Knowledge: Easy Come, Easy Go

Knowledge about educational psychology, educational technology, relationship building, and being able to implement sound pedagogy are all essential tools for helping a teacher to be successful. So why then do many teachers appear to either lack one or more of these skills or they lack the time and energy to research these topics? Why do some teachers appear to be so skilled and competent, whereas I feel like I can never consume enough research or learn enough about my students to just keep my head above water?

I know that most teachers believe that what they teach is very important for our kids to know for success in life, but do these same teachers truly believe that kids will actually remember what they were teaching decades later? The only thing I can recall from my high school chemistry class is that the chemical equation (if that’s even the proper term) is C6 H12 O6. Most of the material from high school geometry and algebra is either very deeply buried in my subconscious or lost because I haven’t had to use it for quite some time. Heck, maybe I’m literally losing my mind because much of what I learned in college geography and earth science has been lost to the ages. And I majored in geography with an earth science minor!

  
There is an old saying I recall, “it’s like riding a bike.” The saying is meant to convey the idea that anything learned can be easily recalled just as if you have not rode a bike in a few years you will be able get back on a bike and ride it any way because you learned to do it at one time. Well, I beg to differ. I think that the mind begins to let go of ideas, concepts, and information after they have not been used in quite some time and this is much different from learned psychomotor skills. Although, muscles that are not used do tend to retard or even atrophy over time.

The question for this teacher is which happens quicker, the loss of learned ideas, concepts, and information or the loss of psychomotor skills OR were the ideas, concepts, and information ever fully understood? I guess I need to do more research.

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What Would Happen if the Lights Went Out?

What would happen to society if all our electronic devices failed? I’m not talking about just for a few hours or days but what if it was months or years? What if our electronic infrastructure was attacked, or began to fail as rapidly as it arose? No, I’m not a defeatist or a doomsayer. I genuinely wonder what would happen?

A single candle burning in the darkness

Without Electricity

 

I’ve talked to more than a few teachers recently who have used this argument as justification for supporting the argument that kids need to know some basic information in areas like history, English, math, and science? What happens if we throw out the textbooks and we put our faith in web based or cloud based materials?

I think that these are reasonable questions and I confess that I don’t have a good answer to them. I also remember an old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

TWITTER STRUGLES

I’ve been trying to get people to join in a new Twitter chat that I started a few weeks ago and I have heard all kinds of excuses.

“I don’t tweet.”
“But, it’s the best free professional development  around.”
“That’s nice, but I’m okay with that.”

Here’s another, “You want to get together and talk, let’s pick a night and do that instead of banging some keys and staring at screens.”

And another, “here comes that techno geek who doesn’t even know what’s going on in the world.”

TECHNOLOGY ISSUES

Because I use technology to try and become a better teacher and person, I have to put up with quite a few snide remarks from colleagues that have it all figured out. Sometimes I wish I had it all figured out. Sometimes I wish I had no knowledge of the impact that technology can have on teaching, learning, and connecting myself and my students to a global audience.

I have even been told to just be myself, to forget  what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. Quit reading “Teach Like a Pirate.” Quit reading blog posts. Quit Tweeting, Googleing, and all that social media stuff. Just quit trying to be someone you’re not.

The thing is, I’m not trying to be someone else, I’m trying to become a better teacher and person by learning from others successes and failures. And I’m trying to transcend mediocrity. I feel that if I’m not learning then I’m not improving. If I’m not engaged with what’s happening in the field of education then I will have to work harder to catch up in a few years.

PEDAGOGY

What would happen if I just closed my classroom door, assigned textbook readings, lectured, and then threw in a quiz here and a test there? What if I closed my classroom door and did whatever I wanted because, “unless parents or students are complaining you can do whatever you want.”

What if I bought into the philosophy that I’m going to do what’s best for me because the students and parents are ungrateful toward teachers and I don’t get paid enough to put up with this crap?

Would anyone really care as long as I kept out of their hair and didn’t ruffle any feathers?<p/>

I would care.

What would we do if the lights went out?

We Have to Stop Pretending…#MakeSchoolDifferent

Inspired by Scott Mcleod’s challenge at http://DangerouslyIrrevelant.org and Tom Whitby’s http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com  Scott originally challenged 5 educators to enter 5 ways that we can #MakeSchoolDifferent and the blogs were to be posted on twitter using the hashtag #MakeSchoolDifferent challenging five more educators to offer their contributions. I will enter my own contributions to the conversation.

makeschooldifferent21

We have to stop pretending…..

1. That practicing short term memory skills equates to long-term learning gains. If it is not important to a student, then it will not be remembered for long. You are only fooling yourself if you believe that these skills are important in today’s world.

2. That content is important. Being king of your content is nice, but if you are familiar with the content you teach then you can lead others to sources of rich content that can be mulled over, chewed on, and reshaped to form a learning experience for students versus a teacher controlled information dump.

3. That grades matter. The marks I received in school at any level do not make me who I am. I naturally do “old school” well, but I push myself to not care about the grade. I want my kids as well as myself to be in an always beta mode. Always learning, always curious, always pushing the boundaries of new experiences and new technology.

4. That traditional brick and mortar schools are better than other forms of learning. Blended courses, online courses, YouTube, Apps can all contribute to effective learning. Kids want to hear and see things that are authentic and relevant to their lives. They don’t want to waste time learning something that they may need sometime in the future, because the future is changing too rapidly.

5. That all students are the same. We are on the cusp of personalizing education for students and we should all be moving in the direction of learning how to make that happen, make it real, and improve it to the point that it is useable for all.

I am challenging the following educators to add their voice to the conversation #MakeSchoolDifferent:

1. Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy

2. Paul Solarz @PaulSolarz

3. Shannon M. Miller @shannonmmiller

4. Jake Duncan @jkdncn

5. Joy Kirr @JoyKirr

Why Do I Blog?

IMG_0492Some people may wonder why do I blog? My simple reply is, I blog because it helps bring order to my mind. The longer answer is that I blog to reflect upon my craft of teaching, to share what has worked for me and what has not worked for me. I blog about my challenges and successes. I also blog about things I am thinking about and I blog about current trends and research in education.
My blogging does not have the same impact on the education world as someone like George Couros who posts about three times a week at The Principal of Change. Nor does my blogging have the same impact as Alice Keeler’s blog Teacher Tech. My blogging impacts me the most. Do I hope that my blogging helps others? Absolutely! Could I work at trying to blog on a more regular basis? Yep. Could I even create a blog that thousands of readers would flock to? I don’t know (shoulder shrug).
Many of the other Iowa teachers that I know use blogging in the same way as I do, although some of them do reach thousands of people on a regular basis. Blogging and reading blogs is sharing and we need more sharing/vulnerablility in education (read more about this at Aaron Maurer’s (@coffeechugbooks) blog here. I think that blogging will help me be a better teacher and a better person. I once said to a colleague (Coach DeMarco) that I don’t just want to be a teacher, I want to be a great teacher for my students. Coach D told me that I have to quit striving for perfection and just be me!
I have built relationships with my students and they are not perfect people, nor would I expect them to be. I love them just as they are. As long as I love them and challenge their thinking, I will be a great teacher in their minds. Coach D and I also talked about real learning and real learning doesn’t necessarily come from a book and definitely not from a worksheet assigned as home work. Real learning comes from asking meaningful questions and creating a classroom where we can talk about those questions, research those questions, write about those questions, reflect upon those questions. But how does one grade true learning? How does a teacher or sherpa distill that thinking, those discussions, those reflections into a single letter? Comments will be greatly appreciated, as I would like to know what you are thinking.
Why do you blog?

FAILED

FAIL on red.

CC Chris Griffith

Well, I didn’t make it through the 30 days blogging challenge 8-( I failed. How can I as a teacher fail at something as simple as writing and reflecting each day. I do reflect upon every single day, but why not put those thoughts down on paper or in a blog post? I really thought that I could keep up with the blogging, but I am a teacher/learner. My first priority are my kids. My own kids, my classroom kids, my robotics kids, my music kids, and my art kids. My kids are involved in a lot of things which means attending a lot of functions/games/matches/……..

The following tweet from Dr. Justin Tarte has me really thinking about mastery this week.

Do we as teachers, administrators, or anyone involved in education really want kids to master content? What is it that we want them to master? I know a teacher (in another district) who sent out three or four copies of something before I finally had the real FINAL changes/additions on it. If we do things like this as teachers and leaders, then why do many not do as Dr. Tarte states above?

I will keep blogging even though I FAILED at the @teachthought September #reflectiveteacher challenge.

Any thoughts?

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisgriffith/3769283867/in/photolist-6K5yLT-a1ZMEn-5wgmvr-5ksCNP-d3BEaS-dc3G8M-51WiiU-9AjsuK-C2ZhA-9p8eYk-7Rgz3s-eaPVmN-4nqfGH-fkVhTp-58qgVj-awC9V8-eaJhWz-n7bB85-5Ksnmz-5pfYdD-boSDM2-4E65qQ-7i6VSq-FqcTh-nNnmJz-7RgyQA-aDvbdN-73HXeg-9KjFtm-jQPke9-8VkPB7-55zo6b-7E9K6w-4tY3LN-8Ww6Rz-5DeMt9-7Lxkqc-7Rdiq6-fxuQzs-9ZXGSb-65xbgz-4VeSrQ-6fiYFe-aaXX9v-dF45Ek-7YwsMb-5BYTfz-9oiN3B-dQEHwT-er1oP4

Hats off to Green Screen Magic

Today I was wondering about the magic of the green screen. I was asked to submit a photo of myself, without a hat on, to the office at the new school I will be working at next month. Well, if you know me very well, you will know that there are a couple very good reasons why I wear the hat. First, as my children like to say, “what hair dad?” Secondly, I supervised the kids waiting for their buses after school for a few years when I taught middle school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. One gorgeous fall day we had a bomb threat and the entire school evacuated to the football field. The sky was bright blue not a cloud in the sky and it was great being outside (I wish the circumstances would have been better). But, by being outside that day for just shy of three hours, I got the worst sun burn ever right on the top of my noggin. That’s right a shiny red head! And later that night I was in agony. I vowed to never, ever venture into the out of doors without a hat on my head. So, whenever I give presentations on gamification (indoors), whenever I leave a building, and whenever I have my photo taken I grab for the nearest hat.

What a lead in to today’s topic that has me wondering.

I wonder. . . . . 

how is it that with some green fabric behind me, a photograph, and another image I can appear to be anywhere? I have been experimenting with, and getting better at, using iMovie and my green screen. For the photo I submitted to my school today, I simply dragged the image from my desktop into the iMovie maker and suddenly I had four seconds of video. I then had my two oldest daughters take some standard head shots of me in front of my green screen. I selected one of their photos as a jpeg image and dragged that onto the top of the previous image, clicked a button marked adjust, clicked a drop down marked green screen, and walla I had a four second video of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRhyDiKHBH8&list=UUcO54pfwAAqOaFLNJU8SL6Q

Next, I uploaded the video to YouTube then I paused the video and using Skitch I was able to take a screen shot that I saved as a jpeg file. The following image is the final result.

A photo of Tim Scholze without a hat in front of a bookshelf

Fall 2014 No Hat Photo

The only way I can explain how you take this

Photo in front of green screen

Original Photo by Kat

 

 

    and this   PlaybraryLarge       

                                                                                     to come up with this,

A photo of Tim Scholze without a hat in front of a bookshelf

Fall 2014 No Hat Photo

 

                                                                                                                is M-A-G-I-C!

 

I Wonder…..

As I was thinking about topics for this blog post, I realized that I forgot my copy of Vicki Davis’s book Reinventing Writing in my classroom in Iowa City. You might be thinking well just run over there and get it. Whoa there Nelli! That would be 7 hours round trip on the road, not to mention a tank of gas. So, in lieu of writing my weekly post on learnings from Reinventing Writing, I thought I might start a new series of posts titled “I Wonder…..”

We are all called to be like the little children. I guess that would mean that we should ask questions, think creatively, wonder, and play. Of course, having fun and laughing is implied. I guess I got the idea for this from @coffeechugbooks Aaron Maurer and his Teacher Tinker Time. In future “I Wonder…’ posts, I am just going to put I wonder… as the heading and bold the text of the things I am wondering about. If you would like to help out, just leave something you wonder about in the comments or tweet me or shoot me an Email. My hope is that by wondering, we might engage our collective creative juices flowing. Follow the hashtag #IWonder and we will see what we come up with.

I Wonder…..

how someone ever came up with the jackalope. My friend @SKwikkel was recently out in South Dakota on vacation and reminded me of this creature that I learned about on my childhood family trip to SD.

Picture of Jackalope postcard from Wall Drug

Courtesy Wall Drug

how do green screens really work? I’ve used them a few times in my career, but how exactly do they work? I had my daughters take Fall photos of me in front of our green screen and I was able to put that together with a picture of Carson Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Wave the magic wand and I’m standing in the outfield!

Fall Photo

Fall Photo Using Green Screen – Photographer Kat

why do teenagers complain so much? Yes, I’ve been teaching them for over fifteen years, but now I live with one and I guess I never noticed it so much before. My daughter says it’s in the teenager handbook (I really need to find that handbook).

when do adults tend to lose their sense of wonder? It seems that as we progress in age that we become detached from wonder and awe. Why is that?
 

 

why, since Google is so successful, don’t all places of business try to model their fun-loving model of engagement? From what I have seen, the GooglePlex looks like a huge playground for adults.

Comfortable seating at the Googleplex

Image Courtesy bryanesque

 

 

 
why May Flies come out in July? I was driving on the pike between La Crosse and La Crescent last night and my car became spattered with bug juice and there were so many of them crushed on the highway that it was actually slippery in spots!

An emergent Mayfly

Image Courtesy La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Office

will I be the best teacher for the students I have this year? I want so badly to help my students become excited about learning how to learn but I often-times doubt myself and my abilities. Is this normal or just me here?

What do you Wonder about?