May 27, 2010
May 26, 2010
to encourage you to check out refdesk.com to enhance your teaching and motivate your students. By the way, this is only a very, very small taste of what you get on this incredible family-friendly website. Check it out and keep scrolling. There is new information daily for every content area you teach, plus one-stop access to just about every reference book you need. refdesk.com!
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Dred Scott Emancipated by His Original Owners (1857)
Scott was an American slave who sued unsuccessfully for his freedom in the famous Dred Scott v. Sandford case. Though he argued that having lived in states and territories where slavery was illegal rendered him a free man, the Supreme Court ruled against him in 1857, finding that no person of African ancestry could claim citizenship in the US or bring suit in federal court. Shortly thereafter, Scott was returned to his original owners and emancipated. What did he do after he was freed? More… Discuss
Five Habits—Easy but Often Neglected Practices That Improve Outcomes By Roben Torosyan, Fairfield – University, CT
Just in case you haven’t been able to keep up with the great articles in The Teaching Professor: some ideas for your fall classes.
By Roben Torosyan, Fairfield – University, CT
Given the daily grind of teaching, it is easy to forget that little practices can make a big difference when the goals are more learning and better teaching. Here is a reminder of five easy habits to practice mindfully (“mindfulness” comes from the Latin word for having a good memory).
Wait—After asking a question in class, most teachers know they need to wait, but they do not accurately perceive how long they wait. Often, in less than a second, they call on someone, pace nervously, or rephrase the question. With mindful practice, teachers can increase wait time to three to five seconds. When they do, more students speak up, they answer more fully, and they ask better questions.
Kick-start your opening; shout before you walk out—Too many classes fail to start or end with anything memorable. Drama and action can motivate learning in class and after it’s over. Kick-start your opening with an especially dramatic example, an unobvious question, the answer to a difficult homework problem, a relevant cartoon, or some intriguing background music. End by having students shout out a one-word takeaway. Or ask the question you’ll start with next class.
Do less and do it more deeply—Imagine a list of 12 course learning objectives, things like learning fundamental principles, acquiring team skills, and developing writing skills. Next, imagine that you must rate each as essential, important, or of minor or no importance. What if you did that but were then challenged to select not more than three to five as essential and important? Most faculty find that difficult to do. All objectives seem essential, despite the fact that when we do more, we often do things less well. A daily plan should include no more than three to five vital takeaways that students will understand, be able to do, or think differently about.
Grade smarter, not just harder—Many faculty spend lots of time grading. They write comments only to discover that students are making the same mistakes in the next assignment. Feedback often makes no impact. Instead, try returning problem-sets marked only right or wrong, and have students find and correct their errors before points are assigned for the work. Mark one page of a draft paper, noting problems that appear elsewhere in the paper. Challenge the student to correct them for the next revision. Offer feedback that is concrete and specific. Instead of calling something “unclear,” guide the student to “expand, explain, and give examples.” Sandwich critical comments with strengths: “This letter showed passion and used primary sources thoughtfully. Now have it add an opposing view. That way its passion and thought show fair-mindedness too.”
Mix it up—It’s easy to fall into ruts—to use the same pet activities over and over. I’ll have my students “write/pair/share” one too many times. I need to place reminders in my planning materials: “Move from pairs to small groups; move from small groups to large ones; then move back to pairs.” Not only do we need to use a mix of activities, we need to mix presentation modes (visual, aural, kinetic) so that the content comes to students in a variety of different ways.
Contact Roben Torosyan at email@example.com.
Most academics consider Wikipedia the enemy and so forbid their students from using Wikipedia for research. But here’s a secret that they don’t want you to know—we all use Wikipedia, including those academics.
There’s a reason that the Wikipedia entry normally comes in at the top of a Google search. Google relies heavily on inbound links to rank a site, and Wikipedia is one of the most commonly linked sites on the Internet. Here’s another secret—Wikipedia is vetted by volunteer academics. Wikipedia’s motto is “no original thought,” meaning that everything must be cited, and uncited material is quickly removed. In fact, studies have shown the Wikipedia is about as accurate as Britannica.
Here are two ways to use Wikipedia to improve learning outcomes in your classes:
Have Students Build ArticlesIn the Spring of 2008, Professor Jon Beasley-Murray at University of British Columbia had the students in his class “Murder, Madness, and Mayhem: Latin American Literature in Translation” create articles for Wikipedia on the books that they read. He transformed his students from learners to teachers, which improves outcomes. Plus, creating public work improves motivation as well as performance.
Importantly, the students were instructed to make contact with the Wikipedia editors—called the “FA Team”—to receive feedback on their work for revisions. The instructor had effectively enlisted outside academics as reviewers for his class. Wikipedia also has a quality ranking system that assigns “Good Article” or “Featured Article” status to exceptionally good works. About 1 in 800 articles reach Good Article status, while 1 in 1,200 reach Featured Article status. The instructor guaranteed his students an “A” for Good Articles, and an A+ for Featured Articles.
The results? The students, who worked in groups of two or three, produced three Featured Articles and eight Good Articles, an exceptional result given how few articles achieve these levels. These articles receive thousands of hits per month, demonstrating to students the value of their work. Now more than 20 universities have projects in Wikipedia.
May 25, 2010
If you are waiting for something like the ipad, watch for the Dell Streak. It is a miniature tablet computer that runs a version of Google’s Android smartphone OS. The screen is 5 inches, with 800×480 pixel resolution. You can use the Streak to make phone calls, play music, watch videos, and surf the web. Pinch to zoom is includedIt is larger than most cell phones, but you can use bluetooth to connect to a headset. Watch for more information later this summer when it is released in the US.
One of my favorite blogs, makeuseof.com, has numerous “how to” guides that demonstrate step-by-step how to use itunes, iphone, and photoshop, to list just a few. Just visit the blog and download the guide to your computer. It’s that easy. One of the best is a beginner’s guide to photoshop. Perfect for editing all the photos you took this year.
http://www.kennesaw.edu/cetl/resources/na_conf_list.html: list of educational conferences
Here’s a great site that lists educational conferences: plan your fall travel early.
May 21, 2010
After years of being a sub-page of the New York Times webpage, The Learning Network is now its own blog. Bookmark this one! It contains daily updated lesson plans in most all subject areas, an area for student opinion, student crosswords, ask a scientist, on this day in history, word of the day, a daily news quiz, today’s front page, and much more. Great for couching your lesson in current events!
Okay, here’s another great idea from Freetech4teachers.com: a list of great educational games for your classroom!
Just click on the RSS feed for this site to get the latest in your Google reader–lots of great info for teachers–and user friendly how-to guides as well. A great online “morning paper” for teachers.
An author at Freetech4teachers put together this guide (see link above) to using Google search, docs, books, news, and maps in the classroom. The guide consists of 33 pages containing 21 ideas and how to instructions for creating Google Maps placemarks, directions creating and publishing a quiz with Google Docs forms, directions for embedding books into your blog, and visual aids for accessing other Google tools.