#ETMOOC and the 6 Word Story

So, a guy reads a few tweets, and follows a few links, and the next thing you know he is signed up for something called #ETMOOC.

Yup. That’s me.The basic premise is simple. Many teachers, or soon to be teachers, join together in a class that is 100% free and accessible via the internet . It is a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC and the subject is Educational Technology. I signed up just in time to start with Topic #2 – Digital Story Telling. I do have some experience with DS in the classroom, so I don’t feel out of place or like I am going to be too far out of the loop, plus as a part time photographer, I have a understanding of basic copyrite rules. (Copyleft is a new term I should be getting to know very soon) The first thing to interest me in ETMOOC was the 6 Word Story. This is mine!


That is all. I could edit this, but it would end up in the “drafts” folder forever….

Hello? Anybody out there?

I haven’t posted here since I transferred from “The Middle Years” to High School three  years ago. The reasons are many, the excuses are greater. The bottom line is I don’t feel original enough. I tend to read, comment once in a blue moon, or just simply retweet. When I have original ideas, I shelve them, and keep them for myself so I don’t get fired! Some of my original ideas I don’t even act on, because they are  waaaaaay out there. I think.

Like this one. What if students were allowed, and sometimes encouraged, to swear in their writing?  What if we let them use their own language?

I have been encouraging students for years to get their  “voice” into their writing. I hear their voice when they don’t think, or don’t care if,  anyone is listening and they have a lot to say..  At the high school level, a lot of what I hear is “not appropriate for school”.  I ” hear” about relationships and hook-ups. I hear about birth control, STI’s and pregnancy tests. I hear about the party on the weekend, the drinking, drugs, fights, the arrests.  I hear about problems with bosses, teachers, counsellors, and  parents. When kids are emotional about something the swear words often begin to fly. It’s their voice. It’s immature. So are they.

Very rarely do I hear a “real” voice in student writing, as most of the time students are looking for the easiest way to get the highest mark (coming soon to a blog near you!) I want to read about what they are thinking, saying, and doing, and I would like to hear it in their words without students censoring their own work.

Just a thought

Something Is Wrong Here…

I spent yesterday at a PD session at the school Board Office. The (roughly) 20 of us all had laptops and digital cameras. We spent time outside exploring, and time inside exploring with technology. It was a great day of learning.

And then I arrived at school this morning. Teachers were gleefully opening the boxes of new Science Text Books! I had a quick look at the pictures of an “ecosystem” located not far from here.   Just think of all the technolgy that could have been purchased with the money that went into text books. I can’t say I ever had a great day of learning with Text Books, no matter how nice the pictures are….

All questions are easy…

As we approach the halfway point of the school year, and the end of the first semester, I am watching my teenage daughters prepare for final exams. I read the blog post Finals Fever and agree with the statement that there needs to be “a better way to end a semester” than with final exams. There is likely very little movement in grades on a final exam. An “A” student will very likely get a good grade on a final while a student who is struggling to pass the class is likely to get a mark that will either achieve a pass or a fail, but not by much either way.

I personally went to a high school that did not have final exams. When I got to University, I had zero experience with finals. Everyone said I was at a great disadvantage because I didn’t have any test taking experience. Well guess what? It didn’t matter. All test questions are easy if you know the answer, or know how to find the answer. So if I LEARNED something during the semester, I did well enough on the finals.

I think that is why teachers come up with “trick” questions, because they know they have to make something “hard” for the students who learned during the semester.  There is a notion that “hard” equals “good”.

Mr. Moses recently responded to another teachers blog with the following advice I think we should all be going by.

  1. You will not use the grade book as a weapon against your students. In fact you may want to commit to not using your grade book at all. You may need to keep one to fool the administration, but under no circumstances should it reflect what you report to the office at the end of a grading period.
  2. Commit, right now, to not failing a single student. No matter what. If you do this it will completely change how you work with young people.
  3. Never forget that you are there to help kids. Nothing else matters. Not even a little.

We are not here to “trick” kids, or make things “hard”. We are here to help kids be successful. If a teacher can make these commitments, and spend time teaching and assessing students all year long, the final exam  questions should all be “easy”.

YouTube and Google Video —- Better than Oprah!

Millions of peole watched the recent episode of Oprah where she had Professor Randy Pausch give part of the lecture entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”  he gave at Carnegie Mellon University on September 18, 2007. What made the story special is that the man is dying of Pancreatic cancer, and is given just a few months to live. (I only knew it was on Oprah because my wife and daughters were watching…honest!)

For the people who think YouTube and Google video have no educational value and have no place in our schools, the entire lecture (not the 10 minute version as seen on Oprah) has been available to the everyone on Google Video and YouTube since the day after the lecture was given to the live audience. Everyone with internet access can view the video at their convenience.

Dean Shareski brought this video to my attention in one of his posts. When I started watching it I immediately thought about teaching and learning styles and how the professors I had at university would lecture about how bad lecturing is for students. As I continued to watch and be drawn in by the lecture, I realized that lecture CAN BE A POWERFUL TEACHING METHOD as this is an amazing story.

 If this  isn’t educational, I don’t know what is. 

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-5700431505846055184" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

A School Without Grades?

What would you say if you were placed in a school where there were no grades and you moved through different “levels”based on what you have learned. It would be a little bit like swimming lessons, when you can tread water for 60 seconds and swim 2 lengths of the pool on your back you can move to the next level. The only difference would be that the levels would be in reading and math.There is such a place!

“There are no grade levels in the rural Chugach School District, which is based in Anchorage and serves tiny villages scattered throughout 22,000 square miles of remote areas of south central Alaska. Instead, each of its few hundred students tote around report cards as thick as history texts. Each packet details the individual student’s progress through the district’s more than 1,000 learning standards as they move from kindergarten to high school graduation.

Ask any secondary school student, and he or she can tell you, for example, “I’m at level five in math, level seven in reading, level six in career development.” Students mark up the packets to track how far they’ve come, turning each page into a hodgepodge of multicolored highlights and scribbles. Take a snapshot of all the students’ report cards at any point,and each one will look different.

At the core of the Chugach model is this rule: To move to the next level, you must master the one that precedes it. There is no sitting in the back row and skating by. Every child must learn every subject at every level, passing with proficiency equivalent to at least 80 percent — essentially, a B minus. And when they’re done, they’re done, whether that means they finish when they’re sixteen or twenty-one.”

The full article can be found here.  

Answer the following based on what you have just read.

1) What do you think would be good about this system?

2) What would be bad about this system?

3) What do you think your parents would say about this system? Why would they think that?

4) What do YOU think about this idea of a school with no grades?

5) What questions does it make you think about?