This is Part II in our series. If you missed Part I, click here.
Quick question–Is it better to give or to receive? The holidays are upon us and us adults generally prefer to give than receive. Why is it that we like to give? My assumption is that the act of gift giving demonstrates thinking. A good gift takes significant thought and planning. The right gift shows that you truly understand the person in which you are giving the gift.
The first shift in Engaged, Connected, Empowered has nothing to do with gifts. The first shift examines the move from student consumption of knowledge to student production of evidence of their learning. Just like with the gift giving, it takes more thought to produce a gift than it does to receive one. Making a YouTube video is more rigorous than watching a YouTube video.
In this section we provide three simple to follow steps to to smoothly transition from student consumption to student production in your own teaching. We also provide more than 10 examples of projects we’ve successfully implemented. Three examples include Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Video; Take a Look, It’s in a Book; and Alternative Math Assessments.
If you are interested in reading more, you can pre-order today for the December 20th release!
This is Part II in our series. If you missed Part I, click here.
Although we have discussed our upcoming book, Engaged Connected Empowered: Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century, several times, we are excited to begin the final countdown to the official release. This post is the first in a series about this book as we approach the December 20th release. How better to introduce the book than through the actual introduction. Here is a brief excerpt from the introduction:
Our grandparents are in their 80 and 90s. Take a moment to ponder the vast
changes people our grandparents’ ages have witnessed in their lifetimes. In
about a century, they’ve seen the advent of television, space exploration,
computers, fast food, air travel, phones that ﬁ t into people’s pockets, surgery
conducted with lasers, and cars that run on rechargeable batteries. The
number of things that exist now that didn’t exist when our grandparents
were born has to number in the thousands. Nearly every aspect of life has
undergone revolutionary change—except one: education.
This book looks at five major shifts in education that have occurred in recent years. We look at three elements for each shift. We begin by introducing the shift. We then provide simple to follow steps to seamlessly embrace the shift. Finally, we provide numerous anecdotes of how we have utilized the shift to our students’ advantage in our own classrooms.
We hope that you enjoy this book and that it is a valuable resource. We also hope that a discussion will surround Engaged Connected Empowered. Let’s start that conversation now! We hope to hear from you as you read the rest of the posts in this series, as you read the book, and beyond. What are your initial thoughts?
My family has numerous avid readers. I enjoy reading as well, however, I can’t seem to make the time to read as often as I would like. Much of my “reading” is done listening to audiobooks on my commute to and from work. I am well aware that everyone’s reading tastes are unique. For this reason, I am always hesitant to recommend books to people, even close friends. But, there are four books and an author that are a must read for 21st Century citizens.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – Published 1906 – This book follows the struggles of Jurgis Rudkus, an immigrant to Chicago around 1900. Whether you are pro- or anti-union, this book helps to paint the picture of where and why labor union’s arose. Much of the story is utterly depressing. However, this book demonstrates perseverance and always helps you put your life into perspective. I guarantee if you are reading this blog post, your living conditions are infinitely better than Jurgis Rudkus, regardless of how bad things might seem at the moment. Trust me, or better yet, don’t trust me and read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe – Published 1852 – This story follows a few years in the life of Uncle Tom who is enslaved on Master Shelby’s plantation in Kentuck. Uncle Tom is sold from his family to help settle a debt. Tom and the other characters have numerous ups and downs throughout the story. However, no matter how bad Tom’s luck, he always stays positive. As with The Jungle, Uncle Tom’s Cabin will make you angry and disgusted throughout much of the book, but it provides several important life lessons while helping us to understand where we came from as Americans.
Challenging Our Thinking
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink – Published 2009 – The Common Core State Standards push for students to read more nonfiction. Perhaps we should as adults as well. If I write and talk about Drive anymore people may think that I am in cahoots with Daniel Pink, but don’t you worry–I’m not that lucky. If you are a teacher, parent, business person, or still alive, Drive is an important book for your life. It deals with motivation, which is something integral to everyone’s lives. What actually motivates you might surprise you. This is one situation where intuition and gut feelings might be wrong.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Stephen J. Dubner & Steven D. Levitt – Published 2005 – Let me start by saying I read, I mean listened to, Freakonomics immediately after Drive, so the two books have merged in my mind into one glorious book. Freakonomics examines the the math behind a diverse range of issues, usually in a humorous manner. Let me give you an example… They explore which is more dangerous–having a gun or a swimming pool. They discovered that the likelihood of drowning in a pool is about 1 in 11,000 while death by gun is about 1 in 1,000,000. A pool is roughly 100 times more dangerous than a gun. This is just one of several situations explored throughout the Freakonomics.
(Funny) Commentary on Life
Perhaps my favorite author of all time is Bill Bryson. He generally writes books about travel. More specifically, he writes about his adventures while travelling. Just to name a few, his books include trips around England, Australia, his home, and the Appalachian Trail. He is hilarious and informative. You will find yourself laughing out loud and then saying, “Hmm, I didn’t know that.” Everything I’ve read by him, which I believe might be everything he’s published, is excellent and worth reading. The perfect balance of information and entertainment.
I believe that these four books and author help to create a well-rounded 21st Century citizen. I would also like to add that all of the books mentioned above are wonderful audiobooks. I believe that Drive, Freakonomics, and most of Bill Bryson’s books are skillfully and entertainingly narrated by the authors. I am left wondering what you think of my list. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you have any amendments to my list? I’d love to hear from you on this topic.
Artemus: “The students today all want to bring their own pencils to school.”
Phineas: “I know! What should we do about it?”
Artemus: “I don’t know. They seem so useful; however, the lead breaks all the time. The students spend so much time sharpening them. They also use them to pass notes and doodle pictures.”
Phineas: “I’m seeing those same things. I’m not sure about all this new technology in the classroom. Maybe we should just stick with slates.”
John:: “Some many students are starting to bring backpacks to school now.”
Lyndon: “I know! What do you think about that?”
John: “I’m not sure. I can see how they make taking books to and from school much easier, but there are so many problems with them. They are always a mess and students work becomes crumpled. I have kids leaving their backpacks at home with all of their books and work in them. They are also using them to bring illegal items, such as drugs, into school. And, they are so heavy!”
Lyndon: These new technologies. Maybe we should just stay the course and do things they way we always have.”
Ben: ”What do you think about students bring their own devices to school?”
Neil: “You mean BYOD? I think it’s a good thing that students can bring smart phones, laptops, and tablets to school.”
Ben: “You don’t worry about it being a distraction?”
Neil: “Maybe we should just ban all new technologies. We could ban pencils and backpacks along with devices from home.”
Ben: “Kids these days…”
Believe it or not, the conversations above are all fictitious, even the one between Ben and Neil. According to Merriam Webster, technology is defined as: the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.
By definition technologies change. In 2013 we generally don’t consider pencils or backpacks a technology. The idea of banning them from school seems almost ridiculous. Every generation looks back at previous generations and shakes their collective heads at ideas and discussions. The world is flat. Women’s suffrage (not suffering-search for “end women’s suffrage prank” on YouTube). Separate but equal. Although BYOD is not as important as any of these three examples, they serve to illustrate the point. These conversations seem unbelievable to the next generations.
How would you feel if you were told to leave your smart phones, tablets, and laptops at home when you came to work. Now, who do you think is more digitally connected and fluent right now. Today’s youth or you? Only imagine how disconnected they must feel when told to leave their device at home.
Although social conventions change over time, people at the core really don’t. I am sad to learn that one of my favorite quotes by Socrates has been incorrectly attributed.
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
The quote is actually from Kenneth John Freeman’s dissertation in the early 20th Century, but he is summarizing the beliefs of antiquity. However, my point still holds. Children aren’t different. Technologies change. The verbiage of the conversations change, but ultimately we look back at the conversations and shake our heads. In the future, the same will be done for us surrounding our discussions surrounding bringing your own device (BYOD) to school. The answer is obvious. Students shouldn’t have unlimited access to their devices at school, but they also shouldn’t have unlimited access to books during tests, paper to pass notes, or conversations at inopportune times. In the end, BYOD won’t be a new thing, and the conversation will be over. Let the head shaking begin.
As an upper elementary teacher, I always found it challenging to locate high quality math problems on the web. By high quality I mean multiple steps, multiple entry-points, and multiple solution pathways. In essence, problems that make kids think.
And I’m not talking about problems of the “Two trains leave Seattle…” variety. I’m talking about problems that are relevant and engaging.
Enter Yummy Math. On a regular basis, they post challenging math scenarios. And they’re scenarios that are real…in a ripped from the headlines sort of way. For example, this month they’ve posted Halloween and World Series problems. And there are no tricks…these problems are treats! (See what I did there?)
On Yummy Math, you can search grade level, genre (math and food, math and social studies, etc.) or category (Algebra, etc.). You can also type in a Common Core State Standard and find all problems associated with that problem.
The problems on Yummy Math are free for the PDF versions. If you become a member, you can get access to the answer keys and all problems in editable Microsoft Word format. Membership is $16.
Last week, my fellow Engaging Educator Neil (who is dominating our blog with some great posts lately) confessed his love for the computer programming language Scratch. It’s a terrific piece, so if you haven’t read it yet, please do!
In this post, Neil points out that he thinks Scratch is amazing and that every student should use it and that its benefits encompass far more than just programming skills. He also confesses that he’s a little late to the party regarding Scratch…that he’d intentionally avoided it because it seemed too trendy.
What he leaves out is that the Engaging Educators blog is no stranger to Scratch. One half of our mighty team has blogged about Scratch on several occasions…way back in 2011! One half of our team even presented on Scratch at a state math conference. (We love presenting at conferences, by the way. If you haven’t invited us to one, you simply must!)
So, yes, Neil’s post is awesome. Scratch is equally awesome. And so are the posts that have appeared here about Scratch in the past. Check ‘em out:
- Learning from Play (July 31, 2011)
- Teaching from Scratch…including our Scratch Activity Guide and my conference presentation handout (August 3, 2011)
- Scratch Curriculum Guide Now Available! (October 12, 2011)
Hopefully this gets you as hooked on Scratch as both of us (finally) are! Let us know how Scratch and/or other computer programming efforts are going in your classroom, we’d love to hear from you.
I have a confession. I know it’s not Tuesday–the day that Ben likes to confess. Actually, I have two confessions. First, I have always tried to avoid trends. This might not sound like a confession, but I have missed the boat on several important changes because of this. For example, I didn’t get my first cell phone until well into the 2000s because I didn’t want to be a part of the cell phone fad. Oops. Guess that really isn’t a fad. I still shun Facebook for the same reason. I suppose someday I will being saying oops to that too. My second confession is I am a closet, or perhaps wanna be, computer programmer. In recent months I’ve dabbled in programming using both Python and Java.
Years ago, back in the mid ’90s, I had an old computer that only ran DOS. I spent countless middle school nights trying to make something happen in QBasic. Probably my crowning achievement was making the snake in Nibbles invincible. I’ve digressed, and probably lost many of you, but I know some of you know exactly what I am talking about.
I am writing today to confess missing the boat again and to proclaim my love of a new site. (See other sites we like.) I love Scratch. I know others have proclaimed their love of Scratch before me, but I am the ultimate skeptic and cynic. Just ask anyone who knows me.
Let me briefly explain Scratch for those of you who are unfamiliar. Scratch is an event driven programming language designed for children. It allows for simple games, animations, etc. to be created by simply connecting blocks. See image above.
Here are four reasons I love Scratch:
- My students (8-10 year-olds) cheer, literally, when I say we are using Scratch today.
- I now have students assigned to watch the clock each class period because I have looked up on several occasions are realized that class ended three minutes ago and new students were coming in.
- My students struggle with problem solving, but the language I hear my students use when helping each other and asking questions sounds like the formation of problem solving skills. Saying things such as, “This sprite (character) needs a ‘Forever if block’ that runs when Sprite 1 touches Sprite 2.”
- I find myself wanting to work on Scratch even after the kids are gone.
Here is a link to my class blog, which contains some of our Scratch programs. At this moment, there are just mine up there, but students will start adding theirs in the next few days. Here is a link to see everything we’ve posted to the Scratch website. I would recommend Scratch to anyone over the age of about 7. Feel free to remix any of our programs. You can use Scratch for free on line at http://scratch.mit.edu/ or you can download a slightly older version (what we use) at http://scratch.mit.edu/scratch_1.4/.
Give it a try. Let us know what you think.
Nibbles image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuu/247489099/sizes/o/in/photostream
Scratch image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scratch_(programming_language)
Blocks image from: http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scratch_(j%C4%99zyk_programowania)
Let me preface this post by saying that I am not an expert on the policies or culture of Bhutan. Perhaps there are skeletons’ in their collective closet that I haven’t read about. I am also not an expert in happiness, although I do have some experience with being happy. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that I am an expert in anything, but I am full of ideas that I occasionally share.
I would like to write today to make you think. The Kingdom of Bhutan, a small south Asian country, conducts an elaborate survey to measure the country’s Gross National Happiness (GNH). Not the famous Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The government puts an emphasis not only on the monetary aspect of the economy but the happiness aspect as well.
Before I become inundated with arguments as to why our country is so great and GDP is so important, I am not arguing that point. I love the United States of America. I wouldn’t want to live any place else for an extended period of time. I don’t even think that GNH is better than GDP. I understand that on some levels an increase in economic success can lead to higher levels of happiness. I bring up this issue as a point of discussion.
We are on the brink of a government shutdown. We are arguing over universal health care coverage. We are stressing out about No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, balanced calendars, and high stakes standardized tests. We, as a whole country and perhaps developed world, need to take a second to step back and assess our own Gross National Happiness. In the end, when the dismissal bell sounds, and our time here on earth is done, we don’t get to take our economic success with us. I know we probably don’t get to take our happiness with us either, but I would rather be happy along the way. As politicians, who I’ve been told are grownups, argue over issues that have real tangible effects on children, please remember that they are children and deserve to have every possible chance to be happy.
Look at the areas in which you have some control — a home, a classroom, a building, city-wide policy, state-wide policy, or national policy — how are you contributing to our Gross National Happiness?
As the technology teacher for my building, I feel unrestricted in my planning. Fortunately no one really seems to care what I do with my classes. This allows me to teach in whatever way I think best fits my students’ needs. I believe this shouldn’t be a luxury, but in many of today’s schools it is. I took advantage of my freedom today. I wanted to broaden my students’ horizons and gave Mystery Skype a try.
In my school students in grades 2-5 have one elective special a week, which we call club. My 4th grade club has been preparing for Mystery Skype for the last couple of weeks. If you aren’t sure what Mystery Skype is, you aren’t alone. Mystery Skype is when two classes play a version of 20 questions trying to identify the location of the other school. You can read a nice blog post about it on Pernille Ripp’s “Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension.”
I found my partner school on https://education.skype.com/mysteryskype, but you can also find classes through Twitter using the hashtag #MysterySkype. I scrolled down through the list of interested teachers and found a guy teaching 4th grade in Iowa, which isn’t too far from Michigan but far enough. I wanted the experience to be positive, so I wanted to push the students to learn something but I didn’t want it to be too difficult for the first time. I didn’t want accents. I didn’t want large time zone differences. I wanted simple differences such as Iowa vs. Michigan and rural vs. urban. The first teacher I contacted through the Mystery Skype page, Greg Jergens, replied almost instantly. We emailed back and forth a couple of times to set a time.
Today was the day. I was actually a little nervous last night and this morning. I know it’s silly. Worse case scenario, things don’t go well, I hang up, and never have to speak to Greg, a total stranger, again. I wanted things to go well, however. At 10:05 EST this morning I clicked the Video Call button on my classes Skype account. The computer rang a few times, and then Greg picked up. My 25 students all African American, urban 4th graders saw about 25 white, rural 4th graders staring back at them. And we began.
My class struggled to ask good questions to begin with. Even though we had prepared, students asked questions such as, “Do you live in Indiana?” or “Is your school north of Florida?” His class asked more thoughtful questions such as, “Do you live near the Pacific Ocean?” and “Do you live in the Northeast Region (a 4th grade social studies reference)?” and “Do you live in the Central Time Zone?” After a few questions my students understood much better how to ask questions. My students used the laptops to zoom in on the information given using Google Earth.
Overall, the game lasted about 30 minutes and ended with a simple Q & A about our states and hometowns. The experience was earth shattering or groundbreaking, but it was a success; I know next time will be an even larger success. If you are interested in mystery skyping with my students, I teach k-5, send me an email or a tweet.
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