Wednesday, November 30, 2011

20 Ways to Get Ideas for Writing Blog Posts

I have been blogging for a few years now and I usually publish each day. I'm often asked by current and would-be bloggers how I come up with my blog posts. These are some of the ways.

1)  Someone asks me a question. Rather than just share the answer with them, I share it with the world as others may have that question too.
  • Example: That is how this post came about.
2) I disagree with someone but politically it is not a good idea to vocalize my opposition. I write about it in generic terms on my blog.
3)  I find a new way to use something and I want to share
4)  Someone says something powerful that would never be captured and shared otherwise. I capture and share it.
5) Someone asks me for advice. I figure this might help others too so I write a blog post, send them the link, and others benefit too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

20 Reasons Why Standardized Testing Is Crap

If policymakers, institutions and educators want to keep using standardized tests in the alleged service of elementary, middle school, secondary and tertiary students, considerable reform needs implementing, immediately. The standardized testing system's current incarnation raises far more eyebrows and ire than bright-eyed, bushy-tailed pillars of future progress. Research reveals some of the damages done thus far, so citizens — children, parents, educators, administrators, and what few politicians actually care — must read, comprehend, discuss and eventually demand and tailor important changes around. Either de-emphasize their importance and analyze student and teacher success through a wider, far more accommodating lens, or allow them to remain the cornerstone after jettisoning the biases and restrictions wreaking more harm than good. As everything stands now, though, most exams just aren't making the grade. To follow are some reasons that many believe standardized testing is crap.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kids Learn By Teaching Each Other with Upside Down Academy

Guest post by Jared Cosulich

I’d like my daughter to have the opportunity to spend as much time as possible doing projects and producing interesting work. Knowing that the opportunity to have such experiences was limited in the traditional school setting where students often simply consume information without any practical way to apply it, I considered homeschooling. Like many Dads, I would never have thought of homeschooling my daughter before, but with so many free and open educational resources available for students to learn whatever they want, it seemed like more of a possibility. The question was, is there an easier way to do project-based learning about any topic on demand in the same way that The Khan Academy makes learning feasible for anyone with internet access?

That’s when it hit me, I could simply have my daughter create lessons much the same way Sal Khan or
Eric Marcos’s MathTrain.TV students create their math lessons. She could learn something new, pay attention to what she found confusing, and then try to create a lesson that would make it a little easier for the next person to learn the same material. Such a process could also help her develop a sense of empathy (how do I make it easier for someone else to learn this material) and would encourage both creativity and communication skills.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

5 Ways to Use Cell Phones To Combat Bullying

By Willyn Webb and Lisa Nielsen

A smart step toward empowering students in anti-bullying efforts is allowing them to have their cell phones on school grounds and encouraging them to use them against bullies.  Educators can support students by sharing 5 ways they can use the tools in their pockets to deter bullying, increase their knowledge about how to deal with bullies.

1.   Video
Encourage students to take videos of bullying behaviors they are experiencing or witnessing.  Often a video can be taken from any angle and the words will be heard, the actions shown, and the involved individuals identified.  This makes administrators more capable of addressing the behaviors directly rather than spending time interviewing and trying to determine the truth.  That time can be spent working on interventions and change of behavior.  This also empowers the students to collectively fight bullying by supporting each other.  From across the room or the other side of the playground or parking lot, a simple cell phone video can be shot anonymously and make all the difference in the outcomes.  Read about students proving that bullying was occurring though the use of video here.

2.  Texting
Gain valuable information by having a cell number where students can text staff through a free group texting site such as Celly  Have students put the number in their contacts during registration/orientation/first of school activities or during the anti-bullying workshop.  Put the number in the handbook, on the website, and make it available to parents as well.  Encourage students to text the line with information, pictures, or video whenever there is bullying or talk/actions that don’t seem right. If a student is being bullied through texting, he/she can be encouraged to forward the message to the staff text line. So much more private than a phone call, texting can be done in their pocket, under the desk, or by an observer without causing risk from awareness by the bully.  Maintain the confidentiality of the report.  The risk of sending a text is much less than a face-to-face report, a phone call, or a written report.  It can be done in the moment or later from a safe location. No one has to know who sent it because it's anonymous and the only person seeing the initial message is the staff member who receives it.

3.  Pictures
Students can be empowered through their cell phone camera when they are taught to use it, not only appropriately, but in capturing evidence that will incriminate bullies.  When there is bullying, aggressive behaviors, or even an unwanted presence, encourage students to use their camera to capture the moment.  Just having this preventative policy in place will deter many bullying actions as the bully sees the crowd getting out their phones.  Also, if a student is experiencing cyberbullying through social networking sites, he/she can take a picture of the inappropriate messages and send them to the staff text line.

4.  Sound Recording
Teach students how to call Ipadio and put in the code, which could be done discretely in the pocket (if they had put it on speed dial and practiced, which could be a class or workshop activity) and then the bully is recorded to be played back later from the ipadio website as evidence.  

You can eliminate the need for a code by setting up a
Google Voice number for reporting bullying.  Have students put the number in their contacts during the workshop and then if bullying happens they can call the number and let it record. This goes directly to the administrators account and provides an in the moment way for students to gain evidence to be used by administrators in addressing the behavior.

5.  Wiffiti
Encourage students to safely share using a daily or weekly Wiffiti.  Wiffiti is a free, web-based way for anonymous texting about bullying that is happening or may happen.  Just set up a Wiffiti board asking the question then provide the code to include in the text during morning announcements or to them through group texting.  Students can text in anonymously to the wiffiti and report any bullying they have experienced or witnessed. By checking the wiffiti throughout the day, administrators, counselors, and staff will be fully informed regarding any bullying that needs addressed.

Keeping kids safe is of the utmost importance to parents who have long known the value of cell phones when it comes to keeping their children out of danger.  These are additional ways that parents and teachers can empower young people to learn in an environment that is as safe and healthy as possible.  

For more ideas, resources, and workshops outlining effective ways to use cell phones in school check out Teaching Generation Text.

Saturday, November 26, 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 inspired, leave a comment.

Nov 15, 2011, 4 comments
2,707 Pageviews

Nov 22, 2011, 12 comments
2,112 Pageviews

Nov 21, 2011, 2 comments
1906 Pageviews

Nov 20, 2011, 4 comments
1789 Pageviews

Nov 23, 2011, 2 comments
1607 Pageviews

Aug 24, 2010, 17 comments
1374 Pageviews

May 10, 2010, 37 comments
1187 Pageviews

Feb 5, 2011, 21 comments
893 Pageviews

Friday, November 25, 2011

Capture Skype Conversations for Anytime / Anywhere Listening and Viewing

As I’ve shared here and here, Skype is a great way to enable students across the world to converse and interact with others who share their passion, talents, and interests. With the popularity of learning techniques liked the flipped classroom and passion-driven learning, teachers and their students might be interested in capturing these conversations.  SuperTintin is a fully-featured audio and video recording software which allows Skype users to record their online conversations. These recorded conversations can be used for review purposes in the classroom, to share with others in the school or the students’ parents and/or for any other reason which the teacher and students see potential.

Here a couple valuable features of SuperTintin for recording Skype calls that might be difficult to accomplish using other means.  

  • Picture-in-Picture: Record video in Picture-in-Picture, Side-by-Side, Remote-Only, or Local-Only mode! And you can also record local and remote video as two separate files.
  • Saving. Supertintin lets you easily save your conversations to your computer's hard drive or a portable USB drive, allowing you to re-watch your conversations as easily as watching your favorite DVD.
  • Skype group video conference up to 10 ways!
For students and teachers that enhance their learning with Skype, recording those conversations is a great way to remember and reinforce any lessons learned. Additionally, recording conversations make them easy to share with other teachers, the students’ parents or the community at large. SuperTintin provides a simple and easy recording solution so that classrooms can capture, save, and share collaborations on Skype.  SuperTinTin is available here for $29.95.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Want a Healthier Family This Holiday Season? Consider Homeschooling

FruitsAndVegetables homeschooling

As thoughts of turkeys, egg nog, and sugar plums dance in our heads this holiday season, some of us are thinking about best ways to get off to a healthy New Year. Over at Parent at the Helm, Linda Dobson has idea. She points out that although a family’s homeschooling decision almost always begins with academic considerations, there are also health benefits.  She shares 12 terrific health benefits that emerge from the homeschooling lifestyle.

12 Health Benefits of Homeschooling
1. Individual sleep patterns and needs are met.
2. Lots of time to be outdoors.
3. Eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, pee when you gotta.
4. Eat healthier food (and learn to prepare it).
5. Not cooped up in “sick buildings.”
6. Less shared germs  – and lice.
7. Time for play.
8. Less need for medication.
9. Alone time.
10. Time to pursue passions.
11. Less stress.
12. A strong family that knows and loves one another.

To read more about each of these benefits, visit the original post here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Is Your School Preparing Learners for Success? 5 Questions to Consider

Guest post by Shane Krukowski

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
~C. S. Lewis

Redesigning education involves much more than providing content online, prescribing canned interventions and adding interactive whiteboards to every room. It means choosing the abilities that transcend today’s paradigms, so that we authentically prepare students for the emerging challenges and opportunities ahead. It also means valuing assessment that gives us MORE THAN high scores, but low ability. If you look at  just about any school’s website, brochure or annual report you’ll see many references to similar goals. However upon closer investigation we often find this is not reality.

How do you know if your school is preparing students for their future or their teacher’s past?  Here are some questions to think about when considering if learners are effectively being prepared for their world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mom's Story: When School Left My Child Behind...He Was Finally Able to Learn

Guest post by Jo-Anne Tracy

Editor's note: The story of Jo-Anne Tracy's son who experts called ineducable, dispels many learning myths i.e. there are many lessons to learn from a dropout, you don't need a teacher or a class to learn, you don't need to know phonics to know how to read, ADD/ADHD can be a symptom of school, there's a lot you can learn by doing rather than by sitting and getting inside a classroom, and more. When she escaped the system, he was finally able to learn. I asked her to share his amazing story. Here it is.

Schools are failing many of our children.  I know because they have failed my son and others like him. This happened because the system is run like a business. Children are expendable if they can not be educated cost effectively. Unions are more interested in teaching conditions and teachers benefits, than the individual children in the schools. Administrators, teachers, and legislators, educated in the past are unable to imagine the world of the future, yet they control the destiny of the students. There are better ways than our industrialized school system to care for our youth and until we begin offering such solutions, too many children will be left behind. 

This is the story of how my son escaped the system and was given the freedom to learn naturally and exceed all expectations.  

The  “experts” diagnose my son
My son had been in his new school for only 3 months when the “experts” (a teacher, administrator, and school psychologist)  told me, without any doubt in their minds, that I would be foolish to keep thinking that he had what it takes to succeed in any academic field and that he was being placed in a class where ineducable children would taught life skills and a vocation. I, his mother, who had watched him explore and investigate the world for 9 years, knew that they were wrong. However, the school system does little to honor or respect the insights of mere parents who don’t have the “credentials” necessary to properly identify “problem children” like mine. They refused to consider my input and explained they were not giving my son any other options.