Friday, November 9, 2007

Read Aloud & Baby Einstein

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx

"Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read."
— Marilyn Jager Adams

Story 1

I observed a fascinating scene the other day at Mountain Valley Middle School. It was library time for the eight graders in social studies teacher Zack Thompson's class. Students were exploring the books in the library, having the opportunity to choose what they wished to read. I was sitting at one side of the room finishing some work up on my laptop as I caught Zack pick up what I believe was Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal, which he started quietly reading aloud to a couple of young ladies. As he read, other students gathered around him, looking on and listening quietly. I was struck by the connection and appreciation that showed in their faces as Zack read. He had them mesmerized with this very simple act. There was enchantment in this scene, with these tall adolescents drinking in this read-aloud experience. Moral of story: We are never too old to be read to by someone else, and it isn't just the "information" . . . it's the human connection.

Story 2

Many parents and grandparents have purchased one or more of the Baby Einstein video series with the thought that these pleasant and colorful presentations would help develop the abilities of infants. I am one of them. When my children were young, I recall reading that new-borns found the colors red, blue, and yellow particularly appealing . . . so wanting my children to develop as optimally as possible, I made sure there were mobiles and other objects that would make the environment as stimulating as possible.

It appears now according to a recent study that perhaps the use of the Einstein videos can actually harm a child's development. Who would have thought? Well actually, in the end, perhaps it has to do more with human closeness or bonding being such an important ingredient in learning. Moral: We can't plop our children in front of machines for endless hours, no matter how colorful and engaging, and expect great outcomes.

How do we stay connected to our kids?

What do we lose by moving learning to machines?

Have any recommendations for read-aloud books?

Read Aloud Resources
Alliance for Children: Computers and Children

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Late Arrival Model for PLCs

Two of the school systems with which I work, MSAD#43 Mountain Valley and MSAD#21 Dirigo, have late-arrival days every Wednesday. In other words, students come to school an hour later than usual and educators have valuable time when they are fresh for pursuing professional development. My opinion: It works very well! I know it is well-spent time at Mountain Valley and Dirigo, at the very least. I highly recommend it for ongoing PLC work. Teachers have an opportunity to share leadership roles to develop skills and understandings in a variety of areas. Mountain Valley Middle School is focusing on literacy and school climate and culture. Dirigo Middle School is focusing on literacy and a variety of other areas.

To me, this is a vast improvement over full day teacher workshops where some keynote speaker or presenter is imported to "talk at" the staff. One of the problems with the full day workshops is that it is not ongoing. And for some odd reason, from my observation, the early arrival time is usually much better organized due to the sharing of responsibilies and the awareness of time limitations. After all, the kids will be arriving in an hour. It just tends to focus attention better and make for a more efficient agenda.

Any other systems doing something similar? What do you think? Is there a downside?

Related Article

"Now I'm Thinking . . ."

At the Mountain Valley Middle School "late-arrival" session this morning, I took part in a simple, yet very effective, activity called "Now I'm Thinking." Donna Morse and Don Fuller facilitated the activity using the mysteries of Area 51 as the content and further embellished it with a slideshow of heavenly bodies and a musical interlude of the Star Wars Theme. This was all part of the ongoing literacy initiative at this school.

The activity included a series of reflections with additional information to read being distributed between reflections. So it was like this:

I'm thinking . . .

(more information)
Now I'm thinking . . .
(more information)
Now I'm thinking . . .
(and so on)

The whole point, of course, was to take a look at information sources and work on evaluating information. When you think of it, what is more important than developing a set of skills for all of us to make sense of the information that bombards us every day from every direction?

Can the information be trusted?
Who wrote it?
What gives them authority?
How do we determine the truth when there is conflicting information?

What do you use in your school to help students question the information that is so readily available?

Evaluating Information Resources
Questioning Resources
Critical Thinking Resources
Who Is It?
Way Back Machine
Logical Fallacy Resources
Propaganda and Advertising Resources

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Noteshare Reprise

I worked with two 8th grade language arts classes Monday morning on the basics of Noteshare in my quest for Oxford Hills Middle School teachers and students to understand the power of this MLTI laptop application. We downloaded Barbara Greenstone's "Reading Journal" at the ACTEM Noteshare Server < > using the Noteshare share menu and shared it on the network. I'm always amazed at how quickly students catch on to the utility of this versatile tool. The sessions culminated with students setting up classroom vocabulary notebooks. Sure wish I had more time to devote to Noteshare.

Any other happenings with Noteshare out there?

Earlier Posts on Noteshare

Monday, November 5, 2007

Alice as a learning tool

by Ed Latham

A good friend of mine totally ruined my level of productivity for most of the day today. Becky Ranks offered up link to Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture". I am so happy that she shared this wonderful link with me. I believe everyone should see what this impressive man has to say. We can all accomplish so much if we can live in such a positive mind set every day.

As I was looking for a way to download his video, I stumbled across the original lecture he presented at Carnegie Mellon. I watched the entire thing and heard him reference a great tool for teaching everyone, even young girls, the art of programming. Pausch was part of the team that developed Alice. Alice is a three dimensional world building program that allows anyone to program without having to know all the nasty technical stuff that the computer geeks need to know. I have always loved programming and feel that many of our students today can learn everything in Algebra, Geometry, AlgebraII and all the other stuffy mathematics courses that students may be forced to endure. It has been my experience that students love to program if you give them the right tools and worthwhile ventures. So I spent most of my morning looking into Alice and I have to say I was impressed and will be downloading that program shortly. You may want to look at their introduction videos here. (2 videos here)

There are many tools out there that can help our kids learn math through programming and I have explored many of them. Each one offers students a simple way to experience the joys of programming without the thousands of hours of frustration that was necessary in the past. What used to take months of programming lists of numbers to get a simple ball bouncing on a screen can now be done by dragging and dropping, a few clicks and choosing some properties. All that power is not available in just minutes and even your grandmother can do it (sorry if your grandma is a computer engineer). Best of all the programs are all free! Yes, you heard me right, free. So much fuss in education over money and lack of resources and yet we have these gems right there for the taking. Most of them have been developed by major universities and educational foundations with the intent of making programming easy and rich. Abstract operations in Algebra finally have concrete examples and a purpose for students when students dive into programming.

I am inspired by Dr. Pausch speech and very interested in exploring Alice some more so I have to get going before my entire day is shot. If there are teachers out there looking for support in bringing programming into mathematics classes please invite me to your discussions. I currently work with teachers and do not have a math class of my own to work with, but I would love the opportunity to work with and support teachers that are in the field that are interested in using these powerful tools in their classrooms.

I have included a list of the programming languages I have used with students and had great success (Alice makes the list even though I have not tried it yet). All of these are free and they run on all operating systems. I have put them in order of easiest/best/ones I like best when working with students.

StarLogoTNG which allows 3d programming using only puzzle like pieces that drag, drop, and click together
Game Maker from Yo Yo Games - an incredible collection of easy to use tools
Squeak, a really neat mutation of Smalltalk programming that puts old Logo to shame
Netlogo - not quite as graphically oriented as the others but is a powerful simulation language that is easy to use.

Currently looking into:
Alice - Looking into it now, but EA Games just donated tons of graphics to help educators and students to succeed in programming

If you teach math and want some way to reach your students that are not successful, please find the time to look at some of these options. If you have looked into these tools and would like to post your experiences, I would love to hear from you as well and look forward to your posts!

I may not have finished up the webpages and hum-drum stuff I needed to get done today, but Becky has helped me get motivated in life and introduced me to a cool tool. Thank you my friend!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

50 Ways to Encourage the Use of Technology by Maine Learners

This is a brainstorming session. Simply add your ideas, feeling free to "piggyback" on earlier ideas. Perhaps at some point the list can be refined and consolidated into a list of 50.

As ideas are added in comments, I'll paste them in this post, giving credit to the originator.

Here's a start:

50 Ways to Encourage the Use of Technology by Maine Learners

1. Connect at where the learner is, not where we think they should be. (Jim Burke)
2. Use user-friendly applications (JB)
3. It is okay to ask for help and to make mistakes (Michael Richards)
4. Use common language not "geek-speak" (MR)
5. Incorporate technology into familiar situations (MR)
6. Provide compelling and meaningful reasons for learning and using technology (Cynthia Curry)
7. Students can become the handy ambassadors of technology usage. (Kern Kelley)
8. Do not be afraid. (Deborah White)
9. Model you own use of tech tools. (based on Will Richardson at ACTEM) (DW)
10. Remember the words of Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus series, "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" (DW)
11. Remember what you feel like when YOU learn something new. (Ed Latham)
12. Include an atmosphere of fun and exploration in as many activities as you can. (EL)
13. Never underestimate the power of play. (EL)
14. Get comfortable with students being in charge of their learning with your role being to set things up and assist them on their journey. EL)
15. ?
16. ?
17. . .

50 Ways

50 Web 2.0 Ways To Tell a Story

Fifty Ways to Take Notes

Fifty Ways to Increase Your Productivity

50 Tools to Improve Your Writing

50 Ways of Solving a Problem

50 Way to Improve Your Life

50 Ways to Leave Your . . . Term Paper or Book Report

Any other "50 Ways" lists to add? Any that need to be created?

Added by Mrs. W. (Deborah White)

50 Ways to Save Our Children
50 Ways to Promote Peace
50 Ways to Do Something Besides a Report
50 Ways Parents Can Help Schools
50 Ways to confuse, worry, or just plain scare people in the computer lab
50 ways to stuff zucchini

Added on 1/5/08

50 Ways You Can Be the Change