An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog

An educator blogging….novel idea.

My classroom management plan on Scribd

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A few months ago I had to submit a classroom management plan for one of my graduate classes. As I’ve switched grades, had new classroom experiences, and read more information, I’ve tweaked my outlook. The first draft of my classroom management plan is on Scribd. I have seen a few educators post their plans and hope to see others do so as well. As I update my plan, I’ll post those drafts.

Elementary Classroom Management Plan

Publish at Scribd or explore others: How-to-Guides & Manu children learning
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Teacher geek sites of the (mid) week (April 21, 2009)

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I’m burned out and it’s Tuesday (and I had spring break last week….). During weeks like these, there are three things that get me through: Chai lattes, Mariners baseball, and geeky websites.

For the history geek: World Digital Library

This week, the United Nations brought the World Digital Library online. The Washington Post describes the site as a “globe-spanning U.N. digital library seeking to display and explain the relics of all human cultures has gone into operation on the Internet for the first time, serving up mankind’s accumulated knowledge in seven languages for students around the world”. Drooling yet?

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For the design geek: Project Planner

Project Planner gives you access to over 100 workflows from online services. According to the creator, “Product Planner was born out of the need to help people understand and create user flows for their web products. The idea is that by looking at examples of other successful web products, you can get a better idea of how to create your own”. Even if you don’t run a website, workflows are relevant to your life. Workflows are models of how we organize resources, roles, and other systems to get things done. Looking at how institutions, businesses, and web services organize their work helps me understand workflows in my classroom and personal life.

For the audiophile: We are Hunted

We are Hunted “aggregates social networks, forums, music blogs, Torrents, P2P Networks and Twitter to develop a daily chart of the 99 most popular songs online”. I’m always looking for quick ways to find new music.

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Enjoy the rest of your week. Impress your friends at cocktail parties with musings about 14th century Ottoman art, make a new playlist, and analyze your workflow.

Written by TeacherC

21 April 2009 at 11:06 pm

When is inequality constructive?

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In the Boston Review article Inequality matters: Why globalization doesn’t lift all boats (via thickculture), Nancy Birdsall clarifies the distinction between constructive inequality and deconstructive inequality:

Distinguishing between constructive and destructive inequality is useful. To clarify the distinction: inequality is constructive when it creates positive incentives at the micro level. Such inequality reflects differences in individuals’ responses to equal opportunities and is consistent with efficient allocation of resources in an economy. In contrast, destructive inequality reflects privileges for the already rich and blocks potential for productive contributions of the less rich.

I’m used to thinking about issues of inequality and social justice on the macro-level. Inequality of social, economic, and political opportunity is one of the reasons why I teach and advocate for the rights of children.  What about at the level of my classroom? When does inequality constructive or deconstructive in the context of pedagogies and learning environments? The most pervasive example of inequality teachers and administrators construct is grades. Although many schools try to make grades a reflection of how students are progressing on standards, the reality for many schools, is that grades both reflect and institutionalize tracks and hierarchies. Students with relatively higher grades have access to different pathways and resources than students who have relatively higher grades. There are different reasons why decision-makers at the classroom, school, and district level choose to have grades. In the classroom, I have noticed many teachers believe grades are an incentive structure: students and parents, on the whole, want higher grades rather than lower grades. Many are willing and able to change their behaviors to reflect this incentive.

Are grading I’ve seen examples of constructive or deconstructive inequality? On one hand, they are deconstructive because students are receiving marks on a scale without having access to the same academic and socioeconomic opportunities as their peers. Over time, students who fit into the culture of power and continue to have experiences that are valued by the school get higher grades, while students who do not have these opportunities get lower. The grades of students are compared and opportunities are doled out accordingly. This is deconstructive – the “potential for productive contributions” of struggling students is blocked. On the other hand, I have seen grading practices where the function and reason is feedback. When students are presented with qualitative and quantitative feedback about their performance, and have access to resources to improve, this feedback might alter micro-level incentives for them to engage in the process. This is more constructive  than the case given above because the quality of resources and environments we offer children are not a function of their perceived level in academic hierarchies. Other examples of inequalities we construct are our classroom management schemes. They often feature preferred behaviors paired to positive and negative consequences that change a students’ academic and social reality.

Constructive and deconstructive inequalities exist in learning environments. Teachers have control over some of these inequalities, especially classroom management and community building structures. Administrators have more control over grading, curriculum, and tracking. Students also create their own inequalities via social hierarchies that are based on perceived intelligence, beauty, and other factors. Although teachers do not have complete control over the inequalities that manifest themselves in a classroom space, when it comes to the choices we make, we have to ask: “Am I generating inequality? If so, is this inequality constructive or deconstructive?”.

What are your thoughts? Does this distinction hold or does it rely too heavily on capitalist constructions?

Evolution of Classroom Design

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This awesome graphic from an article in Wired Magazine shows the evolution of office spaces:

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The article says popular design has shifted from the “efficiency and oversight” driven Taylorism of the early 1900s to “sociability” driven networking spaces. What about the design of our classrooms? Have we transformed our classroom spaces to meet our changing social, political, and educational goals?

(Thanks to @DukeXC on Twitter for the link)

Written by TeacherC

11 April 2009 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Design

Podcaster workshop: What makes a good podcast? (part 1)

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Last week, I decided to start podcasting. Being the tech geek I am, I Googled the web for howtos, and quickly found the best freeware and (reasonably-priced) digital recorder. Now, my Amazon.com box is cracked open, and I’m asking myself hard questions about podcasting. What makes a good podcast? It seems like howtos for podcasting focus on what should come second -the tools of the trade, rather than what should come first – content.  If I’m going to create a podcast for listeners, or use podcasts in my classroom next year (both to deliver content and for student projects), good content has to be at the heart of my planning and execution.

Dan Meyer says it best:

Consider these three mediums, in increasing order of technical difficulty: blogging, podcasting, and vodcasting.

  • Successful blogging requires original thought, sturdy writing, and bloodthirsty editing.
  • Successful podcasting requires original thought, sturdy writing, bloodthirsty editing, and a command of the aural experience.
  • Successful vodcasting requires original thought, sturdy writing, bloodthirsty editing, a command of the aural experience, and a command of the visual experience.

In order to achieve the same communicative result, not only does the number of necessary skills increase across all three mediums but the editing process for each grows harder and vastly more technical, the difference between hitting the delete key in one and wielding Final Cut Express’ digital blade in the other.

What does it mean to have “a command of the aural experience”? Should I ship my digital recorder back to Amazon because my content is best conveyed via blog? I’m a big fan of writing workshop in my classroom. Students work through the phases of the writing process: immersion, collecting ideas, drafting, revision, editing, publishing, and celebration. I’ve decided to put myself through a podcasting workshop.

Now, I’m in my immersion process. In the classroom, I read texts by genre, author, or craft strategy. Then, I chart students’ observations about the texts, and we make an attribute chart. Over the past few days, I’ve listened to a variety of podcasts. I’m in the process of creating an attribute chart.

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When I started making the chart, I realized it needs a different layout in its final version to separate different podcast formats (two hosts w/no interviews, roundtable/multiple people, narrator and story/interview, etc). This chart is still a good way to get started. When I have listed all attributes, I’ll sort podcasts into type. To start an attribute chart, pick your favorite podcasts (or ones you think are noteworthy), and figure out which features are shared between the podcasts. The final steps are to figure out which common attributes I should include in my podcast and the “holes in the market” – attributes my podcast will have that others do not have.

Stay tuned for my completed and sorted attribute chart in part two of my podcaster workshop series. What are attributes you’ve noticed in your favorite podcasts? Are there holes in the market – attributes you think should be in some podcasts but are missing? Can you reccomend podcasts I should listen to and add to my attribute list?

Podcasts listened to: Science Friday Podcast (NPR), This American Life (NPR), Stuff You Should Know (Howstuffworks.com), various news podcasts (The Economist, BBC, CNN, etc), Rachel Maddow Green 960, SMARTboard Lessons PodcastWicked Decent Learning Podcast, Project Xiphos, Bit by Bit, and EdTech Weekly.

Written by TeacherC

3 April 2009 at 6:33 pm

Teacher Geek Site of the Week: Bonus Sick-Day Edition

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For the design geek: This week I’ve had more time than usual to read twitter and check out links due to consecutive sick days (The only thing keeping my school from being a sequel to Outbreak is Dustin Hoffman and B actors).

@ddmeyer intrigued me with a tweet about teachers and design theory:

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This morning, @creattica lead me to an amazing design resource: 50 Totally Free Lessons in Graphic Design Theory.

Which ones should you read first? I would flip through the list and find ones that intrigue you. I hope to read a few this week:

1. #33: The Basics of Graphic Design

2. #34: Want to know how to design? Learn The Basics.

3. #22: Color Theory: Overview

4. #27: How Colors Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviors

5. #1: Typography, Part 1

6. #17: Grids: Order Out of Chaos

7. #43: A Few Lessons From Real World Usability

Have you used any design resources you think other teachers should use? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

(I’m in the middle of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte)

Written by TeacherC

2 April 2009 at 7:13 am

The Self-Publishing Classroom: Script Frenzy

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Today’s post on The Writing Teacher inspired me to think about a script-writing unit for writers’ workshop and social studies.

“Who wants to spend the next thirty days writing a script?” This is the question that led my sixth grade class on a writing adventure that took us from war-torn beaches to invading aliens, and from invading gnomes to talking kittens trying to break their fellow felines out of the pound. It was a journey of creativity and wonder, and a ton of teachable moments!

Script Frenzy is an international script-writing event that occurs April 1st – 30th every year. Participants have one month to write a script (Script Frenzy says “screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, comics and graphic novels” are welcome). The website gives students tools and tips to write their scripts. Teachers can receive a free Script Frenzy Classroom Kit.

Next year, I hope to make this a social studies project where students turn historic events and narratives into scripts.

Check out The Writing Teacher’s article for ideas and links to help you plan and execute your unit.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be mentioned in an Oscar’s acceptance speech someday…..