Saturday, September 8, 2007

Character Series: Perseverance

"Fall seven times, stand up eight." ~Japanese Proverb

There are many words for it: perseverance, obstinacy, stick-to-it-iveness, persistence, pigheadedness. Each word carries a connotation with it, depending on the value we place on the task at hand.


How do we encourage perseverance in accomplishing worthwhile goals?

How do we determine what a worthwhile goal is?

Perseverance Resources

Friday, September 7, 2007

Learning to Type

Voice recognition might very well come around to be the most effective input mechanism, but at the moment, our ability to type fast and accurately controls much of what we enter into computers.


Should typing be the number one essential instructivist skill taught in our schools?

Should it be "just-in-case" learning or "just-in-time" learning?

Should we be learning the Dvorak layout instead of the standard QWERTY?

Typing Resources

Dvorak Keyboard Layout - The Benefits and Drawbacks of a More Efficient Layout

Dvorak Keyboard Touch Typing

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Time vs Pay

In many states, there is a concentration on raising the base starting wage for teachers. As a teacher, I love the idea of being paid as a trained professional with incredible responsibilities. I think it is so nice to see at least some token respect for teachers is formally materializing as some form of financial increase.

I don't know too many people that would complain about getting more money, except for those right on the bubble for receiving state assistance services. Fortunately most teachers are not near that bubble, and can embrace the idea of getting more pay to help offset the annual increases in health care that seems to have become an annual event here in Maine.

I wonder though, if you were to ask teachers from all over the state what one aspect would improve their ability and love of teaching, I bet money would not be the majority answer. No, if you know anything about teaching, you already know that many teachers would die for more time. Yes, time is the currency in teaching now.

The family units have been in decline in our society for many years and more and more the responsibilities that used to be family responsibilities are now thrust on our teachers. Teachers are getting pushed to now train kids to take tests that help the school and community look good rather than work on assessing what students in his or her class may need help on most. Most teachers have never had training with all of the great new practices and tools available to them, but cannot get out of the classroom in many cases for various reasons. Even those teachers that do get out and get some training, can never get the time to set up some of the new stuff they have learned in their class. Add in the current anxieties about consolidation, and is it any wonder that many teachers want to close and lock their doors? With all of these pressures and increases in responsibilities I propose that almost every teacher could benefit most from an increase in purposeful time.

Some very forward thinking schools have already realized the value of giving time to teachers and I would LOVE for those schools to post their findings here and elsewhere to share with others how much more teachers can accomplish with some adjustments to how their time is used. I have talked to so many principals who have extolled the virtues of having teachers work together on curriculum, work to develop cross curriculum activities, work towards learning new technologies and many other aspirations I think all can agree will help many teachers. Strangely, almost every one of those principals does not have any time set up in the teacher's day to get these things done. Sure, many have stipends to attend training or to attend weekend seminars, but the day to day time teachers have to work with other teachers or on personal growth is non existent.

So all you teacher union people out there, all you politicians, all of you local school board members, and anyone else that is in a position to positively help promote a much needed educational change, WE NEED YOU! Teachers are too busy trying to "survive" in our current classrooms, to have time for any of that "other stuff" I once brought up the concept of teacher time to a friend that was on a school board. To my horror, this friend of mine shared that there was a view on that particular board that "teachers are little more than over paid babysitters". I am so hopeful that this was an isolated view, but with many taxpayers looking at the percentage of tax money going into education and the negative news we hear about how our schools are all failing...well I fear that many may be ignorant of the incredible work that teachers accomplish every day. They do this extraordinary work as professionals who are trained, fingerprinted and certified. They do this with a pay scale that is one of the lowest of any profession that requires at least 4 years of schooling and certification. The do their incredible work, teaching and filling in for family responsibilities that are still in rapid decline, with huge hearts and phenomenal stamina. And they are doing all of this, with almost no TIME available in their day to improve anything.

If your school has recently changed things around to afford teachers more time during the day, could you PLEASE post some of your experiences, thoughts, insight here? It is out there somewhere that only 1 in 9 people that read a blog will respond to something even when it hits a chord. Many of you are in a position to help educate others on the need and methods of adding in structured time in the teaching day. We need YOU to help the rest of us hear the troubles, see the effects, and to offer strategies that work. All it takes is a little courage, some basic typing ability, and of course, a little of your valuable time. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Really Simple Syndication

This is a follow-up to Becky Ranks previous post on Google Reader.

Earlier this year I read a quote by Dean Shareski who said, "If your website doesn't have an RSS feed, you're dead to me." and I didn't get it then - but now I do and I completely agree.

The use of RSS will change how you use the we, period. Now, we've all heard that before, but this is a large part of what all that Web 2.0 hubub is about. Instead of faithfully returning to your favorite news and blogs to check if there is something new, it all comes to you on a single page. In fact, a number of classes in M.S.A.D. #48 have students post work on their blogs, and the teacher who has the RSS feed of the student blogs, only has to do a quick scan of a single page to see who's 'handed' in their work.

Here's a video from that does a better job than me at explaining exactly how RSS works.

In answer to the question, 'What's the easiest way keep track of my comments and the response to those comments on all these blogs I'm reading now?" The best solution I've found This site tracks all your conversations for you. Keep in mind it's still in Beta so a little quirky, but has served me well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Google Reader

Teachers are busy....way too busy...but as a teacher I feel that we need to take the time for reflection and intellectual stimulation. If I were still in the classroom, I would find it difficult to find the time to get on the internet and read what people are thinking about and writing about related to education and its many complex issues. Now that Google Reader has come along I can now have the time to do that in a matter of minutes. Blogging has changed the way I think about teaching and learning and the power of the internet. Google Reader, much like Bloglines is an aggregator. It brings the blogs I like to read to my personalized Google homepage. I subscribe to six or seven blogs whose authors talk about educational technology issues. I read them quickly .Sometimes I post a comment, but rarely. I share certain ones with my colleagues who have not discovered blogging yet. A couple of my favorites are: David Warlick's and Techlearning I have begun to get feedback from teachers I work with who have started reading the ones I post. It's encouraging. I am at this time becoming a human aggregator, but I think with time, the teachers I work with will begin to see a need for bringing certain blogs and blogging topics of their own interests to themselves without my help. By sharing these resources we help to enlighten and everybody wins. Students win as their teachers become more comfortable with using the blogosphere, and may even see a use for it in their classrooms. Posted By: Becky Ranks


Basic Handwriting for Kids
Teachnology: Handwriting Worksheets
Donna Young's Cursive Handwriting Practice

Wikipedia on Cursive

The Handwriting Is on the Wall
Why Learning Cursive Is Bad for Kids

What do you think . . . should we still be teaching cursive handwriting?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Philanthropy in the Classroom

"For it is in giving that we receive." - St. Francis of Assisi

Here are some resources that might be useful for classrooms wanting to reach out and help others around the world: Help create a "micro loan" for a small business ~

Heifer Project: Buy an animal for a family in the developing world ~ Heifer Project

Nothing But Nets: For just $10, buy a mosquito net & potentially save a life ~ Nothing But Nets

Making Sense of Data - Visualization Tools

"Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything" ~Gregg Easterbrook

We are close to being overwhelmed with data. What tools can we use to make sense of it?

Gapmind World Beta
16 Awesome Data Visualization Tools
Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths

Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty and life around the world Raw Data at Landmarks for Schools

Thanks for your lead in this, Kern. Anyone else have some suggestions to add?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Online Math Manipulatives

Having physical hands-on manipulatives to work out problems is very helpful. The web gives us a wealth of virtual manipulatives that can carry the ideas to a different level of abstraction. Here is a list of possibilities:

Virtual Manipulatives

Online Interactive Math Resources
MISTM Math Portal

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Water in Maine

I live beside the Little Androscoggin River in West Paris. The small river is relatively clean. Old-timers tell me it wasn't always that way.

I grew up in the Rumford/Mexico area in the 50's and 60's when the large Androscoggin River was at its worst. As a child, I would join my friends, walking barefoot through the slimy residue of the paper mills upriver to reach an island my grandfather owned in the middle of the river. We knew the feel and the smell but had no idea what it might contain . . . nor did we ever even stop to think about it. It was just the way it was. Rachel Carson's ideas had not reached public consciousness. I recall the summer of '65 when the oxygen level in the river became so low that fish would rush up the smaller tributary streams, only to die from over-population. The stench of rotting fish could be smelled for miles along the highway.

Fortunately, native son, Ed Muskie, came to the rescue with the 1972 Clean Water Act. Now the Androscoggin Rivers isn't by any means perfect, but has improved considerably due to that legislation.

Essential Question:
How can we continue the job of cleaning up our rivers and watersheds?

Watershed Resources