What if teachers were revered and treated like pro athletes? Here's a hilarious Comedy Central Video giving us a glimpse at what that might look like:
Sign up for Google's Computational Thinking for Educators course. It's self-paced and free! As described on their website: The goal of this course is to help educators learn about computational thinking (CT), how it differs from computer science, and how it can be integrated into a variety of subject areas. As a course participant, you will increase your awareness of CT, explore examples of CT integrated into your subject areas, experiment with examples of CT-integrated activities for your subject areas, and create a plan to integrate CT into your own curricula.
The course is divided into five units, each focusing on the following:
Recently I've been thinking about foreign language projects, especially Chinese. All foreign language students should practice speaking the language whenever possible. So it is good to find projects where students need to practice speaking. Students learning Chinese also have to practice writing Chinese characters where the order of each stroke is very important. This can be done using a screencasting application or an app like Explain Everything. The example below is done using Microsoft Office Mix. Here are some projects I came up with for Chinese, but they can easily be adapted to any language.
MIcrosoft PowerPoint Game
Microsoft Office Mix
Chatterpix App on iPad
The third grade is currently playing the Encyclopedia game and enjoying it (see previous blog entry on the details). Mrs. Sadler wanted the students to practice their note taking skills, so she provided them with some guidelines and a notebook. The students especially enjoy exploring the DK Find Out site. What a great site, the kids love it and can't get enough of it. You can tell they are enthusiastic by all the sharing they are doing with their friends. That's what learning should look like all the time. The DK Find Out site is currently in Beta and has limited topics, but is extremely well done I hope they continue to expand it. Below are some videos of the kids using the site:
I've been a teacher for 5 years and it worries me when I hear all the negative news around incompetent teachers, a broken education system, etc. I worry that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people constantly hear it in the news, they might begin to believe it. Then others might not give teachers the respect they deserve or people might stop going into the profession. And then things will spiral downward. Recently I've read a number of articles that validate my fears:
After my son was school aged, I was horrified to find out that the US was lagging behind in math and science and there was a drop in US students entering STEM related fields. I don't know how I missed it. I must have had my head in a hole. I decided to quit my job and try and do something about it. I ended up being a teacher at a small rural private school. Now I can't imagine ever going back to corporate life and let me tell you why.
In the corporate world, there is always talk about defining and aligning vision, mission, strategy, purpose, etc. Things are complicated because there are so many stakeholders - customers, stockholders, employees, board members, etc. In a school, everyone knows that "educating children" is the bottomline. So whenever there is discussion over what the right thing to do is, teachers and administrators always make decisions based on what is the right thing to do for the student(s). Perfect alignment!
The way a school works is like a lot of little businesses. Teachers are the president of their classroom. The students (and their parents) are their customers. Teachers know what needs to get done by the end of the school year, they know their budget, and any other constraints. They make the decisions on how to make it happen.
Like separate little businesses, teachers collaborate not because they are told to. They collaborate because it's in the best interest of their students. One teacher will present an idea and sell it to another teacher. If it makes sense, they make it happen. It's as simple as that. No big meetings. No top down commands.
Teachers are self starters and self motivated. Nobody is standing behind them looking over their shoulders. So if you like autonomy, you'll love teaching.
If you like the challenge of a job with a lot of "moving parts", you'll love teaching. Every day holds something new - sick students, students with family issues, behavioral issues, a great new lesson plan idea you found, new opportunities, or maybe the class has that blank look on their face like they don't get what you are teaching, etc. Teachers are constantly assessing the situation and making adjustments.
I'm so glad I changed careers. If you can deal with the salary, I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a try. It's enormously rewarding.
Yesterday was a beautiful Spring day and I decided to take a break and walk to the National Gallery of Art. I almost always go to the West building where the classical artwork is located, but this day I decided I was in the mood for some modern art and went to the East building. I decided to throw caution to the wind and explore without a map. I went up a level and couldn't find any exhibits, so I went up another level and still no exhibits. Finally I returned to the guest services desk on the first floor. A nice woman asked if I needed help and I embarrassingly explained that I couldn't find the exhibits. She said "That's because we took them all down. We're getting ready to renovate the building." I had to laugh. Well, it's good to know that I still have a keen sense of observation.
So I spent the afternoon in the West building. While I was walking around, I decided to take a photo of a piece I really liked. When I looked on my camera roll and saw that the photo was angled from perspective, it reminded me I had a new app which I had downloaded called "Microsoft Office Lens". The article I had read said Office Lens would analyze the image and put them in perfect perspective for you. So I took another photo and was pleasantly amazed with the results. Take a look for yourself:
Later I walked into a gallery with George Seurat paintings and remembered I wanted to use some of his paintings with the kids when we talked about "pixels". The "pointillist" movement where paintings are made up entirely of dots is an excellent way to illustrate the concept of pixels. Here are a few photos I took at the museum:
If you're interested in using this concept with your students, you should check out the Google Art Project where they have ultra high resolution photos of major works of art. The site enables you to zoom in and see every brush stroke. Here's a link to George Seurat's famous "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte". Don't forget to zoom in and take a close look at the dots.
Have you had a chance to look at the NGA Kids Art Zone? It's a fabulous site with interactives that offer an entertaining and informative introduction to art and art history. Featuring a variety of art-making tools that encourage exploration and creativity, these computer-based activities are suitable for all ages. I know I enjoy it as an adult. There's also a free NGAKids app that you can download. I can't wait to use it with the first grade.
When I first heard about authentic learning, I thought "Seriously? What kind of authentic projects can a kindergartener do?" But after more careful thought, students kindergarten through fifth grade have all created authentic projects in computer class. Here are some examples:
The thing that is striking to me about these projects is how seriously the students take them. I still remember listening to the First graders debate over what word they were going to choose for their ABC book. One girl excitedly said "I know, C is for Candy. They all love candy!". The younger students love it when the older students make them things. They get so animated when they recognize the voice of one of the older students.
This week, the VAIS visiting team came to evaluate our school for our 10 year accreditation. One of the people who visited was Ann Hamilton-Dixon from St. Catherine's School. She was nothing short of amazing and we were lucky to have her visit. As we talked about different projects, she would share her experiences which helped expand my thinking. At St. Catherine's School they decided to flip the teaching. They had the "younger" students teach the "older" students how to use Cublets which are snap electronics kits. What a brilliant concept. It's easy to see how proud the younger kids would be at this accomplishment. I quickly sent out an email to the lower school teachers and they all loved the idea. Now we just have to figure out what to do and find the time to do it. Spending time with Ann also made me realize the importance and getting out and meeting other teachers to share ideas.
I recently read an article from Edutopia called "Curiosity: The Force Within a Hungry Mind". The article describes how curiosity is the heart of lifelong learning. Psychologists view curiosity as a life force, vital to happiness, intellectual growth, and well being. According to the article research shows:
This year, the first grade class started off the year with the same activity (curated videos, activities). I was thrilled to see how engaged and excited the students were as they watched the videos. After recently reading the Edutopia article, I started to ponder why our fifth graders struggled with "curiosity", while the first graders did not. Perhaps we needed to be spending more time fostering curiosity in the younger years, so the students don't lose that ability. I talked to Mrs. Dixon and we restructured the "I'm curious about" project so it would last for more than a single week. Earlier this week I asked the students what they were curious about and was surprised how quickly they answered. Then I had them draw a picture on the iPad using Explain Everything. I created a blog page for each student with their drawing in the header and curated videos on what they were curious about. I will ask them to click on the comments section after watching the videos and tell me one thing they learned and what else they are curious about. They can do this any time - in school or at home. Each time they make a comment, it will alert me by email to the fact they need new videos. I've recently set everything up and we'll introduce this project next week. I'm very excited and hopeful that this will be a fun and engaging activity for the students.
I also talked to the 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Sadler, about doing the Encyclopedia Game with her class. We'll start off by watching the first part of the TED video. We'll use the DK Find Out! site as our visual encyclopedia. I'll make sure they know how to copy and paste URLs into a Word document (to track their steps in the game). I'll also ask them to add a sentence to the document on what they are curious about in each step. Then the following week they will play the game. I'll monitor their progress and enthusiasm to determine how long we keep the activity going. The DK Find Out! site is extremely engaging and I'm hopeful the students will enjoy this activity.
I don't usually write about things that I haven't done yet and have no evidence of success, but I am very excited and hopeful about these activities. I'll try and remember to write a follow-up blog entry to reflect on our experience and lessons learned. I am optimistic that if we foster our students' natural curiosity in the younger grades, our older students will be naturally curious and we can build lifelong learners.
I've decided to try blogging. The old Home Page is now renamed Interesting Stuff.
- Interesting Stuff
- GMS Tech Ed
- African Safari
- Blabberize Panda
- Book Reviews
- Edit Marks
- File System
- Font Design
- Fun with Fonts
- Greek Gods Lesson Plan
- Haiku Deck Vocabulary
- Mystery Partner Clue Square
- Mystery Partner Letter
- Multiply with PowerPoint
- Personal GPS Mapskills
- Pixie Representations
- Pledge Scramble
- Powerpoint Game >
- PowerPoint Layers
- Science Procedures
- Sort Words Excel
- Spanish Voki
- Star Spangled Banner Scramble
- Word Cloud Study
- The Arts >
- Bully Prevention
- Jr K Activities
- Language Arts >
- Personal Development
- Science >
- Spanish >
- Technology >
A Work in Progress ;-)