Archive for September 2006

Fun with Flickr Photos

September 28, 2006

I came across this site in a posting by Ewan McIntosh.  I haven’t had the chance to play with it much, but it seems pretty user friendly and kind of fun.  Ewan and Dean Shareski had the idea to have teachers create motivational posters to hang around the school (which I think is a great idea).  I think the site also has a lot of potential for student work as well such as…

  • Movie posters that illustrate a play, short story, novel, etc. that students have written or read
  • Billboards that use vocabulary words to persuade the audience to ___?___
  • Magazine covers that depict the life of a historical figure, literary character, scientist, mathematician, etc.

Just a couple of quick ideas… I am sure you have lots more.  Feel free to share your ideas as well as some student products.  We would love to see them!

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50 Dark Movies Hidden in a Painting

September 26, 2006

I subscribe to Metafilter in my Netvibes account because it frequently introduces me to interesting and fun (and sometimes inappropriate) websites and news.  Normally I quickly glance over the sites and/or news and if I find them interesting or useful I will share them in a posting or with my teachers.  This happens to be a link to just this kind of site.

Although I can’t claim that the aforementioned link has a lot of educational value, it is fun, and after a hard day of teaching (or whatever you do), you deserve some fun!  Give the site a look and see how many of the 50 “dark” movies you can decipher from the images in the painting.  So far, I have only gotten six (yeah, I know… not very good) twenty-eight (which I think is pretty good).  Feel free to share your answers with me. 🙂

IISD Media Fair

September 25, 2006

It is time for the IISD Media Fair again, and I am hoping to get some exceptional student and teacher submissions again this year.  If you are an IISD student or teacher and are interested in entering this year’s Media Fair, you can find the category rules and guidelines posted here.  This year the IISD has decided to use the same rubrics as TCEA, so hopefully we will have students win at the state level this year too.  There are tons of great presentations, projects and artwork being created in the district and the Media Fair is a great way for students to receive recognition!

The Doldrums

September 11, 2006

Apparently I am feeling a little uninspired and don’t have much to say lately.  I can’t complain – everything is going well at school.  The teachers are great.  The kids are great.  And that is it… that is all I have to say right now.  So, instead of wasting your time, I am going to wait until I am inspired again (or at least feel like I have something to share) before I post again.  Hopefully inspiration will hit me soon, so stay tuned…

Now, that’s a thought

September 4, 2006

I was looking around Alfie Kohn’s site and came across this quote from Senator Paul Wellstone…

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying they will not tolerate failure.  But it represents a hollow promise.  Far from improving education, high-stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.”

Well, I can’t argue with that.

“Saying no to School Laptops”

September 2, 2006

One of my science teachers sent me a link to this article from the Wall Street Journal.  I am sure she couldn’t resist because she knew I would have something to say about the topic.  So here goes… 

“Abby [a sixth grade student] spent class time sending instant messages to friends and wanted to create a page on social-networking site MySpace.com. Her standardized writing-test scores fell, too. So Ms. Adam handed back the computer and pulled her daughter out of the laptop program, which is this year expanding to five schools. “What she learned was how to play games and email her friends,” says Ms. Adam. “School was one big happy gabfest.’”  It upsets me when this attitude is taken regarding laptops in schools.  No, the daughter should not have been instant messaging her friends if that was not part of the assignment; however, note passing was prevalent before computers were present in schools – the problem is not new.  If the introduction of laptops in to a classroom causes a rise in instant messaging, then maybe there is a problem with the structure of the class and the lessons.  If the class and/or lessons do not evolve with the introduction of the laptop then students are most likely going to be bored and unmotivated and thus easily distracted by AIM and social networking sites.  And for a really radical idea – why not try to implement instant messaging and social networking into the curriculum? And while we are at it, why not teach the students to use the laptops appropriately instead of giving up and taking them away?

 “…proponents of the programs argue that constant computer access teaches students skills critical to their success in college and at work, such as how to organize multimedia presentations and conduct research on-line. One-to-one access also makes it easier for educators to spruce up lessons with new educational-computing tools like interactive graphing programs without sending the class shuffling back and forth between computer labs.”  As a proponent of one-to-one initiatives, and a teacher in a one-to-one school district, I think it is bigger than this.  Yes, laptops give students access to create multimedia presentations and conduct on-line research, but they also allow students to take charge of their own education.  They allow students to reach outside the world of their classrooms by giving them access to experts, museums, other countries, planets and a host of other resources.  They allow teachers to more easily create student-centered differentiated lessons.  And probably most importantly, they allow students to learn in a way that is comfortable for them whether it be visually, orally, chronologically or randomly.  Jerry Terman, a student in a one-to one schools says,“… it [his laptop] helps him tackle longer writing assignments without hurting his hand and understand tricky science concepts, like electromagnetic attraction, by watching simulations at his desk. “The only thing I don’t use it for is gym,” he adds.” 

“But some parents worry that the laptops are teaching the wrong skills. Dugan Slovenski, 47 of Brunswick, Maine, says having a laptop has encouraged her thirteen-year-old son to spend more time dazzling up presentations with fancy fonts instead of digging through library books. “They need to be able to learn to research beyond what is accomplished by Googling a word or phrase,” she says.”  Why?  Why does a student need to spend time digging through library books?  Googling a word or phrase lends a plethora of information that students who have been taught new literacy skills can validate and use.  Students have access to many more resources than their parents.  They need to be taught how to utilize the resources they have and not outdated resources from their parents’ era.

“Few comprehensive studies exist on whether these programs live up to their claims to boost achievement, in part because the initiatives are so new. A preliminary study on the impact of laptops in Texas middle schools released by the Texas Center for Educational Research this spring reported that technology immersion improved student attitudes and behaviors but had a neutral impact on student achievement.”  Yes, the initiatives are new, so there will probably not be much data for a few more years.  What I would like to know is what data are we looking for?  How are we going to “prove” that laptops improve achievement?  Are we going to go merely by standardized test scores?  Are we going to implement laptops, ask students and teachers to change the way they teach and learn, and then still assess the program in the same old way?  It doesn’t make sense to me.

I teach in a school district and at a school with one-to-one laptops.  I am not stating that one-to-one implementation is easy or that we have done a perfect job.  But we have recognized the importance and have taken a risk.  We have agreed to step away from the traditional (at least a little) to try and prepare our students for the world of today (not simply the world in which we were educated).  I applaud my district for this.

Can a teacher or a school be effective without a one-to-one initiative?  Certainly, but they can also be effective with a one-to-one initiative.  I am certain of this.