Saturday, March 22, 2008

Seed Packets

There's a great buy on seed packets at Marden's. I took a chance and bought about 20 packets the other day. Suppose they'll grow?

Anyhow, this is the time of year that we begin to start seedlings, the time of year that we look to a resurrection of life and hope for the future.

In this frame of mind, let me alert you to the good people at ACTEM who have resurrected the impressive work of SEED by posting the SEED packets at their site.

For more information on SEED, contact Jenifer Van Deusen, Former Chief Horticulturist

Learning Metaphors

Join the Seedlings Social Network

Gardening at LIM Resources Wiki

Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project (Belfast, Maine)

What will you be planting this Spring?

Photo Source:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Who Was Your Favorite K-12 Teacher?

At heart, as I suspect you already know, I stand with the philosophy of Dewey, Piaget and the progressives, in that I believe good teaching and learning happens when kids are engaged in what they are doing. I also accept the fact that their development and talents are going to be all over the map. The art of teaching is to find that "hook" that gets them excited and motivated . . . beyond just the usual carrots and sticks. Now this isn't always easy to do, but I think teachers should have the freedom to make that possible.

Teaching is a very personal thing. We all approach life differently. Back in 1960, when I was in 7th grade in the Rumford community, my teacher was Peter Mckenna, and let me tell you, he made more of a difference in my life than any test or assessment I ever took. He knew what engagement was all about and could even make diagramming sentences pure joy. Mr. McKenna read Edgar Allen Poe stories and Jack
and Kafka's Metamorphosis, having us begging for more. We made litmus paper out of math paper and canned blueberry juice for the red strips and dipped it into the restroom liquid soap to make the blue strips. We did goofy skits and pondered philosophical questions and operated on fractions, all artfully choreographed by this teacher. Simple enough stuff, but he made it all magical. Do you believe in Magic? ;) I'm sure we all can think back to a teacher, or perhaps many, who connected with us and made learning so exciting that we were motivated to investigate even more without any thought of extrinsic rewards. Any stories?

At the same time, a teacher needs to be a pragmatist to survive. There is a lot on the plate and compromise and ingenuity are necessary if the institution is to work. It certainly is reasonable for someone with this workload to become a bit surly when being told how to do his job when he is in the middle of running helter-skelter spinning the plates.

In my 32 years as an elementary classroom teacher, I wasn't always successful in making these connections with students, but I did have the freedom to try . . . and on occasion hit the mark. At the risk of being labeled a reactionary, YES, I do want teachers to continue to have that prerogative. If we lose respect for that, then I worry for the future of public education. Top-down edicts, poorly thought out and implemented by people who are not closely connected to the local community and the classroom, is not the answer.

Which K-12 teacher(s) made a big difference in your life ?

Check out a post on Dangerously Irrelevant titled "Creativity Fatigue: Is it really possible to stop learning?"

BTW, if you want to know what life is like growing up in a Maine papermill town, check out Monica Wood's Ernie's Ark. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Teaching Tech: What Is A Recession?


Now More Than Ever, Students Should 'Get' Economics

With the housing crisis, the stockmarket tanking (well, except the last two days), oil prices rising, many families (and their kids) have money on the brain. Teachers can either ignore this or take the opportunity to empower young people to learn more about our current economic situation. (Gee, guess what I think?) If you think about it, I bet if more of us had more substantial money management education, our current recession wouldn't be so bad.

With the advent of the internet, it is much easier to do simulations of the stock market, something I looked forward to doing in school but never got to. There are programs like this one (it's apparently free and you can do it as an individual or with your class). Stocks are a good illustration of where it can go wrong on a smaller scale; it's a little easier to understand what happened to Bear Stearns after one of the student's stocks has bit the dust.

Of course, there are government resources that our tax money pays for so might as well use them, like the National Council On Economic Education and they've got links for days of resources you can use in your classroom. Finding activities, games, and simulations to make the economy and money fun can make this period of economic uncertainty a learning opportunity rather than a wild ride we just all happen to be on. I hope some of you are up to this challenge!

Nicole will post "Teaching Tech" (formerly Tech Tuesday) about internet resources for your classroom whenever she thinks of it, which is incidentally never on a Tuesday. She doesn't teach anymore but works at a newspaper and maintains her own personal finance blog:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Data Visualization

Mark Spahr introduced me to Many Eyes on his Cooked on Education blog. This got me to thinking about what else is out there. The answer is that there is an increasing number of sites that are using more sophisticated graphical representations to better understand data.


Many Eyes
Eager Eyes - A Blog about Visualization
Berkley Visualization Gallery
TED Talks - Hans Rosling

See earlier post called Making Sense of Data - Visualization

Generalists vs. Specialists

Our culture highly values specialists. We have promoted division of labor to an extreme whereby the boxes of expertise have become smaller and smaller. Could it be that this "mono-culture" has made us less self-reliant and less able to adapt to changes in our environment?

"Generalists, people with moderately strong attachments to many ideas, should be hard to interrupt, and once interrupted, should have weaker, shorter negative negative reactions since they have alternative paths to realize their plans. Specialists, people with stronger attachments to fewer ideas, should be easier to interrupt, and once interrupted, should have stronger,more sustained negative reactions because they have fewer alternative pathways to realize their plans. Generalists should be the the upbeat, positive people in the profession while specialists should be their grouchy, negative counterparts."

~ Karl Weick

Are we becoming too specialized?

On Being a Professional

Latest Wicked Decent Learning Podcast titled "Going Pro".

Western Maine teachers, Jeff & Dan, continue their refreshingly honest and down-to-earth series of podcasts. Far too often education talk is stilted and abstract. Consider this weekly Maine show to be an antidote to high-sounding phrases and acronyms, to wishful thinking and elaborate schemes. Jeff & Dan give authentic voice to a love for teaching. They demonstrate curiosity and adventurous spirits while at the same time recognizing the pragmatism that is needed in working in classrooms and schools.


Wicked Decent Learning Podcasts
Wicked Decent Learning Blog
Maine Ideas in Education