2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Reflections on 2013 Resolutions

As I sit at home on New Year’s eve sipping on an Cabin Fever Brown Ale:

I am think about how I want to improve my teaching over the next year.  There are so many areas of which I can improve. Using more Project Based Learning in my classroom. Move my science instruction to the Modeling approach. Incorporate more technology and choice into lessons. …. The list could go on and on. As a connected educator I have been exposed to so many great teaching ideas, and avenues to explore. There isn’t enough time in a year to accomplish them all.

Focus is essential for all educators. The methods I use are not important, the LEARNING that goes on in my classroom is the vital component.

So how did I do with my goals (Resolutions)  last year? Good thing I have been blogging that long, I can go back and check my 2013 resolutions. A great benefit of blogging and posting on social media is that you can look back and reflect on whether you keep up with your intentions. (Hey I figured out why so many post their workouts on twitter)

By my account I did pretty well with my resolutions this past year.

1. Stay Positive: This is hard for me. More often than not I have been the pessimist in the room. I used to always look at why things couldn’t work. Over the past year, I have been more positive at work. (Need to work on this in my home life more.) Evidence can be shown in my relationships with peers and my Twitter chat. (#mschat)

2. Expand PLN: Well this has happened. I have connected with so many wonderful educators over the past year. Twitter has been a force in my life to help me focus on the positive in education.

3. Use more Formative Assessment in my classroom: I feel that I use more formative assessment today than I ever have. I am constantly using tools that help me measure where students have needs and then use the results to adjust my teaching. The Formative Assessment for Michigan Educators project has been the best PD I have been apart of in my teaching career.

4. Lead by example: Everyday I have thought about how my actions affect all that can see them. I am constantly aware of the example I set as a leader in my district. No one is perfect but I strive for perfection everyday. Over the past year I hope my example has impacted others in positive ways.

5. Blog More: Last year at this time I had written 53 posts. This year I have upped the number to 160. SO 107 posts over the past year. Not bad, doubling my blogging over the year. Hopefully my posts have helped others, and improved my teaching. I feel writing down the ideas has had a great impact on me as a reflective teacher.

Before my “break” from teaching is over I will have to set new resolutions/goals for the year.  Hopefully I can keep up with them as well as I did over 2013.  Wishing you all the best. Enjoy what the NEW YEAR Brings!!

QuizUp App!- Leaves me asking how to use in class?

Over Thanksgiving break my 14 year-old niece was busy staring at her I-phone in the corner of the room. Wondering what drew her attention away from her cousins, I asked what she was “doing?”  She introduced me to QuizUp, a hot new app that is engaging children and adults alike.

The app is set up to like any other basic trivia/quiz game. Unlike most limited games, QuizUp has unlimited categories ranging from basic math facts to your favorite television shows. The app allows you to play anyone else who uses the app, or challenge you friends. Your score is based on accuracy and speed, going for 7 rounds. The first 6 rounds are worth 20 points each with the 7th (bonus) round worth 40 points. 160 points earns you a perfect score. Don’t hesitate with the correct answer because each second you take to think lowers your score.

Although not everyone likes the app, I feel it is an engaging, competitive way to review knowledge. I love the endless categories and the ability to challenge friends to matches (and rematches when/if you lose). It reminds me of the bar trivia games I enjoyed in my younger days without the expense of going to the bar. The app is still in development for Android devices, currently relying on IOS and Facebook users to play.

I wonder if the creators have though about adding an educational interface where teachers/states can upload questions for students to review knowledge. I feel adding the ability to compete with other classes/schools would be cool. After I explained the app to my advisory class the other day, my students we totally engaged by what it had to offer. The app has so many extras: It graphs the matches, tracks data, and calculates you average speed to answer questions. It seems the developers really like data and tracking it. Think of how this could lead to data discussions with students about their learning! I hope the developers continue to improve this product and make an education version we can better utilize in our schools.

Try the app out I think you will like it!

**Disclosure: I rarely review apps unless I see value in them for my student’s learning. I am not compensated for the review.

A Christmas Wish for Education

Dear Santa-

I know this time of year you are filled with requests from children, asking for a variety of toys, trips and goodies. Some wishes are self-serving and others are filled with generosity. An example comes from my 9 year old son Griffin who wishes for a sled to enjoy the winter weather in Michigan and wants to adopt an pet from the Michigan Humane society to give an animal a home.  This year I have one Christmas wish that tops the rest:

I wish our society valued education!

Over the past few years, education has gotten plenty of lip-service from politicians and education reform groups. Teachers have been attacked, deemed the enemy and left out of reform process. Education has been viewed as an untapped cash cow, that corporations deem ready to take over. Instead of listening to educational experts, the voices of corporate reformers have taken center stage. World rankings of standardized test scores are often featured as prime evidence of need for reform. Poverty is often overlooked as a hindrance to the education process. Don’t reformers realize that our education system is just a reflection of our society!

What does our society value?

How does a society show value towards something? When we are willing to pay a price for it! Our society values sports and entertainment. We pack stadiums every weekend for college and professional sports, paying more than $30 per ticket (yes low estimate). The “Big House” in Ann Arbor has been selling out since the 1970’s, with over 100,000 attending each contest. Communities pass tax breaks and spend millions to fund new stadiums. Even Bankrupt Detroit wants to spend money it doesn’t have to fund a new home for the Red Wings.   Atlanta is replacing Turner Field which was built in 1996 for the Olympics with a new stadium in 2017. This sports infrastructure projects are happening while our educational infrastructure mostly built in the 1940’s t0 1960’s is crumbing and in major need of upgrades. Film companies spend millions to produce a few hours of entertainment, just think what schools could do with these budgets? Society accepts paying sports figures and actors millions per season or film, but to pay a teacher $70,000 for a year of teaching brings public outrage! Don’t these actions alone send the wrong message to our children about education?

How many books are going to be on your sleigh?

Did many children wish for books? Mine always get some, but do the majority of children receive them? Many parents give presents with education in mind. Giving a computer, tablet, or smartphone seems popular these days, often with the idea that it is an educational present (at least many advertisers want us to believe this). Do parents monitor the use? Do students know how to use them for education? Frequently the answers to these questions is NO. Often the presents are given with great intentions but when students are left to their own choices they use the tools for entertainment (not that there is anything wrong with entertainment). Society needs to model the importance of education. Instead it seems it mocks education every chance it gets. Ever notice that every mention of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates includes that they both dropped out of College? Yet, it is rarely mentioned where other CEOs/ Celebrities graduated from college!

Santa, please make our society realize the importance of education as an individual journey and process, not one dictated by teachers or a common core. Have our society value EDUCATION and show respect for those that foster the process.

Sincerely,

An educator…

Homework is done to keep me off the naughty list!

I don’t give homework in my class, but I am doing mine to stay off of the naughty list! My friend Shawn Davids wrote a post recently asking fellow bloggers to answer questions and share random facts. IReading other bloggers “Homework” has given me insight into what makes others tick. I am in a race with Colleen Skiles to get it done but lost on speed but gained in learning about self and others.  As teachers we often complete activities like this to get to know our classes. So here goes….

11 Random Facts about me…

1. I should have been a doctor: Well at least that is what my family says. My father, grandfather and great grand father were all doctors. Grew up spending hours in hospitals waiting for dad. Guess that is why I am a science teacher now.

2. I failed Biology in HS. Yes totally ironic, son of a doctor and now a science teacher. Wasn’t much of a student then. Freshman year was a rough adjustment time for me and my grades suffered. Retook the class the next year and got an A.

3. Went to Kent School for HS. Kent is a college prep boarding school in Connecticut. I was from rural mid-Illinois (Quincy). Culture shock for me really. Might explain failing Bio. Took me a year to get on my feet. Great school. Really challenged and changed me.

4. I am a loner by nature. I tend to like to sit off in the corner of a crowded room and observe other. Often feel like I don’t fit in any one group but friends with all groups.

5. Big Micro-brew fan. SO big in fact that when some friends from college started one, I invested. ( New Holland Brewing Company when it was in the start up phase)  I am still an investor today. Incredible how the business has grown. I would be a brewer in another life. (Good thing I work on the other side of the state).  This might explain some random micro-brew tweets.

6. A fellow student at Kent was Seth MacFarlane. We were not friends but knew each other. My students always want to know about him. Funny how I feel he has more influence over my students through his TV shows than I do.

7. Experts told me to go into the career of teaching when I was just 18, wish I listened. My grandmother had me tested for career aptitude. I still have the report that says I should go into education or education technology. Instead I majored in Communications in college the first time around. Took till 29 to realize the experts were right.

8. My first car was a 1969 Buick Station Wagon Special Deluxe: My friends called it the Brady Mobile.

9. Prefer fruit deserts over chocolate.

10. Once had a Mohawk in high school. Yes had issues fitting in.

11.Always ask for presents for my children on Secret Santa wish list.

     Ok, now to answer David’s 11 questions:

1.Smooth or crunch Peanut butter?

Smooth Peanut butter: Crunchy is hard to spread and rips the bread. Smooth all the way.

2.Where is your Happy Place?

Sitting in the bay at my families cottage on Walloon Lake.

3. Your Favorite movie as a child?

Always loved “A Christmas Story”, must be coming to mind due to the time of year. Don’t miss it every year.

4. What quote inspires you the most?

“If it doesn’t kill you it only makes you stronger.” Was a marine quote that my fraternity used all the time. Reminds me that doing tasks make us better. Who doesn’t want to be better.

5. If you could sit down for one hour with any person, past or present, who would it be and why?

My father. He died when I was 17. Would want to know if I was living up to his expectations.

6. What’s one of the scariest things you’ve ever done?

Well, it wasn’t by choice but I survived a plane crash. Scared the crap out of me. Glad to have survived.

7. In just one word, how would your friends describe you? Your colleagues?

Friends: Loyal       Colleagues: Dedicated

8.What’s the best decision you ever made?

Going back to school to become a teacher

9. What did you do for your 16th birthday?

Don’t remember! Must have sucked: I was a junior at a boarding school not much to do to celebrate. Didn’t get my driver’s licences till Summer after. (My birthday is in March)

10. What is your favorite joke?

When a student asks what’s up? I answer ceiling tiles. (Dry sense of humor I know)

11 Bloggers that inspire me!!

John BerniaThe Principal’s Page

Tom WhitfordThe Connected Educator’s Hotspot

Kit HardEdtechkit

Carina HilbertThe Grumpy Language Teacher

Garth HolmanTeachers for tomorrow

Michael MateraMrMatera.com

Ben CurranEngaging Educators 

Chris StanleyLearning As We Go

Ben KuhlmanWriting and Teaching 

Bill Martin Tech Seeds

Ben Rimes- The Tech Savvy Educator 

Short list of many who write to better education!

Your Homework: Hope you choose to do it!

1. Why do you teach?

2. What was your favorite book as a child?

3. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go? and why?

4. Favorite dessert?

5. Describe the inside of your car?

6. Where were you on 9/11?

7. How many states have you traveled to?

8. What was your first blog post about?

9. What was your Best Christmas gift ever received?

10. Describe you standard work attire?

11. Favorite store to shop in?

Your responses will help us know you better!

So Now It’s Your Turn

Picture

Here’s how it works:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Post back here with a link after you write this. Go on, you have homework to do. Thanks in Advance!

The Forgotten Purpose of Education

As United States policy makers set out to raise the standards on education by implementing the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I often think we have forgotten the purpose of education. Legislators have been convinced by “Education Reformers” that raising the standards will make our country competitive again in national tests and the rankings that follow. States, school districts and teachers have gotten caught up in attempting to teach the numerous standards each year. Many of us fail to cover it all. The argument made has been: “We don’t want Mary Poppins teachers”, you know those who teach a few of their favorite things. “We want to know that all students have the same educational foundation”, often called guaranteed and viable. Other education educational buzz words often used to describe new curriculum are rigorous and relevant.

When reading about the new CCSS non-educators often feel it is a needed change, especially with all the negative press education has received lately. Many educators have spoken out against the CCSS, arguing that it is a sign of corporate take over to education and takes away from the arts, leaving education  dry and  scripted. Really lost in all of this banter is the TRUE purpose of education.

Is education supposed to:

  • Guarantee that individuals know curriculum?
  • Create employable students?
  • Enable students to be college ready?
  • Solve a quadratic equation?
  • Create a graph?
  • Use the scientific method?
  • Speak a foreign language?
  • Create an App?
  • Write a song?
  • Paint a Masterpiece?
  • Build a house?

The answer is simple yet lost in all of the discussion about education lately. Education is for ONE thing and ONE thing only. Since the dawn of time education has been about LEARNING to LEARN. Once this process is completed we can do all of the above if we so desire.

Think about it: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Wozinak did not follow a “Common Curriculum” on their paths to greatness. Mozart, Picasso, and Jackson Pollock would have never created such wonderful works if their learning bound by a “common” content.

Schools need to become a place where students learn the basic skills. Then they are allowed to  explore topics pushing their teachers to help them. This is the discovery that four and five year-olds have, the endless questioning and excitement. You know the ones parents get tired of and answer with BECAUSE!   Schools should not be on clocks, expecting everyone to discover their path by 18. Some get to the road much quicker and others might like to wander in the woods for awhile.

A teacher will know they have done their job when their pupils finds answers to their questions without assistance.

Remember schools can’t teach all the skills needed for employment. Too many jobs and skill sets are changing too fast. I went to high school in the 1980’s: No internet and few computers. Look at me now writing a blog!! Once we know how to learn we can do anything we desire!

Let’s return education to its true purpose: TEACHING how to LEARN!!