and online technologies demands a more complex definition of what it means to be literate. For more than a hundred years we have defined being literate as being able to read and write. And although those core abilities are still central to learning, they are no longer enough to ensure understanding.” With all of the information on the Internet, it is imperative that we educate students on how to locate and validate resources.

If you are interested in integrating these types of technologies in your classroom (which I highly recommend), then I would suggest picking up a copy of the book. There are some nice instructions to get started with these technologies as well as some good ideas and resources on how to effectively implement them in the classroom.

So, I have decided to take a break and read some fiction next, and I have begun The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. I haven’t read it since my sophomore year in high school so I thought I would see if my perception of the book has changed any.

Fun on the Internet

July 24, 2006

I read a variety of blogs, news pages and education and technology pages, so I come across interesting websites sometimes. These are a few of the sites I have come across lately that I think are worth sharing.

The Broth: The Global Mosaic – “TheBroth.com connects you with people around the world to interact in a massively multiplayer, real time global mosaic, made of 1000 colorful tiles.”

Scrapblog – This site is just what it sounds like – an on-line site to create and share photos in the form of a scrapbook.

Quickmuse – “QuickMuse is a cutting contest, a linguistic jam session, a series of on-the-fly compositions in which some great poets riff away on a randomly picked subject.”

The Toymaker – Possibly the coolest site ever for kids and those young at heart! This site offers folding paper toys to print and make, stories to read by firelight, paper “dolls” and other fun stuff.

Hope you enjoy the sites!

Blink

July 20, 2006

I wrote an earlier post about the books I plan to read this summer, and so far, I have finished The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews and although I found them both to be inspirational and enjoyable, it is the book I am reading now that I find to be the most intriguing – Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

According to the book jacket, “Blink is a book about how we think about thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant – in the blink of an eye – that actually aren’t as simple as they seem.”

So far I am about a half-way through the book, and I have found Chapter Two – The Locked Door: The Secret Life of Snap Decisions to be the most interesting. In this chapter Gladwell introduces the topic of priming (influencing the way a person acts by planting ideas in their unconscious brain).

One of the priming experiments mentioned in this chapter was conducted by psychologists Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson. In this experiment the psychologists had black college students take twenty questions from the GRE, the standardized test used for entry into graduate school. “When the students were asked to identify their race on a pretest questionnaire, that simple act was sufficient to prime them with all of the negative stereotypes associated with African Americans and academic achievement – and the number of items they got right was cut in half.”

Interesting study… I wonder if any similar studies have ever been conducted with K-12 standardized testing and student achievement. The results would be fascinating.

Chapter Three – The Warren Harding Error: Why We Fall for Tall, Dark, and Handsome Men is an equally interesting chapter. In this chapter Gladwell introduces the dark side of thin-slicing. He discusses studies psychologists have used to look at unconscious or implicit associations by employing the IAT (Implicit Association Test). If you would like to take a sample computerized IAT in order to get an idea of what the test is about, then head on over to Project Implicit hosted by Harvard. You may be surprised by some of your results.

As I said, I am only about half-way through the book, so I will share other interesting tidbits as I come across them. If you have the time, I would suggest picking up a copy of the book, so far it has been a thought-provoking read.