Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak looks like so much fun and a great resource to teach the power of words.

Of course there is always one kid in the crowd who doesn't laugh at a hippo named Boo-Boo Butt. See if you can find her here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Using a green screen in the classroom

I have been trying for over 10 years to find a simple way to use green screen technology in my classroom so my students can make newsroom style videos. I sort of wrote about my frustrations here. Basically I spent a bit of money and spent a lot of time and never got satisfactory results and eventually gave up on that adventure.

Once I got a classroom iPad this year, one thing I found and couldn't wait to use was a program by DoInk called Green Screen. It was simple and it worked. my students were able to create green screen videos to embed into projects they were making on hurricanes.

If you want to try this simple way to make green screen videos, you will need an iPad, the $2.99 Green Screen app, and a Green Screen Backdrop. You will be up and running pretty quickly and your students will be fascinated at this technology and find it fun to use when giving reports and presentarions.

Here is a presentation from DoInk:

Here is a quick tutotrial:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What to say to a teacher

If you want to know how to talk to and appreciate a teacher, read this excellent article.
"The best way to thank a teacher is not to treat what they do as a good deed, but to treat it as a highly professional career path that they love to follow, and for which they work hard to be successful."

From "Appreciate Teachers by Understanding What They Do" by Mary Beth Hertz.

"The next time you talk to a teacher, ask them why they got into teaching. Ask them about their favorite reading strategies, or a recent project their students worked on that they are really proud of. Ask them for advice for your own child's education. Ask them for their opinion on the Common Core Standards, or for their favorite learning website or tool in the classroom. If they have some great suggestions, ask them a favor -- ask them to send those resources to you by email, or write them down on the spot."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Go, you chicken fat. go!

Wow, I had a flashback to my childhood when I heard this song for the first time in many years. I remember this being played in school. How are we encouraging movement and healthy exercise habits is school today?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

You can Google that: Rethinking our approach to Education

"Would a person with good handwriting, spelling and grammar and instant recall of multiplication tables be considered a better candidate for a job than, say, one who knows how to configure a peer-to-peer network of devices, set up an organisation-wide Google calendar and find out where the most reliable sources of venture capital are, I wonder? The former set of skills are taught in schools, the latter are not."

So begins an editorial by Sugata Mitra, the winner of the one million dollar TED prize in 2013, in a Guardian.UK piece called  Advent of Google means we must rethink our approach to education. He is a proponent of something he calls Self Organized Learning Environment’s (SOLE) and his “Hole in the Wall” experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they’re motivated by curiosity and peer interest.

We tend to be hanging onto romanticized ideas of education and skills that are no longer relevant. Education, according to Mitra, should look something like this:

"If examinations challenge learners to solve problems the way they are solved in real life today, the educational system will change for ever. It is a small policy change that is required. Allow the use of the internet and collaboration during an examination.
If we did that to exams,  the curriculum would have to be different. We would not need to emphasize facts or figures or dates. The curriculum would have to become questions that have strange and interesting answers. "Where did language come from?", "Why were the pyramids built?", "Is life on Earth sustainable?", "What is the purpose of theater?"
Questions that engage learners in a world of unknowns. Questions that will occupy their minds through their waking hours and sometimes their dreams. 
Teaching in an environment where the internet and discussion are allowed in exams would be different. The ability to find things out quickly and accurately would become the predominant skill. The ability to discriminate between alternatives, then put facts together to solve problems would be critical. That's a skill that future employers would admire immensely."
You can read the whole article here. His TED talk is below.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How to deal with kid's math anxiety

Annie Murphy Paul wrote this article How to Deal with Kid' Math Anxiety that gives some wonderful information and tips for dealing with children who are more than capable of understanding and doing math, but freeze up in ways that leave to frustration and disappointment. The article is based on a recent findings published in Psychological Science journal.

Math anxiety is a negative emotional reaction to situations involving mathematical problem solving. Math anxiety has a detrimental impact on an individual’s long-term professional success, but its neurodevelopmental origins are unknown. In a functional MRI study on 7- to 9-year-old children, we showed that math anxiety was associated with hyperactivity in right amygdala regions that are important for processing negative emotions. In addition, we found that math anxiety was associated with reduced activity in posterior parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex regions involved in mathematical reasoning. Multivariate classification analysis revealed distinct multivoxel activity patterns, which were independent of overall activation levels in the right amygdala. Furthermore, effective connectivity between the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex regions that regulate negative emotions was elevated in children with math anxiety. These effects were specific to math anxiety and unrelated to general anxiety, intelligence, working memory, or reading ability. Our study identified the neural correlates of math anxiety for the first time, and our findings have significant implications for its early identification and treatment.

 The study used MRI scans of children's brains (getting kids to lie still in an MRI must have been an achievement in itself). Ms. Paul reports on the findings:

Regions of a brain structure called the amygdala, responsible for processing negative emotions, were hyperactive. At the same time, activity in the posterior parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—areas involved in mathematical reasoning—was diminished. The scientists’ analysis of neural networks revealed that the two activity levels were connected: The buzz in the brain’s fear center was interfering with the ability of its problem-solving regions to do their job. The pattern the paper’s authors identified was specific to math, unrelated to general intelligence or to other kinds of anxiety.

 I have had many students in the past who demonstrate this math anxiety, so I wanted to know what to do about this. Fortunately, the author provided some answers based on other research.

One way to relieve this burden on working memory, Beilock and her colleagues have found, is to spend ten minutes writing about one’s thoughts and feelings about a math exam just before taking it. Students effectively offload their worries onto the page, enabling them to tackle the test with a mind free of rumination and distraction. In the lab, Beilock reports, engaging in this exercise “eliminates poor performance under pressure,” and the method has produced encouraging results in real-life classroom settings as well.

I tried this with some students that show anxiety during math tests and they felt and worked better.

Other approaches that have proven successful at reducing math anxiety and improving performance include having students reaffirm their self-worth by listing important values like relationships with friends and family, and having students think about why they might do well(“I am a student at a high-level university”) rather than poorly (“I am a girl taking a difficult math test”). These interventions are simple but effective: By deliberately shifting their frame of mind, students can make that creepy-crawly feeling of anxiety go away.

I think this is a very important article that can help teachers and parents better understand the frustrations of many of their students during tests or homework.  A child with math anxiety may not be just a child that is doing poorly at math. I shared this article with the teachers at my school last Spring and got a lot of positive feedback.