Friday, May 14, 2010

My Pencil as Seen by a Germ

Disclaimer - No hamsters were harmed in the taking of this photograph.  No duct tape was used (although it came close) and most of all no money was spent.

I threatened to do this a while back.  I was given a webcam a few years back as part of a package to get us experimenting with how to use technology in the classroom.  It was not an expensive webcam.  It was  not a great webcam but I did use it.  Then I got bored of it.  Close to a year ago I threatened to find a way to hook it up to a microscope to take close up macro pictures.  Well I finally did it.  It was really easy.  It was Friday and I had a prep last class.  Could you blame me?

On the Instructables site I found this how-to.  It was as simple as taking out the lens and reversing it.  A microscope was not necessary.  All you need is an external webcam.  While I had to do a little bit of work to get it to work it is completely reversible.  Focus is really touchy and you need a lot of light but I would love to see what could be done with a webcam that has better than 640x480 resolution.  Read the how-to and do it yourself.  Voiding warranties is a huge amount of fun.  Trust me.

Oh yeah - show a science teacher near you.  Mine was as excited as a kid at Christmas.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Art of War

This one has been sitting in the mental crock pot for a little while now.  I guess it has stewed long enough.

What do we lose when we walk just away from a fight, when we back down?  What do our kids lose when we tell them to just walk away from a bully?  What do they lose when they have to do it over and over and over and over again?

Now if you are wondering where I am going with this then just bear with me.  Lets take a look at Sun Tzo's Art of War.  It is an ancient book describing military strategy.  More recently it was adopted by the corporate business world on how to defeat your competitors.  Stick with me here.  In one of his teachings he talks about always giving your opponent a chance to flee.  Give chase and then let them flee again.  Keep letting them run from little battles.  Every time they run away it breaks their morale, it shakes their confidence a little bit more.  They are defeated a little bit more every single time.  It makes them easier to defeat next time.

I think that this is a concept that bullies understand.  They let their victim walk away just a little more defeated every time.  A bully knows how to escalate the situation just enough to keep the victim from doing something about it.

Every time the victim walks away without having done something they have become a little bit more defeated.  How many little defeats can a child endure before they are broken?

We need to stop this cycle of defeat.  I don't know the answers.  I do know that if those victims don't see some success - if they don't stand up somewhere, somehow then they will be broken - piece by piece - loss by loss - battle by battle.

Disclaimer - I know that bullies have needs as well and maybe if we found a way to meet those needs then they may not become bullies but that is not what I am focusing on here.

Photo Credit

Thursday, May 6, 2010

IT Summit 2010

I really enjoyed IT Summit this year - especially Will Richardson's talks.  In some cases this conference was preaching to the crowd and other times I learned genuine new things.  The conference reaffirmed my beliefs that we need to do something different.  We need to start teaching a little bit differently.

Here are my notes from some of my favorite sessions - at least the ones that I took good notes for.  Keep in mind that I wrote these notes for myself and they may not always make sense to you.  There may also be some off topic ramblings in them as well.  Other people may also have collaborated with me on those notes so I can't take full credit for them (I love Google Docs!).

Will Richardson's Sessions (Check out Dean Shareski's notes at the bottom of the page.  His are awesome.)
  - Rob Wall recorded his keynote.  The link to watch it is in my notes.

Will Richardson's and Dean Shareski's Duel for the Top Tools (This was on happy little linkfest.  Hey but isn't not supposed to be about the tools anymore?)

My apologies if I went to your session but did not make good enough notes to post them up here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Change the Term

Don't use the word mastery.  We don't deal with mastery in Education.  (I have ranted about this before.)  The right word is competence.  If we do our job right then the student becomes competent.

Maybe later when they put the required 10,000 hours of work in then they really will achieve mastery.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wasting Money of Whiteboards? Maybe a bit.

Donna just linked a post by Bill Ferriter (a principal) titled Wasting Money on Whiteboards.  In it Bill talks about how interactive white boards (IWB's) don't really change student learning.  They just allow teachers to do a better job of teaching they way they always have.  An IWB usually does not lead to a pedagogical change en education.  He is probably right (and his rant takes a familiar tone.)  One of my favorite comments talk about how the IWB is a great PR tool that a teacher can use without every really having to move their teaching out of traditional methods.

Here is the comment I posted there (I just felt like sharing it.)

I have used both a DIY interactive whiteboard and a genuine SMARTboard. While I love using both of them I would hesitate to call to use the word interactive for either of them. My students really don't use them any differently than they would a traditional chalkboard. The hardest lesson I had to learn was to hand off the pen to the students.

That being said was the IWB a waste of money for my classroom? No I don't think so. It has not fundamentally changed the way that I teach. It HAS changed how students can access what I have taught. I now record and publish (to the internet) much of what I teach. Take a look at my section of our school website at . The IWB allows me to capture the lessons and make them available to our chronically absent students. The IWB allows me to create content that I could not easily do otherwise. It allows me to do a better job of a traditional method of teaching. (Yes I know traditional methods are not always the best).

That being said, I moved classrooms this year and my SMARTboard took over a month to follow me. Really, my teaching style never changed with or without it. I just was unable to record more content.