Pelican Ponderings

Thoughts and ideas from another educator

Pelican Ponderings

April Showers

April 11, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

 

4fingers

I ran across this blog post that has some interesting ideas for ways to utilize social media tools to enhance learning, collaboration and outreach in and out of the classroom. A related blog post on The Power of Twitter happened to come across my stream around the same time that speaks to the utilization of social media for professional development. Both pieces are good reads that may inspire you to try something new. If you think that Twitter is just a big waste of time, take the time to read the  following blog post from Carolyn Durley (@c_durley), a member of my PLN. Her thoughts may convince you otherwise.

Recently, we have been discussing the issue of gender equity in our upper level courses, particularly in the areas of Math and Science where girls have been traditionally under-represented. The Institute of Education Sciences has a “what works clearinghouse” with a bunch of great resources about education related topics including a practice guide titled Encouraging Girls in Math and Science

To round out this edition of the Friday 4 (or more than 4!), here are two nice articles about how we ask questions in the classroom and Ways to Cultivate ‘Whole-Class Engagement’.

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Spring has sprung….well, not quite.

March 30, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

 

4fingersDespite the weather of late, the spring term has officially begun and the race to June is in full swing. While it is not time to revamp an entire curriculum, it is a good time to try a few new things in the classroom and shake things up a bit. Here are a few items that may inspire you to try something new in your classroom this spring.

  • Pedagogy Postcards is a series of short blog posts by Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) that I ran across on Twitter that cover a range of teaching topics. Tom describes the posts as “A series of short posts about specific elements of teaching practice that I think are effective and make life interesting.”
  • As most of you know, I teach in a “flipped classroom” and have found that the practice has changed the learning dynamic in my classroom. We are beginning to see some research come out on the benefits and drawbacks of the flipped classroom now that it has become more widespread in use. Here is a news story from thejournal.com that includes a link so some of the recent research. For more info on the flipped classroom, here is a great piece 4 Pillars & 11 Indicators Of Flipped Learning from the teachthought.com website.
  • Looking for creative ways to use Google forms? Here is a great list of tons of uses for Google forms that may spark your interest.
  • Tips for Writing Good Multiple-Choice Questions is a nice piece from the facultyfocus.com website that contains practical advice for designing MC questions.

Enjoy!

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Final Friday 4 for February

February 28, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

 

4fingers

February may be the shortest month of the year as far as calendar days are concerned, but this year, with respect to the weather in New England, February has been one of the longest on record. As one frigidly cold blustery day blends into yet another sub-zero polar vortex of a night, I anxiously await spring and the first baseball practice outside when I do not have to wear my thermal socks. What better way to spend yet another day cooped up indoors than to consume one last Friday 4 missive. With no further ado, here you go…

  • Several colleagues mentioned in a recent survey on the Kravis Center that they would like some help effectively incorporating technology into their classrooms. Google forms is a powerful tool that can be used in a whole host of ways. There happens to be a Classroom 2.0 live show on Google forms on Saturday, March 1 at noon EST. You can join in here live or listen to the presentation at a later time.
  • Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) recently wrote a piece on his Free Technology for Teachers blog about How to Add Voice Comments to Your Google Documents that can take your feedback on student writing to the next level.
  • 7 Things Smart Learners Do Differently is a nice little piece that might be nice to share with your students and serves as a good reminder as we develop lesson plans.
  • Peter Gow (@pgow) recently wrote a piece on his blog titled “Why Twitter Beats February” that describes how he uses his Twitter PLN to make the days of February bearable. Seemed appropriate as I watch the weather forecast predicting yet another snow “event” in the coming days.
  • Examining Your Multiple-Choice Questions is a piece I ran across on the Faculty Focus website that begins an exploration of how to craft better multiple choice questions.
  • My final nugget is completely unrelated to teaching and learning, but given that the Loomis Chaffee mascot is a pelican, I could not resist! Get an up-close, face-to-face view of a rescued pelican learning to fly.

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A not quite Friday 4

February 22, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingers

  • New Study: SAT Scores Have No Bearing On College Success. For those of you who work with students who are college bound, this story and the study are quite interesting and worth sharing with our students.
  • How can we reverse the disturbing trend of gender imbalance in the STEM fields? Here is a nice little video that asks girls about their experiences in physics and a practical guide from the National Institute for Educational Research “Encouraging Girls in Math and Science.
  • I have had a number of people ask me for help in developing rubrics of late and truly enjoy the process of crafting the criteria for assessment as well as the descriptors for each level of performance. If you are not using rubrics and do not know how to start or just want a refresher course on the qualities of a good rubric, here is a great little online tutorial from the University of Colorado Denver that is quite good.
  • Ran across this news article that was shared on Twitter by  my brain science friend Dr. Judy Willis (@judywillis) that looks at Why Some Smartphone Games Are So AddictiveNot sure who Judy Willis is? Check out this little video from Jay McTighe (author and designer of the Understanding by Design approach) about Judy.
  • Looking for a way to organize your own research or help students organize research for an assignment in your class? Check out this option of using Google Slides from Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) “How to Use Google Slides to Organize Research.

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Another snow day…another bunch of resources

February 13, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

 

Ready to hunker down for yet another snow day? If you are anywhere on the East coast today, you may be! You can not spend the entire day shoveling, skiing or frolicking in the snow so here are a few recent finds that you might find interesting. Enjoy!

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Snow Day Readings

February 5, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Snow days are a mixed blessing for most teachers. While most enjoy the extra hour(s) of sleep and the brief respite from the craziness of the typical school day, the havoc a snow day can create in a well thought out and planned series of lessons is sometimes not worth it. In the spirit of the the glass being half full, I prefer to see snow days as a chance to catch up on my professional reading and treat it like a free day of self-directed professional development. Sounds a little better now doesn’t it?

If you do not already have a list of items on your “To Read” list, allow me to suggest a few to start you off that have crossed my radar of late and ended up in my Diigo Library. Enjoy the snow if you are experiencing a snow day or bookmark this post for the next time you find yourself with an unanticipated free PD day.

  • Four Student Misconceptions about Learning” is a short piece that appeared on the Faculty Focus website that is a nice little piece in its own, but the real gem is the link at the end of the article to a free download of an awesome book Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum.
  • Prefer a little video on a snowy day? Here is a thought provoking short documentary on future learning. “Students are the future, but what’s the future for students? To arm them with the relevant, timeless skills for our rapidly changing world, we need to revolutionize what it means to learn.”
  • 25 Factors Great Boarding Schools Have in Common is a blog post from Pat Bassett, former president of NAIS, and Pete Upham, the current director of TABS. An interesting read particularly after watching the video on future learning.
  • A colleague passed along a great recently published article on the link between later school starting times and adolescent mood and sleep patterns. You can find a brief article about the study including a link to the original paper here.
  • As a final item, I would encourage any and all to join #TABSchat tonight (2/5) on twitter at 8 PM EST. Tim Quinn (@TimothyQuinn6), the author of the book On Grades and Grading will be joining the conversation. A great opportunity to ask the author any questions you may have after reading the book!

If you are experiencing a snow day as I am, ENJOY!

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“Unconference” kicks off 2014

January 6, 2014 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

thumbs-upLoomis Chaffee tries a new model for PD

We took a risk today and tried a new model for professional development with our faculty, namely, the “unconference” model. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of an unconference, you can read an earlier post I wrote here in anticipation of the day.

As I introduced the event to our faculty, I took a quick poll of the audience to gauge their previous experiences with PD outside of our traditional faculty days. Not surprisingly, most had attended a professional conference of one kind or another recently. When I asked how many had ever attended an Edcamp event or any other unconference-like event, nobody raised their hand. I was hoping that at least a few had some experience with unconferences so I was a little surprised but remained optimistic that we could pull it off. I briefly explained the concept and charged the faculty with taking control of their own PD for the rest of the morning.

Fortunately, we had a few session leaders lined up ahead of time so that we were not starting with an entirely blank schedule. With only two time slots available for the event, I was hopeful that we would be able to fill the schedule and provide a wide enough range of sessions for people to attend. I was excited when I saw the final lineup of sessions and was optimistic that the morning would go well. Below is a list of the sessions that our faculty led.

  • Inciting class participation by design: Using homework?
  • Using hands-on learning projects in class.
  • More than just a letter: Evaluation of and feedback on student work
  • Open Discussion on dealing with race and other tough topics in the classroom.
  • The heart of the matter: Best practices in advising.
  • A model for assessing class participation and providing feedback to students.
  • “Shaping the class” An insider’s view from the Admissions Office.
  • Best practices for preparing and executing a well organized lesson plan for linear learners.
  • Voice Thread – a tool for asynchronous discussions in the classroom.
  • A Call to Action: Loomis Chaffee Earth Day brainstorm session. All School action oriented activities for April 22nd in the spirit of our school theme Climate Change & Water.
  • The College Selection Process – an open discussion.
  • iPads in the Classroom.
  • Grademark and turnitin.com. Online grading, editing, and rubrics.
  • Athletic recruiting and practice planning.

During the morning, I wandered in and out of all of the sessions and witnessed some of the most engaging and interactive professional development going on. Not surprisingly, the faculty were eager to share and learn from one another in this format and took to it like a fish to water. In each session, somebody took notes to a shared document that swelled to 11 pages by the end of the morning, a nice archive of the discussions that occurred.

While I heard a number of positive comments from faculty during the morning about the format, I wanted to survey them and get some more formal feedback so I created a quick survey that I mailed out later in the day. While I have not heard from everybody just yet (~25%), the initial feedback has been quite positive. On a scale of 1-5, when asked how the day compared to previous PD programs, 77% rated the day a 4 or 5. When asked how interested they would be to have future faculty days use the unconference format, 87% rated it a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5. 78% of the respondents said that they would be interested in leading sessions if we used the format again. I asked people to share their major takeaways from the experience and heard the following:

  • “It’s a time when colleagues can chat and get together. We may not schedule enough time into our calendars to do this.”
  • “Terrific exchange of ideas – in both sessions I experienced today. I was impressed with the fact that EVERYONE participated, and that ideas were thought provoking – in regular faculty mtng, so many people remain silent.”
  • “Good to sit with colleagues that I do not often get to sit with and discuss the topics that affect us all.”
  • “I did take away that our faculty is creative, energetic and collaborative when given the opportunity.”
  • “empower people and you get results.”
  • “My major takeaway was that the unconference format stimulates conversation and discussion far more effectively than traditional PD sessions.”
  • “Other teachers are awesome! Groupthink is the way to go.”
  • “We (the LC Faculty) are an extraordinary resource….and sharing among ourselves allows us to get into the weeds of the pragmatic, useful, relevant, and actionable in a way that employing an “outside expert” for a day often precludes.
    This process also acts as glue for us all…great for morale and institutional confidence!”
  • “Sharing ideas with colleagues is fun!”

There were others, but I think you get the idea. All in all, I was pleased with how the day went and am even more convinced that this model for professional development is definitely worth the time and energy. As always, I appreciate any comments or feedback.

 

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First Friday 4 for 2014

January 3, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingersA quick set of interesting finds from the past week to get you through the first weekend of 2014.

  • The Neuroscience Of Learning: 41 Terms Every Teacher Should Know is a piece from my friend Dr. Judy Willis (@judywillis) that appeared on the teachthought.com website and recently appeared in my twitter stream.

  • Taylor Mali (@TaylorMali) visited us a few years ago and ever since then, I love it when a link to one of his videos hits my radar screen. I never pass up the opportunity to watch him perform one of his pieces on teaching. As I was flipping back and forth between writing this post and my twitter feed, the video “Miracle Workers” was mentioned by somebody I follow. Enjoy!

  • I usually find Grant Wiggins’ (@grantwiggins) blog posts thought provoking and his latest post is no exception. He starts the year off with some practical advice for classroom teachers and takes on the final exam vs project “debate.”
  • I like it when I am reminded about a blog that I have not read in quite some time; it is like discovering it for the first time all over again. Here is one that fell off my radar screen but is now back on it! The Loomis Chaffee International student blog.

Happy New Year!

 

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Final Friday 4 for 2013

December 27, 2013 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingersAnother Year in the Books…What are Your PD Plans for 2014?

As the 2013 calendar year comes to a close, I would like to make a pitch for something that should be on every educator’s New Year’s Resolutions list as we prepare for 2014. The resolution is actually a relatively simple one that can be accomplished in several ways, none of which require a gym membership or forgoing anything at meal time.

Commit to taking more control of your own professional development in 2014.

If you are up to the challenge, I have 4 “opportunities” for you in this post that will get you started on the road to becoming more in charge of your own professional development as an educator. Feel free to be an over-achiever and partake in all 4 options!

  • Sign-up to receive the weekly newsletter from the Edreach website. For those of you unfamiliar with Edreach, here is their vision: “EdReach provides a platform for passionate, outspoken innovators- aiming to strengthen their voices by highlighting innovation in the field of education, through reporting critical educational news, providing commentary, and offering criticism of the educational issues of the day.” I subscribe to several of the weekly podcasts from this site and have found them a great way to pass the time when I am out getting in my Fitbit steps.
  • Sign-up to receive the Connected Educators Month Digest of highlights of the day. This online newspaper is from paper.li and the connectededucators.org website. Paper.li automatically processes more than 250 million social media posts per day, extracting & analyzing over 25 million articles.
  • On January 25, 2014 there is a unique opportunity for PD that is happening at several locations simultaneously around the country, EduCon 2.6. Grant Lichtman (@GrantLichtman) recently wrote a blog piece that described the event and gives some background on the partnership behind the event. For those of us in CT, we can participate simply by heading over to the Renbrook School on the 25th since they are one of the 6 host sites. You can register to participate at Renbrook here.
  • The Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) hosts a whole range of PD opportunities throughout the year that are predominantly teacher led and low cost to attend. The CAIS Commission on PD schedule of upcoming events can be found here. I recently joined the Commission on PD, attended several CAIS events in the past few months and found each one a valuable and worthwhile event.

Happy New Year of PD!

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The “unconference” comes to Loomis Chaffee

December 20, 2013 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingersI have been remiss about posting my Friday 4 of late and would like to get back to regularly posting interesting items that I have come across but need to take a bit of a detour in this week’s edition. On January 6, 2014 we have a professional development day that will be a bit of a departure from what we have traditionally done during in-service days. Rather than bring in an outside speaker and subject the faculty to a more passive version of professional development, we are going to push the envelope a bit and hold our very first “unconference” faculty in-service day. We have been moving in this direction over the past few years as we used the faculty day for faculty-led seminars on various teaching techniques and pedagogy and had our faculty choose the sessions that they wanted to attend.  Last year we added a follow-up session to the end of the day where faculty could explore the topic that most interested them from the morning sessions in greater depth and actually begin using the tools that they had heard about in the morning. The reception to these more hands-on opportunities was resoundingly positive but still only tapped into a small fraction of the expertise that our faculty possesses. Enter this year’s plan…the “unconference.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the unconference model, let me try and capture its essence in a nutshell. An unconference creates space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity. The agenda for the day is created by the faculty and all of the sessions are faculty led/facilitated. The professional development is placed in the hands of the professionals, the faculty!

Here are a few links to some resources that will give you some background on the unconference model and how it works.

  • Here is a post from the Powerful Learning Practice website Unconference: Revolutionary professional learning.
  • Here is a short video that was used at the recent TABS conference to introduce the concept of the unconference.
  • Here is a blog post from the ASCD website that explains why they have begun promoting the unconference model for professional development.
  • Here is a document that I cobbled together from several resources with tips and tricks for how to participate in our first unconference.

The power of the unconference is the collective wisdom of the faculty and the desire to be in control of your own professional development. I must admit that I was skeptical when I attended my first unconference, the Edcamp CT that occurs in August at the Ethel Walker School. I was ambivalent about how successful a “programless” day of professional development could really be. After a day of sharing and engaging in the conversations that I was interested in and meeting a whole bunch of passionate educators, I was sold on the power of the masses to be able to create high quality, valuable professional development. I have connected with and collaborated with several people I met at my first unconference and even helped to organize and run the unconference this fall at the TABS conference.

Your homework for this exciting day of professional development is to think about what you want to learn and consider leading a session. If you are looking for some inspiration, here is a list of the Top 13 Teaching and Learning Articles of 2013 from the Faculty Focus website that crossed my twitter stream today.

A closing quotation that seems appropriate would be, “You only get out of it what you put into it.”

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