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It's Not About Learning Styles... It's About Good Teaching

More evidence to support my previous post...

Education: Learning Styles Debunked from ScienceDaily.com

Idea of Learning Styles in Education Further Derided by Psychology Researchers from Change.org

This research does not mean that we shouldn't use various methods and media to deliver content to our students. It just means that we shouldn't try to limit ourselves due to the labeling process that the learning styles movement has been pushing for the past decade or so.

Good teachers use audio, video, group activities, critical thinking, and many other methods throughout their teaching. It is the combination of these that makes a teacher effective. It isn't about reaching the "auditory" or "kinesthetic" or "visual" learner. Rather, we should strive to reach ALL students through auditory, visual, and kinesthetic means. In the end, we all learn from the information we gather through each of the senses, not just one sense, as the learning styles theory w…

A Lesson for Our Students from Iran

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This is why social networking is such a powerful tool. I'm humbled to think of the power it holds. I just might share this story with my students in the morning to demonstrate how far Facebook can take them. The truth is that, aside from occasionally organizing group work, they use it for silly banter and even online bullying. It isn't that these activities aren't important for developing 21st Century social skills, it's just that social networking can do so much more!

December 7th commemorates an important day for Americans; Pearl Harbor Day. In Iran, the date has a different significance. It is 16 Azar, AKA National Student Day. An Academia.org article explains that on this day students on university campuses around Iran stage demonstrations to show solidarity for the three students who were killed while protesting the Shah in 1953. Traditionally, these protests have included some anti-American sentiment, but this year was different.

Iranian university student protest…

BACKchannel, feedBACK, bounce BACK

BACKchannel
Steve Anderson (@web20classroom) published a blog post recently about the role of backchannel at professional conferences.

So what does the term "backchannel" mean? Wikipedia explains:

The term "backchannel" generally refers to online conversation about the topic or the speaker. Occasionally backchannel provides audience members a chance to fact-check the presentation.

Twitter is also widely used today by audiences to create backchannels at technology conferences. When audience members add an event hashtag to their tweets (for example, #w2e was the hashtag used for the Web 2.0 Expo New York in 2009), anyone can run a Twitter search to review all the backchannel tweets related to that event.


As mentioned above, Twitter is the most common backchannel tool. (If you're on Twitter, you can find me at @KerryHawk02.) Critics of backchannel discussions contend that they are rude and disruptive. That is the primary focus of Anderson's blog post, although

Don't Diss Interdisc

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Don't Diss Interdisc













After three colleagues and I presented a mock grant application in our graduate class this evening, which focused on "Innovation Through Technology and Interdisciplinary Studies," I really spent some time thinking about the value of interdisciplinary work, especially at the high school level. Accordingly, I decided to do some further reading on the topic.

Michael Streich, a teacher, historian, and experienced traveler, wrote a short and well-thought-out article on Suite101.com. The benefits to the teachers involved are notable:

Collaborative teaching exercises enrich the curriculum and allow teachers to share in a meaningful experience, bringing together diverse expertise and enhancing collegial respect.

The benefits of interdisciplinary work to students are even more important. Shelly Blake-Plock (AKA TeachPaperless) wrote a blog post in February about improvisation in the classroom. He explained that sometimes the kids, when permitted to go on a tange…

Connected... But Not Making Connections

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Our students, whether we like it or not, are VERY connected. They are connected via Facebook and MySpace, text message and IM, and even email in some cases (although they view email as a tool for those of us who are "old"). But what does "being connected" mean? Are they learning anything from these connections? Have they mastered any information or skills through all of this networking?

I recently read two different blogs with interesting graphics that got me thinking about this.

First, Dean Shareski (an edu-blogger I have referenced in past posts) wrote Why Audience Matters. He quoted a member of his PLN, Chris Lehmann, who asked, "When having audience is no longer novel, simply having one is no longer motivating. We still must help kids have something powerful to say."

He illustrated the point with a cartoon by Hugh MacLeod (MacLeod doesn't always use kid-friendly language...just a warning).













The second blog I read that mentioned similar ideas is called

"Learning Styles" & "Differentiation": Buzzwords Debunked!

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I like this video. It confirms a theory I have had for a while. Most of the job interviews in education that I have been a part of, either as an interviewer or interviewee, have involved at least one question about learning styles and differentiated instruction. I have always been a bit critical. In one of my former districts there was relentless training on learning these topics. They paid top dollar for experts and consultants to run workshops. Quite often, I seemed to find that I was already doing some version of the teaching strategies they preached. Sure, I may have added some enhancers from the workshops, but nothing I would really consider ground-breaking. I've taught both heterogeneous and homogeneous classes. I've had classes with special education aids and one-on-ones, while a self-reliant future valedictorian sat two rows over. In the end, isn't it just about delivering a message effectively to all students? Shouldn't teacher find several ways to explain inf…

A Conversation With a Friend

I was over a college girlfriend's house today so our little ones (her's is 17 months and mine will be a year old in a week) could have a playdate.... and so we could catch up over a glass of wine.

We asked each other about our families, about our marriages, we laughed about the milestones our babies are meeting... and then the conversation turned to work. I asked her and she, as a nurse, talked about the demands that have come with the latest flu season. In turn, I talked about the new demands that come with 21st Century Skills in education. Her mom was a teacher in a private Catholic school before she retired a few years ago. So, she thought she had a good understanding of the workload and philosophy behind teaching in K-12 education.

Well, needless to say, I re-educated her.

I explained how research is not what it used to be. I explained how my 9th graders are designing websites, not merely writing papers. They are creating web-based presentations with embedded video clips and …

Bloom's Taxonomy for Web 2.0

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Another great discovery from my PLN on Twitter! Thanks to Eric Sheninger (NHMS_Principal)

Check out this link! It is an article that adapts Bloom's Taxonomy to Web 2.0. the author, Andrew Churches, has an award winning wiki called Educational Origami. His work is impressive. About halfway down the page, there is a great flowchart that applies higher order thinking to web 2.0 projects and activities.



The rest of the article breaks down what the verbs in the chart mean and how they work with these higher (or lower) order thinking skills. In each lesson and project I design for my students, I try to make sure that I hit at least one of the top three categories. It's hard to do every day in every lesson, but this chart is inspiring!

A few stand-outs:
Tagging and Searching = Even though Churches classifies these under Remembering, which is a lower order thinking skill, I like how tagging forces students to choose one-word key ideas to identify their images, podcasts, and blogs. Simi…

Is Cheating Bad Anymore?

That was a silly student-created video on cheating, but the rest of this blog is serious.

One of the assistant principals at the high school sent around this article from the San Francisco Chronicle. It's a long article, but worth reading if you are interested. There were a few statements that really stood out to me, though.

Drugs for Studying
Pope says use of stimulants is on the rise in high school, and more and more kids are using them to take the SAT. As in the debate over the use of steroids in sports, some students don't feel it's morally wrong - because it's still your brain at work - and are ignoring the health risks of taking a drug not meant for them, with no monitoring of dosage or side effects by a doctor. Pope says when she wrote "Doing School" (published in 2001), "it was No-Doz and caffeine. Now, especially in the past five years, it has switched to Adderall, Ritalin and illegal stimulants."

I knew plenty of classmates in college who used…

Wikis & YouTube for Snowboarders!

My mission this year has been to integrate as much technology as possible in an effective way in my classroom. I have started class blogs, had freshmen create websites based on research, and encouraged sophomores to publish their work on wikis and VoiceThread. But I thought I might share how I have integrated some of my "techie" skills into my personal life, as well.

My husband, Jimmy, is an avid fisherman, surfer, and snowboarder. In the past few years he has gotten really good at the latter. He kind of had to get better to hang with me and my family. We have been pretty dedicated skiers our whole lives. So, in his quest to get better and learn more about the sport, Jimmy has become a certified snowboard pro and is now training other snowboard pros at our home mountain, Attitash.

In an effort to communicate with his snowboarding buddies in the off season, he asked me if there is a way they could network more efficiently than over email. Immediately, I thought "WIKI&quo…

Teacher v. Technology

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Anyone and everyone who has had a child or grandchild within the past decade knows what Baby Einstein is.

If you have watched or listened to any new within the past 24 hours, you also know about a refund that the Baby Einstein company has decided to offer in response to accusations that their products (mostly the videos) are not, in fact, educational. The experts seem to agree that no amount of time in front of any video will teach a baby as much about language, shapes, colors, animals, and human social skills as one-on-one time with parents and other caretakers.

After listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation do a 30 minute segment on this topic, I did some reflection:

How much does technology matter in my classroom?

How much to I matter?

If you are interested, listen to the NPR broadcast. It was an excellent segment and the guests got into a rather heated debate on the topic.


If you don't have time to listen, just check out the summary at NPR.org.

In light of a recent blog I p…

President Obama's Speech to America's Students... one month later

I'm sure you remember the controversy over President Obama's speech, which was broadcast nationwide, to America's primary and secondary school students. That day I did not have a class at the time the President was delivering his speech. But I had several students in my class that met soon after who seemed to think there wasn't anything political about his words at all. One student called it "an academic pep talk."

If you care to watch the 19 minute speech, here is the video.


You can go to WhiteHouse.gov for a transcript of the speech as well.

Now it has been one month... did his speech make a difference?
Are our students working harder because they have a better understanding of long term goals, a point President Obama tried to amplify?
Are our students seizing the opportunity to learn from their errors, or are they still arguing with their teachers to get a couple more points added to a test grade?
Are our students persevering because they feel a patriotic r…

Trying to be a Renaissance (Wo)Man

It seems that we teachers do a heck of a lot more than teach. When I decided to become an educator I was thrilled with the idea teaching events and ideologies from history to students. In reality, this job is sooooooo much more than that!

Here's my list of roles that a teacher has to take on everyday. By no means should it be considered an exhaustive list:

teacher
expert in (insert subject area here)
counselor
student
friend
parent
colleague
techie

The last category has been my latest endeavor. How can I learn more about how to use technology, social networking, file sharing, etc. in my classroom? I've really been stretching myself this year.

My latest effort seems to have paid off. There are a few links below to some websites that my freshman honors students created over the past few weeks. I decided to look at the Renaissance from a different angle. Once we discussed what a "Renaissance Man" is, I asked them to find a person from today or from a period in history bes…

"If you're a lawyer, why would you want to stay in teaching?"

As I was reading this article in the Washington Post, I literally welled up with tears. The author, Sarah Fine, is probably about two years younger than me, but she has faced similarly insensitive questions. You don't have to read the whole article. This excerpt says it all:

"Why teach?" they ask.

Do my lawyer and consultant friends find themselves having to explain why they chose their professions? I doubt it. Everyone seems to know why they do what they do. When people ask me about teaching, however, what they really seem to mean is that it's unfathomable that anyone with real talent would want to stay in the classroom for long. Teaching is an admirable and, well, necessary profession, they say, but it's not for the ambitious. "It's just so nice," was the most recent version I heard, from a businesswoman sitting next to me on a plane.

I used to think I was being oversensitive. Not so. One of my former colleagues, now a program director for Teach…

Children Sing Obama Songs in School: Inspiration or Indoctrination?

I found an interesting opinion blog at The Griot. The author reflects on whether the video showing young grade-school age children singing about President Obama is a way to indoctrinate those young minds, or inspire them. The author, Charisse Carney-Nunes, was a guest at the New Jersey school when the students performed the song. She contends that the song was simply a form of "civic expression," something lacking in American schools. She argues, "It is a widely accepted notion that instruction related to democratic citizenship has declined in our schools in recent years. Educators pressured by such issues as budget woes, the requirements of No Child Left Behind and high stakes testing have understandably increased their instructional time in core subjects like math and reading. "Softer subjects" like civics, social studies and art have taken a back seat."

Her interview with Inside Edition provides some insight into her perspective.



Equally interesting wer…