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Category Archives: Interesting Finds

I’ve recently stumbled upon a business blog titled I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and have found it surprisingly relevant to the world of teaching.  While I’m working my way through it, and will be excited to share more as I get further, this initial post made me think a LOT about planning and prioritizing.

On a daily basis teachers are faced with tons of choices.  Teacher look or silent lunch?  Physical proximity or public discipline?  Grade for mastery or completion?  Lecture or discussion?  Multiple choice or free response?

The problem is, there are often pros and cons of each (and I will be the first to admit that limited time is often a factor in the choice made), so we’re forced to prioritize.  But how do we figure out in which situations the reward vs. time required ratio will be highest?

In his post titled Introducing 2011: The Year of the Hustle, Ramit discusses the idea of disproportionate rewards.  That by investing a small, or large, amount of extra time in a task or project, the growth in rewards will be significantly higher than the increase in time.  The example he gives is related to the amount of time he puts into a guest post created for a blog, and the impact it has on how many people read it:

The immediate connection I make is to planning a lesson.  While it feels good to get through a plan, have all materials ready, and head home with a chance to watch your favorite TV show, this makes me wonder how much extra time would be required for a plan to begin yielding disproportionate rewards in regards to student mastery and/or investment in the content…

And how do we attach numerical values in order to calculate the disproportionate rewards?  I can attach numbers to student mastery (if I’m getting lucky with my assessment skills), but what about student investment, and their ‘I Can/I Want’ (to use very TFA lingo)?  And in the spirit of teacher sustainability and personal/professional alliance, how can I figure out exactly how valuable those extra two hours of TV/gym time are a night in order to figure out if the rewards really are disproportionate to what you’re giving up to yield them?

So this leaves me asking two questions:

1) How do I attach numerical data to pieces of the teaching world that aren’t as easy to quantify as pieces of the business world in order to calculate if a choice is producing disproportionate rewards, and

2) Which choices in my day will produce the most disproportionate rewards?  Where do I spend my time???

These questions make me excited to dive into 2011: The Year of the Hustle, where the aim is to find “unconventional ways to achieve high impact goals”.  Let’s see what we can figure out here in the world of education.

The more incredible education blogs I become addicted to, the more I am amazed by those educators who are able to make time to post so frequently. I’ve clearly fallen a little behind as I’ve gotten completely wrapped up in my most recent unit. I’ve taken David Warlick’s idea of personal learning networks that he fascinated me with at NCETC in March, and have adapted it into 8th grade objectives. Not only has it pushed me as an instructor both in design and implementation, but it’s also allowed me to be consistently wowed by what 8th graders can produce when given the tools and a little independence. Our MySpace discussion was just one example.

This week we’ve expanded our discussions to the wonderful world of VoiceThread. For those of you who have never heard of it, it’s an incredible online tool that allows you to build conversations around pictures and videos you upload in a slideshow format. The coolest part is that you can comment with both text and voice. So on many voicethreads you have actual conversations occuring. No microphone on your computer? No problem! Use your cell phone! The possibilities of what you can do with VoiceThread are limitless, with some examples being:

1) Documentation of school trips that allows students to add their own perspectives/memories for each picture.

2) Discussions around historical pictures/pieces of artwork.

3) Classroom videos that can be observed by other teachers for ideas, or so others can offer feedback and suggestions to improve instruction.

4) My most recent favorite… Dramatic readings of different kinds of poetry and plays. This is what we’ve been working on most recently in class. I’ve created a slideshow with three different photographs, each representing a poem (or scene) they’ve read recently in English class. Then students have the opportunity to record their interpretation of the poem as they perform it. I’m told you can embed VoiceThreads in blogs similiar to YouTube videos, but seem to be having technical difficulties with that recently, so I’ll just include the link. Hopefully I can fix that soon… Check it out and feel free to leave comments for the students! The more they realize they have an audience, the more I see the desire in class for them to improve their work, so feedback is MUCH appreciated 🙂

2012’s Poetry

Their thoughtful (most of them) comments generated around a collection of pictures

While I recognize that this is a KIPP blog, I also recognize that many KIPP teachers come from a Teach for America background (myself included). So on that note I can’t help but put in a plug for my most recent reading. Received a book in the mail this morning from my grandparents called “Relentless Pursuit; A Year in the Trenches With Teach for America”, by Donna Foote. Began it this evening and it’s incredible how dead on it is with everything from Institute to the cycle of a first-year teacher. This author has clearly lived the life of TFA teachers, and it’s refreshing to read as someone who has tried relentlessly to explain to both family and friends what it is that TFA, and KIPP, are all about.

Highly recommended from what I’ve read so far. Will keep you posted as I continue to read…

AKA: Create Your Own Newspaper

I was lucky enough to have two teachers visit my classroom today who were pretty inquisitive about both the hardware in the room (hard to ignore a beautiful SmartBoard with a wall mounted projector) and the content the students were tackling. One of them questioned if I was a ‘blogger’, and, while totally unintentionally, implied that there were certain people, or types of people, who blogged. I became totally intrigued by the perceptions of the ‘outside’ world as to who blogs, and for what purpose.

While I think it’s true there used to be a very small, specific community of people who blogged (in my mind they looked like your traditional techie who sat in a dark room and never left their computers, however not having been a blogger until recently I’m not entirely sure who they were), the idea of worldwide blogging is so powerful when thinking about communication, so many more have jumped aboard. KIPP NEEDS TO BE NEXT!

There are so many great things going on in so many of our schools across the country, but minus a few cross-campus visits every year, and of course KIPP Summit, our ideas and innovative approaches to teaching our content often stay within our schools. While KIPP teachers are famous for working hard, we need to start taking advantage of technology to work smarter. Here’s where blogging comes in…

There are these brilliant inventions available for free on the web now called AGGREGATORS. Many of you may even be using one and not know it (think iGoogle). They have the power to organize all your favorite websites and blogs on one convenient page (that can also easily be set as your homepage) and feed you new updates as soon as they’re posted. This allows you to see new blog posts to all your favorite blogs in a matter of seconds, all on one page. Now bear with me here…

Picture if a lot of the brilliant minds leading KIPP schools, and teaching in KIPP schools, started blogging. Doesn’t have to take much time, even small posts with random thoughts about school culture, middle-school social life, and brilliant misunderstandings that hit you mid-lesson and you wish you had prepared for. Now KIPP teachers nationwide open up Internet Explorer (or Firefox or Safari for all you brilliant Mac users) and see your post pop-up. Maybe it doesn’t relate to them or doesn’t interest them, so they ignore it. But for many blog posts, there will be many teachers who are immediately intrigued by what they see and venture to read the whole post. Now they add their own comments to the post, and BAM! A discussion is born. So easy, and SO beneficial to everyone involved. The blogger now has an audience outside their own school. The reader now has resources and conversation bringing in different perspectives. Either way, we’re communicating with each other, and continuing to think about how we can do what we do better. Isn’t that what we’re all about? Why should it be limited to 4 days each year at Summit?

While it’s easy to set up, and you’ll quickly fall in love, the bigger picture of cross-school communication can’t happen in a meaningful way until we get more (ideally 100%) of our teachers aggregating, and many of our leaders and teachers blogging. So here’s where to start:

http://www.netvibes.com (if you want to check out my public aggregator to see what it looks like when it’s set up, here’s the link to the one I use in my classroom with my kids. http://www.netvibes.com/saltinerockstars Saltine Rockstars is the name of our Tech Team, and the tab called Saltine Rockstars is a collection of all their blogs… I HIGHLY encourage you to check them out and leave comments… they need help understanding there IS a real audience out there! There’s also some education blogs on there to get you started… I’m working on making a public aggregator for KIPP this weekend, so I’ll put that up here when it’s created)

Here’s a quick video to show you how to actually subscribe to blogs/websites once you’ve set up your aggregator/reader. This one is showing Bloglines (another aggregator), but it works the same way:

If you want to start a blog, I use http://www.wordpress.com, but there’s a ton of other providers out there.

Also helpful, http://blogsearch.google.com/ can help you find a variety of blogs to get your aggregator started.