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- How might we define intelligence? What do we mean when we speak of intelligence and what evidence do we seek when we look for it? Is it a singular, fixed attribute determined at birth or does it vary across time and environment? - Nigel Coutts
by: Nigel Coutts
Categories: International News
I have done presentations for years, and the ONLY software that I have used to design them is Keynote. Google Presentations and PowerPoint both are used by many, but in my mind, they have some serious flaws in the design. No matter how they are updated, I will not use them.
Yet, I do not use the latest version of Keynote. I use version 5.3, which is last dated to 2012. Although I am sure the newest version of Keynote has some great aspects, I weigh the time I need to spend learning a new interface, versus what I will get in return. No one has been able to show me why it is so much better.
The same thing with my iPhone. I need someone to show why I need to go through the hassle of updating my latest iOs when I am pretty happy with what I have right now. As someone who advocates for change, there are many ways that I am reluctant to it in my own life.
What I do understand is that change for the sake of change is not good enough. There has to be proof on why it is better. There has to be something that compels me to see that the change I am partaking in creates something that I could not do before without it.
All change takes time, and since time is the most valuable asset in the world, we need to prove that change will be an investment, not an expenditure.
This is why it is important to focus on why we do something, not just jump right in. I am always reluctant to just show people stuff, unless I can make a compelling case on why their investment of their time is crucial. If we can’t explain that, then why are we doing it in the first place?
This month I have made a conscious effort to finish a number of half-read books and finally investigate some that have been on my “to read” lists for years.Fiction
Shaun Tan is another Western Australian who produces highly original, inspired words and images. Several of his books are truly wonderful. I have spent many hours with his earlier work – especially The Lost Thing, The Red Tree and The Rabbits – but have not been enamoured with his more recent releases, as good as they are, until this month when I was gifted his new book for speaking at a conference.
The Singing Bones (2015) is a work of art that will grace both children and adult lives, partly due to the content, long after some of his other books have been forgotten. One lingers over many of the images admiring their mysteriousness and then often turns back to check it out again a few minutes after moving on. It is a special book.
Tan explains the project at his webpage, telling us that his:
“…book features 75 sculptural works that I constructed and photographed between 2012 and 2015. They originally grew out of the German project Grimms Märchen, a retelling of 50 classic tales by Philip Pullman, published by Aladin in 2013…”
The brief excerpts, episodes from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, are perfect to interest young and old, regardless of how much one already knows of the story. The synopsis of each of the seventy five tales at the back of the book is a wonderful resource for keen young readers who wish to be further enthralled.
Read Philip Pullman’s introduction closely. He captures what so impresses about the sculptures Tan originally crafted for Pullman’s edition of the famous German fairy tales. It would be wonderful to see these sculptures in an exhibition but the photographs, in some strange way, seem to make them even more otherworldly and perfect. Tan “was much inspired by Inuit stone carvings and pre-Columbian clay figurines” and you can read more about sculpture processes at his blog.
This book will be loved by English, Art and primary school teachers. There are endless ways the text could be employed with students, from 5-18 years of age, in many classroom contexts.
“Forget family, or ethnic and religious groupings: corporations have supplanted all these as the primary structure of the modern tribe.” Tom McCarthy
Satin Island was shortlisted for the Man Booker this year. Tom McCarthy had me laughing aloud at his exploration of futility and repetition, which never feel like genuine ennui – although it probably should – as it is too intellectually interesting. Oddly, according to those who have heard me say this before, I always find writers writing about ennui uplifting and amusing. It gives me a little shudder of appreciation, a thrill of sorts to see someone rake over the darker coals of life. McCarthy should receive a special award for his contributions to this existential sub-genre.
I really loved this novel. Narrated by U, a “corporate anthropologist”, McCarthy is cerebral and although he has the most serious of topics to skewer is never feels terribly serious. His parodying is delightfully playful and light.
U’s doctoral thesis, about club culture in London, was successfully published which led to him being headhunted by an international consultancy firm, Peyman. Anthropologists are meant to keep a distance from their subjects but U does not follow the usual professional distinction between “field” and “home”. Effectively he spends a great deal of time clubbing to write his thesis. His ruminations about time spent at house venues – like the Ministry of Sound, Turnmills and Bagleys – may amuse many a doctoral candidate from 1990s London as he spends increasing amounts of time organising raves, using coded messages put out on pirate radio and sampling illicit substances. All this leads to U working for Peyman, unpicking “the fibre of a culture” with the intention of helping his client “get traction on this fibre so they can introduce into the weave their own, fine, silken thread…(to) sell their product.”
There is a playfulness about the novel that is very intellectually engaging. U never really gets much done although he is always busy collecting clippings and pondering deeply on what he sees around him or just watching footage of spills for countless hours and seeing the beauty of this oil, coating birds and coastlines. U follows a story in the news about a parachutist who plunges to his death and looks for possible answers as to why. Was he murdered? Suicide? This image functions as a motif in the novel and some of the descriptions are very beautiful. His enjoyment of continental philosophy is particularly evident:
“The first move of any strategy of cultural production, he’d say, must be to liberate things – objects, situations, systems – into uselessness.”
U’s waking dreams, especially his plans for conference keynote presentations are very amusing. McCarthy’s insights into all kinds of contemporary madnesses incisive.
“Forget universities! he snorted, interrupting me again. These are irrelevant; they’ve become businesses – and not even good ones. Real businesses, though, he said, his hand describing in the air above his desk a circle that encompasses the whole building: these are the forge, the foundry where true knowledge is being smelted, cast and hammered out.”
I plan to read the novel again when I have time to investigate some of the “borrowings” McCarthy mentions in his note at the end of the book:
“Satin Island, like all books, contains hundreds of borrowings, echoes, remixes and straight repetitions. To list them all would take up as much space as the text itself. The critical reader can entertain him- or herself tracking some of them down, if he or she is that way inclined.”
I imagine The Story of a New Name will be the last of Elena Ferrante‘s books I read (and I am not yet finished this second tome in the series). This does not seem like a good decision but it is the only one I can make and I acknowledge it is quite unfair.
Ferrante is original, writes dialogue insightfully and transports the reader back into the world of Naples last century brilliantly well. I should finish the series. The quality of the story and writing insists I do. However, I just find it all so suffocating. Ferrante is the victim of her own success and I just don’t want to head back into this carefully crafted expose, this world of women and convention, catholicism and misogyny. I just can’t do it!
The only thing that makes me hesitate…I know of little else that explores friendship in such an insightful, detailed manner…and friendship is the new black (NSFW).More Books for English Teachers
‘Right, Whitbread. Read it out.’ ‘Fiction. Inven-ted state-ment or narra-tive, novels, stories collectiv, collectiv-ely collectively; Blimey.’ ‘Go on, have a go at it, lad.’ ‘Convent, convent-ion-ally, I know, conventionally accepted false-hood. Fic-tit-ious, fictitious, not genuine, imagin-ary, assumed.’
A Kestrel for a Knave* (1968) by Barry Hines is an English teacher’s kind of book and one that I have never read – although I have seen it in many book rooms and watched the highly acclaimed adaptation by Ken Loach – until this month. I have probably gotten around to reading it now as a result of all the books about raptors read recently; Helen MacDonald, JA Baker and TH White not least.
Set in a Northern mining town in the year of my birth, the protagonist Billy has a tough, unstable home life and is a petty thief with little formal education. Hines writes convincingly in the vernacular of the period and location; the story has a feeling of almost documentary realism (as does the film). I often found myself deeply affected and emotional especially at scenes in the classroom and at the bleak resolution.
Billy’s school teacher, Mr Farthing, is a sympathetic character who takes an interest in his student’s unusual hobby – falconry. Hines writes evocatively about the kestrel:
‘What I like about it is its shape; it’s so beautifully proportioned. The neat head, the way the wings fold over on its back. Its tail, just the right length, and that down on the thighs, just like a pair of plus-fours.’ He modelled the hawk in the air, emphasising each point of description with corresponding sweeps and curves of his hands. ‘It’s the sort of thing you want to paint, or model in clay.
It’s fierce, an’ it’s wild, an’ it’s not bothered about anybody, not even about me right. And that’s why it’s great.’
I had a Twitter conversation with the author of H is for Hawk, who feels it was possible for Billy to train his kestrel as quickly as suggested in the narrative.
I am not sure that I would hand out A Kestrel for a Knave in 2015 to a class as a set text for study but any student who finds their way to the book will likely have it in their mind for many years to come.
‘In fact,’ I said, ‘maybe we could skip Christmas altogether. It’s just another stupid fake holiday created by capitalism to make us spend money on stuff we don’t need.’
‘Nope,’ said Hiro. ‘I’ve spent the past eleven years hating institutionalised learning. I don’t want to do any more.’
Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson appeals to my prejudices and ideology. Environmentally conscious and largely suspicious about the motivations of corporations with some heady, philosophical concerns about a world where consumerism and has more sway than most other isms, the protagonist is unlike most teenage girls (or boys for that matter) I know. Astrid Katy Smythe would say the same thing about herself too compared to the other residents of Valentine:
“The problem with living in Valentine, was everything. Valentine was one of those in-between suburbs. It wasn’t old enough to be urban and interesting and full of artsy people wanting to reinvent it. And it wasn’t new enough to have had actual town planning with parks and wetlands and curvy streets lined with native trees. It was an ugly grey expanse of concrete, too far from the city to be convenient, and too far from the country to be pretty. The houses were all built in the sixties and seventies from asbestos, fibro and concrete. Most of the local shops had closed down after the big shopping mall opened –an enormous box filled with multinational brands and soul-sucking fluorescent lights. It was awful. Living in Valentine was like living in a bleak dystopian wasteland. The most colourful thing was the signs outside fast-food restaurants. The only greenery in the entire suburb was the football oval. Everything else was grey and dry and dusty. Our local council had distinguished itself by managing to achieve nothing in ten years other than embezzling a truckload of public funds, and had recently been impeached. So despite my endless petitions and letters, we had no bike paths, no electronic waste recycling scheme, no community gardens and no sustainability awareness programs. I’d heard rumours that our new mayor was more proactive, but I wasn’t holding out any hope.”
Astrid meets Hiro when she is protesting at the local mall dressed in “a giant lobster suit”. Many readers will find their banter amusing. The conversation allows many themes of interest to teenagers to be explored, including the challenge of relationships at high school. Astrid is very much a beautiful, motivated, straight A student and a member of the group of popular girls known as “Missolinis” by other kids. Hiro is a “stoner” even though he does not smoke at all. Their different perspectives are probably interesting to students:
‘Seriously, though,’ I said. ‘What will you do after high school?’ ‘Travel, I guess,’ said Hiro. ‘Read, think. Try and find some meaningful work that won’t send me crazy.’ I suddenly realised why he’d asked me about uni. ‘You’re not going to uni, are you?’
‘What would you do, if you could do anything in the world?’ I thought about it. ‘Do I have to choose just one thing?’ ‘Pick as many as you like.’ I smiled. ‘Everything,’ I said. ‘I want to be the first Greens prime minister. I want to head up an environmental science project team. I want to invent a new kind of clean energy. I want to protect wetlands from developers, and fragile ecosystems from resource-hungry corporations. I want to be a primary school teacher and an urban planner and a journalist and an awareness-raising rock star.’
I really enjoyed Green Valentine, as did my 12 year old daughter. It is probably best suited to students 14 years and older. Lili Wilkinson is an Australian author but it felt like the book was written with the international market in mind. There is little to identify it as an Australian school or characters, in fact, it feels very much an American novel for young teenagers.
There was some part of me that found the book too shiny and predictable. When I said to my daughter, would you know what I meant if I said the novel was a little like the fake Christmas trees and shopping malls it complains about? she said, “yes, it aint no Little Prince“.
The novel would undoubtedly make a great film but not much money, even if it was released one festive holiday season.
One new, one old but both of these book are likely to be beloved of English teachers for quite different reasons. Who will teach either or both next year?
“I believe in movement. I believe in that lighthearted balloon, the world. I believe in midnight and the hour of noon. But what else do I believe in? Sometimes everything. Sometimes nothing. It fluctuates like light flitting over a pond.”
M Train by Patti Smith is exceptional – a real reader’s read. I really should have held off on it as an earlier, yet unread memoir, Just Kids, is on my Kindle awaiting attention but after dipping into a few pages at a cafe I could not put it down and devoured it in a single sitting while my daughter played board games (for what would have seemed an interminably long time without this book) at the local library with her friends.
“I’m sure I could write endlessly about nothing. If only I had nothing to say.”
Smith, who you know as the bohemian, punk rocker of Horses fame or as the original performer of Gloria, is the most literary of writers. You can sense she has spent her life inhabiting the lives and worlds of writers and books. I love how she pursues these worlds in her endless travels to remote places.
She is brilliantly able to take a moment or detail and make it imbued with much more meaning than one would imagine. Her prose is as pleasing to the reader as her breakfasts of coffee, brown toast olive oil seem to be to Smith (who is also a photographer and poet).
Smith is the most quotable of writers and can both reflect on nothing and turn it into something. She reminds me of Emily Dickinson.
“If I got lost along the way I had a compass that I had found embedded in a pile of wet leaves I was kicking my way through. The compass was old and rusted but it still worked, connecting the earth and stars. It told me where I was standing and which way was west but not where I was going and nothing of my worth.”
Highly recommended (especially as cafe reading).
Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland follows the same trajectory as the 3 Unit Ancient History course I enjoyed for the HSC in the 1980s. I have read Tacitus and Suetonius so Holland’s book is pretty much a recount of that information. It is much appreciated, old-fashioned narrative history. Lets face it, no new sources are coming to hand any time soon about Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, C-C-Claudius or Nero so it is hardly surprising that the representations of each in this book are very familiar.
For those who know little of the Julio-Claudians, it is truly shocking to chart their depravities. For those, like me, who have not thought about the period much for a while it is truly remarkable to be re-acquainted with cruelty and absolute extremes of these first Roman emperors who had such ultimate power over life and liberty.
As a teenager, Caligula amused me endlessly as stories of his depravity and how he made his horse a senator or ordered the army to ‘pickup seashells’ just seemed so ludicrously impossible in a modern state. Now, I see it a little differently and can list a frightening number of more contemporary leaders from the last 100 years that were even more extreme in how they abused power. I am certain that our teacher thought the class’ interest in Caligula a little prurient but what 17 year old would not find these lessons about such a monster interesting?
Holland’s other book about Roman history, Rubicon, explores the period of the late Republic and is also highly readable. I would recommend both to fans of the period and those looking for an introduction.
For those who viewed the four-part ABC television series, this book explores familiar territory but in more detail. From my perspective, Keating has been the most interesting of our more recent prime ministers but I am grappling with his ‘spin’. Keating says he will never write an autobiography but he has certainly spent the last two decades trying to explain and ensure his historical legacy.
Each chapter has an introduction by O’Brien which serves as an overview of the period to be discussed. Then there are questions that Keating answers. O’Brien challenges the responses; it is rare for Keating to agree with him or to accept the provocation. Keating does talk about his self-deprecating sense of humour but not much is on display throughout the book (or on the public record). He discusses at length Bob Hawke’s narcissism and egomania but rejects the criticism that they are peas in a pod. The reality is that it matters little who was the bigger megalomaniac and I buy into Keating’s assertions that he was all about policy rather than personality politics.
Keating talks about being an educator. He takes pride in having educated the press gallery, his colleagues and the citizenry about a raft of issues. Chief amongst these were economic matters and how he moved the ALP away from it’s historical policies regarding protectionism. This role as an educator also extended to Australia’s history and place in the world. I cannot think of too many politicians, in this country or others, who see themselves in this light.
I do find myself grappling with the fundamental nature of the historic record and interpreting it honestly. I always liked Keating, especially his Big Picture politics and cultural assertions about our place in Asia. Keating’s take on our history, whether it be Indigenous issues or his interpretations of WWI and II, I have always felt comfortable with – he was and is right about these issues.
However, I find it harder to accept that his economic policies, although they created great wealth, will be wonderful for our nation in the longer run of things. Basically, Keating allowed “the market” to run the place feeling that was the only reality that could be accepted if Australia was to become an exciting, economically progressive country that avoided the boom and bust cycles of our history. We seem to have incredibly high numbers of citizens, especially younger people, who seem likely to never have full time work or to be able to break in to the housing market now that Sydney, for example, is truly international city that a growing number of Australians cannot afford to reside.
Gough Whitlam was the first prime minister I remember. Both Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke loom large as the PMs during my primary and high schools days but Paul Keating was the first incumbent of the office I really thought (and read about). Recollections of a Bleeding Heart by Don Watson is a magnificent read and the fact Keating hates it (and his umbrage with his biographer is quite understandable) probably makes it a good balance with this new release about “the Placido Domingo of politics”.
If you have watched the ABC TV series, you’d have to be a real enthusiast to read this massive tome. I almost have and am sure many more than one would expect will too. Keating is just too interesting and his changes too important for Australia for one to ignore.
True Style: The History and Principles of Classic Menswear by G. Bruce Boyer is a great deal of fun. Learned and wise, literary and anecdotal, the stylish prose matches the ideas about traditional men’s fashion he espouses. Boyer has the unusual career path of having been a professor of English literature and a fashion magazine editor, usually, I would posit, mutually exclusionary positions which are hinted at in several passages:
I like to think of it as a sort of old-fashioned, dusty, professorial approach that coordinates easily with my love for porridge-thick tweed, old flannel, and rumpled linen. A low-keyed statement of the subtle ease and charm of tradition, a good mix of tat and chic. And amazingly enough, it actually seems to work very much in my favor. Sometimes I carry a few old books—hardcover of course, without dust jackets—around with me, anything faintly grubby and esoteric looking, to reinforce the impression that I’m studying something of mind-bending importance. I’ve found a satisfying form of one-upmanship is to rummage the index of one of them whenever someone takes out their latest high-tech device.
Boyer’s book is as interesting for those interested in history as fashion conscious. The text is sprinkled with trivia, much of it interesting. I never knew that ‘cravat’ basically means Croat (which is where this neckwear originated). Who would have expected, on commencing the book, that the author would explore optics:
There seems to be agreement that the first treatise on optics was written by an Arabian astronomer and mathematician named Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haitham, known in the English-speaking world as Alhazen. His seven-volume Treasury on Optics was completed in Egypt in 1021 and came to be known in the West after it was translated into Latin in 1240. Alhazen’s experiments were concerned with the properties of glass to make objects appear larger. This eventually led to glass and crystal balls being used as “reading stones” in the Middle Ages, a form of what later would be simply called a “magnifier.”
I found his section on glasses fascinating too:
Many über-fashionable folks, on the other hand, prefer small, round frames, which are a suitable accessory for a variety of homespun, weathered looks: nerd chic, vintage chic, prairie chic, heritage chic, utility workers chic, and of course preppy chic. Funnily enough, this more capriciously retro approach in spectacles seems to runs parallel with its opposite style—and this is so often the case with spectacles—the rimless, titanium, supersonic, high tech, wraparound speedster variety, sleek as a new Porsche.
I was not expecting any commentary on beards either but Boyer has this to say:
The subject of facial hair was for many years well understood: there wasn’t any. From just after World War I to the 1960s, the “business look” prescribed a clean-shaven face. Occasionally a man might try a mustache (think of film star Clark Gable for example), but beards of any sort were thought bohemian, the sort of thing you’d only see in New York’s Greenwich Village on Beatniks in the 1950s (think poet Allen Ginsberg, for example). We’ve loosened up a great deal since those restrictive days, and both beards and mustaches are a popular alternative to being clean-shaven.
As soon as I’d finished True Style I reached over to my “to read” pile for a Christmas gift left half-read. The Philosophy of Beards (1854) by Thomas S. Gowing is both amusing and a little tedious. A light-hearted lecture from the mid-19th century, it has some really quotable quotes but is often a chore to read which is probably why it lay unfinished since I initially dipped into it on Christmas Day.
Published by the British museum, I note it graces a wide-range of shops (and online stores) where hairy men may shop.
‘The absence of Beard is usually a sign of physical and moral weakness.’
‘There is scarcely a more naturally disgusting object than a beardless old man. The Beard keeps gradually covering, varying and beautifying, and imparts new graces even to decay, by heightening all that is still pleasing, veiling all that is repulsive.’
I continue to pursue Philip K. Dick and this following book is particularly interesting as the author has become a bestselling and critically acclaimed sci-fi author. The Novels Of Philip K. Dick (1984) is Kim Stanley Robinson‘s published, updated Ph.D thesis and it is a most thoughtful exploration of Dick’s work prior to the flood of film adaptations, except for Blade Runner, that followed the author’s death.
I would suggest that a number of English teachers could make grand use of this quote with senior students:
“A literary genre is a grouping of conventional practices, which guide and limit writers when they write, and give readers a set of expectations when they read. All genres are mutable: they are born when writers transform and combine conventions from earlier genres; they change as writers adapt their conventions to particular needs; and they die when writers find them no longer useful, and readers find them no longer interesting. Indeed, it is from the body of works produced during these stable periods that writers, readers, and critics are able to abstract and articulate the central conventions that have been established.”
Featured image: flickr photo by Darcy Moore http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/22890104940 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license
Sometimes in education, there are shifts in what we have done and what we need to do, to support our students. There are a lot of things that will never go away in education (like the importance of relationships in learning), but there are shifts in our world that mean education will have to a) be a part of the shift, b) lead the shift, or c) be left behind.
I know the future has always been uncertain, but I also know that because of the speed at which change is occurring, it’s more important than ever to figure out “where we are going.” And I think our focus now has to be grounded in what new potentials and opportunities the modern world of networks and connections allow us to imagine. To echo David Warlick from many years back, what is that new story that we want to tell, not just about education in general, but about our individual schools as well? What is it that we aspire to become? What are the opportunities do our learners now have that didn’t exist before that must guide our conversations moving forward?
These conversations are crucial but they also can make people feel uncomfortable. As most educators have spent the majority of their lives in schools (as either students or teachers), it is hard to shift mindsets to what we know to what can be. Change can be hard when are experiences are so set.
Recently having a conversation with someone on these shifts, I could feel how uncomfortable they were with what I was saying. My feeling was that they felt that I was implying was that what they were doing now wasn’t working for their students (which was never my intent). The passion from this person was evident, although they did not necessarily agree with what I was saying.
As I was talking to a leader that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, she had said, “It is better that this person had passion and got worked up thinking about their teaching, then simply being someone who nods their head and agrees, to then go on and do nothing different.” My gut feeling about this educator that wore their heart on their sleeve is that they thought a lot about the conversation, in a deep manner. It might have kept them up at night. But if it did, that says they were thinking about it and were wrapping their head around those ideas.
A quote that I have been sharing often is the following:
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am inspired by those educators that are passionate about what they do and why they do it, even when we don’t agree. If we both share a love and passion for those we serve, we will always find a better way together.
This week the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced their new Pi Zero. It only costs $5 in the US. Wow! Here are the specs, via the foundation:
- BCM2835 (same as Pi 1) but up-clocked to 1GHz, so 40 percent faster.
- 512MB of RAM
- micro-USB for data
- micro-USB for power
- unpopulated 40-pin GPIO connector (same pinout as A+/B+/2B)
- size: 65mm x 30mm
Think of a class set of 20 for only $100. Sounds amazing. But let's hold on a minute. What else do I need? I wanted one (actually my wife wants one too but we'll share at least initially. So I went to Adafruit (the US outlet) and took a look. Raspberry Pi Zero is not available as an individual thing right now but can be bought with starter packs. They have two offerings:
I went with the budget pack. What does that include beyond the $5 computer?
- Raspberry Pi Zero - the type of low cost game-changing product Raspberry Pi's known for - a super light, super lean microcomputer
- Mini HDMI to HDMI Adapter - Will let you convert the little port on the Zero to a standard sized HDMI jack. You can get 1080P HDMI video + audio out of this little computer!
- USB OTG Cable - Lets you plug in a normal USB device such as WiFi dongle, USB hub, keyboard, mouse, etc into the Zero.
- 8GB Class 10 SD Card - A SD card that's perfect for burning Raspbian Jessie for the Pi Zero
- 5V 1A Power Supply & USB A/Micro B Cable - the best way to power up your Pi Zero with a stable 5V power supply that wont vary or sag.
- 2x20 Male header strip - Solder this in to plug in Pi HATs, GPIO cables, etc as you would into a normal Pi. (We also have a 2x20 Female and 2x20 Female right-angle style for more exotic connecting)
Yeah I probably need all that. I also added a wi-fi dongle. With shipping I spent $50 which is still pretty inexpensive but it’s not $5. Of course I need a monitor and a keyboard and mouse to really do any development on it. I have some of them around but not everyone does.
So now we are talking about a class set of 20 for $1000 which is more than $100 but I can remember when one Apple IIe was $2,500 so pretty cool.
I don’t really see it as a replacement for a desktop or laptop though. At least not realistically. It’s still pretty limited in today’s world. What I would like to do is use it or something like it for learning about the Internet of Things. Add some sensors, some controllers of some sort, and have some of these for a Maker Space and who knows what will happen. There is potential there. I can’t wait to get mine and start playing.
The Reggio Emilia approach highlighted the importance of the physical environment on learning and teaching. The incorporation of the physical environment (in Reggio Emilia) to enhance early childhood experiences is seen as the child’s ‘third teacher’.
Stephen Heppell has been working for two decades on raising the status of the ‘third teacher’ within the K-12 sector.
As we move towards greater personalised learning contexts, we also have to think about creating more personalised physical environments.
As Stephen points out, students are integral to the whole design process where users become the designers. Strong student and community voice has been one of the guiding principles underpinning the design of the massive Lindfield ‘School of the Future‘ project in NSW.
The rise of learner-led design is starting to take off.
What’s really interesting is that there is growing research (including Stephen’s) showing how simple improvements to air temperature and light quality etc can make learning better. Warm classroom temperatures have a negative impact on working memory and short-term maths performance!
Research and best practice illustrates that we can no longer evaluate student learning in isolation of evaluating the impact of the third teacher (physical environment).
I have been really focusing on how social media can not only connect us with others around the globe, but within our own school. Here is something that I have been encouraging others to think about:
What if we actually tweeted something from our classrooms? What I don’t think we would see is educators tweeting out students doing “worksheets” in the classroom (although they might tweet out a digital version).
I do not believe in absolutes in education and I have discussed that sometimes a worksheet is okay. Doing them all of the time though, is a totally different conversation, whether it is on paper or digital.
But if we wouldn’t tweet it out to the world, why are we doing it with students? We shouldn’t just share the final product of learning, but also the process, which in my opinion, is much more important. Yet, if there are practices we wouldn’t necessarily want to share with the world, maybe we need to think about what that is really saying?
Every Classroom Matters Episode 193
How should we be talking to children about terrorism? Did you know children under six shouldn’t be watching the news? Do you know the biggest worries of high schoolers when they hear of terrorism? Child trauma expert Dr. Steven Berkowitz helps parents and teachers understand how we talk to kids of various ages about terrorism.
Now is the time to listen to and share this show before Thanksgiving family dinner conversations.Important Takeways: What the Experts Say About Talking to Children About Terrorism
- Recommendations for watching the news with children
- The biggest worries of high schoolers and how to talk to them
- What to say when kids ask “Will this happen to me?”
- How the news can cause trauma in children
- How teachers can help children through tough times
Dr. Berkowitz is a widely quoted expert in child trauma. His advice is simple but important for all teachers to understand right now. What you say to kids matters, especially when they are upset.
This past week, I used what Dr. Steven Berkowitz taught me in this show as I talked to some upset children. I received a grateful email from a precious parent thanking me because now her child has her mind at ease. You might not think this is important, but if kids are talking, they want to talk with adults. As always, get traumatized kids help.
The post WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY about Talking to Children About Terrorism appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!
Every Classroom Matters Episode 191
What is the secret to effective online project based learning? How can we get kids excited about writing? Nancy White shares how. She reflects upon two big projects. Nancy had one that worked well. She had another one that floundered. What was the difference? Apply Nancy’s principles and have better online writing today.Important Takeaways- Project Based Learning: Teaching Students to Be Great Curators
- How an army of retired educators made an enormous difference in student writing.
- The importance of the first few days of student blogging.
- How students can be curators.
- The secret of inquiry-based learning.
- Something Nancy says that confirms Vicki’s same experience with student blogging.
Nancy White’s candid reflections on student writing apply to all online student projects. The audience is a vital part of online work. What you do in the first few days makes a big difference.Nancy’s reflection about audience aligns with my own. Building a writing community is so important. Take a moment to check out my book Reinventing Writing. I dedicate a whole chapter to building writing communities. Building an audience is a vital part of building a community. Perhaps some retired educators could help volunteer and fill a huge need for online student work.
- Students as Curators Blog Post by Nancy White
- Ronald Bonstetter’s Student Inquiry Paper and Chart
The post Project Based Learning: Teaching Students to Be Curators appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!
Social Media Insights
Twitter counts on blog posts are broken. Can you fix Twitter counts? Why did this happen? Is Twitter in trouble? Let’s not panic, let’s analyze what has happened and how we can still find Twitter counts on a page (for now.)
Although Twitter announced some time ago their plan to get rid of the counts that show how many times a page has been tweeted, they turned off the service on November 20. Now, my blog and many others across the web just show a tweet button, but no count. You’re not alone. We’re all in the same boat.
To make more money, Twitter wants us to use their gnip API service to retrieve Twitter counts. The only drawback — a BIG ONE — $300-500 per month to retrieve Twitter counts. That is crazy and out of reach for many of us.How Can I Find out Twitter Counts for a Page?
So, here is an alternative fix to the big price tag until things get sorted out:
You can now use this to see how many Twitter shares a page has if you want to see that. But Buzz Sumo says they won’t be pulling the data live. They say most of the shares happen in the first three days, so after that, they may not update their shares quite as much (due to costs.)Why Did Twitter Break Their Share Counts?
Many of us have come to depend on the “social cred” of a blog post or site. When you go to a blog post and see that it has hundreds of shares, you think differently about the post than otherwise. So, why did Twitter say they wanted to “break” this.
Spam. Some blame the “bots.” Indeed, some sites have gamed the system and hired or had “bots” share and reshare their content. By removing the temptation, the use of bots will no longer help get more shares and perhaps make better content on Twitter in the long run. (Less spam.)
Money. In the end, Twitter says they have to be “sustainable.” In other words, they have to pay the bills. They claim this use was “undocumented.” We didn’t make it, so we don’t guarantee it, says Twitter. In the end, they have to pay for their service. They need to monetize it. But that doesn’t explain why Facebook, Linked In, and Pinterest all provide the service while Twitter won’t anymore.
Traffic. If you could imagine that every page with a Twitter counter sent a count to Twitter’s API service. I would imagine this was a lot of traffic. But, you can’t really fix Twitter counts even with the new option from gnip.
Inaccurate. Twitter often argued that reshares were not truly a reflection of engagement. On this one point, I’ll agree. Often, I share tweets on my top tweets of the week that, on the surface, do not look to be popular. Due to reshares, conversations, and clicks they are popular. But, I would argue, just because these numbers aren’t an accurate reflection of engagement, doesn’t mean they aren’t useful.
I agree with Stuart Thomas on Memeburn that,
If Twitter’s going to thrive, as it’s shareholders need it to, then it needs to do everything in its power to keep publishers onside. Killing share counts might not see them neglecting Twitter all together, it’s too valuable for that, but it’s surely a sign that it’s not willing to compromise when it comes to their wants and desires. If this is the start of a greater trend, then Twitter may well be sowing the seeds of its own destruction.Unintended Consequences.
When you break trust with your user base, you’d better watch out. I will admit that Google’s continue discontinuation and finally their cancelling of Google Reader caused me to swap to WordPress for my blog. Sure, Google has a right to make money and so does Twitter.
Services always COST SOMETHING. But not giving us the option to pay a reasonable fee and cancelling the service is short-sighted.
But one has to be very careful when upsetting the 1%. Klossner’s 90-9-1 principle shows that 1% of users on social media create most of the content. Nine percent are “active lurkers” with 90% “passive lurkers.
The bottom line is that Facebook, Pinterest, and other platforms provide this data. Since Twitter does not, it may cause many of us to gravitate towards sharing on other social media. I’m not sure that it will be intentional. And face it, the $300-500 price tag is not an option that many average users are going to be willing to accept.
Time will tell if the less spammy content on Twitter will result from killing the Twitter count button. Time will tell if people will stay on Twitter more or if they’ll naturally share on Facebook or something else more.
Certainly, a whole slew of Twitter spammers are crying in their soup today, and I guess that is a good thing.
Meanwhile, I’ll use Buzz Sumo and make up my mind about what I think. There’s no fix, just one Chrome extension or deep deep pockets that can fix your Twitter share button.
We are yet again reminded that “free” has a price. And, for better or worse, the change will leave lots of annoyed birds out there.
The post Can You Fix Twitter Counts? (and Why They Are Broken) appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!
Every Classroom Matters Episode 193
When you see an accomplished educator like Alec Couros, it is easy to think that he’s always been this way. You might believe that he’s never made mistakes. You might think that everything was perfect from day one. In this conversation, Alec takes us through his educational journey and the truths he’s learned along each step.
As we listened to the show, Sylvia Duckworth and I jotted down six epic educational truths. (I put the epic in there, he wouldn’t, but I think you’ll agree, some of these insights are profound. Hat tip to Sylvia for her sketchnote below!) I appreciate Alec’s candor. I believe his journey as a teacher will inspire you like it has me.Thank you VIF Learning Center, today’s sponsor. Today’s sponsor is VIF Learning Center. VIF Learning Center has lesson plans, classroom connections and many ways for educators to connect and join classrooms to become globally connected. Click here to try out VIF Learning Center
- Did Alec immediately know he wanted to be a teacher?
- How do you recognize when a moment is important to a child?
- What is the problem with childhood today? How can adults help?
- What did Alec learn about learning as he led a MOOC with educators from more than 75 countries?
If we can help this generation of teachers joining our ranks persist instead of always being dissed, we might just find that many of them are great teachers who got off to a rough start. I appreciate Alec’s@courosa transparency in today’s show. As he talked, I felt like yelling “Yes, That was me!”
The craftsmanship of teaching starts with another ship — relationship. We can do this. Bumps in the road don’t mean that the road isn’t worth traveling.
Microsoft Underground Part 1 – Dawn DuPriest is a middle school math and computer science teacher who was invited to Microsoft headquarters with some other teachers for a multi-day event – workshop and “underground tour”. This post is a trip report of sorts about what she saw and learned. Wish I could have been there.
Minecraft vs Project Spark vs Kodu Game Lab a teacher does a side by side look at three interesting and highly graphical tools for learning programming.
Finding the best coding language for beginners (revisited) - by Bob Irving @birv2 Bob makes a good case for Python. Bob’s a bigger fan of Raspberry PI and Minecraft than I am (at least right now) but his opinions are worth reading.
Bumblebees Are Teaching Smart Cars How to Drive – a lot we can learn from nature.
The new in-browser compiler for the BBC micro:bit is live! Seems like something new in the BBS Micro:bit world every week.
Linux kernel dev Sarah Sharp quits, citing ‘brutal’ communications style via @networkworld Interesting look (from one perspective) of communication in the open source world. Meanwhile, a Google study on what makes a team successful lists “Psychological safety” as the most important quality. Some good discussion points about how communication should work.
What students and teachers really think about computer science in schools is report by @HuffPostPol about the Google funded study that the Gallup Group prepared. To the surprise of no one actually teaching computer science a lot of people have incorrect ideas about what computer science actually is. And more.
A Call to Action for Higher Education to make AP CS Principles Work a post at the blog@CACM by Mark @guzdial Mark covers some great points. For AP CS Principles to really work there have to be college/university courses that student can get credit for after passing the AP CS exam.
I am blogging to learn, not necessarily to share an idea. I am trying to work out these ideas in my head.
I once used the analogy that my “blog” is my formative assessment, and my book is my “summative” assessment. When you look at the differences between these ideas. I googled “Formative vs Summative Assessment”, and the first page that popped up in the search was this one, in which I screen captured the comparisons between the two ideas.
Now there might be better definitions, but this is pretty much of a consensus of what the ideas mean.
So here is my struggle with this concept…I am still learning about the ideas that I discussed in the book and exploring the topic. I have actually created a guide that is meant to be updated with not only links from the book, but updated with new information that is valuable to each chapter. This means that not only can the reader get the most up to date information, but it challenges me to push my own learning. I even explicitly discuss the idea that it is not meant to be the end of a conversation, but hopefully is the beginning.
Yet although the term “summative” usually means at the end of a certain time, does this term also imply that the learning is somehow done? With content, the learning can be done. A student can recite dates of events and once that is shown, you can move on from that learning (especially since we can google and find that information later), but the process of learning is something that goes on and on; there is no true finality to it.
I am not proposing we change a terminology is widely accepted, but I think that it is important to discuss the term “summative” and think of what it says to our students and ourselves. Learning is not something that you just finish in June. It is an ongoing process and goes beyond simply “knowing”.
News and Trends: Sunday, November 22, 2015
This was a busy week at my school. Kids weren’t too excited to be there but we got so much done anyway. Friday was capped off with sharing with each student something that makes them special. The response was amazing from parents but it was about the students. Every student needs to know they matter. But you can only tell each student how they are unique if you KNOW THEM. You must have a relationship. That is what teaching is about anyway! Relationship first, then learning can happen.1. 10 Ways to Flip a Kid and Turn His Day Around
Inspired by a comment Kevin Honeycutt made on my show and enhanced with Sylvia Duckworth’s sketchnote, what a great discussion for so many schools to be having! This was #2 on last week’s list.Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/10-ways-to-flip-a-kid-and-turn-their-day-around/ 2. 8 Ways to Level Up Game Based Learning in the Classroom
Worksheets with points doesn’t work. But authentic games do. Full of real classroom examples and great books to read, this blog post is hot.Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/game-based-learning-in-the-classroom/ 3. 5 Ways to Teach Gratitude in Your Classroom
You can teach gratitude. This updated post resonates with the Thanksgiving season.Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/5-ways-to-encourage-gratitude/ 4. Notetaking Skills for 21st Century Students Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/note-taking-skills-21st-century-students/ 5. 15 Best Google DriveAdd Ons for Education Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/best-google-drive-add-ons/ 6. How We Can Stop TEACHING TO THE TEST and Start Empowering Learning (For a Change)
This show with Eric Sheninger based on his new book Uncommon Learning is being shared like crazy. Eric is spot on and I highly recommend reading his new book.Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/uncommon-learning/ 7. 6 Ways to Motivate Teachers: Be the Hope
Teacher motivation is hot in November. Lots of us struggle this time of year.Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/motivate-teachers/ 8. Why Teachers Need to Keep Going Even When It’s Hard
This powerful piece continues to be shared by educators grappling with the hard things happening in our world.Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/why-teachers-need-to-keep-going-even-when-its-hard/ 9. How Teachers Can Self-Publish Books
David Hopkins, an educator from the UK, shares a practical guide for educators to self publish books in this episode of Every Classroom Matters.Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/how-teachers-can-self-publish-books/ 10. 6 Reading Comprehension Problems and What to Do About Them Permalink: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/6-reading-comprehension-problems/
- With the end of the year approaching and holidays looming for some now is the ideal time to share some suggestions for books and papers to read. A great book can provide the inspiration required to begin the new year positively and this list includes some of my favourites from 2015. - Nigel Coutts
by: Nigel Coutts
Categories: International News
Every Classroom Matters Episode 192
Writable surfaces. Movable spaces. Micro environments. Never heard these terms? Our classroom design helps us create learning experiences for students. David Jakes explains modern classroom design.Essential Questions: 3 Learning Experiences You Should Give to Every Student
- How can classroom design improve learning?
- What are cutting edge trends in classroom design?
- Are there simple, inexpensive ways to improve the classroom?
The post 3 Learning Experiences You Should Give to Every Student appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!
Trends and Tweets that Have People Talking
Emotions and relating to other humans is reflected in a subtle way on this week’s top education tweets. Teachers are telling kids and each other that they matter. Teachers are talking about making their own music in their classroom. Thanksgiving-themed lesson plans are being shared while many educators gear up for Hour of Code in December (may the force and Minecraft be with you). Meanwhile, I’m upgrading my Makerspace and ditching my old projector and Interactive White Board.
I’ve got my 10 year blog-a-versary coming up the first week of December. Wow! So, this week, I’m thankful for you. This Thanksgiving week ten years a go, I was reading and re-reading David Warlick‘s book on blogging. You all teach me so much.
Do kids know they are special? Do they know they matter? Do you know your impact as a teacher if you stop to tell them that they do? Please take time this season to celebrate the strengths in the kids you teach. You matter, teacher. You make a difference. Please get out there and share that message with the kids you teach. Speak it. Tell it. Write it. Show it!Top 10 Education Tweets of the Week: week ending November 21, 2015 1. You Matter is spreading
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 19, 20152. Top Blog Posts for Teachers
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 15, 20153. Sylvia Duckworth Adds a Sketchnote to “Why to Keep Going Even When It’s Hard”
The awful happenings in France had many people sharing and clicking on this post. In an effort to encourage more people, Sylvia Duckworth sketchnoted the quotes that spoke to her. Please make your music, teachers!
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 18, 20154. Hour of Code includes Minecraft-inspired programming!
Minecraft and Star Wars themed programming is part of Hour of Code this year.
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 16, 20155. 5 Ways to Teach Gratitude in Your Classroom was Updated this week
This popular post needed an update. You can teach gratitude.
5 Ways to Teach Gratitude in your Classroom https://t.co/rAnn1Y8JFo
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 15, 20156. Nancy White talks openly about students as curators
In this show, Nancy White discusses something intriguing: the use of an “army of retired educators” to comment on student work. I’m curious how we could use such a method more often. She also talks about a project that didn’t work as well. The difference? Audience. When you’re blogging or doing work online, the first 10 days are vitally important as students should engage with audience. Nancy’s open reflection has reinforced what many of us have seen.
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 20, 20157. My Makerspace gets and Upgrade with an inFocus JTouch! Cool!
My husband is an engineer and put this together for me! We are drawing on it, working on it, an doing incredible work together! I got questions and people clicked to look closer!
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 16, 20158. So many of us are jealous of this amazing classroom!
Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy, found this incredible classroom. Lots of us are wishing and hoping for classrooms that look and feel more like this one.
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 20, 20159. Many of us are thankful to be on Thanksgiving break!
Friday afternoon, lots of us were breathing a sigh of relief. While some US teachers still have two more days next week.
Very glad to be on thanksgiving break. No words, just thankfulness. Tiring week. How about you?
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 20, 201510. Top Education Tweets of the Week for Last Week
Tweeting and non-tweeting educators are telling me they’re enjoying the top tweets based on Twitter analytics. As I often say in these updates, “clickthroughs” matter. Some of these have hundreds of people cicking on them. You can’t necessarily tell by retweets what engages educators!
I challenge you to take the time to set up your Twitter analytics and look at the last month, three months or even year. If you don’t know how to embed tweets or anything else, ask in the comments and I’ll get some instructions up here.
NEW! Top Education Tweets of the Week https://t.co/oFcSiLHypQ
— Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) November 15, 2015Happy Thanksgiving! I’m so thankful that you take the time to share and learn online. I appreciate those of you who take time to read my blog. As I help feed 50 something people this week, I’ll be thinking of so many of you taking time with your families this week. Savor the moment, put down your cell phone, and enjoy the laughter and smiles. There will always be a new gadget but each family member is unique and precious. Be thankful for what matters. People matter most.
The post Top 10 Education Tweets of the Week: November 21, 2015 appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!
Last night, I turned on the TV to watch the Los Angeles Clippers play the Golden State Warriors. If you do not know about either basketball team, they have a very strong rivalry, and are both considered to be some of the top teams in the NBA right now, with Golden State having won the championship last year.
As a life-long Los Angeles Lakers fan, I rarely cheer for other teams, but I have a connection to the Warriors since I was supposed to see them play for the first time the day my father died. Obviously I did not go to the game, but because of that day, there is a special place in my heart for them. Right now though, they are turning the NBA up on it’s head because they are playing in a way that is much different from the “traditional” way others have played. Instead of having gigantic 7 footers, they play “small-ball” (small in NBA standards) with lots of running and long distance shooting. They are a very fun team to watch if you are not necessarily interested in the sport, and even better if you love the game. The way they play is a thing of beauty.
I caught the game at a point where the Warriors were actually losing to the Clippers by over 20 points, which in most cases is insurmountable, but I actually watched from that point on because I knew of their ability to come back. They actually won the game going away at the end, and I thought about how they are really challenging the conventional notion of basketball. A lot of the things they are doing can have a connection to what we are doing in education.
- They focus on developing leadership. Steve Kerr, a rookie coach last year in the NBA, had one of the best seasons ever in only his first year, and led with a quiet and steady hand. Suffering an injury to his back during the NBA Finals, he has suffered from complications which have not allowed him to be on the sidelines with his team at this point. Without their “leader”, they are still undefeated at this point of the season. Luke Walton, with no head coaching experience, has taken over and is leading the team until Kerr returns, but as you watch, he is not the only leader on this team. Great leadership develops more leaders, and you see in his absence, the team has not lost a step. Do our schools become dependent on a few individuals, or do we create a culture when someone is gone, others step up?
- They play to their strengths. Stephen Curry won the MVP last year, but if you saw him on the street, he does not look like your typical NBA player. He is listed at around 6’3 (which he isn’t) and probably weighs 180 pounds, but he can shoot the ball. Even after his MVP season, he is probably playing better this year than last, because he is doing what he did last year, better. Although I am sure he has added to his repertoire, he is on a historic pace to break the record for most 3 pointers made (which he has already done twice). He is not trying to be taller or bulkier but focusing on doing what he does well, and the team is built around this idea. They don’t adjust to you, but they focus on what they do well and then continuously do it better. This ties in nicely to the Peter Drucker’s idea that, “It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” We need to spend more time focusing on getting better at what we do well, not just our weaknesses.
- They define and play their roles. If you watch the Warriors play, it is very rare for them to do something as individuals that is out of character. Their philosophy seems to be to find what people do well, and put them in spaces where they can excel. Andre Igoudala, an all-star for several years, was asked to come off the bench last year, which was probably a struggle at first. He excelled at the role, but in the NBA finals, he actually started because of his ability to cover Lebron James, and became the first player in NBA history to never start a regular season game and then win Finals MVP. He had a role and did it well, as did the other players, which helped them achieve success. Do we create an environment in our schools where we see ourselves as part of a bigger picture, or just a collection of individuals?
- They have confidence in themselves and others. At the end of last night’s game, when Stephen Curry was asked what he thought when they were losing, he said that they have confidence in their team and each other. This is not something we talk much about in schools, but a trend I have noticed lately is that we seem to lack confidence in the others in our own buildings. People will talk about the lack of willingness of others to embrace change, and I wonder what that does for collegiality in the building? If we believe in each other that we are all there to focus on doing what is best for kids, even those things might not look the same in some cases, we are more likely to move forward than if we don’t trust in one another. A great African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go fast, go together.” If we are going to move our organizations forward, we will need to believe and trust in one another.
All great teams have a “shelf-life” where physically they cannot do what they did at one point, and I am not sure how long this team will be great. But if you are just looking at the athleticism of the team, we are missing the bigger picture of what they are doing together and the culture that is being built. There have been teams with more talent that have done less, and the way the Warriors play together as a team is a thing of a beauty. I am going to learn from it and enjoy watching the ride.
Beginning programmers seem to like monolithic code. Give them a task to program and they start right off. writing everything in one huge method. If you assign them to use a specific method for a specific task they will do that. And the rest of the code will be monolithic. It seems to be hard for them to design code with small modules though. At least it seems they have to be taught to do so. It doesn’t seem to come natural.
Or maybe it’s just the teacher my students suffer with.
In any case, at this point in the semester I am really pushing breaking things down into small pieces and creating methods to handle things. We really just learned about methods in any detail in this first semester programming course so I can understand it not coming natural. On the other hand, we just went into methods in depth and usually students want to use the new thing they have just learned. But not in this case.
This morning I read though all of their code so far. Yep, lots of monolithic code. I spend the first 20 minutes or so of class discussing the different projects they are working on and explaining how I would break up some of the work into individual methods. It seemed to register a bit. I think that some of them who are having trouble debugging their code, in part, because they are trying to code and test “everything” at once, will really benefit from today’s discussion. I hope so.
Clearly though as we are moving into more complicated projects I need to spend more time talking about design. I’m looking back though my plans from earlier in the semester to see where and how I can talk design long before this point.
The other thing I would like to do is design a big project that requires lots of methods. The idea would be to randomly assign the methods to different students and have a test bed that calls the methods. Students would not know whose methods would be tested with theirs in advance. That way there could be no collusion to bypass the strict specification of inputs and outputs.
My hope is that this would show students the value of methods in larger projects. It should also help them understand the importance of design, specifications, documentation and working as part of a team. I just have to figure out the right project.
Every Classroom Matters Episode 190
Language teachers have the daunting task of helping students memorize so many words! How can it be fun? How can you help students learn them faster? Jason Levine uses hip hop in his language education classes. Surprisingly, he teaches teachers (even those, like me, with no rhythm) to use hip hop in their language education classes too.Essential Questions: Hip Hop Language Education: Using Rap to Teach, Really?
- Why do hip hop and language education work together?
- Can you use hip hop if you’re a language teacher who can’t rap at all?
- How can any teacher facilitate hip hop activities with language?
- How can teachers make the repetitive practice of language EXCITING?
- What are the 3 R’s of Language Learning?
Combining hip hop and language education is a masterful use of both of these. So, you’re not comfortable with this — you CAN use someone else’s videos. Jason raps on the show and I think that perhaps I could even do it (although I wouldn’t sound as cool.) Have an open mind, language teachers, to move away from flash cards and towards music.iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.
The post Hip Hop Language Education: Using Rap to Teach, Really? appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!