Flip Video Anyone??

flip_videoThe Flip Video camera is an amazing little device.  It puts different types of projects in our reach.  Today while browsing Tech and Learning, I came across an article on using the Flip Video in class.  If you have an interest in using these cameras, you should definately check out the article: http://www.techlearning.com/blogs/32824 You don’t need to own one of these cameras yourself to do any of these projects.  PPS teachers can borrow a set of these cute little cameras from Instructional Technology.  Just ask your TRT to set it up for you.

Tips for Google

Google top ten


Ever get frustrated when searching using Google?  I’ve just read an article that might help. Tech & Learning is a free magazine that highlights different technology issues as they effect 21st century teaching and learning.  It’s a  great resource and their recent article on the Google Top Ten really helps to remind us of the basics we should remember when using the search engin.  Check it out, you might even learn something new…

Add “Watch TV” to your homework assignment

 Electric company

The Electric Company is back and it’s better than ever…I just found out that WHRO will be airing the Electric Company at 5:00pm weekdays.  The show is perfect for 2nd grade and struggling third grade readers.  Far from the classic that I watched when I was a kid, the updated show has all the bells and whistles that attract the current generation.  I ran across an interview that the new producer did and she explained some of the changes…http://www.pbs.org/engage/live-chats/01-21-2009/karen-fowler .

In addition, the show has a really cute website that helps students to practice some basic second grade word study skills.  I would add this site to those that students use in the computer center: http://pbskids.org/electriccompany/

Marzano Keynote

This session with Marzano is entitled: Developing Standards-Based Schools One Teacher at a Time

There is a growing movement to change the way we allow students to show what they have learned.  So many things are beginning to come together sometimes the terminologies get confused, but we’ll get that sored out.  New book coming out about formative assessment…formative assessment is at the crest of the wave of change that we are beginning to see. 

We need to make a distinction beween forms of assessment and uses of assessment.  Forms of assessment: obtrusive, unobtrusive, and student generated. Obtrusive: instruction stops and assessment begins – the traditional paper-pencil test, student presentations.  There are a lot of ways to get information about what students know.  Unobtrusive – instruction doesn’t stop – Phys ed teacher shows kids to throw and then watches and makes observations.  Student Geenerated is the most powerful.  Student says “let me show you what I know”.  It allows students to guide there learnign.

Uses of assessment: Formative scores, summative scores and instructional feedback.  Formative scores can be derived from any one of the previous forms of assessment, are scored in some fashion and recorded and can/should be used to track student progress over time.  Summative are pretty much the same except the represent a student’s final status after some interval – this can be derived or informed by a series of formative scores.  When students track theri own progress there is a 36% gain.  instructional Feedback – derived from obtrusive and unobtrusive, can be scored but usually not, not recorded, but used to provide students and teachers with information that should change their behavior.  These can use these to inform summative scores.

Students can usually accurately tell you what score they should receive.  If they give you a score that you can’t justify you should ask them to demonstrate their knowledge.  Students need rubrics and multiple assessments in order to get the correct feedback for this. Tests aren’t necessarily accurate nor do they show you student learning over time. Teachers need to take scores and use their judgment of how the student has progressed over time to determine what the grade should be.

Eventually a district or school has to address the issue of report cards with rigor and courage.  Perhaps the sacred cow that is the report card needs to be changed. Changing your report cards to standards based instruments will be a bumpy road.  Scores with letter grades are arbritary.  There is no logic associated with this type of grading.  Students and their parents need to know where the student started at a certain point of time and the knowledge that they gained over the period of time that is being reported.  Then they can look and see the student’s rate of growth over that period and identify if there is a problem with the student’s rate of learning.  If a student comes into the time period with a certain level of knowledge in a subject area and leaves without gaining any additional knowledge (if it has been presented) there is a problem.

Performance based VS Time based educational systems: Performance based does not require students to figure out teacher rules from year to year. Requires student to take control of their learning.

Individual teachers can operate a standards based classroom.

  • Map out the curriculum (District should give this to you)
  • Teacher the required topice for first quarter and report scores
  • Allow students to work in small groups or individually a few times during the week during second quarter to increase their learning on quarter 1 topic while introducing Quarter 2 topics.
  • Quarter 3 introduce new topics while giving students the opportunity to go back to the previous 2 quarters information in small groups and individually.
  • Continue the same for fourth quarter.

This will change the paradigm of instruction.  Changes:

  • Students understand what the overall structure of the course will be and the info they will be required to demonstrate.
  • Student will be able to demonstrate increased understanding at any time in the school year.  They have the option of going back at any time. 
  • Topics are organized into measurement topics
  • students can demonstrate competency any time they think they can
  • Students have the responsibility for their progress.

Another look at Marzano

In preparation for the Pinnacle Gradebook rollout to the remaining elementary schools, I am taking some professional development.  I went to 2 sessions today led by Rebecca, a very passionate educational consultant for the company.  These sessions will lay the foundation I need to understand the sessions I will go to tomorrow.  The first session was a little slow going.  Rebecca walked us through a really detailed approach to curriculum writing.  She also talked about the characteristics of High Performing schools.  This is some research that I have heard about, but had not taken the time to actually read. This is it in a nutshell:

 Nine characteristics of high performing schools.

  • http://www.k12.wa.us/Research/pubdocs/NineCharacteristicsOverviewKeyPoints.ppt
  • they focus on what they can do not what they can’t
  • they don’t leave anything about teaching and learning to chance
  • o They use rubrics and frequent assessments
  • o They inform parents about standards and student performance
  • o Teacher rubric for scoring & “student speak” version of rubric – allows students to understand what the goal is.
  • Set high goals
  • High performing secondary schools put all kids – not just some – in a demanding high school core curriculum

 My most important “take-away” was this afternoon – Rebecca’s discussion of Marzano’s work.  I was aware that Marzano has begun to do additional research (beyond the 9 strategies that we all know and love), but I haven’t really read a lot of his new stuff.  I definitely need to take a look at The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work.  I here they may have copies for sale later on this week and I might just pick them up if they do.

Most of us a familiar with the 9 instructional strategies that Marzano found most helpful in his research.  I have encouraged teachers to use them whenever I can.  Today I learned something about them though…The power in using the strategies is not just in incorporating them in our lessons.  The power comes when you teach the actual strategy.  Once students learn the actual strategy – learn to identify similarities and differences for example – they can then transfer that skill to any content area and that is when you see the tremendous gains in achievement.  See, by teaching the strategy, we are helping the students to build schema and once that schema is laid we can help students see the same pattern in any content area.  “Remember when we talked about how plant and animal cells were alike and different?  We are going to do the same thing only today we are going to talk about how the First Americans were alike and different…”  Definitely not the way that I have taught with these strategies before, but I’ll do better and will coach my teachers along the same lines.


I have only been here one day, and I’ve already learned something that will inform and change my practice…There are some concepts that Rebecca talked about I will try to get clarification for while I’m here as well – grading on a learning trend, leveling test questions, and the way she talks about using rubrics…This is going to be some week…

PPS is going RETRO

Several of you have made inquiries into the possibility of seeing the inauguration in your classrooms.  Many have also asked if streaming will be allowed for this one event.  Unfortunately, streaming news content will not be allowed for this historic event.  The reasons are two-fold:

  • Our internet connection (traveling through IRC) is fixed and will only allow so much data to pass through it each second. It would only take 100 individuals streaming an MPG4 stream to “clog” our “pipe”. Meaning, no connectivity at all. No phones, SASI, Financial system, Café Enterprise etc…
  • The 20th is the first day of online SOL testing. Granted, testing is usually completed by this time; however, this is an un-timed test and it is possible to have students testing when the inauguration begins. If we have any delays during the beginning of testing, we might need to extend the testing window which could cut into the inauguration activities.


 So since streaming is out of the question, what can you do?


  • If you are teaching at Brighton, I am sure that you are aware that the reception of the cable signal to the building has been a little sketchy. I understand from some teachers that at this time they can receive cable signal, but the connection wires from the TV to the cable jack need periodic adjustments. Teachers who are able to receive the cable signal may be able to use their TVs.
  • At Brighton, teachers who have MCPS systems as well as those who have been upgraded to Promethean Boards have a unit that will receive TV signals. This signal can easily be boosted for better clarity with a simple pair of “rabbit ear” antennae.
  • Classrooms at Brighton that do not have MCPS/Promethean equipment or cable access as well as all of the classrooms at Victory may be able to use one of the TV/VRC units provided by Media Services. Here again, this signal can easily be boosted for better clarity with a simple pair of “rabbit ear” antenna.


What’s the bottom line? Most of you will need to find “rabbit ear” antenna if you want to watch the inauguration.   Funny…30 days ‘till rabbit ears will be obsolete, but you may need them for Tuesday…I suggest you try radio shack or a thrift store…

Mid Year Check-Up

My thanks to Christine Southard who shared this mid-year check-up via plurk.  Christine is a fellow DEN Star in my Personal Learning Network (PLN).  For those of you who don’t know, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. I maintained my membership in the CEC while I worked in educational diagnostics when I lived in New York. 

The CEC maitains a blog for first year teachers, and while I would like to direct this post to the many new teachers that I am working with, the information is truly applicable to all.  Their recent post “Your Mid-year Check-Up” includes some questions that you might want to consider.  Now is certainly a great time to assess the physical, academic, and social environments in your classroom.  It is also a good time to take stock of how you are coping with what life looks like right now.  Sometimes we need to make changes mid-year to avoid burnout.

Lessons from Star Trek

Everyone knows I am a fan of Sci Fi.  If I could, I would watch Science Fiction all day every day.  Back in my college days I actually watched 17 episodes of Star Trek a week.  I love Star Trek especially the original, because the episodes always made some social commentary.  So I was quite pleasantly suprised when I was searching Slideshare the other day and found a presentation on lessons learned from one of my favorite shows of all time.

10 Life Lessons From Star Trek

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: trek star)