Tuesday, July 12, 2016

On Being Yourself in the Classroom

Some time ago, I was preparing for a lesson on digital footprints, and I was googling myself. (C'mon, admit it...you do it too...right?) In the process, I found this image:

Via quickmeme.com

Yes, that's the "Ancient Aliens" conspiracy-theorist guy.

No, I did not create this myself.

But I am afraid one of my students might have. (I'm only mostly joking...)

If one of my students did create this--whatever the motives behind it--I'll take it as a compliment.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Calling: Knowing and Loving

This summer, along with many of my colleagues, I am reading Steven Garber's book Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. I have enjoyed it immensely, but I find I have to read it in small chunks, because there are so many big ideas, and I need to spend some time chewing on them, so to speak.

It is timely that I am reading this book right now, but perhaps not for the reasons you might suspect, given the title of the book. The book is about vocation--calling--but not in the sense that you might normally associate with the word "vocation." Calling is much more than just your job, your employment, your career. A the very beginning of the book, Garber includes a note explaining his belief about meaning of "vocation," and he suggests we should think about this word as "a rich one, having to address the wholeness of life, the range of relationships and responsibilities. Work, yes, but also families, and neighbors, and citizenship, locally and globally--all of this and more is seen as vocation, that to which I am called as a human being, living my life before the face of God" (from "On Vocation," p. 11).

In the chapters I have read so far, Garber draws upon his experiences working in Washington D.C. as an academic and the leader of a think tank, his friendships with people in powerful positions and lowly ones alike--Senators and students, authors and artists--and weaves their stories together in ways that have brought me fresh eyes to the concept of vocation.

The reading so far has me thinking, "Just what am I called to do?" and this is a little unsettling for me, because I feel like I am just getting comfortable in my work as a professor.

But, as I suggested above, I find the reading of this particular book timely at the moment. If you have been following the news in the United States at all in the past weeks, you will undoubtably know that there is an incredible sense of unrest. Political rhetoric is burning. Race relations are tense. There have been so many shootings across this country in the past week alone, and my heart aches. Protestors and police alike are in turmoil. And all of it is playing out in social media in painful, hurtful, nasty ways.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Thoughtful Homework

My friend, Erik Ellefsen, always has good stuff for me to think about. (If you are an educator, you should really follow him on Twitter.) Today he shared this with me...

Here's the tweet from Daniel Willingham that Erik was retweeting to me...
I appreciated the post by Willingham that is shared here. If you've been following my rant against homework over the past few months, this is a really interesting piece to consider. Willingham starts off with this gem:
There's plenty of research on homework and the very brief version of the findings is probably well known to readers of this blog: homework has a modest effect on the academic achievement of older students, and no effect on younger students...
That's what I've been writing about--homework doesn't do what teachers often think it does. (Check out this post calling for an end to "crappy homework," or this one encouraging teachers to rethink worksheets. And there's lots more, if you want to read them...check out this list of posts tagged with "homework.")

But this piece from Willingham was really interesting to me.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

An Analogy to Help Teachers Understand Homework

I have been thinking and thinking about homework over the past few months--why teachers give it (many reasons), whether it truly advances learning (debatable), what the scholarly research says about it (it's complicated), and what parents can do to partner with schools on this issue (reply hazy, try again). (If you are interested in reading my past posts on this topic, feel free to read through this list of posts tagged "homework.")

I was recently struck with what I think might be a helpful analogy for teachers who are themselves perhaps wrestling with what to do about assigning homework. Here it is...

Imagine, teacher, that your administrator hands down an expectation that you are going to write detailed lesson plans for every single thing you teach. You are expected to do this every single day, and must submit them by 7:30 a.m. every day. If you are late, or if your work is incomplete, you will have to give up your lunch hour as a consequence. Every once in awhile, you get a stack of your lesson plans back from your administrator with "10/10" or "B+" or "78%" written on the top of them, but with no other comments, written or verbally submitted.

How would you feel about this situation?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Homework: Comparing to Finland

Today I had two different friends share this same video on Facebook. It is a video comparing homework assigned in Finland and homework in the U.S. I hope you'll take a minute (literally) to watch it...

If you've been following my blogging over the past year, you'll know that I have a lot of concerns about the way teachers (often) assign homework in the U.S. The short version: I think that an awful lot of the work that is assigned is "crappy homework" that doesn't actually do what teachers think it does. We can do better, and I've been reading and thinking about this as I have time. Here are a few ideas for how we could improve homework.

I really appreciate that people are becoming more broadly aware of what Finland is doing in terms of education, and I truly appreciate the calls for looking to Finland for suggestions of education reforms in the U.S. as well. Finland does many things almost opposite of what we are doing in terms of education here in the U.S.--reducing homework, increasing recess time,  revising curriculum to include more topics that connect to students interests, increasing teacher pay and requiring all teachers to earn a Masters degree.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Technology Self-Efficacy

Imagine this scene, teachers:

You have a colleague down the hall who has been telling you all about this great new educational technology that she has been using in her classroom to amazing results. The kids are so motivated and engaged, and they are so enthusiastic about their learning. "You should try it too," your colleague encourages you.

So, you start to plan a lesson. How hard can it be? Your colleague makes is sound like the kids can just sort of dive right in and go with it. And, hey, your students are "digital natives," right? Shouldn't be a problem for them.

As your lesson rolls out, things aren't going quite so smoothly. A hand goes up, calling you over to help out. Then another hand, and another. While you are looking over one kid's shoulder at his screen, you realize that half the class is currently "stuck," and waiting for help. They start whispering to each other...

"I'm so confused!"

"Why are we doing this?"

"I'm frustrated..."

"This is dumb."

...And about that time you decide you are never doing this again. What a waste of your time--and theirs! Why did you put yourself through this anyway?


People who know me well--and my proclivities to experiment in my teaching practice, and my love of all things techie--might be surprised to hear that I am describing myself in this story.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Planning for Next Fall

Saw this one just a bit ago via Twitter...

Can I get an "amen" from my fellow educators?

I wonder sometimes why some of my lessons really "work" while others feel more lifeless. And, yeah...sometimes they totally flop. What makes a lesson really engaging? What makes a lesson...less engaging?