Friday, January 28, 2011

Twitter 102

Here is my follow up to the twitter 101 video I made a while back. Don't mind me walking into the quantum door at the end...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why is the straight A award and honor roll bad for kids?

We already know that students are not motivated by grades and yet we give awards to honor that very thing. Students are becoming grade obsessed for all the wrong reasons. They spend all their time thinking about how to do assignments and complete activities to get the “A”. Rather than engaging in the learning process they are simply trying to figure out the rules of the game that is called school. The awards further the notion of the traditional “good” student and “bad” student. Awards do not celebrate learning but instead who can follow the rules best.

Here is why I would favor getting rid of the straight “A” award and honor roll:

  • It rewards kids who know how to play the game of school. Students who turn their work in on time and fit the traditional model of schooling are rewarded.

  • Grades are symbols that are not indicative of learning. They are typically based on student’s ability to turn work in on time and succeed on a one time test.

  • Student’s grades are manipulated by late homework penalties and inflated by extra credit.

  • Grades are often times not evidence of growth that students have over the course of the year. They are an average which includes failures and attempts rather than true learning.

  • Kids are failing are often failing due to lack of motivation rather than lack of intelligence or learning.

Now some schools are moving to standards based grading where grades are indicative of learning rather than behaviors such as compliance with is good. This is a step in the right direction but it is still not the perfect answer. The best possible situation would be one where grades do not exist and school in purely about learning. Kids should be rewarded for their learning daily, not with a Microsoft Word certificate celebrating they are good rule followers and test takers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of My Classroom

Parents, Students, School Board Members, distinguished PLN and my fellow teachers:

Tonight I want to begin by congratulating all of the 6th graders for successfully making it through their first semester of Junior High. That can be a daunting challenge and you have all met this challenge with enthusiasm and passion.

It is no secret that not everyone has enjoyed or agreed with every single decision I have made, assignment I have given, or disciplinary intervention I have written. However, I believe that the open and honest conversations we have had are what sets our classroom apart.

Students have stepped forward on behalf of their learning and spoke their mind. This is encouraged and will continue to be encouraged as we move forward into the second half of the school year. In addition, parents have been given and will always be given opportunities and freedom to express concerns and ideas. We need all parties on board collaborating to keep this classroom moving into the future of learning.

We are poised for progress. This week alone we will be connecting via skype to a classroom on the other side of the country. Plans are in the works to connect with classrooms in Canada, California, and China all with goals of collaborating and pushing our learning beyond the boundaries of our classroom walls. I will not stand by with technology idly sitting, when it can be used to further student learning and connect us with unlimited potential.

My classroom will continue to knock down barriers placed on us by school policies written prior to existing technologies. We will continue to model responsible use and digital citizenship as we already have and work within the system to push the boundaries. Technology in this class will not be used for the sake of technology but to further student learning.

We need to be innovative in our work. I promise that I will continue to find numerous ways to engage and teach students so that all children have access to success. In return I will ask that students not settle for mediocrity in their education and advocate when they are being short changed. Also, I will ask parents to pull their children away from video games and ipods and talk to them. Engage your children in conversations about their learning and ask questions. And if you as a parent have a concern I implore you to seek me out and talk to me. It is your right as a parent to be involved and connected to my classroom and your child’s learning.

We do great things.

From the book trailers and talking heads, this classroom has produced quality work beyond comparison. We will continue to serve as beacons of self-directed learning and collaborative workers. Mediocrity is not and will not be in our vocabulary or in our actions.

We do great things.

Students in this class are given choice on how they will provide evidence of learning. Standardization will not become the norm and will be avoided at all cost. Students will learn and achieve at their own pace and in their own manner.

We are a great classroom that will continue to evolve and become even greater.

Thank you and may Dr. Seuss bless you and our classroom.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Zero Tolerance?


Today during my team meeting we watched the above TED talk about reengaging boys in schools. I highly recommend you watch this and engage in some conversation with your peers about it as I did this morning. The speaker goes over some of the reasons why she believes schools are not set up for boys to be successful. While I am not saying I agree with every single point she made one struck me funny and has caused me to question my beliefs.


She claims that one of the problems with schools is their zero tolerance policy. This would apply to any sort of actions, words, or writing that could be considered violent. In addition, this applies to “toy” or pretend weapons as well as drawings that have weapons or violent acts. Now, first let me say that I do not condone violence nor do I think we should allow it to be present in our schools. In the post Columbine-era, there are too many real and sad examples of violence in schools with tragic consequences.

The intent of a zero tolerance policy to prevent such tragedies from happening and I agree with this in theory. However, I know plenty of people, myself included, that played first person shooter video games, shot guns as kids (skeet shoot, BB guns), and wrote fantasy stories with death or what would be considered violent imagery. All of these things would land a kid in the principal’s office with the psychologist and possibly a threat assessment. Yet, all of these people I know are successful adults with no record of violent acts. Surely there are those that write, speak, and communicate violence and do go forward with it. Is it because of the few that the zero tolerance policies are put into place?

With that being said I offer a perspective… In a majority of the tragic school tragedies involving violence and/or shootings, the shooters were later discovered to have been bullied at some point at school. For every school shooter there are millions of little boys playing with pretend guns that will never use a real one against another human being. However, if we continue to focus on what a kid is drawing in a notebook and not at the real root of the problem are we missing the point? If we focus our energy on figuring out the root of bullying, identify it, teach about it, and stop it, doesn’t that seem a better use of our time?

Strangers in the night exchanging...tweets


Today was a milestone day for me for two reasons. First, I took part in my first video chat via skype. For some of you this is not a big deal but it was my first time and it was pretty darn cool. The second reason was related to the first because I “met” my first Twitter personality in person, even though it technically was not in person since it was via skype.

If you are like me you chat and tweet with numerous people in any given day on a variety of social media. In addition, you might also have never actually met these people in real life. I have actively engaged in Twitter as a form of Professional Development for about 4 months. In that time I have “met” some incredibly inspiring and motivating people. Yet, in reality they are all perfect strangers. I have never met them in person. I don’t know where they went to college. I haven’t met their spouses. I haven’t had a beer with them…and yet I talk to them daily and I consider them an integral part of my professional life.

This truly is an amazing phenomenon to think that some of the most influential people in our professional lives are often strangers. Now I know that over time I will meet these people at conferences and webinars, and that I am just starting out inthe social media game. However, the fact remains I don’t know these people beyond what their bio states or what I can garner from their profile picture. Yes, if you look at my picture you will clearly see that I am a Jedi…nothing else matters… :)

In closing, I was very happy to “meet”, although virtually, Lyn Hilt today and look forward to putting more faces with names in the future. Yet I still sit here amazed at the amount of collaboration and collegiality that exists among strangers. For the three or four random folks that read my ramblings if you are looking to connect, you can find me on twitter @stumpteacher and on skype as well via stumpteacher.