Thursday, April 29, 2010

Where is all the reading material?

"In 2002, the information produced would have filled 37,000 Library of Congresses! .01% was on paper!"

What does this mean for education? Do we spend more than .01% of our time focused on paper based reading? What should we be doing instead?

We need to change the stigma that book reading is real reading and electronic reading is not. It is quickly becoming the opposite!

From this study by UC Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems:

Head nod to Mike W. for sharing this fact with me via his blog at

*Image thanks to:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Can you teach in the Ignite style?

I came across this video on how to give an Ignite talk. It got me thinking. (Surprise! Surprise!) An Ignite talk is a presentation in which you must present your material within 5 minutes. You must use 20 slides which auto advance every 15 seconds. It is amazing to watch how people are able to get their point across quickly and efficiently.

A few years ago, I was working with my peer coach (Yeah Jill!). I wanted to shorten the amount of time I took on direct instruction to get my students working more quickly. I felt that the longer I went on, the more my students became bored or disengaged. So I set a goal to try to finish my direct instruction and get students to work within the first 10 minutes of class. Jill observed me and timed my instruction. Sure enough, by the tenth minute, all students were at their seats started. What's more, Jill observed the students. They were more engaged and excited and ready to begin their work. Of course I paused their work time throughout class to go over questions and make observations, but students appreciated hearing the instruction in small chunks rather than all at once and they had the advantage of context when I went over those next pieces.

Now I don't really expect teachers to teach in 15 second clips, but it would be an interesting experiment to see how teachers do if they focus on shortening their direct instruction and getting students working. Who knows? Maybe it would IGNITE some learning!

Are you a rose person or a thorn person?

Thanks to my wife for sharing this quote with me!

"Some people grumble because roses have thorns; I am thankful that the thorns have roses."

-- Alphonse Karr

I immediately thought of technology when I read this quote. Some people think of the problems that arise when using technology rather than thinking about how technology helps resolve problems.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Do you read well or Do you understand well?

Admittedly, anytime you question the importance of reading, you are taking your life in your own hands. So let me preface this by saying that I am NOT questioning the importance of reading... I am broadening my definition of reading. It is not the act of reading that is so powerful, but the ability to understand and interpret what we have read. So why is it any less important to understand the messages we receive through other media? Why is information in a book inherently better than information on a website, video, podcast, or anywhere else? The answer is, it's not.

I know... the act of editing... the sheer cliff one must navigate to get published helps to weed out a lot of the garbage that gets published elsewhere, but now we are making a judgement about what all of our students read... or consume. We might want them to read books that we deem valuable, but we need to prepare them to consume information from many sources.

On an average day, I read receive information from books, websites, tv, streaming video, audio, Twitter and other social networks, advertisements, magazines, photos, and other sources. The ability to sift through that information to understand what is most accurate, least biased, most up to date, and most relevant is perhaps the most important skill that I utilize every day. So why don't we do a better job of building this skill in our students?

Fear... We are afraid our students will stop reading. We worry that books will lose their value if we appear to be giving kids a choice of how they get their data.

I'm more afraid of our students not understanding the information swirling around them all day long.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From See Saw to Balance Beam

Lately I've been feeling a bit conflicted.

I hear some people write very eloquently about the power of data. If we collect good data on our students, we can use that data to help inform instruction. We will make sure that every student gets the instruction they need. They talk about common formative assessments. They talk about personalizing education.

I hear others write equally eloquently about the fact that easy access to information changes how and what we teach drastically. They talk about constructivism and project based learning. They talk about the importance of creativity and design. They talk about deconstructing curriculum and focusing on skills instead of content.

And me? I feel like a see saw. One day I'm on the data bandwagon. The next day I'm a hardcore constructivist. And I often have a hard time reconciling these two notions. On my data days, I'm thinking about standards, assessments, how my instruction ties into the curriculum. On my constructivist days, I'm thinking about real life application, problem solving, and collaboration.

Up... down... up... down...

I feel an increasing need to move from a see saw to a balance beam. I need to walk the fine line between these two seemingly divergent concepts. The fact of the matter is, they can both work, but not alone. If we focus only on data, we get bogged down by too many assessments. We focus so much on WHAT we teach that we forget about the importance of inquiry and teaching our students HOW to learn. If we focus only on constructivism, we fail to keep in mind the individual needs of our students and what we need to do to improve our instruction.

So I will walk the balance beam (no back flips... nothing fancy yet!) and try to find the commonalities between these two schools of thought. If anyone has any suggestions on how best to do this, I'm listening!!!

* Photos thanks to: Gimnasia Madre_Matilde @ and Di_the_Huntress @

Friday, April 2, 2010

Remember when...

Remember when...

...we used to pull over and unfold a map?
...we used to make sure we had a dime in case we needed to use a payphone?
...we used to wait a few days for our film to be developed?
...we used to have to watch a show at a certain time?
...we used to look up numbers in the white pages?
...we used to back up to handfuls of floppy disks?
...we used to wait weeks for a written letter reply to come in the mail?

Guess what? Our students don't.