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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great Summer Reading

Read two great books this summer that really got me thinking about the way we view our students.  Room by Emma Donoghue really made me think about how each child, teacher and parent views the world from their own perspective that should be considered when you are trying to work through problems together.   The Glass Castle a book by and about Jeanette Walls made me wonder if any of my students do not have food to eat or a place to sleep.  Some of our students come with such baggage that we are not often privy to.  I think that developing empathy and seeing other perspectives are key elements to good teaching. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Does Spelling Count?

Does spelling count?  That used to be the big question.  What students meant was “will you be taking off points for misspelled words?”  While using technology in class now, the question is essentially, “do we have to spell words right on purpose?”  I frequently use an online discussion tool.  Many students use text speak and emoticons whenever they are using an online tool in their personal lives, be it social media or mobile.  Students have learned a variety of ways to make their words become their voice, including emoticons, CAPITAL LETTERS, and lots of punctuation!!!!!!  Some teachers allow that style of writing while using online discussion tools because it increases their excitement and engagement with the tool, freeing them to “learn the way they live,”    Other educators feel that if you are using the tool for a class students should be practicing proper writing skills at all times, including spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, etc. What do you think?  Does digital writing count?

Summer school and technology

This recent article in Edweek addresses the fact that quality teacher’s need to be recruited for summer school work.  Quality teachers have quality ideas and methods.  Technology is a great hook for some of our reluctant learners and it seems to me that it should be more accessible (less competition) for teachers in the summer school programs.  However, I have this vision that technology may be essentiallly turned off during the summer months as computers get updated, re-imaged and stored away.  I also fear that some summer school teachers may not plan on using technology because they may think they are not working with responsible kids, making it a risky lesson for them.  What a missed opportunity!

Should it be legal for middle school kids to use Facebook?

When I asked a group of 7th graders how many of them had a Facebook page, more than half their hands went up.  When I asked how many of them were 13 or older, there were far fewer hands.  I had my students watch this video and use this new scenario:  “Should middle school students be allowed to use Facebook?” on the SCAN tool at TregoED.    I am using this as a prompt for a persuasive essay.  We could use your other points of view!

ISTE Keynote Highlights- what does the brain have to do with thinking/learning?

Great presentation by Dr. John J. Medina, molecular biologist, who laughingly wondered by ISTE would select someone from his field as they are not well known for exciting keynotes.  With great humor and energy, he made the following points:
1.  We know very little about how the brain works.
2.  Mythbuster alert:  what we do know is not always right - for example, we do not only use 10% of our brains, there is not a left brain, right brain dichotomy.
3.  Every brain is wired differently from every other brain and learns in ways unique to the wiring.
4. Every brain is wired differently from every other brain and learns in ways unique to the wiring. (Yes, I put that twice because it is important)
5.  What is obvious to you is obvious to you.
6.  Theory of mind (google ToM) can be active or passive and is sometimes referred to as empathy.  It is the one characteristic that can determine is a teacher will be successful.  It is the ability to look at a child and know that you have confused them or excited them, etc.  Can we teach a computer to do this?  Would we want a computer to do this?
7.  The emotional stability of the home is the biggest predictor of academic success.
8.  If he were to design a school based on what we know- students would wear uniforms (and they would be gym clothes) because it has been shown that aerobic exercise increases learning.
9.  His school would have a full aerobic program with pockets of time inbetween for learning (ironic - we do just the opposite now).
10.  Men are from Mars, women are from Venus
11.  There is a chemical called Kryptochrome which is the guardian of our sleep schedule.  Blue light (often given off by our electronics) can disrupt the chemical which may disrupt our sleep schedule.  This has the potential for problems for some of our students.
12.  What did I miss.......