Friday, April 30, 2010

Mapping the World By Heart

Second semester 2009-2010 the 6th graders embarked on a huge project called Mapping the World by Heart. Each student complete nine regional maps. After the regional maps were completed students then drew the world map using the information from their regional maps. The original year-long curriculum was compacted into 16 weeks. The maps turned out great, you can see all of them here!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Booklist for Very Young Very Precocious Readers

Not to repeat myself but I've taught gifted kids for 25 years. Part of our assessment process for services include meeting with parents and classroom teachers. I'm on the hunt for kiddos who are (in part) reading two-three years above peers. With older students 4th-6th this is fairly easy (except for the fact that some gifted kids are not pleasure readers). Older gifted readers will have read all the regulars--popular series as well as YA fantasy and science fiction series; some classics and even outlier titles like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Animal Farm, Robert Ludlum thrillers, or Stephen King.

My problem was in discussions with parents and teachers of very young very precocious readers. These kids were in kindergarten through second grade and reading 4-5 years above grade level. I'd mention Charlotte's Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and then I was at a lost for good titles. Reading 4th grade books like Junie B. Jones or Captain Underpants was not good enough for me so I went on a hunt for recommended titles for these very young readers. I wanted the books to have rich themes and vocabLinkulary but age appropriate content.

So for several months I asked everybody I knew--current gifted kids, old gifted kids, parents of gifted kids, classroom teachers, gifted ed teachers, and public and school librarians to send me good book titles. I have compiled the list. You can find the link to the list at the bottom right of my website A Different Place. If you have some MUST ADDS let me know. N

I have not read all these books. Be sure to let students self-select, you will be pleased with the results.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cleaning Out File Cabinets Part II: A Vingette of Five

A Vignette of Five
by Ethelouise Carpenter

He was five, and in kindergarten. The first time he was told his boots were on the wrong feet, he said, "No, these are mine" and the next time, "Well, it doesn't matter. I know where I'm going."

As the weeks went on, we learned that he had a copper spaniel dog, he slept in a four-holster bed and he lived (in this university community) next door to merry housing.

He had a hole in his boots that sucked up water, and he objected to walking to school on lumpy sidewalks. He had a new baby sister who leaked and who had a bath when there wasn't any dirt on her.

In school he complained about a child who was acting too deteriorating, and one day he announced he had had a messtressing accident.

At the workbench he ground wood and made Swiss cheese. He didn't like pineapple juice because it kinda bit him. He said he loved to eat celery-he could hear the noise inside his head. He couldn't play with guinea pigs because they were bad for his energies. He made a very mykannic thing of wood and wire and touched dry cell wires to the globe to make the world turn.

He squeezed shoots of water from a plastic soap container, discovering he could do it to the rhythm of Yankee Doodle. He made a mousetrap and a suit of knight armor. He bottled milkweed seeds so he could see them loose without losing them. He raced two worms across a board and blew noises out of mailing tubes. He took off his shoes because he liked the rug feeling through his socks. He wore a man-shirt and necktie that he invariably wound up in the workbench vise.

His smock was loaded with paint, his zipper was halfway up, his long belt gathered in too-large corduroy pants. He was a loud-voiced, door-slamming laugher who came to school early so he could get some things done before he got too busy. He wanted to go outside when it rained because that's when you see the best things.

He moved to another town that summer, and the next year he failed first grade. The school evidently was not ready for him.

I've had this in a folder for 20 years, I was glad to be reminded of it and glad I didn't have to retype it because I found it online.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Cleaning Out File Cabinets Part I: Bosch Indicators of Giftedness

I am getting ready to retire so I'm cleaning out file cabinets and computer files. I found this list and it made me laugh. Wanna add any?

Bosch’s Indicators of Cognitive Giftedness

1.The student knows all the dinosaur names as a kindergarten
2.The student’s favorite movies will be Monty Python movies.
3.The student will “get” all your jokes even if no one else laughs.
4.The student will look like they are not paying attention but every time you call on them they will know the answer.
5.When ask to name things that fly will respond “Time…(pause) but only when you’re having fun”.
6.When asked what would happen if scissors had never been invented would respond…”Well, you know how you have those little scissors on your computer screen? Well you wouldn’t be able to cut and paste.”
7.When asked what would happen if there was no air transportation would respond…”I just have two words for your…organ transplant. You wouldn’t be able to do organ transplants because you couldn’t get the organs to the right people fast enough.”
8.The student will read J.R.R. Tolkien as a third grader and will also love mathematics. (Early and high ability readers will not always be cognitively gifted, some are just that—early and high ability readers. If they don’t have math abilities they probably will not score in the 99%ile.)
9.The student prefers science fiction and fantasy genres.
10.The student watches the evening news, Discovery Channel, History Channel.
11.One or both parents have postgraduate and/or professional degrees.
12.The student takes less for granted, seeking the 'hows" and "whys" and may drive the classroom teacher crazy asking questions and wanting in-depth explanations.
13.The student prefers to work alone and is not a good “cooperative learner”.
14.The student is a fluent and abstract thinker, able to produce a large quantity of possibilities, consequences, or related ideas and may actually never get anything done!!
15.The student’s response to a classroom question will at first seem wrong. You’ll wake up in the middle of the night and say to yourself…;”Damn, he was right!”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Bullet Train Approach"

Marlene Armstrong is holding a discussion on the Susan Winebrenner book Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom and recently threw out a question about pacing. It reminded me of a discussion I had two years ago with Rory at Parentalcation on the same topic. I decided to post my comments to Rory on Marlene's blog rather than retyping my thoughts. That reminded me to post it here to see who's reading.

To Marlene: I agree with "faster isn't always better" but picking up the pace for bright kids would help a lot and would cut down on what they hate most--repetition. Research shows that gifted students need 1-3 repetitions to learn something where the average learner needs 17 repetitions. Could the gifted learners be delving deeper? or extending what they have learned?

Whatever you do make sure that they aren't helping the slower learners catch up! Gifted kids hate doing it and even if they don't hate it, they are there to learn new material, too.

There are many obvious problems with moving through the curriculum at your own is a comment I made to a guy I was arguing with on this exact topic a couple of years ago. Rather than retype I'll c/p what I said to him about the 'bullet train approach' to teaching, in this case mathematics.

To Rory May 2007:
"I actually agree with what you say “One have to learn a set of skills and knowledge during certain number of years to survive (and be successful) in the human world”. But maybe I’m more of a realist. I’ve been teaching for 25+ years and have had my 3 gifted sons in public schools and state universities for that whole time. (They are now grown—a lawyer, a chemical engineer and a philosopher)

I have always been concerned about the lack of academic rigor and the pace of the curriculum in schools, especially grades K-8. I am a special education teacher who provides services for gifted kiddos. I teach in a Title 1 school in a large suburban school district. Here are the facts—50% of our students are children of poverty, do we leave some of them behind in our quest for “a set of skills”? 25% of our kids leave during the year and are replaced with new move-ins, do we leave them behind? Some are underachievers and choose not to perform, do we leave them behind? 20% do not speak English as their primary language, do we leave them behind? Many have no parental support, do we leave them behind? Some are gifted girls who just want to “fit in”, do we leave them behind? Some of them only come to school 3 or 4 days a week, do we leave them behind? We’ve established who gets left behind.

OK, now we have this forward moving group. Some are moving faster in math, some reading, some computers, some history, some science, some art, some music. Are you going to be the person that schedules these kiddos into classes with teachers qualified to teach them? Let’s take math for example…you have 8 kids ready to move forward through pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, Pre-Calc etc. Who is going to teach them? If they don’t take the class at a high school they won’t get high school credit; if they don’t take Honors they won’t get a 5 point A and it will affect their GPA. The teachers certified to teach them have 7-12 certificates, so cannot work in an elementary school. Let’s say, this does work—and you can find a highly qualified math teacher to teach them and they get the credit they need for their high school transcripts no matter their age-- 8 years old, ten years, old, etc. Then what?

They need to be driven to the local college or university for advanced classes, they can’t drive—parents work all day. Are you as a tax payer, going to have your local school district provide transportation? Then what, doesn’t this kid still need Science instruction? History instruction? English instruction? Does he go to grade school for this? middle school ? high school?

Does he need recess? Gym? Choir? Fieldtrips? Does he need to learn how to work with others? Have time to think about what he is learning? Think critically and creatively?

For those parents and teachers who want the “bullet train approach” claiming faster is better, I have seen no workable solutions—just a lot of complaining. If you want changes in your child’s school then lead the charge, if the schools won’t listen change schools, if you can’t afford to change schools then home school. If you teach in a school that won’t listen then change schools, if you can’t change schools then change careers. We are all just doing the best we can. What I do is provide gifted kids with alternatives to low level discussions, slow progress, material already mastered and drill and practice—even if it is only 20% of the week—it’s better than nothing."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

School Supplies

Someone at CR 2.0 wanted a list of school supplies from back in the day. I started school in 1954 and compiled a list of this and that--can you think of any other school supplies we used? Cross post on A Very Old Place

1. Big Chief or Alladin Tablets
2. Crayon 16 pack (?) in early grades there were 8 colors, they were big and fat with one flat side
3. Big Husky wooden pencils with real lead
4. Pink Pet erasers
5. Cartridge pens, (fountain pen with nub; bought replacable cartridges)
6. PeeChee folders
7. 3 ring notebooks blue canvas cover w/ color-coded dividers; notebook paper with reinforcements (liitle white canvas circles)
8. purple memeographed handouts (they smelled)
9. metal lunch boxes and thermos' with glass liners (always got broken!)
10.In junior high and high school all textbooks had to be covered with brown paper
11. no backpacks--you just stacked up you stuff and carried the stack either in front of you or if you were very clever on your hip!
12. Sliderules, if you took advance math
13. Chalkboards and chalk
14. Black and white essay books for tests
15. LePage Glue--glass bottle with ruber top, top has a slit in it and you press the top on the paper and the glue came out or white glue (did it have a brush or a paddle) that would harden into a lump and there was always a kid who would eat it.
16. We put all our pencils and stuff in a cigar box.
17. This was the same time as white soxes, brown tie up shoes, petticoats, twin sets, girls never wore pants, Ah those were the days!! I'll add more as I think of more during this trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Truth About Online Book Discussions

Crossposted on Classroom 2.0 2008

I teach gifted elementary students and have done about 8 different book discussions over the last 5 years using at first Blackboard and then Moodle. We read at least one SPECTACULAR book a semester (students come once a week). The platforms work about the same. I search the internet for high level book discussion questions (synthesis, analysis, and evaluation) and get permission from the author to use them. Why re-invent the wheel? I post each of the questions and have set up formal "rules" for responding, the goal being improved writing skills and improved reflective and critical thinking.You can see our book discussions here and use baguest for username and password.

OK, here are my editorial comments: None of the kids "love" it", they tolerate it. They will do it because I assign it. Their written responses have improved over time but they do not seem to do a lot of thinking before answering the questions. Generally the responses are mediocre no matter how much they loved the book, I get 1000 times more out of them orally. I respond to each entry and ask them to respond to each other, my comments and theirs seem shallow and repetitive. Even the kids that "love" to write, don't get off on answering the questions. I guess it is no different to them than answering the questions at the end of the chapter in a basal reader.

I've taught gifted kids for 25 years and I see their writing skills taking a nose dive---I blame NCLB, since they never seem to write much in the regular classroom but the online book discussion hasn't been the answer.

The best outcome I had to online question/response activity was with a Philosophy unit I did with 6th graders, Using David White's book we discussion a philosophical question in a group, then they reflected about the discussion and how it related to their lives. Finally I got some deep thinking!The kids are much more enthused about blogging, which you could do with another class. You could pose thought provoking questions like "What if electricity had been invented?" or "What would have happened if Walt Disney hadn't been born?" or "How would things be different if the South won the Civil War?" "Should all kids where school uniforms?" "at what age should a kid have a cellphone?" Then let them go at it, at least they'd have to think, organize their thoughts and reflect!!

You can see our blog here .So that's been my experience with online book discussions. It actually may be a better tool in the regular classroom since they have to answer the questions for a grade. In our gifted ed classroom we get much deeper reflection orally. Good luck and let me know how things turn out. N

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gifted Readers

I teach gifted kids and you would think most of them are avid and rabid readers. Not the case--some of them don't (or didn't) read at all for pleasure. (I call them the 'math/science' kids). Anyway, several years ago I started developing a class library. Many of my older students have out grown the school library or it wasn't getting the series they wanted fast enough. So I have an "Adopt a Book" drive at the beginning of the year. I also carry a list of all the books with me so I can pick them up cheap at our local library's book sales.

Here is an outcome from our class library I didn't expect but has thrilled me---many of my 'non pleasure' readers (mostly boys) have started reading up a storm. AND it's all about getting the right book in their hands. I guess some parents don't have a clue what's "hot" and even some school librarians don't get the right book to the right kid. So--the point? I don't know, but I know there is a book for every kid--it's just finding a good match.

I want to do something with graphic novels but haven't started that yet.

BTW I started reading Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins to my 6th graders today--they love being read to, too. It's wonderful, I read it over the weekend--but for mature readers. I have other great books I could recommend if you are interested.

Friday, February 20, 2009

To Blog or Not To Blog: Part 2

Sue Waters sent me To Konrad's blog on Assessment after I whined in my previous post about my student bloggers. Here is my comment on his blog. We've had a student blog for almost three years averaging about 50 bloggers a year. I teach gifted kids, many of them brilliant thinkers and writers albeit reluctant.

I decided that I wanted to see if I could get my kids into the blogging habit so before Winter Break I made blogging mandatory. I only see the kids once a week so they were to blog at home. There was a 'reward/punishment' system built in to the requirement. 95% of the kids blogged/commented every week. The quality varied from "State Assessments ( and why they are completely and utterly ridiculous)" to "My Last Basketball Game" to "Why Am I Addicted to Gummy Bears". Comments too ranged from profound and insightful to stupid. BUT we were blogging.

Several weeks ago I decided to drop the requirement and the posts and comments dropped off considerably. Now I'm rethinking my purpose and what the next step is--I just realized after reading your post that the lack of give and take commenting was more disappointing than 'silly' initial posts.

There was so much focus on getting the task done (required post) that there was not the level of reflecting and thinking I was trying to engage the kids in. Thanks for letting me think more about this here--I know I can contribute in a different way. I'll be thinking about that. This was my aHa!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

To Blog or Not To Blog: That is the Question

I'm struggling to find a balance between "requiring" so many blog posts a week, rewarding for posts, punishing for no posts or just letting it run its natural course. I made a huge effort to teach good blogging and good commenting and as long as I was requiring several posts a week I had a lot of participation--when I dropped the requirement, participation bottomed out.

I tried for two months to "make" everybody participate, I wanted to see if I could capture some kids who would not normally blog. I did capture a few, but mainly the bloggers are the girls who like to write. I get so furious at the laziness of kids, What to do? What to do?

RSS Feed: What Good Is It For Kids?

Live and learn left this comment on another post--I'll answer as best I can.
This must be a dumb question. WHY exactly do I want an RSS feed? What will my fourth students gain from it? Do you assign specific assignments based on the feed or is it just more info to expose them to? If you have time, this would be a great blog post for us newbies. If not, I understand!

RSS stands for "Rich Site Summary" or "Really Simple Syndication" and it is a format for bringing ever-changing news INTO you so you don't have to go OUT and look for it. It's especially helpful if you read a lot of blogs, instead of having to type in a URL or click an address from your favorites or go to your Delicious account, new posts from bloggers you read come INTO you on a "feed reader" (I use Bloglines) --you don't have to go OUT to find them. New feed comes in everyday. Here are the feeds we have coming into our blog.

So what does this do for kids? It can bring SAFE, up-to-date content into your feed reader, blog or website for your students to look at. The only reason I use it on my students' blog is so they can see some "news" or "interesting info" without having to waste the time searching for it. It's on the blog as possible prompts to encourage writing. Does every classroom need it? Hmmm--it you want to have control of what comes into your classroom via the internet then it's a great add. Let me know if I didn't explain that well enough and I'll try again.

PS Be sure to study the site before adding to your kids' reader--giving a kid access to it. News, like Newsweek, Time,New York Times, etc. sights might seem like a good idea but you have to deal with rapists, murders, carjacking, etc along with politics, weather and sports.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Doodle 4 Google Contest Is Back!!

The Doodle 4 Google Contest is back. See details below from the site. Last year our center had two state winners and the kids had a blast! Check it out, it is really fun. Be sure to supply plenty of templates!

… we use plants for electricity
… we make college free for everyone
… we give health insurance to all who need it
… we connect everyone by cell phone or computer

Welcome to Doodle 4 Google, a competition where we invite K-12 students to play around with our homepage logo and see what new designs they come up with. This year we're inviting U.S. kids to join in the doodling fun, around the intriguing theme "What I Wish for the World."

These are exciting times and both our country and the world are on the brink of significant change. At Google we believe in thinking big, and dreaming big, and we can't think of anything more important than encouraging students to do the same.

Registration closes at 11:59:59 PM Pacific time on March 17, 2009 and entries are due by 11:59:59 PM Pacific time on March 31, 2009. Teachers, you'll find everything you need to get started on the Registration page. Only teachers or school employees should register. Parents or students who are interested should contact their teacher to register them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Podcasting: This Should Make You Smile

From Classroom 2.0 4/08

I have a great idea for podcasts. I have been stewing for weeks about learning how to do podcasts and teaching my kids how to do them. I've posted here and other places begging for the best instructions, videos or explanations. (You have been generous in helping--thanks)

Today a couple of my 6th grade girls had finished their research assignments and I was furiously helping others post assignments to our project website-- I turned and said to the girls -- "the computer guy downloaded Audacity, go figure out how to do podcasts---there is a new wireless mic in the blue box under the counter."

I went back to my work with other students--in less than 15 minutes I heard "We're done, Mrs. B. we've figured it out!!" I smiled at my co-teacher--and listened as the girls across the room were recording their first podcast and making plans our big project.

I would have spent hours stewing and fussing and making sure I knew every in and out before I plugged in the mic, they just went for it. What a joy!


We were working on a huge Titanic project and students podcast as if they were someone (passenger or crew) on the Titanic. Each kid did a biographical sketch on a person, couple, family, or group and podcast that person. You can see the biographical sketch and listen to the podcasts here.

The most memorable part of this experience had to do with a 6th grade student. He is a brilliant student but was very anxious, OCD etc. he barely spoke above a whisper the three years I knew him. When he did his podcast he sounded like Tom Browkaw, his voice was loud, clear and he was 100% articulate. I asked him about it later and he, in his tiny little voice said, "Since my speech was written down I didn't have to worry about making a mistake." Go figure.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Speaking of Rick Riordan

The popular author of the Lightning Thief endorses a summer camp based on his books. You can read about Camp Half Blood here. It usually fills up very fast but they have just opened a new session. If your child is a fan of the author and his characters he/she would love this camp. It is only a day camp--no overnights. Here's what Percy Jackson has to say about the camp:

Dear Campers,

If you’re reading this, I’m really sorry. It means you’ve found out you are half-bloods, and now you’re in for a world of trouble.

I’d like to tell you things will get better now that you’ve made your way to our new branch camp in Austin. But the truth is you’ve still got a lot of dangerous work ahead of you. Train hard. Watch your back. And learn to cooperate with your cabin mates. Your life now depends on it. Monsters are everywhere. The gods are watching, and some of them won’t be on your side!

I know Grover will take good care of you. He’s a pretty cool satyr. (Just keep your hands, feet, and soda cans away from his mouth).

A few other words of advice:
1)Do not try breathing underwater unless you are absolutely sure you are a child of Poseidon.
2)Watch your wallet when you’re hanging out with Hermes cabin.
3)Do not try arm-wrestling with the Ares cabin.
4)And finally, watch where you step. The pegasi are not housebroken.

Good luck! I hope you survive the camp. If you do, maybe I’ll see you around next summer.

Peace from Manhattan, Percy Jackson

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Blogging Brainstorm

I had a brainstorm over winter break---many elementary kids NEVER do any authentic writing. OK, they write an occassional narrative or what ever it is they have to do for state assessment. BUT rarely do they write on a topic of their interest for other people to read. We've had a class blog, A Really Different Place, for three years and some of the posts are "extended analysis and synthesis over longer periods of time that builds on previous posts, links, and comments" (Will Richardson), some are low level chats.

All of my 5th and 6th graders have to blog once a week (at home) but I've decided to raise the bar. I decided that many kids don't know how to write an entry that will evoke discussion or reflection. So just the week we had a long discussion on Bloom's Taxonomy, talked about and gave example of the six levels. Then I used Andrew Churches' Digital Taxonomy blogging rubric and exemplars to show how different posts fall into different levels. Their task over the next week is to write a thought-provoking post that will generation discussion and reflection--and so far I'm very pleased. (Prizes will be given!!) If you want to see the results start at Recent Posts to see who's blogging about what.

I do wonder if fourth grade is too young for high level posts and comments---I teach gifted kids and what I notice about the difference between the 4th graders and the older kids is the 4th graders are still young, immature (as far as social topics), and oblvious to what going on in the world. They are still really self-centered and their worlds can be pretty small.

Another thing I've put in place from the blog's beginnings is "formal" writing, no chat lingo, no text language, no personal "diary" type entries. Let me know if you need any more info.

Crosspost Classroom 2.0

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Going Back To School

For four or five years in the early 90's our district's gifted program participated in Odyssey of the Mind, a national problem solving competition. We would introduce the problems in November, divide up into teams and start preparing for the local and state competition. The actual work would begin in earnest the day we got back from holiday and that's when all hell would break lose. The introduction of the problem and the brainstorming sessions in the late fall were great fun and the kids loved brainstorming possible solutions. I spent those years dreading the day we got back from break because one of the major components of the competition was NO ADULT HELP!! The kids spent the next six weeks floundering, while we the teachers tried to keep our mouths shut and hoped the kids wouldn't make fools out of themselves and of us. Boy did we waste a lot of time!

One year, I think it was 1991, I had two teams win the state competition and we got invited to the World Finals!! Of all the places in the world we could go, in 1991 the World Finals were in AMES, IOWA!! We were from Kansas--whoop-ti-do!

Several years after we stopped competing there was a big scandal in the OM community, I can't remember the details.

Now as the winter break ends I smile to myself and say "at least we aren't doing OM!"

Friday, January 02, 2009

Thoughts on Gifted Math Kids

David Cox and I were having a discussion about gifted kids over at Classroom 2.0, he sent me a message and wanted my to elaborate--it turns out my response was WAY TOO LONG for CR 2.0 messaging system so I decided to post it here in case anyone else was interested.

At the elementary level we explore all kinds of things; you can see all we've done in the last few years here.

In the Center our kids with math goals focus on problem solving--we have probably have 50 different types of activities which include all kinds of logic--matrix, grid perplexors, Venn Diagrams, etc. We also have Sudoku, Karoku, Crossmatics, Pentominos, tangrams, etc and 3D stuff like like 3-D Pentominos, Shapes and Solids, Google Sketchup, etc. We also have problem solving software and simulations.

The only math "curriculum" we ever teach is Hands On Equations--we've done that with as young as second grade. I like it.

Our district provides PreAlgebra for our more precocious math students in 6th grade, but it comes at a price. It's at 7:00 AM!! Not the best time for many bright kids who stay up too late. If they take PA at 6th, they take Alg 1 at 7th and go to the high school for Honors Geometry in 8th and so on.

Here's my observation about gifted mathematicians--they just get it. No matter what it is, if it deals with numbers, they just intuit how to do it, there is no "thinking". Many gifted kids are not gifted mathematicians (and of course you would see them in a gifted magnet school), the pleasers will work hard and learn quickly but they just don't "get it" like a gifted mathematician does. I've had many gifted kids who IQ is really lopsided 145 Verbal, 120 performance--these kinds of kids look pretty normal in a math class but excel in writing, language, reading, vocab etc. Scoring at the 99% on achievement test doesn't necessarily show this, the hard-worker-bees can score high but not have the "gift".

My observation about gifted kids in general--their skills, work ethics, and personalities vary as widely as the general population. Example---I've had kids who have been grandfathered into my program with 120 IQ, they are in the same class as the kid with an IQ of 160. The range (and ability) between the two is wider than the lowest and highest kid in a regular classroom. Depending on the criteria for your school, you may not have to have an IQ in the gifted range (135+). I have kids who are very hard workers and some who don't work at all, I have kids who are leaders in their schools and communities and kids who couldn't lead their heads out of a paper bag. I have kids who play 4 sports and kids who play 4 instruments. I have kids who are "most popular" and kids who have no friends. The more you know about gifted kids they better teacher of them you will be. Read Tamara Fisher's blog, Unwrapping The Gift, she's written some very insightful articles about gifted kids.

My observation about highly gifted kids---many of them have concomitant problems related to being just TOO smart, TOO outlying, TOO different. They are a poor fit for the way we teach them today, underachievement is entrenched by 3rd grade.

Here is something to think about---the average kid spends 80% of the time thinking and working in the lower levels knowledge, comprehension, and application. You can see this when you teach them something---they learn it (with 17 repetitions), then they understand it and they can use it. A kid with an IQ of 130+ spends 80% of the time thinking in the higher levels synthesis, analysis, and evaluation. You teach them something (with 1-3 repetitions) and they are already thinking of every other thing they know about that topic and how what you taught them applies to what they already know. (It’s why they don’t seem to be paying attention—they have long passed you!) They just THINK DIFFERENTLY. The more you know about them the easier they are to teach.

Here's a challenge to you---maybe you need to teach differently. Like Dr Phil says, "the best predictor of future performance is past performance". Maybe you need to ask different questions to get different answers. Maybe you need to shake things up!! Go read Dan Meyer's blog , he's a young math teacher that is asking some hard questions. Read his latest entry (and all the other stuff) on "The Math Text Book I Would Buy". He's suggesting a whole different way to engage kids with a focus on thinking!! Read the comments and look at Problem Pictures and what Hot Chalk has done with using Motocross to teach Algebra (suggestions from commenter). Amazing stuff.

I remember hearing a presenter respond to the question "How do we keep kids from plagiarizing?" with "Give them assignments they can't plagiarize." There is some connection to your comments here---if the question your kids are asking is "Is this the right answer?" then maybe you need to change the question!! Whew, did any of that make sense!! Keep in touch, N.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Connor Goes to College

About eleven years ago I got a new student named Connor, he was a first grader with flaming red hair. He was (is) a brilliant kid with an IQ in the 99.9% range, but he was not highly motivated--even as a first grader. Since I teach in a gifted program the kids stay with me one day week through 6th grade and over the years I've kept in touch with Connor's mom as he moved through middle school (yuck) and high school (yuck, too). I knew that scholarly pursuits were not high on the list, even though he was a musician and a computer whiz, so always wondered how things would turn out for him. I got an email from his mom today with this news:

....I know that the only thing that made elementary school bearable for Connor was knowing he could escape it once a week and go to the EL (enhanced learning) center. That child hated school from the very first day he went - except for EL, and a few other classes - orchestra, economics (yes, he is STRANGE), environmental ed, and a web design class. That's about it I think.

With his "barely C" average we were a bit skeptical that Connor's first choice school would take him - but it did. He applied for early admission in early November. He was told he would be notified if he got accepted in mid-January but he got his acceptance letter the week before Christmas. He's going to DePaul University in Chicago - and will be enrolled in the College of Commerce at the Loop Campus - right off the EL in the heart of Chicago's financial district if you're not familiar with it.... He's currently planning a dual major in MIS and Economics. He got a 32 on the ACT (he only took it once and didn't even bother with the SAT)....

Remembering conversations we have had about our adult brains being wired differently from our computer-raised kids - and knowing you have a special interest in that, I am also attaching a picture of Connor that I took when he was 16 months old. Thought you might enjoy it - or heck - you might even like to use it when you give talks about these newly-wired brains - you are welcome to do so if you wish....

So, sometimes things do work out for our underachieving kids. I've changed my thinking over the years and now give different advice to kids and parents. I used to say that a kid had to decide the minute they walked into high school if they wanted to compete academically. I told them that 60 kids in our high schools had 4.0 GPAs and one bad semester will screw up your GPA for good. Now I tell parents and kids that they need to find something that differentiates them from every other smart, good test scores, good grades kid in the country! I suggest our district's Signature Programs including Law, BioTech, BioMed, Computers, International Studies, IB, Engineering, or mentoring, shadowing, community service, entrepreneurships, etc.

Being smart is not enough. Being a good student is not enough. What can your child do to set himself or herself apart?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Crosspost on Classroom 2.0 and Giftededucation 2.0

After seventeen years of using technology in the classroom, I hate to admit it out loud but we finally did our first video conference. Our students and students from a school in New Jersey participated in The Pringle Project. Each student designed packaging to mail a single Pringle, there was weighing and measuring volume along the way. With help from the IT guys on both ends we got the video conference set up using Marratech software. (Skype is blocked by our district).

The looks on the kids' faces when they "faced" their partner were priceless, you would have thought they'd just landed on the moon. As each kiddo introduce him or her self then revealed the condition of their partner's chip to the webcam, hurrays were heard and fists were pumped in the air. One of our students decided to mail his chip in a hollowed out orange. When his partner appeared on screen he was wearing surgical gloves and holding a moldering, dripping, black box!! Hint: fruit does not make good packaging when sending a Pringles chip through the mail. Teaching is good, N.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bus Duty

For the last ten years I've done a duty at our school fondly called "bus duty". This job consists of herding cars around the circle drive and offloading kids. There are some things that really bother me and I am not basically a whiner. Here are my Top Five Irritations About Parents Dropping Off Their Kids:

#5 Tardy parents
#4 No seatbelts or child restraint seats
#3 Parents who comb hair, write checks, and sign planners while holding up traffic
#2 Parents who talk on the cellphone while they are dropping off or picking up their kids. These people are not brain surgeons or international stock dealers, can't they wait 5 minutes to chat while they say goodbye to their kids!
#1 Cars that are full of trash, backseats covered with fast food and fast food wrappers. I'd bet their is a direct corrolation between junky cars and disorganized kids!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Here is Skrbl. Be careful what you write on the whiteboard. It stays there until someone starts a new one.
skrbl now


We just finished a book publishing project (grades 2-4) using Tikatok. It is pretty intuative to use, you type the text, you scan in the illustrations. The books can be viewed online and the best part is you (or parents) can buy hardback or paperback books from the site. The quaility of the finished book (we've seen both hardback and paperback) is amazing. The books are expensive when you buy them off the site but you can get educational pricing ($7.00 and $12.00). The gal that owns the site is very helpful and will get right back to you if you have questions.

As I teacher almost all my student projects are digital but as a parent I always loved those "hard copy" projects.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bragging: Who's fault is it?

Comment on Ms Teacher's Blog

Yes, bragging/arrogance can be a problem with gifted kids---we discuss it our gifted ed class a couple of times a year. My experience has been that the bragging usually ends by 5th grade when it becomes socially unacceptable. BUT, I don't blame the kids I blame the parents and primary teachers and here's why---

There is nothing more fun than have gifted kids, I have three of them. When you have a two and a half year old who can read or a kindergartener who knows the stats of every major league baseball player you tend to drag them out to show-off at family gatherings. When a child enters school reading the teacher and other students put the kid is the academic spotlight, he's kind of a rock star! These students end up being teacher helpers, held up as examples of the "right way to do things" (both behavior and academic), tutors to slower kids and we wonder why they began to see themselves as what they do rather than who they are.

We put them on the pedestal and then wonder why they end up a bit arrogant. hmmmmm, what's wrong with this picture?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wonderful Art 2.0 Sites

There are some amazing art tools, from the Chicago Art Institute you can make your own art portfolio . You can also design your own medievel tapastry here.

Here are other neat art options:
Google Sketchup (download)
Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station
Flash Paint

Here are some neat digital imaging options:
PhotoStory (download)
Mix book
Making Panorama Pictures
Photoshop Express Online
Huge Labs

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gifted Kids Can't Research and Write

Here is my response to Not So Master Teacher John Spencer's blog "I Feel Like Giving Up".

Funny you should post about this. I know where you are coming from. I teach gifted kids (top 1%) and yesterday we started a curriculum on inventors. After an introduction 6th grade students were to pick an obscure inventor, research by reading three websites, writing two paragraphs and including 2 pictures. It took some of them over 2 and a half hours!! Remember these are the brightest kids in their schools! I couldn't believe it, my co-teacher and I brainstormed the problem and came up with some possible reasons.

1. Scripted reading and math programs (preparing for high stakes testing and state assessments) have turned kids brains to mush.
2. Kids cannot think for themselves because they have not been given opportunities in the classroom.
3. They can't think in higher levels synthesis, analysis and evaluation-- aren't given enough practice in earlier grades.
4. They can't type, keyboarding time has gone out of favor since so much reading and math is being taught. Many do not know how to save an image, and wrap text around it.
5. Student assignments are formulatic with everybody doing the exact same things.
6. They can't focus--this is part of our classes' problem. When given the freedom to explore on their own they have no skills to get down to work.

That's all we came up with but I'm sure you are seeing the same thing. I didn't mean to imply that this is the situation in your classroom but that you are feeling the past "mistakes".

Self contained at 5th and 6th is good, you'd like it. Read Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by Rafe Esquith. It will make you realize what is possible.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Google Lit Trips

Have you ever seen this site? I am very picky about websites these days, after 25 years of looking at the web it takes a lot to make me go "wow"! I like the idea of Google Lit Trips. The site is being developed as part of the Google Certifed Teachers Program. The activities take travel tales, stories, novels, etc and superimpose them on Google Earth. What a cool idea.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Amazing Books for Kids

Cross Posted from Fireside Learning

Here is a list of books I've used over the last few years with my gifted elementary students. Also, I will give you the titles of "upcoming" books, these I have either read and not used yet or not read but have read good reviews. All students have a copy of the book to follow along while I read aloud. I get the books from district ILL or the parents buy them, each kid having their own book keeps them totally engaged. We use Moodle for online book discussions for some of the books.

Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett (new one Calder Game) I wrote curriculum for the first two, you can see the curriculum here. The plots are a bit weak, but they lend themselves to great curriculum connections. I love books with clues!!

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (Skybreaker-sequel and the new Starclimber) I have read Airborn out loud five times and the kids have LOVED it. It is brilliantly written with meaty characters and plot.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick. This book has to be seen to be believed, it's a beauty. A kid favorite with historical connections.

City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau (prequel and sequel People of Sparks and Prophet of Yonwood). Great intro to science fiction. Movie coming out in October.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is the best full length science fiction we've ever read (we read a lot of sci fi short stories) but we needed parent permission for that one, 6th grade only.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (sequel Perilous Journey). I had a group of fourth graders that absolutely loved this book. Some reviewers say it's draggy, but we didn't find it so at all.

These I have not used but I have them stored on my secret book shelf and NO student is allowed to read them until we read them in class. (I have the kids for 3-5 years, so we have time.)

Endymoin Spring by Matthew Skelton has the history of books as its back plot. The end is a little weak, but I'm going to use it eventually. I haven't read Valley of Secrets by Charmain Hussey yet--but plan to. It is wrapped up in the rain forest fauna and flora. Another book I haven't read that seems to have some potential is Avi's Book Without Words. I read a review last night for a book that is on my must read list, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

You might enjoy some blog posts on books, online book discussions and historical connections at one of my two blogs, A Not So Different Place and A Very Old Place. There was a lengthy discussion on books for gifted readers at GiftedEducation.ning

There are some student favorites that we haven't read out loud that I haven't listed here, but I will if you want. Keep your nose in a book....N.

image from picasa: 1907Normal School Library 2nd floor of Old Main Arizona State University

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ramblings on Classroom Behavior

FrumTeacher posted a blog after having a rough day, she was looking for advice on dealing with miscreants in the classroom. I blathered on for several hundred words and decided to repost here.

I heard Carol Tomlinson Univ of Va say in a workshop--"with a perfect match between curriculum and ability you would have no discipline problems in your classroom." Whether or not it is true it really made me think, “what if?”

As a veteran teacher I'll give you some of my ideas, maybe it'll give you something to think about and who knows something might work!

Start with the givens:
You aren't going to win in a power struggle.
They need to master the material (but remember teaching the material and making sure they know it are two different things).
They are going to be disruptive unless you can figure out how to change their behavior. They not going to enter class someday and say to themselves “Today I’ve decided to act like a civilized kid and respect my teacher, contribute in class, and do my best.”
They are acting the way they are for a reason; could be attention getting but most likely it's because the work is either too hard, too easy, too disconnected from what they are interested in, a misfit of teaching style to learning style, or habit (they've acted bad for so long they don't even think about it)
They have to stay in your class.
Parents may or may not be able to effect change, so you are on your own. (Plus I guess the parents have heard that song and dance for years now and haven’t been able to affect change.)

Things to think about:
What is their currency? What can you trade them for a modicum of appropriate behavior?
What do they know? What do they not know?
How do they want to get and make sense of the material?
What do they want to do with the material once they get it?
What is reasonable behavior?

Things to Do:
Get to know them WELL, why the heck are they acting that way? Force them to talk to you about how they feel about school and your class; find out if they act badly in everyone’s class or just yours.

Find out what would make school (or your class) better. Examples:
--Don't want to read the material outloud, let him read it silently.
--Don't want to read a novel; let him listen to it on an mp3.
--Doesn't want step by step instruction in math? Let him work independently without instruction.
--Work too hard, help after school.

Back to the currency---make a trade (contract) "you do what I need you to do with appropriate behavior and you'll get to do this (currency)". Examples: Work hard 4 days, I'll give you the fifth day to choose own activity, book, writing, draw, computer, etc. (better than acting out all 5 days) Screw up deals off for the week.

I'll just tell you this, nothing will chance if you don't address the problem. Here's a Dr Phil for you---"spend 5% of your time thinking about the problem and 95% of the time thinking about the solution".

Don't give up on them---and don't fall into the trap that many teachers fall into--and that's giving up and counting the days til the kid is out of your class. Take the high road.

How's that for pontificating!! Let me know if you try anything that works.

OK, I'm on a roll and have thought of several other things--

Give them respect and give them important classroom respondsibilities. Treat them like you would expect to be treated, don't belittle them and "call them out". Always praise the smallest of good things. Acknowledge them as people.

Is the content too much of a disconnect for them? work hard to make the content relevant to their lives and interests. Find out how they produce their best work--could they create a graphic novel or video of "The Fall of Rome." Have them make trading cards of all the famous people you want them to learn about. I don't think this is pandering, I think it's just good teaching.

Think Michael Phelps--his teachers said "He can't sit still, he will never be able to focus." I think he proved us wrong with laser focus in the swimming pool. His mom said he used to sit perfectly still for 4 hours waiting to swim his 5 minute race. She said he knows all the statistics of every race he was ever competed in and held all that info in his head. We are all different so try to spot those differences and have them work in your favor.

Remember, you might be the person who changes a kid's life. Who knows?

TeacherMom then responded with:

I thought your suggestions were innovative and really interesting. While I don't necessarily agree that parents don't factor in, I see your point that dealing directly with the student using "their currency" can be extremely effective. I guess it depends on how much a particular student is concerned about parental reaction. Anyway, I have a question about this approach. How do you know when to draw the line; ie when is it pandering vs differentiating instruction? Have you ever experienced bitterness or comment from other students when these special accommodations are made or are the students generally relieved that the disruption went away?

So I took a breath and blathered on.....

n a perfect world the teacher would set up a differentiated classroom where "what's fair for one, is not fair for another." Many teachers teach a "one size fits all" model and they are generally missing at least 50% of the kids either by discounting ability, discounting student interest or discounting a students' learning preferences.

By focusing in on what is "fair" for each child, rather than teaching the same stuff, at the same speed, with the same frequency, in the same way to each kiddo--classroom behavior would have to improve.

It is important to look at everything you do in the classroom through the eyes of the kid. How can he learn this? Does he already know this? Why is he acting that way? What happened at home to set the tone of his day?

Now that I think of it maybe we'd be better of if we pandered to our students everyday. How would the classroom be different if the teacher asked the student(s) "How would you like to learn this material?" "How would you like to show me what you know?" "If the classroom seems too loud for you, do you think earplugs would help?" "Did you eat breakfast? Here's a granola bar".

Every student has the right to learn--but what if they learn differently? faster? slower? with no repetition? by reading it? by watching it? Each student, IMHO, would relish the option to be in a class where each child is treated as an individual and not as part of a herd. Moooooo!

Kids in the classroom should be able to speak up, and say "Hey this isn't working for me" or "M. FrumTeacher, can I do my project this way?"

All in all teachers have to give up some (percieved) power and replace that with learning. Teachers have to stop setting a tone of fear and humiliation in the classroom and replace it with trust and a philosophy (from B. Obama) that ALL children have the right to a good education.

Whoever said a teacher has to teach a curriculum? Isn't the point to make sure they know the curriculum? Does it really matter how they make the journey?

More stuff to think about! Whew--she's finally finished.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Web 2.0 for All Learners

Christina Laun has taken the time to sort some of the Web 2.0 tools into learning style categories. Thanks Christina.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Freedom Writers and the Ron Clark Story

I read two blog posts showing disdain for teacher movies, Freedom Writer and Ron Clark Story in particular. I agreed with the bloggers, these movies depict teachers who are super human and work unrealistically hard--forsaking family friends and even personal health. But I see things differently, I like teacher movies---I think the viewer should be encouraged at how well they themselves are doing without neglecting other parts of their lives. I look at Erin Gurwell and Ron Clark as examples of teachers who chose to spend 100% of their time for their students, but I do a heck of a good job with my students working 40-50 hours a week. I raised 3 sons to adulthood, maintained a 36 year marriage, and put a hot meal on the table each evening while my kids were home. I swim, walk, go to the gym and read. I have a good life and am a good teacher.

I am sad that Erin didn't stay in the classroon but Ron Clark still works with kids.....

It is what it is--we do the best we can.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Responses to a Twitter Discussion

I got involved in a discussion over at about Twitter. Since I don't twit, I knew I was the perfect person to jump right into a conversation on a topic I know nothing about (which is something I often do) Here are the discussions I was involved in with Darren, Wendy, Steve, and they contain some of my current thoughts--

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 20:17:28
I’m old, I’m getting ready to retire, and I am 100% tech savvy…that said this whole conversation (I read most of the 80 commentors) makes me sad. There were only rare mentions of thinking,learning,teaching,scholarship, students…you are talking (IMHO) about something that makes no difference to the students we are trying to teach and to most of the people in the known world. Talk about preaching to the choir—this conversation is only relevent to the people who are having it in 140 characters.
Someone mentioned all the “great ideas” they got while lurking on Twitter—does anybody beside me see a problem with this type of the thinking….it reminds me of the old days when presenters would hand you a list of 300 websites with no annotation. What are you going to do with all these tidbits of info? Compile them into a master’s thesis? Plan a year long curriculum for your student? Write a book?
Do any of you teach real students? Has anyone used a tool that has changed the life or learning of a real student?
I’m sad that so many people are in love with the tools and not with the teaching and learning.
Reply to this comment

Comment by Steve Ransom
2008-07-17 20:42:17
Wow… the echo just died here. Thanks so much for a much-needed perspective in this conversation, Nancy. However, for some, tools like Twitter DO provide useful and helpful bits of information that DO (hopefully) trickle down to students at some level. I don’t think one can be so quick to write off any tool. You are correct though, I think, in suggesting that the tools we choose to use professionally should be valuable at the student level for those that are teaching. There is no time to waste with tools that distract, annoy, or entertain for most teachers in the classroom.
Reply to this comment

Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 20:53:19
It’s not about the tool, it’s about what you do with it. There is a lot of mindless fodder on Twitter. But, let me tell you a story about the real power of Twitter as a social networking tool. Last year, a fellow Tweeter posted a link to his 8th graders’ Darfur blog. I posted a tweet back that sent him to my third graders’ Darfur website. From that, a collaboration between two teachers grew into a major project that included 677 students from around the country.’t underestimate the power of Twitter as a launch pad for more important conversations. You just have to know when to move on to a more appropriate forum to make the most for your students. There are many thoughtful teachers here who care very much about student learning. I lurk on Twitter from time to time. Sometimes, I contribute to the mindless fodder. But, I also build lasting relationships with amazing educators that spill over into my teaching and impact my students’ learning. When I found out that I would be teaching AP Human Geography, I posted a tweet asking if anyone knew other APHG teachers would would be willing to share resources. Within one hour I had five contacts who provided various resources from which my students will benefit greatly. I use Twitter as a professional tool to connect with colleagues. When I need to have a deeper conversation, I move to the blogs or other avenues for deeper discussion.

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 21:30:03
Wendy, I do not Twitter but I read about the Darfur project on a blog…I’m sure there are miraculous collaborations made on Twitter. I’m in a different place than you are, career-wise. I’m looking back over my career while you might be looking forward to your future…many this is a time for reflection for me… but how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with the teachers in our buildings and districts? how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with neighbors, with old people in our communities? how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with our students and their families? or for that matter how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with our own children, spouses, and family members?
It’s not really twitter per se that is bothering me–it’s IMHO the whole focus on the Web 2.0 tools–I guess I want so much more for my students than knowing how to use the calculator on their cellphone or filming a fight in the girls bathroom.
As I mentioned I use tech tools in my classroom all the time but they are used doing real work, in a real work environment. We present rich and relevant content (like the Darfur project) to an authentic audience. The tools are not doing the teaching and the tools are not doing the learning.
But, this too will pass–within a couple of years 90% of the “new” gadget sites will be out of business and the other 10% will charge a fee!(Comments wont nest below this level)

Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 22:24:56
I certainly cannot argue with anything you’ve said about making valuable connections at home. All of these human connections are important to us and our students. Technology is not a prerequisite for authentic learning opportunities. As far as Web 2.0 tools go, a colleague at my school and I created a site to help teachers sift through some of these tools and determine which ones might have educational value, depending upon how they are creatively used in the classroom. I would be very sad if anyone thought that those tools were all I cared about from a teaching perspective. My students experience learning from many different perspectives. I reflect on all of them to determine what works well and what doesn’t.
I respect your thoughts and personal reflection. I am actually well into my teaching career, probably one of the older teachers here, and I believe that reflection is important throughout my career. My real point here is that you can not make assumptions about people based on their participation or lack of participation in social networking tools like Twitter. There is more to these teachers (at least the ones I know) than the 140 character post in Twitter. Bottom line, and I hope this is what you are saying, is that we all must have balance in our lives such that we can be good examples for our children and our students. We must also help guide them so they can do more with technology than use the calculator on their cell phone or film a fight in the girls bathroom.

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 22:40:28
I am one of those people who has opinions about everything and don’t feel like I am articulate (in writing) as many writers are–I certainly didn’t mean to offend. I just wonder if some people didn’t spend all their time chatting with like minded people (online or at conferences) they might have time to come up with the next Darfur Project or Flat World Project.
I heard Carol Tomlinson say, at a differentiation conference, “you can’t differentiate FOG.” So much of what people see as education-changing tools are in my opinion, FOG.

Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 22:51:39
No offense taken at all. I think you offer some important points for all of us to consider. It’s been a refreshing conversation that inspired me to think a lot harder about what I’m doing and squint a bit more to see through the FOG. That is always a good thing. Now, I must get back to my face-to-face life. (smile)

Comment by Darren Draper
2008-07-17 21:44:56
I love you, Nancy, but I’m already married.

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 21:54:50
Sorry to be a wet blanket. hehe I’ve read several things you’ve written and agree with much of what you say, you are much more articulate than I. I’m the only person in the world that has 3 blogs and hates to write!
I don’t want to give the impression that I am a luddite or “old school”. I presented at NECC and around my state for 5 years–I’ve integrated technology into more projects than most people who have commented. You can see some of them here When I retire I will leave a legacy of thinking and learning.
I cannot marry you, I’ve been married to same guy for 36 years–too late for a change!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Thought

I posted this rambling comment over at Learning is Messy. I don't write articulately enough to clearly make my point but here it is.

I spent ten years presenting (as a full time teacher) around my state and district. I also presented for 5 years at NECC and IMHO I was very good at it, bringing hundreds of examples and projects from the classroom to share with the participants. I then suffered from tech overload and frustration because, no matter how much they "oh-ed" and "ah-ed" at workshops, I saw little technology integration in the classrooms throughout my large district.

I did not go to NECC this year but from all I have read I get an idea of what it was like. I just had a ridiculous thought, after reading your blog and comments--a big part of these national conferences seems to be the people who are "in" get to see all the other people who are "in" and discuss stuff that has already been discussed in blogs, other conferences, Twittered, etc. Many of the presenters don't go to sessions, they just present. So who's in the audience? What if the audience was mostly tech trainers who are not able to reach kids and teachers who may or may not use the stuff they hear about.

Preaching to the choir? What if the choir hears but does nothing? Is the whole technology push much ado about nothing? Why don't we give the resources, money, time and equipment to the teachers who use it and just forget about the rest. If a teacher is interested he/she will seek out the knowledge or work with kids to use the technology in the classroom.

I use technology of all kinds all the time in my classroom and for the most part I've taught myself everything I know about webpages, blogs, wikis, online courses, Moodle, Blackboard, desktop publishing, robotics, graphics, copyright, digital cameras, whiteboards, and on and on. You can see some of our projects here.
Luckily I retire in a year or two---don't want to irritate too many more people. N.