The Moss-Free Stone

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old” -Peter Drucker

No Place in School?

June 13, 2014 by · No Comments · creativity, innovation, Teaching and Learning

Braeden

Braeden and Fancy the Flamingo

I spent the day today in White Oak, Texas, speaking and learning at the TCEA Region 7 conference. I’ve come to this one for years now, and it is one of my favorites. The people and events are always fantastic, and they feed me very, very well. This year was extra special, though, because I got to meet and learn from an amazing 9-year old, Braeden. Braeden is the nephew of a talented educator friend of mine, Rafranz Davis. Through Rafranz’s Facebook page, I’ve become familiar with this amazing boy over the past several months. Braeden’s unique gifts lie in designing, creating, and using puppets. We’re not talking the paper sack puppets that were the limit of my abilities as a child, either. No, Braeden is a true artist and master craftsman. His puppets resemble something from Sesame Street or the Muppet Show. In fact, he even now corresponds about his creations with Jim Henson Studios.

The striking thing to me is that Braeden has been tested for gifted and talented programs at his school 3 times. 3 times, he has been deemed not qualified. Let that soak in for a minute. I can’t explain it. I know it is an archaic system at work in most schools, one based upon IQ tests most of all–IQ tests that measure a tiny fraction of human ability and are of extremely dubious validity. But I cannot comprehend it’s inadequacy (complete worthlessness) or justify it in the face of such an amazing talent.

Braeden

Braeden’s talents have attracted the attention of Jim Henson Studios.

The thing that hit me squarely in the gut, though, was the thought that Braeden is not alone. In fact, I’d guess he’s in the majority in our classrooms. We force sterilized, standardized, irrelevant, outdated curriculum on our students and ignore their passions and gifts. We spend our time and energy to prep them for annual tests or the misguided goal that all students should be bound for MBAs. Meanwhile, students like Braeden get to have their gifts nurtured only if they have families who gives them  their support and encouragement. Obviously, many of our kids aren’t this fortunate in their homes. We can’t always influence that, but we can change our schools, and it will require that we get past the archaic idea that education and its goals are one-size-fits-all. No discussion of educational “reforms” will ever lead to meaningful change if we don’t question the big ideas and institutions that we cling to with such fervor: rigid curriculum, grade levels, accountability systems based primarily upon tests, college-or-bust mentalities, etc. There are isolated examples where this is happening, but, frankly, we are mostly stagnant and too silent, allowing policy to be dictated in spite of its inadequacy. The power of learning is in the empowerment of the individual to achieve his/her potential, and that potential is unique to every child. When we get to a point where every Braeden is nurtured as the amazingly unique person he is, we’ll change lives, and that will in turn change the world.

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Pixiclip–Online, Collaborative Whiteboard and More

June 2, 2014 by · No Comments · Flipped Classroom, images/video, Teaching and Learning, Web Tools

The video below is a very quick overview of Pixiclip, a free, online whiteboard that is a potentially very useful tool for teachers looking to create online tutorials, particularly for flipped classroom applications. The site allows text, drawing, images, audio, and even webcams to be included in presentations, and it has a very user-friendly interface.

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Eat More Cheese, Get PhDs

May 30, 2014 by · No Comments · 21st Century Skills, Educational technology, Teaching and Learning

The incredible abundance of information available to us today comes with an important caveat. For all the helpful and accurate information that exists, there is at least that much that is less accurate or even purposefully misleading. It’s not just the internet, either. The media, politicians, unions, even schools make heavy use of data and information that supports their goals and ideals. A critical skill is the ability to look carefully at the reams of data and information that comes our way and be able to see biases, misinformation, correlations that don’t make sense, etc. In other words, to be information literate. There are a number of well-established internet resources that are helpful tools for teaching information literacy. The Pacific Tree Octopus, with it’s convincing testimonials and archival images, is a great conversation starter. All About Explorers poses as a legitimate page about world explorers of the past, but it is filled with often hilarious bits of information such as the statement that William Clark “…when he was 9, Clark was in fact reprimanded by Lewis’s father regarding a suspicious pile of watermelon seeds near the Lewis’s yard gnome.” Students can spend hours dissecting the site’s “facts” and figures.

Add the new site, Spurious Correlations to the toolbox. A law student at Harvard designed the site to teach people about statistics. Specifically, it is a lesson in the concept, “Correlation does not equal causation.” The graph from the site below shows the shocking correlation between cheese and engineering PhDs.

cheese and doctoratesI was also surprised to know that precipitation in Texas is linked to the number of female editors at the Harvard Law Review.  Note to Harvard: Hire more women editors–we need the rain!

law and rainThis type of data could be used as a part of a series of mini-lessons on information literacy. Students could argue the validity of any correlations, then conduct tests or research to determine whether or not the two are related events. It could also be a part of a writing activity on persuasive writing.

What are your thoughts? Are there other resources you are using to promote this type of critical thinking? Love to hear from you!

 

 

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So, What’s in Your Browser?

May 27, 2014 by · No Comments · Bookmarking, Educational technology, Web Tools

Many folks still don’t realize that the browser they are using at this very moment is designed to be customized. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, even Internet Explorer–all have some really cool and powerful add-ons (called extensions) that do countless things, from blocking annoying popups to checking spelling to making sites more easily readable for people with visual impairments. You name it, there is probably an extension for it. As a way of an introduction, I thought I’d share a screenshot of my own Chrome toolbar and the extensions that reside there currently (It’s a fluid list.). More Chrome extensions can be found here, and Firefox extensions here.

Chrome extensions 2

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Innaugural #edwhy and #edwhatif Chat Storified

May 26, 2014 by · No Comments · Teaching and Learning, Twitter, Uncategorized

Below find the chat logs from tonight’s first ever #edwhy and #edwhatif chats. Not a huge response the first time out (Okay, very small.), but that’s not a problem–I believe it will be worthwhile, because we need to question things in our field if anything is ever going to change for the better.

Besides, I’m a longtime blogger–I’m used to talking to myself! :)

#edwhy 

#edwhatif  

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Questions > Answers

May 26, 2014 by · No Comments · 21st Century Skills, creativity, Educational technology, innovation, Questions, Teaching and Learning

Thanks to Mark Barnes over at Brilliant or Insane for sharing this great video. More ammunition in the fight to get our kids asking questions.

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Invitation to Question

May 25, 2014 by · 2 Comments · collaboration, creativity, innovation, Questions, Teaching and Learning

#edwhyAs I continue to work my way through A More Beautiful Question, I had an inspiration. I’d like to start a regular Twitter chat that focuses on two questions: “Why?” and “What if?” The why question will focus on questioning anything and everything about the way that schools operate today. The what if question will focus on plotting change. We pick an issue or two each week, ask questions, try to find answers, then explore alternatives. The hashtags will be #edwhy and #edwhatif. The first chat will take place Monday night, May 26th, at 8:00 PM CST. I’ve created a Google Doc for you to submit ideas for #edwhy questions to discuss. Please take a few minutes and help get this started by submitting your ideas.

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