Archive | December, 2011

The December Dilemma

20 Dec

Below is a timely article posted on Edutopia (my favorite) outlining the struggles schools encounter during the December holiday season.  My synopsis is simple.  We need balance, and not in the sense of a scale, or algebraic equation; more in the sense of focusing on the idea of celebrations, holidays, and traditions over the course of the year.  Let’s plan to evaluate our practices at FCU over the course of the next few months to ensure we are all cognizant of our mission and that it remains the same it always has, to educate our children.

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Holidays or Holy Days

16 Dec

Holidays or Holy Days: A Mini-Lesson on Celebrations | Edutopia.

Click the link above for a article that helps explain my view on holiday celebrations in public schools.  I’ve outlined some of the questions that the author, Maurice Elias, suggests educators ask during the few moments of holiday conversation throughout the year.

  • What does it mean to celebrate?
  • What are some things your family celebrates at this time of year (it’s fine if students mention personal celebrations, such as a parent’s birthday, though the goal is to get at more cultural/religious celebrations)?
  • Can you think of someone you know that celebrates something different from you and your family around this time of year? Why do they celebrate it?
  • What are some different ways to celebrate? Are celebrations always happy? (Here, you want to encourage acknowledging that some events are celebrated, remembered, in ways that can be sad; sometimes celebrations are quiet and involve emotionally meaningful actions, such as laying a wreath or flowers on a commemorative location)
  • Why do so many different people and groups celebrate things?
  • What’s the most important part of celebrations? (Here, you want to encourage all responses — food, fun, being with family, remembering important things, stories, rituals, gifts, appreciation, gratitude — while making the point that one should always be sure to understand what is being celebrated and keep it in mind.) Consider supplementing this lesson with stories about celebrations. You can have students go to the Internet to learn about one kind of celebration they heard about from classmates that they did not know about.
Have a great weekend!

via Holidays or Holy Days.

Video Games Are Making Kids Smarter

13 Dec

The world is becoming “gamified,” and that’s just ok. Gabe Zichermann describes how our lives are becoming saturated with game based methods of positive reinforcement, and the students we teach, Generation G, will be more adept and prepared for the world because of it. In his final words, he prescribes a thoughtful and purposeful medication for all of us who belong in a different generation: Play and understand a video game your child enjoys, become involved with the elements that engage him/her.

Questions to consider:

1. Gabe explains how the 21st Century learning elements are included in video games. I noticed collaboration, problem solving, reflection, creative/critical thinking, and communication. What have you noticed in your children (or others’) while they play? Did I miss any elements?

2. Where have you seen “Gamification?” Gabe notes the newer hybrid cars, have you seen it elsewhere?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Developing Students’ Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap | Edutopia

12 Dec

Developing Students’ Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap

We, in Hooksett, NH, are not in a Mecca of ethnic or racial diversity. We do, however, serve a population richly diverse in academic differences. Regardless of a student’s coding or educational profile, though, we need to cater to our students’s strong suits so we can address their weaknesses. The following article lists a few simple methods we can use to improve students understanding of us, teachers, so we can eliminate the achievement gap.

Here is an excerpt of the beginning of Ben Johnson’s post:

“At a small school district, I faced the challenge as an administrator of diminishing the achievement gap in the student scores, especially in math and science. For example, we noticed that in science there was a 40-point gap between Hispanic students passing the test versus the number of white students passing. Having been in the classrooms and having observed teachers teaching, I knew that they were not treating Hispanic students any differently than the white students. So why was there an achievement gap?

We wrestled with this question for a while. Then one day when I was talking with my own children the problem dawned on me: I sometimes had to watch how I spoke with my own children because they would give me funny looks when I used the “big” or unfamiliar words. My own children spoke English just fine, but they did not understand words like ubiquitous, loquacious, or facetious. The solution was looking me in the face quizzically. So, were teachers using academic language that the students whose first language was English were more familiar with? To make a long story short, we decided to increase the level of vocabulary development, primarily using many sheltered language techniques. The results were astounding. Because of this and an intense college readiness focus, in two years, our schools went from the status of unacceptable to recognized and then the next year, exemplary.”

Read more by clicking the following link:

Developing Students’ Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap | Edutopia.

Questions to Consider:

1. What stands out about his 3 techniques?

2. How could you implement those strategies in your class?

3. He implemented these strategies in his school primarily to eliminate the achievement gap between Hispanics and whites. Could it be beneficial for others?

The Future of EdTech: Signs from Investments

9 Dec

There are exciting developments in educational technology.  The combination of social media, the Common Core State Standards (and the national consistency they provide), and computerized assessments have made the stars align for entrepreneurs.  The social media technology allows for personalization, sharing and communication.  The Common Core allows for a huge market for businesses, and the computerized assessments provide timely feedback for students and teachers.

Read below for more details.  Questions to consider:

1. How would any of these resources look at UH?

2. How do these resources compare to NWEA/MAP?

3. How does this compare to the technology and philosophy used at The School of One?


What Three Big EdTech Investments Say About The Future Of Education

That the media has recently run a spate of grumpy articles about the role of technology in education does not surprise veteran entrepreneur Jessie Woolley-Wilson, chief executive of Dreambox Learning. “Frankly, there’s been a very long history of investment in edtech that has fallen short of expectations,” she says.

So true—and yet, so true of so many other technologies, too. Remember Apple’s original Newton? The trio of failed e-books from around 2000?

“Tools that make it easier, faster, more effective—more personalized for kids—are what we’re most excited about.”

This past week saw venture and private investors grabbing a pen to write checks to support three significant edtech trends: the move toward supporting Common Core standards, the use of “adaptive” learning technologies, and an increase in social media in education.

The underlying theme, says Gloria Lee, chief operating officer of NewSchools Venture Fund, is about making education truly personalized for learners. “Tech tools that make it easier, faster, more effective—more personalized for kids—these are exactly the kinds of things that we’re most excited about.”

Expect to see these trends become even bigger in 2012:
Common Core


MasteryConnect, a Salt Lake City startup, is on the front of the wave of educators adopting the Common Core curriculum. To date, 46 U.S. states have okayed this math and English language arts curriculum. The Common Core has a lot of fans: When every state writes its own curriculum, the only organizations that can afford to create, say, textbooks or products for schools, are very large companies that have sales forces big enough to visit the more than 14,000 districts in the country. Many states are making adaptations of the Common Core—but having at least a common base should mean that students—from Maine to California—can expect to learn the same fundamentals.

That said, switching curriculum is never easy. “We get really worried about the speed with which Common Core standards are being adopted,” said Anne LaTarte, executive director, assessment portfolio, New York City Department of Education, at a recent conference—largely because getting the proper alignment of curriculum and assessments is hard.

MasteryConnect has built a tool that should help educators find and share assessments linked to the Common Core standards. “This serves a huge need for teachers,” says Lee, who is joining the MasteryConnect board.

Investment: $1.1 million

Investors: NewSchools Venture Fund, Learn Capital, Imagine K12.
Adaptive Learning


Dreambox Learning, located about halfway between Microsoft and Amazon in Bellevue, Washington, is at the forefront of creating “adaptive” learning programs for teaching math. Dreambox currently offers a program aimed at early math learners, grades K through 3.

Adaptive has become one of the great industry buzzwords in education: Broadly speaking, an “adaptive” program changes a bit in response to what a user does. Some programs claim to be “adaptive” when they offer easier problems to a student who has flunked a quiz.

By contrast, the Dreambox program captures every mouse click a student makes and can adjust for 60 different parameters of student behavior: how quickly he or she answers questions, how many “hints” they use to get an answer, and so on. The program amasses data based on thousands of students’ answers and then identifies hot-spot problem areas. As a result, Dreambox shifts the pacing and material presented within a lesson as the student is working on it, as well as adapts the sequence of subsequent lessons.

“Intelligent adaptive learning means that there are a million individualized pathways.”

“Intelligent adaptive learning means that there are a million individualized pathways” along which a student might progress, says Woolley-Wilson. “We have a class of technology that’s going beyond just measuring what a student knows to assessing the strategies they are using to solve problems,” she says. Much like getting “recommendations” from Netflix or Amazon, Dreambox effective “recommends” a learning strategy that should help the student more easily master the material.

In August 2011, SRI International published an independent study that showed students’ test scores improved by 5.5% after using DreamBox for 16 weeks.

Investment: $11 million

Investors: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings (through the Charter School Growth Fund), a private investment from venture capitalist John Doerr, GSV Capital Corp., and current investor, Deborah Quazzo.
Social Networking


Although Edmodo—based in San Mateo, California—had its roots in the Illinois heartland, it is fast becoming a sort of “LinkedIn” for teachers and students. Edmodo is a fast-growing social networking tool that enables teachers to communicate with each other and with their students in a safe environment. Some 4.5 million teachers and students now have Edmodo accounts, up from 500,000 in September 2010. Edmodo gives teachers a way to share materials, too. Not so surprising, then, that the new investors should include people with ample experience in building social networks: Reid Hoffman, founder and chairman of LinkedIn and a managing partner at Greylock Partners, and Matt Cohler, formerly vice president of product management at Facebook and now a general partner with Benchmark Capital. Both Hoffman and Cohler are also joining the Edmodo board.

“Just as LinkedIn is the professional graph for workand Facebook is the social graph for your friends, Edmodo is the educational graph for learning,” Hoffman said.

Investment: $15 million series B.

Investors: Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital.

Top 10 Signs You’re a 21st Century Teacher

8 Dec

From the December 2011 Issue of Antioch Center for School Renewal:

Top 10 Signs You’re a 21st Century Teacher
10.  The whiteboard in your classroom makes you happy- but you think you could do more with it.

9.  You know (or are pretty sure) that FaceBook or Twitter could be about more than just keeping track of old friends and celebrities.

8.  You expect your students to solve problems on their own, using you as a resource of last resort.

7.  You’re pretty sure that your students are smarter than they get credit for being.

6.  Your ideal class is one where the students are doing the work and you’re guiding them along.

5.  You love to answer a question with a question.

4.  Messy is good- and (controlled) chaos makes you happy.

3.  You know your students well- and you like them.

2.  You see technology as a tool for a job, but not the job itself.

1.  You know that you’re never, ever done growing.

QR Codes in Action

5 Dec

Check out this QR Code outside of Mrs. Lynch’s kindergarten room.