Where the Scriddley starts to pow

  • Twitter

  • Click to subscribe to Scriddleblog and get more email.

    Join 1 other follower

  • Advertisements

Hello school year!

Posted by phourigan on September 10, 2010

It’s really fantastic to be back, and one reason I’m so excited about this school year is my CEC class – I’m finally going to have my own environment where I can start putting into practice all of the skills and techniques that I’ve been trying to get others to do for years.

I’ve had two sections of CEC so far and it’s going to be very interesting.  These 8th grade boys are not used to having to solve problems for themselves, and for some of them it will take quite some time to reprogram their brains so that they don’t instinctively ask me for answers first.

The class will consist of a series of challenges, and here’s the first challenge:

I want you to blog.  I can’t decide what platform to use, so I’m asking you to help.

In your small group:
1. Research and select a blogging platform
2. Prepare a presentation that illustrates why we should choose your recommended platform over other platforms
3. Be ready to answer questions
4. Compose your thoughts in the online journal below
5. Download (using the link below), complete (using your brain) and submit (using the digital drop box below) the self-assessment worksheet

Items 4 & 5 reference three links in Moodle to resource materials – a journal page, a link to a Word document and a digital drop box for collecting work.

Most of the boys seem very excited to get started, but it’s interesting how many of them jumped immediately to PowerPoint – it’s like Pavlov’s dog.  They hear “Presentation” and instantly think that PowerPoint is the best (correction: only) medium.  I shall soon dispel them of that notion unless it’s really really good.

But the best part so far was when a student who has not yet even had the class came up to me and asked, “I was looking on Moodle at the challenge and was wondering if I could get started over the weekend.”

I asked, “What do you think I’m going to say?”

“Probably no,” he said with a sheepish grin.

“Now hang on a second,” I replied, “Let’s switch roles.  You’re the teacher and you were just approached by a student who was so eager to start a project that he asked if he could start it early – and on the weekend, no less!”

He smiled and said, “In that case, I guess the answer would be yes!”



Posted in CEC, Ed Tech | Leave a Comment »

Plagiarism-proof assignments: walking the walk

Posted by phourigan on June 15, 2010

A wise man once told me, “Never complain unless you have an alternate solution”.  In light of my previous post on paraphrasing, I thought I should expound further on what I think we can do about plagiarism:

  • Be honest with yourself.  Ask “What’s the point of this assignment?  What should a student remember about this experience twenty years from now?”  If you can’t answer that question, and you’d be surprised at how hard it is sometimes to find an answer, you should recognize that the assignment is busywork.  Kids are smart; they can recognize filler assignments and will adjust their efforts accordingly.  When I’m reading a suspect paper, I can usually tell the exact moment when the student lost interest and began copying and pasting – it’s usually right at the point where I begin losing interest in reading it.
  • Understand that almost all factual knowledge is available on the internet.  Research, as you and I learned it as students, is dead.  Twenty years ago we were like Gandalf riding his horse to Minas Tirith, poring over ancient texts in an effort to find the answer to our essential question.  Today, we type “One Ring to rule them all” into Google and get 1,940,000 search results in .31 seconds.  I’m sure Gandalf learned a lot in the course of his research and the experience was quite rewarding in itself, but today’s student is overwhelmed by the sheer volume and rapid accessibility of information.  With all of that information available and the ability to scan through dozens of sources in minutes, students will inevitably find what they’re looking for, stated in a much better way than they could phrase it themselves.  How do you paraphrase factual information that’s already expressed in a clear and concise way?  If all we’re asking for is regurgitation, we can’t possibly be surprised when we get it.
  • Students must be taught how to interpret what they’ve found and form their own opinion.  If you’re not asking for their opinion, you’re asking them to regurgitate.  If you don’t think they’re informed enough to offer an opinion, what are you waiting for?  This is what school should be all about – asking students to think.  Expressing their opinion is the one thing students can do better than an expert.  A student who forms an opinion and can back it up is a student who has learned the material.
  • If you’re concerned that students might find a paper online and use it, make that part of the assignment.  Have them find two papers or sources and write their own paper about which one is better and why.  Better yet, have them read two papers from a previous year’s class and write their own paper comparing the two, finishing the assignment by giving each paper a grade.
  • Set checkpoints.  In my experience, students usually plagiarize when they procrastinate and realize at the eleventh hour that they can’t possibly put the appropriate time and effort in to making their research their own.
  • For assignments that still require factual research, have the students turn in a copy of their source material.
  • If you think I’m crazy and none of this will work and you’re intent on serving up the same research assignments you’ve always used, there’s still hope: if your school has plagiarism-detection software (, for example), use it as a pre-writing tool instead of a Gotcha.  Students can submit a draft, identify pieces that they didn’t paraphrase well enough, rewrite the paper and submit.  Just understand that your assignment is no longer a research paper – it’s a paraphrasing exercise.

I’ll admit it – I loved writing research papers.  But for me, part of the fun was the detective work involved in finding the perfect source material and it was usually the result of a long and complicated process which made it that much more of a reward.  I can’t believe that today I would be disciplined enough to go through the same process when the internet makes much of the same data readily available.  I certainly can’t expect my students to be any different.

Posted in Ed Tech, Education | Leave a Comment »

Summer plans

Posted by phourigan on June 11, 2010

I’m technically considered faculty and not staff, so my school year comes to an end next week.  I think that’s something that will change for me as I go forward, but for now I’m content to take my eight weeks “off” and work on a couple initiatives in between visits to the beach:

  • GameMaker and Scratch – I’m holding a one week camp for a variety of ages that will introduce campers to both of these platforms.  To do so, I will have to learn both applications/languages . . . I’m actually looking forward to it.
  • CEC – The class I’m creating for next year’s 8th grade.  I’m so excited to get this off the ground.  The more I think about what’s possible with this particular format, the more I think it will truly engage students and challenge them to actually THINK.  If I do it right, it will be a huge culture shift for out school.  Not only will the 8th grade teachers see what kind of work I think they could be doing, but the students will move into their 9th grade year (and first one to one laptop year) with the knowledge of what’s possible.
  • Professional development –  I had a great conversation with an upper school Biology teacher yesterday.  She asked me point-blank, “I want to use technology more in my classes.  How do I do that?”  My honest answer was, “I don’t know.”  In years past I would have made something up; after all, I’m the Educational Technologist.  As I’ve learned more about what teachers should be doing with technology and learning, it’s become apparent to me that all I can do is show people tools – I can’t force them to make those tools relevant to their subject matter.

So what I suggested to her is that she take advantage of Twitter to reach out to other Biology teachers and see what tools they use and how they use them.  I would be happy to get her started, and once she found some good information I would be happy to help her implement those tools in her classroom.

I was pleased when she gave me an honest answer: “I don’t want to be sitting at home spending more time on the computer than I have to.”  In that case, Twitter is a bad idea.  We finished our conversation talking about the different ways she could connect with people face to face at regional and national conferences.  I’m glad she wants to work hard for her students, and I would offer any day to cover her classes!

  • EdAccess – My favorite conference of all-time.  I went a couple of years ago and got more out of the experience than any other PD opportunity I’ve had.  It’s an unconference, which is great because of the variety of offerings, and everyone is so enthusiastic and helpful.  Both of my young children were born over Memorial Day weekend (three years and one day apart), so I haven’t been able to go in the past as often as I’ve wanted, but now that my younger daughter is a year old I think I can manage it.  If you’ve never been to an unconference, I suggest you give it a try.  EdCamp Philly was also a great experience.

Many thanks to those who visit and read what I have to say.  I have to admit, it’s a great feeling to know that people – even just a few people – are reading what I have to say.  I appreciate your willingness to give me some of your time.

Have a great summer!  I’ll try to update from the beach in between sand castles.

Posted in Ed Tech, Education | Leave a Comment »

He who paraphrases best, wins

Posted by phourigan on June 9, 2010

I had an interesting discussion with another teacher yesterday.  A student of hers turned in a paper that was clearly mostly a copy and paste job.  Most of the time we treat this as a learning opportunity and sit down with the student and find out why they thought that was what the teacher was asking for.  Often, the student admits they were running out of time or simply couldn’t be bothered, but sometimes they think they acted correctly and we have to explain why what they gave us wasn’t what we were looking for.

This time though, was this particular student’s second time – he had received The Talk and The Warning on the previous assignment where he did almost exactly the same thing.

Cut and dried, right?  Not so fast . . .

What I usually do when looking for evidence of what we can call Inappropriate Paraphrasing is type suspicious-looking phrases into Google to find the source material.  In the past, this process usually led to Wikipedia or another well-known site.  This time was different.

Typing in the first sentence of the paper lead me to four different sites, all with exactly the same text, and none of them referencing the original source of the material.  One of the sites was the New York Times and another was run by the country in question’s Embassy (it was a History paper).  If I can’t tell which was the original source, how could a student?  How do you cite four sources of the same information?

But my main difficulty with what the student turned in was that what he turned in nearly met the paper’s requirements, even in its borrowed state.  The assignment asked for the student to research factual information, analyze the main message and put it in his own words.  Ten or fifteen years ago this was a daunting task.  The process of conducting the research was just as important as being able to analyze the resulting information.  But that was fifteen years ago.  Now, Google provides access to ALL the information – a process that doesn’t involve any more thought than typing in words that Google can understand.

So the paper becomes an exercise to see who can paraphrase the best.  If we ask for regurgitation and get regurgitation we can’t exactly be surprised.  We then start to grade the students who can paraphrase better or at least make an attempt to conceal the fact that they also copied and pasted their information.

My conversation with the teacher ended up focusing on how we can keep this from happening in the future.  I pointed out that the third section of the student’s paper – the part where the student was supposed to express an opinion – should actually be the entire assignment.  This approach is hard if not impossible to plagiarize, and if done well would show mastery of the material.

It reminded me of an experience I had earlier this year with an 8th grader who was putting a presentation together about Heinrich Himmler for his History class.  This boy is a top student and was working in PowerPoint, trying to find a place to insert his photos into a slide; the problem was that there was so much text on the slide he was having trouble.  I turned off his computer monitor and said, “Tell me about Himmler.”  For the next ten minutes he answered every question I had about the man.  When we finished I asked him, “So why do you even need the PowerPoint?  Why do you need all that text on screen?”

His reply was: “How else is my teacher going to know I know the information?”

“You just proved it to me!” I said.

“But if I do it this way I know I’ll get an A.”  And he was right.  He couldn’t bring himself to trust me and just stand up in front of the class and answer questions because somehow the PowerPoint was proof that he had done the work.

I’m hoping that my CEC class next year will allow me to show students that it’s what’s in their heads that counts and not what they can throw together in a paper or presentation.

Posted in Ed Tech, Education | 2 Comments »

Exams and the teachers who hate them (me!)

Posted by phourigan on June 7, 2010

I proctored a Spanish I exam this morning (one peril of my no-set-schedule job is that I’m always “free” to cover classes) and now I’m sitting in a mandatory study session for tomorrow’s 7th grader math exam, so of course I’m thinking about exams and forms of assessment.

We can talk all we want about project-based learning and inquiry, alternative assessment and multiple learning styles, but when it comes down to it the way we really find out whether or not students know our material is to have them sit down at a cleared desk, get a pencil and write down some answers.  This seems like a lost opportunity to step back and think about what we’re really hoping our students learn from their experience.

The Spanish exam I sat through was in two parts: a listening section and a written section.  The listening section was three ninety second recordings that asked questions or made statements and the students were supposed to circle the correct sentiment or answer a question or whatever.  What struck me first when I agreed to proctor this exam is how little the foreign language exam had changed since I was a middle school student over twenty-five years ago.  Granted I was using iTunes to read a CD, but how is this fundamentally different from listening to an audio tape?  For all I know, these voices I was hearing were recorded a hundred years ago and ported across various media formats by generations of language teachers.

I don’t want to be overly critical (okay, yes I do), but the fact that I, someone who never took Spanish, was qualified to deliver the instrument that would measure what an eighth grade student absorbed over the course of the year makes me think we can be doing something different.  With the technology available, it would be great to be able to capture student voices or better yet to actually have them communicate with other students in Spanish.  After all, isn’t that what they’re learning Spanish for?

If two students sat down and had a conversation, either they speak and understand each other very well, or they struggle through the conversation.  If one does well and the other does not, it should be obvious (to a trained observer – ie. a Spanish instructor) that one student is correcting, clarifying or doing the best with what he’s being given.

Now we get to the heart of the issue: assessment.  With our current model (and it’s not just Spanish here, it’s everything), I can take an answer key and score these Spanish exams.  To be fair, there was an essay section that I would certainly not be able to assess, but the rest of the exam I wouldn’t have trouble with (mostly multiple choice and fill in the blank).  It’s very easy to grade a test like this and it takes very little work on my part.  Contrast this with my alternate universe assessment and now I have to spend hours of time listening to students speaking to each other and trying to equate what I’m hearing with mastery of the subject matter.  It’s almost a no-brainer.

But let’s allow 21st Century tools to come into play.  Who says the exam has to take place at 9:20 in room E-32?  Who says it has to happen on the third-to-last day of the year?  Let’s suppose that I instead mete out the assignment a couple of weeks ahead of time and assess, say, three pairs of students a week for three weeks?  They can have their conversation wherever and whenever they want, but they have to submit their recorded conversation (and perhaps even a written transcript – that would be interesting) to the instructor on time.

Quick aside – I just heard a student say to a classmate, “I only need to get a 40 on this exam to get an A- for the year,” followed by, “I only need to get a one percent on this exam to get high honors for the year.”  At least he can do the math, but is this what we’re aiming for?  Students who know how little they need to do in order to achieve our goals for them?

I believe that we need to teach students to think differently.  I also believe that we need to challenge ourselves to think differently.  We need school administrations who will embrace and even reward teachers who generate alternative assessments rather than scare teachers into what is safe and familiar.  We’re all so afraid that our risks may fail, but think back to that student who knows he only needs a 40 for his A-.  Is that the measure of a successful exam?

Posted in Education | Leave a Comment »

Faculty meeting musings; a segue to a Blogger vs. KidBlog battle

Posted by phourigan on June 2, 2010

Last week at a faculty meeting, I was given the opportunity to speak to the faculty about professional development opportunities.  This is typically not my bailiwick, but I was very excited to give it a go because it gave me a chance to espouse a little of my educational philosophy to a captive audience.

It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that the best way to convince teachers that they need to start exploring how technology can help them become better teachers is to get them together with other teachers in their area of expertise.  If, say, a history teacher attends a history teacher conference, it’s my strong feeling that eventually those teachers will start discussing technology tools and how they help in and out of the classroom.  This is an entirely different approach than for me to appear at a history department meeting and say, “Here are some tools that I think you should use in your class.”

So I spoke for about five minutes and presented some research I had done on national departmental conferences, but I spent most of the time emphasizing the free opportunities available to all teachers.  Pennsylvania is fortunate in that educators have access to Intermediate Units – regional educational service agencies – that offer free training and professional development opportunities for public and independent school teachers.

At the end of my time, I emphasized that education needs to change.  Factual knowledge is readily available and we can’t confuse finding data with gaining insight.  I stressed that our job as teachers is to teach students how to take what they can find and make sense of it.

I thought it went pretty well, but as I returned to my seat I heard one of our upper school teachers mutter, “Oh yeah – like I’m going to have my kids keep blogs with all their wonderful spelling.”

Had this been lunch or a more intimate setting, I would have engaged in this conversation with great gusto.  However, it was a full faculty meeting that had already run over time, so I had the conversation in my head instead:

SO TEACH THEM HOW TO BLOG!!  Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do?  I guarantee that students who have a blog will write more than students who don’t.  This isn’t about spelling, and English teachers can hate me if they like, but spell check has taken care of spelling for us.  Instead, we need to teach context and meaning.  Having the correct spelling is akin to having the knowledge.  Picking the right word is akin to knowing what to do with that knowledge.

Now the segue —

I’ve been testing out Blogger and KidBlog this morning to see which platform will work for my CEC class next year.  I’m looking for a way to have my students keep their own individual blogs but have them under some kind of administrative control.

On the one hand, Blogger has the potential to fully integrate with Google Apps, since it’s also owned by Google.  Although that functionality isn’t there yet, I suspect it will be at some point.

On the other hand, KidBlog has the administrative control I’m looking for.  I can create a class and each student gets his own blog under my class heading.  I can approve postings, comments or both and students don’t need to provide an e-mail address to get an account, unlike Blogger which uses a Google Account.  My colleague, @ksivick, used KidBlog successfully in her 4th grade project earlier this year.

My fear is that 8th grade boys will be too cool to use a site called KidBlog.  I asked one of my current 7th graders what he thought about using a tool called KidBlog and he said he wouldn’t mind, “as long as it looks cool.”  In my opinion, KidBlog looks like it was designed for eight year olds, so I don’t know how that will go over.

Right now I’m leaning towards KidBlog and hoping they’ll change their name and give us some more templates.

Posted in Ed Tech, Education | Leave a Comment »

Google Apps for course management

Posted by phourigan on June 1, 2010

My school is committed to Moodle for course management, but I’m going to try something different for next year.  Google Apps for Education seems to offer enough features to not only act as a Moodle replacement, but to give more functionality than what Moodle can offer.  My CEC class will be the guinea pigs.

Here’s a run-down of how I’m planning on using the Google App features:

Gmail – obviously for e-mail communication.  Students will create custom contact lists and learn how to explore Google Labs for additional functionality.  We’ll create labels and filters and I’ll show them how to keep track of their messages while keeping their Inbox manageable.  We will also use the chat functionality, perhaps as a back channel in class.  I’m still not sure how that will go.

Google Calendar – Assignment book / planner.  We don’t take full advantage of the Google Calendar.  Being able to set reminders is huge, as is being able to invite attendees and even see their schedules, if the permissions are set up to do so.  I can imagine using Calendar to manage long-term assignments.  Also, you can also attach any file to any calendar event – it’s all integrated with Google Docs.

Google Docs – file management, sharing.  Shared folders will allow me to assign work with just a click.  For those who don’t know, you can upload a document or file to a shared folder and anyone with access to the folder automatically has access to the file.  Pair that with an e-mail or calendar reminder, and one of Moodle’s drawbacks is addressed (in Moodle, students don’t necessarily know that a course page has been updated unless they check the actual page).  Students will submit work using a shared folder as a drop box.  There’s no fear of messing up another students’ files because the Revision History lets you go back in time and revert to any previous version.  Even if a student erases all the text on a document and saves it, you can still get back to an earlier version (and see who the vandal was!).

Google Groups – because I’ve been disappointed with Google Sites, I’m envisioning using the Groups as my course’s home page.  From there, I can put links to outside resources, upload my syllabus, and have a home base for students to check in.  It seems like Google is paying more attention to their Groups lately, so hopefully they’ll continue to add features.

Google Forms – a largely unexplored frontier in our domain – I’ve used it for faculty surveys, but I want to use it on a daily basis to gauge whether or not students are ready to move on.  We don’t need to spend money on instant response hardware when I can just shoot out a Google Form and collect the results at almost real-time (something Google will probably improve on).

Looking forward, I’m hoping to take a look at Google Wave and and see how we can utilize them.  I want each of my students to keep a blog and I’ll need to check out how well integrates with the rest of Google’s functions.

If you have any suggestions or better yet, any experience using these functions wholesale, please let me know.

Posted in Ed Tech, Education | Leave a Comment »

If I had one wish for school . . .

Posted by phourigan on May 25, 2010

I’ve been talking to some students yesterday and today and asked them the question: If had one wish for school it would be . . .?

Three upper school boys offered their opinions in a conversation we had:

– Self prescribed homework.  We should be able to do as much as we need to do. I’d love to eliminate busywork.  There are many times where I have a problem set to do in math, for example, and I get the concept through the first few problems.  I hate it because I then know I have to just finish all the problems to get a good grade.  You have to have limits though – our school should not embrace mediocrity.  Also, optional classes – like in college where you’re not obligated to go but still have to take the test. If you have an A-plus then you could have the option to not attend.  This shows more trust of the student. [He then came up with his own version of the inverted model – lecture at home, problem sets in class!]

– Have students pick quarter long projects that they work on becuase they’re self motivated.

– Approachable teachers and students you feel comfotable with. Someone to talk to about day to day life – not necessarily as a friend, but as someone who make you feel good about coming to school. [What makes a teacher unapproachable?]  Blowing a gasket about things that students has no control over – for example, I have to miss class for crew nationals, and I’m dreading telling the teacher.  I know she’s going to blame me.  You also need to have students you trust as well – this builds community.

My advisory [I had them write it down; everything sic’d]:

– Better computers that don’t take 20 mins for the computers to start up
– I wish there was no homework
– To have [our school] be coed [we’re all boys]
– To have an entire video arcade.  Why?  because we as students work hard for good grades and deserve a chance to cool down
– If I had one wish for school it would be to have another soccer field
– Make [our school] COED
– iPad
– No “dress code” for a dress DOWN.
– More free time
– to have Macs for the MS Lab

I think the comparison is interesting.  The seventh grade students in my advisory focused primarily on what would make school more fun while the upper school boys were really interested in making their learning and their community better.  I don’t know if that’s a result of how I asked the question or if they’re better at interpreting what I’m really asking, or if they just told me what they thought I would want to know.

Even if they’re telling me what they think I want to hear, I’m still impressed.

Posted in Education | 4 Comments »

EdCamp Philly! Part 2

Posted by phourigan on May 24, 2010

My session three was “Problems with Problem Based Learning” with Aaron Eyler (@aaron_eyler), and evolved into a great discussion about teaching and learning.

My take-aways:

Backchannels in class – I still can’t get over this.  Aaron has his students conduct backchannel discussions as part of class!  He admitted he had all AP and honors students, but there’s no reason that other classes couldn’t give this a try.  I contacted him afterward and found he uses Backnoise to hold these discussions.  I’m going to have to give this a try, if I have the guts.

“Does anyone realize that everything our kids do they’ll be able to go back and revisit?” – an excellent point.  My immediate reaction was to take this as a negative; after all, my Dean of Students role often has me talking to students about taking down their inappropriate posts and pictures from social networking sites.  However, when I thought more about this statement as a positive, there’s a lot of potential here.  My past papers, essays and tests are lost to history, but it would be an extremely interesting exercise to have students rewrite a paper that they wrote their freshman year, for example.  Digital portfolios should move with the student and be accessed and re-accessed, just like social networking sites.

“Our students turn in work that only one person sees. How useful is that today?” – Students turn in school work to their teacher.  They put their homemade videos online where they’re seen by two million people.  Which do you think is more rewarding for that student?

“Problem-based learning gives students a bigger audience.” – The connections made in the investigation of the problem make this statement ring true.  Expanding your classroom to include the larger world as a resource inevitably increases the number of people who are curious to see if the students can pull it off!  You can almost guarantee that if you bring in an expert from the professional world as a resource that that person will be interested in following up to see how everything went.

Trenton Barracks project – Barracks was going to be closed because of budget cuts.  Final exam – Save the Trenton Barracks!” – Students ran with this challenge, creating an online petition, calling politicians and even convincing an IHOP to donate a portion of a morning’s proceeds to the cause.  Amazing!  Forty-four students created their own portfolios to demonstrate they’ve done everything in their power to Save the Barracks, and must send their proposal to the state capitol.  My initial concern with a project like that is how to grade it, but if the students must keep a portfolio all along to PROVE that they were involved and making an effort, that would be enough information to allow me to grade the project properly.  Of course, the ultimate grade is the success or failure of the campaign, I suppose.

“Main roadblock to Problem Based Learning – the blocking of web 2.0 in schools” – I couldn’t agree more.  This morning in advisory, my boys were discussing their upcoming Health test and I could tell they were getting the definition of Blood Alcohol Content wrong.  I asked them to look it up.  They stared at me.  I said, “Take out your internet-ready device and find out the answer.”  One student guiltily took his iPhone out of his pocket (“I forgot to put it in my locker,” he said sheepishly) and got the job done.  Even with a teacher telling him to use it he had reservations.  We’ve brainwashed these kids into thinking that there’s something wrong with having the world’s knowledge in the palm of your hand.

“We fear for our students’ ability to face disagreement” – another point I’d never thought of.  In pre-Internet days, you had to deal with people who disagreed with you.  Now, you unfriend them or block them.  There’s no incentive to produce a thoughtful response.

I left this session feeling so inspired to take chances with my own CEC class next year.  Aaron works in a public school and has state exams to worry about, yet he’s plunging forward.  What’s keeping me and our teachers at this independent school from making the same commitment?

Session four turned into a short talk with Hadley Ferguson (@hadleyfj), a middle school teacher at my school’s sister school.  I had a family issue arise in the afternoon and was going to take an earlier train, but took some time to connect with her and hear about some of the great teaching and learning that’s happening in her classroom.  She’s using Wikis with her sixth grade girls and has had a positive response with them.

EdCamp Philly was tremendous.  I can’t wait until next year.

Posted in Ed Tech, Education | Leave a Comment »

EdCamp Philly!

Posted by phourigan on May 22, 2010

Halfway through EdCamp Philly and I’m having a really good time.

The first session I went to was called “Critical Thinking Through Questioning” by Deb Bowles of the Great Books foundation.  I wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but it was interesting nonetheless.  It focused on the idea that we need to question our reading to draw out critical thinking in our students.  The teacher should ask questions to draw out the most meaning from the students.  There are three types of questions: Factual vs Interpretive vs Evaluative questions.

One of the cool things I thought I’d give a try next school year is to introduce a “text opener” at the beginning of class – a question about the students themselves that will ultimately link to the reading or area of study.  I can imagine with Challenge Based Learning this is a good introduction to the concept of Essential Questions.

The second session was “Student Perceptions of Teacher Expertise” by Dr. David Timony (@drtimony).  I really liked this one.  I had never really thought too much about how important it is for students to perceive teachers as experts.  Everyone knows that there are good teachers and bad teachers; what I didn’t realize is that students can separate out the “cool” teachers who are not experts and have a poor reaction to them.  They won’t work as hard for a teacher they perceive to be an expert, even if that person has an easygoing manner or doesn’t give a lot of homework.

It all comes back to the idea that the teachers who continue to strive to be better teachers get better results from their students.  Seems like common sense, right?  We have wasted opportunities with our in-service days (see my earlier post regarding my thoughts on in-service here) to actually get better at what we do.  Instead, we build resentment and alienate the people we’re trying to help get better.

It’s so rewarding to be interacting with people who are committed to making themselves better – everyone here qualifies.  If there were only some way to make the people who would never come to one of these actually attend, we’d be getting somewhere.  I hate to think that incentive programs are the way to go because I want teachers to get better simply because they want to be better teachers.

The third session starts in about twenty minutes, so I’ll post more thoughts in a bit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »