26 December 2011

Chapter 1: The day my teacher lost his mind

I had some zany teachers and some who really knew how to make you laugh. I had some who were phenomenal instructors and some who really knew how to inspire. But I never had a teacher like me. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong decade and other times I am glad I am teaching now. It is absolutely the most exciting time to be both a student and a teacher as new ideas and methods of instruction are constantly being invented. With that said I would like to present my latest entry into the book of crazy.

My current principal has a lot of potential as an administrator:  he is young, energetic, open to new ideas, willing to admit he doesn't know everything, and wants to do more.  He has budgeted for 60 ipads (plus carts) in next year's budget.  When he told me this I was excited for him on the outside, but cringed on the inside.  My district has had some turmoil in the past and that has caused many of the teachers to close their doors and just do their own thing.  While there is a lot of good things happening in the district, there is little effort to share and even more resistance to change.  Often, when schools make large technology purchases such as this, there are 2 outcomes: 1) everyone is super excited and fighting over who gets to use it first or 2) and far too often this is the case, the technology sits in a storage room collecting dust because no one knows how to use it properly.  I cringed because I was thinking of the SMART board that has been moved to science storage room because no one wants to take the time to use it.


There has been a lot of talk about ipads in education on #edchat.  All of these people would not be sharing resources and ideas if they didn't have some merit so I have been trying to follow along.  I have noticed some very interesting apps (doceri, screenchomp, educreations) that would make my life as a teacher easier and also some that would allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the material (voicethread, prezi).  Looking at all of this made me realize that I can talk about the benefits of the ipad all day, but if I don't have proof of how it can be used in my classroom right now, I will never convince my colleagues to use them.

Which brings me to the latest chapter in my book.  I cannot afford an ipad so I borrowed one.  For the entire month of January my students will be allowed to "rent" my ipad during class with the intention that they are using to demonstrate why these are important learning tools that should be in every class.  I say "rent" because they will be paying me in experiences (ok that sounded less corny in my head).  Every time they use the ipad they will be adding to a Google Doc about what they used, how they used it and what they learned from the experience.  This is going to make professional development on the devices so much easier as I will have the students' words to back up what I am saying.

I have no idea if this is going to work, but I have to try.  I am just too afraid of the 90s happening again, where schools dumped money into things that ended up being thrown out or sold because no one was using them.  My students have said they want more of this type of technology in the school.

Why not give it to them?

21 December 2011

Another chapter in the book of crazy

I've decided that if I ever have the chance to (and motivation) to write a book, that's what I am going to call it.  Sometimes my ideas are just too crazy to be believable.  Let me tell you what I did this week.

I flipped my honors chemistry class for the previous unit and it went exceptionally well.  The students seemed very eager to try a new method and were so supportive of everything that we tried.  I went back to a more traditional method for the current unit, and since I really wanted them to see the difference, I went really traditional.  Lectured for the majority of class, went too fast without a lot of examples, and did labs that did not have a clear objective.  Problem was I HATED IT!!  It was torture using a method that I had just proven does not work.  I felt so so bad for my students having put them through a week and a half of hell.

I am sitting down to write the test on Monday night and I realized that since my teaching methods had been so low level, my test was going to be almost all recall.  We made very few connections between the material which would virtually eliminate all ability to write critical thinking questions.  So, completely on a whim and not really thinking it through, I sent the following email to my students:

"During this marking period I have flipped the classroom, let you make s'mores, and made you make apple pie out of saltines.  So, why not continue the crazy behavior.  I have decided that I have no interest in giving you a "test" on Atomic Theory.  I didn't want to give it on Thursday, but since I wanted to have some fun this week, that's the only day left.  To be honest, I have been struggling with the idea of major assessments all year, hence the reason I have been making things more objective based instead of assignment based.  This unit has had three objectives:

1.  Explain where radiation comes from and why it is important to the understanding of the atom.
2.  Compare and contrast the models of the atom and explain why the Quantum Mechanical Model is the theory we use today.
3.  Identify an element based on either its electron configuration or orbital diagram.

The problem is I have to have some sort of formal assessment to prove that you have met the objectives, but I don't want to give a test.  So, I am going to let YOU decide how YOU want to prove YOU understand the material.  I am going to put no restrictions on you other than whatever you decide on must demonstrate understanding of the above objectives.  I know that some of you are freaking out right now because you have no idea what the hell I am talking about or what you are going to do.  Random ideas that are going through my head are podcasts, models, drawings, make your own test, interpretive dance, make a review game, develop a class activity, act out a skit....um I'm out.  I don't care what it is as long as it is yours and it demonstrates the above objectives."

The reception has been mixed.  All are relieved that there is no "test" this week with all the other things going on in other classes (1 student said she had 4 tests scheduled for Thursday) and this allowed them to relax a little in such a stress filled week.  But, when faced with the idea that they have to come up with their own method for demonstrating understanding, most are very concerned.  Now the ones who are embracing this and starting early have had great ideas.  A group of 4 are making a music video, 2 girls are doing an interpretive dance (totally was joking about that in the email, but they love the idea) and 1 is going to make her own test.  

They have 2 weeks to figure this out and I am excited/nervous to see the results.  

So, was this crazy enough?

08 December 2011

What can we do?

One of my students is fond of retweeting from @SayingsForGirls.  Today, the following came up:
I sat and stared at my computer for awhile trying to figure out how to respond to this.  I responded back to her with
Unfortunately she gave me a funny response which didn't help.  But, the real problem still remains.  Teenage girls are sitting in class thinking about all of these other things, not what I am talking about.  We can put on the theatrics and fancy demos to try and draw their attention, but they are still spending more time thinking my room is too cold then how awesome it was to watch the death of a gummy bear.

So, amazing educators of the world, how do we get "I'm excited to be here" into the top 6 things teenagers are thinking about?  How do we get them to wake up in the morning and say "I am excited to go to school today!"

01 December 2011

Element Wordle

I have no windows and a lot of white walls in my classroom.  I was sitting in my room staring at this blank space and suddenly Wordle popped into my head.  What if I created a Wordle of the elements and painted it on the wall?  I don't know if the administration will allow it, but below is what I created on hall duty today.  What do you think?  Coolest Periodic Table ever!!

30 November 2011

What's the point?

I gave a Quest to my CP classes yesterday and they were less than stellar.  We did all of the HW in class and, for the most part, the kids understood +90%.  We did a lab and they understood that too.  We did a review sheet and review game and they got it.  But the average on the Quest was under 70% (as an aside, 2 students scored above 100%).

I looked at the Quests and realized that it didn't measure what I wanted it to measure.  I want my students to be able to APPLY what we learn in class.  For the HW, review sheet and game, they were allowed to use their reference sheets, but I told them all along they needed to memorize the information on it.  But, for the Quest, no reference sheets were allowed.  Most of the students made their compounds exactly right, but because they didn't remember the names and formulas, they got the answers entirely wrong.  The Quest grading memorization and not application and that is the exact opposite of what I told them we would be doing in class.

So I asked myself "what's the point of this assignment?"  Well, the point was for the students to demonstrate they knew how to name and form compounds.  I couldn't erase what happened yesterday so I chose to put a band-aid on it.  I created a new, slightly shorter, assignment right before class.  I told the students to use their ion sheets to complete the assignment and that it would be averaged into the grade from the Quest.  They were much happier after completing the new assessment because they knew they would get a boost.

I think the real point here is what I need to do moving forward.  Taking a page from Josh Stumpenhorst's playbook, I try not to give HW unless I find it meaningful.  All HW is completed in class with peer and teacher support to eliminate any confusions from the start.  So the problem is in the Quests.  I have to find a way to make the Quests a meaningful measurement of applied knowledge.  I have about 2 weeks before the next Quest so I would love ideas on how to make this happen.

Thoughts?

22 November 2011

I allow cheating

I want to be clear right off the bat that I don't encourage cheating.  But, if it happens for a good reason then I just let it happen.  Let me explain what occurred today:

Because my Honors students are working under the Flipped Classroom, my normal 5pt pop quizzes are tough to give because not everyone is at the same point.  In fact, between my 26 students there are usually 6-7 different activities on any given day.  So, I make the questions a little harder and allow the students to take the quizzes whenever they feel ready.  I put a few on there this time that really made them think and some students got stuck so they turned to the person next to them.  Because there are multiple versions of the quiz (same questions, but different numbers), it is harder to directly copy the person next to you.  What my students did was ask how to do the problem and then calculated it on their own.  In the end, they had a higher grade and a little better understanding of the question.

Now, it's a 5pt quiz grade, the lowest 2 I drop at the end of the marking period.  It would probably have made maybe a 0.1% difference in the grade.  But, what happened is a great demonstration of what teenagers do:  when faced with the possibility of scoring a low grade (and potentially looking dumb) they turned to cheating.  Is that an acceptable behavior?  No.  Well, yes.  Ok, maybe.

In reality, it matters not why they are cheating, but what they are getting out of it.  Most of the time when we think of cheating, we immediately jump to the idea that they are doing it to get a better grade.  And, while that may be the case most of the time, here the students were doing it to get a better understanding of how to solve the question.  I know this because I stared at them the entire time they were doing it and they never noticed.  They asked each other questions back and forth until both were satisfied with their answers and then went to get it graded.  They both earned perfect scores.  

In his speech about changing education paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson mentions that in school this is called cheating, but in the workplace it is collaboration.  If this had been a lab, I would have scolded the students for not collaborating with each other.  But, because it is a quiz, I am supposed to punish them with a zero.  What is the real difference between these two assignments?  If they are both checking for understanding, shouldn't they be treated equally?  

taken from fundrips.com
When this happens again (because we all know it will) will I stop it?  Yes....No....Maybe.  Honestly, I don't know.  If I stop this, then shouldn't I stop answering questions during tests?  Clearly the test is not a measurement of the understanding of the material, but how quickly you can figure out the answers on your own with no help.  

I think I have just brought up more questions than I have answers for.  Maybe I should go ask for help.  Wait, would that be cheating collaborating whatever you want to call it?

16 November 2011

Flipped Classroom attempt #2

I changed schools this year so I decided not to flip my honors chemistry class at the beginning of the year.  I learned from my previous school what when you are non-traditional in a very traditional program that has had much success with traditional methods, maybe you need to take it slow.  So, what I did this year was to slowly integrate aspects, philosophies, of the flipped classroom into each unit so that when I did flip, the transition wouldn't be so dramatic.


To be clear, my supervisor, while open to my crazy ideas, was hesitant to let me have full control so I am only flipping in my Honors Chemistry class.  The class is made of 26 sophomores: 12 boys and 14 girls.  While all of my students have computers at home, the level of technology use is extremely varied to the point where I had to show one student how to find my videos on Youtube.  I have 8 netbook computers in the class only because I stole borrowed 4 from a colleague who never uses them.  Otherwise the only other piece of technology in the room is my personal Tablet PC and the school's projector.  


Change #1:  Objective based grading
I wanted the grade in the class to be less about the assignment and more about the objective behind the assignment.  I have 3 objectives for my stoichiometry unit:
  1. Determine the number of grams of a compound produced in a reaction given the amount of reactant.
  2. Explain, citing specific sources of error, why the percent yield of a reaction in a lab was not equal to 100%.
  3. Explain why it is necessary to identify the limiting reagent in a reaction and how it can be used to explain the results of a lab.
Each activity whether it be watching the podcasts, completing a HW, or performing a lab, had one of those three objectives with it.  While all of the assignments were always linked to an objective, this time I just made it more obvious which ones.  I also identified some assignments as REQUIRED and others as optional.  This threw the students off because they saw an assignment name and immediately thought they had to do it.  What I explained was this optional assignments were going to be used as a way to better demonstrate their understanding of the material to me.  Everyone has to do certain assignments as basically a benchmark to compare each student, but the others are ways to help them pull up their grade.  Also, every objective has multiple assignments associated so just because you get a perfect score on 1 activity, doesn't mean you have mastered the objective.  You need to demonstrate it in a variety of ways.


Change #2:  Vary electronic assessment
Even though I use Moodle for my website, not everything runs the way I want it to.  Last year I saved class time by having my quizzes online.  While I initially had that setup, it has failed me so quizzes are going to be done in class as well as the tests.  I had rumors of cheating last year and I want to squash as much of that as possible.  I am trying to integrate more electronic assessment into the class, though.


Change #3:  More problem-based labs
I have always wanted to do this one lab that is adapted from an AP Chem exam question.  The question gives the students a variety of pieces of equipment, a few chemicals and asks them to develop a procedure for producing a specific amount of Barium Sulfate.  It is a great question and the perfect problem-based lab. My labs are typically cookie-cutter labs where as long as they follow the procedure, they are fine.  This will be the first time both my students and I are doing this type of lab and I am excited to see how they handle it.


Change #4:  More examples
One of the most common suggestions I received from my students last year was that they wanted more example problems in the podcasts.  The dilemma I faced was fitting in the information as well as the examples into the 15 minutes (Youtube doesn't allow videos longer than 15 min).  Such an easy, and obvious fix, is to simply make entire podcasts of example problems.  All of the problems come from the Review Sheet and it is just me going over the work.  Using Camtasia Studio makes it simple because I can switch from a document to the PowerPoint and zoom in on the question we are working on.  I don't have to create more problems or make ppts just for them.  Has helped a lot of the students and allowed me to ask more in depth questions during our 1:1 time.


We are only 1 week into a 3 week unit so check back after Thanksgiving to see my update.  I will also post the survey results that I am doing on Stixy.

09 November 2011

Another brick in the wall

Every teacher knows the Pink Floyd song "Another brick in the wall" from The Wall.  I think we all know it because it bugs the hell out of us.  "Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone."  That line kills me because it obviously implies that the teacher is getting in the way of creativity and of the students true passions.  Also that they imply that education is thought control....argh!

As I heard this song on the radio, the image of a brick in a wall is what popped into my head.  It really struck me hard.  If you think about a large brick wall:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BrickWall.jpg
Yes, you might see something boring and mundane, or you could see something that represents a piece of the architectural structure that if removed would cause the entire building to collapse.  But, now look at one brick; it doesn't matter which one.  Notice they're all different: different sizes, different shapes, different textures.  What would happen if you removed one?  Would the wall fall down?  Would it even be a little unstable?  Or except for an empty "seat" would you even notice that it was missing?

That is what was going through my head as I was driving to work today.  Are my students bricks?  Being a cog is boring, but without an important cog, the machine stops.  I need to instill in my students the desire to not be bricks.  I don't want them to be cogs either as long as they are the important cog; the one that the machine needs to keep functioning smoothly (the linchpin as Seth Godin calls it).  I want them to be creative, to stand out, to use their talents and passions every day in every situation.  I want them to be unique (like everyone else), but more importantly I want them to feel special.  I want them to be appreciated for what they contribute to my class, my life and the lives of the people around them.

Now, the question becomes how do I do that?

07 November 2011

When to give the test

We are in a weird situation this week in NJ because all schools are closed on Thursday and Friday due to the NJEA state convention.  Combine that with election day on Tuesday (which my school is closed for due to some schools being polling locations) and we have a 2 day week.  Oh yeah, and Wednesday is the last day of the marking period.  So this week is really bizarre.

I don't like to give a major assessment on the last few days of the marking period because that is usually when everyone else gives one.  I don't see a reason to burden my students with one more assessment so I always close my gradebook a few days early.  But, as is typical this year, life got in the way.

Early in the week, I was asked to attend at district wide meeting on implementing Google Apps in all of the schools on Thursday.  This would not allow me to do my typical test review so I moved the test to Monday and the review to Friday.  Then my meeting got cancelled so my students reviewed.  On Thursday night, my son was running a 102 fever which meant he couldn't go to school on Friday so I stayed home with him.  This of course meant the review game was off, but the test was still Monday.  I emailed all of my students on Thursday night to tell them I wouldn't be in school and to tell them all of the answers for the review sheet were posted on the website.

As my students walk in today, some of them are surprised we are still having the test.  Some wanted me to push the test back to Wednesday.  I finished teaching the material on Tuesday and had them review for three full days.  Over the weekend I received exactly 1 email asking questions about the content of the test.

I am sure that some of the nervousness comes from uneasiness about the material, but there is little more that I can do to prepare them.  So, when is the right day to give the test?  How many students complaining about not being ready warrants pushing the test back?  What if one class wants the test moved, but another class wants to take the test?  Is it ok to give a test on different days to different classes?

03 November 2011

Strike one, you're out.

Imagine if sports were really like this?  You get one mistake, one chance to succeed and if you don't, you're done, go sit back down.  It would be ridiculous.  In fact, most sports are designed to give you dozens of chances to make changes and try again.  But, for some reason, in education we too often take the strike on, you're out philosophy.  Let me tell you what happened this week:

I found out that 2 AP Calc teachers in my school decided to try out an aspect of the flipped classroom for a previous unit.  I was ecstatic because I have been told that many of my colleagues are behind the times and that the flipped classroom is just too radical in this school.  So, I practically ran down to the teachers to introduce myself and hear how it went.  It turned out they didn't do it for an entire unit, but for one lesson.  The teachers assigned a series of 5 short videos of college professors teaching several concepts for their students to watch over the weekend and then discuss as a class on Monday.  The teacher I talked to had 3 students not watch the video and the other teacher had nearly half the class.  There were many excuses as to why they didn't watch it, most of them completely lame (like the link didn't work when they should have copied and pasted it into the address bar).  The teacher said that she is not doing this again because it was too unreliable to get the students to watch the videos and be prepared for class.

My heart sank.  She tried it one day, it didn't work, so she is done.  No tweaking, no asking for suggestions.  Just done.  I talked with her about it asking the questions like I always do:  what do you do with kids who don't do the homework?  Are all your lessons only a single day?  What do you do if students are absent?  Just trying to get the teacher open to doing this one more time.  What turned out to be the problem was who was doing the videos.  While the teacher really liked the professor's teaching, she felt the students couldn't connect with him as well as they do her.  She figured that if she did the video herself it would have been more successful.  I gave her suggestions on how to incorporate her SMART board into the videos, to make them short (5-10 minutes) and to get the students to work in small groups rather than following up with a whole class discussion.  By the end of our conversation, she was open to the idea of doing it again, but wants to wait a few months to get things ready.

So, here is my message to those thinking about flipping:
  1. This is a constantly evolving process.  You need to put aside time to constantly tweak what you are doing to make it better.  It is not like a normal teaching unit that you can wait until the summer to improve.  You must make the changes immediately.
  2. Students need to be transitioned.  Start to bring in the videos as added instruction or for those who are absent.  Start doing more collaborative work in the weeks preceding the full flip.  Then they won't be as reluctant to work so much on their own.
  3. Remember that the flipped classroom is about increasing the 1:1 time with the students.  Having them watch videos to then do a full class discussion doesn't really accomplish that goal.  You need to redesign your lessons to get the conversation happening between the students in small groups to allow you to circulate the room.
  4. Plan lots of activities for the varied learners in the room.  You want variety and choice.  Letting them choose what to work on every day will make the class time more meaningful.
  5. Don't look at the Flipped Classroom as a way to get more material covered.  Yes, you will have more time so you could get in more topics, but it would be better if you covered things more in depth.
  6. Don't give up!!  What works for one teacher may not work for another.  The flipped classroom needs to be tailored for your students and your style.  Don't use other's videos unless you know it is exactly, word for word, what you would say.  The kids will tune it out if they feel you are wasting their time.
Give it and yourself a chance and you will see how successful it can be.

02 November 2011

Mole Movie Posters

Every year, the American Chemical Society has a poster contest.  They pick a theme (usually some sort of movie) and the students are to create mole poster based around it.  Unfortunately, the contest is set for 10/23 and rarely am I in the mole conversions unit when it happens so my students would have no clue what they were making this poster for.  So I decided last year to just do it for my classes.  Their assignment is this:

"Recreate any movie poster so that The Mole is the theme."
I am all about not giving specific guidelines so I let them pick any movie and do with it whatever they want.  Some students hand draw their posters, some use Photoshop.  Some pick very popular movies and some pick obscure ones that are their favorites.  The key is the creativity that they put into it.  I also tell them in advance that the class will vote on their favorite and that person wins a prize.  I never tell them what the prize is so they always think it is something really, really cool.  This year the prize was one of those squishy ladybug toys that when you squeeze it, it expands in a different spot.  I am not describing it well, but I found it in the $1 part of Target.

The kids got really into this year and several handed the assignment in days in advance.  They were arguing with each other over who got to do what poster, but in the end I had no duplicates anyway.  I want to share the amazing work they did, so here is the photostream from Flickr.  Enjoy!!

01 November 2011

Chaos

I rarely do this, but somehow my Honors class managed to convince me to let them bring in food and have a party on Halloween.  While this makes sense on the surface, I am not a fan of food in the chemistry classroom except on rare occasions.  They organized it and we had a ton of great baked goods (should have reminded them we would need drinks).  I gave them 2 rules before anything was distributed:

  1. They must clean the room before they leave so that my CP classes don't get jealous (only my Honors class asked so they were the only ones that got to have a party).
  2. They could socialize and eat as long as they were being productive on the work that was assigned for the day.  Anyone not working would have their food taken from them.
About halfway through the period I look up and my supervisor walks in the room.  I pause in helping a group of students on a problem and survey the room.  The volume in the room was in direct proportion to the amount of food that each student was consuming.  The students rearranged all the desks to better group themselves with friends (something they do normally when working on review sheets or "homework") and from the causal observer, it was absolute chaos.  I mean scary levels of chaos.

Then I started to really examine what each group was doing.  Even though nearly every student was engaged in a conversation, they all were working on either the review sheet, the homework, or arguing about where the QR codes for the scavenger hunt were hidden.  Not a single student was off task.  Several were even giving instructions on how to solve problems to the members of their groups.

After just short of 10 minutes in the room, my supervisor left, and, ironically, the students began to lower their voices.  Some even commented that they saw him walk in and made sure to work extra hard to demonstrate how well I had taught them.  The thing about that was what they were doing didn't look any different from any other day.  

I don't know what was running through my supervisor's head when he left the room.  Sometimes learning is messy (especially in my class) and doesn't conform itself to what we typically think a lesson should look like.  The classroom needs to be a relaxed environment where students feel like they can be themselves, demonstrate learning in ways that are best suited for them, and where they can dare to fail.

24 October 2011

I love it when they get it

I introduced the Mole today in my Honors Chemistry class.  For those of you who don't remember HS chemistry, the mole is a generic term that represents a specific amount of a substance, specifically 6.02x1023 of a substance.  To put the size of this number in perspective, if you were to collect 1 mole of pennies and distribute those pennies equally to every human on the planet, each person would receive approximately one TRILLION dollars.  It's a lot of stuff.

My honors class is unlike any class I have in that they try to distract me from teaching by asking me complex questions related to the topic.  So, after I shock them with the above example, one student starts asking if you laid the pennies end to end, would it stretch around the world.  I said it would probably stretch around the world a few thousand times.  This answer was not acceptable for her so I told her to get the netbook out and look it up; Google the dimensions of a penny and the size of the Earth and figure out how many pennies you would need.  Just to prove me wrong, she rushes over, grabs the computer and is off working for the next 15 minutes.  (FYI, I was way off.  1 mole of pennies would wrap around the Earth approximately 899 TRILLION times)

After a few minutes I am talking about how to calculate the mass of 1 mole of a compound and a different student wanted to know how many moles of water are in a human being.  Not knowing how much water is actually in the human body, I told her (surprise, surprise) to Google it.  She picks up her iPhone and starts her search.  Unfortunately she ran short of time and energy before she could figure out an answer.  Turns out they only have percentages of water content listed on sites and not grams.  We needed a bathroom scale to actually measure someone's weight.  Guess what I am bringing in tomorrow!

I don't really care if they can calculate the number of moles of sodium in a sample.  What I do want is for them to be inquisitive, to know that they are free to ask questions, to know they are free to ignore me and work on something that has more meaning for them.  I want more days like today.

Want ad

I want to redesign the want ads that I see for school principals that I see in the paper.  Normally, under qualifications, you see phrases like:

  • experience in NCLB, grant writing, and school management
  • a master's degree preferred
  • knowledge of current instructional practices and experience implementing on a whole school setting
  • Prior administrative and/or teaching experience at the elementary and/or secondary level preferred
  • Demonstrated leadership capability in the areas of curriculum and staff development.
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Curriculum and staff development
  • Communication with community
  • Innovative Staff Evaluation Strategies
  • Recruitment and staffing
  • Data Driven Decision Making
  • N.J. Core Curriculum Content Standards
  • Developing high performing teacher learning teams
While some of these are absolutely necessary, there are several really, really important ones that should be in every job description.  Why don't you ever see:
  • Is an innovative educator who uses varied teaching techniques to maximize the potential of his/her students.
  • Understands that technology is a necessary tool for instruction and should be incorporated into every aspect of the school.
  • Inspires those around him/her to reach their potential and push themselves beyond.
  • Is a creative problem solver.
  • Has an open mind.
  • Provides his/her staff with as many resources as possible to maximize the learning for the students.
  • Is student oriented.
  • Understands that sometimes learning is messy.
  • Is supportive of the staff and assists parents and students who working through their problems with the teacher before calling the principal's office.
  • Has a desire to foster a strong community relationship through the school's website, blog, facebook page and twitter account.
  • Is willing to dare to fail.
While I absolutely agree that many from the first list are necessary for someone who is going to manage a program, I know that I don't want to be managed.  I want a leader; I want to be inspired; I want to be given the chance to shine in my own way.  In reality, I want someone who is daring and makes me want to be daring too.

Am I asking too much?  Does this person really exist?

21 October 2011

Proud of them

Recently I gave my CP Chemistry class my Adopt an Element Project.  This year I decided to change it.  Normally there is a research component which is typed into a 3-5 page paper and then a presentation of the research.  Problem is I am tired of getting PowerPoints and even more tired of cut and paste material.  They don't even read half of what they are putting into the presentation so, in reality, what are they really getting out of the project?

I gave the students 1 objective:  create a 1 minute video convincing us that your element is the best element in the class.  I let them define what the word best was because I didn't want everyone to focus on only the positive aspects of their element.  When some students have Lead, Mercury and Arsenic, it is tough to find the positives as they are all poisonous.  I showed them how to use Animoto.com and let them run with it for 3 days.  Two students decided that Animoto limited them too much so they used iMovie to create theirs (why should I force them to do it my way if there is something better for them?).  We showed them on Wednesday and the class voted on which one they felt were the best elements.  Here are the winners:




19 October 2011

I like not having a map

I need to tell 2 stories to setup my thoughts for today.

US History
I never liked history in school.  I was always very good at it, but it was never a subject that appealed to me for a variety of reasons.  Junior year in NJ is USII.  We were given the assignment to make a presentation explaining an aspect of the first world war.  My group picked the events leading up to the war.  We couldn't figure out how to make a poster out of this (this was the mid-90s so PowerPoint was not an option.  Neither really was a computer) so we decided to make a news broadcast.  Borrowing my dad's video camera, my group filmed scenes that would be associated with a new program including sports, weather, and a breaking news section which cut to a field reporter on the streets just moments after Archduke Ferdinand's car exploded.  It was outside the box and completely different from all of the other presentations that were done.  Most just simply wrote information on a large piece of poster board or read off of scripts.  We received a C. We were told that we should have done it like everyone else and just put as much information is as we could. In fact, the teacher said the only reason we received a C was for the amount of effort we put into making the video.

Sociology
My senior year in college I opt to take a Sociology class.  I figured if I am going to be a teacher I had better have a better understanding of how communities and people interact with each other.  Unfortunately, I was also completing my education degree at a different university at the same time and had to log at least 40 hours of observations at the school at which I would be doing my student teaching in the spring.  Since Sociology was at 10am, this meant I had to skip the class at least once per week.  Needless to say my professor was not happy with me; granted I didn't like her much either.  Our hostile feelings toward each other (yes, they were hostile) escalated to the point where she mocked me in front of the entire class saying that was it ironic that the future teacher couldn't even show up to class every day.  I responded with maybe if she made the class more meaningful for me I would have a reason to show up.  Not my finest moment, but she deserved it. Anyway, I digress.  I knew that she was going to give me a C in the class solely because I refused to agree with her opinions in class (she insisted that minority groups couldn't be racist because that is a term reserved only for the majority race), but I needed an A so I decided to play school.  I specifically wrote a paper agreeing with her just to boost her ego.  She actually called me in for a meeting to gloat and comment on how great it was that she could help me see the light.  I got the A.

What's my point?  While I like rules, I really need to be able to bend and break those rules at my will.  I like to use my imagination and when you force me to do it your way, you are stifling me.  I am listening to Seth Godin's book Linchpin and he said "I like not having a map."  Sometimes I feel the same way.  I like finding my own way through things and I want to inspire my students to do the same.  I gave a project recently in which my students were given a 1 sentence objective Create a 1 minute video that convinces the class that your element is the best element on the Periodic Table.  Many of the kids hated it because I didn't tell them how many pictures, how many slides, how much history, how many uses; if I give them all of these restrictions I will get 80 of the exact same video with different titles.  But, if I give them only loose guidelines and let their imaginations run wild, I hopefully will get much better products.

I understand what both my history teacher and Sociology professor were doing.  There's just no way I can ever be like that.  

18 October 2011

Too much in my head

I have been holding off making a post because I didn't want to interfere with my contest.  Now I have so much in my head one post cannot hold it all.  Let me give a brief overview of a few things and then focus on what happened today.


Edscape
Went to Edscape on Saturday hosted Eric Sheninger at New Milford HS.  Absolutely amazing experience sitting with so many passionate, like-minded educators who are looking to find new tools to help their students grow.  While some of the sessions I could have run, I got so many good ideas from Adam Bellow and Lyn Hilt, both of whom I could listen to all day and not get bored.  It really inspired me to get my butt in gear in planning TeachMeet 2012.

TeachMeet 2012
Was able to connect with several people concerning the planning for TeachMeet.  Many things have stalled because we just can't find a venue.  Mostly this is because people don't respond to my emails.  Not sure why this is happening, but wish I could just find a place to get the rest of the planning started.  I have possible connections with Rutgers, Piscataway HS and Rutgers Prep so maybe one of them will actually get booked.

Meeting with the Principal
The principal who hired me left the school under mysterious circumstances and in a whirlwind of controversy. My guess is he said the wrong thing to the wrong person and they decided to find a new school leader.  We actually are still working under an interim principal who very well could end up back in his assistant role in a couple of weeks.  Anyway, I like to know the person who is leading me so on a whim I emailed him to see if he would meet with me to talk about his vision for the school.  Up until today, I haven't spoken to him for more than a few minutes so I wasn't sure how this was going to go.

My original plan was to mostly keep my mouth shut and let him talk, but that died out about 2 minutes into the meeting.  We started talking about getting everyone to create a class webpage using Google Sites (we will be going to Google Apps starting in the fall) and the conversation spiraled into more of the ideas of how to make the school great.  We started planning a Magnet program for the school, spun the professional development plans to work better with the union, and potentially started a new committee to integrate more technology into the classroom as well as to showcase the innovative ideas already in practice.  We use PLCs in the school.  Well, that's not completely accurate.  A few years ago they used PLCs, but with the constantly changing administrative staff, everything that was created has gone by the waste side.  Hopefully we will be able rebuild some of what was lost.

To be honest, my meeting was a little selfish.  I have a lot of ideas of how to change education bouncing in my head and, since I returned to the classroom, I haven't had the chance to test many of them out.  It was so fantastic to get the chance to talk out my ideas and have someone receptive to what I had to say.  The principal wants to do anything he can to move the school forward, but I don't think he really knows what the best way is.

Maybe I need to get him on Twitter.

17 October 2011

And the winner is....

As you know, I was running a contest to see who would win a full version of Camtasia Studio.  The amazing people at TechSmith were nice enough to sponsor me at the NJSTA conference so I figured I would spread the word about their equally amazing products.

I received 12 comments on the post.  I put the numbers into random.org and came up with the following:

I looked at the list of comments and the first number, luckily, corresponded with a comment of a Mac user.  So CONGRATULATIONS LOU C!!!  Here is the comment he left:
Marc,
I was at the presentation (Mac user in front row) and I enjoyed and appreciated your enthusiasm for the flipped classroom. I teach Chem concepts, Chem 1 (essentially CP) and AP at Westfield (NJ) HS. I recently started using the flipped approach (albeit imperfectly) for my unit on sig figs, scientific notation & dimensional analysis, units for which I usually find a large percentage of students complaining that they didn't know where to start with the homework. I'm intrigued by your ability to manage/juggle the multiple activities occurring in your room. Some of it would work for me, and some wouldn't (our laptops are dinosaurs that won't connect to the internet, so viewing the videos in the classroom would be a problem). I still have to learn to wean myself off of "checking homework" and going over the material in the front of the room (even as a "review" of the videos) and simply head into working groups. I am the first teacher in the department to delve into this model, and a lot of people are looking to me for the results. I will introduce more flipping into units as I go, and I would like to make it the majority of the units next year, so the resources you provided will help tremendously.
Lou C



The second number I pulled from random.org was:


Which corresponded to the comment left by JOHN VENNER!!!
Flipping Algebra I class at the 7th grade level, have been at it almost since the beginning of the year. I'm not the source of the material right now though, using everything and anything on the web (videos, activities, interactive web sites) to get the material/concepts delivered....I have three forms: Video Note Taking Guide (notes, comments, summary), Video Reflection (more along the lines of summarizing the ideas) and Web Site Reflection (topic, delivery, what did you learn)...this is the basis for their notebook and checked at the beginning of class. We start with discussions, student presentations and reviews...address questions about the "lesson" and eventually move into practice....very rough around the edges but so far so good.


Congratulations again to John and Lou.  As I mentioned in my previous post, please either email me using the link in my profile or DM me on Twitter so I can get your mailing address.  Thank you to everyone for playing.  I am hoping to have more prizes again in the future.  

12 October 2011

The contest

Well, the presentation went very well.  I have some choice remarks for the NJSC committee, but that is for a different post.  Let's just say next time they shouldn't tell me my presentation was for an hour, but then give me an hour and a half.  Didn't really matter as the presentation went 2 hours.

I just wanted to thank everyone who attended for the fantastic questions.  I hope I was able to express how important it is to make the flipped class your own.  Simply adopting mine or Jon's or Aaron's methods will absolutely result in failure and frustration.  Make the method meaningful and centered around YOUR students and you will see how well they will adapt to it.

Since the presentation took so long, I totally forgot to raffle off the Camtasia Studio software (a $299 value!) TechSmith was nice enough to give me.  So, instead I am going to hold a contest on this blog.  Here are the rules:
1.  You must leave a comment related to your impressions of the flipped classroom.  Include your first name, last initial and what town and state you are teaching in.  Please also include whether you use a PC or a Mac.
2.  You must be a resident of the USA (sorry, international rates are too expensive).
3.  I will use a random number generator to select 2 viewers of the blog.  The winners will be posted on the blog on Monday, 10/17.
4.  The winners will be responsible for direct messaging me on Twitter with their email address so I can get the address to send the software to.

Good luck to everyone!  And winners need only be viewers of my blog; you did not have to be at the NJ Science Convention.

11 October 2011

My first presentation

Tomorrow I am presenting at the NJ Science Teacher Convention about the Flipped Classroom.  This will be my first conference presentation so I am both freaking out and really, really excited.  I really love what I do and I want to share that with as many people as possible.  The flipped classroom is really growing in popularity and the attention it is getting is fantastic!  In fact, tonight's #edchat topic was focused on it.  Some great discussions on both sides about what it looks like and what it could/should be.  I wish that Jon and Aaron could have seen it, but, alas, they are training teachers in Norway about it.

Below is the Prezi I made for my presentation.  When I learned that my proposal was accepted, I contacted TechSmith, the company that makes Camtasia Studio (the program I use for my podcasts), about possible door prizes.  Well, when the box arrived, I was blown away by their generosity.  I have 2 T-shirts, 30 pens, 30 evaluation software CDs and 2 full copies of Camtasia Studio to give away (FYI they are $299 each!!).  It is amazing how dedicated this company is to helping teachers improve their instruction.  If you haven't used their software, I HIGHLY recommend you do so soon.  Jing is great for creating short screencasts.  And, of course, Camtasia Studio is the tool for anyone doing lengthier, more involved podcasts.

I hope you enjoy the presentation.  If you are at the conference, please stop in and say hello.


02 October 2011

It's the little things

I am a huge fan of smoothies so it is with great fortune that there is a Smoothie King in the same parking lot as my sons' daycare.  The owners are a pair of brothers.  One is a trained chef, the other a market analyst.  When the economy started to tank, Bill (the market analyst) was afraid of losing his job due to downsizing so he called his brother, they pooled their money, and they bought a Smoothie King franchise.  Eighteen months after opening their first, they started work on their second.

Bill and I chat whenever I come in (he remembers me because of how I spell my first name).  We were talking about how he never considered himself an outgoing person, but there is some down time while the smoothies are mixing so he sometimes talks with the customers.  He told me this story:

An elderly man (84 years young), comes in 4-5 times per week.  One day, I asks the man how he likes the smoothies since he comes in so often.  The man says that he hasn't tried any of the smoothies he has purchased.  He said his wife has stomach cancer and he brings her a smoothie to give her some additional nutrition.  The man said that it is amazing to see his wife's face light up when she sees him walk in with the Smoothie King cup.


Sometimes we don't realize how the little things we do can have such a huge impact on those around us.

30 September 2011

Writing in the science curriculum

So having the day off for Rosh Hashanah proved to be a great time to collaborate with educators from across the country.  I started with a post by Brian Bennett where he talked about using a picture-prompt to have his students perform a writing task in his biology class.  I thought this was a pretty clever idea and after talking with him over Twitter, we developed a couple of tweaks for the assignment which I tried out today.  Here is the picture I used:

The funny thing is the same thing happened to me as Brian.  As soon as the picture came up I got:
"Does it have to be about science?"  No
"Can I write it in bullets?" Sure
"Does it have to be about the picture?"  Don't care.
"Are you grading this?"  No
"Can I make up a story?"  Don't care.
"What's that a picture of?"  No clue.  Write a story about it.

Students have been so conditioned to write to specific requirements that they have a hard time when no restrictions are given.  There was an amazing difference between my Honors and College Prep students and not just in their writing.  I could go on and on about my interpretations of how each of these groups are being prepared in their English classes, but I would rather focus on the interesting responses I received.  Here are my favorites:

He was at McDonald's.  Jimmy spent most of his day there.  Oh how he loved the playground inside of the fast-food restaurant.  The ball-pit was always the first place Jimmy would head to.  The huge pit filled with different colored ball felt like home to Jimmy.


People make mistakes.  If you don't make an effort to fix them and amend them your not doing it at all.  I don't know what to write at all.  I mean theres an atom picture ans some words but I don't know what to write.  hmmm.  I'm tired. Wow 6:20 am is early.  I don't why school is so early in the morning. and what are those red things on the picture?  So many questions so little answers.


"Please" my teacher said "ask questions if you think you're doing it wrong.  Go ahead, screw up. It's ok as long as you ask questions."


Science is an incredible thing.  We explain the world with it.  When our ancient ancestors were around, they used gods and goddesses to explain things in nature they didn't understand.  It's fine for somethings to do it that way, but when someone is sick with say a cold, and people 'heal them'  by praying to the gods.  But we know that didn't really do anything.  They needed actual medical attention.  And ya know, it's a tricky thing because some very religious people still believe and do things that way.  Even though we have an explanation now a days.


neutrons, circles, blue, red, black, science, make mistakes, woo, CUPCAKES, 8 circles, red dots, black background, chemistry, Today is Friday.  I don't want to be here. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?  A woodchuck could chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.  Once upon a time....


There once was a man names Marc.  He was the captain of a ship called the S.S Daretofail.  Yes that is one word.  I believe it is of German origin, like ununquadium, except I think that's actually latin...But I digress.  Captain Marc had decided that he needed a crew for his beautiful ship so he sailed to the distant island of Room 244 to see if any of the natives were interested


I have been working hard for weeks on this but I finally created an amazing candy.


This is the first time I have used a writing prompt and I absolutely will do it again.  What ways are you using writing prompts in your classroom?

27 September 2011

I think I did something right



So, it happened again.  Actually it happened twice.

I gave my students time to work on their post-lab questions during class.  One of the questions was "Prior to its discovery on Earth, how did scientists know Helium existed in the sun?"  Some students asked me questions trying to discover the answer and gave them the guidance to come up with it on their own.  But there was one group of students all looking around one person's paper and they hadn't asked me a single question.  I wandered over to find them intently reading something on one student's phone.  It turns out the reason they weren't asking me any questions was because they simply googled the discovery of Helium.  The article described the entire method of using a spectroscope to break down the light from the sun which is exactly what we were doing in class.

During the next period, my next class was presenting their Animoto videos for the element project.  I always like to give a small award to the video voted best by the class.  So, I passed out little strips of paper and had everyone write down their vote.  As I am collecting the votes, one student says "Mr. S, why didn't you just have us text our vote to polleverywhere?"  I had them use their phones earlier in the month, but it never occurred to me to use them for this.

Today made something abundantly clear to me:  give them the right tools and get out of their way.

23 September 2011

Can you put a price on learning?

There is a limited amount of technology in my classroom for anyone to use, let alone students. I only have three netbooks, but I always keep them charged and have told my students repeatedly to use them if they want to do a search for something I was discussing.

I have 1 student whose computer has been broken for weeks and he still has not filled out the first day of school info sheet on the website.  So, I turned on the netbook, plopped it on his desk and had him complete the form.  I move on with the lesson and I notice that about halfway through the period he still has the computer open and is staring intently at the screen.  There's no way that it is taking him 20+ minutes to fill out this questionnaire, so I swing over to see what he is doing as the rest of the class is copying some notes.

In the course of the lesson on the atom, I mentioned that you can put a halogen lightbulb in a microwave and it will glow from the microwaves excited the atoms.  He heard this and decided to look it up on Youtube.  Well, that video led him to a series of videos of people microwaving different materials and explaining why the material that it was made of smoked or conducted electricity or glowed.  He was fascinated!  When I asked him what he was watching, he got so excited and started describing to the class what happened to a CD.

Can he write shorthand notation for identifying protons, neutrons and electrons in an atom? No.  Was he excited about learning and engaged for the entire period? Absolutely.

So, what was the more important lesson he learned today?

21 September 2011

Flipclass Infographic

I hope that most people who read this blog have seen the Flipped Classroom Infographic.  But, just in case you haven't, I wanted to share it with you. The Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

19 September 2011

Time to change

I will not....
...reprimand students for using cell phones in class for non-educational purposes..  Clearly my lesson was not engaging enough and I need to work harder to help you find meaning in my class.
...keep talking.  Too much of today was me talking.  You need to do as much of the teaching as I do.
...stop you from asking questions that interest you.  If I can find a way to make the material relate to what we are doing, I will do so.  Clearly the topic is important enough for you to ask a question about it so I need to give it some attention.
...write referrals for bad behavior.  Sometimes kids are kids and you can't control your urges. Students who act out do so because they are bored or need some more attention.  I guess we are back to the lack of engagement topic again.
...force you to do it my way.  I am not the expert on you.  Who am I to tell you how you should learn?  If you need the ipod to help with your ADHD, then use it.  If you want to use a 3-ring binder or a notebook or a shoebox to keep your papers organized, then go right ahead.  Now, if it is not working, then listen to my suggestions to help you improve.
...punish you for being late to class.  Things happen that are out of your control that cause you to get delayed. Get here as fast as you can and get right to work.
...allow you to eat in class.  I mean, it is a chemistry lab and there are certain safety rules we need to keep.  However, I know your teenage world revolves around food so I will do my best to incorporate it into as many lessons as I can.

I will...
...ask you to think critically.
...spark that imagination and creativity that sometimes gets shoved to the side in school.
...force you out of your comfort zone.
...ask you to trust me.
...ask you to take risks.
...make the information as meaningful as possible.
...let you use the technology as much as I do.
...find a way to have class outside once in awhile.
...trust you.

These things I owe to you as your teacher.

09 September 2011

Is this pushing it?


About a month ago, Brian Bennett (@bennettscience) mentioned that he was going to be using students blogs in his science classroom.  I was a little surprised by this (only a little as Brian is extremely innovative and is flipped classroom trainer) because all of the talk I have seen thus far has been about student blogs in Social Studies or English (or some other humanities-type course).  Little is really being done in math and science from what I have seen.  I had messaged Brian about it because I would like to bring some of this to my chemistry class.  Unfortunately Brian is not doing it in chemistry so I couldn't see any student products.

But it got me thinking:  There is a big push with Common Core Standards to bring a greater amount of literacy into every classroom, couldn't a blog help me reach that goal?  But the problem remained, how do I put all of those fancy symbols, subscripts and ion charges onto the blog without all of the necessary format features?  

Why this idea didn't hit me sooner, I have no idea.  I decided to type a chemical reaction into Word, make the necessary formatting changes and copy/paste it into the blog like this:
CH4   +   2O2   à  CO2   +   2H2O
And suddenly, I can now have my students create electronic lab notebooks entirely on a blog.  Oh yeah, and it's free.

Now when colleges ask students to demonstrate the lab work they have done in their science class, the students can show them the blog.  Not only will they be reading and writing more, they are not limited to the small space on the back of the lab sheet.  They can write longer entries to better explain their observations and deductions which improves not only their overall literacy, but their science vocabulary as well.  And from a grading standpoint, I would much rather take my laptop home every day than lug huge stacks of papers in my bag.  

It is also has the added benefit of reducing paper as my students won't need to add page after page of conclusions to the lab sheet I gave in class.  I can actually print 1 lab sheet per station for the lab, post the electronic document to my website, and the kids can copy/paste from there to their blog in order to answer the questions.  I might have stumbled upon something here.

I would love to hear thoughts and suggestions on this idea.

08 September 2011

I'm the fire starter. I'm the instigator.

I have been fond of using several phrases to describe myself.  When students asked why I am always doing things different than my colleagues and changing what the school does, I would say: "if you aren't making waves, then you aren't kicking hard enough."  Then the superintendent called me a troublemaker in a meeting, and not in a funny, sarcastic way.  That's when a friend said "You're not a troublemaker.  You're a trendsetter."

I am the only one in my school using a Tablet PC to teach and today I finally got my wireless device to work so my teaching was completely mobile.  My kids didn't know what to do.  I put my PC on a kid's desk so she could work the problem out for the class and it was like an alien just beamed in from Mars and landed on her notebook.  She looked at the stylus like she had never picked up a pen in her entire life.  As others realized what I did, there were whispers of disappointment and envy because she got to be the first one to write on it.  Not sure what they are going to do when they have to start using Animoto, Prezis, and the Flipped Classroom.

I'm not a troublemaker.  I get the ideas rolling and the wave of change started.  I light the fire within my students to push themselves to do something they didn't know they could do.  This is going to cause problems for some of my colleagues.  And, well, maybe it should.

I'm the fire starter.

06 September 2011

What's the worst that can happen?

picture courtesy of ansam518.wordpress.com
If you tried something new...
some technique...
some activity...
some piece of technology...
some method that you heard about/saw/thought of yourself...
what's the worst that could happen?

Now, really think about it.  What's the absolute worst thing that could happen?

If what you did was in the best interest of kids and improving understanding, and that new idea failed, you have lost nothing.  Your students understand just as well as they did with the old way.

But you are now different.  You are not the same person you were last year at this time.  You have pushed yourself to be better, to fight stagnation.  And that is all the reason you need.


05 September 2011

Keep kids busy or they might start thinking

While reading Teacher Man, Frank McCourt makes the comment "Keep kids busy or they might start thinking."  He is talking about how too many teachers are just assigning work, yet they have little meaning for the students and rarely makes them think.

I had a conversation with a former supervisor over mandating summer assignments in all Honors science classes. The reason he gave me was: 1) we need to reduce the number of students who are dropping out of the honors program after school starts; this will hopefully scare a few of them off, 2) we need to provide assignments that keep the kids busy for the summer, and 3) we need to eliminate the summer slide that so many of them experience.  You can imagine my reaction.

Now, I am not opposed to summer assignments, but the kids need to find meaning in them.  Give them articles to read and perform research on or give them experiments to do in their kitchen so they can explain the science behind them (or food is always a great experiment) or let them pick their own book to read to demonstrate their understanding of theme or character development.  Don't give them copies of a textbook (which is what came out of my colleagues) and have them mindlessly complete exercises.  If the teachers don't want to grade it because it is so boring, what makes you think the students will want to do it?

One of my goals this year (a formal list will be coming later this week) is to have the students develop 1 assignment in each unit.  I will give them the requirements and the learning objectives and let them run with it.  If one of my classroom rules is going to be "Think Critically" then I need to give my students the opportunity to do so.

Am I wrong?

31 August 2011

Please don't waste my time

Originally, this was going to be a letter to administrators, but, after thinking about it, teachers are just as guilty.  Please....

  • don't hold an hour long meeting to explain something that could have been accomplished in an email.  My time is just as valuable as yours.
  • don't use up time explaining a new initiative that I am not going to a part of.  If something is only happening in K-3, then pull those teachers aside and talk to them specifically.
  • remember that I am an educated individual who does not need to have information from a PowerPoint read to me.  Especially when you handed out copies of the PowerPoint for me to read.
  • practice what you preach.  If you want me to use technology and differentiated instruction in the classroom, don't lecture to me about it.  Demonstrate it to me so I know what is expected of me later.
  • plan appropriately.  If you make an agenda, try to stick to it.  Otherwise, why did you even bother in the first place?
  • protect our planet.  If you are going to hand out 50 copies of a 3 page document, at least double side it. If you didn't put it through the photocopier, that means you printed it from the computer so not only did you kill more trees, but you used more expensive ink.  When budgets are constantly being cut, these little things add up.
Having been on both sides of the educational table (teacher and administrator) I know so many of us are guilty of this with colleagues and, worse, with students.  We need to be mindful that we give the respect as professionals that we expect be given to us.  Walk the Talk.
picture courtesy of successories.com

30 August 2011

The right stuff

I don't use my blog to push my personal agenda or try to sway anyone to use a particular product.  However, something happened today that I need to share.

I use a Tablet PC to teach, but my new room does not have a wireless projector.  I was faced with 2 options:  get a really long VGA cable so I can continue to be semi-mobile or find a program that will allow me to link my desktop to my laptop wirelessly.  Neither was a good option.  As I was searching the Internet I came across a device that allows you to link a laptop and VGA port wirelessly made by Warpia.  The reviews were good; the price was higher than I wanted to spend, but I ordered one anyway.

So the device comes last night, I hook it up to my TV and now I am looking at my computer on the TV.  Success!  My computer hibernates and when it comes back on, the device no longer works.  Failure.  I start contacting the company and I have to tell you that their customer service was terrible.  I called several times throughout the day and I received an error message every time.  Their FAQ were not helpful so I sent them an email describing my problems.  I told them that I was a teacher, that I was planning on using the device starting Tuesday and was extremely disappointed that this device failed so quickly.  I received back the following email:


Hi Marc,

We have the greatest respect for teachers and the service you provide.  We will be happy to process your return as an advanced replacement at no charge.  This will ensure you have your replacement device in time to use for your classes and allow us time to work out any other kinks should you need additional support.

Thank you for being a teacher!

While my initial experience with this company's products was very poor, they more than made up for it.  I wholeheartedly endorse Warpia and will be purchasing other items through them in the future.