teaching

Chalk Apocalypse

So, when Hagoromo announced that it was going out of business in 2014, it caused a rupture in the math community.”

I referred to it as a chalk apocalypse,” Conrad said. In a panic, mathematicians across America began stockpiling resources in preparation.”

I calculated how many boxes I would need to last 10 to 15 years and I bought that many boxes,” says Lieblich.Dave Bayer took things even further. “I single-handedly bought the rest of the Amazon supply in the middle of the night,” he said.

Source: How a brand of chalk achieved cult status among mathematicians – CNN

I was gifted with an old sliding blackboard in my 2nd year of teaching (and my first year of teaching Physical Science). I loved that board and was sad to leave it later in my career when I went to a new school.

There’s something special about chalk covered hands and the feel of writing on a blackboard to make a point about F=MA or the structure of an atom.

Now I want to go stock up on some Hagoromo and find a good blackboard for my children.

Vannevar Bush’s 1945 essay “As We May Think” on information overload, curation, and open-access science.

Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.

— Read on www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/10/11/vannevar_bush_s_1945_essay_as_we_may_think_on_information_overload_curation.html

Differences in Private and Public School Teacher Pay

As a fan of economic theory (by no means an expert), I’ve always tried to rationalize the chasm that exists between private school and public school teacher pay.

Having been both a private school and public school teacher, I’ve had to rationalize this on a whole different level.

Though there are lots of generalities in this article, I do agree with the concluding paragraph here:

The biggest lesson public education can draw from the salary gap isn’t to cut wages, or quash unions, or hold open auditions for unlicensed teachers. The lesson, in fact, has little to do with salaries at all. The moral is that not all teaching jobs are alike. Different school environments make for radically different work, and many teachers find private schools offer a more rewarding experience. Attracting and retaining teachers, then, means more than just raising salaries. It means taking disciplinary obstacles and bureaucratic nonsense out of teachers’ paths.

via Why Are Private-School Teachers Paid Less Than Public-School Teachers? – Ben Orlin – The Atlantic.

My only caveat is that not every private school is the same Dead-Poets-Society engendering experience for teachers. I taught at three very different private schools over the last decade and I had three very different experiences. There were varying levels of responsibilities, overhead, bureaucracies, call for standards etc.

In general, I’ll say that the best schools are where the teachers are happy and passionate about their jobs. How to accomplish that? Get out of the teachers’ way and trust them as the professionals they are (or at least they are hired to be).

I Love Dan Bricklin’s Note Taker HD App


You can use Note Taker HD to take notes, sketch diagrams, quickly and easily jot down names, phone numbers, to-do items, directions, and more. Pages are flexibly organized by date/time last modified, tags, favorites, and more, with thumbnail images of part of each page to help you find them later. Pages may be grouped together as multiple “sheets”. You can also email one or more pages as a single PDF file. VGA output is supported with zoom and pan.

I’ve been using Bricklin’s Note Taker app on my iPhone since last December, but the Note Taker HD app on my new iPad is simply extraordinary.

I cannot wait to get into the lab with my 8th grade students and jot down notes and observations that we can use to better communicate their findings in our Physical Science class next year.

Thank you again for all you do, Dan.

Architectures of Participatory Learning

But the meat of the argument is about how the best explanation for many of the group phenomena we see online, from ICanHazCheezburger to Wikipedia, is that people like sharing with each other and collaborating. Not always, of course. But there are architectures of participation that encourage the kind of sharing and generosity that enriches us all, and by experimenting with them, we can create media and social change that harnesses millions of people to help and amuse each other.

Just got this on my Kindle/iPad/Desktops/iPhone (have I mentioned I love the type of portability the Kindle platform offers and hope that iBooks can replicate that type of cross-platform experience?) and can’t wait to dig in today.

I’m a big Clay Shirky fan (click the link if you need a sample), and I’m hoping this book, along with Daniel Pink’s ongoing work, becomes a pointer I can use when folks ask about the “effectiveness” of my teaching style.

I love the idea of the Teacher/Learner as an Architect. There’s something inherit about teaching that lends itself to the type of mystical and very practical practices of masons-meet-Howard Roark.

We’ll see and I’ll, of course, keep you posted.

Find out what basic safety equipment is in the lab. This affects what kind of activities you can plan. Ask ahead of time if notebooks and other consumable materials have been ordered. Once the school year starts, it’s often hard to get things that are not in inventory. Ask what technology will available to you in the classroom, such as an interactive white board, “clickers,” probeware, cameras, or projection attachments for microscopes. If the school does not provide a laptop you can take home, invest in some USB flash drives you can use to take files to work on at home.

Question from a new teacher


Very relevant and timely info for those of our species lucky enough to be entering the teaching profession but that have no clue what they’re in for…

Ourlast big economic driver was engineering and the first stage of the digital age. At Institute for the Future, in our annual ten-year forecast program, we see an underlying shift to biology as a driver, and what I’m starting to think of as the “global well-being economy.” If biology and the global well-being economy will drive the future, what does that suggest for leaders? How can leaders grow their own empathy with nature and the global well-being economy?

Self-interest and competition will not be enough. Business leaders will still need to drive revenue, increase efficiency, and resolve conflicts, but financial mandates (I win/you lose) won’t be enough. Leaders must expand their view of self and embrace the shared assets and opportunities around them — not just the individual takeaways that will reward them alone. Leaders must learn to give ideas away, trusting that they will get even more back in return.

Leadership, Thinking Ten Years Ahead – Imagining the Future of Leadership – Harvard Business Review


Things to remind myself as I work with my 13 and 14 year old students everyday…

Don Chance, a finance professor at Louisiana State University, says it dawned on him last spring. The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A’s. “They felt so entitled,” he recalls, “and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers.

Great Use of Backpack with Pages for Each Day.

work: wed

“I have a page set up for each day of the workweek, and I evenly distribute the action tasks for all of my marketing tactics throughout the week.

On a given day, I simply click on that day’s page and get to work on the tasks, which are within a handy checklist (see image above along the left).

Each Monday, I un-check all the lists on every page, which helps me to stay accountable to my plans and goals for my business. I can clearly see what got done and what did not get done over the previous week. After un-checking the items, I’m ready to begin another week.”

I love this implementation of workflow in Backpack.

Personally, I’m using Backpack in the GTD style (main INBOX for dumping everything then sub-folders pertaining to specific contexts or actions that need to be taken).

However, it would be very cool to do a blend of my GTD style with the daily pages style and incorporate individual classes (since I’ll be teaching 4-5 individual classes).

Clearly, I love todo lists more than actually acting upon them 🙂

The Kids Are Alright

Children are unconsciously the most rational beings on earth,” says Alison Gopnik, “brilliantly drawing accurate conclusions from data, performing complex statistical analyses, and doing clever experiments.” And not only does empirical work reveal this about babies and small children, but what is thus revealed throws light on some of philosophy’s more intriguing questions about knowledge, the self, other minds, and the basis of morality.

via barnesandnoble.com

Beautiful thought-provoking post pertinent for us parents, us teachers and humanity-at-large.

My how we damage kids with our “absolute” truths, marketing, advertisements, career paths and buffets.

Using MindMeister for Mind Mapping in the Classroom

MindMeister Academic Edition

The Academic Edition of MindMeister is a complete collaborative mind mapping solution for educational institutions such as schools, universities and learning centers. It helps teachers and instructors to apply essential thought mapping elements in the classroom and ensure that learning is an effective and memorable experience.

After doing some researching and testing, I’m going to be using MindMeister for our “mind mapping” classroom (and out-of-classroom) sessions in my 8th grade science and 6th grade robotics classes this year.

I’m hopeful this will be a great augment to our classroom learning.

Powerpoint in the Classroom Must Die

His philosophy is that the information delivery common in today’s classroom lectures should be recorded and delivered to students as podcasts or online videos before class sessions. To make sure students tune in, he gives them short online multiple-choice tests.

So what’s left to do during class once you’ve delivered your lecture? Introduce issues of debate within the discipline and get the students to weigh in based on the knowledge they have from those lecture podcasts, Mr. Bowen says. “If you say to a student, We have this problem in Mayan archaeology: We don’t know if the answer is A or B. We used to all think it was A, now we think it’s B. If the lecture is ‘Here’s the answer, it’s B,’ that’s not very interesting. But if the student believes they can contribute, they’re a whole lot more motivated to enter the discourse, and to enter the discipline.”

In short, don’t be boring.

via chronicle.com

The part in bold is exactly my approach for student engagement. I admit that I do rely on Keynote too often, but I’m going to do my best to shift towards more engaging conversations pre-and-post lab work this year.

Looking back on my own education, I couldn’t agree more that PowerPoint is a classroom hindrance and security blanket for both teachers and students when used solely in the classroom.

Stunning Lack of 2.0 Teacher Tools on Web or iPhone


When I taught 8th grade science from 2004-2006, I made heavy use of MyGradebook and it eventually became (much to the delight of my students and their parents…and eventually administrators) my complete gradebook and student documentation platform.

What wasn’t to like? In 2004, the social web was just getting cranked up and folks were still becoming familiar with the idea of blogs…especially in the education space. What the students, parents, administrators and I realized is that everyone enjoyed being able to access grades, progress notes, lesson schedules and lab details via the web at anytime. Transparency and education do go hand-in-hand.

Fast forward five years to 2009. Not much has changed. MyGradeBook still seems like the most advanced platform for online grade/progress access. I even use objective-based grading and MyGradeBook supports that kind of customization, which is a great feature.

However (more like BUT), there is no iPhone app for MyGradeBook. There is actually only one iPhone app for teachers keeping grades. That’s a huge market not being served. Where are the developers? Charge me $20 or $30 and give me an app (even from MyGradeBook) that offers offline sync’ing, mobile grade/note inputs, etc… I’ll sing your praises all day long. It just doesn’t exist yet for some reason but there are a great deal of teachers, students and parents using iPhones, so that’s just unbelievable.

There are some solutions such as using FileMaker Pro’s Bento database on the Mac and porting a database over through Bento’s iPhone app. However, it still befuddles me that there’s not a better way to have that sort of access other than using an offline product and creating a database by hand a la 2001.

So, if there are any iPhone devs out there who’d like to make a few bucks… figure out a great way to make a web/iPhone app that brings the 2.0 goodness to teacher gradebooks. We’ll love you forever and make you rich.

Until then, I’m off to pay $60 a month for MyGradeBook…

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