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Reflections

Hate and Anger

The recent election has been very different than any election I can remember. The other piece of it is that after the election the bitterness is still there and has even seemed to increase.

Facebook is full of messages and comments arguing the same rants day after day. President Elect Donald Trump feeds the fire with his Tweets about people that criticize him.

I think it is time for us and the politicians step back and take a deep breath and stop the rancor. President Trump has to act more “presidential.” Before he was elected President he spent his early morning hours reviewing how his name had been mentioned by the press and television. He was the brand and he wanted to protect it.

Now is is the President of the United States and he should focus on being the President. Conversely, the people of the United States need to give him a chance and work to make the best of the situation.

Jim

 

 

 

 

President Obama’s Inauguration: Jan. 21, 2013

While not as big as his first inauguration it was a very nice day. There were a few first.

He was the first two term president to take the oath of office four times. Once at his first inauguration that got goofed up by the Supreme Court Justice trying to say it from memory. So just to make sure everything was legal he said it a second time the next day. This year, January 20th was on a Sunday and he was sworn in on Sunday with just a few people present. Then he was sworn in during the ceremonies on Monday. You most likely can guess the only other president to take the oath four times.

Another first, was his mentioning guy rights. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” He was the first president to mention gay  rights in an inaugural address.

I think he was the seventh president to use two bibles. A few other small things. Mrs. Evers was the first woman and the first lay person to give the invocation. And the poet, Richard Blanco was named the inaugural poet for Barack Obama’s second inauguration. He is the first Latino and first gay inaugural poet.

It was a nice joyous occasion.

Jim

Creating a New Lesson

Tomorrow, I will be working with a group of teachers in grades 2 – 12. It is a challenge having such a large range of teachers. I have worked with them before and it went well. This will be our second day together. We are going to work on creating a new lesson. However, I’m not sure there is such a thing as a new lesson. It really is just teaching the topic in a new way. I’m looking forward to see what they create.

Jim

When Does the Learning Stop?

When your students turn in the assignment? When you return it with your comments and the grade? It doesn’t have to stop there. The Internet provides not only an audience for your students, but it provides on-going feedback on their writing. They continue learning from the numerous comments they can get from an audience from around the world.

Take a look at student work posted on the Internet. (http://www.studentnewsaction.net/ and the http://theclem.org are just two examples. I am sure you can find many more. Posting on the Internet is more than just moving from paper to digital work. It changes the focus of why you are writing. You are now writing for the world.

The learning isn’t done when your teacher comments. Every time someone comments on your writing, students are brought back to thinking about what you wrote and the reaction from people. The learning continues.

I encourage you to involve your students in publishing their stories, essays and opinions to the web. It is well worth the time and effort. Where else can you gain on going learning for free?

Jim

Another New Adventure

When I started my first blog several years ago, I called the blog “A New Adventure.” I choose that name because I was starting to share my thoughts via the Internet with friends and strangers and that was new for me. I started my blog before there was Facebook, Twitter and all of the other social media we have today. I am glad I called it “A New Adventure”  because it has been an exciting part of my life. Since I started the blog, a lot of things have changed.

  • I have changed jobs twice.
  • Moved to a new house.
  • Visited forty or more states.
  • Learned a lot.
  • And most importantly made a lot of new and very good friends.
The name still fits. I am about to begin another new adventure. It is exciting to not know exactly what will happen in the next year, but I know it will be good. Next month, I’ll share with you my new adventure. Wish me luck.
Jim

TSA – Looking at the Wrong Thing?

In my current job, I travel  a bit. That means I frequently go through airport security check points. I think they are looking for the wrong thing. They are looking at what I and others carry on the plane. I think they should be looking at my identification. Usually, I buy my tickets about thirty days before my trip. means the airlines has a lot of time to check to see if I have anything in my past that looks odd. Also, when I board they can check my identification.

They really have little or no technology at the first stop where they look at my passport or drivers license. When I cross the border to go to Canada, customs scans my passport and knows some of my travel history. The TSA doesn’t do that. I don’t know why? I think we the TSA should upgrade the id check and cut back on full body scans and body searches.

Jim

Student Blogs

Thanks to all the people who have left comments for students on blogs around the world. You are providing an authentic audience for students who are learning to express themselves. Getting people to know about your blog and provide feedback to students can be a struggle. This is especially true for new blogs. It takes time to develop an audience. Thank you for leaving comments on http://theclem.org and others.

I would encourage you to include where you live or work at the end of your comments. This lets students know that the readers come from different parts of the world and enforces the fact that this is truly a Word Wide Web.

Thanks again,

Jim
Fort Gratiot, MI

Why I Like My Mac

I have been an Apple/Mac person for a long time. I owned an Apple IIe, and several other Mac’s and Apple Computers over the years. I don’t want to start an argument about which is better, but I would like to share a recent experience that illustrates why I like my Mac.

I was working on my presentation for the MACUL 2010. I was using a Keynote for the presentation. Keynote is similar to PowerPoint. When I finished the presentation, I decided I wanted to put it on the web. I wanted PC and Mac people to be able to view it. Since  the Keynote presentation had a movie embedded in it I decided to post it as a movie. That way you could see the movie within a movie. Here is how I did it.

  • I exported the Keynote presentation as a movie.
  • I wanted to add audio. I opened the movie in iMovie and added two short recordings to the movie.
  • iMovie allows you to share your movies directly to YouTube. So I shared it to YouTube.

My presentation was on the web with the added audio in less than ten minutes. What I liked about doing it on a Mac was that all the programs worked together to make my job easier. I am sure you can do this on a PC, but I am not sure it would be as easy to do. You can view the movie at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSVzVW7AeTo

That’s way I like my Mac.

Jim

Firing Teachers is not the Answer

The firing of all of the teachers Central Falls High School in Rhode Island has really upset me. It bothers me a great deal because I think it is a sham. The stated reason for the firing was that the teachers wouldn’t spend more time with students without being compensated for the time.

Would more time doing the same thing the teachers are currently doing make a difference in student achievement? I don’t think it would. I agree some teachers should be fired. Perhaps the personnel director who hired the teachers and oversaw their evaluations should be fired. If the superintendent has been employed more than three or four years, perhaps he or she should be fired.

Firing the entire teaching staff is not an acceptable action. This problem has gone on for some time and no one has provided the leadership for the school staff to improve the school. The superintendent should be ashamed of himself for his lack of leadership. The community has to take a hard look at the system to see what has been done to provide training and support for the teachers to improve. What changes in scheduling, class size, discipline, curriculum and instructional strategies have been implemented? What leadership has the superintendent provided to help the students?

In my mind the firing is a ploy to force the teachers to comply with the administration’s wishes for a longer school day. However, as I said earlier, more time using the same instructional strategies will produce little or no improvement. It looks bold, makes the news, and accomplishes nothing.

I recently had the pleasure to visit a middle school with an 80% free and reduced lunch rate. 80% means that the student population is economically poor. Typically, students in a school with an 80% free and reduced lunch count would be underachievers.

When the new principal took over the school she realized that significant changes needed to be made to improve student achievement. The students were spending as much time in PE, art, and music and they were spending in mathematics, reading and English. She increased the class time for the academic areas by 50%. At the same time she knew that more instructional time alone would not solve the problem.

The principal decided that one third (30 minutes of a 90 minute period) would need to be spent in small group learning activities. The activities would be based on the needs of individual students and allow the teacher to work with small groups of students to improve learning. I had the opportunity to visit a math class to see the changes in action. This is what I observed:

  • A group of four or five students working independently on a set of problems. This might have been homework, but when they got stuck they could seek help from other students and/or the teacher.
  • The teacher working with a small group on a math concept.
  • A group of students working a computer based math instruction.
  • A student leading a group of students in a math challenge problem. The problem was one from a chapter they were going to study in a month. The group was working together to see if they could figure out how to do the problem.

The principal also knew that smaller class sizes were important. So she used her Title funds to hire additional teachers and reduce class size in the academic classes. Her students were achieving as well as the other students in the school and state. The principal encouraged teachers who didn’t want to work in this environment to transfer out of her building.

That principal demonstrated leadership and vision. What bothers me about Rhode Island is their lack of vision and leadership. The leaders in Central Falls made headlines. They did not improve education.  It is a sad day for education.

Choice – Drive: Time, Technique and Team

I am fascinated by Daniel Pink’s new book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates  Us. The book is about what motivates people to improve the quality and quantity of their work. I won’t do justice to the concepts and the big picture that Pink paints in his book, but  I would encourage you to read the book.

When we give students choices we will obtain better results. Daniel Pink gives several business examples where choice of time, technique and team has motivated employees to be more creative and to do better work. However, I would like to focus on how choice empowers and motivates students.  Choice in technique is the easiest of the three to implement in the classroom.

In very basic terms, technique is how students do their work or assignments. Technique is the action the student performs to demonstrate their understanding and mastery of the objective or standard. The goal/standard remains the same but how you reach the goal may be very different. In a typical classroom the teacher defines the goal (objective), the time in which it will be done and assigns the task to be accomplished. For example, after reading a novel an English teacher might give their students the assignment of writing an essay (task) analyzing the two major characters in the book (goal/objective). The assignment might be due in a week from the day it was given (time).

The goal/objective is based on state or national standards. The time may fit within the grading cycle and the amount of time the teacher has to work on that objective or standard. The ultimate goal is for the student to show he/she can analyze how and why the characters act in a certain way and how that relates to the real world and real people.

One way of motivating students to be more creative and to meet the objective is to allow students a choice in how they demonstrate they know how to analyze characters. One choice might still be to write an essay. Some students love to write and are excellent at writing essays. However, other students may not be as proficient in writing or enjoy writing as much as the other student. This is where choice of technique comes into play. Remember the goal was character analysis, not writing proficiency.

Students might be able to analyze the characters in one of several ways:

  • Creating a skit that exaggerates the traits of the characters. (Satire)
  • Build a web site that the characters might create about themselves.
  • Write a resume the characters might submit to an employer.
  • Create a movie about the characters’ lives.
  • Using the Twitter format of a 140 character message, create Tweets covering the major events in the story.
  • Create a simulated Facebook page for the characters. What would be posted on their wall? Who would be their friends? What images would they post etc.
  • Use Prezi to develop a time line showing the major actions and decisions made by the characters.
  • Create a podcast with a classmate. One person would be the host and the other the characters. The host would interview the characters and bring out the traits and values of the characters.

These are a few random ideas of ways I think students might accomplish the goal. The motivation is that they can now choose how they wish to express themselves. The teacher’s task would be to evaluate how well they met that goal. Evaluation might be based on a rubric that would be applied to all of these assignments. Involving students in the development of the rubric may also help motivate their desire to do the assignment.

Readers may think this sounds good, but would it work in a real classroom? My answer is yes it will. First, I have given assignments like those described above to my students when I was teaching. Second, I just finished a visit to one of the most highly rated private schools in Canada. The students had just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird. The teacher had given them some typical writing assignments, and then concluded the section on character analysis by allowing her students to make choices as to how they could show their understanding and analysis of the characters. I wasn’t able to stay for all of the presentations, but I was able to see three groups present..

Group One: created a “Coke” commercial with the characters being analyzed as the featured characters in the commercial.

Group Two: created a “Jeopardy” game that engaged the entire class in determining which character was the answer to each question. They learned as did the entire class!

Group Three: made a movie of the “Ellen Degenerus” show with Ellen interviewing the characters in the story. I had to leave before I saw if she had them get up and dance.

The amazing thing about this example is that the teacher didn’t know how to use any of the technologies that the students used to create their projects. Her role was to set the goal and objectives and to evaluate the results. I’d like to also note that this was a teacher with numerous years of experience in teaching. She was still willing to both challenge, trust, and allow her students to use technology to demonstrate their learning. Bravo!

To me, this is an excellent illustration of what Daniel Pink means when he writes about motivation based on choice of technique.