This blog has a subtitle: Reflections on Education, Technology and Learning

My other less-frequently used blog, ‘Practic-All’, is subtitled, Pragmatic tools and ideas for the classroom. Recently I started using this other blog to provide a digital addition to my Principal’s weekly e-mail update. I did 9 of these to end the year off. I called them Dave’s Digital Magic, (or school teams are the Magicians). Recently I’ve done some thinking about education, technology and learning on my Practic-All blog and so I thought I’d share it here too.

I tried to provide within each ‘digital magic’ a few links including some that promoted web2.0 tools, some that were fun, some that were for different curricular areas… and some that made you think. I put these ‘thinking links’ into a category called, THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMMMMM… and I ended each post with one of these.

This was a rather passive way to attempt some influence on my staff. I know some of them ignored the link to my Digital Magic, at least a couple of the staff were very regular visitors, and others waited to hear about something useful before venturing to a link or two. We are talking about tiny ripples rather than tidal waves… but, in keeping with the water theme, even the greatest waterfall begins with a single drop.

So now I put a challenge out to you!

Create your own ripples. Pick one of the nine THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMMMMM… and share it with your staff. Or create your own (and please share it with me as well as others).



Actually here are two links for you!


a) Feel like reading?

15 year old Kris gives her eloquent view about what’s wrong with schools:

How to Prevent Another Leonardo Da Vinci

b) Just want to watch a video? Mr. Winkle Wakes

What do these two links have in common? They both make me ask myself questions.

Do we do what we do because we are used to it? Or, do we do what we do because it has always been done that way? Are we doing what’s best for our students? What do we do well? And, what can we do better?

What do you think?


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How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise.

A Feature in the The New York Times, By Po Bronson. I will let the article speak for itself:

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.” Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.” Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart”kids took the cop-out.

Later, when given a much more difficult test, these results were magnified. It really is worth reading the whole article, but here is a key point about the research above:

Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

More food for thought from the article:

Psychologist Wulf-Uwe Meyer, a pioneer in the field, conducted a series of studies where children watched other students receive praise. According to Meyer’s findings, by the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude. In the opinion of cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham, a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further.

In a nutshell, praise effort rather than intelligence. The article goes on to mention the value this has on developing persistence when faced with failure, while praising intelligence increases the stress and reduces the desire to face such challenges. I will be thinking about this a lot over the next few days both at school with my students and at home with my own kids. – – – – – Po Bronson’s blog, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. From Part 4:

“A common praise technique that people use (I know I did it with my tutoring kids… up til a few weeks ago, that is….) is to use a present success to control future performance. For example, if a typically-sloppy child writes an essay that’s atypically legible, a parent or teacher may say, “That’s very neat: you should write all of your papers like this.” Even if it’s meant as sincere praise and encouragement, the research shows that’s not only an ineffective way to praise. In fact, like praising for intelligence – it can actually damage a child’s performance. Here’s what is going on…”

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Clarence Fisher, a brilliant Canadian teacher and blogger, wrote this short paper (4 easy-to-read pages), Changing Literacies (PDF).

Being literate is so much more than being able to understand a written text on a piece of paper.

Here is a quote from his section on Access,

“Fast forward to our society and the ability we now have to drown ourselves in
cheap, disposable information from books, television, the internet, radio,
magazines, video, etc. In our time, one of the major skills of being literate is
the ability to access texts in many different forms from many different sources.
Importantly, it is not about searching for texts, it’s about finding them.”

In this article, Clarence describes why I became a ‘technology guy’. Actually, I don’t really care about technology… I just see how these tools, like wiki’s, can engage students in meaningful ways, where they create and share what they have learned in new, interesting ways.

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NOTE ON THE USE OF THIS RUBRIC: [Check out the link before reading this!]

Habits of Mind are the characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolution(s) to which are not immediately apparent. These behaviors are seldom performed in isolation. Rather, clusters of such behaviors are drawn forth and employed in various situations.”

(Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick: 16 Habits of Mind) The purpose of a rubric when assessing student work is to provide benchmarks of achievement based on these habits which allow a student to understand their current level of mastery and discipline in order to set goals for future drafts, assessments, or marking periods. For as long as possible we will refrain from discussing grades, per se, and focus our discussion on achievement and progress. As long as a student continues to set goals, reflect and evaluate their work and habits, set new goals and modify their work, habits and effort accordingly, they will realize increasing success and achievement as the year progresses. Thus, rather than penalizing a student who begins the year as a believer and ends the year with nothing compared to them by averaging a lower earlier grade with a later higher one, the student is evaluated according to mastery and achievement as demonstrated by their ability and mastery by the end of the year. However, a student who may begin the year with the drive and motivation to knock on heaven’s door, but who then slacks off, loses focus and discipline and ends up wondering what they did to deserve this, will not be boosted from a D to a C because first quarter was strong when it is not reflective of the ability or master he or she consistently demonstrated.

Could you use this rubric or parts of it?

How important are these ‘Habits of the Mind’?

What does this rubric look at compared to what our report cards look at?

Do you ‘average’ previous terms or give ’snapshots’ of where students are now?

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Academe’s Dirty Little Secret

This blog post is written by Darren Kuropatwa, a brilliant high school Math teacher.

Here is an excerpt:

“You can require your students to demonstrate their understanding of what they are learning by having them apply their knowledge analyzing and evaluating relevant novel situations or problems. Better yet, get them to create content that educates an interested learner and they will automatically incorporate all those levels of engagement while they make their learning sticky. I don’t need to tell you that there’s nothing like having to teach a thing to make you really learn it.

Darren walks the talk! His students will go home and spend hours helping to teach others, when it is there turn to scribe the class notes and post them on a blog for the other students in their class. You can see this in his Scribe Hall of Fame… or if you aren’t into Math, just check out the link to the article.

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Video’s are a great teaching tool! One way to start collecting them is to sign up for a free YouTube account. When you are signed in, and you find a video you like, just click ‘Favorite’ and you can collect videos there. Then from any computer you can sign in and find all your favorites.

YouTube buttons

You can also make Playlists, which lets you create video players, like the one seen on this wiki.

I like this because you can show a number of videos without students seeing the comments under the videos (which can sometimes be very inappropriate for classrooms). You can also use playlists to separate your favorites for different uses.

Start with the simple task of signing up for a free YouTube account, and then I’ll be glad to help you.

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The purpose of homework…

Is homework an effective practice?

What is it intended to accomplish for student learning?

How do you use it effectively?

How do you deal with homework that isn’t done? Is this the same as others on your team?

What feedback have you had from students? Parents?

What I’ve read recently to get me thinking about homework:

Rethinking Homework by Alfie Kohn

Homework, the tip of the iceberg by Harold Jarche

What do you think?

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The Three E’s

That brings me to the third E, “Empowerment”.

In this approach students are part of the system itself. They participate in decisions about what is taught, what they would like to learn, and what strategies and tools they would like to use in the learning process. Some may decide to work more independently, some in groups; but they are part of the process of deciding what goes on in their own learning.

I attempted something like this with my ScienceAlive Wiki. I reflected on the project and how I would improve on it here: Wikis in the classroom: a reflection.

As we head into June, what can we do to help students leave our school feeling like they are empowered learners?


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Teaching gifted students compared to teaching every student.

No link for this one, instead, here is a reflection Kari did on having a SHARP, gifted cluster, in her class this year. I thought this was very insightful and also thought about just how much this applied to every student, not just gifted ones!

Top 10 Lessons I Learned Being Involved in SHARP

1. Different is Good: Strategies for differentiation help all students be successful: Gifted, LD, ESL, Non-Categorized.
2. Free Birds Soar: Given the freedom to choose how to present their learning, Gifted students will surpass your, and their own, expectations.
3. Stimulation is Mandatory: Gifted students need to be challenged constantly, or else boredom sets in.
4. Knives and Spoons: Gifted students are not necessarily “gifted” in all areas of the curriculum.
5. Fun and Games: Gifted students are still typical kids- they need to have fun and be accepted by their peers.
6. Be Comfortable with Uncertainty: Gifted students ask lots of questions, but it’s okay if you, the teacher, don’t have all the answers.
7. Stars Are Part of a Larger Constellation: Gifted students need to be recognized for their uniqueness, but still fit in with the rest of the class.
8. Heads May Butt: Your cluster may not always get along or work well together all the time!
9. A Watered Flower Grows: Being involved in SHARP helps you to evolve as a teacher.
10. Hear Me Vent and Brag: Having conversations with other SHARP teachers is valuable and gratifying.

Thanks for your words of wisdom Kari Hotell!

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It’s your turn.