Sunday, November 28, 2010

grading papers

Well, the Thanksgiving holiday break comes to a close today so I'm going to spend the rest of the day working on grading papers. I have to say that teaching never feels like a "job" except when I have to go through the drudgery of "grading." It just seems as if we should have come up with better forms of assessment by now. The one size fits all worksheet, quiz, multiple choice exam, just doesn't feel authentic to me and it never has. Besides, once all the grades are in that's when the real massaging of the numbers begins- classroom participation, extra credit, etc...
Technology should really be answering this question for us. The days of bubble sheets are hopefully numbered. I want to see technology leveraged in a way that frees teachers from the "marking blues" and gets rid of the "red pen syndrome." Data should be driving our decisions when it comes to curriculum design and lesson ideas. I want a data tracking system that shows me what every student in the classroom knows with regard to my course objectives. I want this data to show me when I need to reteach and when students need refreshers. I want pinpoint accuracy- "Johnny knows objective 1.01 but he didn't get 1.02." When we get to this point with technology then you can free teachers to really teach and to personalize the learning for every student.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Posting from an iPad

As I mentioned in an earlier post, our school recently purchased several Ipads. Right now I am sitting in a comfortable chair in my home study and I am typing out this post on the onscreen keyboard of the iPad. The keyboard is fairly intuitive as it tries to guess what I really mean and autocorrect my mistakes but it is going to take some time for me to get used to typing things in this manner. I guess that's really true of a lot of new technology though and it has never stopped me before. There is always a learning curve and some things may seem very weird the first few times that we try them. Eventually though, we begin to master the new ways of doing things and it becomes easy and we wonder what the big deal was in the beginning. As teachers, I think it is very important that we try new things and that we remember what it feels like to be a novice. We have to be able to go out on a limb if we expect students to be able to do so. It's funny that we often want our students to take chances but so few teachers are also willing to do just that.
So remember to try something new as often as you can. Even if you are sitting in a comfortable chair...

Monday, November 22, 2010


today many people across the globe who are interested in educational reforms are writing about it as part of the #blog4reform day. i figured i would jettison my 2 cents worth out into the blogosphere and see if i could start some conversation of my own.
before we begin to talk about reform though, we need to ask ourselves "what is the purpose of education?" i think we would have many different opinions and answers to that question. is the purpose of education to prepare students for jobs? to be good citizens? so that they will be informed? there are as many answers to the question as there are ways to reform education. we need to start with that.
when we talk about reforming education, are we really talking about reforming schools? because "education" is in the process of a makeover already. i can learn about anything with access to a computer. want to know how to build a treehouse? there are videos and plans online. need to learn a foreign language? there are programs available that can help you do just that. education is changing even as we speak. schools should echo those changes that are already taking place.
so after we figure out the purpose of education we figure out how to redesign schools around our answer. we keep in mind the architectural principle that form follows function and we begin to see what schools should look like. if schools are meant to prepare people for jobs then we design curriculum that prepares students for the jobs that they will have in the future. we get rid of the vestiges of the industrial age. no bells. a flexible schedule. no seat time requirements. we focus on creativity. we focus on teamwork. we focus on production. we use data to inform our decisions. we build relationships.
if the purpose of education is to make better citizens, we concentrate on civic education, real world solutions for real world problems. we build schools that are problem based schools and we strive to make our students expert problem solvers. they understand their place in the world and realize that superman isn't coming to save us. they realize that it is up to them to make the world a better place. we make character education a big part of what schools do and we talk about what it means to be a citizen of the world.
if the purpose of school is to inform citizens then we spend lots of time looking at information and trying to decide what that information means. we scour the news, we learn historical concepts, we look for trends in data and we push students to become lifelong learners in their search for knowledge. we teach them what it means to be thinkers and how to dissect arguments and how to search for truth.
so i don't know exactly what the school of the future looks like but i do know some of the important ideas for those schools to focus on. i do know where to begin.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ipads new to our school

on monday of this week, our school received three ipads that we had ordered. since then, we have been investigating the use of ipads in school. i have received many helpful hints and ideas for apps that were "must have" from my PLN. granted we are only in day 3 really of the testing but i have a few early observations.

#1. what good is an ipad as an instructional device if i can't show the app through a projector to all my students? i mean, there are some really cool apps out there but it doesn't make one bit of sense if i can display those apps to a crowd. gathering 24 students around the ipad just doesn't work. come on. there has to be an easy way to mirror the ipad display.

#2. tweetdeck on the ipad is about as cool as it gets. can't say enough about this app. it just works the way all things should work on an apple product. apple spends a large amount of time thinking about design and making things intuitive on their own software. tweetdeck has taken this into account and the app is just smooth.

#3. when e-textbooks on the ipad become as cool as wired magazine on the ipad we will no longer have students overburdened and weighted down with book bags. i need a team of software people over here right now. let me design an e-textbook for us history that is native to the ipad and i will put every other textbook company out of business. for sure.

like i said, we've only had these things for a couple of days and i'm sure that there is much more to learn. i'm sure that some of you out there will let me know if i am in error with any of the above. so far, i can see many uses for the ipad in education but i don't think we have even scratched the surface of the way this thing should scale in usage. once software types really begin to figure it out, every student in america is going to want one of these and schools may be willing to buy them for them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

trying it again

read a great article by dean shareski this morning at huffington post and it made me think about getting back to blogging.  you can read the article here.  dean makes some great points and it made me decide to get off my butt and try some more blogging.  i guess i had just gotten to the point that the blog felt like more work that i had to do.  i was never really into it because i don't think i really had an idea of what i wanted to say and what i wanted to talk about.  but now i'm going to try it again.

i think most of the problems with the blog were in my head.  i kept thinking that blog posts had to be long and that each of them should have some well defined reason to exist.  and maybe they do for some people and maybe that will happen eventually here.  but it isn't going to happen today.  

the reality of it all is that maybe i just need a place to write about school-type things.  maybe i don't need that writer's filter all the time.  maybe sometimes i just have to muse to myself about what is going on and maybe, just maybe, other people will want to comment on those musings.  maybe if you just write it, the comments will come.  and the comments and the reflection are really where it's at when it comes to a blog.  you know i could be having this conversation with myself in my head and it would probably do me some good.  but it is the sharing of ideas and thoughts that lead to us pushing ourselves in new directions.  and that's really what we want to do.  so here's to yet another promise to write some more and to reflect some more and hopefully this time it sticks.