Archive for March 2007

My Comments on David Warlick’s Comments about “Derailing Education”

March 29, 2007

Hmmm… sounds very convoluted…

This morning I was reading an entry that David Warlick wrote about some comments one of his readers blogged about his keynote address for the K12 Online Conference, and I felt like adding some of my thoughts in the mix as well.

From Tech and Teaching for High School,How can I enforce the importance of a bibliography when students can just go online and put their information into a website that creates bibliographies? Why should a student ever visit a library when they can get entire books online? And how do we make that meaningful and important to them other than telling them these are skills they “should” have?”

  • Excerpts from David Warlick’s response, “The ethical use of information is as important in our children’s digital networked information landscape as it was to our published print environment.  In fact, it is far more important… In my talks and writings about contemporary literacy, I maintain that the ethical use of information is as much a part of literacy as being able to read and write.” 

    • My thoughts… I don’t think how the bibliography is created (whether computer-generated or hand-written) is important.  What is important is that students realize the importance of intellectual property like ideas, writing, web code, etc., and I think David Warlick is correct when he says, “Our children will be content producers and intellectual property owners.  A majority of the teenagers in the U.S. already are.  Treating each others information with respect is now a personal issue, and a concept that can easily be addressed in the classroom as you teach students about copyright and creative commons within the context of their own reports, videos, web sites, and podcasts.  If they are convinced of the value and worth of their own work, then they may come to want to respect the work of others.”

Tech and Teaching for High School asks, “…I get the idea of meeting our kids on their level and finding ways to reach them that are meaningful. But does this just create more of a culture of instant gratification and self-indulgence? I really feel like my kids just expect everything to be handed to them. How can I challenge them and validate their context?”

  • Excerpts from David Warlick’s response, “…For our children, however, they understand that they will live in a time of rapid change.  They are accustomed to it.  Rapid change is an integral part of their experience.  ..and teaching them from the perspective that this knowledge will serve you for the rest of your life, has very little meaning to them.  It’s why it is so important to pay less attention to the content and more to the process.  We have to teach our students how to teach themselves.  It’s the best thing we can teach them.”

    • My thoughts… I don’t understand how teaching a student through a means that is purposeful and relevant to them will create a self-indulgent student.  It seems to me that it would create a motivated student… one who sees the value of learning and wants to learn more. It requires much more work and thought from a student to ask them to produce a meaningful and relevant product than to have them take a multiple-choice test or sit through a lecture. It requires creativty, patience, perseverance and problem-solving which does not tend towards immediate gratification.

Tech and Teaching for High school says,We can learn by sharing experiences only after we have them. Students can discuss what works for them and how they learn only after they have learned. I am not sure that the side trips can be the foundation. Without the foundation, how do you know what the side trips mean? Side trips can only be side trips in relation to the standard course. Or do we only know the standard course because we can define certain things as side trips? Either way, it is difficult to go on a side trip if you don’t have the rail to define the course for you.”

  • Excerpts from David Warlick’s response, “I agree with you entirely here… What I wanted to say was that the side trips should be what they remember.  When they think back to their schooling, it should be the side trips that they draw on for guidance and grounding. The basics on the rails remain the foundation, because without a foundation, a main road, a corridor, a rail — how can it be called a side trip?”

    • My thoughts… Standards or “the rail” are great to have as a guideline… a map to the intended destinantion.  Where the problems arise is when this rail is seen as the only way to reach the intended goal.  When it is so rigid that “side-trips” are not allowed.  When teachers and students are held so accountable to specific information within “the rail” that they never get to make connections and meaning for themselves.  “The rail” is great to have as a backbone, but students and teachers need to be able to add to it and deviate from it in order for “real” learning to occur.

Hope the above he said/she said was not too difficult to follow. 🙂

By the way, did I mention how much I love the fact that blogs allow me to discuss ideas with educators (and anyone really) in different areas of the world. Without them when would I have ever gotten to be a part of this conversation?


Geography Newscasts

March 28, 2007

The students in Mr. Wyrick’s Honors World Geography class have just completed their first of three video podcasts

The students worked together in collaborative groups to create newscasts about regions of the world they were currently studying.  Students were expected to each have an assigned role within the group and to utilize Movie Maker and Audacityto create their video podcast.  Before submitting their video podcasts students were expected to view and critique at least two other group’s assignments.

I think the students did a great job for their first attempts.  I have posted the video podcasts over on YouTube (although after posting, I found out about TeacherTube over on Cool Cat Teacher, and I may use it next time).

Take a few minutes and watch a couple of the newscasts and leave the students some positive comments and/or constructive criticism (you can leave the comments here or over on YouTube).  This is their first attempt in a series of three, so I am sure they would like to know what they can do to improve.

Also, if you have any ideas about how to improve upon the assignment, I would love to hear those as well.

As the use of technology increases in education and web 2.0 finds its way in to more classrooms, I hope to see more lessons that give students a chance to create a product… not just answer multiple choice questions.

Good job guys!

No Strings Attached

March 27, 2007

My district instructional technology coordinator sent this link out in an e-mail the other day, and I just haven gotten around to sharing it… sorry for the delay.

The No Strings Attached site showcases over 100 clips from Florida classrooms of various levels and subjects.  The videos are brief and alongside the video clips is information regarding the lesson objectives, materials needed and standards.  It is a great place to view some lessons in action and get some ideas.

After viewing a few of the lessons, I went to the main web page and discovered the Educational Technology Clearinghouse which offers a wealth of resources, clip art and reference materials.

Spend a couple of minutes looking around… you are bound to get some ideas or find some useful resources.

The No Strings Attached site is produced by Florida Center for Instructional Technology, and the Clearinghouse is a collaboration between FCIT, Bureau of Instruction and Innovation and Florida Department of Public Education.

Developing a Mission Statement

March 22, 2007

The schools in my district have been assigned the task of composing a new mission statement for next year.  We have until the end of this school year to compose, edit and finalize it. 

This is something the team leaders on my campus have been discussing as we participate in our book study of Failure is Not an Option.  The mission statement we currently adhere to, “…providing a relevant learning experience for life” is a great little catch-phrase but it is not really a mission statement (at least according to the definition in the book).

According to Failure is Not an Option (and DuFour, 2002), an effective mission statement addresses four questions:

  1. If we expect students to learn, what is it we expect them to learn?
  2. How will they go about learning it?
  3. What will we do when they don’t?
  4. How will we engage students in their own learning?

 Failure is Not an Option also states that, “A mission statement should be created and published as a means of giving those involved with the organization a clear understanding of its purpose of existence.” 

So our goal is to include all of the teachers in the process of creating the mission statement for next year.  Team leaders are planning to work with their teams to develop some ideas and bring them to the team leader meeting so we can try to come up with one cohesive mission statement for the school.  It is going to take a bit of time and work, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

It would be great if we could also get some students and parents involved in the process… we will see how it goes.

I would love some ideas from all of you (the 4 readers I have).  😉  If you were creating a mission statement for your school, what are some essential components you would include?

Without your help, we might have to resort to Dilbert’s.  🙂

My Spring Break in Italy

March 20, 2007

Sunday night my husband and I returned from our Spring Break trip to Italy. We spent 4 days in Venice and 2 days in Rome and had an AMAZING time.

My husband went a little crazy with the picture taking (about 700), but you can check them out over at Flickr if you have some time to spare. I haven’t done any editing so not all of the pictures are of stellar quality.

The trip was great. Flights were good. We stayed in at a nice bed and breakfast in Venice with a great view of the canal from our window, and we stayed in an amazing bed and breakfast in Rome.

We got to see the majority of Venice and we visited the islands of Murano and Burano… BEAUTIFUL.

In Rome we saw the Coloseum, lots of fountains, The Forum, the Sistine Chapel, the Panthenon and we spent some time in Vatican City. There was sooo much to see that I got a little overloaded… and really tired. The juxtaposition of the ancient runes and buildings dispersed throughout a modern city was interesting to see.

The Romans definitely constructed their buildings with great pride. I was amazed at the size of some of the structures and the ornateness of much of the decoration.

My favorite places, experiences, etc., of the trip were…

  • Walking around in Venice and discovering restaurants, shopping, churches and town squares
  • I also like learning about the glass blowing process in Murano and seeing how their artistic pieces are created.
  • Burano was a super cute island whose main product is lace. We got a couple of things for Kyle’s grandparents and then I picked up some high-quality pashminas for myself and some others. In fact, we picked up quite a few Christmas presents on this trip.
  • St Peter’s Basilica was probably my favorite thing to see. The mosaics were breathtaking.

Italy is certainly worth a trip. I hadn’t gone before, but now I think I need to go again. 🙂

Hope you enjoy the pics.

Two Days with Ruby Payne

March 20, 2007

I began writing this post a couple of weeks ago about the Ruby Payne conference I attended, but with getting ready for Spring Break and my trip to Italy (more to come on this later), I just couldn’t seem to get my thoughts together.  Throw in the fact that Ruby Payne seems to present via a lot of anecdotes laced with data, so it was somewhat difficult to take notes.  So, here are my somewhat belated thoughts about the conference…

March 6th and 7th I attended Ruby Payne’s conference A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I tried really hard to take precise and copious notes so I could share them here, but it was pretty difficult to do. So, instead of sharing notes, I will share some of my thoughts about the presentation.

On day one Ms. Payne discussed concepts from her book A Framework for Understanding Poverty and the correlating workbook. She discussed the differences between generational and situational poverty and new money and old money. We also looked at the “hidden” rules of poverty, middle class and wealthy.

According to Ms. Payne, since the majority of schools and business utilize the “hidden” rules of the middle class, schools are a difficult environment for many students from poverty. Teachers need to be aware of the “hidden” rules of poverty and middle class (and wealthy) in order to know how to interact with students appropriately and teach them the “rules” they need to be successful in schools.

Ms. Payne mentioned that many students from poverty use laughter as a way to de-escalate situations which made me reflect upon a past student of mine who always laughed when she got in trouble. Usually all the laughter did was cause to get her further in trouble, but perhaps, it was the only way she knew to deal with the situation.  I think we have probably all had students similar to this, and if you are like me, you could have probably handled the situation a little better. 😉

The second day Ms. Payne wrapped up some of the discussions from the previous day and then focused the rest of the day on understanding the how, why and what of learning.  She briefly discussed how the brain functions and the difference between new learners and expert learners.

Then we learned some strategies for assisting new learners with retaining information and making plans.  Some of the ideas included – planning backwards, using patterns and incorporating mental models into the curriculum. I liked the majority of the strategies, but I must say that I had heard most of them before (packaged in other ways). 

Although day two contained useful instructional information, I enjoyed day one better.  I like how day one focused on something that I feel is essential to being a good teacher… getting to know your students. I think that many of the problems in classrooms occur because of misunderstandings. It is difficult to understand why a student is not turning in his work – why a young lady stays in an abusive relationship, why parents will not let their child go away to college, or why a student continually fights – if you don’t know where they are coming from.

I think Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty is a must read because it gives educators some insight into worlds that they may know little to nothing about. I think the book can help teachers develop empathy and understanding for students in difficult situations without asking the teacher to look the other way. The focus on the book is to recognize where students are so they can be taught the behaviors they need to be successful.

One a side note, Ruby Payne has come under some criticism lately because many people (just read the reviews on Amazon) feel like her book is oversimplified and generalized… and I think it is to a point, but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t useful. There are obviously many aspects which contribute to how students behave and achieve – social class is just one of these factors… just something to keep in mind when you are reading. 🙂

If you have seen Ruby Payne or read her books, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you learned.

GeoTech 2007

March 4, 2007

Saturday I attended some sessions at Bishop Dunne’s annual GeoTech conference. The majority of the sessions offered were about GIS and GPS technologies and how to incorporate them in the classroom.

The sessions were interesting for the most part. Unfortunately, I didn’t take detailed notes, so instead I will share some of the useful resources that were highlighted.

  • David Rumsey’s Historical Map Collection – Yeah, this site is pretty amazing. There are almost 15,000 historical maps from Rumsey’s collection that have been scanned in and made available to the public for free, but the REALLY amazing part is that by using Flash technologies (among others), he has made the maps interactive. You are able to zoom in and manipulate the maps (many of which date from the 1700s).  He has even created a layer for Google Earth so you can overlay the historic maps onto the current image of the globe…  uh, way cool.
  • Another great free GIS tool we looked at is ArcWeb Explorer. This site allows you to create maps of various types – satellite, hybrid, street and data. It also allows you to import Excel files with information it will then plot on the map.
  • I also attended a session by Groundspeak where they discussed geocaching, EarthCache and their new concept Wherigo. We even got to do some hands-on geocaching. Fun!

 My husband is supposed to be uploading some presentations and podcasts from the event, so when he gets that done, I will link to it as well.