Friday, June 29, 2012

Weekend Reader on Bold New Ideas for Schools

Why Every School Needs an 'Innovation Day' [GOOD] - Liz Dwyer advocates for schools to follow Google's lead and give students time to work on whatever project they want and have them present it to everyone. I'd take it a step further and say we need Y Combinator or hackathon-style programs in our schools to foster the kind of creativity, problem solving and higher-order thinking our kids deserve and need.

4 Things That Ninth-Graders Can Teach You About Risk-Taking Design [Fast Company Co.Design] - A more structured experiment in project-based learning.

Coolest class ever: Valve brings Portal 2 to schools [VentureBeat] - Video game studio Valve has a new education program that attempts to bridge the gap between games and education. We need more companies to step up like this!

Kickstarting Education [Wired:GeekDad] - A thought experiment (that should become a real one) on using fundraising website Kickstarter for something at your local school.

In the Bronx, a New School Combines Tech Skills and Cultural Literacy [GOOD]

Monday, June 25, 2012

Don't Stop Trying Bold New Ideas, Even When You Fail

Right before school started last fall, I made a list of several new ideas I wanted to try out in the year ahead.  Some of them had been ruminating in my mind for years, and I felt that I had a unique opportunity in a new situation to build the classroom I had always wanted.  Here is the list:
  1. ACT/SAT Question of the day? Week?
  2. Blended learning - sort of. Khan Academy etc Study Island??
  3. Facebook page
  4. Group work products - Complex Inst principles - butcher paper
  5. Meaningful homework - Use word wall: over the course of the six weeks, students will produce (illustrated guide / puzzle / children's book / song etc) something for all words.  Math puzzles from Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities by Ian Stewart
  6. Experiment with IWB - Battleship!!
  7. Use PI office to get guest speakers
  8. Make infographics into posters- college, education, health, poverty etc
I just rediscovered this over the weekend and realized I accomplished only a couple of these things.  I incorporated Khan Academy into my curriculum, I created Facebook pages for my classes, and at the very beginning of the year I used some puzzles from Dr. Stewart's book as an icebreaker.  I didn't do any of those things particularly well either.  The other ideas disappeared into the ether of a typically busy school year.

Yet despite my failure to successfully implement these ideas, I won't hesitate to tell you that you should never stop trying new things to improve your teaching.  The minute you lose your desire to get better, to struggle to improve, you might as well start looking for a new career.

A few weeks age I told you to make a list of things you need to do better in the future before you forget them.  Consider this an addendum: make a big list of bold new things you want to try out next year.  Better yet, research good ideas over the summer and then make a list just before school starts.

What kind of things would be on your list?  I'd love to read them in the comments.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Weekend Reader on Educators Using Pinterest

Analog Pinterest board
First, a confession: I am not yet a Pinterest user, but I see the potential in and out of the classroom.  Here are some resources to help you and I get started:

16 Ways Educators Can Use Pinterest [INFOGRAPHIC] [Mashable!]

Teachers Pin With Their Students [Mashable!]

Pinterest Resources for Educators [Cool Cat Teacher Blog] - See also her Simple Pinterest for Beginners.

Cybraryman's Pinterest Resource List - Side note: I find it hilarious that this webpage dealing with a resource that launched in 2010 looks like something created in 1997. Just sayin'.

20 Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Pinterest [via Twitter]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Anticipatory Activity Before Students Get iPads

If your students are getting iPads in the near future, you'll of course need to prepare your students for it.  First, you'll have to discuss the relevant school and classroom policies for using the devices (and the Internet, since I'm assuming your students will get at least limited access).

After that, I suggest taking some time to build anticipation and get your students into the right mindset, namely that the iPad is an amazing learning tool and not merely a toy.  I created a short activity for students to do just that. 

The first part is a survey, to get an idea of familiar they are with Apple devices and their experience creating online content (such as creating YouTube videos or blogging).  The second part asks them to brainstorm what they want to do with the iPads, including what apps they might be interested in, with a few websites to get them started.  Finally, there's a chance for them to ask questions so you know what to address when they finally have them in their hands.

Of course, the job of training students on using these devices doesn't end here, but it's a good start.  If you have any similar activities for students who are about to get iPads or other tablets, please share them in the comments.

iPad Preview Activity (Google Docs)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Weekend Reader on STEM & Education, June 2012

Obama's Video Game Challenge [Edublog: All Things Education] - This actually happened a while ago, but it's a good development as far as the push for better educational video games AND more engagement with STEM subjects.

WANTED: Rosie the Programmer [Wired:GeekMom] - On an organization trying to encourage more girls interested in STEM careers.

A New Coalition Is Tackling the STEM Teacher Shortage [GOOD]

50 Best iPad Apps for STEM Education [Online Universities via Twitter]

Education Week: Spotlight on STEM [via Twitter] - Free for a limited time.

Bonus: See my earlier Five for Friday post, Weekend Reader on Enhancing STEM in Education for more on this topic.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Giveaway: The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra

I think I've found a linear algebra book that could teach just about anyone: The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra. The good folks at No Starch Press have created a series of guides that combine elements of manga (Japanese-style comics) with a well-explained exploration of complex subjects (calculus, physics, etc).

In this entry in the series, scrawny math whiz Reiji convinces the captain of the university karate club to let him join, with one condition: he must tutor Misa, the captain's little sister, in linear algebra.  Luckily, she also happens to be the girl of Reiji's dreams (although he is warned to not so much as flirt with her).

This is the setup that leads into Reiji's easy-to-follow lessons on the basics of linear algebra, with Misa asking the kinds of questions any curious student would.  I think you could hand this to any good student in algebra or beyond and they would be able to figure a lot of this stuff out on their own.  You might even kindle a lifelong love of math (I can dream, can't I?).

If I haven't sold you yet, download Chapter 2 (PDF) and see it for yourself.  I'm a big proponent of using graphic novels and comics in the classroom and these Manga Guides take it to another level.  That's why I'm giving away a copy of The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra to one lucky reader! 

To enter, simply send an email with the subject Manga Guide to by 11:59pm CST this Friday 6/15.  I'll pick a random winner from those entries.  Good luck!

Thanks to No Starch Press for providing a review copy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bellwether Hosting Better Blogging Workshop for Teachers This August

Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit  based in Washington, D.C., is hosting a workshop called Better Blogging: Skills and Tools for Teacher Bloggers on August 11, 2012.  The workshop is the brainchild of Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether, blogger and columnist for TIME.

I had the privilege to attend the first Better Blogging conference in February, and am so grateful for the opportunity.  The best part for me was networking with other amazing edubloggers, such as Marlyin Rhames, who writes the fantastic blog Charting My Own Course and Mark Anderson, who blogs for Gotham Schools

The line up of presenters was equally awe-inspiring, including such distinguished journalists as Carl Cannon (Pulitzer Prize and Gerald R. Ford Prize winner) and Ezra Klein (Washington Post columnist and frequent MSNBC contributor).  They'll be there in August along with a group of experienced bloggers and journalists that have the kind of impact I think any teacher blogger would hope to have.

If you have a teaching-focused blog or are about to start one, and are looking for ways to take it to the next level, I strongly recommend you apply.  The application is due July 9th, but considering the 5:1 ratio of applicants to attendees in February, you should apply ASAP!

If you're interested but have more questions, you can email Bellwether's Rachael Brown or just ask me.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Fun For Teachers And/Or Their Kids

Where Can I Find Free or Cheap Things to Do This Summer? [Lifehacker]

30 Classic Games for Simple Outdoor Play [Wired:GeekDad]

School's Out -- Go Make Something With Make: Magazine [Wired:GeekDad]

30 Minutes a Day [Lifehacker] - Start a dream project with just a small investment of focused time each day.

48 Ultra-Cool Summer Sites for Kids and Teachers [Ed Tech Ideas via Twitter]

BONUS: Creative, DIY Summer Projects for Your Kids - Here's 5 projects I shared last summer that will be just as fun this summer.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Giveaway: Algebra DeMystified: A Self-Teaching Guide

This week I'm giving away a copy of Algebra DeMYSTiFieD (link goes to a newer edition), a great reference to have in your classroom library for your students or at home for your kids.  It might also be helpful if you're a college student who is struggling but needs to pass your math requirement.

Examples are explained clearly and succinctly, with tons of practice problems to work out. If you're interested, send me an email ( with the subject "Algebra Demystified" by Wednesday 11:59pm CST.  I'll pick one random winner.  Good luck!

Friday, June 1, 2012

5 Ideas for Personal & Professional Development This Summer

3 Ways Teachers Can Use Summer to Build Skills [US News and World Report]

Video: Using Twitter To Create A Personal PLC [This Week In Education] - No better time to tap in to Twitter as a resource.

'EdCamp' Turns Teachers Into Grassroots Idea Hackers [GOOD] - There are tons of these happening all over the country this summer, with new ones popping up all the time. Attend one this summer for a totally different take on PD.

Some Things You Can Do Right Now to Change Your Life [The Art of Non-Conformity]

Build Your Summer Manifesto [Lifehacker] - Don't limit your development focus to only things directly related to teaching or education.  As I've talked about here countless times, you need to work on the "you" that's not a teacher.