Apr 182009

In another case of “working together benefits all”.  Dan Meyer posted a picture of himself throwing a ball into a trash can.  Except, he only posted the first half of the flight.  (See the original here.) This picture is one in his series of “What can you do with this?”, that challenges educators to think outside of their comfort zone and think inside of relevant, challenging, and interesting lessons.

David Cox then takes that lesson, and explodes it into a terrific lesson on quadratics, measurement and all around engaging math.  Oh, except it really wasn’t David.  IT WAS HIS LEARNERS who exploded it and created a fabulous lesson out of it.  Crazy what learners can do when we stop spoon feeding them and give them tools and interesting problems.

Well, ColleenK had to one up everyone and create an applet that would allow for anyone to do the same problem with different initial conditions.

I can see starting with Dan’s picture. Throwing that on the screen and asking the question that Dan asked. Will he hit the can?  Leave it at that.   Let the learners decide what they need to know in order to answer the question.  Having Geogebra handy would be a great idea.  Allowing the learners to answer the question on their own, with support and guidance when legitimately asked for (meaning “i don’t get it” is not legitimate) and the encouragement to TRY.

Summing up with something like David did, allowing each group to show how their solution is different or the same, and then putting Colleen’s app on the screen and giving each group a completely different set of initial conditions.  Or better yet, out to the lawn with a digital camera and MAKE sets of initial conditions.

Now that is successful teaching at it’s finest.

Why don’t more teachers communicate like this to see the really innovative and creative stuff we can do? (sorry, not the purpose of this post, but still a question that must be asked.)

 Posted by at 3:24 pm
Apr 162009

From 15 April to 6 May, ASCD is offering a free ebook, no subscription or membership required. The title is: “EBOOK Engaging the Whole Child: Reflections on Best Practices in Learning, Teaching, and Leadership” and the link to it is here.

I downloaded it yesterday to both of my computers. It looks to be a good book.  367 pages, covering everything from violence and safety, to “empowering students” (not a phrase I would ever use, but whatever) to Instilling the desire to learn (easier said than done, but if there is one tip that helps me in those 50 pages than the time is well worth it.)

I have not read it yet, just the table of contents. But all it takes is one thing I can take away and use to make it a worthwhile use of my time.

 Posted by at 8:52 am
Apr 152009

This seems like a seemingly simple question for teachers:

Could you identify 10 excellent web sites for your grade level / subject area?  

via dangerously irrelevant

Scott posted this a couple of weeks ago, and got a lot of people thinking about what web usage really is and really means. He ended it with a follow up post that included the following statement.

I’ll take them at their word and say that perhaps I overestimated the quality, if not quantity, of the online resources available to K-12 teachers. If so, this paucity of high quality online resources for educators is pretty sad given the longevity and history of the Internet as well as the ability of any educator to now easily have an online presence.  via

Hmm. Dan and others don’t agree that there are 10 sites that are worth using regularly for pedagogical purposes.  In the couple of weeks since this posting by Scott, I have been tracking my web usage to see if I have 10 that I have used regularly.  Here they are.

Google Reader.  I use it every day.  I follow about 145 blogs currently on Reader, and read about 20% of the articles. Indexed, and Graphjam are daily, as well as Dan’s and many many more.  That counts as FOUR.  Have you seen Indexed?  Amazing graphs that really, when selectively used, gets learners interested  in the content of the graphs.  Same with GraphJam.  Those learners who say, “I hate graphs” don’t say it any more after a little graphjam action.

Google Docs.  I use google docs in one of my courses. Learners are required to share their assignments with me, not turn them in on paper. Love it. Full tracking for accountability purposes, and very well done.

Google Maps.   Hmm, I see a pattern. Have you used Google maps to do problems?  I have. Thanks to Dan.

Stats Monkey.  If it wasn’t for this website, I would not have made it through my first year of AP Stats.

College Board’s AP Central: Same reason. Very important for me.

Qipit: Every teacher has been there. Some profound thing written on a whiteboard, a fellow teacher with eraser in hand to erase and move on.  One click of the camera on your cell phone, text the picture to Qipit’s number, either the black and white number or the color number, and BOOM, you have a PDF in your email within a couple of minutes.  Yes, I use this regularly.   Even with the technology in my classroom, the board still gets used.

Forums like the Physics Forum and My Math Forum. You know, sometimes you just need to ask someone anonymous your stupid question about some advanced math topic.

And how about YouTube (another google product, blocked at school, but I download things to my iPod), Vimeo (not blocked, used at school), TED.com, Annenberg Media, Geogebra (used for math, similar to Geometers Sketchpad, but FREE and easier to use), Tracker (used for analyzing the math in videos, FREE).

I have used every single one of these in my classroom over the last year. That is more than 10, and I still didn’t really go into my Reader list. Art, Design, Finance, Statistics, Technology, Science, Physics, Education, Mathematics, Political, News, Lifestyle, Comics, and Presentation are all folders in my Reader.  Blogs count. Some of the best ideas I have gotten over the last year have been posts by other bloggers. Tag them with something relevant.   Share them through Google Reader. Subscribe to each other’s sharings.

 Posted by at 11:58 am
Apr 152009

I was taking an online course on how to create online courses, and one of the assignments was to suggest pedagogical websites and sources. (That 6 week online course is one reason I have not posted in so long, but that is a totally different story.)

I suggested dy/dan, Dan Meyer’s terrific site. One of the other people taking the course did not understand why I suggested Dan’s site as source of pedagogy.  The following several links will explain that choice.

Dan begins with this posting, on editing a single slide from Darren Kuropatwa.  Dan takes the slide donated from Darren, and reinvents from traditional, “here is the info, find the answer” to “Find the question, interpret the information, and defend your answer”.

Hmm, higher levels of thinking anyone?  Using digital media and digital tools to force thinking and challenge learners to push beyond the school room walls?  Pure Pedagogical Mastery. 

The story did not end with Dan’s pedagogical tour de force.  Jason Dyer takes Dan’s take on Darren’s take on statistics and pushes it even more! Now Jason has taken the  data, changed it so the range and the mean is identical, while leaving the question alone.

What is a learner to do now?  Anyway, Dan posts a follow up to the entire conversation here, allowing anyone  to follow the entire course of the thinking in one post.

Does anyone else marvel at the power in this kind of collaboration? Dan says, “This is the culture of criticism we need.” I agree. The collaboration involved in this series of posts is tremendous.

I need to do more of this.

 Posted by at 11:14 am