Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Teachers' Domain Professional Development
"Designed to broaden your understanding of subject content and teaching methodologies, Teachers' Domain Professional Development courses are organized around a research-based, inquiry learning model and feature Teachers' Domain multimedia resources --streaming video and interactive experiences from public television, vivid graphics, and readings."

Online Crossword Puzzle Maker

Friday, July 16, 2004

Ancient Egypt

My brother and I attended the Milwaukee Public Museum's exhibit on "The Quest for Immortality."  This exhibit was originally put together by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC with major pieces coming from The Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  The official explanation, from the National Gallery of Art describes it like this
"From the earliest times, Egyptians denied the physical impermanence of life. They formulated a remarkably complex set of religious beliefs and funneled vast material resources into the quest for immortality. This exhibition focuses on the understanding of the afterlife among Egyptians some 3,000 years ago, in the period of the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC) through the Late Period (664-332 BC). The New Kingdom marked the beginning of an era of great wealth, power, and stability for Egypt, and was accompanied by a burst of cultural activity, much of which was devoted to the quest for eternal life.
      The exhibition is divided into six sections: Journey to the Afterworld, The New Kingdom, The Royal Tomb, Tombs of Nobles, The Realm of the Gods, and The Tomb of Thutmose III." - NGA:The Quest for Immortality

The tour included an audio explanation with Jeremy Irons.  Overall, it was a basic introduction to the funerary myths of the ancient Egyptians, though not created for the viewing pleasure of children.  Most of the items were placed on single pedestal, without context.
One nifty item that I bought was Hieroglyphics for Travelers  by Ronald Fellows and Thomas Mudloff.  I always wanted to be able to follow the glyphs, now maybe I'll be able to read a few names.  Wish I had found this book before we visited Egypt, it would have made the temple visits more interesting.
But, since I was reminiscing about what activities I've used with students about Ancient Egypt, I was reminded of three great websites by the British Museum.  These sites are targeted for Upper Elem. to Middle School kids and are quite fun.  The sites reveal content information in a interesting and graphic way. (You need ShockWave to run the games/stories.)
Ancient Mesopotamia
ancient India
Ancient Egypt 

MiddleWeb and Differentiating Instruction

I've been involved in the MiddleWeb listserv for the last few months.  www.middleweb.com- then click on "Join Our Discussion." It is a wonderful group of educators who have a passion for middle school teaching.  Just recently someone on the list asked about the influence of the list on people.  I posted this, "I've found this listserv to be an important grounding point to my day.  Sometimes I think I'm the only one feeling something, or that my students are the only ones acting a certain way, or I'm the only one interested in learning and expanding my professional knowledge.  Then I read the latest postings and find kindred spirits and I don't feel so alone.  I've recounted listserv conversations as if they were face-to-face conversations and even refer to the authors as if I really know them.  (Which is an interesting issue to explore.  As digital immigrants, we, adult people, differentiate between our "real" friends and our digital friends.  How many of kids make that distinction?) . . . I really appreciate that fact that in most cases, posts are responded to within 24 hours.  It's like having your own personal think-tank."
In June, about 40 members of the list met for the first time for a "Walk the Talk" Conference which sounded like it was amazing.  From that discussion, there had been a lot of talk about differentiated instruction(DI) .  Several years ago, I took an online class, through ASCD about DI.  I found the class interesting,  but the lack of interaction with other people made it difficult to internalize the information.  I've puttered around with this idea for the last few years.  Hopefully, with DI being a current topic on the list, I may think a little harder about it.
One of the list members recommended this link: Enhanced Learning .   ASCD also provides an overview of the topic.
The basic gist is to adapt the content, process or product that a student will learn from, with and through to match that student's abilities, interests and learning styles.  Sounds like a pretty big task, which is why most DI instructors suggest starting with a unit, and building resources year by year.
As for me, I think the area that I adapt most frequently is the content.  I believe in given students choice when selecting novels.  I tend to try to teach by theme to allow for different reading abilities.  When a particular novel needs to be taught, I tend to allow students choice in the end-of-unit project.  Although I should look harder at the complexity of the tasks I suggest.  Often the choices I give are more based on multiple intelligence preferences, rather than the complexity of the task.  I also need to work harder in the area of process.  I tend to have all students complete the same types of activities - using the same graphic organizers or notetaking style.  In addition, I should be more aware of using pre-assessments.  I haven't used formal pre-assessment, mostly because my classes have been quite small, and I know my students well.  But, it wouldn't hurt to have that information on paper, not just a gut feeling.
I do wonder about the perception of "fairness."  If students are completing different tasks, how can I create an environment where students don't compete and compare?  I can hear my former 9th graders whining, "But I worked for hours on this assignment, and he/she didn't have any homework."   When students are new to the school, and obviously ESL, most other students give them plenty of slack.  However, once real grades are issued, what does an A mean then?  If an advanced student completes all higher-level thinking assignments perfectly, and a student completing work on the lower level of Bloom's taxonomy completes his/her work perfectly, do they both receive an A?  In the past,  I created menus of assignments and the students could choose the grade they were working for.  The lower level skills would earn a C and the higher-level thinking would earn an A.  But, that is a lot of assignments to create and grade.
I recently bought Diane Heacox's Differentiated Instruction in the Regular Classroom. I hope I will get some practical answers to my ponderings.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


I finished reading Finding Your Leadership Style, which is available through ASCD, plus a study guide. I found it interesting. After taking the survey, I found that my leadership style is strongly Dynamic Supportive. Which means, "Charismatic, warmhearted, sincere, reliable, humorous, compassionate,strong yet gentle all these words can describe Dynamic Supportives.

This quality type is typified in therapists, healers, clergy, guidance counselors, teachers, and communicators. They are independent,intuitive, and good at bringing people together... They make the best friends because they listen well and offer assistance, even at great cost or trouble to themselves. They do so because they are driven to help others.

It's what gives them the most satisfaction. And although they are willing to help almost anyone, they are no fools. Their  dynamic  quality makes them strong-willed, confident, and determined. They are charismatic, but they do not have the need to lead or control others. They can take charge of a situation but would rather not do so. Still, people
are drawn to them; they have a presence." page 39. That sounds like me.

Actualization Leadership Role - Suggestions
1. Prioritize commitments. Tend to take on to much.
2. Set time aside for yourself.
3. Consider assuming small to mid-size leadership positions.
4. Serve as a buffer to the bureaucracy.

A second part of the book discussed leadership virtues. The author believes that all leaders embody 7 typical virtues - courage, impartiality, empathy, good judgment, enthusiasm, humility and imagination. My survey suggests that my strong virtues are courage, impartiality and humility. That does seem to ring as true. I don't think I'm humble.

The author also suggested that some of the best work done within school districts is done when leaders' qualities are matched with the job that needs to be done, and, being able to create leadership teams which are balanced with different types of leaders. That seems to make sense.

Check out - Leading Everyday: 124 Actions for Effective Leadership by Kaser, Mundry and Stiles

Moving from Technology

When I started this blog, I thought I would just focus on what I learned and applied from NECC. I should have known better, my mind doesn't stay focused on just one topic. It's like walking into a bookstore - I always see something I want to learn more about and I get distracted in a new section. Then, I forget why I went to the bookstore in the first place.

Well, my recent distraction is leadership. I've been told that I may be leading the middle school next year. I'm not exactly sure what that means - is it taking care of paperwork, contacting parents, or nitty-gritty leading - creating a vision and navigating it? I've had a short meeting with the director and asked what his plans are. Unfortunately, he has bigger priorities, and didn't have much of an answer for me. So, I will probably over-prepare.

One resource I stumbled upon does relate to technology - NetLibrary.com. I was searching the electronic catalog at my former university and kept coming up with "Electronic Book" titles. Since I am no longer a student, I couldn't access it. But, I found out that my local public library subscribes to it. Therefore, I have logged into NetLibrary and began reading "Finding your Leadership Style." No great insights yet.

I've also been reading Gardening in the Minefield A Survival Guide for School Administrators by Laurel Schmidt. She was a teacher who began a principal. She talks about a principal she followed around from school to school. I think she would have been one of those too. I like her metaphor of the job being a minefield, yet you can garden within it - as long as you plant the seeds. I found the chapter "Principal Dearest" especially funny. It listed personality types that are found often in teachers, which drains away time and energy from the principal. It also suggested pro-active ways of dealing with the personality type. As I read through the descriptions, I realized that many of my former colleagues where considered a "drainer". I was considering sending a copy of the book to my former head of school to help him support the teachers.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Position Statement: Learning and Teaching with Technology

Technology is profoundly changing the world, but the impact on education has been slow. In real life, students are connected 24/7 through email, chat rooms and cell phones, yet in the classroom students and teachers are still isolated. Modern students are constantly multi-tasking as they chat with a friend in a chat room, text message another on the cell phone, do research on the internet while listening to music or watching TV. Yet, again, in the classroom, teachers expect students to do one task at a time. Technology has changed the way students think and perceive the world and education needs to be at the vanguard of this movement.

Technology has the potential to dramatically change the way students learn and teachers teach. Communication is faster and easier through email and can reach a broader audience through satellite feeds or conference calls. Productivity can be increased through word processing programs, grading programs, and presentation programs like PowerPoint. Access to information has increased through the internet, DVDs, CD-ROMs and on-line libraries and museums. Individual learning needs can be address through animated computer programs, video and audio versions of textbooks or novels, self-paced on-line courses, and personal adaptive devices.

These factors should lead to a change in the way students are educated and teachers instruct. Students can collaborate on projects, not only with students in their classroom, but with classrooms around the world. Parents and teachers can increase their communication through email updates, on-line classroom web pages, and voice mail. Student projects don’t have to be linear presentations with poster board or clay. Instead, students can create electronic simulations, web pages, and HyperStack or PowerPoint presentations with audio and animation. Teachers also are not limited to lecturing with an overhead, but can use the same types of programs to deliver instruction. The knowledge of the world is available on a desktop computer, which means teachers and students need to know how to access and evaluate it. At the same time, the ease of collecting information triggers the need to transform the type of coursework given to encourage the application, adaptation, evaluation and synthesis of information instead of just reproduction.

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.” - King Whitney Jr, President, Personnel Laboratory Inc.

Technology has the potential to dramatically change the way students learn and teachers teach, but it requires vision and support to create the inspiration to take on the challenge. Too often school districts throw money at the hardware part of technology without considering the needs of the user – the teachers and students. This type of thinking produces over-sized typewriters! For a school to effectively teach with technology, there needs to be a clear sense of vision and achievable goals with the support of hardware, software, training, in-service, support personnel, and time.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Other Sites

A little more surfing today, and a little more information to remember.

Blogs and Wikis as WebQuest Tasks - Bernie Dodge's Presentation at NECC

Walk the Talk - Middle Web Meeting

After watching Bernie Dodge's presentation, I had a few ideas of what to do with a blog. One use that I would like to try is a class blog. I could ask a student - or the class as a whole - to compose a review of the day and post it. It would be a good review, but also parents could read it, and also include sites.

The Wiki - which is a database of information, could be used to create a Kid's guide to Aruba. Though, since I'm not teaching English much this next year, that would be more difficult to do.

Bernie had some other ideas to tie the Wiki or Blog to a Webquest - as a diary, travel account, or historical story.

Mrs. D. has an interesting use of the blog. She posts a question or picture for students to respond to and they comment.

Another blog hosting site

Website saving - Furl It

Read Bernie Dodge's Tapped In session after NECC. Looked over Tapped In - could be an interesting site.