Monday, April 20, 2009

Blog Check: The Practical Principals

I recently discovered The Practical Principals podcast. The podcast is a conversation between two administrators: Melinda Miller, @mmiller7571, and Scott Elias, @ScottElias. Mrs. Miller is an elementary principale in Missouri and posts on The Principal Blog. Mr. Elias is an administrator in Colorado and posts on Scott J. Elias.

I found the podcast through Twitter and decided to listen to a few of the shows. As a teacher that never intends to become an administrator, I have listened with fascination about the role of the administrator. Just like students have no grasp of the job a teacher does, I realized I had no idea what an administrator does.

Two of my favorite podcasts are #10 Your Hired, which gave me great insight into hiring practices, and #12 Welcome Aboard, which deals with starting school with new teachers. Frankly, I am fascinated by both of these processes.

Both Mrs. Miller and Mr. Elias are fun to listen to. They have a rapport that makes listening enjoyable. They are both very knowledgeable and, more importantly, they work to better themselves as administrators. I would love to have either one (or both) in my building.

To sum up, if you would like to understand the principal's role in school, and enjoy listening to podcasts I recommend The Practical Principals. They have become part of my PLN.

Friday, April 17, 2009

#Comments4Kids Wednesday

This post was supposed to be a rant on my perceived lack of support by the twitter education community in regards to student blogging. Not that they are against student blogging, that isn't the problem. The problem is many don't want to take time to comment on students' blogs.

As an adult, I love to get comments on my posts. It is important to me to know that what I say matters to others. I covet comments! Students aren't any different. They want to know someone cares about what they have to say too. Yes, they do get feedback from their teachers, but is that enough?

I tell my students all the time that blogs give them an audience they don't have with writing on paper and pencil. They have an audience that is theoretically as large as the world population. Do you think they want to put their ideas out for everyone to see? That is such a scary idea! How do you think they feel when they finally do it, but no one notices?

The idea came during a Twitter conversation with Carey Pohanka, @capohanka, a middle school teacher from Fredericksburg, VA. I had tried twice to get some fellow tweeters to post comments on her blog (see above), and she let me know that a couple (wonderful) teachers left some comments. Then she wrote this:

Then I get a message from Derek Smith ,@lovinteachin, a fifth grade teacher from Colorado Springs that said:
That was how #Comments4Kids started. Each Wednesday we ask for those of you that twitter to identify and tweet one blog post by a student that deserves to be commented on. It could be a student that posts something really awesome, or a student in your class that needs encouragement. Simply tag it as #Comments4Kids. Don't forget to do your part as well. If you see a link with that tag, click on it and leave a quick comment. Your time and effort will have a huge impact on the student that wrote the post.

Here is the link to follow the #Comments4Kids blog recommendations.

@jlamshed started a wiki for us to add our links. It can be found at:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Technology is Making Me a Better Teacher

While reading David Title's blog Gravity and Levity I came to a startling revelation. I realized that what I am learning from teaching tech use in my classroom is bleeding over into my non-tech teaching.

Students come to me with many schooly skills. They can find answers and fill in the blanks on worksheets. They can (usually) answer questions using key words from those questions. They can copy notes off the board. These are lessons students learn early in schools.

Each year I have new students that need to learn how to post blog posts, create Power Points, and similar things using computers. I have begun to realize that these skills actually don't need to be taught, they can be learned by allowing the students time to explore and create. Instead of focusing on teaching them how to use the tools, I am teaching them when and how it is appropriate to use the tools. Then I ask them to reflect on their learning. I have come to realize I should be doing this all the time.

For years I have taught students to take notes by copying them off the board. Actually, I wasn't teaching them to do anything except how to copy words. This year I focused on teaching how to take notes. I am evaluating their note-taking skills when I observe what type of notes they are taking and if the notes are helping the students learn the material. After testing I ask the students about their note-taking and if their assessment scores were improved by the notes. I want them to learn the skill that allows them to be successful regardless of the content.

To sum up, students need little help to learn the tools, but they need our guidance and practice to use them in a way beneficial to their learning. Technology taught me this.