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Make this the golden rule, the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: Everything we ask a child to do should be worth doing.

-Pilip Pullman

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Thomas Friedman Discusses Hot Flat & Crowded at Brandeis PDF Print E-mail

Tom Friedman, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner for the New York Times and best-selling author, visited Brandeis to talk about his latest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America."

We can all learn a lot from Friedman, particularly educators.  Our sole purpose as educators is to prepare our children to live - no, thrive - in our world.  Actually, not our world, but the world of 5-15 years from now.  That's why I am sometimes so surprised at how few futurists we have in education.  Many teachers and policy makers don't seem interested in current trends in business, global markets, politics, pop culture, or even technology.  Those trends are shaping our world, and our world is metamorphosing at an alarming rate.  As educators, we should educate ourselves about the world that we are sending our children into so that we can better prepare them for it. To do anything less is irresponsible.

Friedman's speech, while fascinating, might not seem that relevant to K-12 educators, and so if you are having problems connecting the dots, key in on his Energy points.  He argues that we should have another educational revoution - like the space program, but about energy.  The country that masters its energy demands will master the world.  This directly correlates to our current curriculum goals - we need more focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) - and energy is relevant, timely, and Essential for our country's success.

Friendman's speech starts at 9 mins.

 
Barry Schwartz: The real crisis? We stopped being wise PDF Print E-mail

Barry Schwartz gives a thought-provoking, insightful, and inspiring speech at TED about the value of "practical wisdom."   He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.

The stories he shares are memorable, but his insight into the nature of incentives, empathy, and moral work are incredible.  You owe it to yourself to spend a few minutes watching this.  It has several direct benefits to our organizations and school systems.  We have gone wild with bureaucracy and have used rules to prevent disaster, but over-reliance on rules has unforseen consequences.

An excerpt:

Let me give you just a few examples first of “Rules and the War on Moral Skill”. The “Lemonade” story is one. Second, no doubt familiar to you, is the nature of modern American education—scripted, lock-stepped curricula. Here is an example from Chicago kindergarten.

Script for day 53.
Title: Reading and enjoying literature/words with “b”.
Text: “The Bath”
Lecture: Assemble students on the rug or reading area… Give students a warning about the dangers of hot water… Say, “Listen very quietly as I read the story
.”… Say, “Think of other pictures that make the same sound as the sound bath begins with.”…


Say 75 items in this script to teach a 25 page picture book all over Chicago in every kindergarten class in the city. Every teacher the same, the same words in the same way on the same day.

We know why these scripts are there—we don’t trust the judgement of teachers to let them loose on their own. Scripts like these are insurance policies against disaster. And they prevent disaster. But what they assure in its place is mediocracy.

 
Report: Gmail about 1/3 as expensive as hosted e-mail PDF Print E-mail

googleappsI saw this article on Ars Technica.  A new report by the Forrester research company titled, "Should your email live in the cloud?" has taken a look under the hood of both in-house and commercial e-mail services, and put some numbers on the per-user costs associated with a variety of options. The surprise result was not so much that Google's corporate services come out ahead, but rather how large a lead it has on every other option.  This is a timely article considering current budget constraints.  The report looks at corporate costs, so the savings are even more substantial for educational institutions that get Google Apps for FREE.  Yes, free.

Why aren't more school systems embracing this?  Why do we doggedly insist on "keeping our money in our sock drawer"?  Westminster schools of Augusta recently adopted Google Apps, and the response was overwhemlingly positive.

 

Teachers: "This is all so wonderful... Why didn’t we do this earlier?"

 
Curriculum vs. Instruction PDF Print E-mail

I was speaking with Monica Lanier (my supervisor at FDRESA) about the difference between Curriculum and Instruction.  I had never really given it much thought because I assumed everyone understood the difference.  After a bit of conversation however, I realized that the difference is profound and we are not sure that many educators see the clear distinction.

Perhaps this disconnect is more harmful than we might think. I contend that we often confuse the two and that educators would do well to keep the differences clear in their minds.

Curriculum is WHAT your students are expected to learn and what you are expected to teach. It's the written standards and benchmarks that your students must pass.  Curriculum is generally NOT prescriptive.  It's a set of goals, a materials list, or possibly as set of "bare minimum" requirements for acceptable education.

Instruction is HOW you teach your content and how your students learn it. This is where the true artistry of teaching shines, and where the focus of our efforts should lie.  This is where each teacher and student will vary, where there is no magic bullet or right answer.  However, there are certain strategies, methods, and tools that are more likely to help than others.

Read more...
 
Where Do You Draw the Line? PDF Print E-mail

redistrictI've recently discovered a great civics game called:  The Redistricting Game.  It's a hands-on look at the districting process and how it affect elections MUCH more than we may think.  Students are challenged to create a balanced map, then once they get the hang of things, to actually sway an election towards their party's favor by using current methods of redistricting.  The realization that hits you once you successfully snatch an alection from your opponent is powerful.

http://www.redistrictinggame.org/

 
Did You Know? 2.0 PDF Print E-mail

The original Did you know video was released on August 15, 2006 and it's been viewed millions of times since. It originally started as a short video that Karl Fisch made for his school teachers to start a discussion about technology and the exponential times we live in. He posted it on his blog after the initial presentation, and it made it to YouTube. After that... it's history. Karl talks about the growth of the original video on his blog.

Well, Karl released an updated version of the video back in 2007 and it's a good video to see again.  Karl had it remade it for two reasons: he wanted it to be more of a global perspective rather than a US centric position, and he also felt that the video needed to ask more from the viewer and give resources for them to pursue.

Read more...
 
Once You Pop... PDF Print E-mail

cornucopia_blogimage1.jpgOh man! Talk about a useful tool. How many of us have had to do a newsletter, and had no time to get it done? LetterPop! is an incredibly easy to use website that gives you the tools to create a newsletter quickly, and helps you distribute it to your audience. If you can drag and drop, you can create some amazing newsletters with LetterPop!

It really is that easy. Pick a template, drop in some photos, and write your text. When you are done, you can print it, post it online to a custom URL, or email it to friends & family. www.letterpop.com

 
Wanna Learn Sketchup? Go to School! PDF Print E-mail

school2.jpgSketchUp is a tremendously powerful piece of FREE software from Google. Most teachers and students barely scratch the surface of what this program can do. Learning the basics is easy, but mastery of the program takes a good deal of time and playing. Luckily, there is a great fan site that will help teach you all the tips and tricks of SketchUp.

School (www.go-2-school.com) was founded by Mike Tadros and Alex Oliver - two certified Sketchup instructors and 3D design professionals. It hosts several video tutorials (30+ !!!) for all sorts of projects and proficiency levels. The site also has a robust Forums section for you to talk to other SketchUp users. You can even purchase DVDs of their tutorials for offline viewing.

 
What's on Your Daily Plate? PDF Print E-mail

dailyplate1.jpgThe new year is often full of resolutions to be healthier, and it's sometimes difficult for people to keep up with. It's also often troublesome to keep up with calories, nutrients, exercise patterns, and weight loss/gain. Wouldn't it be nice to have something automatically track your diet and activities? Wouldn't that be a powerful, hands-on tool for Health and Nutritional studies?

One such tool is the Daily Plate. With a free Daily Plate account, you can track your caloric intake by simply searching for normal food you eat and clicking "I ate that" - it even has common food items from restaurants! You can set current weight and weight goals, specify how much you want to lose (or gain) and how quickly you want to do it, and even get a total of nutritional information for the foods you are eating. You can even group common foods into "meals" and save them for easy retrieval later.

Imagine using this in a health class with your students. Discussion could start with setting reasonable dietary goals, from losing a few pounds to cutting down on sodium or eating more fiber. Each student could then track their progress to their goal and get progression charts and detailed information of their journey. This could facilitate meaningful discussion about what foods they eat, how much exercise plays a role in their lives, and so on.

Bon Appetit!

 
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