Archive for September, 2008

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Last night I laughed out loud many times as I watched Amy Poehler and Tina Fey parody Hillary and Sarah. This morning, however, I was reading an op-ed column from the NYTimes called, “She’s not Ready“. I was interested in how many of the jokes were actually founded in reality, like Sarah’s comments on the Bush doctrine. She clearly doesn’t know what that means.  Another favorite is the (simplified) version of her idea of foreign politics (she can see Russia from Alaskan land!).

The other bit of troubling information came as, apparently, she addressed the audience at her son’s deployment ceremony, and said that they would be fighting “the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.” So why would she, knowingly, retell false history… insinuating that Iraq/Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. Does she not read? Not listen? Or just not learn? Even from her own party?

So this sounds like someone who refuses to seek out the truth… and then, worse, spreads those mistruths to anyone who will listen. And by (even potentially) electing her, we are just widening her audience and perceived legitimacy. Let the real educating begin. Our time is now.


Get another license

Posted: September 13, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Yesterday I received an e-mail postulating that the new high school in our district does not want to offer German as a language choice. I went to our principal and shared my concerns about how this decision might/will affect my position.

She told me to “un-sweat” it. 🙂  As long as my numbers keep growing, I will be fine. And she wants to (eventually?) IB train me so that even more students take and continue in German.

But then she did say this, “You should get your reading licensure. Many people who are single licensed are getting their reading license because it is an up-and-coming thing.”

So that left me with a bad taste in my mouth after a seemingly positive conversation. I know she is just offering sage advice and looking out for me in the case of something unforseeable and awful, but it’s not giving me any “heart” about the situation.

With the recent “meetings“, I know that, when it comes down to it, I won’t know about the loss of a program until it’s too late anyway.

Teaching an elective is draining. I often envy my friends who don’t have to worry about numbers… and about how every thing they do might affect their numbers, their program, and their job. It’s marketing and politics built into the already often overwhelming job of teaching, assessing, differentiating, supplementing and oh-so-much-more. And some days, I’m just tired.

Critical Friends

Posted: September 12, 2008 in Learning..., Theory
Tags: ,

Today in German 3 we began the critical friends process.

Yesterday we talked about what a critical friend is; what those words mean when juxtaposed. Students said that it was an important friend (critical=important) as well as a friend who gives you constructive criticism to help make you a better you. Then they listed three people in the class who they felt would be a good match as a critical friend for them.

I matched friends last night. The kids who said that they could work with anyone were nice to have in one scenario… otherwise the names mostly worked out.

Today I handed back the quiz answers they wrote yesterday. I handed the answers back to the critical friend… not to the original author. Then we “corrected” the quizzes.

Here’s the key: Instead of correcting (checking off right and wrong for some point value), the students tallied the skills that needed improvement based on the mistakes made in the answer.

For instance: He should eat Pizza. Answer should be: Er soll Pizza essen. There could be a plethora of ways that someone might not get this answer correct, and instead of assigning random parts of the sentence some arbitrary point values, the students looked at what the student might not be understanding… thus getting part (or all) of it wrong. Some of the things someone might need help with for this sentence are: pronouns, modal verbs, verb conjugation, vocabulary, capitalization of nouns, word order.

So the students finished the ten sentence quiz, tallying the skills needed after each sentence. Then we made a “critical skills” list. The skills that were most often lacking went at the top of the list. Both the critical friend and the partner wrote down this list on a post-it note I handed out. They kept their post-it notes in the cover of their notebook/folder so they know what to help their critical friend with. They also then know when to give praise once their friend has figured it out.

I’m looking at doing more skill based assessment like I did earlier… instead of just points assigned for right/wrong… because THIS gives them a starting place. And critical friends give them the support.

Week one has gone by for the 23 Things discovery learning project.

It was a hot and busy first week, and many people who were/are very interested didn’t have the time to breathe… much less get going on their 23 Things. (How was your first week this year?) I’m attributing the somewhat slow start to that… I’m still hearing interest in the program. Many asked if they could join in during the second week. Absolutely! So we’ll see how those numbers change in the upcoming week.

This project was publicized for our staff, but I’d love it if we had even more people participating (think Flat Classroom Learning). The learning from the 23 Things project is meaningful and easy (even for beginners), but the collaboration and networking that happens as you cheer each other on in their discovery journey becomes even more meaningful the more voices and perspectives we have.

So if you happened across my website today and are interested (at all), come and join us!

SWC’s 23 Things: A discovery journey in Web 2.0

SLA Goal

Posted: September 8, 2008 in Learning..., Moodle, Theory
Tags: ,

In the spirit of transparency:

This year I set a goal for myself (through our version of QComp) that I would spend even more time having the students . Specifically, my goal is for students to look at pictures and have discussions about the pictures. Keep it low key. Keep it fun. Keep them learning.

Today I read Ben Slavic’s site where it talks about traditional language learning… and it just reaffirmed that under-the-surface-bubbling that I have in my gut. A really interesting read… and motivating as well.

I rarely have problems with students with their heads down… but I would really like to be able to empower them to use the language more… thus the pictures and stories.

So for these first two days I have done the pictures with my German 3 class and it has been a fantastic way for students to speak and listen as they learn. One site I love to use (ripe with opportunities for interesting speaking) is Bent Objects. Are there any sites you use?

The other goal I have (and might choose to switch the paperwork to this one) is to work more with Moodle in each of my classes, trying more things. I am currently working with and in the Workshop module. I think it has fantastic capabilities for self- and peer-assessment. We just ran into a SNAFU as students weren’t able to see each other’s work as I had hoped. We’re going to try again soon.

Technology (for Cows)

Posted: September 8, 2008 in Moodle, technology, Theory
Tags: , ,

 I recently had the distinct pleasure of touring a brand new major dairy barn that is being built in the family. Since everything is new, they are switching over to RFID tags for the cattle. It all begins as they put a little round piece of plastic in the cow’s ear. From that point, the cow is a pawn in a fantastic tracking system.

As they enter the milk parlor, they walk to their place and the RFID chip is recognized.


The cow’s information comes up in the technology. The farmer can choose to milk/no milk along with other things.

As the cow is milked, the technology monitors the flow and amount of milk. This information is tied to the cow via the number on the RFID chip. Once the cow is done being milked, it’s time for the exit strategy.

As the cow leaves the parlor, she walks down the ramp and can be automatically separated by an electronic gate. The farmer (herd manager at this point, in my mind) sets up that certain cows need their hooves clipped or vaccines and enters those RFID numbers into the system. As that cow leaves, she gets separated via electronics into the area where she can be helped.

SOOO… What is the application? (AKA Why are you reading this?)

With the legitimate movement toward more and more formative assessment, we are empowered with information.  Through our empowerment, students are able to achieve at higher levels and it makes other things, like differentiation (for even more success), easier.

Technology can make our job easier, just as it does the herd manager. Maintaining and managing information about student ability through technology becomes easier and easier. The ability to aggregate and disaggregate this data can be almost fluid (after, of course, you learn how).

The technology I’m excited about for all of this, and plan on working with even more this year, is Moodle. Moodle has the ability to set up groups in your classes (separated and maintained by anything you think is meaningful) that can be visible or invisible to your students. You can then customize any assignment to certain groups.  You type in their number (add them to a group) and they can be separated for the help they need… online… (almost) effortlessly… seamlessly… and invisibly. Invisibility and seamlessness: the keys to meaningful technology.