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Monday, October 31, 2011

Mr. Thorne Does Phonics: Great ideas for reading teachers

Talented teachers who are also talented videographers are rising. Yes, you've seen Khan Academy, but have you seen Mr. Phonics from the UK? Better known as Mr. Thorne does Phonics.

These videos by Mr. Thorne (featured on the TES website out of the UK) were created for parents so they would know how to reinforce the phonics he was teaching at school so they are very basic. But, what a novel idea! Take something that you need parent reinforcement for at home and teach the parents? (Now how is that for a "flipped" classroom. That is flipping it in a whole new way.)

I know Mr. Thorne has a British accent (well of course, he's a UK school teacher) but this beginning and ending sound game is a cool way to teach phonics.

I'm not going to get into the Phonics vs. Whole language debate here. While my school leans heavily on phonics we do have Dolch sight words as well. I was taught phonetically, so as a parent, it was easy for me to teach my children phonics. I think it is a great idea for teachers to make videos for parents, particularly if the parents have internet access. I sent out emails but currently don't do the video idea.

He has quite a few neat videos on phonics for those of you who teach reading. You'll get lots of ideas.

What is TES?
TES stands for Times Education Supplement (http://www.tes.co.uk/) although they were spun off from the London Times as a private entity several years back. They have a magazine with a very broad distribution in the English Speaking world (outside the US primarily.) The magazine covers a lot of current topics (like flipped learning this week.)

 But it was their teacher website that totally blew me away.

The statistics as of this morning:

  • 1.6 million teachers
  • 102k resources for teaching
  • over 100 million downloads of those resources
  • 196 countries have used the materials

All of the resources are free and they have teachers on staff who vet the resources as well. While you'll notice that currently the resources are aligned with standards in the UK, they are in the process of aligning their resources with standards other countries including the US. When I signed up a month or two back, I found some great presentations and ideas for my technology courses. Their special needs resources have been extremely popular from what I understand.

I talked to my friend Julie Lindsay, in China, (originally from Australia) and she reads their magazine religiously and told me it was a highly trusted organization in teaching in her circles. That and my "homework" on their site was enough for me to decide to establish a relationship with this company.

Will I be hearing more about TES on Vicki's blog?
Yes. You will. As you know, I disclose any and all relationships with any organization. I do have a few hand-selected advertisers in the right hand side of my blog that fit with my mission and are companies I feel good about having on my blog. So, when TES contacted me about sharing resources of theirs on my Blog and Twitter and the other places I share, I was very excited. I would be writing about these resources anyway and I may be able to write a little more deeply and they've promised to help me "meet" the teachers behind some of the resources as well.

I will be writing once or twice a week about different things on their site and will be tweeting out some of their resources as well over the next few months. Everything on my blog and on my Twitter stream is hand selected by me. If I blog it, I think it. Personally, I've found so many incredible resources on their site, that I think I could tweet and blog ad infinitum and not run out of cool, helpful things to write about.

You'll continue to see all of the other links and things that you've gotten used to seeing here. The great thing is that as I get more sponsors and advertisers for my blog, it helps me spend more time blogging (which I love.)

Join TES, I think it is a great site for sharing. It takes a little getting used to the differences in grade levels, however if you dig, you will find some novel ideas. I also hope you'll share your resources as well.

Also, I want to share with you my updated Disclosure statement going on the bottom of my blog. I want you, my readers, to know what you can expect for me. Although this disclosure is broad, I implement it more narrowly. I decide what of TES resources that I will write about and I will write about the things I think will help you. I doubt you'll see much change here except that I'll have more resources from overseas in the mix and I, personally, think that is a good thing.

Here goes the legal stuff just so you know. ;-) (This will be on the bottom of my blog starting today but I'm putting this in my first post just in case.)

Disclosure Statement

This policy is valid from 31 October 2011

I subscribe to the Blogger’s Code of Ethics, and am required, pursuant to those ethical guidelines
and the requirements of the Federal Trade Commission, to disclose certain relationships related
to this blog. I am compensated to provide my opinion on certain resources, services, websites
and various other topics, and accept certain forms of paid advertising (which will always be
identified as paid advertisements). However, though I receive compensation for certain posts
or advertisements, I will always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on
those topics. Any compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made
in this blog. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own unless otherwise
indicated. Any product claim, warranty, statistic, quote or other representation about a product
or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. I would like
to disclose the following existing relationships with companies that may have an impact on the
content of this blog: I am a paid consultant of TSL Education and TES.

Additional notes from me for people who wish to send me products or request advertising:
The links in my blog post (contextual links) are not for sale. I do test products and review books, although the sending me of products nor books does not guarantee a positive review nor a review at all on my blog.

If you have any questions for me, wish to ask me to speak in person or via webinar, write for you, or look at your product or service, please feel free to contact me or mail me at Vicki Davis PO Box 975 Camilla, GA 31730.

For questions about this blog, please contact vicki@coolcatteacher.com.

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/31/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/30/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/29/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Helping Students Have Learning Conversations that Matter

Social media has added to my life because there are incredible people in my sphere of socializing.What you get out of your time engaged with social media is directly proportional to the number and kind of people you socialize with online.

I've seen teachers get on Twitter and follow no one and say,

"I don't get Twitter."

That's because Twitter isn't solo. Find the people who are using Twitter, like Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1) and Angela Maiers (@angelamaiers), and you'll learn a lot from them.

If you don't get Google+ (and I don't really... yet, but I will) then follow people like Peter Vogel or Chris Porter who do.

If you don't understand Facebook, I've really found that Mari Smith has helped me get it. And in the last month or two, I've been enjoying my twice daily visits to Facebook. (5:45 am and 7 pm ;-)

These people help us understand how to have effective conversations.

Cool Teacher Conversations on Facebook
Over there on my fanpage, it has become a teacher conversation center. In fact, I've been thinking about renaming the page altogether. It isn't about me at all.It is really a place for people to talk about teaching. Now, I know that with the new settings people can follow me on Facebook without having to fan me, but I see my fan page as not about me but about the conversation.

Like a lot of you who blog out there, I cogitate on a subject long before it comes here to my blog. I think about it and ask questions on Twitter about it. But I'm finding that my best answers from real teachers tend to happen on Facebook. Whether we talk about a talkative class (like we are today) or the struggle to keep up with grading, I always find that great ideas are coming in.

Recent conversation about assessments. I keep coming back and learning more.

It helps me to not feel so alone with my struggles. As long as people preserve the privacy of their students and keep it professional (which it has been so far) I find that I'm learning a lot.

Learning from Conversation
To me, the great value is often not in the neat and tidy packaged textbooks and books that come out but in the rough, nubby, conversations with real teachers who are struggling like I am to be excellent, teach in powerful ways, and engage students in rigorous learning experiences.

I had a teacher stop and talk to me at the church the other night and she was talking about her new principal. She is frustrated and said she just wants to ask:

"Do you want me to teach for this test or teach for their future?"

Because she feels that multiple choice just doesn't cut it.  I find that by networking like this, I am learning for my future. So, this leads to my next question -- how are we letting students network for learning? Do they have places they can go for conversation to learn?

Learning Places for Conversation
I don't know the answer but we all have to get there. I know on our Flat Classroom Ning and Digiteen Edmodo that we work hard to have conversations. ON the Digiteen project we have one group Digiteen 11-3 and one group called recess and we work hard to have the social comments posted to recess. But it is Friday and I guarantee someone will go on the digiteen group and post, "I'm so glad its friday" and put a cute little moving avatar. And then another moving emoticon will be posted. And Another and another an dall the way down the page we'll see cute little moving avatars - pushing down the conversations about digital citizenship.

This is not a problem altogether. It is great for kids to talk. But we're working hard to teach kids context. 

Where is the PLACE for that conversation? 
Places should have a purpose. When they do and you establish community guidelines that are community enforced then it begins to work and that takes time. But you can't have community if you're in and out in the span of a few weeks. This takes long term relationships and community building. It will happen but right now onine learning is so much in "project" mode and we need to move to "place" mode with projects moving in and out via groups.

We need places with purposes so kids can have conversations that matter about learning. We need to help faciliate that. Facebook for them should be fun, but can't we have LearnBook? or the MathMatrix? or some places where kids can go for these purposes that are long term places for kids to join and move into the future?

Learning relationships and communities are needed in education and we haven't even begun to get there. Sure, I think Flat Classroom is a start, but I think Flat Classroom should be years and years long and should be more than about technology but extend to all subjects. We compartmentalize our departments so much that that sort of thinking is tough.

Lets ask ourselves these questions. I do think textbook companies should look at communities but right now I don't think they want to be in the business of linking up kids - I mean look at the headaches involved? The only way to do this is to create communities of practice undergirded by teachersourcing and community guidelines.

Conversation spaces will emerge but we have a long way to go. Let's start talking about it now.

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/28/2011

  • I've been messaging with Scott Newcomb about what they are doing at his school in Ohio and got this message: "Every student 3-5 has their own smart phone (MLD). We are starting BYOD with the upper grades this year." Here is their mobile learning blog.

    tags: education mobilelearning mlearning wireless_connectivity

  • I think that Trina Crawford (tcrawford2011) has some great points about auto dm's on Twitter. I don't care for them either, although I admit, I experimented with them. I also have a service (I since turned off) that used to tweet right before I hit a 1K mark each time -- it bothered me and I think it would bother others. The thing is that when you tweet on twitter it should mostly be about helping others and inspiring them. Be helpful and the followers will come. The sooner we all learn the world doesn't revolve around us and that we should give back and be helpful, the better off we'll all be. Don't worry about followers - rather, be worth following and the followers will come. Care about your followers and they will care about you. Be selfish and be lonely. Be passionately helpful and the sky is the limit.

    tags: education twitter

  • Scott Newcomb (@snewco on twitter) works with the St. Mary's city schools (Ohio). I was blown away by his school's mobile learning technology page. Tons of resources here for mobile learning.

    tags: Education mobile

  • So, we thought we understood how Klout worked, now we don't. They totally changed their algorithm. Lots of really cool people dropped. I dropped from 71 to 56! What? It is find to calculate such a score but it should make sense to understand what works and what it all means.

    tags: education klout

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/27/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Flat Learning Action Talks

F.L.A.T.s will officially launch tomorrow.

Our teachers have been talking about the fact that we need ongoing online pd and sharing of best practices. Also, that many webinars are sort of long. We want to have bit sized presentations with time to ask questions. Our first FLAT will be tomorrow and features two of our certified teachers presenting their take on developing a global project. Join us!

Amy Jambor and Sheri Williams will present “Developing a global project” as a Flat Action Talk.  Please join us at http://tinyurl.com/FlatActionTalk

#teaching starts In my Room

Room in My Classroom
When frowns are down and people are milling around...
It's time to hide in your room.

When people are tired and with caffeine over-wired
It's time to hide in your room.

When no one has slept and some negativity has crept
It's time to hide in your room.

You see, doom and gloom may loom
but not in your room.

Your classroom is your room, your creation, your loom,
you can do a lot in your room.

The most important attitude that walks in your door
is the one you bring into your room.

Protect your attitude with a shield of stone, keep the negative out
don't let it in your room.

Schools go up, schools go down,
but insulate the learning in your room.

Students must learn every day, it cannot fluctuate with ebb and sway
keep things consistently positive in your room.

My mom was a teacher and she taught me true
one of the only places in this world that is yours
is your classroom.

Own it. Love it. Nourish it. Protect it, even from yourself.
Even when it means you must hide
from the stress outside
by hiding in your room.

Oh teacher, this is your room!
It is yours.

Because when those two legged treasures walk in the door
they inhale everything you bring to your room.
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Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/26/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jailbreaking Education

"Should jailbreaking cell phones be part of my research project, 'Miss' Vicki?" said the eager Digiteen student as if a light bulb had just gone on. 
"Tons of people are starting to jailbreak phones and I'm not sure if they understand if they should or what the impact is. I think it should be part of our recommendations." 
"Is jailbreaking a phone part of legal, copyright, and fair use?" he said, quoting his subtopic on the project.

In just a few short sentences I was whirled away on a new inquiry and cutting edge issue of students today. I remember several years a go when some students came to me concerned that too many teens were sleeping with their cell phone in hand or under their pillow. They said it at least six months before news media outlets picked it up. Cyberbullying was on their radar at least five years  ago when the project first started including text bombing.

This is why students should be at the forefront of digital citizenship research and recommendations. They can aggregate research and have personal perspectives that adults simply cannot have. That is precisely where we put them in the Digiteen project, too.

Every student has a slightly different research topic. Designed in such a way to make them think, it is challenging to coach each of them to understand their topic. Last Friday as we were continuing our authentic research phase of the Flat Classroom project, I had a student take my breath away,

"'Miss' Vicki, can't you just give us a worksheet? I don't feel like thinking today."

What? Did she just say what I think she said? Did she just confirm my whole teaching strategy in one sentence? My response was,

"Your brain is a required school supply for this class. You have it and you must use it. I don't give homework so I need your brain for at least 50 minutes today. I'll help you if you get lost."

Then, another comment,

"Well, who has the same topic I do. I can just look on their screen."

The answer was that no one has the same topic. Not on these projects. If two kids have the same topic at a school they are supposed to be in different classes, separated by time and space, so that each student will learn how to research.

I talked about this with one of my classes yesterday. I always want my students to know WHY we do things in my class. "Cause I said so," isn't good enough. I want them to know why we learn the way we do and why I do these odd, really hard things to get them thinking. I asked the simple question,

"Why don't we all do the same research project so we can learn together?"

One student blurted out,

"Because everybody knows that a few kids do the research and everybody just asks them and says the same thing those two or three people say, that's how it always is when we research the same topic." 

Everyone nodded their heads - some sheepishly.

I want you to hear what these students are saying because these students are at an excellent school with great results and great teachers. Worksheets are not the norm. But these kids without an ounce of educational theory know which one requires thinking and which one does not.

Jailbreaking Education
Currently, we have a mass production model of education. But until we personalize things and require each student to learn. Until we do things in creative ways that make sure kids each learn and have to think and process, we will continue to have the select few do the thinking. It is human nature.

Education shouldn't be one size fits all. I don't think that getting outside the standardized work we do in education should be considered jailbreaking. But for now, in most schools it is.

Typically, the number one complaint of schools and why they can't embark on global collaborative projects is that there is no time in the curriculum. The other issue I've seen is that a teacher who only has kids twice a week and is tasked with 150-200 kids is asked to do such a project. I have 85 kids on 2 projects right now and I'm totally worn out at the end of the day.The schools that have done such scalable contributions to global collaborative projects (like the the amazing teachers at the Berea School district in Ohio) have good student to teacher ratios that allow for coaching. (Don't let Berea's website fool you, they are as sharp as they come.)

Higher order thinking and deep, wide technology integration where students build PLN's, use social bookmarking, use educational networks, collaborate on wikis, and produce profound multimedia cannot be relegated to a one-lesson "now you know a tool" approach. It requires immersive, experiential learning and that takes time.

Teaching right now for me is completely exhausting but completely fulfilling. In fact, right now we're talking on my facebook page about how to "work a room" in a way that doesn't completely wear out the teacher. My biggest struggle is energy level. It is exhilarating but it is also exhausting.

But to get here requires giving each student an individual research topic with a team of collaborators from other schools and a powerful network of teachers committed to help and support each other across country borders and district guidelines.

This kind of teaching is tough but it is real. I just find it so interesting that I and the other teachers feel that so much of what we do is frowned upon as some sort of "jailbreaking" that "most" schools can't do. This is what every school should do in a globally connected world. To say that you don't have time because you have to prep for a standardized test is sad.

Remember your noble calling teacher.

Sorry, I didn't have time to add photos this morning, I may come back and add them later.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Limit your Work in Process with #pkflow

We say yes without ever stopping to consider if we have the ability to do something. We run ourselves into the ground. For what?

One thing I really enjoy about the Personal Kanban planning method (as described in Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life ) I highly recommend reading the book. It has made a big difference in my life. I've been using is the fact that by nature, it limits your work in process.

I have to admit that I've always been a snob against post it notes. They fall down and you don't have a record of what you've done. They just seemed inefficient, but not any more.
Our Family Kanban board (I've blacked out the names of my kids) On the left is "On Deck" - Today is the items that will be done today. While we are working on something, we put it under our names. On the right is Done. At the end of the day, I write down in my planner everything we accomplished and note my ideas for improving that in the future. The items that are repeating weekly chores, I stick on the back of this poster to be ready for next Saturday. I cannot put more items on this than can fit. Yes, it was a tight squeeze this weekend.

Personal Kanban is about organizing visually. Taken from a Japanese term relating to Kaizen (the process of ongoing improvement), you can only put the amount of items on deck that you can fit there. The size of the post it note literally. I rebelled against the idea but just decided to try it once. That was three weeks a go. I'm finding that if I pull my work out of my planner and can easily organize and reorganize it that it just keeps me focused. it is so easy to forget about important things when they are in my planner.

Perhaps I'll write more about the method but for now, just buy the book - they did a great job explaining the process.
Here is my personal Kanban board. At the top you can see, Today, WIP has room for 3 things. BIN is things I'm waiting for and Done is what is done. I have a special place here for FCP projects and the bottom is totally items for managing the Flat Classroom book project. I'm about to erase it and put my next book project there now. I take things with me in my circa planner than need to go to my school board. It seems odd but watching the work flow is very motivating.

Limit your Work in Process
The MOST helpful thing I've found is that this system limits your work in process. I am a horrible multitasker and am such a busy person that if someone gives me something to do - it runs in one ear and out the other.

You have a limited capacity to do work. You can't do EVERYTHING. You have to prioritize and make choices. You HAVE TO.

There is nothing noble about telling a lie. Can you live with yourself if you tell another person, "sure, I'll do that for you" knowing full well that you are overworked, overburdened, and over the top with your workload. You have to make choices!

Limit your work in process. Focus on one thing and then move to the next. I love the WIP because when the bell rings I have to stop and teach. I teach every day from 8:15 - 11 and from 12:15-2:15 with just a small break during those periods. I'm not at my computer, I'm running around helping students and teaching. But by having the sticky on my WIP, I remember what I'm working on and the moment I'm done I go back to it.

I have found that I've pushed myself way over the top. (No surprise there!) I expect too much.

Overlisting will cause your ship to list!
I have a small space for my WIP in each of my boards because I can't do it all at once. My problem with lists has always been that I'm an over-lister. When I over list my ship lists and threatens to sink!

Take a look at how you organize
You can really use just about any system for organizing. The questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you prioritize. 
  • Do you focus? 
  • Do you get things accomplished? 
  • Do you know what you accomplished? 
  • Do you review what you did so you can improve it in the future?

If not, or if you're not happy with your organization system yet, Personal Kanban is worth a read even if the sticky notes are repugnant to you. You can learn some valuable lessons from this very well written book.

Related Topics:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I don't wanna die with this music in me

"I don't wanna die with this music in me," says Stacy Francis, 42 year old single Mom of 2, in her X Factor audition last month.

She had someone who told her she wasn't talented. That she couldn't do it. That she started believing it.
"I lost faith in myself," she says.
Someone told her she was no good. If she had believed that person. That misguided, sad, jealous person would have kept the world from this spine tingling, mind blowing, beautiful music.

For an uplifting, inspiring Sunday morning, watch this 7 minute video. Yes, this video is deservedly going viral. [Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FbsmvXzMJY ]

Have you lost faith in yourself? Have you lost faith in your dream?

This morning I want you to take time to reflect on who you are and your calling. I had to watch it twice. AS her mascara runs down her face, mine ran down my face with her.

We all have our stories.

When I came back from GAETC in November and felt led to start this blog I had many people who told me not to. They told me why I couldn't. It would be dangerous for me. Who was I?

You vote every time you share

All I can say is that sometimes when the world is a stage - the world tells a person that they can do it and confirms they are called to do something that they know is their calling. Do you know that when you like and when you follow and when you retweet people that you too can discover talent? The world needs more Stacy Francises.

Thank you for helping me in my own journey. I think I may have to start watching the Xfactor just to see what happens with Stacy. Wow! What a voice!

Don't die with that music inside of you
You have a calling too. Something you were born to do. What is your story?

I have a friend, Scott Rigsby, who is a double amputee and just ran his second iron man. Sometimes your gutt is right. But how will you know unless you try. Stacy had to walk out on that stage.

You've got to walk out on your stage, my friend.

Teacher, this is even more. You've got students with a song inside of them. Will you help it get out? Will you give them a stage? Will you be the encourager?

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/23/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Incredibly Useful Google Apps Correlated to Bloom's Revised Taxonomy #bloomstaxonomy

Now we're getting useful! Some time back Kathy Schrock created a very useful Bloom's Taxonomy grid correlated with Google Apps. While we know some of these tools aren't so useful (i.e. Google Buzz) the way Kathy has laid this out is incredibly useful. Info-graphic type websites that allow us to digest a lot of things in a simple glance are the way we need to go to be efficient!

Digging deeper, I found a website http://visualblooms.wikispaces.com/ made by Michael Fischer (@fischer1000) dedicated to visually representing Bloom's Taxonomic Heirarchy. The presentation below is on the homepage.

Free website - Powered By Wix.com

It is time we use these tools to take a lot of information and make it usable. Time for infographics.
So, I'd like to make a challenge. Anyone else care to follow the lead and make useful infographics aligning free apps and tools to Blooms Taxonomy?

Take the Bloom's Taxonomy challenge and make useful information to help teachers.

You can leave a link to your graphic below or just tweet it and tag it #bloomstaxonomy (Yes it is long but there are people already using this tag.) I'm following this tag now.

We all keep saying that education isn't promoting higher order thinking but are we talking about what higher order thinking looks like?

After a week of teaching kids how to build a PLN, subscribe to appropriate searches in Google News, bookmark, select tags, summarize the content -- all with every student having a different topic -- I'm exhausted. This is tough teaching. Higher order thinking often requires a higher order of teaching commitment. You have to coach each student.

A short verbal exchange this week

A student came in on Friday and said,

Student "Mrs. Vicki, I'm too tired to think today, can't you just give us a worksheet."
Me: "We don't do worksheets in this class. I don't give homework but I need your brain with me for 50 minutes." 
Student: "But Mrs. Vicki, who has my same topic so I can look on their screen and see what they are doing so it will help me." 
Me: "No one has your same topic. We're going to have to figure this out together. I'll be here to help you and you can talk with others about your topic for ideas. 
Student: "This is hard." 
Me: "Yes, but after we get going, it is going to get easier and you're going to know something. I don't care about what you memorize, I care about teaching you how to think. Let's get started."

If you think all the kids are going to be excited about moving up the grid and thinking, you are wrong. Memorizing and doing worksheets are easy. If the kids are sufficiently docile, they can quietly work on a worksheet and a teacher could read a magazine. When you move towards higher order thinking your body must move out of the chair into the classroom. I literally now move in a clockwise manner around my room to make sure I help everyone equally. I do this the entire class period, especially when launching authentic research like we did in 4 of my 5 classes this week. This is tough. It is hard. It isn't easy. It requires a lot of energy on my part and it requires brainpower on their part.

Let's talk HOTS
Let's start using our Twitter bandwidth to talk about higher order thinking and promote conversation about #bloomstaxonomy in creative ways that help us share best practice. Sure, we need to talk reform of the system but for me, I care more about ongoing improvement of my own classroom because that is one thing over which I have 100% control.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Can't Kids Get Collaborative Writing?

“Collaborative production is a more involved form of cooperation, as it increases the tension between individual and group goals. The litmus test for collaborative production is simple: no one person can take credit for what gets created, and the project could not come into being without the participation of many.”

Clay Shirky  Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
Drawn by Beatrice in Korea about what FCP means to her.
  • They aren't getting it if they sign their name. 
  • They aren't getting it if they write in something else and paste the "finished" product onto the wiki. 

Wikipedia is an example. That is what we're trying to get them ready for! We work together. Mapping the human genome was collaborative.

Why do they have to sign their name? Why do they think that it won't be fair? Don't they realize we can see their contributions in a granular way? Collaborative is a new thing and we've got to do better than this.

But we're teaching it because they don't know how. This is hard teaching but when it is taught it is understood for a lifetime.

I'm seeing kids signing their names already on our Flat Classroom project -- the userid renders this unneeded.

Some have copied from Diigo onto the page. Again, not the point.

Collaborative writing is such a struggle to teach because perhaps it goes against the grain of everything we're trying to do.

Thus the topic of my second book to be published next year. If collaborative writing is your thing, maybe you should submit a case study.

Higher Order Thinking and Discipline: Two things Education needs NOW!

Seth Godin, author, change maker
Seth Godin is not God. I don't think he pretends to be but sometimes I think those that read his work don't realize who he is. He is a natural born gift writer / rebel who has made his own rules and had is own career. He is one of a kind. That is great. We need more Seth Godins.

In a recent post, Seth makes a great point that we are going Back to (the wrong) school and that we are educating kids for 1925.

Agreed. Totally.

I agree with this statement.

If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, they will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.

But there is also some sort of insinuation I read into the post that the problem is having teachers/ educators in authority.

Let's make a line here that needs to be very clear:

We need to be promoting higher order thinking.

Memorizing is at the bottom. We aren't teaching problem solving. We're not teaching anything of lasting substance when we continue to see if kids can memorize. We just aren't.

Seth is on the money when he says that the testing environment has put us on the race to the bottom. I'm glad he's saying it.

Kids need to be problem solvers. They don't need to be told what to do at every moment. They need to know how to figure things out. This is exactly why I don't teach point and click software and handle it more holistically. We've already used more than 30 software programs to solve problems in my Computer Applications class as we customize the experience to the individual and the things we are trying to create.

We also need to have a respect for authority in place so we can have safe places to learn.

The one insinuation that I see in this discussion all over the place is the idea we should disregard authority. There is a big difference between questioning what a person in authority says and the fact that a person in authority has authority.

The lack of discipline in schools is one reason that many of my teacher friends are quitting. I know of one local school that talked to teachers about putting bullet proof glass in every classroom to protect the teachers. How about protecting the students? If teachers are afraid, how about the poor scrawny kid who won't go to the bathroom all day because he's afraid of bullying?

As a society, we don't trust people in authority. We don't trust organizations in authority. We've had a complete erosion of the belief in authority.
Never mistake a teacher in authority for a dictatorship.

Right now many of those in authority in education have led us down the wrong path as a country. So, it is understandable. But let's turn our eyes to the kids for a moment.

The danger of Selective Authority
Many parents have advocated a principle of "selective authority." Selective authority looks like this

"I'm going to learn from you because you can give me something" or
"I'm not going to learn from you because I don't like you." 

What results is punk football players who are very coachable but have no integrity and keep getting in trouble with the law. This problem is everywhere.

This type of philosophy means if a kid can convince Mom and Dad that "my Lit teacher doesn't like me" and the kid knows that suddenly anything I do to that lit teacher is excused and encouraged.


The "rights" of a few who don't deserve it

Rafe Esquith in his book,Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56,  talks about an incident where a group of fifth graders were interrupting their fifth grade graduation with profanity and trash talk. Rafe removed them from the proceedings and was promptly told by the principal that everyone "has a right to graduate" and that the could do nothing about it.

No! Those kids should get a diploma but they should not have the right to completely ruin the graduation for the other students.

Schools and principals who tolerate such misbehavior look impotent, incompetent, and totally backwards!

Do we encourage disrespect?
PROBLEM. The problem in many schools is that it is impossible to even teach lower order industrial age thinking because our society has so worshipped the young that we are encouraging a total disrespect for authority.

We all have bosses. We all have laws to follow. Lots of times we don't like the boss or the laws but we have to follow them anyway. We need to follow people we don't like sometimes so we can be successful in life. We can respect their authority even if we don't care for them as a person.

We can also be a renegade with cool ideas in the classroom and beyond if we have empowering teachers to bring that out of us. I can be empowering and still have my classroom management act together.

Show up and Keep your Promises
A young man at Walgreen's yesterday was talking to me. He was missing the first half of his family reunion because the manager could not get anyone to work for him. He was at work anyway. I was very impressed and told him so. He said,

'My Momma raised me right. I need to show up where they are counting on me and keep my promises."

Respect for authority does not mean subservience, slavery, or even the worst case, abuse. It means that we have guidelines. It means we treat each other with respect and have character.
Scott Filmer's Photography Journal

We need yellow lines.
We have guidelines like the yellow line in the middle of the road.

Thank goodness for the yellow line in the middle of the road. It is that guideline that keeps us all safe. We need them in school too!

No Discipline Problems
I've had a few discipline problems in my career but not many. Typically, I have to fill out a discipline form once or twice a year. That is because my principal is exceptional at handling discipline. He is consistent (writing up his own son for not having a hair cut) and treats everyone fairly.

I am free to teach. There were times, I admit, under another principal that it wasn't so pleasant. When  discipline is maintained we have freedom to learn.

Appealing versus Arguing
Authority does not mean that a person is always right. The first day of class I always say something completely, totally WRONG. Something everyone knows is wrong. The kids now know my reputation and so they get it more often than not, but I always say.

"This is my classroom and we will work together to learn, but that does not mean that I know everything. I'm wrong quite a bit. You've just let me say something you know is wrong. Why did no one stand up to me? What is the right way to disagree when a person in authority says something is wrong?" (We discuss.) Then I end with, "This is OUR classroom. We learn from each other. If you disagree with me, I respect you if you disagree respectfully in a way that helps me and the others learn and I will treat you the same way. It is ok to make mistakes and sometimes I will say things to make you think that I may or may not agree with. I want your brains and your thoughts not just your blind acceptance of what I say. But you can know that if I do say something wrong like I just did that I will always correct myself in that same class period - you can trust what I say, but I needed to prove a point to you today. Say what you think not what you think I want you to say."

Note that I don't make this a habit to do this very much because I want students to trust what I say. If I say something wrong, I always admit it pretty quickly so they know that I knew it was wrong. I don't think it is a good practice to just "lie" all the time to confuse kids. But to do it once to make a point and to say I intentionally did it is OK.

There is a difference. In this case, I've preserved my authority. My "yellow line in the middle of the road" type authority while also making my classroom a safe place for open dialog, discussion, and learning by everyone.

Our Current Students aren't ready for 1925 work in some cases
A close family member employs some of those "1925 labor workers" as he works in a factory. The problem is that many of the workers he gets aren't even fit for that. They don't know how to show up on time and only 20% of them know fractions. (They ask where the bubbles are for the answers and are told that in the real world you don't have 4 answers for every question.)

Right now, the current public education system, at least down here in South Georgia doesn't really even produce good factory workers. Yes, it is broken, yes we need to fix it.

We need people who can keep their promises. Who can be productive. Who aren't just robots who test well.  We also need students who know basic math and fractions in the real world where there are no bubbles.

We need to improve and change how we are teaching but we also need to restore the guidelines and accountability that keep us safe. According to Maslow's heirarchy of needs - if a student is hungry and feels unsafe they aren't going to learn. Yes, we need to improve our teaching but to have good teaching we also need good discipline.

The danger of the rebellion against "industrial age do what you are told" education is that some people ARE not going to realize that the scripted, step by step teaching, worksheet mentality, and memorization mantras are the problem and in fact will think it is having discipline, order, and guidelines that are the problem.

Seth Godin on Education
So, as smart as Seth Godin is, take his posts on education for what they are. Very well written big-picture critiques of the big-picture problems in education and not a prescription for how to fix education. Honestly, I'm not even sure that some of our current education "leaders" are prepared to fix those problems as they have a self-interest in preserving the current systems that have gotten us where we are.

Whatever the solution - restoring order and discipline and SAFETY is an important part of improving any school. It is called "learning environment" and it is a top indicator of a successful school.

In Conclusion
Let's promote higher order thinking but to get there we do need consistent discipline and respect for authority back in our schools.

Remember your noble calling, teacher. Remember that those who critique a system are critiquing a system.

There are many amazing teachers out there and most likely you are one of them. No one can take away your nobility but when you act beneath yourself, you alone can give away that nobility. Let's teach anyway as best we can until people realize that the Freedom to Teach is one of the best things they could give teachers.

Unless noted otherwise, photos are from iStock Photo.

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/21/2011

  • Opened in 2006, the Saltire Center in Glasgow has "rewritten the design book for libraries." It is fascinating and includes a ground floor coffee bar, sofas, etc. They have double the usage from the previous library. Visits were decreasing, now they are up. Great case studies for libraries working to reinvent learning. Hat tip to Ewan McIntosh - he's contributed a piece to our new Flat Classroom book.

    tags: education learningcommons

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Join Flat Classroom at ASB Unplugged in Mumbai India

We're gearing up to take students to India. Here's info to join us. If you're interested in taking a class, get those applications in. I'd be happy to pair up with US schools on travel arrangements if it helps.

Flat Classroom® Conference and Live Events 
a 501(c)3 non profit

invites interested schools and educators to apply now to attend the  

Flat Classroom® Workshop at ASB Unplugged 2012 in Mumbai, India.  
All details are on the wiki. (http://asbunplugged2012.flatclassroomproject.org/)

Deadline for Application: October 31, 2011
Final selection of classes completed: November 15, 2011.

Application form: http://tinyurl.com/asb2012flatclass

Don't forget also, Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay will release their book, "Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration one Step at a Time" in January 2012. Sign up for advance notice and more details at http://flatclassroombook.com

Is there a Flat Classroom® in your future? We hope so! http://flatclassroomproject.net
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Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 10/20/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

10 Ways to be a Terrible Teacher

Teaching is a noble calling. That is why when a teacher doesn't behave nobly it breaks trust and we get upset. I have to admit that I've had days as a "TT" (Terrible Teacher.) If we're honest with ourselves, we all have. It is usually when we're tired, grumpy or were woken up by a parent calling to complain about something we don't really agree with. But there are no excuses. As I've been teaching 10 years, I believe I have few days as a TT if any but there are certainly things I can improve upon

So, today, I'll share a few of the things I think make a teacher terrible.

Stop and Be Excellent
Some of you will be shocked that I've taken my positive tone out of this post. And I do have a positive message. The positive message is that when we go down the path to be a Terrible Teacher that we check ourselves and stop. That we remember our noble calling and be more. That we move ahead and focus on our students. We can't afford to be a terrible teacher to even one student.

Sometimes knowing what to do means we also know what NOT to do.

10- The teacher is always on their cell phone.
I have a new iPhone - today I'm locking it in my desk during class. Sure, I'm usually checking off my list or responding to a question for IT support at my school but my students don't know that. A cell phone in my hand, whatever I'm doing, says that someone out of the room is more important than the people who are in my room. That is a lie. When I'm teaching, they are the most important thing in the room. Nothing should be between me and them.

9 - The teacher is always on the computer or not paying attention.
Multitasking is a lie. You shouldn't be Facebooking, Tweeting, emailing, surfing, reading your PLN or anything during class - even during a test. You should be up and around in your classroom helping and TEACHING. They are paying you to teach, not hang out in a virtual teacher's lounge. Teaching is work. You need to be part of  your class. When you sit down at your desk and disengage with your students, you suck the energy out of your classroom.

I knew a teacher who used to sew on her sewing machine during class. As soon as she started sewing, the class knew they were "free." You are shocked at sewing but I see teachers doing this now with electronic devices. You are paid to be WITH and engaged with your students not doing something else.

8- The teacher is always losing his/her temper or is predictably dramatic.
I lose my temper 2-3 times a year - last year it was twice. Everyone knows it because it is rare. If you're losing your temper a lot you need to figure out why and get help. You might be tired or under a  lot of stress, but you are the adult. There is no reason for you to have to raise your voice or constantly lose your temper. It isn't good for you and it isn't good for the students. Teachers who are bullies should be ashamed of themselves.

The predictably dramatic could be when you get soooooooo mad you jump on your desk. The kids are shocked the first time and get quiet. But then, they start plotting. You have sealed your doom.

7- The Teacher shares private student information publicly
NEVER call grades out loud - even for the top students. It is embarrassing. Don't do it. It is a horrible thing when teachers do this. It is also horrible when you berate them in front of the class for ANYTHING. If you want to lose the respect of your class let them see you treat a classmate - even one they don't like- with disrespect. This isn't a contest and it isn't a reality show. Handle private things privately. Period.

6 - The teacher talks without stopping for more than 10 minutes (especially if monotone.)
Do you realize that after 20 minutes they are asleep? Imagine the principal from Ferris Bueller's day off. This sort of thing will kill the love of learning. Learn to listen for cues and watch for them. When quite a few kids start going to sleep DO SOMETHING. Vary your voice. Have them read. Ask a question. Extended lecture should be viewed as going through the motions of teaching for most students. Sleeping is not an option. I have made an exception when a child is getting over a loss or has something going on in their family but typically this is a no no for me.

5 - The Teacher only teaches with one method
Worksheets are so hard for many children. I have one child who really doesn't learn a thing from them. When a teacher sticks to only one modality he/she will teach the children who learn through that modality and everyone else will be "bad students." We can differentiate and we can use multiple modalities. Wanda the One Note Worksheet Wonder will kill the love of learning in a class of students who are auditory learners. Likewise if you only assess learning with tests, you're missing the point and you're probably also missing the learning that could happen.

4 - The teacher who only teaches "good" students and lets the "bad" students do their own thing.
You May Not Elect to Fail
Let me tell you something. A "good" student can learn alone in a room with a book and doesn't need a teacher. A good teacher can make a good student into a great one. But a good teacher also works to reach every child.

I know of a child with a significant LD who is now one of the most successful thoracic surgeons I know. I now an incredibly gifted graphic designers who has some of the leading Fortune 100 companies knocking on her door but was made to feel like an idiot because she couldn't diagram sentences in middle school. Good teachers work to reach and teach all children. If you only want to work with "good" students then I'm happy that you have such a great teaching environment but the reality of most of our classrooms is that we have some kids who could go either way. I teach only good students because I believe all of my students are great. I get what I believe and expect.

3 - The teacher who teaches the same every year without changing.
I know a math teacher who fought getting a new book because it would mean making out new tests and this person had been using the same tests for over 15 years. Some students don't get a subject and need some extra help and assessment and others don't. When I teach binary numbers, some years I can cover it in 2 days and others it takes 7. It depends on the students.

2- The Teacher whose words mean nothing.
Imagine the traffic policeman who just stood by the road, wagging his finger, and yelling at cars for speeding.

"Slow down .... now... now.."
"I said slow down."

This officer would become a joke because there is no teeth in his actions. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be consistent. But don't lie to them. Don't threaten with no follow through but if you're threatening a lot, then why? Why should you count? Your word should be enough.

1- Hate your students
Why are you teaching if this is you? When you talk poorly about a student it does get back to your student eventually. I don't respect teachers who I think have a vendetta against a particular student. I admit I've had 3 in my teaching career who were especially hard for me to love. But I had to adjust my own attitude and know that even if that child's goal was to get me, that I was above it. I am an adult doing an important job and I will behave nobly. No one can take away my nobility but me.


When you mess up, fess up.

I had a student earlier in the year that I felt I embarrassed. I was very upset about it. I didn't mean to, I saw her blush and realized it after the fact. I found her later and apologized. She tried to let me out of it but I said,

"You are important to me and I think I embarrassed you. You need to know you can trust me and I will do everything in my power to never do it again. I am so sorry, it wasn't intentional. Will you forgive me?"

I already had a good relationship with that student but now it is a great one. I treasure her and she knows she can trust me. I think that because I admitted this to her and was human about it, she was willing to forgive me. I'm so glad I did. Do you have a student you need to apologize to? Do it.

Photo purchased from IStock Photo - all rights reserved.
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