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Why Do You Ask?

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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What We Are Really Teaching Our Students in Georgia, USA

A 22-year-old student at University of Georgia has published an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (April 15, 2009).

Here's the link - http://tinyurl.com/dgtukf

I have some questions.

If she is truthful, then shame on eduwonks for still believing that testing = learning.  A 22-year-old has figured out the game, and so have many of my middle schoolers.  I've argued testing is a two-fold condition where 1) Politicians are able to make a case for election or re-election and 2) Testing companies get rich by providing politicians questionable information to dupe the public into voting for them on education issues.

However, I wonder if the author hasn't really learned the way journalism works, and really has found her own voice.  She identified a controversial subject, took the side of the victimized underdog who must overcome the unjust system.  We will stand and cheer as she tries to triumph against the odds.

I choose to believe she is telling the truth, because it is seldom that a 22-year-old has the level of skepticism, cynicism, and angst to use a major publisher to make a point that is worthy of publication.  So, good for your Laura Braziel.  You will persevere and indeed find your voice.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Sticklers - When Pigs Fly

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The Sticklers - The First 100 Days

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Remote Access Comment - Clarence Gets It Right...Again

Clarence Fisher, in my opinion, is on a role.  Several great posts recently.

Here's his most recent.


Here's my comment:

Terrific Post!

I'll add something from a pedagogical and ethical point of view.

If we learn from prior knowledge, and there is little to no background knowledge in the lives of our students, then the opening of restricted sites should be compulsory. If students and teachers are denied information that can build background (albeit second-hand) then the educational gap will only widen in an era when the tools you mention could bring the gap closer.

If we allow (and dictate) the gap to widen in this era, we not only fail to provide an education, we systemically have made the choice to do so.

What becomes our fiduciary responsibility to our students and their families?


I have really been wondering how schools, schools systems, (and yes, the government) are able to "get away with" the denying the access to information.  I'm not a "Tea Party" kind of guy (I don't really trust anyone in politics), but using excuses like bandwidth, safety, and attaching eRate funding to a "block now ask questions later" philosophy seems anti-democratic to me.

We are in an instant information world.  The need to request permission and wait for a ruling from non-classroom "educators" should no longer be an option for teachers who seek to provide current information, and build background knowledge for their students.  Where's that revolution?

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Sticklers - It's Not That We Don't Care...

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Wiki School - Addition to Clarence Fisher

Clarence Fisher (of Remote Access) posted a Best Buy video of their use of Web2 tools to enhance innovation, communication, and collaboration.

See it here:

Clarence asks the follow question:
This video is from Bestbuy, but can you see this in your school, or division, or even state or province?


So I thought I might add some questions, especially to those who believe school is to prepare kids to be contributing members of society, in a competitive, global marketplace.
  1. Does the fact that Best Buy uses these tools make the need for schools to open up Web 2.0 tools for their students even more important?  It is now a job skill, right?
  2. Does a school, districts, BOEs, etc. put their students in an uncompetitive position for jobs by denying access to these tools in school?  Could this denial become grounds for "educational malpractice"?
  3. Does it become more or less important to train students to use tools like the ones shown in the video in an ethical, professional, and productive manner?  Or will/should the business world take care of that training?
  4. If schools, districts, BOEs think that businesses should do the training to use these tools, should they be surprised when businesses complain that young workers are unskilled?
I know my answers to these questions, although I wish I wasn't so convinced. 

There are numerous examples of How To use these tools in a school setting.  There are enough teachers who want to use these tools. 

Are we reaching a point where there "is no excuse" for not using these tools in school, or will the denial, fear, and malpractice continue?  Now there's a question I can't answer.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Sticklers - More of More of the Same

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Monday, April 13, 2009

The Sticklers - Cruel Teachers

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Let me begin by stating some things I believe:

    • I believe students should be freed to use technology to learn.
    • I believe in the use of creativity and imagination in the classroom.
    • I believe that students believe that doing "fun" activities is a good way to learn.
    • I believe teachers should try different things when the "basics" don't work.
    • I believe there is a tremendous difference between information and knowledge.

I want to record my thoughts rolling around in my head.

Students can't use their imaginations if they have limited life-experience. What they see on TV or movies is too often super-natural, not creative. For example, we went to see the TerraCotta Soldiers at the High Museum in Atlanta. These soldiers are the basis for the Mummy 3 movie. While we were there, a student asked a teacher if the soldiers were going to come alive and talk to us. It would have been funny, except he was serious. Really, he was. He was also disappointed when he learned that they did not have that power.

Imaginative? Yes. But, not very realistic or sensible.

Students can do all types of fun activities. Make posters, dioramas, put together skeletons, etc. But if they do not have some basic understandings of why they are doing it, they had fun, but they did not learn. Just because they sort their M&Ms into 5 different colors, doesn't mean they understand percentages, or can create a pie graph, or even more important - can read and interpret a pie graph, and know when to use one.

I teach 7th grade Social Studies. I had hoped my students would have some background knowledge of geography, maps, history, even racism, so that more "interesting" activities could be used to reinforce the concepts. But when the knowledge is missing, the activities must wait.

I spent 2.5 quarters using videos, Internet scavenger hunts, and reading/writing/lecture to pile up information in the minds of the students. They did not know what I was doing. They thought everything was "a mess" and a mass of disjointed junk. As the Wizard would say, A "clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!"

But, the method to my madness was much like the Internet itself. It was a web of information, that on one hand seems disconnected, but on the other provides students the opportunities for analysis and synthesis...just not immediately.

For the past 4 weeks, in preparation for our state mandated, federal authorized CRCT test, we have put the information together to create knowledge. It has worked, but not as well as I had hoped. I think it is because our Standards were not approved by the state until October/November, so we sort of flew in the dark for 1/3 of the year.

I call my process Inductive Teaching. It is like the comedian telling a punchline joke. At the end, the punchline gives the setup meaning.

With Inductive Teaching, you set up the students with information; information that seems unrelated, yet in the hands of the "one who knows" it can be a long-awaited reward (delayed gratification, if you will). To see light bulbs turn on when students put together information from a video, a movie, a newspaper article, a class conversation, a lecture, a web search, a map, an assigned reading, a memory, a TV show on Discovery is what every teacher hopes to see.

Our problem as teachers is we expect to see light bulbs every day. I think that is not possible in middle grades. We talk about how our kids expect things right away, and how they should understand delayed gratification, but we get discouraged when students are trying to synthesize the pieces of information that we throw at them, and sometimes angry when they "don't get it."

Inductive teaching only works when you know the end result you seek. (Without the Standards firmly in place at the start of the year, I was unsure of the results I needed.) Everything you do takes you to that end. But, unlike UBD, that expects it with every lesson, and therefore causes many teacher unwarranted critique, Inductive Teaching allows you time to develop critical background information and experiences. Inductive teaching allows students the opportunity gain information that is necessary for them to be creative, innovative, and use imaginations that are based in reality, not Hollywood.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

The Sticklers - They're Not Half-Crazy

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Sticklers - More School Illnesses

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The Sticklers - School Sicknesses

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