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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.

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Retreat lunch break

Posted by phourigan on May 3, 2010

So far so good at the ADVIS retreat.  Alan November has some really interesting ideas which I’m eager to get going with back at school.

Some of my personal favorites:

Shared Google Maps for presenting country or place research.

Google Docs for collaborative note-taking – assign roles to members of the class.  For example, break notes out into People, Places and Events in a history lecture.  Share the notes out at the end of the class and make sure they’re perfect.  Everyone gets the best possible notes.

Google Custom Search – for teachers who grumble about their students citing Google as a resource.  Perfect for librarians and others who teach research skills.  Can’t wait to implement this one at school!

Inverted classroom – students should do their classwork at home (view/hear a lecture, read, compose questions) and homework at school (solve problems, get immediate feedback).

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EdCamp Philly

Posted by phourigan on April 24, 2010

Make sure to check out EdCamp Philly.  My co-worker and friend Kim Sivick (Twitter: @ksivick) has been instrumental in making this extraordinary unconference a reality.  When I think of the future of educational technology, it’s opportunities like this that energize me, keep me informed on the latest in Ed Tech, and underscore just what kind of important job we have.

As I tell my students, teaching is highly personal.  But for decades we’ve kept the focus on the teacher and not the student.  There is a tectonic shift happening, and the more we collaborate for the sake of the students we teach, the better.  Sign up for EdCamp Philly today!

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Playing Zelda blind

Posted by phourigan on April 22, 2010

At the PLP conference yesterday, Will Richardson showed us a video of a blind boy who wanted to finish Ocarina of Time. He solicited help through Skype and YouTube and found a couple other players who spent two years putting a script together so he could complete the game.

I showed the first half of the video to my 7th grade advisory, which shows only a sighted player putting on a blindfold and showing how he has developed the skill of playing blind, and asked them for their impressions of the boy. Their answers ranged from “huge nerd” to “he just wants to be famous”.

We watched the rest of the video, saw that the sighted boy was helping out this blind gamer, and I asked my boys for their new impressions of the sighted boy. They obviously had all changed their minds.

For homework (my first ever advisory homework assignment), I tasked them with using the internet to teach themselves a new skill that they will show off on Monday and through next week. I’m curious to see what they come up with.

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