Middle School Magic or Is It Madness?

This year I moved to teaching middle school science. I teach two classes of each grade six, seven and eight. In addition we are starting a VEX IQ Robotics Team and our first Science Olympiad team. Interest for these two activities has been high and we are hoping to have a successful first year. Feel free to share any tips, tricks or websites to help!

Vermont Bound!

Its been a crazy year, but I recently got some great news. I have been invited to attend the Discovery Education Summer Institute in Burlington, Vermont this July. Its going to be a great week of professional development in a state I haven’t been to before. It will also give me an opportunity to visit Cooperstown and some other scenic locations along the way. This is looking to be a fantastic summer. Is anyone else going?

Historical Square? FourSquare for History…

Curiosity has just checked in on Mars and is soon to be the Mayor of Mars. Although I am sure Marvin would like to say something about that. “That makes me very, very angry, puny earthling…” Check out the article here: http://thenextweb.com/shareables/2012/10/03/mars-curiosity-on-foursquare/
This made me think what would other historical check ins look like….

Seal Team Six checked in at Osama Bin Laden’s Hideout and ousted Osama as the Mayor.

Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln checked in at Ford’s Theater

Neal Armstrong checked in at The Sea of Tranquility on the Moon

This idea might make for an interesting history activity for students familiar with FourSquare. It could also be used by students studying a novel. Students could write FourSquare check ins for historical events or characters actions within a novel.

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In Focus: iPhone Photography

I am starting a series of posts about using the iPhone and taking good photos. I have an iPhone 4 and seem to get pretty good results. This first post will be just a simple list of the apps that I use most often for creating good photos. Later in the series I will explore each of them in more detail.

For Photography
Tile Shift Gen
Fast Camera

Just for Fun Photography
VFX Studio
Lightning Cam

How about you? What apps do you use with your iPhone for photography?

Five Things I’ve Learned

I got this idea from Ewan Mcintosh (@mcintosh, http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2012/06/five-things-ive-learned.html?%2BEducation%29) who was one of the first educators to contribute to the site Five Things I’ve Learned sponsored by the Pearson Initiative.
Here are my five things…

1. My students are not digital natives.
Just because some students have been around computers since they were born doesn’t magically make them better. If this was the case then I should have been an automotive native, since I’ve been around cars all my life. In fact I would argue that those of us my age and a little bit older (I’m 43) would be the true natives as we’ve seen much of the development of personal computers within our lifetimes. This assumes that we’ve used computers all of our lives and many of my peers thought computers were geeky when they were first available to us.

2. Classroom management systems don’t work for me and my students.
The key words being “for me and my students”. They may work for some students and teachers but I find that they are to restrictive. What works for me is my expectations and the understanding that I will treat each individual with respect and care.

3. It’s not acceptable to be non- proficient with technology as a teacher.
I’m still surprised by teachers who aren’t proficient with basic tools of technology. Worse yet some don’t seem to think that their students need to be proficient. Technology is not going away, parents (often) aren’t teaching the skills, so it’s up to teachers to make it happen. Can you imagine a teacher saying they don’t know how to read or write?

4. Teachers need to make connections beyond their classroom and school walls.
Professional development at the school and district level is not enough to keep one up to date with new ideas in education. Today it is too easy to make connections around the world. These connections can bring new ideas, insight and perspective.

5. I think the key for improving education is individualization.
All students are different. Why do we insist on grading and evaluating them by their date of birth? This doesn’t happen anywhere else in their lives. I haven’t got my grade 38 report card yet, have you gotten yours? I’m not sure how to make the change to more individualization of school, but the current drive towards standardization of all students is just going to turn off more students to learning.

So there’s my five. What are yours?

Sifteo and Scouting

I purchased a set of Sifteo Cubes earlier this year and had been using them in the classroom.  Students used them to practice simple math and spelling skills.  I wondered how I could use this tool with the scouts in my troop.

One of the important parts of an early scout’s learning is memorizing the Oath and the Law.  Usually it is learned by just plain memorizing it, which for some scouts is not the easiest way to learn something.  I used the Matching Creativity Kit to create a game for learning the Oath and another for learning the Law.   I tested it with the scouts and found that they enjoyed using the Sifteo Cubes. Just recently, I sent email to Sifteo to see if they wanted a post for their blog.  They were interested so I sent off an email with the post.   Check out the post and pictures (I took the pictures too…) here: