Media literacy guru Frank W. Baker offers some favorite interactive web resources that can help teachers engage students in becoming savvy travelers through the media avalanche that engulfs us each day. Among his intriguing choices is the high-concept Admongo video game, developed by Scholastic and the Federal Trade Commission to increase the advertising literacy of tweens. Who makes ads? How do they work? What do they want you to do? A series of graphically pleasing games helps students find answers.
Edutopia's10-question quiz promises to tell you whether tech tools are improving your teaching "or just a distraction" by ranking you on a technology integration scale. That's a lot to promise, but there's also the offer of "smart tips to extend your tech comfort zone." We tried it out and found the tips (which are really, resources you can follow up on) pretty useful if you're serious about getting beyond newbie or "old school" status.
If you're interested in the possibilities of games and learning, find time over the summer to check out this 10-minute interview with Katie Salen, a professor of design and technology interested in how play can empower kids to learn. Salen offers her rationale for investing classroom time to engage students in games (digital or old-fashioned) -- both as players and designers. She also has ideas about using games to help with assessments of learning. Salen is the founder of the Institute of Play, which operates a NYC public charter school built around gaming.
Here's a hot article from Education Week — it was the most-clicked resource in the ASCD SmartBrief daily newsletter for the week ending July 2. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future looked at lots of recent research on effective teaching and teacher retention and came to several conclusions: (1) Teachers' day to day work continues to be disconnected from their colleagues; (2) The young people we are counting on to teach for the future are leaving our obsolete schools at an alarming rate; and (3) Today's teachers want to team up to teach for the future. "In survey after survey, teachers who are most satisfied with their careers and the contributions they are making to their students' lives are more likely to work in schools with higher levels of professional collaboration."
Middle grades students at an Oregon school combined place-based learning with some 21st century skills development when they created podcasts as part of their study of a local streetcar line that used to operate near their school. The student recordings, says this news story, are posted on the website of the regional transportation planning agency, which is considering reviving the original line.
At the Fires in the Mind site, sponsored by What Kids Can Do, young people are sharing stories about their own efforts to get really good at something -- from ballroom dancing and skateboarding to developing mathematical thinking and good study habits. As always, WKCD provides the authentic voices of a diverse cross-section of American youth -- a precious commodity. And they've included mindful ideas for teachers and parents to start some fires of their own. The site asks: "Do kids have to be born with talent to shine at math or chess or debate or cello? What draws them in, and keeps them going when things get harder? What's happening at school--or not happening--to light the fires in young people's minds?"
In this press release, read details (and see video) about the top 10 teachers recently honored by the Public Broadcasting System for their innovative teaching. The group includes three teachers in the middle grades, but you'll find easily adaptable innovations from other grade levels, including Robert Schechter's "An Author You Can't Refuse," a writing strategy he employs with ELL and mainstream students. PBS has featured nearly 200 middle level teachers over the course of this awards program, so be sure to explore the Gr. 6-8 dropdown menu at the innovation gallery. See, for example, this video of history teacher Joe Huber sharing animation work of his 8th graders.
Would you like to hang out at a place where "passionate educators challenge one another to propose sustainable solutions and structures for re-imagining schools and education, supporting one another to enact and refine the ideas"? If so, you're a perfect fit for Cooperative Catalyst, a new professional networking site created and led by teachers who are committed to creating schools that do not wound kids. Among the founders, interestingly, is Kirsten Olson, author of the 2009 best seller Wounded by School. The site is only three months old but there's already plenty of dialogue to sample and comment upon.
Middle grades teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron offers examples of how the Facebook social media tool can be adapted for student and teacher learning (if the IT folks will let you) -- including a Tucson science teacher's idea to let students combine community service, the scientific method, and viral communication. Wolpert-Gawron (known as TweenTeacher in blog world) also describes how a group of teachers are using Facebook to raise their voices about policy issues that impact the classroom.
What should an administrator expect of a school library media specialist? That's the question answered by author and elementary media specialist Carl Harvey in this nicely formatted one-page handout, suitable for sharing with your principal, your teacher colleagues, or perhaps your own media specialist. In these budget-cutting times, maybe a mailout to the school board would be in order as well? Without giving it all away, we'll hint that among the roles identified by Harvey (author of The 21st Century Elementary Library Program) are communicator, innovator, collaborator and technology integrator. The roles Harvey describes make perfect sense at the middle level, too. (And check out this discussion about new roles for media specialists at The Future of Education Ning site.)
After spending winter break "sick as a dog" on the couch playing with his dad's XBox, teacher Tom LeRosa came to this conclusion: "Everything we need to make paradigm-shifting educational video games that kids will actually play has already been created. Instead of starting from scratch, educators need to team up with innovative video game studios and merely tweak the powerful learning-based game models that already exist." See his post at Educational Games Research.
Can there be a more important role for the 21st century teacher than to help students "find the truth in a sea of factoids"? And "sea" may not be a big enough metaphor for the Web. How about galaxy? This recent article at the Edutopia site descibes the work of Alan C. Miller, a former investigative reporter at the L.A. Times who now helps middle and high school students discern fact from fiction and hyperbole through the News Literacy Project. While the article offers some good tips, you'll also want to follow the link to the Project's own site, where you'll learn about an effort to establish similar programs around the USA.
A fresh Middle School Portal resource is always good news. I love Jessica Fries-Gaither's opener to this great guide: "I have a confession to make: I hate science fairs." She avoided them for many years, but "the importance of inquiry-based learning kept drawing me back to the topic." Maybe, she concluded, "the mechanics just needed revamping." That done, she's now prepared to help others expand the notion of a science fair "to encompass a much wider and more flexible range of possibilities." It's time, she says, to "move past the volcanoes and studies of plants in light and darkness to real kids, real data, and real questions."
We're agreeing with the ASCD Inservice blog: "When the advice is good and the price is right, what's not to like?" The site is Free Technology for Teachers, and it's the brainchild of Richard Byrne, a high school social studies teacher who not only reviews the latest online web tools but suggests ideas about how teachers might build them into their instruction. If there's a slight bias in the direction of history, we shouldn't be surprised, but 15,000 subscribers will testify that much of what Byrne has to offer applies to most content areas. Great service to teachers.
"Public schools have long offered their students the same basic academic program," writes New York Times reporter Winnie Hu, "with little real choice aside from foreign languages or an occasional elective in what was a one-size-fits-all approach that drove many families to seek private and charter schools." That's changing at New Jersey's Linwood Middle School this year, where all 428 sixth graders "are charting their own academic path with personalized student learning plans - electronic portfolios containing information about their learning styles, interests, skills, career goals and extracurricular activities."
Before anyone passes off this resource as too frivolous in a standards-driven school climate, we hasten to note it's authored by "What Works" guru Robert Marzano. "I have been involved in more than 60 studies conducted by classroom teachers on the effects of games on student achievement," Marzano wrote in a recent Educational Leadership article. "These studies showed that, on average, using academic games in the classroom is associated with a 20 percentile point gain in student achievement." We're not talking Nintendo here, but games modeled on popular shows like Jeopardy, Family Feud or Pyramid. Before you don your Alex Trebek mask: Marzano found teachers get much higher gains from games by following four key practices. Click to find out which ones.
Bringing groups of students and teachers together in your school (or from across the district, nation or the world) is really pretty simple these days. Here's a list of 20 of the best current web tools for collaboration in education, compiled by Howie DiBlasi, a former IT director for the Durango School District in Colorado, for NMSA's Middle Ground magazine. Among his favorites: Curriki, ThinkQuest, WiZiQ, Storytelling Alice, and GlogsterEDU. DiBlasi includes a brief descriptor for each plus a super resource site where you can look for more. We'll suggest a new one: LearnCentral (which includes a free 3-way live conferencing feature).
"We're in the middle of my first big digital storytelling project that incorporates ocean surface currents," middle grades teacher Marsha Ratzel wrote recently in her blog Reflections of a Techie. And it's been a blast, she says. "Imagine how delighted I am to hear two girls huddled over in the corner talking like rubber ducks while they explain how the Gulf Stream moved these ducks around the ocean. They had no idea how cute they were and how delighted I was that they'd found a way to combine fun, science and digital storytelling." Ratzel goes on to explain each "chunk" of the project, which she "chopped into bite-sized pieces.” This link leads to a page with all three of Ratzel's posts about her project. Feel free to strike up a chat
A new survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project distills the views of 900 "internet stakeholders" on several key questions about the future, including "Will the internet enhance or detract from reading, writing, and rendering of knowledge?" Two-thirds of the experts say the internet has and will continue to enhance these skills. Surprised? The report is well worth investigation by educators, as is another recent study on wireless internet use, which shows that mobile technologies are having a significant narrowing effect on the Digital Divide.
The amount of time children 8-18 spent with media increased by an hour and seventeen minutes a day over the past five years, from 6:21 in 2004 to 7:38 today. And because of media multitasking, the total amount of media content consumed during that period has effectively increased from 8:33 in 2004 to 10:45 hours today. These data are among the many interesting (and potentially disturbing) facts found in the new report from the Kaiser Foundation, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds. After you read the report (or while you're reading it, smile), a good companion is the PBS Frontline Digital Nation site, where you can view a recent documentary on the impact of multi-tasking, read commentary about the Kaiser report, and contribute to a dialog about what learning is becoming on the digital frontier.