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Why Do You Ask?

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

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Learning In Grayscale

Some students want teacher-directed instruction.  In fact, a whole grade level may crave it.

We just completed Day 11 of school yesterday.  It's been a good start to school, but disappointing as well. 

I took my usual 3-5 days to introduce myself, explain my grading, seek to plant seeds of expectation for the year.  I shared how I wanted to use technology in our classroom through the use of video, cell phones, wikis, and a possibility of collaborating with a school in another country (one that is a part of our standard curriculum).  And I answered the biggest questions from my students..."Why aren't you in the library this year?  Did you get fired?"

The kids were excited.  I was excited.  We were ready.

I then started with a pre-teaching assessment of their map skills (compass rose, directions, scale, coordinates, latitude & longitude, etc.).  I used the state's matrix of mastery.  It lists grades by which students are to be Introduced, Develop, Master, and Apply the skills.  The results of the assessment became my first source of disappointment.  The skills simply aren't there at a Introductory level.  So we have a lot of catching up to do. 

I'll not blame the students, or their previous teachers, or the parents, or even the state (this time).  It is what it is, and we have 169 days to do about 800 days of work...in theory.  So we get busy.

Then I introduced the first Unit - Social Studies Concepts.  Our standards, and teaching method, is concept-based.  I like it.  Our concepts in the 7th grade include the following eight items.
  1. Conflict & Change
  2. Culture
  3. Economics (Production, Distribution, and Consumption)
  4. Governance
  5. Human / Environment Interaction
  6. Location
  7. Movement
  8. Continuity, although over Time things Change
I enjoy Stations (although at the elementary level what I do would be considered Learning Centers).  Each Station has different material...8 of which covered the Enduring Understandings and Motivating Questions (Essential Questions for your UbDers).  Four other stations were map skill related.  Students spend 1 day at a station then rotate to the next.  At the end of the rotations through each station, we would debrief and summarize our findings, then complete a project that would demonstrate understanding.  That was the plan.


My students are not only lacking in map skills, but are also lacking in the ability to focus on their work without directed instruction from a teacher.  I was saddened for us.

I went to talk with several 6th grade teachers who had this group last year.  They conveyed that they could not get this group of students to ever get to the point where small group work could be done.  I phoned three of my friends who teach in three different K-5 schools in our system, and they confirmed that this group just was not capable of working in Learning Centers.  They were "too social" and did not work on the work.

So I have punted on 1st down.  I went back to directed instruction.  Tried to be as positive about our situation as possible, and on Thursday (day 9 of school) I put the tables back in three rows, and started over.  Funny thing...the students liked it.  They felt like they were learning.

In all our hopes of providing Personal Learning Networks, Web 2.0 interactions, and differentiation through small groups, this may not be something this community (grade level) of learners will be able to experience until they are older and separated.  They simply are not mature enough to learn on their own.

On the positive side, for me, I have a new curriculum to learn (just approved by our State BOE after our 6th day of school).  When the students require a teacher-directed atmosphere to learn, it really is easier for the instructor.

So we may not be ready for the brilliant techni-color of the tech world, but I'll put my kids up against anyone else's by the end of the year.  Why, because I have already identified their group strength.  They are debaters, discussers, and thinking-out-loud kinds of kids.  That's like pitching to my wheel-house.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Opening Ceremonies

I always watch the Olympics.  I think I learned more about the world watching the Olympics than I did in school. 

Educational bloggers have been discussing the rise of China in the world since the Did You Know slide stating that China would have more English-speaking people than the United States in the near future. 

If anyone was in doubt, it should have become obvious when at the end of the coverage, the little 9 (or 10) year-old boy, Lin Hao, with Yao Ming said in perfect English, with less of an accent than Yao, "Thank you, thank you very much" to the reporter who interviewed Yao about the meaning of the Olympics to him and China.

We use the word "ubiquitous" when we discuss technology in the classroom.  But how about the ubiquity of the technology and engineering in the artistic beauty of the ceremonies. 

Bob Costas said they could retire the trophy for Opening Ceremonies as it relates to beauty, spectacle, and awe.  I find it hard to argue with that.  It was the most impressive ceremony I've seen...well except for Izzy (the Olympic spermascot) in 1996.  Geez, America...is that the best we can do in the fields of creativity and engineering. 

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If Teaching Was Like Olympic Swimming

Watching the Olympics - I'm a patriotic guy.

Enjoying the swimming competition, and was wondering if I could be as successful at teaching as our athletes are at swimming if I adopted their practice.

Get up a couple hours before school.
Shave my body.
Eat a high protein meal.
Go teach a class.
Do an interview about how my class went, and cliche my way through stupid questions.
Go  back to my room and take a nap.
Get up and stretch.
Shave my body.
Go teach another class.
Do another interview explaining why I did not need to do my best in this class, because I would be back later when it
Go back to my room and take a nap.
Get up and stretch.
Shave my body.
Go teach a class.
Hope to get a good night's sleep, knowing that I'm really looking for the party in the village.
Get up in the morning and do it again.

What a great day that would be.
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hopes, Lies, and Reality

Students started back to school yesterday (Friday 08-08-08). Good day.

It was funny (to me) because so many school officials were saying that our numbers would be down...way down. We ended last year with around 1450 students in our middle school (grades 6-8).

So why were they expecting lower numbers?

We are the Carpet Capital of the World in Dalton. The economy is such that several thousand layoffs occurred earlier this year. School officials were predicting our Mexican-heritage families would be moving away - going back to Mexico. [It is a rerun of the 1950s-60s thing of Blacks back to Africa mentality.]

This exodus was a prediction made back in late February. I told our principals not all of the business community was not seeing things the same way. My wife, a nurse in an OB/GYN office said the local hospital was telling OB doctors to expect a larger number of births beginning in October of 2008...9 months after the layoffs began to take place and not ending until people went back to work, which could be a while. So imagine how many kids will show up at the middle school in August 2020!

The first day back to school for teachers was on Monday (08-04-08) and I heard three different people say they heard 10,000 people had moved from the area over the summer. I asked two of them if they meant 1000 people. "No," they assured me. It was 10,000 according to the carpet mill execs (whoever they are). C'mon, check your sources people.

During the week we had over 90 NEW students register. Yes, there were a few no-shows (about 80)- on the first day of school, which was a Friday, so I expect more to begin showing up on Monday.

I'm back in Social Studies this year, and I wish our community could apply higher-level taxonomy to the histories of immigrant/migrant populations. Our Latino families have been here for over a decade, nearly two decades now. They are not going anywhere. They are not just a part of the community, they are the majority population of the community now. When times get hard for families, they tend to move INTO the city, not out of the city. That way they can walk, bike, or more easily carpool to the jobs that are available.

I always envisioned myself doing mission work in Latin America, especially after a mission trip to Puerto Rico in 1983. But my wife and I never went. Well, the mission field has come to us. I'm not complaining...I love it. Within a few weeks, I predict our school will break the 1500-student mark. It's time for a 2nd middle school. We'd still have two of the larger middle schools in the area. But funding favors enormous, so I'll not hold my breath for a new school anytime soon. So for now, come on in kids, there's a place for you here.

Note:Publications of professor-marvel.com or associated works (unless specifically labeled with another copyright notice) are licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
The views expressed here are my own and reflect only my opinion.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Most Intelligent Statement Of The Year

I'll make this simple. I read lots of blogs. Many of them are education-based.

I've read about NCLB from a variety of sources. I have formulated many opinions of my own, which I have written about here. I really do see both sides of the argument for and against NCLB as it is, and empathize with the struggles our country faces to do the best we can for our kids.

It's difficult to know what's best, IMO, because we cannot standardize people. I have always been against testing as a tool to determine if one is on par with students in their age group. Those who came up with this concept and practice were surely not very learned, but likely very successful the educational system in which we now struggle.

By far, the absolute best, most brilliant, insightful, comment I have ever read comes from Chris Lehman recent post, Why We Need A Vision. READ IT.

Here are the three sentences...

Most teachers went into the profession because they wanted to make a difference. But our [the United States] system is broken, and if you put good people in bad systems, the system will win more often than not. And as a result, we have lost the ability to negotiate the terms of our own profession. [Brackets mine for clarification]

I have enjoyed many of Chris's posts, and followed his NECC session, live, through Ustream. It was good great, but this moves well beyond anything anyone has said in the past 5 years in the context of public education in the United States under NCLB.

Note:Publications of professor-marvel.com or associated works (unless specifically labeled with another copyright notice) are licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
The views expressed here are my own and reflect only my opinion.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sacrilege To The Filter gods

Anyone who knows me, knows I whine too much about how our (and too many other) Tech Departments block sites in schools. Simply because an outsource company (who seeks only to make money - not protect the chillldddreeennnn) tells Tech Directors that they must block things first, then open when there is a possible reason.

Well, it's time to see what has happened this week.

COPA has been found to be unconstitutional (again). Schools won't care about that though.
CIPA, DOPA, and any other restrictive measure will serve them in their fear of information access for all people.

Jim Gates is ticked off by the control-mongering techies who oppose learning for censorship and power. Welcome to the show Jim.
[NOTE: You probably won't see Jim's post if you're at school - he uses the demonic Blogger and Blogspot for his communication ;-) So do I.]

All this is well and good. I have vowed to get off my filtering is the new book burning, neo-nazi, anti-education rants. Now I really can.


Because, Apple is making everyone's life better. If you have been one of those "I'm not sure I should get an iPhone (original or 3G) and/or MacBook" (whatever kind), "Windows is far superior" (for what I don't know - other than accumulating viruses), then it is time for you to change your ways...for the American Way!

You can use your iPhone as a tethering devise to get internet access to your computers!

NetShare, by Nullriver, Inc., that allows your iPhone to serve as your computer's Internet connection. Guess what? I can work at my workplace again! It's been over 7 years since I had that ability.

C'mon educators. It's time to drink the Apple Kool-aid - again.

Note:Publications of professor-marvel.com or associated works (unless specifically labeled with another copyright notice) are licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
The views expressed here are my own and reflect only my opinion.

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