Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Standardized Testing Revolt

Posted by Andrew Churches on February 4, 2013

“This article from The American Prospect is worth a look. It all started when standardized testing took the spotlight in Governor Bush's Texas Miracle. Fast forward to today—after a series of new tests was recently introduced in the state, teachers and parents both are finally calling in Texas for standardized testing to ease up. ”

via The American Prospect

Over the past year, there’s been a steady and ongoing revolt in Texas. Not about secession or guns or the many other fringe topics that the state is usually associated with. This battle has been waged primarily by parents and teachers, and the demand is relatively simple—cut back on testing our kids. There’s been similar sentiments simmering in states across the country, but in Texas a new set of tests, put in place last year, sparked the outcry. Now, the push that began in school board and PTA meetings has finally reached the halls of power.

When the biennial state legislature gaveled in on Tuesday, it didn’t take long for newly re-elected Speaker of the House Joe Straus to mention testing. “By now, every member of this house has heard from constituents at the grocery store or the Little League fields about the burdens of an increasingly cumbersome testing system in our schools,” he said. “Teachers and parents worry that we have sacrificed classroom inspiration for rote memorization. To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing: The Texas House has heard you.”

In Washington, Bush modeled his No Child Left Behind legislation on the state plan, and around the country, testing became an increasingly prominent part of public education.

It’s quite a turnaround for the state that brought standardized testing onto the national agenda. In the 1990s, Governor George W. Bush implemented a series of statewide requirements. Running for president, he claimed the new accountability system led to dramatic improvements, particularly among poor and minority students, calling the results the “Texas Miracle”—though just how miraculous these gains were has since beencalled into question. In Washington, Bush modeled his No Child Left Behind legislation on the state plan, and around the country, testing became an increasingly prominent part of public education.

Now Texas is almost certain to scale back on testing, which has continued to expand since Bush’s time. Currently the state tests kids every year in multiple subjects between third and eighth grade. In fifth and eighth grade, children who fail are automatically held back. High-schoolers must pass a number of class-specific tests to graduate. The state uses the tests to evaluate the students and the schools. Many other states have a similar system, and plenty have gone even farther, using standardized test results to determine teacher performance and the like.

Meanwhile, the state has continued to update its tests. Student achievement has steadily declined under Bush’s successor, Governor Rick Perry, so the answer had to be better tests—right? New ones approved by the legislature in 2009 were widely considered an improvement. But they are also significantly more difficult, and they were scheduled to go into place for the 2011-12 school year—just as the state slashed an unprecedented $5.4 billion from public schools to avoid raising taxes. Many of the programs used to identify and help struggling children were cut from state and local budgets, and teachers were left to teach to a more rigorous test with fewer resources. As the huge cuts went into place, those already frustrated by the emphasis on testing pointed to the state’s $500 million contract with Pearson, the international corporation that does testing. The new tests threatened dire consequences for high-school students—under the new law, 15 percent of their final grade in a class was to be determined by their standardized test score in that subject.

Even before the tests and budget cuts went into effect, it was clear that a backlash was brewing. For rural communities, in particular, the public school is often the heart of the town, providing employment for many and a reason for families not to move away, so concerns about too much testing seemed to take on greater urgency. While most of the national anti-testing rhetoric comes from teachers’ groups and others associated with the left, in Texas rural Republicans took the lead. During the 2011 session, even as lawmakers were gutting education spending, one-third of the state House members, mostly Republicans, supported an amendment from Representative Larry Phillips of the small town of Sherman to get a waiver from the Department of Education and suspend testing for the next two school years. An East Texas GOP member filed a bill to create a total moratorium on standardized testing. Neither effort was successful, but both bills revealed the extent to which lawmakers were beginning to feel pressure from constituents.

By February 2012, the Perry-appointed state commissioner of education shocked the education establishment when he said the state testing system had become a “perversion of its original intent” and needed to be “reel[ed] back in.” Robert Scott, who’s since stepped down from the position, also said the state should not require 15 percent of a high-school student’s grade come from his or her test score. After some back and forth between Scott and the legislature, that requirement was postponed.

Many other states have a similar system, and plenty have gone even farther, using standardized test results to determine teacher performance and the like.

The 15-percent requirement may be struck altogether this year. That’s just one of the proposals to reform testing this session. Others include scaling back all the new testing requirements and changing how schools are assessed based on test scores. Much of the effort will likely come from Republicans—a significant shift from much of the country, where education reform is popular among most Republicans and an increasingly large number of Democrats like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In Texas, more than 800 of the state’s 1,030 school districts have passed resolutions severely criticizing the state’s testing system. You can bet most of those districts consider themselves pretty conservative. Some have pointed to the huge price tags to testing—by 2015, the state will have paid Pearson $1.1 billion for a variety of testing services.

Still, the picture for public schools in Texas is hardly rosy. Easing up testing may be one of the only bright spots for education advocates this year. Texas is last in the nation in per-capita school funding, but despite the enormous cuts from the last legislative session, Perry has urged lawmakers to focus again on tax cuts rather than increasing government spending. An ongoing legal battle over school funding may be the only hope for an increase in money for school districts. Meanwhile, many expect far-right Republican Senator Dan Patrick, the newly appointed chair of education who’s steadily grown a power base of like-minded conservatives, to push hard on measures for vouchers to use public dollars to pay for private schools.

Texas’ shift on testing could well have national repercussions. After all, it did more than any other state to bring the country into an era of Number 2 pencils and filling in bubbles. It might also be the state that leads us out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Student Created Video about Bullying

Hello everyone! My name is Odile Désaulniers, and I am a Secondary 5 student in Quebec City. I created a video about bullying as a personal project. The technique used is stop motion animation, which consists of creating a drawing for each part of a movement and scrolling through them very quickly. For example, in my video, I created 575 drawings which I animated at 5 drawings per second.

To me, bullying is an important topic which is not often given the attention it deserves. It is true that it is talked about often enough, but I have noticed that since it is often talked about, it tends to become part of everyday life and is made less important.

The goal of my video is to make people aware of this cause by making the message memorable. I wanted it to have a bombshell effect in our minds and for all of us to take away a message after watching it: we must act.

Thank you.
Odile Désaulniers

Monday, February 25, 2013

Snow Days

Snow Days have become something of the past until that big storm we had a couple weeks ago.  Check out this time lapse video of that record breaking snow fall and how you can use it to prompt some math discussion and thinking with your students.  Adjustable for any grade level.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Practically Gifted

Thank you to Connie McGregor for sharing Bernie Beales' web resources from his workshop on Giftedness at our November PD Day.  Many of these websites are in our District Numeracy Plan and some are permanently added to the sidebar of this blog for easy use and access for teachers and students.
References and Resources
compiled by Bernard Beales,
Problem of the Week:

Maths Starter of the Day (Australian)

Problem of the Week (Waterloo University)

Math Counts Problem of the Week
Fermi Problems:


How Many Licks? Aaron Santos, Running Press, 2009 ISBN 9780762435609
Math Contests:

The Maple Leaf Math Challenge 


Math Performances:


Independent Math Projects:


Counter Intuitive Math Problems:

Gifted and Talented Education

General Math Enrichment Ideas:

NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)


Figure This

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Learning Goals and Success Criteria in Math

Learning Goals and Success Criteria in Math

Nya:weh to Candy Browatzke for sharing this blog post about the tricky nature of using Learning Goals and Success Criteria in a math lesson.  Obviously, the discovery and exploration of math needs to be preserved, so explicitly stating what we want to see students do upfront sort of defeats the purpose of constructing their own learning and concept discovery.

Often this leads to a fail safe method of using the Mathematical Processes as the success critera for the lesson.  We want to see students engaged in the processes in their learning of mathematics, and by doing so we can have them reflect on the criteria we want to see and hear from them as they problem solve.

I'll be checking into this blog more as this post that Candy shared seems just the tip of some great math discussion on the GECDSB Math Coaching blog.

Turnitin Webcasts

Here's a link to some upcoming Turnitin webcasts on a variety of topics from assessment to writing to engagment and plagarism.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

We Need to Teach Students Sound Research Sources


While the internet has been a boon for information access and availability, three out of four educators strongly agree that "search engines have conditioned students to expect to be able to find information quickly and easily," according to a Pew Internet & American Life Project study entitled, How Teens Do Research in the Digital World.

Most of the advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project teachers in this study said students are "very likely" to use Google, Wikipedia, and social media sites for typical research assignments.

  • Google or other online search engine (94%)
  • Wikipedia or other online encyclopedia (75%)
  • Social media sites (52%)
  • Their peers (42%)
  • Study guides (41%)
  • News sites (25%)
  • Print or electronic textbooks (18%)
  • Online research databases (17%)
  • A research librarian at their school or public library (16%)
  • Printed books other than textbooks (12%)
  • Student-oriented search engines(10%)
    * Pew Internet & American Life Project
This is consistent with findings from Turnitin's recent research that analyzes the most frequently matched Internet sources (released in January) which show that Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers, and eNotes were the top three among secondary students. At the college and university level, the top three were Wikipedia, OPPapers (a paper mill), and SlideShare. Learn more about this study:

Spacer SE Infographic Spacer HE Infographic

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Power of "Yet"

The Power of "Yet" Julie McNamara author of Beyond Pizzas & Pies: 10 Essential Strategies for Supporting Fraction Sense, Grades 3–5
published by Math Solutions

On a recent walk through my neighborhood I came across a father teaching his young son how to ride a bicycle. The father was holding on to the bike as the boy sat atop the seat, gripping the handlebars tightly. It appeared that the father was much more confident in the boy’s ability to learn to ride on his own than his son, as the boy clearly was not ready for his dad to let go of the bike. As I walked by them I heard the father say, "Don't worry, I won't let go until you're ready to ride on your own." Panicked, the boy responded, "OK, but promise you won’t let go. I CAN'T do it by myself!"

The panic and frustration were evident in the boy's voice, and dad appeared to be getting a bit discouraged as well. It was all I could do to hold myself back from walking over and whispering one little word in the boy's ear—"Yet." The boy was absolutely right. He couldn’t ride the bike by himself—yet. I yearned to let him know that just because he couldn’t do it yet, that didn’t mean that he’d never be able to. I wanted to tell him that none of us could ride a bike before we could, and then once we could we were on our way (literally and figuratively). I also wanted to tell him that he might not be very good at it at first but with enough practice and desire he’d be flying on his own before he knew it. I was a little worried that he would get discouraged if he wasn’t riding like an expert right away. I think we, meaning parents, teachers, and in Vygotsky's terms the "more capable peers" (Vygotsky 1978) often think that telling someone who is trying to learn to do something we're already accomplished at is easy. This trivializes both the efforts of the person who is trying to learn the new thing, and the "thing" being learned. A former student of mine shared this sentiment with me years ago, "Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first." I've never forgotten this phrase and it's reminded me through the years that lots of wonderful things that we learn to do throughout our lives may first seem insurmountable, but as long as we keep plugging along, sometimes through trial and error, often with a lot of help and maybe a few tears, we can do most of what we set our minds to. In addition, if we limit ourselves to only those things that are really easy to do right off the bat, we seriously limit our possibilities.

As I continued on my walk my thoughts, as they often do, turned to the teaching and learning of mathematics. Mathematics instruction in the U.S. has been characterized as "a mile wide and an in inch deep." Because of this, teachers are often pushed to cover topics at a breakneck speed, leaving students with the impression that mathematics is more about speed and application of the correct procedure than reasoning and sense-making. Years ago Alan Schoenfeld, a professor in both the Mathematics Department and Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley, found that high school students generally think that if they can't solve a math problem within ten minutes, they won't be able to solve it at all (Schoenfeld 1985). To this day a typical math class in the U.S. starts with the teacher showing students exactly how to solve a particular type of problem, followed by students applying the procedure they just learned to similar problems, and then checking their answers and doing more of the same types of problems for homework. Nowhere in this scenario do students learn to approach mathematics in terms of "What I can do now" and "What I can't do yet." The idea of trying different approaches and sticking with a problem over time, maybe coming back to it after some time has passed, is absent in most American math classes.

The first of the eight Mathematical Practices from the Common Core State Standards says that students "Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them” (CCSSI 2010). In order for students to be able to do this, students and teachers alike need to begin to think in terms of "yet." This means that students have to be prepared to engage in a fair amount of what Cathy Seeley calls "constructive struggling" (Seeley 2009) and teachers have to be prepared to allow them to do so. As Seeley writes, "we sometimes spoon-feed our students too much information and ask too little of them in return," (p. 89). In essence, we don't allow them to struggle or have the opportunity to push through something challenging and feel the satisfaction of accomplishing (or being on the way to accomplishing) something difficult.

What does this mean for American teachers and students? It means that we all need to shift our perspective of what it means to be a good math teacher from one who carefully provides students step-by-step procedures to one who provides students with opportunities to engage with rich mathematical tasks and a bit of "constructive struggling." It also means that we have to shift our perspective of what it means to be a good math learner from one who can memorize rules and apply algorithms without thinking to one who expects mathematics to make sense and is willing to stick with a task until it is understood. This may seem like a daunting endeavor…it is! As with many things that are worth doing, it's going to take time, effort, trial and error, a lot of help, and maybe even a few tears. But please don’t despair if you feel like you can't do it. Just remember, all that means is you can't do it—yet.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

7 Essential Principles of Innovative Learning

Originally posted:
February 1, 2013
10:55 AM
By Katrina Schwartz

Every educator wants to create an environment that will foster students’ love of learning. Because the criteria are intangible, it’s difficult to define or pinpoint exactly what they are. But one group is giving it a try.

Researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched the Innovative Learning Environments project to turn an academic lens on the project of identifying concrete traits that mark innovative learning environments. They sifted through and categorized the research on learning science, documented case studies, and compiled policy recommendations they hope will transform the current system.

Their book, The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice and the accompanying practitioner’s guide, lay out the key principles for designing learning environments that will help students build skills useful in a world where jobs are increasingly information and knowledge-based. The principles are not job-specific – no one knows what the future economy will demand. Instead, the main goal is to develop self-directed learners, students with “adaptive expertise.”

“Adaptive expertise tries to push beyond the idea of mastery,” said Jennifer Groff, an educational engineer and co-founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign. “You may be proficient, but without adaptive expertise you can get stuck very quickly as the world shifts.”

Groff doesn’t dispute that mastery is important and that students need to learn age-appropriate content, but she also argues it’s equally important to develop students’ ability to go beyond that, to question and apply learning in new situations.

To that end, these are their identified principles for innovative learning.

1.Learners have to be at the center of what happens in the classroom with activities focused on their cognition and growth. They have to actively engage in learning in order to become self-regulated learners who are able to control their emotions and motivations during the study process, set goals, and monitor their own learning process.

2. Learning is a social practice and can’t happen alone. “By our nature we are social beings and we learn by interacting,” Groff said. “We learn by pushing and pulling on concepts with one another.” Structured, collaborative group work can be good for all learners; it pushes people in different ways.

3. Emotions are an integral part of learning. Students understand ideas better when there’s interplay between emotions, motivation and cognition, so positive beliefs about oneself are a core part of reaching a more profound understanding. The power of emotions and motivation in the classroom are well documented, but often overlooked because they are “soft.” Still most teachers know that if a student is upset about something that happened at home or in school, he won’t learn well. Similarly, keeping students motivated should be the starting point of learning. If students understand why it matters, learning becomes more important to them.

4. Learners are different and innovative learning environments reflect the various experiences and prior knowledge that each student brings to class. “You really want practices and processes that help teachers engage each student where they are,” said Groff. This principle is understood by every frustrated educator teaching to a “middle” that doesn’t exist.

5. Students need to be stretched, but not too much. “It’s really critical to find that student’s sweet spot,” Groff Said. Educators should try to prevent both coasting and overloading. Students need to experience both academic success and the challenge of discovery. In a diverse classroom group work can help achieve this as students at different levels help one another.

6. Assessment should be for learning, not of learning. Assessments are important, but only to gauge how to structure the next lesson for maximum effectiveness. It should be meaningful, substantial, and shape the learning environment itself. “Good teachers do this informally most of the time,” Groff said. “But when it’s done well and more formally it’s a whole structure and methodology where you collect feedback on the learning pathway and it drives the next step that you take.”

7. Learning needs to be connected across disciplines and reach out into the real world. Learning can’t be meaningful if students don’t understand why the knowledge will be useful to them, how it can be applied in life. Understanding the connections between subjects and ideas is essential for the ability to transfer skills and adapt. “We can’t just have things remain in silos that never interact,” Groff said.


Many of the seven principles Groff outlines are second nature to good teachers, but they can feel hard to achieve within education systems that are slow-moving, bureaucratic and resistant to change. Still Groff says there are ways for teachers who want to create an innovative learning environment to begin down the path, even without the full support of their colleagues and administration. Groff also hopes shifting to the Common Core could offer openings for building in these practices. “It’s designed in a way that condones a lot of the principles that we’ve been talking about,” she said.

Everyone knows the common barriers educators face: the school culture, the students and themselves. Groff says with some reflection and problem solving, teachers can often begin to work around these barriers. An educator might think she’s open to innovation without realizing that there are preconceived notions about how one should teach that are deeply ingrained.

“You may be proficient, but without adaptive expertise you can get stuck very quickly as the world shifts.”What’s more, if the school culture does not encourage experimentation, educators can mitigate negative reaction by framing the ideas in a way that will be accepted, or by bringing in outside resources to try and convince naysayers. Even finding one colleague in or outside of the school to bounce ideas with can make the process much smoother.

Educators can also test ideas with students before implementing them. Students have been indoctrinated into the same educational mindset about what makes a “useful” education as everyone else, and some might be resistant to new teaching methodologies. Without their enthusiasm it can be hard to persevere through other obstacles.


The darling of the Innovative Learning Environment case studies is the Jenaplan School in Germany. It’s one of the few schools embodying all the principles fluidly. The school has about 450 students that range three to 20 years old. Students aren’t broken up into grade levels, instead they learn in mixed-age groups as well as in groups of roughly the same age. Learning is directed by students, often project-based, evaluated primarily through writing and projects, self-assessments and peer-assessment. The schedule is periodic, focusing on a topic like geography or history for three to four weeks and crossing into multiple disciplines. The teacher is seen as an active mentor and coordinator and the school has active parental involvement.

The Jenaplan School has won awards for its model and in the eyes of the Innovative Learning Environment researchers is doing an excellent job at preparing students to be adaptive and nimble thinkers in a knowledge-based world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


How can you not be curious about a website called Mathalicious?  Here's a video to give you a taste.  I've added the website to the sidebar for your reading pleasure.  Another suggestion from Rob Robson.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TVO Kids Teacher Zone

Check out the TVO Kids Teacher Zone website for SMART Notebook lessons.  There are four math lessons, as well as some Language Arts, Social Studies and Science templates.

Watch a demonstration video and download the Notebook files by clicking here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Manifesto of an Anarchist Educator

In 1850 Anselme Bellegarrigue tacked the original Anarchist Manifesto to the walls of Paris and in like fashion I attach this “Manifesto of an Anarchist Educator” to this digital wall. It’s a pastiche of the work of many others (some credited, some not) and is intended as a discussion starter, not a definitive work.

Manifesto of an Anarchist Educator

1.Students Are Free- Freedom is not bestowed externally; it is intrinsic to each student. It is not meted out as educators see fit, but always present unless repressed. Education is the process of helping students express their freedom.

2.Students Should Not Be Coerced- The use of social pressure or power relationships to influence students is not acceptable. Students should be free to reject a point of view, an opinion, or an action if they so choose. They must be free to make choices without fear.

3.Students Are Equal- There are many sources of inequality in society (e.g. age, class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). These should not diminish the quality of education for any student. Educators must minimize inequality in education and ensure all students have equal opportunity to educate themselves.

4.Equality of Resources- Resources must be shared equitably. Students come to education with differing needs and differing access to resources. Education must redress this inequality. Providing the same resources to all students perpetuates existing inequality.

5.Students Are Decisions Makers- Students are equal, free and entitled to be partners in their education. Students must be free to make decisions and choices about what, where, when and with whom they learn. Some argue that students are unable to make appropriate choices, that they cannot properly understand the consequences of their decisions. The use of Intelligent Choice at The Summerhill School with students as young as 5 years old show this isn’t true.

6.Students Need to Collaborate and Cooperate- Students must learn to collaborate and work cooperatively with others to fully express their freedom. Only by developing these skills can students access the resources they need.

7.Education Structures Must Be “Flat”: The existence of hierarchies in education facilitates the use of power to coerce and require students and educators to do things not freely chosen. When hierarchies are eliminated students see individuals collaborating of their own free will. They can then apply this model in their own learning.

8.Education Fosters a Respect for the Planet- The core belief that we must minimize our impact on our natural environment must be woven throughout education. This ensures resources are availability for others now and in the future.

9.Education Explodes Walls- The expression of freedom occurs in both a real and digital context and cannot be fully expressed behind literal or figurative walls. Educators must explode the walls enclosing students and their learning and walk them out past the rubble so they can engage themselves in solving important and real problems. (Colin Ward)

10.Education is Relevant- Education cannot be confined to the physical or temporal boundaries of schools. Learning occurs whenever and wherever it happens and our education system must facilitate the sharing of all learning, the inter-connection of learning and the extension of learning to provoke new learning (Ivan Illich).

This blog post originated here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Free Classroom Lessons from Math Solutions

Check out the Math Solutions free classroom lessons page, organized by grade, with downloadable lesson plans for every math strand and topic you'd want.  Most of Marilyn Burns math resources are gold, so I've added a permanent link to the site on the sidebar "Links for Teachers".  The site is constantly added to and certain lessons are highlighted each month in the Math Solutions newsletter.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Project Based Learning

Here's a website ( that offers ideas for project based learning.  Below is a short video that explains how one may use the website.  Thank you to Rob Robson (@robrobson) for the suggestion.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

World Education Games: Registration Now Open!

What it is: Holy cow, I am SO excited! Today registration is open for World Education Games!! If your students have never participated with World Education Games (like World Math Day), this is the year. They will thank you for including them in this fun world wide contest. February 1st, that’s today, registration is open and the official warm-up training period for students begins. On March 5h students can participate in World Literacy Day, March 6 is World Math Day, and March 7 is World Science Day. March 22nd Global award presentations begin with the Official World Education Games Awards. The World Education Games is an annual global online olympics to get students from age 4 to 18 excited about learning. The fun comes in the friendly competition between countries as students compete to represent their country in the games. There are 3 days of games focused on literacy, math and science. The games are a great way to help students in speed, accuracy and general fluency in core computation, number and spelling skills. World Science Day has been designed to encourage curiosity and excitement in science while helping them answer knowledge, application and reasoning questions. Each game (a competition against other students from around the world) lasts just 1 minute. Students can go head to head as often as they would like, but only the first 50 games are counted toward the competition point tally. World Math Day was launched in 2007 and my students have taken part in this fun competition each year. Since then, Literacy and Science day has been added to the games. SO much fun!

How to integrate World Education Games into the classroom: World Education Games are such a fantastic way to encourage students to practice foundational skills. In the past, I have hosted an “opening ceremonies” at my school and done it up like the Olympics with flags, songs, etc. We go over what the World Education Games are and then make a big deal about the handing out of usernames/passwords (like lighting the torch) and then we kick off our training portion. Students get excited about participating in this fun day and we get lots of “training” in before the big day. On the actual day, we wear red, white and blue and play against kids from around the world. This is great fun in a one-to-one setting or a computer lab where all students can participate simultaneously. Don’t have that option? Because the games are 1 minute long, students can play 5 games each on classroom computers in a rotation.

Since your students are competing against students from around the world, why not use the competition to practice using a map and identifying countries? Since we have a one to one iPad program, we do this digitally with a Google Map. Each time a student competed against a country, they would come up to the board and put a “pin” in the map. Don’t have devices for each student? Use an interactive whiteboard or the paper map and actual pins on a class bulletin board, these options are just as fun!

Don’t forget closing ceremonies at the end of World Education Games. Make up fun medals and give them out to top performers, hardest trainers, etc. Think outside the box on these. Not all kids are speedy in their fact recall…find a way to honor their participation and hard work…did they see huge improvement or growth? Honor those achievements!

The World Education Games are available for free on any internet-connected computer and as a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 app.

Check out the Resource page for teacher and student guide, a world map, a poster, and for School-in-a-box information.

Tips: Schools participating in the World Education Games can also work toward giving other children the opportunity to start school. World Education Games has partnered with UNICEF to make this happen. During the games, host a fundraiser to purchase “School-in-a-Box” Each $236 donation is enough to send 80 kids to school! What a great way to help kids understand what a privilege education is and model compassion and empathy for others.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Want to be a better teacher? Blog.

for the love of learning: Want to be a better teacher? Blog.: Click the link to view the article from its original source or continue reading the article in its entirety below...

This was written by Dean Shareski who is a Digital Learning Consultant for Prairie South School Division in Saskatchewan, Canada. He also teaches pre-service teachers at the University of Regina. Dean works with teachers and students in understanding the power of the Read/Write Web. Dean tweets here and blogs here. This post first appeared here.

by Dean Shareski

Want to create better teachers? I know how. One word. Blogging.

Now before you roll your eyes or accuse me of oversimplifying the very complex issue of teacher evaluation and monitoring, hear me out.

I began teaching in 1988. It was a tough job and thinking about getting better was superseded by survival instincts. Early on in my career, there were several documents that the province produced in support of improved professional development. I didn't pay much attention to these but one phrase I saw in those documents some 20 years ago stuck with me. Reflective Practitioner. I sort of understood the concept but other than simply thinking about what you did in the classroom, I wasn't at all sure what to do with this term.

When I discovered blogs almost five years ago, I soon figured out what that term meant. Since that occasion I have sat down to write close to 1,000 pieces of reflection. While not all would be considered deep, most take me anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to craft. It may not always look like it, these are generally borne out of the times I spent observing, thinking and working in classrooms. The reflective writing has been valuable but definitely the nearly 4,000 comments have been even more of a learning experience. This is the single best professional development experience I've had.

Dan Meyer, a Mathematics teacher in California writes:
... blogging was the cheapest, most risk-free investment I could have made of my personal time into my job. You start by writing down things that are interesting to you, practices you don't want to forget. And then you start trying new things just so you can blog about them later, picking them apart, and dialoging over them with strangers. Periods of stagnancy in your blogging start to correspond to periods of stagnancy in your teaching. You start to muse on your job when you're stuck in traffic, in line for groceries, that sort of thing. That transformation has been nothing but good for me and it all began on a free Blogspot blog.
Thousands of other blogging educators could echo similar words. In fact, I've yet to hear anyone who has stuck with blogging suggest it's been anything less than essential to their growth and improvement. I've no "data" to prove this but I'm willing to bet my golf clubs that teachers who blog are our best teachers. If you look at the promise of Professional Learning Communities that our schools have invested thousands, more likely millions to achieve, blogs accomplish much of the same things. The basic idea of the PLC is to have teachers share practice/data and work in teams to make improvements. A good blog does this and more. While the data may not be school specific, great bloggers know how to share data and experience that is both relevant and universal so any reader can contribute and create discussion.

There's a natural transparency that emerges. The teachers who blog as professionals in this reflective manner in my district invite anyone to look into their classrooms and you can get a picture of what happens on a daily basis. This goes a long way in addressing accountability concerns.

Teachers have for years had to fill in a plethora of reports and forms which in essence are accountability papers. For the most part they are of no use to teachers and in most cases aren't very valuable for administration either. Busy work.

So here's my plan. Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least five other teachers in the district as well as five other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and five other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better.

Try that. If it doesn't work after a year, you get my golf clubs.

PS. The only people allowed to criticize or challenge this idea are people who have blogged for at least one year and written at least 50 posts. The rest of you can ask questions but you can't dismiss it.

Friday, February 1, 2013