If a student values education, he will overcome much

November 13, 2013

But, really: See what some students put up with, just to learn?

We usually had enough chairs in Dallas.  Usually.

Those kids don’t have any.


Oops. Future of education already here; reformers missed it (and so did most teachers)

October 17, 2013

You need to see these slides, from Will Richardson.

First, teachers should send a copy of this to their evaluators, principals, and all other admins up to the superintendent.  Sure, it’s possible they’ll fire you for telling the truth.  But if every teacher in your district did it, they might look at the slides and ponder:  What in the hell do our evaluations and test scores have to do with this new future that is already upon us, and around us, and washing away the foundations of what the state legislature claims we must be doing?

Will Richardson

Will Richardson

Second, this is a model presentation.  Notice how few of the slides are cluttered with words.  Notice those slides with words are easy to read, easy to grasp, and complement and are complemented by a lot of great images.  (One of my students got a less-than-A grade on a PowerPoint presentation in another class, and brought me the evaluation:  “Not enough text,” was one of the criticisms he’d gotten.  That teacher is considered a model by too many administrators.)  It’s not a perfect presentation.  Garr Reynolds would have a lot to say about it.  I’ll wager Richardson’s is better than any other presentation you’ve seen this week, in the content, the depth of information, and the way it’s packaged.  (Would have loved to have seen the presentation . . .)  That is particularly true if you’ve been the victim of teacher professional development sessions in the past week.

There are a lot of slides, partly because so few of them are cluttered by text.  (Don’t know how long the presentation went.)  This presentation would win a case against almost every other slide presentation I’ve ever seen from any law firm, who pay tens of thousands to lawyers to make slide presentations that defy understanding.  The world would be ever so much better were lawyers required to watch this, and compare it with their last presentation.

Third (related to and justifying the first), you need to realize how things have changed in the past year, past five years, past decade, and how we as a society and nation failed to account for those changes, or keep up with them, especially in our public AND private elementary and secondary schools.  Richardson understands the changes, and has some great leads on answers.

This presentation appears to have been a hit.  It seems a few people asked Will Richardson for copies (@WillRich45, www.willrichardson.com), which is why it’s on Slideshare.

Richardson highlights the importance of these thoughts at his blog:

If the recent iPad debacle in Los Angeles teaches us anything it’s that no amount of money and technology will change anything without a modern vision of what teaching and learning looks like when every student and every teacher has access to the Internet. As many of us have been saying for far too long, our strategy to deal with the continuing explosion of technology and connections can’t be to simply layer devices on top of the traditional curriculum and engage in digital delivery. Unfortunately, far too few develop a vision that sees that differently.

*     *     *     *     *

Please note: Technology is integrated throughout these initiatives in ways that serve the vision, not the other way around. This isn’t “let’s give everyone an iPad filled with a lot of textbook and personalized learning apps aimed at improving test scores and then figure out how to manage it.” This is about having important conversations around complex, difficult questions:

  • What will schools look like in the future?
  • What kinds of spaces do we need to support instruction and collaborative work in 5-10 years?
  • How will technology transform curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

And how does it work at your school, teachers?  Students?

We missed the revolution.  The kids are ahead of us.

Can  we catch up?

More:


Darrell’s corollaries of education + technology: No good work goes unpunished, most opportunities missed

January 27, 2013

Aristotle, and his pupil Alexander

Does this 19th century engraving show the perfect learning situation? Alexander had no iPhone, no laptop; Aristotle used no PowerPoint, no grading machines, not even a chalkboard. Have we come a long way, or is this a measure of how far we’ve fallen? “Aristotle and his pupil, Alexander (c. 340 BCE)” (original source?)

David Warlick‘s blog serves up a lot of stuff to make teachers think (cynically, I wonder whether education administrators can be shoved into thinking at all . . . but I digress).

David Warlick

David Warlick, in a taxi in Shanghai, probably off at some education conference or other.

Recently he pondered his own son’s use of several different kinds of media at once.  In a longer discussion that would be worth your while, someone asked, “Has the nature of information influenced the emerging ‘appropriate technologies’ like the digital learning object called an iBook?”  David responded:

My knee-jerk response is, “Not nearly enough.” This current push toward digital textbooks, urged on by our Secretary of Education, concerns me. I worry that we’re engaged in a race to modernize schooling, rather than a sober and thoughtful imagining and designing of learning materials and practices that are more relevant to today’s learners (ourselves include), today’s information landscape and a future that has lost the comforts of certainty, but become rich with wondrous opportunities.

What I enjoyed, though, about my experience in publishing an iBook was learning to hack some features into the book that were not part of Apples general instructions for using their publishing tool. This is the ultimate opportunity of digital learning objects and environments, that they can be hacked into new and better learning experiences by information artisans who see what’s there and what it can become.

In a cynical mood, I commented on an earlier statement Warlick made, about how technology has changed the education landscape:

“… we live in a time of no unanswered questions.”

BUT:

1.  The internet and especially portable devices have exponentially increased the probability that difficult questions will be answered incorrectly.

2.  For teachers, no longer is it possible to ask a simple, factual question as a teaser to get students to search for the answer, and thereby learn something deeper along the way.  Portable computer devices present one more non-print medium in which education appears to be abdicating its duties, and the war.  (We missed radio, film, television, recorded television, and desk-top computing; now we’re missing portable devices.)

English: Cropped picture of Jaime Escalante

Legendary AP calculus teacher Jaime Escalante; pencil, paper, chalkboard and chalk, maybe a slide rule, made up his technology kit. Photo: Wikipedia

3.  No question goes unanswered, but what is really rare is a question that is worth answering; even more rare, that good question that can be answered well from free internet sources.

Darrell’s Education Technology Corollary:  When administrators and policy makers tell educators (especially teachers) they wish to utilize “new technology,” they mean they want new ways to figure out ways to fire teachers, because they don’t have a clue how technology can be used in education, nor have they thought broadly enough about what education is.

Darrell’s Education Technology Corollary Corollary: When a teacher effectively uses technology in a classroom, it will be at the teacher’s instigation, the teacher’s expense, and administrators will get revenge on the teacher for having done so.

I’ve wondered whether I wasn’t too cynical; David offered a solid response.

A couple of weeks later, my cynicism is growing.  I’m warning you, teachers, you adopt new technologies at your risk, often — especially in some school districts like Dallas ISD.

It’s a caution only.  Teachers, being teachers, will continue to push the envelopes, as Fionna Larcom related at Warlick’s blog.  Good on ‘em.  One out of 500,000 will get accolades outside the education system, like Jaime Escalante did.  Many others will face reprimand.

But if education is to improve, this experimentation by teachers must continue.  So teachers slog on, under-appreciated and often opposed in their attempts to fix things.

Someday a school system will figure out how to unlock teachers’ creativity, knowledge and skills.  Not soon enough.

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos.  Photo: Wikipedia

(Can someone explain to me how Warlick’s blog, with much better stuff than I do here, gets fewer hits?  Teachers, not enough of you are reading broadly enough.)

More, not necessarily the opinion of this blog:


Infographics creation by students, as a tool of learning

May 13, 2012

Infographic-a-Day describes this TEDx video (I added the links):

Perhaps one of the bigest and most listened to advocates of using infographics and data vis in the classroom is Diana Laufinberg, from The Science Leadership Academy. Diana, a History teacher, is a long time user of geographic information systems (GIS). She has recently, however, started helping her students to create their own infographics from complex issues that are part of her course of study and/or part of current events.

Here is a video of Diana’s talk at a recent TEDx…

Tip of the old scrub brush to David Warlick at 2¢ Worth.


Teachers, look! Cheaper, fun way to get giant whiteboards

June 30, 2011

It’s a great idea, but I didn’t even dare think it possible

We’ve had blackboard paint for at least a century.  Teachers at our school sometimes paint their closet doors, or part of a wall, to use as a chalkboard.

I prefer whiteboards, though.

Watching Neil deGrasse Tyson on Nova:  Science Now, I caught a reference to a researcher whose lab walls are all painted with “dry-erase” paint.  (The NOVA piece is the episode on how the brain works; this segment deals with researcher David Eagleman.)

Is that even possible?

Quick answer: Yes!

Check out applications ideas at IdeaPaint’s blog.

Lowe’s carries IdeaPaint, the stuff displayed in the graphic above.  It isn’t as cheap as other paint, but compared to the cost of a whiteboard, it’s pretty good.  RustOleum manufactures a version available at Home Depot and other outlets.  It’s advertised as cheap as $20 per kit online, but runs as high as $40.  One kit covers about 49 square feet (7 feet by 7 feet).  I’ve found at least five different manufacturers of the stuff, with different features.

I haven’t calculated prices (at about $3.25/square foot), but there are also dry-erase skins which can be applied to any wall — with the added advantage that the product claims to be erasable for virtually any marker, including Sharpies® and other permanent markers.   One manufacturer offers skins in clear, to allow underlying paint colors to show through, and white, and says it will match colors on a whole-roll basis (pricey, I’ll wager).

Uses for math and writing should be obvious — think about those mural-sized wall maps in a geography or history class, covered with clear, dry-erase paint . . .

Wouldn’t it be great if school districts had architects, or instruction coaches, who knew about this stuff and could help us keep up in the technology and tool wars/sweepstakes?

More, resources:  

  • Dry-erase painting at Charlestown (state? Massachusetts?) schools:
  • Case study from Milford High, Milford, Massachusetts
  • Case study, Dever-McCormack School, Boston school district
  • Evernote software teams with IdeaPaint . . . look at the video

Yellowstone, Land to Life — a film to free from bondage

March 20, 2011

Yes, it’s a tease.  Drat.  Just a trailer for the film.

But how exquisite is just the trailer!

Yellowstone National Park Orientation Film (excerpt) from Northern Light Productions on Vimeo.

Northern Light Productions made the film for the “Canyon Visitor Education Center in Yellowstone National Park. The film offers a compelling overview of the ‘big picture’ geology that has shaped and continues to influence Yellowstone and its ecosystem.”

Big picture geology?  How about making this film available to schools to talk about geology, geography, and history?

Yellowstone National Park annually gets about three million visitors.  Yellowstone is one of those places that ever American should see — but at that rate, it would be more than 100 years before everybody gets there.

We need good, beautifully shot, well-produced, interesting films on American landmarks in the classroom.

How do we get this one freed for America’s kids, Yellowstone Park?


Wow (in metaphor)

August 7, 2010

You should be using this tool, don’t you think?

(WordPress doesn’t support embedding this player — you’ll have to go see for yourself — it’s worth the click.)

One more way to make outstanding presentations; one more way to get students involved in rationally-active, brain-intensive, graphic organizers.

One tool I picked up in a session with Learning.com earlier this week.

(See also “Thoughts on using Prezi as a teaching tool.”)

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Stealth creationists aim to mess up biology students

July 15, 2010

So, God is a platypus?

Appearing to be aware they are losing the battle of the classroom to real science, creationists have taken a sneakier way to undermine science education.  P. Z. Myers explains:

A lot of people have been writing to me about this free webgame, CellCraft. In it, you control a cell and build up all these complex organelles in order to gather resources and fight off viruses; it’s cute, it does throw in a lot of useful jargon, but the few minutes I spent trying it were also a bit odd — there was something off about it all.

Where do you get these organelles? A species of intelligent platypus just poofs them into existence for you when you need them. What is the goal? The cells have a lot of room in their genomes, so the platypuses are going to put platypus DNA in there, so they can launch them off to planet E4R1H to colonize it with more platypuses. Uh-oh. These are Intelligent Design creationist superstitions: that organelles didn’t evolve, but were created for a purpose; that ancient cells were ‘front-loaded’ with the information to produced more complex species; and that there must be a purpose to all that excess DNA other than that it is junk.

Suspicions confirmed. Look in the credits.

Also thanks to Dr. Jed Macosko at Wake Forest University and Dr. David Dewitt at Liberty University for providing lots of support and biological guidance.

Those two are notorious creationists and advocates for intelligent design creationism. Yep. It’s a creationist game. It was intelligently designed, and it’s not bad as a game, but as a tool for teaching anyone about biology, it sucks. It is not an educational game, it is a miseducational game. I hope no one is planning on using it in their classroom. (Dang. Too late. I see in their forums that some teachers are enthusiastic about it — they shouldn’t be).

No such thing as a free lunch.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Free software for use in educating kids about biology, sounds too good to be true.

_____________

In comments, Lars Doucet disavows creationist intent.  So the creationist/intelligent design factors were added just to make the game more playable, and not as an attempt to introduce or endorse creationism or intelligent design.

Lots of discussion, much of it rude (some of it delightfully so), at Myers’ joint.

Maybe, if the makers didn’t intend to make a creationist stealth game, they could jigger the thing to make it more accurate?


Newseum’s interactive map of today’s headlines

June 2, 2010

This is cool.

Pam Harlow, an old friend from American Airlines, and a map and travel buff, e-mailed me with a link to the Newseum’s interactive headline map.  I can’t get a good screen shot to show you — so you gotta go to their site and see it for yourself.

When it comes up in your browser, it features a map of the continental 48 states, with dots marking major daily newspapers across the nation.  Put your pointer on any of those dots and you see the front page of the newspaper for today from that city.

Using the buttons at the top of the map, you can check newspapers on every continent except Antarctica.

How can I use this in class?

Update:  Here’s a screen shot of the Newseum feature:

Newseum's interactive front-page feature - showing the front page of the Idaho Statesman-Journal of Pocatello, Idaho, on December 15, 2013

Newseum’s interactive front-page feature –  on December 15, 2013


Watch my presentation or I’ll shoot this dog . . .

May 20, 2010

National Lampoon once ran a cover of a nice, spotted mutt, tongue out, looking sideways at a pistol pointing at its head.  There was a sort of a caption:  “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

That’s one way to try to boost circulation!  I first saw the magazine on the rack in a small pharmacy in Colorado Springs, across the street from Colorado College, between rounds of the Colorado College Invitational Debate Tournament.  Being short of cash and in sore need of eye drops, I looked at the magazine but put it back on the rack.  The woman at the cash register watched me carefully.  When I got to the register, she said, “You know, they’ll do it, too!  They’re just the sort of people who will kill that poor dog!”

(I imagine that woman has led Colorado Springs’ dramatic move to the right in politics.)

The publishers got that woman’s attention, didn’t they?

Cartoon by Mark Goetz, on the failure to heed Edward Tufte

Comes an article in The Scientist, “Pimp your PowerPoint.” It’s a news story based on a book by Michael Alley.

In the middle of the 19th century blackboards were all the rage. According to Pennsylvania State University engineering communication professor Michael Alley, it was common for universities and research institutions to proudly advertise that they had the only slate writing board in a 100-mile radius. Scientific lectures became more engaging than they’d ever been.

More than 150 years later, there’s still room for improvement. “People are not anywhere close to tapping the potential that a PowerPoint presentation offers,” Alley says. “We have a tool that can do an incredible amount, and people just waste it.” Who hasn’t been lulled into a somnolent state by some well-intentioned scientist presenting his research to a captive audience by reading a seemingly endless stream of bullet points?

Any media, done well, can be wonderful.  P. Z. Myers’ paean to Prof. Snider and his color chalk artworks reminds us that even a chalkboard can be a place of art, in the eye and hands of someone who gives thought to the work and practices the skills necessary to communicate well.  Looking around my classroom today, I note that better than half the whiteboard space features paper maps held to the board with magnets (which the kids like to steal).

Sometimes a flipchart is all you have, and sometimes a flipchart is all you really need — again, with thought to the ideas to be presented and a bit of polishing of the skills.

The piece in The Scientist relates useful ideas to help somebody who wants to make a better, less sleep-inducing, communicative PowerPoint (or better, maybe, KeyNote) presentation.

Unplug, think, and write
According to Galloway, using PowerPoint to make a great presentation starts with powering down the laptops and writing out an outline on index cards or a legal pad. “People have to shut off their computer and go away as they’re writing their PowerPoint presentation,” he says.

Establish your assertion
Alley says that he starts planning each slide by writing down a single sentence stating the idea he wants the audience to take away. “You have defined what it is you need to support that statement,” he says. “That’s where it starts.” Alley adds that the sentence should only take one or two lines, should consist of only 8–14 words, and should appear in 28-point font when inserted in the final PowerPoint presentation.

Assemble the visual evidence
Let the assertion sentence for each slide guide your decision as to which visuals should accompany it. Use “explanatory images”—not decorative or descriptive images—to support each assertion, says Joanna Garner, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. When describing the context or methods of your research, photos and movies are ideal pieces of evidence; when presenting your results, elements like graphs, tables, or charts (appropriately highlighted to emphasize key points) will do the trick.

Read more: Pimp your PowerPoint – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/templates/trackable/display/article1.jsp?type=article&o_url=article/display/57186&id=57186#ixzz0oSXiXCT6

Two things you gotta have first:  Something to say, and a desire to say it well.

Resources:

The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid, by Michael Alley, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2003. $39.95.

Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations, by Garr Reynolds, New Riders Publishing, 2010. $31.49.

slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte, O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, Calif., 2008. $34.99. (She’s got a blog, too.)

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte, Graphics Press, Cheshire, Conn., 1983. $40.00.


Teaching Now, new blog

April 29, 2010

It’s from the folks at Education Week and Teacher magazine:  Teaching Now.

You may want to see the entry a couple of days ago about a school who issued cell phones to fifth grade students, and why.

Or note this story that Broward County, Florida, is hacking away at salaries for librarians and teachers of art, music and physical education.


What if the old curmudgeon teaching economics married that cute, brainy geography teacher?

April 23, 2010

Or, was it the cute curmudgeon teaching econ and the old cartographer in geography?

I think I’ll add this to my TAKS review.  What other classroom uses can you find for it?

I found it at Cool InfoGraphics.

Seriously, geography and economics teachers, this is big stuff:

Follow the Money” is a video summarizing the results from the project by Northwestern University grad students Daniel Grady and Christian Thiemann.  Using data from the website Where’s George?, they have been able to track the movement of U.S. paper currency.  What can you learn from this?  That there are natural borders within the U.S. that don’t necessarily follow state borders, and it can also be used to predict the spread of disease because it maps movement of people within the U.S.

From Maria Popova on BrainPickings.org: This may sound like dry statistical uninterestingness, but the video visualization of the results is rather eye-opening, revealing how money — not state borders, not political maps, not ethnic clusters — is the real cartographer drawing our cultural geography.  The project was a winner at the 2009 Visualization Challenge sponsored by the National Science Foundation and AAA.

Tip of the old scrub brush to VizWorld and Maitri’s VatulBlog


You’re not using this technology in your classroom?

April 12, 2010

Here’s another opportunity to put real, cutting edge technology in your classroom.  In fact, your kids could probably invent all sorts of new uses for it.

Have you even heard of this stuff?  Can you use it, live, with the equipment you’ve got?

Blaise Aguera y Arcas  of MicroSoft demonstrated augmented-reality maps using the power of Bing maps, Flickr, Worldwide Telescope, Video overlays and Photosynth, to an appreciative and wowed audience at TEDS:

My prediction:  One more advance in computer technology that classrooms will not see in a timely or useful manner.

But have you figured out how to use this stuff in your geography, history, economics or government classes?  Please tell us about it in comments. Give examples and links, please.


What if we actually encouraged students to use technology?

February 12, 2010

This is the headline that roped me in, at The New York Times: “Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus into Rolling Study Hall.”

And a short excerpt:

But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops.

Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

What would your bus drivers say?

(File under “If you teach them, they will learn — and behavior problems will fade away.”)

Don’t miss the end of the article:

A ride through mountains on a drizzly afternoon can be unpredictable, even on the Internet Bus. Through the windows on the left, inky clouds suddenly parted above a ridge, revealing an arc of incandescent color.

“Dude, there’s a rainbow!” shouted Morghan Sonderer, a ninth grader.

A dozen students looked up from their laptops and cellphones, abandoning technology to stare in wonder at the eastern sky.

“It’s following us!” Morghan exclaimed.

“We’re being stalked by a rainbow!” Jerod said.

More:


More good rap for the schoolroom: Keynes vs. Hayek

January 26, 2010

This is really good.

It’s a pretty good rundown of the fight between Keynes and Hayek, conducted mostly after Keynes’ death in economics classrooms and central banks world wide.

Watch it, and hope for more soon, at Econstories, the blog of the guys who created the thing, John Papola and Russ Roberts.

Resources:


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