Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New Resources

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A couple of key organizations have recently started some wonderful blogs. Expand your personal learning network with these great resources.

Change.org started a blog in January. They hit on a range of topics including an interview with Thomas Friedman, Charter Schools, Writing, Class Size, Teacher Unions.... No educational topic appears off limits. Click here to check it out! 

HOPE Foundation, an organization dedicated to "supporting educational leaders over time in creating school cultures where failure is not an option for any student," debuted their What's Working in Schools Blog in February. Topics include professional development, teacher issues, policy, assessment and much more. Click here to view the What's Working in schools Blog.  

National Staff Development Council (NSDC), who's purpose is to ensure "every educator engages in effective professional learning every day so every student achieves." NSDC began a blog in January entitled Reflections. Authors include Stephanie Hirsh, Hayes Mizell, Jim Knight, Joellen Killian and more. The blog is dedicated to effective professional development. Click here to obtain great thinking on effective staff development.

 Psychology Today offers a menu of excellent blogs. My favorite is Radical Teaching, Classroom Strategies from a Neurologist by Dr. Judy Willis,  a board-certified neurologist and middle school teacher. She is an authority on classroom strategies derived from brain research. Click here for bio. She is an amazing resource. Click here to check out her blog.

Teaser: we have Dr. Willis coming to the IU in October to talk about math and the brain!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eating Crow

My husband gave me the Amazon Kindle 2 as an early birthday gift. All I can say is "WOW." The gift of all gifts for a bibliophile like me. I can't believe I once professed an aversion to electronic books.... I simply could not imagine giving up the look and feel of a paper book. Well  here I am, eating crow.

14 Reasons to love the Kindle:

  1. The screen has a paper-like quality.
  2. The screen has no back light - no glare.
  3. Holds up to 1500 books - Imagine carrying a whole library with you anytime you want
  4. Weighs just a few ounces
  5. kindlePlays audio books and has text to speech features - if allowed by the publisher.
  6. Wireless downloads of new books in 60 seconds. I actually purchased a book while waiting at a stop light.
  7. Built in wireless connection is built in - similar to a cell phone - you do not need to provide it.
  8. Ability to add PDF documents.
  9. Bookmark your favorite pages.
  10. Allows for note-taking in the text.
  11. Collates notes from a book or all books.
  12. All books are kept in an online Amazon account - keeps track of bookmarks and notes too.
  13. Battery lasts 4 days - when Internet connection is turned off
  14. Free Kindle application available for the iPhone or iTouch - syncs last page read - Great companion to the Kindle.

Why should curriculum and school administrators care about the Kindle?

As I use the Kindle more and more, I am captivated by its potential. Student textbooks and documents all material downloaded to Kindle. What if they added short video clips, it already has audio and text-to-speech capabilities - Could we have an interactive textbook - filled with text, audio and video ---- materials all in one place for all courses? The ultimate differentiated instruction tool. I realize the Kindle cannot currently do all of these things, but I dare to dream.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More on the Four Day School Week

Back in December I shared that Southern Columbia School District in Catawissa, PA intended to have a Four-Day School Week through January and February to save on heating androw desks transportation costs. According to School Leader News the idea of a four-day school week is gaining momentum around the county.

National Trends

Select districts in about 17 states already have a four-day week with similar proposals being considered by the legislature in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri and Washington. The four-day school week was introduced in the 70's in response to the oil crisis and is now gaining fresh momentum in these troubling economic times. In order to meet state laws regarding instructional hours, most districts found they had to add just over one hour of instruction per day. 

According to Associated Press (the source for this article) research indicates that districts save on transportation costs and can lead to increased attendance and teacher retention. In addition, studies have shown the four-day schedule has not negatively impacted student achievement, rather it may even help improve test scores. Critics indicate that the four-day school week is a burden on working parents and young children can't handle a longer school day.

Considerations

As a working parent myself I find the critics comments interesting. My kids already have long days. I start work at 8 am and school does not start until 9 am. We need daycare before and after school. I would love the option to send my children to school where they would have a rich educational program and not require daycare four days a week. I might still need to pay for one full day, but I see the costs evening out. In addition the concern also assumes all working parents have a 9 to 5 job. In reality parents work all kinds of hours and an extra day during the week may even enhance family time.

I am the most concerned about the knee-jerk reaction to simply add an hour of instruction to the school day. Why not follow Singapore's example and explore online learning as a component. Perhaps that isn't appropriate for elementary students, but we might find that secondary students would flourish.jump for joy

In the end I am neither for or against the idea of a four-day school week. However, if we are going to explore it, let's really look at it and not simply add an hour of instruction to the other four days of school. Most importantly, let's make sure the whatever structure we have is good for kids.  Let's take an opportunity to create a robust and relevant curriculum, not simply create a longer school day.

 

For the complete article see the March 20, 2009 article in School Leader News.

Desk photo courtesy of  Mouse's photostream from Flickr.

Jumping photo courtesy of Billie / PartsnPieces :::'s photostream from Flickr.