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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Origami May Some Day Save A Life"

Robert Lang conducts his TED Talk in February 2008.

Fascinating presentation on how origami, with the use of math can lead to "real-world applications." One use was for a heart stent. Another for space telescopes. Although Lang doesn't take time for this, I see a good argument for why the arts should remain in K-12 education.



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Monday, July 28, 2008

Don't Make it Difficult; Others Will Do That For You

Okay, I borrowed this video from a very recent Library Garden post.

But this is how I feel when I hear people tell others how they should teach. "Experts" ask only question to which they already know the scripted answer in order to get the listener to agree with them. Then, when the audience asks a relevant question, the stock answer, "Well, you know, you're doing most of this already. This will just help you organize your work in such a way that it will become easier for you in the long run. This gives it a framework in which we can all work. It's great, and research shows...blah, blah, blah."

As my college professor used to remind us to ask, "Whose research was it? When was it conducted? What prompted the research in the first place."

Then we fix things that aren't broken, and break things that work.

Teaching: It's not rocket science; it's brain surgery.
[One of my all time favorite lines from The Simpsons]



If you are blocked at school...here's the website for later
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU9YeOQm3Y0

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sticklers - Plagiarism Or 21st Century?



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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stickler - Why We're Not Taken Seriously?



Words mean things. When words have no meaning, they are perceived to have little value.

Is this why we struggle to get "Web 2.0" (a term most educators think is weird too) accepted in schools?

Your thoughts...


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Friday, July 18, 2008

People Can't Be Standardized

"We want to cling to these incredibly outdated measures of ability." - Malcolm Gladwell

I just finished a very interesting video from The New Yorker (no not the Obama cover controversy). Malcolm Gladwell speaks on mismatches between hiring practices and job performance. He uses professional sports combines (NHL, NBA, and NFL quarterbacks), teaching (which I didn't know he would discuss until he got there), lawyers, airline pilots, and cops.

His premise - We are not using the right tools to determine the effectiveness of the people we hire to do these jobs.

His argument - We are trapped into thinking that there is an objective tool (or tools) that will grant us certainty that the people we hire will be successful in their jobs.

His conclusion - There are no right tools to determine the effectiveness of the people we hire to do these jobs. We have to evaluate them once they are on the job. There are no certainties.

My jump - Standardized tests for students are likewise no indicator of student abilities, promise, or value. In fact, these test may only serve as instruments to stifle children, impede their progress, and devalue them. I won't mention the affect on their self-esteem. Oops; I guess I just did.

Take a look at the video here.
Here's Gladwell's TEDTalk from 2006


IMAGE: http://flickr.com/photos/mrtea/2294114381/

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You Can't Make Me Happy

I'm in my classroom today.  This morning I spent about four hours creating my pre-teaching assessment for Map & Globe Skills.  I've created a self-checking matrix for my students to use as we review the questions and answers together.

Everything was great.  I went to lunch with my wife.

Then...

I decide to get down to my serious business -- finding what websites are blocked by our censoring filtering software.  I've spent hours at home finding online resources that we can use in class, knowing that I will need to request that some sites will need to be unrestricted in the near future.

So What's The Problem?

The filter is turned off!  @#$$#^ it all anyway!  I can't find out what I need to know because while no one is using the computers except admins and techies they don't need the filter on!  As if these folks aren't going to waste time visiting otherwise non-educational websites, yeah right.

So, I can't get me no satisfaction.  Unless you count the fact that I was able to blog this.


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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Making UbD a "Kid Thing"

Can You Help Me? Sure You Can!

In four weeks, I begin teaching 7th Grade Social Studies in the state of Georgia. We are responsible for History, Geography, Civics, Government, and Economics in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The standards are undergoing more revision, so as the school year begins, teachers will not be assured of which standards from the draft will remain until several weeks in to the school year. The challenge is to get students to care about the content we must cover.

I've been rereading parts of Understanding by Design and Preparing Instructional Objectives over the past few weeks. Not really trying to "master" the content (since I've been using it for a few years), but to see if I can glean some insight on how to bring it to the students I'll have in class in a few weeks.

I've also been immersed in The Back Of The Napkin. I'm trying to learn how to make difficult things simple. Roam's insights are valuable once you realize what goes on before the stick figures get drawn. My nighttime reading is A Whole New Mind.

I share this so you can get a context of what's going on in my own learning.

Here's what I've come up with as a format for presenting units to my students.
  1. WAZ Up?
  2. Who Cares?
  3. So What?
WAZ Up?
The acronym stands for What are some issues? Analyze the importance? Zone in on the main ideas! Here's my thinking. A 2-3 minute introduction on the issues we must work on during the unit. Students then analyze what they think is important from the issues presented. Then we can focus on the main things the state standards say are important (but the students were allowed to realize the issues of importance "on their own" by thinking through them).

Who Cares?
This isn't meant to be sarcastic or harsh, although to the 7th grade mind it will be -- that's the point. What I want to do with this is find resources from people who have written, photographed, videoed, interviewed, or whatever else about the issue at hand. i hope to find enough material from differing viewpoints. For instance, we have to (un)cover the conflicts between Israelis and Arabs. Showing differing opinions on the "promise land" and who was promised what, and when will demonstrate who cares about something that, frankly, Georgia's 7th graders don't care about.

So What?
My favorite question ever. This is the conclusion of the unit. The so what? question is where we bring it home. The issues which warring parties in the middle east face are not much different than the gang activity that takes place in our hallways, and on the streets where I teach. Tagging (graffiti) is all about "promise land" territory. What happens in the middle east, happens in my town (and yours) just on a different scale. Apartheid was a minority authority, which my kids will understand because our school is 65% Hispanic student in a school with less than 1% of the teachers/staff who are Hispanic. [And teachers wonder why I keep trying to convince so many Hispanic students to go into teaching.]

So, what do you think? What am I missing? Can this approach work? What are things I should consider? Anyone, anyone -- Bueller, Bueller?

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

From the Dept. of Earth vs. Mankind

TWO STORIES:

The first from Popular Science.
The second from TEDTalks.
Wait, now pollution is preventing global warming? That’s the conclusion of a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which says rising temperatures seen in Europe over the last few years result as much from the reduction of air pollution as from the creation of it. The research, which looked at the effects of aerosols on climate, confirms an older concept known as global dimming, and complicates our understanding of how mankind affects the climate.
Read More: http://www.popsci.com/environment/article/2008-07/pollution-slowing-global-warming

We have only explored 3% of our oceans, and already we have found our tallest mountains, deepest valleys, underwater lakes, underwater waterfalls...  In a place where we thought we would find no life at all, we found more life, more diversity and density than in the tropical rain forests; which tells us we don't know much about this planet at all.
-David Gallo (at minute 1:22-1:50)

Take 5 minutes and watch the whole amazing thing.

It's as if the earth is saying, "YDKJ!"

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Why Educational Status Quo Will Remain

Or Why Teachers Must Be The Change They Want To See

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.
- Laurence J. Peter


Where do you think educational change is in relation to the quote above?

Do the right people believe the educational "quo" has lost it's status?

Who are the "right people?" The police-makers or the citizens? Is it an issue handled from the grassroots or Top-down?

Do you believe there will be educational change on a national or state level anytime soon...say...within 5 years)?

I don't.  And that makes me sad.

Here's the single, most important reason why.

I have been trying to re-find this bit of information, but I haven't found it for the past 3 months.  Perhaps someone can help me.  But the info goes like this:

The American public believes the educational system is screwed up, just not in the schools where their kids attend.  The American public, in overwhelming numbers (something like 75% or more), believe the school where their child(ren) attend is doing good or excellent.  It's the "other" schools that have problems.

A similar poll was conducted in 1997 in California.  The LA Times had a story in 1998.  Here's a section:

When asked to rate the nation's public schools, only a quarter of the parents in the survey responded "excellent" or "good." Nearly the same proportion (28%) gave one of these two highest ratings to California's public schools. In stark contrast, a majority of public school teachers in the survey gave a strong thumbs up to the public schools -- 64% gave one of these two highest ratings to the nation's schools, and 61% rated California's schools "excellent" or "good."

Both groups tended to view their own familiar local public schools with much higher regard than either the more abstract state or national system. Parents were split 49% to 48% over whether to rate their local public schools excellent/good or fair/poor, including only 9% who gave an "excellent" rating. One third of teachers in the survey, on the other hand, gave the highest rating to the school system they teach in every day. An impressive four out of five teachers gave their local schools one of the two highest ratings, while 19% rated them "fair" or "poor."

A 50% good/excellent opinion is enough to maintain the status quo in any issue.

Is it any wonder why we can't tell for sure which presidential candidate said which?  [brackets used to clarify, and remove obvious political partisanship]:
  • "...there are problems with the law [NCLB], particularly when it comes to testing students with disabilities and non-English-speaking students, but he has said “improve it, don’t discard it.”
  • "...it [NCLB] is a well-intentioned attempt to erase long-standing achievement gaps... but [the law has failed] through inflexible application.

Source

In essence the statements say the same.  They promote the status quo.  Both are empty of any real need for change. 

Presidential candidates, Gubernatorial candidate, senators, representative, and school board members (to a lesser degree) are able to get away with such vague sound bites because most Americans believe "their schools" are okay.

As long as lawmakers aren't interested in change, neither will local school officials seek change. Why should they?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Is It Really This Simple?

If it is this simple (and I am suspect), then iTunesU (K12) could become a way to for teachers/students to choose their own courses.
  • Get the best "lectures" (lecturers) to present material.
  • Students view at home.
  • School building becomes a place for tutoring (hopefully you see the metaphor).
Questions & Thoughts:
  • This could really standardize curriculum. State Departments, who believe that standards are THE way to go, could insure the teacher is delivering the intended material.
  • High Stakes Tests could be design with the single focus lectures, not the standards. There would be no question that the material was covered.
  • The role of the onsite instructor would be to differentiate for students rather than create "the lesson."
  • If video teachers are correct, that students use video instead of books, then students should be issued computers (instead of textbooks) by the school system. Each computer would be able to access the videos.
  • Always follow the money...
  • How will publishers make money? Just on the tests? Will they then hire their own lecturers to record material - which schools purchase? Is this a way for states to take over schools who fail to meet NCLB criteria?
  • Is this the future we really want?



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Monday, July 07, 2008

How Much Do You Care?

Flip from http://www.revfad.com/flip.html

My previous post to give you an idea of what Chinese bloggers are doing to share their thoughts.

˙uıɐƃɐ ʎʇılɐǝɹ s,plɹoʍ ǝɥʇ ƃuıʇsɐʇ uıƃǝq oʇ looʇ ǝɥʇ puoʎǝq ǝɯ ƃuıʞɐʇ ɹoɟ noʎ ʞuɐɥʇ ɔılqnd ɐ sı ǝɹǝɥ os˙˙˙ʇou ɹo llıʍ oʇ noʎ ʞuɐɥʇ pıɐs ɹǝʌǝ ı ǝɹns ʇou  ˙ɯooɹssɐlɔ ǝɥʇ oʇ ʞɔɐq ʇǝƃ oʇ pǝʇuɐʍ ı suosɐǝɹ ʎɹɐɯıɹd ǝǝɹɥʇ ɹo ǝuo sı ʇı  ˙ʇɐǝɹƃ sɐʍ ʇı ʇɥƃnoɥʇ ı

 ˙ɹnɟɹɐp ɥʇıʍ sn uo ƃuıʞɹoʍ uɐƃǝq llıʍ uǝɥʍ llɐɔǝɹ noʎ op

¿sʇɥƃıɹ uɐɯnɥ ɔısɐq uı ǝɔuǝɹǝɟɟıp ǝpıʍ-plɹoʍ ɐ ǝʞɐɯ (sɹǝƃƃolq lɐuoıʇɐɔnpǝ ʎllɐıɔǝdsǝ) sɹǝƃƃolq uɐɔ

¿pǝʇuɐɹƃ ɹoɟ ǝʞɐʇ oʇ puǝʇ ǝʍ ʇɐɥʍ ɹoɟ pǝɥsıund ǝɹɐ oɥʍ sǝıɹʇunoɔ uı sʇɹɐdɹǝʇunoɔ ɹno dlǝɥ oʇ op sɹǝƃƃolq lɐuoıʇɐɔnpǝ plnoɔ ʇɐɥʍ 'uoıʇɔǝɹıp ʇuǝɹǝɟɟıp ɐ uı "uoıʇɐsɹǝʌuoɔ ǝɥʇ ƃuıƃuɐɥɔ" sdɐɥɹǝd ɟo ʇxǝʇuoɔ ǝɥʇ uı 'os

˙qǝʍ ǝʇıɹʍ/pɐǝɹ ʇɐ ʇı ʇnoqɐ pɐǝɹ ı  ˙uɐɹı uı sɹǝƃƃolq ǝlqɐǝǝɹƃɐsıp ɹoɟ ʎʇlɐuǝd ɥʇɐǝp pǝsodoɹd ǝɥʇ ɟo pɹɐǝɥ ʎlqɐqoɹd ǝʌ,ǝʍ

˙ǝɯıʇ lıɐɾ ǝɔɐɟ puɐ sɹosuǝɔ ʎq ʇɥƃnɐɔ ʇǝƃ oʇ ʇou sɐ os spɹɐʍʞɔɐq sƃolq ɹıǝɥʇ ƃuıʇıɹʍ ǝɹɐ oɥʍ sɹǝƃƃolq ǝsǝuıɥɔ ɟo ʎɹoʇs ɐ sɐɥ (ʎxǝs ǝɹɐ sʞǝǝƃ) sɐƃ

ƃolq ˙˙˙ oʇ ʇɥƃıɹ ɹnoʎ ɹoɟ ʇɥƃıɟ oʇ ʇoƃ noʎ

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You Got To Fight For Your Right To ... Blog

GAS (Geeks Are Sexy) has a story of Chinese bloggers who are writing their blogs backwards so as not to get caught by censors and face jail time.

We've probably heard of the proposed death penalty for disagreeable bloggers in Iran. I read about it at Read/Write Web.

So, in the context of perhaps "changing the conversation" in a different direction, what could educational bloggers do to help our counterparts in countries who are punished for what we tend to take for granted?



Can bloggers (especially educational bloggers) make a world-wide difference in basic human rights?

Do you recall when Will began working on us with Darfur.

I thought it was great. It is one or three primary reasons I wanted to get back to the classroom. Not sure I ever said thank you to Will or not...so here is a public thank you for taking me beyond the tool to begin tasting the world's reality again.


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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ed. Techies May Not Have a Chance with Mark Cuban


If you truly understand your topic its really easy to stand behind your position with facts and well thought concepts. If you have no idea what you are talking about, the other side "just doesn't get it"
You Just Dont Get It - Blog Maverick

Mark Cuban - owner of the Dallas Mavericks (Check out their Wiki)- says if you use the phrase "[you] just don't get it" means that the speaker is really the one who doesn't get it.

If you can't make your topic easy to understand for others, then YOU don't understand your topic well enough. He even says you're "lazy."

It is easy to disagree with Cuban, and the first few commenters do. But he makes a great point. It's really the point behind The Back of the Napkin (which I received yesterday, and am nearly finished reading through the first time). Dan Roam makes it clear that there is a lot of work that goes on behind the simplistic stick figures in order to use images that solve problems, sell ideas, and make things clear for the uninitiated.

To say "you don't get it" is the epitome of arrogance on the part of the speaker. If the hearer doesn't get it, it's not their fault...it is the fault of the one trying to explain the point.

How many times have you (and I) read (or written) those words. Perhaps in our ed tech "empire" we are the naked emperor.

How many times have you (and I) said about (or to) our students those words. Perhaps in our classroom empire we are the emperor found wanting.

Image: Public Domain - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Emperor_Clothes_01.jpg

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Word Cloud of Proposed Standards



The state of Georgia had an issue with the Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT) in 2008. It seems either the students weren't competent, the test did not reference the standards, or the criteria was askew. The real issue, is that the state knew (so they claim) that there would be problems as far back as July 2007, but did nothing about it.

So the state "threw out" the results.

Regardless, one of my colleagues missed the last three days of school to attend a "let's get it right" session to rewrite the Social Studies Standards (again) so things are not quite so vague in the future.

She brought back a hand-written copy of the proposals from the teachers and state department honchos who were present. We looked at what was discussed, and were told the Draft would be online soon.

The draft came out a few days late, but it was there. It looks very little like the proposed changes the 12 teachers thought they would be seeing, and more like what was already there.

Regardless, the word cloud (from wordle.net) is actually practical for seeing what I am expected to focus on in class next year.

My question - as I teach my Student(s) to Describe and Explain Will a multiple choice test really be able to assess my kids' abilities to do so? Or will I have some state DOE folks come to listen as my students Describe and Explain what someone else thinks is important for a 13-year-old to know about life in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia?

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Happy July 4th

Fireworks from Pops on the River in Chattanooga, TN (July 3rd, 2008).

The best display I've experienced in years - perhaps ever.


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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sticklers - NBA Basketball



Too Soon?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wesch - Behind the Scenes

Most people who would read my blog (or any educational blog) have seen Dr. Wesch's The Machine is Us/ing Us.

I've read much about what makes a video go viral. The one thing that doesn't frequently appear is the WORK that goes on behind the scenes to make things look easy.

Granted some videos go viral because of the stupidity, the grossness, or the depravity contained.

BUT, the lasting, quality ones go viral because there is a philosophy, high level understanding, and well-thought-out plan behind what the viewer sees. Even the Numa, Numa guy (Gary Brolsma) did some pretty high-level planning...See.

Michael Wesch conducted a workshop at the University of Manitoba on June 17, 2008. In this video, Dr. Wesch lets us in on the behind the scenes thinking that goes into his productions. Good stuff. I just wish he would stand still a little better.

UPDATE: For those teachers who wonder HOW to use the web 2.0 tools for class, Dr. Wesch explains it very nicely. I know NECC is going on, but the 1 hour presentation is phenomenal as it contains theory, practice, and answers many edublogger questions that have floated through Twitter and blogs for the past year. His class portal is a model most public school educators can only dream of, since the filter nazis think there is no learning value in the tools. Dr. Wesch has answers.

I did not embed the video here, because I'm not sure I am allowed to do so. Sorry for the external link.

http://umanitoba.ca/ist/production/media/wesch.flv

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