Pete Reilly’s new book “A Path With Heart” is a must read.  Here is my review on Amazon:

Teaching is a profession of two loves. The love of learning and the love of helping students acquire a love of learning. This book looks at both of these loves and puts them into fascinating perspective with poignant stories from the classroom. Some folks claim that inspiring students is a genetic gift. Not true. “A Path with Heart” shows how a teacher, how anyone, can inspire others from within using practical, easily developed “soft skills”. Trust, respect, honesty flowing from teacher to student and back is goal that can be achieved.I remember all those education classes in college and grad school covering teaching methods, nomenclature and learning patterns. I wish I had read this book back in those days. Instead I had to endure my own mistakes usually resulting from not understanding my students.This is a great book and should be required reading not only for every prospective teacher but anyone who has an interest in education.

http://www.amazon.com/Path-With-Heart-Journey-Teaching/dp/0986135402

I was a science teacher eons ago, but these two articles should get anyone interested in science excited.

The first describes the Tardigrade- a minute creature that can actually survive in the nothingness of space.  I don’t mean inside a space station or spacecraft.  I mean in the inordinately freezing and airless nothingness where any other living thing would immediately lose its life. It goes into a sort of water-less hibernation and can be dry-frozen for a year and literally come back to life.  It is not really that small, certainly visible and easily viewed with a magnifying glass or microscope.  More importantly, it is found all over the place, mostly in lichens and mosses.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/08/science/the-tardigrade-water-bear.html

The second endeavor is a telescope, actually a number of telescopes.  For the first time a group of extremely large, powerful radio telescopes are probing the universe together as one.  The purpose is to view a black hole for the first time.  By using all these telescopes synchronously, the power and data received is increase exponentially.  The first reception session yielded 400 terrabytes. We can view a black hole by watching the material swirling around it.  That area is called the “Event Horizon”.  The name of the telescopes working together are the EHT (Event Horizon Telescope).

Science is alive and well!

http://www.eventhorizontelescope.org/

This article by Andrew Gillen states the true advantages of this new form of learning.  What is great about MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) is that anyone can take them.  A high school student, a retired person, anybody can register and take any number of these courses, with some great professors.  The problem is that very few people actually complete them   Gillen says “For students taking a MOOC, self-motivation and self-discipline are even more important”. It is true. There is no one there to prod you and it is easy to procrastinate or simply abandon the work.  If you are not self-motivated, maybe you should think of a “brick and mortar” course in the presence of human bodies. There, you may be able to “learn” self discipline.  It seems that the peer pressure of presence and human interaction are intrinsic motivators.  Most people live and work in a human environment and self discipline is needed constantly.
This is a good thing.  It organizes your life and it makes you feel grounded and calm.  You will also be on time for meetings!

An article in the New York times talks about a new University that acts as a “technology incubator” for New York City.  This alliance of business and education is not new, but has a unique concept – applied science.  Students do work and research that will directly benefit people.

Why not do the same for K-12 education in a more limited way.  Companies can “sponsor” students who are promising in these companies’ own “academies”.   Soccer teams all over the world have academies that nurture their best prospects, sometimes from the age of 9 or 10 or earlier. They do rigorous study and work at their game.  Why can’t students do rigorous study and applied science as well?

Education in the US has gone from loosey-goosey, no accountability, let them go, to State and Federally mandated tests with rigid accountability for both students and teachers. This has caused an education system that is solely based on the tests and testing data. Teachers, Administrators and Students have become “puppets” of this system. Teachers no longer have the time to make learning interesting and fun for their students. In the last decade education has moved from the sublime to the ridiculous. 10 to 12 years ago Education in the US was too free-wheeling and open, with teachers doing what they wanted and no accountability. There was no rigor. This was recognized by business and government. Politicians realized this and in the usual manor, overreacted.
Now is the time to start to change this to a more balanced approach.
We want to start a school that would run under this more balance approach and still be a project-based learning environment, where students work in teams to create things, solve problems and learn to be successful members of society.
The idea that college is the necessary goal of all students is not realistic. In the 21st century, specialized technical skills in conjunction with critical thinking and problem solving can make for a very successful career. The same skills can also make a very successful college and post-college career.
Yes- a student does need to know some basic skills that need practice and more practice. Why can’t that practice be embedded in projects and collaborative exercises?
The school’s success will be measured by the success of it’s students, not necessarily academically, or financially but socially and humanistically.
A teacher’s success will not be judged by one or two test results, but by students, parents and supervisors together. Teachers will have the freedom to experiment with new methods and students will have the freedom to participate in wide-ranging projects that take them out into the “real world.”

This article regarding the Stuyvesant HS  iPhone cheating scandal gives new meaning to the term “scanning” papers.  I agree with the author on many counts.  I would also add that in addition to “learning for learning’s sake”, working on character education early in a student’s  career might be helpful.  Project-based learning with more assessments “for learning” and fewer “of learning”  would seem reasonable.

One of the challenges has been simply the teenage mind.  Many teenagers are just not into learning.  They need to find something that interests them and focus on it.  One of the best things a parent or teacher can do is give a teenager something that they can strive for. Even if he/she never actually pursues that particular interest in the future, it gets their mind to focus and all of a sudden they have a highway to travel.

Here I am sitting in my classroom about to teach a class at the local community college and I am on the college’s computer.  Yes, I can go access my docs on Google, but I recently added Google Chrome Frame to my personal computer so I can do all the neat Google Doc sharing on Internet Explorer rather than Chrome.  Even though I do have Chrome on my personal computer, I need to use Internet Explorer for certain sites and I don’t like switching between them.  So Google has Google Chrome for Internet Explorer which allows you to download an add-on.  Google also has another add-on called Google Cloud Connect  that allows you to open, work on, save, share  and download Micorosft  office documents in Google Docs.

This is all very cool, but these add-ons are on my local computer and I can’t load them onto the college’s computer because it is locked down.  So sometimes the cloud doesn’t quite work out.

I would imgine that eventually the browser will get smart enough so that we don’t have to keep loading add-ins, but right now, it seems a bit out of hand.

If we are truly mobile, it should mean full funtionality at all locations and all platforms.

 

Just watched a PBS show on Fredrick Law Olmsted. I knew about him, but didn’t realize that he was a genuine genius.
Olmsted was to the urban landscape as Tesla was to electricity. I spent many hours with my grandmother as a young child in Central Park. She lived only a block away on 75th Street. As a young teacher, I taught a few blocks from Central Park and regularly brought my classes to the open fields for sports and games. I spent many hours running its famous roads as a member of the NY Roadrunners and every once in while, when the snow came down hard, I would cross-country ski on those same roads. I spent many hours playing on one of the 26 tennis courts north of 96th St. I don’t get back to the park as often as I would like, but it is certainly, in the least, a unique and calming place. I recommend watching this documentary.

You can watch the entire program at the site below. Just click on the link “Watch the full program”:

http://www.thirteen.org/olmsted/

Other Olmsted sites:

http://www.pbs.org/thinktank/transcript803.html

http://www.fredericklawolmsted.com/

http://tv.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/arts/television/the-olmsted-legacy-on-pbs-review.html

http://www.theolmstedlegacy.com/

I spent a day in a local middle school last week and saw a class in the computer lab looking as if they were playing 3D games. The were doing the typical stuff kids do on PC games: zooming through rooms in 3D as avatars and trying to destroy enemies as they go. They were totally engrossed. The math teacher, who was walking around the lab helping individual students, explained to me that to advance in the game, they had to solve math problems and that they played both against each other and against players all over the world. The students often helped each other both in and out of the game.
I started thinking about assessments, test administration and test taking. Students are taking more and more tests in school and often those tests become a primary method of determining the progress of a student. Students who learn both in a virtual and the real world are assessed in both environments. The teacher can go online in the aforementioned game and see the progress of a student. The student has a stake in his/her own progress as the game progresses. A student who is considered a “bad” test taker often has high anxiety when the a high stakes test comes around. But if the same student is assessed more frequently and in ways that are less nerve-raking, a teacher may see their true ability and weaknesses.Not unlike sports,  there is a certain tension during  games. Usually, since it is an enjoyable activity, that tension is not debilitating. A combination of online educational games, with project based learning (and an occasional high-stakes test) appears to me to be a more equitable method of assessing our students.

Dimension U

Two articles in the NY Times this week brought out the problem of how ethnic identity issues seems to be taking over and becoming the new racism.

The first United States winner of the NYC Marathon came to the US when he was 12 years old with his family and has been an citizen of the US for over a decade. Who is it for anyone to say he is not a “true” American?  My grandfather came to this country 75 years ago through Ellis Island.  Was he not a “true” American. This country is a melting pot and will always be a melting pot.  That is why this is such a great country.  I would ask these doubters to please read the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The second article brings out the fine line between religion and ethnicity.  It shows how one is intertwined with the other in deep and significant contexts. Defining a “true” American is not quite the same as defining a “true” Jew in Great Britain but there are similarities.

To Some, Winner is Not American Enough

Who is a Jew?  Court Ruling in Britain Raises Question

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