Thursday, April 30, 2009


Here is a snippit of a website that helps you plan a project. The website is called Gantter. It is essentially an online version of Microsoft Project.

As you can see, I set up a plan for teaching the skills related to fractions that are prescribed by the Cycle 3 Quebec curriculum.

Each skill has an estimated duration, and each skill is not initiated until the prerequisite skill is completed. Thus, an estimated graphical timeline for the project is created. - web-based project management alternative via kwout

I investigated the possibility of creating a similar project proposal for English, or for a subset of English, but I cannot visualize how such a thing would look.

English and Math are too different.

I am sometimes reminded just how complex and demanding the job of a teacher is, and how many people underestimate teachers as glorified babysitters.

But, here is an example of the complexity of teaching. An elementary teacher must teach Math, English, Socials, and Science. Each of these subjects is fundamentally different. They require different methods of preparation and different methods of assessment. Essentially, the elementary teacher is required to do 4 jobs simulataneously. (This is excluding other subjects, such as Art and Computers.)

Math has specific skills and abilities that can be neatly measured. Science and Socials are similar to Math, but more complicated. These subjects have facts that can be memorized and assessed, but they also have higher level concepts than might be understood.

English is the most obscure of all. The rules of grammar can be taught and measured, without much trouble; although, there is not the definite order of learning that characterizes Math. Is it more advisable to teach Capitalization or Pluralization first? It doesn't matter -- one is not a prerequisite of the other.

When it comes to reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, the role of the teacher becomes even more uncertain. There is no definite process for teaching these abilities, and there is no definite method for measuring them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Organizing Curriculum

Two ideas have been on my mind.

Organizing and curriculum.

Philosophically, I believe that subject matter should be student centered.

However, upon closer inspection, it is to be seen that there needs to be a balance between the content that sprouts from the students and the content that is prescribed by the Ministry of Education.

It is very nice and well to say that you will have a student-centered classroom, but such a philosophy makes planning difficult, if not impossible.

I am realizing more and more that one of the most important tasks of teaching is planning.

Bob's Educational Site contains the Quebec curriculum prescriptions for each of the subjects for each of the grade levels.

The Word files can be used as a roadmap for the school year; additionally, the files can be used as templates to create a checklist for each student, to assess each student in each category as the school year progresses.

These checklist roadmaps can be supplemented by curriculum guides from other districts. For example, these from Kent State University.

I wrote a previously about the benefits of accepting failure in the classroom. It is evident that, if a group of students is going to progress through the entire curriculum for a year (or, at least, most of it), then there will be occasions when it will be necessary to forge ahead even though some of the students have not yet mastered a particular concept or skill. This acceptance is part of the necessity of accepting failure. You cannot get hung up on one topic if the students are not learning it. You need to move on.

For some subjects, the course content is more rigidly prescribed than for others. For example, Math is more rigid than English. For Math, the teacher need only follow the provincial curriculum outline.

For English, the prescribed outcomes are less exact. The English curriculum can be augmented by a Grammar Curriculum. The website Guide To Grammar And Writing has a pretty thorough catalogue of grammar and writing topics, and could be used as a checklist for an English curriculum.

As I stated, teaching does not need to be complicated. Google Calendar can be used to create a daily routine. There are certain tasks that the class should accomplish each and every day. For example, the Quebec Curriculum states that the students should be engaged in writing every day. So, a personal blog or a journal can be implemented, and it can be done at the same time every day. A work day can be mostly filled by recurring tasks. It is not necessary for a teacher to re-invent the wheel every day. Routines are good. For teachers and students alike, routines reduce the stress of not knowing what is going to happen next. Routines can reduce incidences of misbehaviour.


One of the recurring themes in teaching is organization / planning.

I have made it one of my resolutions to hone my organization.

With this goal in mind, I recently brought together my digital life on iGoogle; and I'm glad I did.

iGoogle allows you to plug gadgets onto your home page. Now, instead of surfing to different sites, the sites I want come to me. In a way, it is similar to the harvesting concept of Google Reader.

I had been utilizing Sunbird as a calendar application offline, but it has bugs, I discovered. Now, I use the Google Calendar gadget on my homepage.

I have a Facebook gadget, so I don't need to surf over to Facebook.

I have a gadget for my Yahoo Mail account, and another for my Gmail account.

As well, I have a gadget with a To-Do list, and a gadget with my most frequently used bookmarks.

I have a Google Reader gadget.

In fact, I am writing this post from the comfort of my iGoogle page, using a Blogger gadget.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Today is Sunday.

My wife and daughter are out of town. I stayed home with my son.

It was a very lazy, do nothing, surf the internet kind of day.

It was good to have a day like this to re-charge my batteries.

I spent a few hours trying to understand twitter.

It is nice to have a day with nothing to do. I should do it more often.

A teacher's life is so full of deadlines and tasks. My stream of consciousness is a constant litany of to-do's.

They say, a teacher teaches, always. When I am away from the classroom, my mind is still in the classroom. I would suggest that it is good to get away from teaching, mentally.

In fact, one of my character weaknesses, I think, is that I am not inclined to pay attention to the present. As Yoda quipped of Luke Skywalker:

This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph.

By the same token, I should devote my mind entirely to my students when I am in the classroom. I read a blog post recently about a teacher who devotes herself 100% to her students when she is in the classroom. I think this is a good policy. Sometimes, when I am teaching, I have a tendency to day-dream about my personal life and my personal problems. That's not fair to my students.

Photo by Chris Devers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Planning Discipline



Martin Brodeur, arguably the best goalie in hockey history, in one of the most stressful jobs there is, once made a comment that I found particularly poignant. In response to a reporter's question, Brodeur stated that he was not nervous before a game because he was prepared. Brodeur posited that people are only anxious when they are not adequately prepared.

Sounds about right to me.

Two common sources of anxiety are: a) the unknown future, and b) powerlessness

Being properly prepared for a situation reduces anxiety because it makes the future more known and being prepared is empowering. Being prepared reduces anxiety, and thus, enhances performance.

Planning is not my favourite task, but it is very important.

In terms of classroom management and discipline, having a plan is vital. Before a misbehaviour occurs, a good teacher (and a good parent) should anticipate the possibility of the misbehaviour, and should visualize his reaction. That way, when the misbehaviour occurs, the teacher is not caught off guard, the teacher does not react impetuously, the teacher does not lose his temper.

It would be nice to live in a utopia where we always expect the best from our students. However, being prepared for misbehaviour reduces the anxiety a teacher feels before and after the incident of misbehaviour.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

(And be careful not to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

Photo by Jordon

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I finally broke down and joined twitter. @kangirsuk is me.

I had to break through my preconception that twitter is only a site for people to tweet about what they had for breakfast.

Many teacher's blogs comment about the potential of twitter.

The main strength of twitter, apparently, is it's instantaneousness.

I will see if I can use twitter to find good information, especially, teaching ideas. There are groups that you can elect to join and follow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ignorance is Knowledge

Here is an extract from a nice poem about teaching.

The magical thing
about teaching
that when one thing
doesn’t work
you get to
try something else!
There are no
in the classroom,
just a series
exciting experiments
leading to
wisdom and knowledge.
the students learn
the teacher learns.
students and teachers
learn together.

One of the weak points of my character is that I hate to make mistakes, and I hate to admit it when I make mistakes. I would prefer to imagine myself as perfect. Of course, this is inaccurate. It would be more realistic and less frustrating to accept my flaws.

Mistakes can be good things. Sometimes, we learn more from our mistakes than we learn from our successes.

Teaching can be an intimidating profession, if I fear making mistakes. On the other hand, teaching can be a great profession, because it is a rare profession that encourages mistakes, and encourages people to utilize their mistakes.

I heard a hockey commentator mention that the managers and coaches of the Detroit Red Wings, one of hockey's most successful teams, follow a philosophy that assumes players are bound to make mistakes. Detroit's players are not punished for making mistakes, they are supported when they do make mistakes, and they are encouraged to play an aggressive, risk-taking style of hockey.

Photo by libraryman.


Here is a post about fairness from the blog, "Books, Bytes, and Grocery Store Feet."

In a nutshell, the author is averring that life is not fair. In particular, every person, every student has different educational opportunities depending on luck: whether their parents are rich, etc.

My favorite line from the article is:

One thing I’ve always noticed about educators is most of us seem to have a two year old’s desire for things to be “fair.”

I have noticed this myself, that many teachers are obsessed with making life fair. They want things to be fair in their classroom, fair for all the students.

Moreover, many teachers want all the teachers in the school to be treated equally. If one teacher is doing one less recess duty than everybody else, then it's an outrage.

I am guilty of this insistence on fairness myself.

Concerning the unreasonable need for fairness, I can see that it is rather silly, insofar as it is generally very short-sighted and ego-centric. I am concerned that the teachers who work in the same school as me are treated the same, yet, I do not care about the millions of people who get paid more than me to work less and I do not care about the millions of people who work harder than me and receive less.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Classroom Blog

Today, I started a classroom blog with my Grade 5/6 class. They were quite excited about it, and many of them jotted down the web address to take home to their families.

Also, today, I brought an old camera into the classroom for the first time and let them play with it. Again, they were very excited by it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blog Power

Today is Monday. It is a ped. day. It is the first day back to work after a week of vacation.

Today I set up my classroom in preparation for my IT classroom revolution. I have a computer ready and a projector. Tomorrow, I will attempt to have the students create a classroom blog.

I added a new blog to my Google Reader today, authored by ms_teacher.

Ms_teacher comments on her son's 13th birthday.

He is our last baby and the last that we will have the pleasure of enduring the teen years. I'm a bit melancholy about it. Where did the past 13 years go? It doesn't seem possible to me that my baby is now a teenager!

Her comment is trite, but it caught me off guard and made me feel sort of sad.

I have two children of my own. My son is almost 6 and my daughter is almost 3. I look at them now and think, wow, they've grown up so fast. Already. I know, in the blink of an eye, I'll be looking at my son, and he will be 13.

Yesterday, my son was misbehaving. How do I correct misbehaviour?

Undesired behaviour stems from at least two sources: the desire for attention (love), and from boredom. When children are bored, they act out, just to entertain themselves and to burn off nervous energy. As they say, busy hands are happy hands.

I think it is pretty well-known that bad behaviour often comes from wanting attention. In the case of my two children, they are obviously motivated by sibling-rivalry and jealousy for the attention of the parents.

Thus, the best way to stop childish misbehaviour is to pay attention to them, give them your time, and to engage them in an activity they enjoy.

I feel like I should spend more time with my kids, before the time slips away. I feel like if I spent more time with my kids, then that would solve most of their behaviour problems. But I don't know what to do. Many of our interests are not the same. We can go for walks, I can read them a book. But I don't enjoy board games, I don't like to play cars, or dress up dolls.

I am going to start a new blog to chronicle the activities I do with my kids. What's good for my students is good for my kids.

I think, and hope, that a classroom blog will excite and motivate my students.

I think that a family blog will excite and motivate me.

When they ask me at a job interview how to motivate students, I will answer: have a classroom blog. When they ask me how to deal with students who misbehave, I will answer: have a classroom blog.

Blogs. The power to motivate. The power to sublimate.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Covering Curriculum

I sometimes feel frustrated at the pressure that is created from trying to teach the curriculum versus dealing with the realities of the classroom situation, realities which make covering the curriculum difficult or impossible.

At times, I rush through the prescribed material.

I believe that, for teaching to be effective, it needs to be student-centered and not curriculum-centered.

I read a post by Angela Powell that describes the pressure to teach the curriculum.
The opportunity for students to actively construct knowledge MUST take precedence over the need to cover curriculum.
Angela suggests that teachers need to slow the pace of their instruction. Teachers need to take the time to have conversations with their students.
Learning takes place through personal involvement and discussion, and attending this conference shamed me into realizing that I simply MUST let my students TALK.
As a teacher, I cannot afford to skip this step, cutting off children's discussions in an attempt to impart a few more facts before the hour is up. I am now focused on going narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow, and I am consciously slowing down my instruction so that kids can share more.
I have heard teachers proclaim that they do not care whether students like them or not. I believe that it is important for the students to like you on a personal level. I believe that, for learning to occur, something called transference needs to exist. One of the best ways to facilitate learning, and to alleviate discipline problems, is to get to know the students as people. Along with conversing with the students, another effective way to nurture interpersonal relationships is by participating in extra-curricular activities.

Another reason to slow down the pace of teaching is to allow the students ample time to digest the material.
I am choosing to forgo the whirlwind review of an entire page of problems so I can allow my students to actively reflect on the strategies they used for the first few.
Angela makes the interesting observation that teaching is getting more difficult for a reason.
It seems like teaching is getting harder because it IS: we’re attempting to reach more kids than we used to, and address a wider variety of issues and needs. It’s critical for educators to understand the magnitude of what we’re attempting without letting the results overwhelm us. Low-performing students from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ and those with learning problems are no longer siphoned off into special education classrooms while we wait for them to drop out. As much as we bemoan the pitfalls of NCLB, in our daily practice we are in fact attempting to leave no child behind—not even the ones who WANT to be left to their own devices, or who don’t have the cognitive or emotional capabilities to try.
Angela concludes her essay by averring that the only way to overcome the difficulties associated with teaching is for the teacher to have a personal vision of success and to for the teacher to remain committed to this vision.
All of the other issues on the table pale in comparison to this single truth. The commitment to a personal vision is what ensures success and brings both the teacher and student back into the classroom each day. And while it’s critical to create buy-in among students, the concept of a personal vision must originate within the teacher.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Quebec Education Reform

I live in Quebec.

Quebec is currently in the process of reforming the education system, the Quebec Education Plan (QEP). This site explains the reform, as does this PDF. Bob's Place has pertinent documents and links.

In a nutshell:

* The new curriculum is based on 9 cross-curricular competencies. Competencies imply using knowlege as opposed to just learning knowledge. The cross-curricular competencies allow for de-compartmentalized learning, which will allow students to develop their learning toolbox. The tools are described as Intellectual, Methodological, Personal and Social, and Communication-related.

1. Uses Information
2. Solves Problems
3. Exercises Critical Judgment
4. Uses Creativity
5. Adopts Effective Work Methods
6. Uses Information and Communications Technologies
7. Makes efforts.
8. Cooperates with Others
9. Communicates Effectively

* Assessment is focused at the end of cycles and assessment is focused on measuring the development of the competencies. Evaluation is on-going and part of learning. Student portfolios are utilized.

* Grade levels are replaced by cycles. Grades 1 and 2 become Cycle 1; Grades 3 and 4 become Cycle 2; Grades 5 and 6 become Cycle 3. One year to learn, one year to consolidate.

* Repeating (failing) students is discouraged. Schools are encouraged to find alternate solutions.

* The 3 roles of school: Instruct, socialize and qualify (provide qualifications, for employment).

* Broad areas of learning: Major concerns in today's society. The broad areas of learning will be integrated in the teaching of the subject areas because the learning must be relevant to the students.

Health and Well-being
Personal and Career Planning
Environmental Awareness, Consumer Rights and Responsibilities
Media Literacy

* Moral Education replaces Religion.

* Project-based learning. 25% of the time will be devoted to personal learning projects and individual assistance.

* Useage of Learning And Evaluation Situations (LESs), aka. Evaluation Situations. These are unit plans designed to span a few sessions. BIM defines LESs as:

Evaluation situations are learning/evaluation tools that engage students in exploring various broad areas of learning to develop cross-curricular and subject-specific competencies through authentic problem solving.

Here are some websites that support the education reform in Quebec and host LESs:

MELS: Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports.
SPEAQ: Society for the Promotion of the Teaching of English as a Second Language in Quebec.
LEARN: Leading English Education and Resource Network.
ESL Insight
BIM: Banque d'instruments de Mesure, which is produced by GRICS (Gestion du RĂ©seau Informatique des Commissions Scolaires)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

21st Century Writing

A post on the blog, "Weblogg-ed," authored by Will Richardson, got me thinking about the nature of writing; particularily, the role of writing in modern society.

Richardson writes:

. . . an important value of writing today is not simply to communicate but to get others engaged, to build a larger conversation around what we write. As she states in “Writing in the 21st Century” (a must read, btw) writing is now “newly technologized, socialized and networked.”

I have stated previously that the internet is altering the way people think. Writing is one example. Writing is no longer an isolated, delineated event wherein one person writes a book, some people read it, and that's the end of it. With the internet, writing becomes open-ended. Blogs and websites have comments; message boards continue indefinitely.

Another thing: the internet allows anyone and everyone to be a writer, as opposed to a published few.

The internet is more democratic than the traditional reading/writing paradigm of published paper literature.

I tend to think of reading and writing of two sides of the same coin. But the two activities are not related so simply. At it's most basic level, reading is passive. Like a television, a book tells us the way it is. It is static. Writing is open-ended. You can write about anything; you can create anything. I thought: If you can read, then you can write; readers are writers and vice versa. This is not accurate. A society that mostly reads is much different than a society that writes.

Kathleen Blake Yancey wrote an article entitled, "Writing in the 21st Century."

Yancey notes that writing has never been endorsed in schools as much as reading has because society prefers a passive citizenry.

Writing has never been accorded the cultural respect or the support that reading has enjoyed, in part because through reading, society could control its citizens, whereas through writing, citizens might exercise their own control.
Reading—in part because of its central location in family and church life—tended to produce feelings of intimacy and warmth, while writing, by way of contrast, was associated with unpleasantness—with unsatisfying work and episodes of despair—and thus evoked a good deal of

I read a similar comment recently, to the effect that upload speeds on the internet are a fraction of download speeds. This promotes consumption and discourages contribution.

Yancey's ariticle proposes that writing has always been associated with isolation, frustration and displeasure.

An interesting point is made, concerning the fact that modern writing classes focus on the mechanics of grammer, and traces this habit back to penmanship.

In fact, it may be that what George Hillocks has called our over-attention to form in composition instruction began in our attention to the form of handwriting, because in the early part of the century, much instruction in writing was no more than instruction in penmanship. Much as in the case of grammar today—when grammar is identifed as writing (Yancey)—writing itself in the early twentieth century had little if any status or identity apart from handwriting.

Perhaps, writing education should be more pleasurable, expressive, free and artistic; and perhaps, the focus should be shifted away from learning where to put commas and how to capitalize proper nouns.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Teachers Quit

Some posts on this blog are personal reflections. Some are comments on the teaching profession. Some are teaching ideas and links to resources. Some contain elements of all of the above.

I like this post on the blog, "So You Want To Teach."

The article describes "the dip." The dip is a point in a person's life when he becomes discouraged. The person must make a conscious effort to fight through his malaise to achieve success.

The dip is to be contrasted with the cliff and the cul-de-sac, which both terminate in failure.

(BTW: After having just added two images to this post, I must say that does not make it easy to add images to your blog.)

The article continues, and lists 10 reasons to keep teaching. It is a nice list, and I concur with all the reasons, many of which are philanthropic in nature.

This post, from the same blog, enumerates five reasons teachers quit. I am not going to quit teaching; however, some of the comments the author makes certainly apply to negative feelings and attitutdes I sometimes experience.
1. Bad students/administrator/curriculum/demographics.

This argument is simply an attempt to place the blame on someone other than the individual teacher. This is the most common reasons that teachers who have been teaching for quite a while retire. “Kids are different … Parents are different.” “No Child Left behind is a worthless program that does nothing but make public schools worse.” “Poor nonwhite parents don’t care about their kids.” These are all symptoms that point at something the teacher is doing ineffectively. Until we face the person in the mirror, we will keep finding excuses to not love our job.
This is a great quote. It's so true. I sometimes blame other people (the students, the parents, the administration) for my short-comings as a teacher, but these are just excuses. I must put the responsibility for my successes and failures on my own shoulders.
2. Too much paperwork/responsibility.

Another way to say this is “I’m unorganized and don’t have a system to handle this much responsibility.” This is probably the most common complaint I have heard from new teachers.
Organization is my Achilles' heel. I'm relieved to learn that this is the number one teacher complaint. I'm not the only one.
3. Too much negativity.

While this is a common state of many teachers in schools, we don’t have to hang around with negative people. I avoid the teachers lounge for this very reason. People who watch the news all the time tend to be negative about things much more frequently than people who don’t. One concept I picked up from The 4-Hour Workweek is to simply ask, “What’s new in the world?” when you meet people. If something major is happening, they’ll generally let you know. The information that is available right as an event is unfolding is generally not very accurate anyway. Go out of your way to find excellent educators to emulate, and you will discover that most of the time, they are very positive people.
Again, so true. Some teachers at our school have a negative atmosphere and it is contagious. I suspect many schools are the same. I need to make a conscious effort to remain positive. It's funny that the author suggests to avoid the staffroom. I suggested this tactic at a job interview once and I don't think the interviewers were impressed.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Here is a post on the blog, They Call Me Teacher, written by a teacher in New York.

The tone of the post is negative and frustrated. The author describes unmotivated students, unprofessional colleagues, and a chaotic school.

I like to read posts such as this one. It is honest.

It encourages me, and lends me strength, as a teacher, to be reminded that there are teachers who share the same frustrations that I sometimes feel.

I perceive this support to be one of the benefits of networking and sharing.

I feel ambivalent towards writing a blog. On the one hand, I perceive many benefits. On the other hand, as a characteristically introverted person, I am hesitant to reveal myself.

Although I share some of the aforementioned author's sentiments, I am reluctant to express them publicly myself. I do not want to reveal my cynical, exasperated, frustrated moments. A teacher is supposed to be optimistic and positive at all times, no?

I do not want to reveal any flaws in my personality. I do not want to expose any weaknesses. The image I want to portray is that of a perfectly happy person.

However. If I expect my students to write, then I should write. If I expect my students to be willing to make mistakes and reveal their foibles, then I should be willing to make mistakes and reveal mine. One motive and purpose of writing is self-discovery, which, in turn, should lead to self-improvement. They say, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that there is a problem.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Transparency Equals Leadership

I believe that, at this juncture in history, our society is in the infancy of an information revolution. I believe that the internet has the potential to transform our society, to transform the way that individuals think and behave, even more than television.

Here is a post I liked reading, written by Will Richardson.

Will Richardson suggests that the internet will compel citizens to be more transparent, connected, and sharing.

He states,
"In this same vein, I have more and more of an expectation of the teachers and especially the administrators in our schools to lead transparent lives. The fact that they are veritably “un-googleable” in terms of finding anything they have created and shared and perhaps collaborated with others on troubles me on a number of levels."

Quoting another author, he states:

"In Gary Hamel’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, The Facebook Generation vs. The Fortune 500, he writes, "Contribution counts for more than credentials. When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees—none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.""

Richardson continues,

"For most principals or superintendents, however, the idea of making their learning lives transparent is not one that sits too comfortably. It’s another one of those huge shifts that is, I think, inevitable but is going to be agonizingly slow in the making. As Seidman asks, "The question before us as we consider what we need to thrive in the inter-networked world is: How do we conquer our fear of exposure and turn these new realities into new abilities and behaviors?""

I would qualify myself as a private person, uninclined to express myself and slow to share my productions. I am one of those people who needs to adapt to the new reality, and work towards becoming more transparent and collaborative. After all, if I expect my students to participate on the internet, then I should model the behaviour myself. One of the reasons I started this blog is because, if I expect my students to write a blog, then I should have experience writing one myself.

Judging by the plethora of comments to Will Richardson's article, I am not the only reader who found it interesting.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Digital Storytelling

I downloaded and read the document, "Guide To Digital Storytelling Tools For Teachers."

Some specific programs are recommended, all of which are free.


This is a sound editing software that can be used to create audio files; for example, podcasts.

Google Maps

Google Maps allows you to create personalized maps that contain placemarks. I created a simple map that shows a few of the landmarks of my childhood here.

Students can create their own descriptive maps. Also, it is possible for many people to collaborate on a single map.

Microsoft's Photo Story

This application allows you to create slideshows. There are many effects, such as adding text to photos, adding audio, transitions, background music, and special effects.

I have never tried this software, but it looks good, and it is free.


Create books and photo-albums that can be hosted online or that can be ordered in print form.

A few years ago, we made a yearbook for our school. Mixbook might be a good option for creating a classroom yearbook.

The author suggests that a digital camera should be mandatory in every classroom, and I agree.


Voicethread allows users to upload photos, documents and video, and then to comment or doodle on these things. It also allows for collaboration.

Windows Movie Maker

Windows Movie Maker is described. This program is bundled in Windows XP. It is a good program for making movies. I use Pinnacle Studios.

Students love to make movies.


Wordle is a website that turns text into art. The frequency of a word determines its size.

Here is a wordle for this blog:

Wordle: Steven's PLN

Eating Metaphor

Much of my reality is defined by metaphors.

I compare learning to eating. Information is gathered, ingested and digested. Some of the information is added to my ego, some of it is excreted and forgotten.

I try not to devote too much time to gathering information and ingesting it. I try to spend more time digesting information.

Blogs, for example. I collect them, I scan them, but I need to absorb them.

I am reminded of people who buy exercise videos and then never take them off the shelf, and of broken New Year's resolutions.

Still, even if we do break resolutions, I believe we have no option but to continue making more resolutions.

Explicit Direct Instruction

I like this guy's blog. It is called Dynamite Lesson Plan. From what I've read, he writes about topics that are directly helpful to me, the teacher.

I like the post he wrote concerning Explicit Direct Instruction.

I believe EDI is an effective method for teaching a subject.

1. Communicate the learning objective to the students clearly and explicitly.
2. Activate prior knowledge.
3. Concept development -- teach the lesson.
4. Importance. Make the lesson relevant to the students' personal lives; connection.
5. Skill development.
6. Guided practice.
7. Closure. Independent practice.

Throughout the lesson, the teacher must check for understanding (CFU.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blog Support

I have about 20 links to Educational Blogs on my Google Reader. There is no lack of Educational Blogs.

I read that RSS readers transform information acquisition from hunting and gathering to cultivating.

Reading some of these education blogs have re-energized my passion for reading, contemplating and learning.

I have noticed another benefit to reading educational blogs.

It feels supportive and reassuring for me to read comments and opinions from other educators that are similar to mine. This is especially true when the opinions that echo my own concern topics about which I feel less than confident. For example, I have long felt disconcerted that my philosophy and method of classroom management does not fit the traditional mold. I lean towards a style that is less dictatorial and authoratative and more democratic.

When I read this post: Are Classroom Rules Needed? and the comments, I was happy to read that there are other teachers who adhere to a similar philosophy.

Of course, classroom management is not a simple topic with simple answers. It depends on many factors and, like many things in life, requires balance and compromise. But that is for another post.


Today I signed up for a Diigo account.

Diigo is a website to save your bookmarks online. You can share your bookmarks and browse other people's bookmarks. It is a social bookmark site.

On previous occasions, I have sought an online bookmark site, but was never able to settle on one I liked.

I wanted something that would easily allow me to organize my bookmarks in a hierarchical fashion, to allow me to easily categorize my bookmarks into folders such as "Art," "Math," and "English."

Diigo permits this type of organizing. Users can create lists.

However, I learned about a new and maybe better way to organize my bookmarks, known as "tagging."

I see that tagging has the potential to be more efficient than lists. For example, if I label a bookmarked website with the tags "math," "puzzles," and "critical thinking," then it will appear in all three of these tag groups. It is not necessary for me to choose a single folder for a bookmarked website or to have a bookmarked website repeated in multiple folders.

Here is the link to my Diigo page.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcome to Steven's PLN

I am starting this blog to serve as my Personal Learning Network.

Within the last week, as I was exploring educational blogs, I stumbled on an article on the website Teachers 2.0. This was my first introduction to the phrase, "Personal Learning Network."

Prompted by the advice of this article, I set up an aggregator at Google Reader and began collecting the rss feeds of some educational blogs.

In the past few days, I have read with growing excitement many educational blogs. It is dawning on me that there is vast network of educators interested in sharing and collaborating. It is dawning on me that the internet is evolving rapidly and fulfilling it's destiny as a revolutionary tool of communication, like the television before it, that will alter the way that people think and will alter the very nature of our society.

I am begining to feel a stong stirring of optimism. I am beginning to see education, and my role as a teacher, in a new light. As I read somewhere in a blog yesterday, education is shifting from the industrial age to the communication age.

I read a PDF article written by David Warlick entitled, "Grow Your Own Personal Learning Network," which provides a concise description of a PLN.

So, here it is.