Monday, July 29, 2013

Review & Giveaway: Real Talk for Real Teachers by Rafe Esquith

His hair is still on fire! One of America's most beloved and respected teachers, Rafe Esquith has once again drawn upon his thirty-plus-year career to share his best advice for beginning, experienced and veteran teachers.

Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans: "No Retreat, No Surrender!" is divided into three parts: the first for new and beginning teachers, the second for those who have surpassed the five year mark, and the last for teachers closer to Esquith's level of experience.  He draws upon stories from his own classroom as well as those of colleagues to illustrate his straightforward lessons.  Thankfully, he avoids common education jargon or buzzwords (nor does create any of his own), opting instead for practical advice and thoughtful principles to follow.

I found myself agreeing with the vast majority of his advice--indeed, following most of these ideas is what kept me in the game for so long.  I didn't make it to the "Master Class" that he discusses in the third section of the book, but I could see myself following his lead had I survived that long.

At the risk of oversimplifying, Real Talk's advice centers around a few central themes:
  1. This job is really hard. Hang in there.
  2. Don't get bitter over time.
  3. Always strive to grow, try new things and become a better teacher.
  4. Love and respect your students.
This is a highly recommended book for any teachers, but I would particularly like new teachers to read this to gain perspective on where they are and where they could be if they stay in the classroom over the long term.

Viking/Penguin was nice enough to send me a review copy of Real Talk, and as always I am going to give it away to a lucky reader. To enter, email with the subject "Real Talk Giveaway" before Wednesday 11:59pm CST.  I'll pick a winner at random.  Thanks to all the loyal readers who always participate, and good luck!

Get Real Talk for Real Teachers on Amazon

Friday, July 26, 2013

Weekend Reader on Social Media in Education: July 2013

How to Handle Students on Facebook [Educational Technology and Mobile Learning]

Non-Profit Uses Social Media to Crush Bullying [GOOD]

Ten ideas for using Twitter in the classroom [TES Community via Twitter] - Bonus, for the skeptics: 3 things you should know about Twitter [Learning with 'e's, via Twitter].

Educators learning to evolve as technology, social media changes teaching []

Not using social media should no longer be an option... [Life of an Educator by Justin Tarte]

Monday, July 22, 2013

Giveaway: Catch The Wind, Harness The Sun: 22 Super-Charged Science Projects For Kids

There is still plenty of summer left, and I want to give parents (as well as elementary and science teachers) an opportunity to win a book that will help kids take full advantage of it. Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Projects for Kids, by Michael J Caduto, is full of fun, engaging science projects that will get kids off their duffs and out of the house (at least temporarily).

Besides the 22 projects, which utilize everything from swamp gas to solar power, there's also a list of resources for you and/or your kids to follow up so that the learning can continue.

This is the kind of book that should be in every home, and in every late elementary and middle school classroom library. Here's your chance to get a copy: email with the subject "Catch The Wind Giveaway" by 11:59pm PST Tuesday.  One random entrant will win. Good luck!

Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Projects for Kids []

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nominate Your Favorite Teacher For a RetailMeNot Classroom Shopping Spree

Coupon website/app RetailMeNot is hosting a contest for a teacher shopping spree at CostCo!  Nominate your favorite teacher on their website until Saturday, August 10th for a chance to win.  Good luck!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Weekend Reader on Entrepreneurship in Schools

Lemonade Stand 50 Cents Each Qiqi Lourdie June 24, 20111

Fishtree Blog — The Skills of Tomorrow Public speaking. [Fishtree blog via GOOD] - The author discusses whether entrepreneurship should be taught in schools.

3 Ways Schools Can Encourage Student Entrepreneurship [Edudemic]

Teach Your Kids the Value of Money with a Job Board [Lifehacker] - Teaching kids the value of work (and money) is a great way to set them on an entrepreneurial path.

How to Educate Next Generation of Entrepreneurs? Start by Reviving Financial Literacy [GOOD]

KidLead - A leadership training curriculum for kids ages 6-9. Leadership and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What We Really Mean When We Talk About Gamification in Education

For every article I read pointing to gamification as a key part of the future of education, there seems to always be a counterpoint about it being some kind of fad. It is admittedly a buzzword, and it will likely fade out of our vocabulary at some point (as all buzzwords eventually do). What it really means will remain a critical part of successful classrooms.

Gamification is not about making everything into a game, engaging players through fun and competition. At it's heart, when we're talking about gamification, we're really talking about positive feedback and reinforcement. Badges, levels, progress meters--these are all simply ways to say you are on the right track. Keep going. You're almost there.

Done right, there's usually no need for material rewards, just the external psychological motivation we all need sometimes. Finding ways to encourage your students to succeed is at the heart of good teaching.  Gold stars, a "Student of the Week" board, positive phone calls home, showing up at a student's athletic or academic competition... these are the most effective badges we can award our students.

Whether or not you explicitly try to gamify your classroom, the game is being played there every day. It's up to you to find out how to help your students win. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Weekend Reader on Games, Gamification & Education

Can Digital Games Boost Students’ Test Scores? [MindShift] - The short answer is yes, but it's also important to note that simulations seemed to have an even stronger correlation with better test scores. "We shouldn’t frame games, or any other instructional support, as ‘the answer,’" says one Gates Foundation official, but says that the data can't be ignored. "We should be careful not to view learning technologies as a replacement for deep teacher and student interactions. We see effective technology supports as enabling the opposite."

Is Gamification Just a Fad? [Mashable] - Short answer: no.

Games to keep teenage girls enthralled with math, science [The Seattle Times]

Videogames and Learning [] - A look into the research on how games can be effective in the classroom.

The Game That Will Save Zynga (And Mathematics Education) [This blog] - A learning game idea I came up with last summer, which seems appropriate given the game publisher's business woes. I'm still willing to hear your offer, Zynga.

Coming Monday: my take on gamification and education.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day Sale On My Books At

Here's a holiday coupon code for 25% off any order at FIREWORKS.  It's a great chance to add either of my books to your summer reading pile. It's good until 11:59pm this Friday, so use it quickly!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Basics of Quadratic Functions iPad (Tablet) Project

For the last few years, when my students were learning about the graphs of simple quadratic functions (usually ones in the form y = ax2 + c), they would make posters of quadratic equations and label key parts.  As we discussed solving quadratic equations by graphing, students would make posters explaining the process

Last year, I combined these projects using the iPads our students had available:
  1. Create a Keynote presentation or video that shows 2 quadratic equations and their graphs (one that opens up and one that opens down).
  2. Label these parts:
    1. Vertex
    2. Axis of symmetry
    3. Roots/zeros (if any)
    4. Minimum or maximum
  3. Show how to tell if a graph opens up or down just from the equation.
  4. Show how to find the vertex using the calculator.
  5. Show how to find the zeros/roots using the calculator.
As with the adaptable iPad project I shared last week, you could also give students the option of using the fantastic Educreations app.

Essentially this is the same project as those simple posters, but it utilizes the technology we had available in a meaningful way. While I would never want to replace every low or no-tech project I use, it's always important to take advantage of the resources you have.