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Building a Dynasty in Debate (or Any Competition)

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 18 April, 2016 - 21:08

from a Montana teacher with 32 straight titles in a row!

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Matt Stergios has been coaching a debate team that has won their state championship in Montana since 1984. We discuss why debate is important. He also shares one of his big secrets: how he convinces key students to join the team. You’ll learn strategies that coaches can apply to any team.

Click to listen to this show on: BAM Radio NetworkStitcher 

Matt shares how participation on the debate team has opened doors for his students in college and life. He also talks about the pressure of having so many wins and how he talks to his students when they are worried about being able to win again. Debate coaches and coaches seeking to build a winning tradition will learn a lot from this episode.

Who is Matt Stergios?

Matthew Stergios has been teaching the last 35 at Loyola Sacred Heart High School in Missoula Montana. He teaches History and has coached Track, Cross Country and most notably Speech and Debate. Since the beginning of his coaching of the Loyola Speech and Debate team in 1981, he led the team to its first state title in 1984, and the team has gone on to win 32 total state titles in a row.

If you’re reading this post somewhere else, I have a form on coolcatteacher.com giving away my introduction to debate lesson plan. The educators on my mailing list will get this automatically. To prevent bots from scraping and taking content, I prefer to give lesson plans to the educators in my newsletter. You can sign up on the form below and receive your introduction to debate lesson plan


The post Building a Dynasty in Debate (or Any Competition) appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 18 April 2016

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 18 April, 2016 - 19:55
Last week was both long and short. Short in that I only spent three days at school. Long in that I spent the weekend and Monday working at the K 12 Computer Science Framework Stakeholders Convening Time well spent of course even with a long travel day Monday night into Tuesday. BTW just a suggestion. Make sure to pay attention to AM and PM when making reservations. Just saying.

More than compiling is a great blog post by Doug Peterson that takes off where one of my posts (It Compiled, It Ran, It Must Be Right. Right? )  leaves off.

CaptionBot is a new AI bot from Microsoft that attempts to describe images that are feed to it. Visit https://www.captionbot.ai to try it out.

Kinect and the self-driving car is about using different types od sensors in self-driving cars. An interesting conversation to have.

In IDE or the Cloud Mike Zamansky takes on the question of using a web based development or one installed locally.  He covers the plusses and minuses of both. It’s a useful article for teachers looking at what tools to use for teaching programming.

Categories: Planet

Workflow & Writing: Ulysses

Darcy Moore's Blog - 18 April, 2016 - 08:27
Write. Anything. Anywhere.

My daily writing routines are improving and Ulysses has quickly become an everyday tool. The very effective slogan tells you why. One still needs to actually write but this is by far the best integration across all my devices and I imagine many of you will be interested in checking it out (if you use Apple products).

I have written about workflow for photography and writing for some years and I am not really experimenting much anymore being happy with how quickly I can edit a photo and post it to my blog or a handful of social media sites. Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed and Flickr are essentials.

Workflow is such an important concept and being able to just pick up and continue, or start, in any context is important when one has an idea or wants to complete something. I want to concentrate on the photo or the writing, not the tools. I also want to be very mobile.

However, Scrivener proved to be less than I hoped for as a writing tool. The support and ethos of the company is great and it has every feature that even the most eclectic, cross-platform writer could need. Scrivener can do everything except what I needed and it just wasn’t working out anymore.

Scrivener has been a home to my blog posts, travel itineraries, journal articles, poetry, musings, diary entries, notes for non fiction and fiction for three years now. I remember when initially trialling the software being deeply impressed that their site linked to competitors so one could check out what other writing software was on offer. It spoke of confidence that Scrivener was better than just good; they listened to customers and were happy to improve the product. It certainly had the most attractive name.

If feeling unkind, one could liken Scrivener to a Frankenstein’s monster – with so many bits stitched on over the years – as it is clumsy and looks terrible. That is not the main issue though. It is the awkwardness of using Simplenote, in itself a great tool well before I had Scrivener, to integrate across the iOS ecosystem. The formatting does not hold, the system of passwords is annoying and basically, there are better tools out there nowadays.

Ulysses – which I had dabbled with a few years ago having discovered it via the Scrivener links page – recently released an iPhone app to accompany their Mac software and iPad tool. The clean look of the interface is very appealing, as is its general simplicity. There are all the features I need and if you are interested takes very little time to ‘get’ how to manage your writing across the three devices.

Ulysses for Mac, iPad and iPhone from The Soulmen on Vimeo.

Ulysses – and I am typing this now as using the iPad app – synchs to iCloud seamlessly. This is setup with one click of a button and there are no passwords to make saving draft pieces complex. It just works. One can write offline knowing all with synch next time the wifi is available and the minimal number of buttons, discreetly tucked away at the bottom of the screen, really works providing a clean sheet to write on.

If you are keen to know more, this webinar will get you up to speed very, very quickly.

Introduction to Ulysses: Webinar for NaNoWriMo 2015 from The Soulmen on Vimeo.

I never mastered all the intricacies of Scrivener as it had many features I just did not need. Ulysses is just right. The following links will help you make a start with Ulysses including these tutorials and other tips & tricks plus shortcuts.

All I need now is that promised WordPress plugin!

Featured image: Ulysses logo

The post Workflow & Writing: Ulysses appeared first on Darcy Moore's Blog.

Categories: Planet

50 People, 1 Question (Project Idea)

The Principal of Change George Couros - 18 April, 2016 - 06:36

If you have never seen this video, watch it.


What could be an amazing project, would be a school doing this with their community where they focus on one question, or have students develop a question that is important to them and have them interview 50 (or 10, or 20, or 100, whatever).

Asking the same question to different people, over and over again, would not only be a great research project, but can teach us about others and help our students (and ourselves) become more empathetic.

Would love to see this project (or something similar) done by students.  So much could be learned by so many.

Categories: Planet

Communities of practice

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 11 April, 2016 - 07:36


  • I am researching the value of communities of practice for early career secondary teachers. This is my short survey. If you are an ECT or would be willing to forward this on to ECTs in your school I'd be very grateful.

    https://usqadfi.au1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_4MDJ57p9jTRN2xD - bernadette mercieca

Tags: communities, learning, education, teachers

by: bernadette mercieca

Categories: International News

The Most Dangerous Phrase In The World

Chris Betcher - 1 April, 2016 - 15:38

If you’ve been in education for a while there is a phrase you’ll hear regularly if you listen for it. It’s just seven little words but the impact of those words can be enormous. The people who utter this phrase often mean well, but it rarely leads to much that is positive. This phrase can kill a potentially good idea, ruin a worthwhile initiative or demoralise others who want to make a difference.

It may just be the most dangerous phrase in the world.

The phrase is “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

You may have been on the receiving end of these words. Perhaps you came up with what you believed was a brilliant, clever, innovative or time-saving idea. You honestly feel your idea can improve an existing outcome and make a huge difference. So you approach your colleagues with your idea, knowing that by making just a few simple changes the world will be a better place. And while they might listen and thank you for your interesting suggestion, they inform you of all the reasons why your idea cannot possibly work, because the way things are currently done is just the way they’ve always been done.

It might not be said with these exact words, and it sometimes comes in many variations. There’s “We tried that years ago and it didn’t work”, or “We’d never be able to do it because the others won’t go along with it”, or “That might be ok for other schools but it would never work here”, or even the time tested “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However it’s phrased, the message is essentially the same; we like the way things are and we don’t want to change them.

The irony is that while all these phrases are used to resist change, the world around us constantly changes. Change is just a natural thing.

We want our students to learn, which is just another way of saying we want them to change. Of course we want them to be better tomorrow than they were today. We want them to know more at the end of each term than they knew at the beginning. We want them to be more mature, have more wisdom, and make better decisions. All of that is based on the idea that they need to change. We call it growth.

And yet, far too often in schools we see systems and processes that stubbornly resist change. We see outdated curriculum, often locked in time by static syllabii and aging textbooks. We see processes being repeated each year, often without ever stopping to consider whether there may be a better way. We sometimes stick with “proven” tools and technologies without looking around to see if there may be better alternatives. And we also see the occasional teacher who does not realise that their 30 years of teaching experience has in fact been one year of teaching experience, repeated 30 times.

“That’s the way we’ve always done it”, or TTWWADI for short, is the reason we see the same old worksheets, the same old assessment tasks, the same old resources, used year and year. It’s also often the reason that we structure our schools in ways that contradict everything we know about how students learn most effectively. We want to make decisions in the best interests of our students, but we don’t because those decisions often contradict the way we’ve always done things.

Despite the fact that the outside world changes constantly it is still far too easy to find classrooms that don’t. TTWWADI-thinking does a grave disservice to the students that pass through those classrooms.

I recently overheard two sisters talking. The younger of the pair had the same teacher that her elder sister had five years before. Despite the five years that had passed, the older student was listening to her younger sibling talk about the work she was doing in class and remarking “Oh yes, I remember doing that assignment when I had that same teacher”. Unless that assignment was perfect and timeless, repeating it year after year without considering alternatives makes is seem like that teacher is simply on autopilot.

As this new school year begins, stop and think about what you’re doing. Are you reaching into your files and digging out the same teaching program you used last year? The same activities and worksheets you gave your students last year? The same letters to parents that were sent home last year?

If you’ve been in a school for more than a few years, think about how much has changed in the world around you. Even just five short years ago, most of us were not storing work in “the cloud”, or working collaboratively with others on shared documents, or learning by being digitally connected through various social streams. Technology provides great examples of these rapid changes but it’s hardly the only area of change. (Although you could probably argue that technology is the main driver that is forcing change in so many other areas). However you look at it and whatever the driver may be, it seems that change really is the only constant.

So why do some teachers embrace change and get excited about the possibilities of doing things in new and different ways, while others cling doggedly to doing things in ways that they have always done them? Why do some people immediately dismiss new or innovative ideas because they are not “the way we’ve always done it”?

Before exploring that question, it’s important to also recognise that just because something is different does not necessarily mean it’s better. Some of the things we repeat year after year may be done that way because they actually are the best way to do them. It can be exhausting to constantly be reinventing wheels that have already been invented. We don’t need to throw out everything we do and start again but we certainly should look at everything we do with fresh eyes and continually ask ourselves the critical question “Is there a better way to do this?”  

Carol Dweck’s work on the ideas of Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset is a good place to start. Without restating all of her research, essentially Dweck found that people see their world differently depending on whether they embrace a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. That is, whether they believe they are capable of growing and changing, or not. Those with fixed mindsets tend to believe the abilities they were born with, or that they have right now, are the abilities they will always have. Those with growth mindsets believe that they are capable of growing, so they see change as an opportunity for learning and trying new things. Ironically, having a fixed mindset is not fixed; once you realise that you are limiting yourself with this kind of thinking you can catch yourself doing it and consciously decide to respond differently.

Responding differently is hard. It’s not always easy to see past “the way we’ve always done it” and reimagine how things might be done differently because many of us have not been conditioned to think this way. But you can start by consciously and deliberately asking yourself one very simple question. Begin by asking yourself “Why?”

  • “Why are the desks in my classroom arranged like that?”
  • “Why do my students do that same geography assignment every year?”
  • “Why do we always study that same novel?”

Thinking bigger, consider some of the many aspects of school we take for granted, such as…

  • “Why is our school day structured the way it is?”
  • “Why are our lessons 50 minutes long?”
  • “Why does the school day start at 8:30 and finish at 3:00?”
  • “Why do we group students according to the age they were born?”

As you begin to ask “why?”, take note of your answers. If you find yourself answering the question with “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” then dig a little deeper. Why have you always done it like that? Is it because it is the best way? Maybe it was the best way at one time, but is it still the best way now? Could there be a better way? So many of the things we do, we don’t even think about anymore. We get so used to the way things work that we forget to question them.

One easy (and fun) thing you can do is simply to visit other schools. Just walking into a different environment and looking around can be enlightening. When you walk into someone else’s classroom you cannot help but notice how things are done differently. You find yourself noticing little things and saying “That’s interesting. I wonder why they do it like that?” You’ll see ideas that you hadn’t thought of. Ways of doing things you hadn’t considered. And when you return to your own classroom you’ll see it just a little bit differently. Looking outside the world you experience every day helps you have fresh eyes.

Consider this. Kodak, the once great film and camera company, is these days little more than a footnote in the history of photography. The reason? Their entire worldview was rooted in the idea of film cameras and film processing. When digital photography came along they dismissed it as a fad because it was “not the way we’ve always done it”. They failed to respond to the changes around them and that failure hit them hard. History is full of similar examples where entire industries – often large, seemingly entrenched empires – have been decimated because of their failure to respond to change. The Swiss watch industry refused to adopt the quartz movement because it was not the way they always made watches. It took them years to recover. The record industry initially rejected digital downloads because they were not they way they always distributed music. They eventually relented, but it put them years behind where they could have been had they chosen to lead that change. The list goes on.

There is no denying that we live in a world of enormous change, where a single technology can make “the way we’ve always done it” obsolete very quickly. As educators, we need to be leaders in the ability to change and adapt and learn. The students we teach today will be the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and world-changers, and will be the ones who must address the big, wicked problems that need be solved in our future. If we want the education we offer to our students to be the key to making the world a better place, then we need to develop mindful, creative, critical thinkers, who constantly ask “why?”

We will never get the future we want if we keep saying “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

An edited version of this post was also published as an article in the March 2016 edition of Education Technology Solutions Magazine


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  3. Their World

Categories: Planet
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