Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflect on the Year With Some Intriguing Education Questions

21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020 [TeachPaperless via EdReformer] - I agree with most of these to varying degrees, but some are off. Real books (#8) are not going anywhere--their role in schools will certainly be reduced, especially as we transition away from traditional textbooks over the next 20 years, but they're not going to be completely obsolete by that point.

Charters: Ten Things Charters Won't Tell You [This Week in Education via WSJ] - I'm just speechless on this one. Every single item on this list is flat out wrong. There are certainly bad charters, just as their are bad traditional public schools. To make such sweeping generalizations is irresponsible. I'm surprised that this didn't illicit a stronger response across the edublogosphere.

Slate's Classroom of the Future [via GOOD] - Is this vision practical, or even possible?

The Expectations of a Teacher [Fix Public School] - A teacher lists 31 distinct expectations placed upon her, some of which you won't find in a contract or employee handbook. She doesn't specify which items on the list are expectations she places on herself, instead of those put upon her by the school or district administration. What would you add to the list? What doesn't belong there?

Opinion: What Makes a Great Teacher? Students Share Their Top 11 Traits [AOL News] - I don't think there will be too much controversy from this list, but it does merit discussion: How many of these traits do you have? What do they look like in your classroom?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What to Do When You Take Over a Class Mid-Year

Just before winter break, a friend of mine revealed that she was unexpectedly switching assignments at school, taking over for a teacher who was leaving mid-year. Worse yet, the switch happened one week before the break began, meaning there would be little time to plan the crucial first days with her new class. It was not the ideal situation.

In Boston, I faced this situation myself. Heading into the school year, I was all set to teach Algebra I. The day before school started, my principal emailed me to explain that I would also have to teach a section of Algebra II. A few months later, I took on an additional Algebra II class that had been moved over from a colleague in order to even out class sizes, resulting in students shifts that fundamentally changed the culture of all classes. In essence, I had to take over new classes twice in the same year, so I had quite a bit of unsolicited advice to offer.

If you're in this situation, I'll tell you the same thing I told my friend: first, DON'T PANIC. Secondly, your first day with your new classes should be treated like the first day of school.  This means that your primary goals are:
The course content, while important, is secondary to building the foundation needed for a successful classroom. You can and should try to pick up where your departed colleague left off, but in a way that allows you address the goals above.

For example, one suggestion I made to my friend for the first week was to give students assignments that they could work on independently or collaboratively for the most part (addressing the necessary content), and pull students asides individually for a few minutes each. In these short conversations, you could get their perspective and feedback on the transition, ask what you as the teacher can do to help make this student successful the rest of the year, and tell them the particular way they can contribute to the class going forward.

To facilitate the transition and these kinds of conversations (whether you have them individually, in small groups or as a whole group), start by giving the students simple, open-ended surveys (see below).  Use them to inform what you discuss and how you discuss it.

Besides your philosophical approach, you should think about your new classroom aesthetically. The classroom needs to look different to help put your students in this "let's start over" mindset. Everything from the desk and furniture layout to what's on the walls should reflect this. (Side note: an aesthetic change in the classroom like this helps when you're turning around your own classroom mid-year.)

To help you with your transition, I've collected my most relevant resources to draw from:

If you're frustrated and stressed out about this, I wanted to also give you an idea of the kinds of struggles I've had even after years in the classroom.  Perhaps it can give you a little perspective:
I'm happy to help people who have specific questions or need other kinds of resources.  Just ask.  If you have your own advice (or opinions about mine), please share them in the comments.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Your #Snowpocalypse Reader: Video Games & Education

If you're on the East Coast or just about any U.S. region besides my beloved Rio Grande Valley, you're likely snowed in due to Snowpocalypse 2010.  What better time to catch up with new ideas and resources for video games in education?

Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills

Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom [NY Times via edReformer & This Week in Education] - A deep look into how video games help kids learn, framed around a profile of the innovative NYC school Quest to Learn.

Project-Based Learning, Yes PLIESE [Wired: GeekDad] - In this project-based learning example, a child is deeply invested in designing everything from the storyline to the artwork and level design for their own video game (in this case, a new Mario game).  Even without using the technology directly, the structure can provide a context that kids can understand and want to throw themselves into.

When the White House announced an ambitious STEM Video Game challenge in September, I was excited as it seems my dream of educators and game developers working together to create immersive, engaging educational games is close to fruition (see No Need to Reinvent the Wheel to Revolutionize Educational Video Games, my guest post on Educational Games Research).

Physics Gaming [via EdReformer] - Tons of games using that use classic physics problem archetypes like bridge building and predicting an item's flight path in fun ways.  All free, courtesy of the math games gurus at Manga High.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hundreds and Hundreds of Edublog Recommendations!

Top 50 Blogs by Elementary Educators [Elementary Education Blog] - I am included in this list as #28, despite not being an elementary educator. I'd like to think I've shared enough elementary-focused ideas and resources that would justify my inclusion. As the cliche goes, it's an honor just to be nominated.

50 Amazing Blogs for Elementary Educators [The E-Advisor Blog] - Here's one list I'm not included on!

50 Best Education Technology Blogs You Aren't Reading Yet [Special Education Masters]

2010 Edublog Awards - Voting is open!  You'll find another 100+ education blogs across dozens of categories here.

You'll find a lot of overlap on these various lists for sure, but that should be a good sign of a quality education blog.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Need a Stocking Stuffer for Your Favorite Educator?

Originally, my book Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job was partly conceived as an ideal stocking stuffer for your favorite educator.  Now's the time to make that thought a reality.

I've put the print edition on sale for 40% off, and it will stay that way through December 14th (because you likely won't be able to get it in time for Christmas if you don't order by then).  Buy your gift copy today!

Need to know more before you buy? No problem: read all about the book here.

[Note: If you're doing all your holiday shopping on Amazon, the book is also available there, but sadly I can't control whether that version is on sale. Nevertheless, I thought I'd mention it for your convenience.]