Wednesday, August 28, 2013


It's the beginning of the year. This is my 16th year of teaching, and my second year teaching in higher education. From preschool to the present, I've had 33 first days of school. You'd think that the idea of a "new year" wouldn't still bring on anxious feelings, but it does.

I love the rhythm of the school year.


Lather, rinse, repeat.

This year, for the first time, I haven't had the nightmares. Usually I have a nightmare a day or two before school starts: I have THE CLASS FROM HELL, the kids scream at me when I try to talk to them, I've forgotten to plan lessons for one class, all of my science lab materials have mysteriously get the idea. If dreams are a window into the subconscious mind, my subconscious mind must be a pretty fearful place, because it dreams up all kinds of scenarios that are very, very unlikely to actually come to life. (Of course, now that I've said it, I'll probably have the nightmare a few days late...)

The thing is, beginnings--for all their joy and wonder--can be stressful.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

You Can Fix Your Computer! (part II)

I recently posted a helpful graphic for fixing your own computer.

I admit, I'm geeky, and I love technology, and people often comment on my supposed ability to magically solve their computer problems.

It actually happened in a meeting last week--tech problems for the presenter, and I knew what the issue was. So I "wave my hand over the spot" and it magically works, and everyone applauds. A friend said afterward he thinks I'm a cyborg.

I really do like to help people out with their tech woes, but one of my shortcomings when I used to serve as a Technology Coordinator was that I was too quick to just do things for people. It would have been better if I would have taken the time to teach them how to solve problems themselves.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Minecraft: Boosting Creativity in Education?

My kids love Minecraft. Have you played it at all? I put the "pocket edition" on my iPad, and now they fight over who gets to play it. You can download the free version (there are iOS and Android versions) to at least give it a whirl.

The best description I can give for the game is virtual Legos, generated in blocky, pixelated graphics, with zombies. (Who wouldn't want to play that??) The game can be played in two modes: "survival," in which the goal is...survival (the zombies are coming!), and "creative," which is all about creating your own unique world. The name comes from the two main tasks you undertake in the game: "mining" for picking up resources, and "crafting" structures and objects from those resources. The game has been around for a few years now--there are PC/Mac and Xbox versions too--and the folks who create the game are always adding updates. On the pocket edition my kids play it's a one-player game, but the other versions allow for multi-player interaction, and you should see some of the amazing things teams of players build!

A few screenshots from my kids' games, so you get the idea of what it's like:

In creative mode, players can fly over their world to see it from many perspectives.
Out on the boardwalk...Notice the treehouse on the tiny island.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Just Change One Small Thing...

Feeling overwhelmed? All the challenges seem too big, to daunting? Don't know where to begin?

Start small.

Choose one thing that you can change.

Change it.

You don't have to move the mountain all at once. Start with a pebble. Or even a grain of sand.

See what happens from there...

Check out the original at

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Laptops in Class? What Shall We Do?

I recently had a conversation with a friend and colleague about how many students come into class with a laptop. (Or tablet, or smartphone...) He finds it distracting as an instructor, and was asking my opinions about the subject, since he knows I'm a technophile. We later talked more about it, and he shared with me this blog post that raises the question "Do Laptop Computers Inhibit Learning?" It's a thoughtfully-written piece, and I'd encourage you to read it for yourself. In the post, the author shares a link to a journal article about a study some Canadian researchers conducted regarding students' struggles with remaining attentive when they had technology at hand.

Image by luc legay [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Monday, August 19, 2013

You Can Fix Your Computer!

I used to serve as a Technology Coordinator in a K-8 school. I loved it. And...I hated it.

I loved helping people integrate technology into their teaching practice in a way that really helped kids learn.

I hated fixing problems that people could have definitely solved themselves.

I wish I had this sign back then:

Original image here.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Classroom Management: Don't Smile 'Til Christmas

Fellow educators: what was your number one growth area during your first years of teaching?

I know what mine was.

As a beginning teacher, I felt pretty confident in planning lessons. I knew my content. I believed myself to be a competent assessor.

But classroom management? Not my strongest suit. To be honest, I had a lot to learn. My first year, I was too easy on the kids, which made for a rough year. Sharing my struggles with a colleague, I got this nuggest of sage advice: "You want the kids to respect you? Don't smile 'til Christmas."

I resolved that I'd be much tougher on the kids my second year, that I'd show them I was in control of the class. I wouldn't smile until Christmas; let them sweat a little, let them wriggle uncomfortably under my heavy glare if they took a toe out of line.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's Wrong with "Managing" a Classroom?

I've participated in a couple of Twitterchats in the last week or so about the first days of school, and I've had a lot of ideas percolating with no time to blog about them. Lots of ideas about classroom management were floated in those chats (I may have another post or two coming, as time permits) and I'm thinking a lot about classroom management as my own new school year is impending.

But then I came across this gem from my Twitterfriend, Dan Krutka: