Friday, December 12, 2014

Stretching Minds and Stretching Hearts

This morning I came across a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes that I think is a fitting reminder for teachers:

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."

Any implicit gender-bias aside, I hope and pray that this is what is happening in the courses I teach.

Image (modified) by Gregory Marton [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SAMR: How are You Using Technology?

Teacher, do you use digital technology in your teaching practice? Perhaps a silly question for those teaching in the 21st Century. How about another question then: how are you using technology in your teaching practice?

You have a SMARTBoard? How do you use it? Is it basically the same as the chalkboard I remember from my childhood in school?

You have a document camera? How do you use it? Is it basically a fancy overhead projector?

You have a cart of iPads? How do you use them? Have you digitized the worksheets you used to assign?

I realize I sound a little snarky here. (I am a little snarky here.) I know that in my own teaching practice, there have been times when I was so enamored with a particular technology (like when I first got an LCD projector back in 2001) that I used it indiscriminately--just because I could. I replaced writing with a wet-erase marker on the overhead projector with displaying PowerPoint slides on the screen.

Woo-hoo.

Look at him go, Mr. Technology-fancy-pants.

(Note: sarcasme here. ^^^)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Misfits: Be More Rudolph

My fellow educators, this one goes out to the misfits, the oddballs.

Have you ever had colleagues mutter under their breath about your "crazy ideas," though you were confident of the fact that you were acting in the best interest of your students?

(I've been there.)

My advice?

Own it.

Don't stop doing what you know is in the best interest of your students.

Change your teaching practices. Rethink your assessment practices. Adapt your classroom atmosphere. Challenge assumptions. Go against the flow.

If it's in your students' best interest, you must do it!

Yep, people will talk.

They always do.

Especially about the misfits, the oddballs.

Don't let it get to you.

You matter. You make a difference. You are making your school, your classroom, your students' lives a little bit brighter.

Don't let the nay-sayers and name-callers dim your light.

Shine!

Be more Rudolph.

Image from MindfulWishes

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tech Tool: SafeShare.TV

Imagine the scene: you've found this excellent video on YouTube that is perfect for illustrating a concept for your students. You decide to show it in class...and it's a great lesson! Except...one of your students points out the slightly inappropriate (or wildly inappropriate!) video being suggested on the sidebar next to the main video window.

Ugh. How embarrassing!

Wouldn't it be great if you could turn off those recommended videos? Or even the recommended videos that pop up after your video plays? Or remove those annoying ads? Or select just the clip you would like to use from a longer video?

Check out SafeShare.TV, an online tool designed to do all of these things, for free!

Here's how it works:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I Hate Christmas

I went through a really low period in my spiritual life about seven years ago, and I was tremendously cynical about almost everything faith related. I wasn't walking away from my faith or anything like that, but I was really wrestling.

The Christmas season was especially challenging for me. In fact, I know I went so far as to say I hated Christmas. I was disgusted by all of the commercialism, and sparklyness, and blaring Christmas carols in the mall, and cheesy decorations, and all the demands and expectations and outright busyness of the season. Taking note of the ridiculous mismatch between what our broader culture says the Christmas season is about (STUFF!) and what I know Christmas is really about (celebrating the birth of Christ--the fullness of God wrapped up in human flesh!) I was disgusted. I was disgusted with how much the church has bought into the cultural message about Christmas. And I was really disgusted with how much I had bought into it as well.

I was angry.

I was fed up.

I was sick of it.

Something had to happen.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Visualizing the Internet in Real-Time

The internet has changed almost everything about almost everything.

A bold claim? Perhaps. But think about the mission statements of some of the best-known entities on the web today:

  • Wikipedia, a massive (free!) online encyclopedia "dedicated to expanding access to the sum of human knowledge."
  • Amazon, the digital shopping mecca, exists "to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online."
  • Facebook, that social media behemoth, has ambitions "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." 
  • Google, the king of search (in the Western world, at least) intends "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." 
And, (with the exception of Wikipedia), these are companies, looking to make a profit on the information--or access to information--that they provide, channel, control, and shape.

On the internet, facts are (generally) free. Information flows--channeled, perhaps--but flows in an unrelenting stream.

When I start to really reflect on this, I start to wonder. I wonder how much information travels the internet each day? And what kind of information?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sometimes We Make Slime

One of the courses I am privileged to teach is Methods of Teaching Science for PreK-Middle School. There are challenges in trying to find activities and resources that can be used for all of those grade levels (teaching preschoolers is, after all, a bit different than teaching young adolescents!), so I try to include a range of different activities: some that might work better for early childhood, some for upper elementary, some for middle school. But there are a few activities that we do in the course that seem to work well with every age group, or at least, can be easily adapted for use with any age group.

For example: sometimes we make slime.

Isn't this lovely stuff? You can make some too.
(The recipe...)

Slimes are so wonderfully yucky and tactile, almost every kid loves to play with them. Even my methods students--adults!--get crazy and excited when we break out the slime.