Thursday, December 13, 2007
Ike Turner was musical genius....he wasn't very nice to Tina....but they did make some great music together. Sadly, Ike passed away this week. I have two songs listed...the first is a Christmas song that doesn't seem to load reliably...so to honor Ike I added another just in case.
One of my favorite holiday flicks is Will Ferrell's Elf. His girlfriend played by Zooey Deschanel sings Baby Its Cold Outside while in the shower. In this version she sings the same song with Leon Redbone.
Another Christmas song you may not have heard is Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty Maccoll. Don't give up on the song too soon. Wait until Kirsty starts singing.
In September 1977, Bing Crosby was in London filming what would be his last Christmas special. He thought it would be a good idea to sing a duet with a young singer. Someone suggested David Bowie and although Bing had never heard of him the invite was sent. Bing passed away a month later.
Not only are Americans reading less... they are also scoring lower on standardized reading measures. The study finds
"less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20-year period, from nine percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004." "On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading."
So why are we reading so much less? There are lots of blogs posts about the study trying to explain this trend. Theories range from the pervasiveness of visual media (TV, computers, video games) to the rise sports participation, to the general lack of societal value of highly literate people. Smart people are ridiculed on your average TV show.
Some people even theorize that school, most notably the tests in school, has taken the fun out of reading. Some theorists say we have outgrown reading....we are evolving passed it. For thousands of years we told our stories by word of mouth. By comparison, the written word is still relatively new. With the enhancements of visual media, the theorists explain, we are simply taking communication to a new level. At first I kind of laughed that one off....then I started thinking more about it and wondered if there might actually be a partial truth there.
I read each night before going to bed…as much to wind down as educate myself (I’m more of a nonfiction reader). My own kids read at home most days…but sadly they will almost always pick the computer over a book. Fortunately a read aloud with mom or dad is still a favored activity.
I would like think the reading is simply losing market share in an ever competitive market for people’s time. 20 years ago there were 3 channels on TV. Now people have hundreds of channels as well as a hard drive worth of movies DVR’d to their machine to choose. They receive top rated feature movies in the mailbox on an almost daily basis and can order movies to be streamed to their TV.
20 years ago a child could play baseball in the spring and that was it. Now they can play 2 seasons of outdoor soccer, winter indoor soccer, lacrosse, football, wrestling, and just about every imaginable sport. 20 years ago the Internet was available for research scientists to share their data. There was no YouTube or WebKinz to eat your time. Reading (as entertaining as it can be) is simply losing the battle.
I do have to wonder whether there is time in a classroom to just read a book and talk about it with other people. With the emphasis on standards and NCLB we need to figure out how to teach each and every possible indicator as part of our children's reading activities. Do we sometimes take the fun out of book by wringing out every possible standards tie-in? Do we read anymore just to discuss and share the experience with a peer?
To Read or Not to Read
Of all the technology that has been added to the classroom since I’ve been teaching (desktops, laptops, tablets, Smartboards, digital cameras, teacher webpages, many titles of the software) the tool that has made the technology tool that has made the most impact with our teachers is
....drum roll please....
I understand why teachers love using a projector….it allows us to augment our message to enhance our presentation of content to the kids and if there is one thing that teachers love and are quite good at it is presenting to their classes.
Powerpoint seems to be the tool of choice to craft presentations and it is easy to see why. It is easy to use and it allows you to incorporate websites, video, audio, text, animation. If you can do it or see on the computer more than likely you can include it in a Powerpoint presentation.
A couple of years ago someone published an article online called "Death by Powerpoint" in which they lamented painful presentations in which business presenters lull their audience to sleep with standard template based presentations crammed with everything but the kitchen sink.
Are teachers guilty of doing the same thing to their students? Maybe…maybe not. It really all depends on how you put together your information. Scott Elias, a high school administrator in Colorado and blogger at Dare I Disturb the Universe (http://blog.scottjelias.net/) has put together a helpful presentation for you if you create Powerpoint presentations. There are some great tips and examples of what to do/not do in there and he ends it all with the one question we need to ask ourselves more often: "Would I want to be in my class?"
Taking Your Slide Deck to the Next Level
A new study published in Reading Psychology suggests that oral reading assessments lead to a misunderstanding or misdiagnosing of some student’s reading abilities. The study suggests that schools should shift more of their ongoing reading tests to silent reading tests with followup comprehension tests and to reduce their reliance on oral based tests.
Not saying we should throw the baby out with the bathwater...but it does sound reasonable that we might need to take a look at the way we assess fluency.
Free Rice is a game where children (and adults) can take quizzes to build up their vocabulary and for each question they get right they earn 20 grains of rice for the United Nations World Food Program. There are fifty different levels and the questions taylor themselves to your level of skill.
Give it a shot and see how high you can get. Show this to your students help them help themselves and earn rice for needy nations.
French scientists have challenged the stereotype of the dumb blonde and let science decide if the stereotype holds any truth. Turns out that blondes are no less intelligent than any other hair color. What scientists found was that people shown pictures of blondes did not perform as well on tests compared to how they performed when shown pictures of brunettes.
Why is that?
Scientists believe that because of the long standing stereotype people "dumb down" themselves because they are around someone not as intelligent. The blonde impact effects both men and women. The researchers say it really isn't any different than talking slower and louder to the elderly. We just assume they are hard of hearing.
Stereotyping takes years to learn....and years to unlearn.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Basically it boils down to this….there are lots of indicators but not all are tested. To best prepare our students for the tests we might try to teach all of the indicators but we would be wise to really make sure that students are proficient with the ones that the state consistently tests each year. For example, on the Grade 3 test the state has always asked a fair amount of comprehension questions (literal, inferential, evaluative), central ideas on Informational Text, and Main Idea, Characters, Setting for Literary Text. On the other hand they have never asked a question on High Frequency Site words.
In 4th grade Reading the emphasis is on Summarizing for both Reading Process and Reading Applications while the state hasn’t asked a single question on the Characteristics of Genre. Good information to have if you ask me.
Some schools have made the argument that Wikipedia is not as reliable as traditional print encyclopedias. Nature Magazine took up the challenge and compared a number of Britannica articles to Wikipedia articles and the results surprised this Wikipedia fan.
Nature Magazine found the Britannica articles were not without fault and had only slightly fewer errors than did Wikipedia.
I think teachers should allow the use of Wikipedia...but with the same caveat that teachers should use for all online resources. What is the credibility of the site/article? Is there bias in the writing....does this information match information I am finding on other websites or print sources? Students need to be critical consumers of information rather they use print sources or online sources for their research.
Senator Ted Stephens of Alaska is even trying to pass a law against Wikipedia use.
Articles of interest related to this issue:
Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio is perhaps the top rated screen capture software on the market. It retails for close to $300. Fortunately they have educational discounts. Earlier this month TechSmith decided to make v. 3 of Camtasia available for free from their website. Although the current version is v.5, version 3 has all the features a teacher could want. If you would like to teach your kids something on the computer this is a great tool to have.
You could even use this software to help with Math instruction. The Everyday Math program does teach some non-traditional algorithms. Why not use your tablet to record a video of how the different algorithms work. I'm sure the parents would find that helpful.
Perhaps next time you can offer any of these as extra credit assignments:
Now this... Imagine you are walking thru LaRosa’s and you find an interesting looking piece of furniture. It is old and very intricate. Could it be some long lost piece of art?
Same thing happened in London but it wasn’t me and it wasn’t LaRosa’s.