Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Uniting to Ensure Best Options for Students, Parents and Teachers

This post was also shared at Cooperative Catalyst.  If you'd like to read it there go here.  There are some really good comments!

Social media has become a mobilizing force in bringing together students, educators, and parents who are frustrated with the data-driven, standardized, one-size-fits all learning taking place in publicly funded schools today. Many of these groups have popped up with members joining and uniting against a system designed to reduce children to nothing more than standardized, easily measurable data to appear on a future chart that can bolster the ratings and egos of policy makers and business leaders.  Despite the fact that many educational leaders, educators, parents, and students know this is wrong parents like Gretchen Herrera are being forced to engage in practices that hurt children with threats of school closures and students being left behind or kicked out for failure to comply.

One of the biggest movements gaining momentum is the opt out of state testing with social media sites being created in the form Facebook groups, Facebook pages, and Yahoo groups which are connecting parents, educators, and students who are frustrated with forced government schooling policies.  In the past there was little information available to the public when it came to opting out of tests. Not surprisingly this information was hard to access and inconsistent.  This is, in part what the government agencies are banking on.

Fortunately with the advent of social media and Web 2.0 tools, concerned individuals are able to unite to find, share, and collect information.  One such effort to collect this information is The Opt Out of State Standardized Tests – Site.  Upon joining, group members can contribute relevant information from their state.  The beauty of this site is that the information is created and owned by anyone concerned about this issue.  The site is open to all concerned individuals who can find general and state by state information as well as a number of social media groups and pages to join.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Parent Involvement with Less Stress this Back-to-School

Online Signup Sheets by VolunteerSpot Save Time {and Sanity} 
Guest Post by Karen Bantuveris

Inviting parents to participate in the elementary classroom builds positive rapport and sets the foundation for a successful school year for all.  Parents feel involved and engaged, kids see that their parents value their education and are on the same ‘team’ as their teacher, and teachers get much needed help and an opportunity to begin natural conversations with parents about student success.

Parent participation is good, even great....right?! But one busy teacher coordinating the parents of 20-30+ kids as class helpers or for parent-teacher conferences can be a daunting and stressful proposition, even for the most seasoned teacher. On the busy parent side of the equation, juggling multiple requests from multiple teachers and school committees can seem overwhelming and cause some parents to opt-out of volunteering all together.

Monday, August 29, 2011

4 Ideas to Transform Learning

In her piece School would be ideal… if it weren’t school, provides four key points that help illustrate the ideal “Learning Center.”
  1. It should never be called “School”.
    School is for training and indoctrinating, not learning.  Let us go with Learning Center or something similar.
  2. It should never ever be compulsory.
    We should not be forcing people into pseudo academic situations that may not agree with personal desires and/or beliefs. Yes everyone has the “right” to education, and as such learning is something that is always freely available everywhere, all the time and can even be made more available – but having the right to do something does not in any way validate that it should be forced upon anyone - especially by any prescribed or predetermined means.
  3. It should not be standardized or federalized.
    By allowing for one golden mean or ‘standard’ of education, we completely violate individual freedom by blatantly ignoring personal desires and restricting true freedom to learn (the right that everyone has, remember?).   Furthermore, who gets to decide what this ‘standard’ should be and why?  Why does a board get to represent me and what I want or need to learn to fulfill my personal aspirations? 
  4. No Federal Funding.
    I’ve been known to say that such establishments should not be publicly funded, but funded by those who use it and perhaps philanthropic donation.   I will concede however, that learning centers can be reasonably publicly funded if they operated similarly to libraries and community centers.   Ideally these would be funded by local taxes in the county or city that they serve…. for the sake of those who depend on the existence of a safe place for their children to be during the day while society learns to transition to a more human educational system.
Lynn suggests we imagine county run,  independent learning centers that are not compulsory and are available to use by anyone who wishes to use them. Centers would have learning facilitators who were teachers,  parents, teenagers, industry leaders and other community members who use the facility.   Funding would come partially from local taxes (perhaps) as well as private donations and/or paid extra courses that are offered. Much in the same way community centers operate now. Lynn suggests this would be the ideal replacement for what we now know as school system that is outdated, dysfunctional and damaging to children.

What do you think?

You can visit Laurette Lynn's whole post and read more about these ideas here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to School Dos and Don’ts

In his blog, SpeEdChange, Ira Socol provides smart advice about back to school dos and don’ts and I provide my thoughts on each below.


  1. Offer multiple media versions of information to students so they can read it, hear it, understand it in their native language, etc.  
    • You may want to consider partnering with students and parents to do this.
  2. Offer a wide range of places and ways for students to be comfortable because there is no reason to make kids feel trapped or uncomfortable
    • Craigslist and social media are great places to secure donations.  When I had my library we had a comfy couch, bean bags, pillows, animal chairs and more that were all donated.
  3. Let them eat and drink because people should be able to do that if they’re hungry or thirsty.  
    • When I was a librarian I jumped through hoops and fought unnecessary policies to allow food/drink in the library.  We learned to clean up after ourselves.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What's Popular This Week on The Innovative Educator

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

Aug 19, 2011, 1 comment
  2,120 Pageviews

Aug 15, 2011, 3 comments  1
916 Pageviews

Aug 21, 2011, 7 comments
  1696 Pageviews

Aug 23, 2011, 31 comments   1
580 Pageviews

Aug 26, 2011   1
431 Pageviews

Aug 22, 2011, 1 comment   1
382 Pageviews

Aug 24, 2011   1
380 Pageviews

Aug 23, 2011, 1 comment
    1359 Pageviews

Apr 15, 2008, 7 comments
   940 Pageviews

Friday, August 26, 2011

Geometer Sketchpad Available as iPad App for Exploring Dynamic Math

Sketchpad Explorer Logo.pngIf you’re a fan of Geometer Sketchpad and you own an iPad, you’ll be thrilled to know that Sketchpad Explorer is available here for free to educators until September 1st. It will be $3.99 after that. Sketchpad Explorer provides an intuitive environment for exploring Dynamic Geometry mathematics. It offers users access to the vast library of The Geometer’s Sketchpad mathematics content on the Web – including Sketch Exchange, the Sketchpad Resource Center and dozens of teacher-published websites – where users can view and share sketches across a range of mathematics topics and levels.

When I provided professional development for teachers in a couple dozen schools where we launched one-to-one laptop programs I found that Geometer’s Sketchpad was popular among math teachers because it offers students a tangible, visual way to learn mathematics while increasing their engagement, understanding and achievement. Students are able to create mathematical models in multiple ways to explore principles, test conjectures and illustrate myriad concepts. 

The Geometer’s Sketchpad has been used successfully in elementary and middle school math, algebra, geometry, precalculus, calculus and higher education applications. In addition to supporting the Standards for Mathematical Practice, The Geometer’s Sketchpad addresses concepts in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Content, guiding educators to successfully implement the standards as their students benefit from hands-on learning.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Fundamental Principle: No Unnecessary Testing (NUT)

By Stephen Krashen | Original PDF

Summary: Do not invest 4.5 billion on new standards and tests. Instead, work on
improving the NAEP to get a picture of how our students are performing, and
continue to use teacher evaluation to evaluate individual student performance. We
should begin by cutting back testing, not adding testing.

No Unnecessary Testing (NUT) is the principle that school should include only those
tests and parts of tests that are necessary, that contribute to essential evaluation and
learning. Every minute testing and doing “test preparation” (activities to boost scores on
tests that do not involve genuine learning) is stolen from students’ lives, in addition to
costing money that we cannot afford these days.

If we accept the NUT principle, it leads to this question: Do we need yearly standardized
tests closely linked to the curriculum? Do they tell us more than teacher evaluation does?
This issue must be looked at scientifically. If, for example, standardized tests given in
every stage are shortened, given less frequently or abandoned, will student performance
be affected? Would NAEP scores be affected, or high school graduation rates, or life

My prediction is that teacher evaluation does a better job of evaluating students than
standardized testing: The repeated judgments of professionals who are with children
every day is more valid that a test created by distant strangers. Moreover, teacher
evaluations are “multiple measures,” are closely aligned to the curriculum, and cover a
variety of subjects.

There is evidence supporting this view for high school students: In a study published in
2007, UC Berkeley scholars Saul Geiser and Maria Veronica Saltelices found that adding
SAT scores to high school students grades in college prep courses did not provide much
more information than grades alone, which suggests that we may not need standardized
tests at all. More recently, Bowen, Chingos, and McPherson (2009) reached similar

For those who argue that we need national standardized tests in order to compare student
achievement over time and to compare subgroups of students, we already have an
instrument for this, the NAEP.

The NAEP is administered to small groups of children who each take a portion of the test
every few years. Results are extrapolated to estimate how the larger groups would score.
No test prep is done, as the tests are zero stakes: There are no (or should be no)
consequences for low or high scores. Our efforts should be to improve the NAEP, not
start all over again, and go through years of fine-tuning with new instruments.

Gradually improving the NAEP will also solve the "standards" problem, as the NAEP is
adjusted to reflect competencies experts in education consider to be important.

If we are interested in a general picture of how children are doing, this is the way to do it.
If we are interested in finding out about a patient’s health, we only need to look at a small
sample of their blood, not all of it.

My predictions, however, need to be put to the empirical test. A conservative path is to
start to cut back on standardized tests, both in length and frequency, and determine if this
has any negative consequences.

A radical path is to throw everything we have out, without any evidence that it is
inadequate, and waste $4.5 billion on new standards and new tests, tests for all subjects
and to be given to every child every year.

The conservative path is the only rational option, when funds are so scarce, and it is an
essential exercise of our responsibility to students. It is also the solution to those who are
calling for a longer school year and a longer school day: less time testing and doing testprep
means more time for instruction and learning.

Bowen, W., Chingos, M., and McPherson, M. 2009. Crossing the Finish Line:
Completing College at America's Universities. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Geiser, S. and Santelices, M.V., 2007. Validity of high-school grades in predicting
student success beyond the freshman year: High-school record vs. standardized tests as
indicators of four-year college outcomes. Research and Occasional Papers Series: CSHE
6.07, University of California, Berkeley.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Opting Out of Standardized Testing - A National Movement for All

I have been an ardent supporter of all parents, students, and educators interested in opting out of state tests.  They usually want to know two things:
  1. What are the laws in my state?
  2. How do I find others who are in my state?

In response to this, I have created a site where anyone can share state by state information and use the discussion board on each page to connect with those from their area. 

Please add information about your state by clicking on the picture below.

If you are on Facebook, you can connect with others interested in opting out in these groups.

Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing (Opt Out of State Testing)
  • Page for parents, teachers, students of all beliefs and backgrounds.

Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing ( Opt Out of State Testing )
  • Group for parents, teachers, students of all beliefs and backgrounds.
OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST : The National Movement

  • Group for parents, teachers, students whose primary focus is the preservation of public schools through the opting out of state tests. Members supporting alternatives to public education are not welcome in this group.
OPT OUT of State Tests: Parent/Student Support against Standardized Testing

  • Group where parents frustrated by public school policies and mandates like standardized tests can feel comfortable to explore and share ideas about non public education alternatives.

Opt Out of State Tests Facebook Group Tells “Certain” Parents/Students/Teachers - You’re Not Welcome Round Here

This was supposed to be a post about encouraging you to join the “Opt Out of the State Tests” group on Facebook. Some of you may remember last week when I excitedly shared with thousands of my followers on Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook that there was a new group in town that was created for the purpose of supporting parents, educators, and students interested in opting out of standardized testing. What I didn’t know is that they didn’t have interest in supporting “ALL” parents. You see, the group leaders made it very clear that folks like me weren’t wanted around those parts.

I wish I had known of their bias before I invited thousands of people to the group. I would never knowingly invite members of my personal learning network to a group that discriminates against those who do not share the group leader's approved religious beliefs, political affiliation, or learning methods. Because of their bias, I deeply apologize to those who I unintentionally mislead. Before I was aware that this was a group bound by intolerance, I was thrilled as more and more esteemed peers from my personal learning network joined the group. Parents, students, and educators had a platform to talk, discuss and share ideas. There were rich conversations from people of varied backgrounds. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

See Me Live Discussing How to Connect School Life to Real Life

I had the pleasure of speaking to thousands of educators from around the world about the importance of connecting school life to real life at the 140 Character Education Conference.  You can see my talk below followed by the presentation I used during my talk.  I hope you will consider sharing my talk and presentation with others.  Both are available for download for free.

My presentation.

Here are the other talks from the conference.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Standardized Tests: Merely A Symptom of the Disease

Guest post by Teresa McCloskey

I recently discovered there is a surge of parents across the nation who are protesting the use of standardized testing in our schools and encouraging parents to opt out (here’s the group).  I have read articles comparing the testing to child abuse and articles from teachers who are promoting the “Save Our Schools” campaign while seeking testing reform.  I have also seen articles about the cheating related to these tests like this one and this one by school staff and administrators – understandable as there are federal dollars attached to the outcome.  Baltimore and Atlanta are surely not alone, but they happen to be districts which have been caught thus far.  One article even asked whether innovative children could start to blackmail teachers in relation to turning in higher or lower test scores.

It is apparent the issue of standardized testing has more questions than answers, but in reading these articles and seeing the debates on which method of measuring the success of children’s learning in the public system, I keep coming back to the same point of view – the tests are not the problem, the entire institutional system known as public education (or government controlled education) is broken and failing.  

To debate standardized testing is akin to debating on how to treat slaves better and how to determine which slaves are being the most productive on the plantation.  Why are more people not questioning why we have enslaved our children in this inhumane system which more closely resembles a prison or mental hospital than anything related to what their lives outside of school will look like?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What's Popular This Week on The Innovative Educator

Here’s the roundup of what's been popular on The Innovative Educator blog this week. Below you’ll see my top weekly posts along with the number of pageviews in the past 7 days. I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re so inspired leave a comment.

Aug 12, 2011, 5 comments  2,594 Pageviews

Aug 11, 2011, 2 comments  2,144 Pageviews

Aug 15, 2011, 3 comments
  2,005 Pageviews

Apr 17, 2010, 1 comment  
1,856 Pageviews

Aug 14, 2011, 2 comments    1
607 Pageviews

Aug 16, 2011, 1 comment
   1348 Pageviews

Aug 17, 2011    9
83 Pageviews

Feb 10, 2009, 7 comments  
861 Pageviews

Friday, August 19, 2011

Discover what your digital footprint says about you

Does your digital footprint convey the message you want? If you don't know you should spend time figuring this out. In the 21st century our digital footprint conveys an important image and people should know what that is.  Below are ideas that will enable you to explore and consider if your digital footprint conveys the message you want to share with the world.  It will also give you ideas for activities you can do with your students so they can do the same.

General Internet Footprint
Here are some basics to get you started in discovering what your general footprint is on the internet.  Start your personal discovery and begin reflecting on the questions below.   
  • Google yourself.
    Start in the obvious way and just Google yourself by typing your name into Google’s search box in whatever way(s) someone doing a search about you might i.e. John Smith, teacher. Take a look at what you see.
  • Use Google Alerts to monitor what others are saying about you
    Sign up for Google Alerts to receive email updates of the latest relevant Google results about you by simply visiting the site and entering your name. You can click preview to see the type of results you'll receive.
  • Spezify who you are.
    Spezify is a search tool presenting results from a large number of websites in different visual ways. The site moves web search away from endless lists of blue text links and towards a more intuitive experience giving viewers an overview of a subject. The site mixes all media types: blogs, videos, microblogs and images. Everything communicates and helps building the bigger picture.
  • People Searches
    There are several people searches.  Are you listed?  Here are some common ones to check. |  |
    While the initial reaction by some when they discover they are listed is concern, keep in mind that people have been listed in phone books for a very long time. There is no evidence that having this information available is cause for concern. Instead, the primary cause of danger is rarely by strangers.  Instead  when it comes to maltreatment of children the number one source is in the home followed by a close friend or family member.  Source:
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families Child Maltreatment
Reflect Upon Your Social Media Footprint with Recap Apps 
Recap apps are a great tool for teachers to get to know students and for students to get to know each other.  It provides a vehicle for students to reflect upon what messages they are sharing with their friends over the past year. You may want to ask students to create a status collage of what they might want their message to be in the new year or ask them what their photos may represent. It also provides a fantastic way for students to get ideas for further sharing and publishing about the topic they are most expert in...themselves.
  1. Twitter
    • Reflect upon what you are saying with a cloud at and enter your username.
      Note:  If you don’t have a Twitter account sign up.  Make a cloud searching other people or current events on Twitter.
  2. Facebook
    Note:  If you don’t have a Facebook Account partner with someone who does so you can understand what this looks like.  
Your Digital Footprint Analysis.
    • What are proud of?
    • What are you surprised to see?  
    • Is there anything you are embarrassed about?
    • What might you want to change or do in the future to ensure your footprint accurately represents the picture you want to convey?
Suggested activities 
What activities might you do with young people?
    • Personal Narrative
      • Have students write a memoir based on their status collages or pictures. They may pick one update/picture or build upon a theme.
      • Have students create a year in review video highlighting their status collage updates or their year in photos.
      • Have students create one, or a number of, personal narrative audio cast or Voki based on their status collage updates.
    • Team building ideas to help students learn and connect.
      • Have students print out their recap app and let students identify which belongs to which student. With the photo app, you may want to count how many other schoolmates are in each student's collage.
      • Have students tag their recap app in Flickr using a teacher created account and in the comment box either place a recap app narrative or use the comment box to guess who the app belongs to.
      • Have student compare and contrast their recap app. They could write a narrative explaining what they have in common and might never have in common with another class member.
      • Have students place their app as a note on FB and tag 20 of their friends asking them to share their thoughts perhaps with an interesting question i.e. what surprised you, stood out, or could you relate to.
    • Arts and Crafts
      • Print the recap apps onto iron on paper and make tee shirts with students word clouds on the back. This could even be used as a fundraiser.
      • Use the recap apps to decorate a "Year in Review" in photos and words bulletin board.