Get Started with a PLN

This was in my drafts from Nov 2008 :-) I guess I started it and never did anything else with it.  Ahh, well...

A Professional (or Personal) Learning Network - PLN - can be an invaluable component of your own learning and development.  I came across this in the latest edition of Education Leadership, though it was pretty good and worth sharing. I think they are all really good (although I would re-word #4 to not be Facebook specific).  The only thing really missing is a face-to-face component.  I think that many effective PLNs should have a F2F piece.

Recess is important... duh!

Anyone who has ever taught knows the importance of recess (or some sort of non-academic break).  However, it is nice to get some validation.  In today's NYTimes:
The best way to improve children’s performance in the classroom may be to take them out of it.

New research suggests that play and down time may be as important to a child’s academic experience as reading, science and math, and that regular recess, fitness or nature time can influence behavior, concentration and even grades.

The part that really jumped out at me was this...
Sometimes you need data published for people at the educational level to start believing it has an impact,”

Again, teachers have been saying this for years but why would anyone believe us :-)

Career Building

This quarter I worked with 5th grade students on making connections between the skills they are working on at school (or skills they can gain at school) and possible career avenues.  We completed two projects around this topic.  First, students created "illustrated career essays".  This gave them the opportunity to think about what they might was to do when they grow up, why they might be good at it, and the skills they need to be successful in that position.  They wrote the essays in MS Word and illustrated them in CoreFX.  In addition to practicing writing skills, students learned some valuable technology skills (formatting, word art, importing images, drawing on the computer, etc.)

With the career essays finished, we talked about how you go about getting a job (which was very mysterious to students).  We looked at for job ideas, read some job descriptions and then made our resumes... or, more accurately, resume, jr.  We based our resume on a baseball card (you know, picture on the front, stats on the back).  The students really got it!  As parents, you should ask them about these activities and what they learned.  Show them your resumes, talk to them about jobs you have had in the past and how you got them, encourage them to follow their passions and use school to get some of the skills they will need to turn those passions into a potential career path.  These two pieces will go into each student's career portfolio and should be an item to treasure at home as well.

School Lunches

Wow, she gives you a lot to think about. The basic premise: We are hurting our kids with the food we are feeding them. While she does not back up what she says with much cited research I have no reason not to believe her (and common sense tells me she is probably right about all this).

(also, it was not lost on me that my previous post was about teachers and donuts but I didn't plan it that way!)

The Power of Reflection

We've been talking about reflection at my school lately. I really want to come up with a routine where I use this blog to reflect about things I see at school and my own teaching. Like many of us I reflect mentally every day (probably many times a day) but I think that formalizing it in writing has a power that thought alone does not... in any case, you can't improve unless you question what you are doing and why you are doing it.

So, time to conduct a little theory in use rather than theory in practice...

(and maybe clean my study, man, what a mess)

I guess not anymore...


The photo shows members of one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes, who were spotted and photographed from the air in a remote corner of the Amazon rainforest near the Brazil-Peru border.

I'm assuming this tribe has seen high flying airplanes and now, since they are shooting at it, a plane or helicopter that is carrying the photographer but... this is amazing. Who knew that there are still tribes living in this world that are totally primitive. It is pretty upsetting that most of these tribes are in jeopardy of going extinct due to "modern" man's meddling. Read more here

The Power of Video Storytelling

Let's face it... video is an amazing medium and one with which youth has totally embraced (see: YouTube). We should be encouraging our students to take a camera with them when they go out on the weekend and create and edit short films. It is an amazing way to unleash creative talent that might be unused or underused during the school day (unfortunately).

Web video does not have to look bad either. Check out Vimeo for some really high quality (both resolution and art) video. This one is one of my favorites and I suggest going right to Vimeo to watch it in high-def.

Six Tickets Please from Clem Kasinskas on Vimeo.

TV is more important than Reading

Wow! how is that for a (potentially misleading) headline? This story in Popular Mechanics goes something like this. Legislation dictates that we stop analog broadcasts real soon. The public must know about this. The government spends $1.5 billion to tell them. Now this is the part that I picked up on in this article (which you should look at, it is good in places)

it's illuminating to put the government's $1.5 billion allocation in perspective. Consider: The proposed 2009 federal budget for adult basic and literacy education is $574.6 million.

Hmm. Read into this what you will. (see what I did there, I said "read into it" and we were talking about TV... forget it).

My new problems with RSS & Twitter

So, I've gone through the phase of subscribing to all the blogs and tweets I like to read. The ones with the great ideas, latest tech news, fascinating philosophical discussions, Obama updates, lesson plans I *have* to try, and much more (too much, I dare say!). No, now I have a new problem.

By self-selecting all my news and information I have successfully eliminated all the news and ideas with which I don't agree! I'm reading opinions that support my political, educational, and religious viewpoints - not to mention my technical (apple) and musical (pitchfork).

So, I hereby pledge to add to my Netvibes some opposing viewpoints (Does Fox News have a blog?) in an effort to solidify my own! (and I encourage you to do the same).

Self-selectors of the world... don't unite! Instead, expand your horizons (and which one of these twitter accounts is the real John McCain?)

View of the world

Ok, I was on Fujistu's website today and it asked me to click on my "region of the world" in order to provide me with the proper service. Without looking I moved my mouse over to the left side of the globe and... WHERE WAS THE USA? Well, someone moved it to *gasp* the other side of the world.

I guess it is important to note that other places might want to put themselves front and center. An important reminder for me, I thought I would share.

Google docs upgrade

I'm not a huge user of Google Docs, I prefer Word & Pages for the bulk of my word processing needs. However, I do enjoy using it for brainstorming/rough drafts/thought catching. After all, what it lacks in polishing it makes up for in portability. Today, Google is getting ready to allow users to have offline access to their Google documents. This is great. I'm all for Google pushing the envelope and putting pressure on the establishment. This type of competition is really great. Check out the Google blog and the video for more information.

Why Word Rocks!

Although it has been around since the early 80s, Microsoft Word (or any word processor these days) should be a staple program to every teacher. The sheer variety of activities (completed by students and teachers): handouts, posters, graphs, poetry, and more that can be made with Word is staggering. Teachers are really only limited by their imaginations and students by their creativity. Below are a few samples of what you can do with Word. Makes you want to almost reconsider whether or not Microsoft is actually evil (for a second, anyway). :-)

Graphic Organizers
Teachers can use graphic organizers to help focus students on research projects, higher level thinking activities or a variety of learning objectives.
Aussie Animals research (plain)
Aussie Animals research (w/graphic)