Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 05/29/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Chatting to Differentiate

I love it!  I was talking with my teaching partner today about needing professional development in the area of differentiating effectively for today's kids.  When I was in school grouping and differentiating meant two groups were sent off to work on a time-consuming worksheet so the teacher had time to work face to face with another small group.  And we would rotate, rotate, rotate.  This is no longer appropriate (I'm not sure it was then either!) with our kids.  So, I struggle with how best to work with my sixth graders and effectively differentiate and work with smaller groups, especially in the area of math.

Then, voila!  As is the norm these days, I read a post tonight addressing this very issue!  Again, one of my favorite bloggers at Teach Paperless, posts how he used a chat to differentiate a Latin grammar lesson:
I see Web 2.0 chats as having great potential for handling authentic differentiated instruction and I see best practices in a chat-enhanced classroom as having great potential for addressing issues of multi-sensory learning. The projected chat has all the benefits of being both visual and textural, and because we are talking about the material the entire time, the students are also using auditory and analytical skills. Not to mention the interpersonal skills necessary to take part in such a program.

How cool!  Side note:  His kids are part of a 1:1 initiative!!  You can do this kind of effective teaching when your kids EACH have the tools with them all day!

Flickr Credit: A Puzzle of Paint

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 05/27/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 05/23/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thank goodness for my ITF!

Okay, first this post is a pleading request for our administrators and central office leaders to continue to fund and support our Instructional Technology Facilitators, or at least mine! : )  Today I was out with my son who fractured the growth plate in his left ankle.  Btw, I have his x-rays on a CD given to us by the doctor!  Very cool stuff, took a screen shot and emailed it to his curious grandparents!

Anyway, so I'm at home (the last day before Memorial Day weekend and the end of End of Grade Test week - a substitute's nightmare!) and I luckily have a wonderful partner who had reserved the laptop cart, but allowed me to use it for my kids today.  So I assign a Jog-the-Web assignment for my kids with some built in pieces they need to either email me using Gaggle or submit using their Edmodo accounts.  Well, my second block (I lovingly refer to them as my "helpless hand-raisers" because they still fear to tread and solve problems on their own - previous conditioning that incorrect answers will be punished??) has many questions.  My WONDERFUL Instructional Tech Facilitator and great friend, Danita,  checks in on them, realizes the problem, and sets up a Skype, using her laptop, between me and the kids!

Wow, it was fantastic!!  I could answer their questions, guide them with the directions, let them know how much I wished I was there, and they even talked to my son about his ankle and wished him well.  So a BIG shout-out to Danita, my wonderful substitute who kept things under control even when I left plans involving laptops, my school system for allowing us to use Skype, and to my kids for working hard while I was out.

It sure is nice to blog about something positive!  Tearing down the classroom walls one brick at a time!

Photo Credit: xjpxpyro's photostream

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 05/22/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Think outside the box, for goodness sake!

Can't stop thinking about a maddening parent/teacher conference I recently had with my son's 5th grade teacher.  Among many questionable teaching practices, and by that I mean it is obvious there is no understanding of how children learn, recall, and use information, she emphatically stated that my son only had 2 grades (for 5 weeks worth of school) in language arts because they had been "doing" test prep books.  She promptly pulled one out to show me.  "Those have been your language arts program for the last month and a half?"  I asked, saddened beyond description for the poor children in her classroom.  She affirmed my fears, without hesitation.

This story, only to say that I'm sure she tries hard, but that is not enough.  Our students deserve more.  I'm sure it is not just coincidental that I read Scott McLeod's post "It's not 'the tests'.  It's us." that same afternoon.  Wish my son's teacher would read it....

Photo Credit: You're Starting To Lose Me Now on Flickr

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 05/19/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 05/18/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

How do YOU measure your year's work?

As we come up on the sacred End of Grade testing next week, kids are scared, teachers are stressed, and administrators are sweating in our building.  I just don't get it.  Just yesterday, a veteran teacher whose children spend hours on Study Island, Accelerated Math, and other test prep activities, stated, "they [admin] don't understand, a year of my teaching is in these tests!"  I immediately thought, how sad for your students.

I continually think about a statement made, I believe by Bill Ferriter on an old post at his Tempered Radical blog.   He stated something similar to the idea that he would rather have the lowest test grades on his hall, but know he was teaching his students how to be true learners!  I have thought about that idea throughout this year as I plan for my students.  I would hate to think that my year's work could remotely be measured by three days of agonizing multiple choice tests created by the state department.

My year's work probably won't be measured for many years to come as my students continue to learn and grow.  As they apply some of the higher level thinking, creating, collaborating skills we journeyed with throughout the year.  No, my measuring stick is not the EOG's.  For proof of my kids' growth, I would rather someone look at the website we maintained throughout the year with many of our videos, photos, activities.  I would rather someone take a look at our Google map of our Skype sessions with other schools and experts.  I would rather someone take a look at the kids' science wikis.  No they are not as full of the kids' rich learning as I would like, but it's a start.  I have begun to climb out of the crysalis of my teaching transformation and see more clearly what I desire as a true measure of OUR year's work as a group of learners.

It was confirming to read Will Richarson's recent post as he quoted Deborah Meier on Bridging Differences:
As long as we use test scores as our primary evidence for being poorly educated we reinforce the connection—and the bad teaching to which it leads. If by some course of action we could get everyone’s score the same—even by cheating—I’d be for it, so we could get on to discussing the interactions that matter in classrooms and schools: between “I, Thou, and It.” I’ve spent 45 years trying, unsuccessfully, to shift the discussion to schools as sites for learning. Such a “conversation” might not produce economic miracles, but it would over time connect schooling to the kind of learning that can protect both democracy and our economy. Because that’s where schools are (or are not) powerful.

How do YOU measure your year's work?

Flickr Photo Credit - Chrysalis Butterfly Emergence

Cool Sites from Today's Surfing! 05/11/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.