What! Its my responsibility?

As the end of the rolls in and students and teachers finish up lessons and grading periods.  I am struck once again by the inevitable conundrum of responsibility of grades.  The image below was sent to me by a fellow colleague and I think that it sums up the responsibility of education today.          Teachers need to be accountable for what is taught and how students perform in their classes but we can not continue to place all of the blame on the teachers.  Students, parents, and community also have a large role in the success of students in school.

As a society we seem to currently place the responsibility on others and not ourselves.  Twenty years ago a common saying was,  pull your self up by your boot straps today it seems to be, this is your fault.  American ideals were founded on individualism. The responsibility of success was solely on the individual.  Now it seems as though it is on society to ensure that I succeed. This erosion of responsibility and the american way has grown over the years.  As educators and parents we need to address this with our kids.  We need to stress to them that they are responsible for their future not others.  We need to give them the tools and teach them to be responsible so that they can be successful.  We need to teach kids it is their actions that play the largest role in their success.  Reform is good and has its place but until society takes responsibility for their own actions reform can only go so far.

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Why are we addressing only 1/2 the issue of school reform?

As a teacher today I have often heard colleagues, parents, and administration talk of the apathy and lack of work ethic from students today.  I know there have been times in class that I have wondered that myself.  When I think of this subject, I often wonder is it the students or is it the education system.  Kids are often bored at school. We all know this and, as a teacher, I see it every day.  Teachers try to engage students and keep their motivation and interest, but it does not always work.  No matter what teachers do, the structure of the school is still the same. Every 50 minutes their is a bell, and after a couple of classes there is lunch, then a couple more classes, then they go home. While teachers can alter what happens in their rooms quite effectively, in many cases the atmosphere of the school does not change.

For true education reform we have to change the way students go to school.  A series of classes and heavily structured day may have worked in the past, but are they working today? With all of the talk of school reform and what happens in the classroom ,should we not consider also how the overall day is structured for the students?  All educators know that an atmosphere can have a profound effect on student achievement.  Reform in the classroom is only part of the equation.  Home life and the educational system as a whole is the other half of the equation.  Without addressing all of the issues affecting our schools, true reform will not happen.

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Why should I teach like I am in 1970 when it is 2010?

I have been surprised by the emails and discussions that I have had with people over the changes I have made in my room.  I blogged about this change a while back in a post called “Revamping My Classroom: Goodbye Desks Hello Couches and Beanbags“.  In this post I describe how I changed my room to see if a new environment would be more conducive to learning.  While the jury is still out on its effectiveness, I have been very surprised and disheartened by the amount concern this has created among teachers.

As teachers we must change to the times to provide the best learning environment for our students.  If you are not willing to change and try new things, you will not be a successful teacher.  We all have good lessons that we use over and over again, but even these lessons need to be tweaked to meet the needs of students today. Change is something that must happen often.  Changing how we engage students and the tools we use, allows teachers to meet the needs of more of our students.  The idea behind changing my room was to create a more relaxed atmosphere and to have students collaborate more.  I have found that at this point engagement is up and there is no difference in classroom management.  I did not tell my students why I was doing this, but I have had a few students say to me that my room feels more relaxed.

The resistance to change among teachers just does not make sense to me.  If you work with kids, it is a process of trial and error.  This is

Change Education

Education Needs To Change

in essence change.  So why does anytime a teacher thinks outside of the box and challenge the norms of teaching does it cause such a a big stir?  The reaction of adults and other teachers is really strong when they see my room.

“What are you doing?”

“That will never work.”

“Students can’t learn like that.”

These are some of the comments from parents and teachers.  Education has to change. The way I was taught as a kid will not work on a student of today.  So why should I teach like I am in 1970 when it is 2010?

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Augmented Reality Experiment Post 2: “Introducing the Smart Phones”

Well this is my second post on my Augmented Reality classroom experiment.  As I mentioned in my first post, I am piloting 30 HTC  Touch smart

HTC Touch Pro
Pilot Phone for class

phones to create augmented reality learning environments for Junior High students.  The goal is to get kids out of their seats and walking around the school grounds and school interacting with virtual characters and fellow classmates to solve a question or scenario.   This type of environment, I believe, can be very powerful for students.  As I begin to look at creating these environments, I have settled on two different software platforms to use since they are free. Both work well on the phones I have and have a simple interface.  To see more information about these programs read my first post “30 Smart Phones and 5 Weeks: An Augmented Reality Classroom Experiment“.

On the first day with the phones, I demonstrated the basics of how to use the phones with my pilot class. Their enthusiasm was incredible.  This became quite the learning environment, as students began to teach each other and me tips and tricks on how to work these phones.  They were very open and willing to help all students and me in the class.  I was surprised and encouraged by how the class behaved and interacted with each other. Status and cliques of students seemed to disappear and everyone was willing to help each other.  Since the students will be assigned a particular phone, they seemed to become very protective of their phone and how it was setup.  I believe that the sense of ownership is a key to using this type of technology.  So the first day was encouraging for me, and I felt like it was a great success.  Monday I will try out our first game.

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Revamping My Classroom: Goodbye Desks Hello Couches and Bean Bags

So over the past year I have toyed with the idea of removing the desks in my room. Why you ask? Well, I have always felt that rows of desks and has always added to the robotic nature of an industrialized school system. This type of environment really is not very conducive to creativity. What our schools really need at this point is to teach students how to be creative.

Creativity is becoming a key to success for our society so as teachers we need to promote this and teach this in our classrooms to truly prepare students for the future. The first step in developing creativity is creating a comfortable environment where students feel safe to explore and try out new ideas. This is not done just with a change in decor but room setup as any teacher knows is essential in developing a classroom atmosphere. So, I have taken out the desks and moved in the couches and bean bags. Today, students may be shocked!

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(Zero) Motivator or Motivation Killer

As our school posted grades for the third quarter discussion around the water cooler turned to, how do we get students to turn in work?  Our staff seemed to be divided over the use of the zero.  One camp stating that it is a motivator and provides students with accountability to complete their homework.  The opposing view was that it kills motivation for students and often makes them feel overwhelmed in school and then the student just quits all  together.  It is interesting the many different sides of grading and how people react to a simple letter.  Our staff left divided on what to do about the current situation.  One side would like to see standard based grading and removal of the traditional grading system and others felt that the current system worked and that the zero was a necessary evil.  Like learning I think that one size does not fit all but how does a school differentiate their grading system and still maintain their learning targets and objectives?  Not to mention how do you send out grades or assessment to parents with multiple systems?  I found this to be a very interesting subject that I can not really see any true solution.  So I post it here in hopes one of you would have some great insight or thoughts on this topic.  Thank you in advance for your input.

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Help! I Can’t Open My Homework! I Have the Solution!

As the guy in our school who is often charged with fixing all things digital.  I am always looking for programs that will help me in my quest to keep things moving and productive.  DocsPal is one of those tools that really is useful in helping students with their assignments.  It seems at least 10-15 times a year I have students from my classes and other classes show up in my room through out the day asking if I can get their homework to open.  Students use a variety of programs to write and create their assignments at home and often times they are not supported at school, leaving the student in a panic and unable to turn in their assignment.  This is where DocsPal can be very useful.  DocsPal allows you to convert a wide variety of word processing documents into Microsoft Word documents.  It will also allow you to convert many different types of spreadsheets, images, and presentation programs into files that are supported in your school.  Being able to convert  the many different types of word processing programs into word as proved to be a life saver for many kids and me.   This is  a great tool for all teachers to have bookmarked.

Check out this site at: http://docspal.com/

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