Saturday, October 31, 2009

Something's Not Fair

Last Tuesday the local newspaper reported that the school board had unanimously voted for a 10% cut in the amount of money paid out through a state teacher quality compensation program. It also reduced first-year teachers' starting salaries from $30,000 to $29,750. Even with these cuts, the school board still needs to cut $2 million more. All this is due to an across-the-board cut by Iowa's governor. Even the governor is taking a 10% cut in pay.

Just a week before, I was reading about the fantastic profits reaped by the corporations that the tax-payers bailed out. These companies are still too big to fail, they still are completely deregulated, executives are still reaping huge bonuses, and they're keeping their profits instead of paying back the bail-out money.

Life isn't fair, and if you're a teacher, it really isn't fair.

If you're planning on becoming a teacher, you will put up with this kind of thing throughout your career. My first year of teaching, I was forced to resign at the end of the year because I had taken the job of another teacher who went on maternity leave. Since she had the right to return to her job, I had to leave. I did get another job in another school in the same district, but at the end of that second year, the position was discontinued because of budget cuts. Again, I moved to another teaching job in the same district, but every year there was always a fear that the job would be gone. Teaching staff was often reduced, salaries were cut or postponed, monies promised by the state or federal government never materialized, government mandates were inadequately funded, and it was the teachers who suffered. There were several teachers with large families whose children qualified for the free lunch program.

So for 32 years, I worked never knowing what the next year would bring. The year I retired, the retirement package paid the retirees' insurance premiums until age 65. That's actually a pretty good deal. But again, it was uncertain. This year's retirees only received a small amount of money for their unused sick insurance.

So for those entering a teaching career, plan on things not being fair. Don't go into teaching for the money or for job security. Go into teaching because you love teaching children. And if that's not enough, don't go into teaching.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Healthy Halloween

There are many Halloween treats that are healthy.

Healthy Food Items:
Nuts (watch for food allergies)
Cheese and cracker packs
String cheese
Trail mix
100 calorie packs

School Supplies:
Small notebooks

Decks of cards
Hacky sacks

As it turns out, while I was busy making this list, I decided to take a look at the Internet to see if there were any other healthy treat ideas. I found an excellent site that has almost all the items I listed, as well as many more great ideas.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Halloween Activity

When I was in college, I used to drive to a large nearby cemetery. I'd find a quiet secluded spot and that's where I studied. It sounds a bit macabre, but it wasn't. It's a beautiful cemetery, and it was a much quieter place to study than school, home, or even a park.

As I would drive around to get to my favorite spot, I was amazed by the variety of tombstones. I would often stop to read them and would wonder about the person buried there. So many times husbands and wives died within months of each other. Often, entire families were buried within a few years. I always thought 'cause of death' should be put on the stones. Why did so many married couples or families die in such a short span of time? Was there an illness or a natural disaster? What was happening in the world and in their lives at the time?

There are really only a few ways to find out. One is to visit the library to gather information from the genealogy section. Often times you can read obituaries in newspaper archives. A lot of information now appears on the Internet. Once in a while you can find a living relative who can answer your questions.

I think this would be a great activity to do with students, especially at this time of year (Halloween). Have each student or pairs of students find a tombstone and try to learn as much as possible about that person.

There was one monument that always fascinated me when I was in college. It was a huge monument to someone named Potter. At the time, I wasn't able to find out about this person, but have since learned a lot more about him.

His monument is beautiful. It's one of the largest in the cemetery. I started with a search on the Internet. From there I continued reading at the library. I found that Thomas J. Potter was vice-president of the CB&Q (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy) railroad and later the Union Pacific railroad. He died in 1888 at the age of 48, his obituary stating that he died from an illness caused by overwork.

An activity like this gives students a lesson in local history. In the case of Thomas Potter, they would also get a lesson in the history of American railroads. It allows students to do research from a variety of sources. The final product of their research could be in the form of a video clip, a blog post, a research paper, or an oral presentation to the class. The possibilities for research and final presentations are almost endless.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

10 Misconceptions About Teachers

Today I had great plans to write a great blog post. Instead, I spent the day learning about Squidoo and that is where I posted my thoughts for today. It is a lens about the misconceptions students have concerning their teachers. I will list the myths here. For the details, visit

10 Myths About Teachers

1. Teachers Live at School

2. Teachers are Just Another Brick in the Wall

3. Teachers Hate Students

4. Teachers Don't Know What They're Talking About

5. Teachers Can't Do Anything Else

6. Teachers Are Opposed to Homeschooling

7. Teachers Don't Keep Up With Technology

8. Teachers Like to Give Failing Grades

9. Everything is the Teacher's Fault

10. Teachers Are Overworked and Underpaid

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Top Reasons and Methods for Saving Your Medical Records

I was browsing the October 2009 issue of Consumer Reports when I came across an article on page 12 titled "Be sure to get the results of your medical tests."  Since my doctors and dentists have always let me know the results of tests, I didn't realize this was a problem. But the article states that there is a failure rate of 7%.  That means 1 out of every 14 patients isn't told about abnormal tests results.

I've always believed that "no news is good news," but that obviously isn't the case.  The article highly recommends you call your doctor whenever you have testing done.  Don't assume that everything is okay. 

I would also recommend that you keep records of all your appointments, tests, and results, not only for you, but for children and others in your care.  This may sound a little alarmist, and I'm certainly not a medical professional, but I think everyone should do the following:

1.  Write down appointments. By writing down appointments, you'll be less likely to miss one.  Use a calendar, an appointment book, or even a piece of notebook paper stuck in a folder.  I, personally, write all appointments on a kitchen calendar.  I also take the appointment card (the one the doctor or dentist gives me) and I tape it in an appointment book on the correct date. 

2.  Make a list of questions you want to ask the doctor and take that list with you.  As you ask the questions, jot down his or her response next to the question.  Once you get home, you can add the date and doctor's name to the top of the list and put it in your folder.  Personally, I have a word processing file on my computer.  When I get home from any appointment, I add the information to that document. 

3.  Make a list of any tests the doctor performs.  These tests could be routine blood or urine workups, mammograms, pap smears, fecal occult blood tests, cancer screenings, x-rays, blood pressures, or any others.  It's probably a good idea to record your weight, height, and pulse rate as well. 

4.  If you don't hear the results of your tests in a reasonable amount of time, call the doctor.  They are busy people, and while we'd like to think they're going to get back to you, research shows this is not always the case.

5.  Write down the results of your tests.  Again, I put my results in the same word processing file I use for all my medical records.  If any other doctor needs to know the results of a particular test, I can tell them.  I can also track changes in weight, height, blood pressure, and other test results. That way, if there is a significant change, I can inform the doctor.  For instance, when my doctor put me on a new medication, my pulse rate slowed over a period of time.  Because I had kept track, I was able to tell the doctor and he took me off that medication.

6.  If your doctor needs to do a follow-up test, make that appointment as quickly as possible.  Write it down on your calendar.  I put mine in my appointment book and also make a notation on my computer file. 

7.  Write down health-related items that occur at home or other locations.  If you take your blood pressure at Walmart, jot it down.  If you weigh yourself at the county fair, make a note of it.  If you get your flu shot at the county health department, put a record of it in your file. 

So why do all this?  If you're like me, you may see several doctors.  I have a dentist and a periodontist.  I get my yearly physical at a women's health clinic, but see a general practioner for everything else.  When I have a complaint, my regular doctor always sends me to a specialist such as a neurologist or gastroenterologist or otolaryngologist or cardiologist or some other "---gist" that I can't spell or pronounce.

As it turns out, I've ended up with medical records in many different places.  I have found that if I keep my own records, it saves a lot of time and tests.  If the general practioner does an A1C test for blood sugar, I can give that record to the women's health clinic so I don't have to get tested again.  If the neurologist takes my blood pressure and it's high, I can tell him that it's always normal when I see my regular doctor.  In this way, he doesn't worry about it and order a lot of extra tests.  I know what my "normal" is.  If my blood pressure is always high when I see that particular doctor, then I know that doctor is probably the reason for it.

By keeping my own medical records, I have saved a lot of time and money.  But more importantly, when my doctor asks me a question, I have an answer.  If the gynecologist asks me what prescriptions I'm taking, I have it written down.  If my regular doctor needs to know the results of a mammogram or colonoscopy, I can tell him.  I can give him a list of blood pressure readings.  I can tell him when I have my next appointment with a neurologist or when my last blood test occurred.  If I'm having trouble with a particular ailment, I can tell him when it started and what treatment steps have been taken.

This may sound as if I'm asking everyone to be a hypochondriac, but I'm not.  Medical people do make mistakes.  That's why if you're having surgery on one arm, the hospital staff will have you write on that arm, "This One."  They'll have you write on the other arm, "Not This One."  They know they're not infallible, and we should, too. 

Parents should not only do this for themselves, but for their children as well.  The pediatrician may have complete records, but children see other doctors besides their pediatricians.  Parents should keep complete records of when children have been sick.  Write down when children have had measles or mumps or influenza or when they were vaccinated for these.  Schools will ask for vaccination records and you'll be able to provide them.  Keep records of physicals and hospitalizations and injuries.  My parents didn't do this.  I wish they had, because some medical conditions I have now started when I was a teen.  It would be nice to have an accurate record of the those. 

With so much in the news about health care, with so many advancements in medicine and medical testing, with specialists for every ailment we have, it has become our responsibility to take care of our own health.  We can only do this by keeping track of our own medical records and the records of those we love and care for.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Penny For Your Thoughts

I have just finished reading "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown. Once again, he has given me a great read and has also sparked my curiosity. He has caused me to think about things of which I already had a little knowledge. But he has also motivated me to learn many new things as well.

Each of his books has forced me to stretch my mind. In "Digital Fortress," I found myself wanting to learn more about cryptography. "Deception Point" left me wondering about scientific trickery and political cover-ups. After reading "Angels & Demons," I wanted to read more about the Swiss Guard and the Vatican. And of course, "The Da Vinci Code" led me to learn more about Opus Dei and The Priory of Sion and left me questioning just what was fact and what was fiction.

"The Lost Symbol" has had a similar effect. While I've enjoyed learning more about freemasonry than I ever thought I would, it is the Noetic Science that I find the most interesting. I'm still learning more about it, but the part of the book where Katherine Solomon was been able to weigh the human soul left me filled with wonder. I want to know more about this.

The idea of the human soul having mass started me to think about the weight of a human thought. Thoughts are caused by electrochemical processes in the brain. This means there should be energy involved and therefore mass. If a thought has mass, what would it weigh?

I started checking and could find no information on this. So, let's say a human thought uses one electron and therefore has the mass of one electron. If I convert the mass of one electron from kilograms to pounds and then calculate the number of electrons in one pound, I get a 5 followed by 29 zeros. So if each thought uses one electron, then there are 500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 electrons (and therefore the same number of thoughts) in a pound. If each thought costs one penny, then you multiply by $0.01.

As it turns out, when someone says "A Penny For Your Thoughts," we're talking about 5 octillion dollars per pound of thoughts. I'm pretty sure I have had at least a pound of thoughts for which I'd like to be paid. So far, no one has offered.

This is what a great book should do. It should make you think, it should make you study, it should make you want to know more than you do, to be smarter than you are, and to question what you currently know and what you are about to learn. And while I'll never get $5 octillion for a pound of my thoughts, it's still a great thing to think about.

This is why our children should read. Reading is not just for enjoyment, but it's for learning, for questioning, for wondering, for curiosity. If it's also fun, then all the better.

And there's another thought!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Three Deadlines Fast Approaching

HORATIO ALGER SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM – The eligibility criteria to be considered for National Scholarships and Horatio Alger State Scholarship Programs are as follows:
  • enrollment full time as a high school senior, progressing normally toward graduation in the Spring/Summer 2010, with plans to enter college no later than the fall following graduation;
  • a strong commitment to pursuing and completing a bachelor's degree at an accredited institution located in the United States (students may start their studies at a two-year institution and then transfer to a four-year institution. Idaho, Louisiana, and Montana state scholarship recipients must pursue and complete a degree at specific colleges and universities. Please see the individual program description for those requirements);
  • critical financial need ($50,000 or less adjusted gross income per family is preferred, if higher explanation must be provided);
  • involvement in co-curricular and community activities;
  • demonstrated integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity
  • a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0; and
  • United States Citizenship.
  • (Deadline October 30)

  • CURRENT high school (or home-schooled) seniors attending school in the United States (or select DoD schools);
  • U.S. Citizens; U.S. Nationals; U.S. Permanent Residents; Temporary Residents (in a legalization program); Refugees; Asylees; Cuban-Haitian Entrants; or Humanitarian Parolees;
  • anticipating completion of high school diploma at the time of application;
  • planning to pursue a degree at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution;
  • carrying a minimum 3.00 GPA at the end of their junior year of high school.
  • (Deadline October 31)


Students should write the Research Report first, as early as possible, and then complete the Entry Form. Completing the paper and reflecting on work can influence essay answers positively.
The following items must be included with the entry or mailed separately, as noted, so that they arrive by the deadline. Please request these items early in consideration of the time constraints of teachers, advisors, Supervising Scientists and guidance staff.
  • A recommendation by up to three teachers, using Entry Form Part III.
  • Students who did any portion of their research under a Supervising Scientist must submit Entry Form Part IIA, completed by the scientist.
  • An official high school transcript using Entry Form Part IV.
  • Students should also review their project for required Supplemental Form(s) submission, conferring with scientists as necessary.
  • (Deadline November 18, 2009)
Above information is copied from the respective websites. Additional information is given on those websites.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Why Does This Video Bother Me So Much?

I have watched the following video several times and each time I watch it I feel a new emotion.  I have felt sad, angry, disappointed, proud, and bewildered. 

Watch with me and we'll talk about it.

It makes me sad that these students aren't reading books.  It angers me that they're spending so much time on Facebook or their cell phones or writing email.  I'm disappointed that these student live in a digital world, but their schools and teachers don't.  I'm proud that some teachers and students are trying to change things, but bewildered as to how their going to accomplish it. 

School budgets are so limited.  Teachers are losing jobs as I write this.  In most schools there exists only two or three computer labs for all the students.  My school had a computer lab in the math department for the students taking programming classes.  There was another lab in the business department for students taking accounting and computer applications courses.  There were a few computers in the library and each teacher had one in his or her room.  Classroom computers were for teacher use...lesson plans, grades, attendance, student reports, and emails.  Only a few teachers had display hardware attached to their computers. Many times I had thirty students gathered around the one 12-inch monitor that sat on my desk.  Teachers could take their classes to a computer lab, but only when a class was not scheduled for that time.

The situation for many students was just as bad at home.  I would guess that maybe 60% of my students had computers at home.  The other 40% could use computers at the public library, but unfortunately, they were the least likely to. 

Yes, these children live in a digital world.  They may only write 42 pages for a class, but send 500 emails.  They may take their computers to class, but use it for Facebook.  They may spend 2 hours on their cell phones.  But is this the best use of their time?

I knew as a teacher that I was preparing these students for the future.  I knew that they may very likely have a job I had never heard of or that didn't exist at the time.  I knew that to prepare them for that digital world, they needed to have basic skills.  Those skills included the ability to read and write, to do math, to think, to analyze, and to evaluate. Those are the skills that would prepare them for whatever might be in their futures.

However, I still think those skills can be taught with paper, pencil, books, and a chalkboard. 

If  a student is fortunate enough to attend a school that is technologically advanced or if they are wealthy enough to have that technology at home, they will be able to take those pencil, paper, and book skills and apply them to that digital world.  The students who are not that fortunate may be behind digitally, but they will still have learned to read, write, think, analyze, and evaluate. 

We are living in an age of transition.  We have to accomodate both worlds...the digital and non-digital.  It reminds me of teaching measurements in math classes.  We were always told that once the United States switched to metric, we would be able to stop teaching the customary system of inches, feet, pounds, and cups.  I taught for 32 years and had to teach both systems for the entire time.  That complete switch to metrics never took place.  I wonder if the same will be true for digital.

Friday, October 23, 2009

10 Ways to Celebrate Red Ribbon Week

Red Ribbon Week starts today and continues until October 31.*  Organized in 1988, it is held every year to honor the memory of Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, a DEA investigator who was tortured and murdered in 1985 by a major drug cartel.  The campaign started simply with a few red ribbons attached to shirts or worn as wristbands.  It grew into a symbol for millions of Americans to show they are united behind a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Here are 10 ways to celebrate Red Ribbon Week:

1.  Host radio shows from local schools that are participating in the event.

2.  Decorate windows, classrooms, and offices with red ribbons.  Award prizes for the best

3.  Sponsor or participate in Wear Red Day.  Wear a crazy red hat or a neat pair of red socks. 

4.  Decorate Trick or Treat bags with drug-free messages on Saturday, October 31.  Make it a "Say Boo! to Drugs" Day. 

5.  Wear your red ribbon every day during the week.  Wear it proudly.

6.  Sponsor or participate in an essay contest or poster contest or coloring contest.

7.  Release red balloons with drug-free messages inside.

8.  Sponsor or particpate in a Drug-free Sports Day.  Send a drug-free message with a red parade during halftime at your high school's football game.  Have cheerleaders lead a cheer with that same drug-free message.

9.  Sign a pledge that you will stay drug-free.  Remember that drug-free means drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

10. Reach out to someone.  Share a drug-free message with three different people during the week.

* The dates for Red Ribbon Week may vary depending on your location.  It is generally held during the last full week in October.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Using Social Bookmarking in School

I've used numerous items as bookmarks over the years. There have been pieces of paperboard, toothpicks, magazine ad inserts, and fancy ribbons. I've even purchased a few and on occasion I have dog-eared pages. But all of these were physical items.

The current definition of "bookmark" is something entirely different. It is no longer a physical item, but exists somewhere in cyberspace. It no longer just marks a location in a book, but a place in the internet world, with all of its documents, blogs, videos, images, news, games, groups, maps, directories, search engines, and shopping sites.

I think most teachers are familiar with marking favorite websites. They find a site they like and click "add to favorites." But this is just a small form of bookmarking. I don't think nearly as many teachers are familiar with social bookmarking. Most do not have the time to keep up with the latest trends (even though social bookmarking has been around for several years). If they are familiar with it, they don't have the time to figure out what to do with it in their classroom. I never knew it even existed until recently, and only since I've retired did I actually have the time to research it and start using it. How I wish I had known about this when I was teaching.

Social bookmarking starts with a bookmarking website. There are many; some of the best known are Delicious (, Delirious (, and StumbleUpon ( Each operates a little differently, but their basic purpose is the simplify the world wide web.

The internet has millions and millions of pages. If I do a search for Algebra lessons on Google, I get over 2 million websites. But if I go to Delicious and search for Algebra lessons, I only get about 1,200 sites and these are the ones that have already been bookmarked by others, so I know they're some of the best. I can then add the ones I like to my bookmarks so that I can easily access them again later.

As soon as I have a few of them added to my account, I can share them with other teachers or with students. The great thing is that they are accessible from any computer. If teachers bookmark something at school, it will still be on the website when they need to access it at home.

Once tags are added, the list of websites is simplified even more. If one of the websites is tagged with the word "puzzles," I can click on that tag and easily find other websites dedicated to "puzzles."

I can also click on the number that represents how many others have bookmarked that particular site. A list of those people will show up and I can click on any one of them to see if they have bookmarked other interesting Algebra sites. And so it goes, on and on.

I think the following video will demonstrate social bookmarking much better that my attempt at an explanation. Once you've watched the video, go to the site and play around. It's the best way to learn.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Seeing Home With a Visitor's Eyes

"...if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard."

These words spoken by Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" couldn't be more true.

When you're looking for places to visit or interesting topics to study, it's not necessary to travel to exotic lands or spend a lot of money.

Today, my husband and I took a short day trip to Eldon, Iowa. It's only a little over an hour from home, but when we arrived, we discovered it has the house that is featured in the Grant Wood painting, American Gothic. The picture above is of the house as it appears today. The original painting appears below.

The house looks basically the same. The trees are a little taller today and the barn is missing, but after almost 80 years, that's to be expected.

Finding this house was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Grant Wood is one of America's great artists and to be where he actually painted this classic work was exciting.

I've been to many places in America. I've seen the mountains, the oceans, the big cities, and the tourist traps, but it's always the little surprises around home that impress me the most.

The same is true wherever you live. Start seeing your hometown with a visitor's eyes. There are many lessons to be learned there. Local history is just as important as world history. Art in Eldon, Iowa is just as impressive as art in the Louvre. Grant Wood is as famous as Picasso. Studying and traveling close to home can be just as fun and interesting as backpacking across Europe or going on an African safari or taking a trip down the Amazon or going on an expedition in Antarctica. It's all in your attitude and seeing your local world from a different perspective. It's about being happy with what you have, being happy where you are, and knowing that everything you do and every place you visit offers an opportunity for adventure and learning.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

5 Quick and Easy Service Projects for Your Classroom

Saturday, October 24 is Make A Difference Day. It is a day to volunteer to do some service project for your community. The website offers many suggestions. However, Saturday is just a few days away and you don't have a lot of time to put any of those big projects into action. If teachers and students still want to participate, here are five quick and easy projects that can be planned in a few minutes.

1. Have children in older classes read to children in younger classes. This may simply mean taking a few story books across the hall and spending a little time with the younger kids. The littler ones love it and it gives the older ones great practice improving their reading skills.

2. Collect items to donate. Simply decide what type of items you want to collect and who you'll donate the items to when you're done. Gently-used books can be donated to libraries, hospitals, or care centers. Toys can be taken to domestic violence shelters or children's wards in hospitals. Canned foods can be collected for food pantries and soup kitchens. Old eye glasses can be donated to Lions Club. Even monetary donations can be collected to give to organizations like Make A Wish.

3. Have each student bring in blank greeting cards. Spend a few minutes writing personal greetings or inspirational quotes inside each. Sign them and deliver them to patients in the hospital or in care centers. These could also be mailed overseas to troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

4. Each day have several students announce over the school's speaker system what they plan to do to make a difference on Saturday. They can ask others to join the cause. According to USA Weekend, October 16-18, 2009, "studies show that nearly half of all people who volunteer started because they were asked to by someone they know."

5. Have a quick bake sale. Each student in your class or organization brings baked food items. Sell them in the cafeteria during lunch or between classes. Donate the money to a worthwhile organization.

Again, as I said yesterday, there are many more ideas on the Make A Difference Day website, but these are the ones that can easily be done by a classroom of students in a short amount of time.

Also, with the H1N1 virus spreading as it is, check with hospitals or care centers before you visit. They may not be allowing visitors.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Make A Difference Day

Make a Difference Day is a national day of helping others. You will join millions across the nation as you volunteer in your own communities.

All week there will be announcements about service included in your favorite television shows on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. It is the biggest week for volunteering during the year and culminates in Make a Difference Day on October 24.

Choose a project based on your community's needs, get others to join you, plan your service, and carry it out on Saturday. After you've completed your service, fill out an entry form available at You will then be counted among the millions who helped and will be considered for honors. Honorees may receive an award or donation so that they can continue to do their good works in the future.

So what can you do? Some suggestions on the website are: mentor a child, start a canned food drive, help at a nursing home, visit hospitals, make a special donation, collect items for a women's shelter, help at a local animal shelter, work at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, donate blood, bake cookies to send to the troops, deliver cards to seniors, collect toys for needy children, and help clean-up a park. There are many, many more suggestions as well. Give it a little thought, and you're sure to come up with a fantastic idea.

One note that might affect your projects: Our local nursing home has been closed to all visitors due to the H1N1 virus. If you're planning your service project at a care center, check with them first. You may have to alter your plans a bit.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Canned Food Drives

It's estimated that one out of every 50 American children are homeless. That is equal to 1.5 million children, with 75% of them living in just eleven states.

More than 35 million Americans, including 12 million children, live on the brink of hunger.

Because of the upcoming holidays, many communities, especially schools, are now sponsoring canned food drives. Today would be a good day to gather items together. Then take them to school, or your local food bank, tomorrow.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Characters Welcome"

Most of my favorite television shows are on USA Network. Its programming includes Monk, Psych, Burn Notice, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and reruns of House and NCIS. USA’s theme for several years has been “Characters Welcome.” As I was watching Monk last night, I started thinking about characters I’ve known in my life. As it turns out, many of them were teachers. Some taught me, some worked with me. They were likable, great teachers, but always marched to the beat of a different drummer.

It started in first grade when the teacher made us practice drawing “o’s” over and over and over. She insisted we had to make perfectly round “o’s” because so many letters of the alphabet had that shape in them. O O O O O O O O O O O

My fourth grade teacher hated it when we dropped things on the floor. One day, we must have pushed her to the edge. She walked down every aisle and threw all our pens, pencils, and erasers on the floor and told us to leave them there. Actually, I think we pushed her over the edge. She may have even jumped.

We never had a regular physical education program when I was in elementary school. That same fourth grade teacher had us do marching drills for our physical activity. I can’t imagine how funny it looked to outsiders…thirty-five 10-year-olds doing marching drills. Left. Right. Left. Right. I must say, it did come in handy later in high school when I marched with the band.

Then there was the 7th grade science teacher who wanted to have the big discussion about science and religion. He found out it is not a good idea to have that discussion with 13-year olds. It was oddly funny, yes, but not a good idea. He’s the same teacher who gave a friend of mine a D with 17 minuses. I think he was being kind.

My 8th grade math teacher was 6’7” tall. He drove an Isetta to school. It was always fun to watch him arrive in the morning and leave at night.

The 9th grade biology teacher insisted we do experiments. You would think after the first one, he would have learned. We etherized fruit flies so that we could put them under a microscope to look at the chromosomes in their eyes. Unfortunately, they often revived while we were looking at them. Within a few days, they had found their way to the cafeteria. Lots and lots of them had found their way to the cafeteria. A second experiment involved incubating chicken eggs. We all expected to be playing with baby chicks; but instead, they exploded in the incubator over a weekend. When we came to school on Monday morning, the whole school smelled like rotten eggs. He insisted that the eggs did not have baby chicks in them. I never knew for sure. Another experiment involved mice. We put them on deficiency diets to see the results. Almost all of them died. I think we were supposed to get them back on the regular diets before that happened. And the last involved dissecting frogs. The frogs had been in the formaldehyde for a long, long time. I don’t even want to discuss what happened when we cut into them. The teacher was only at the school one year. I never knew if it was by choice or request.

One of my high school Spanish teachers always wore big fluffy bedroom slippers in class. When she left the room, she put on 4-inch heels. I don’t think the administration ever knew about the slippers.

The sophomore English teacher had a tic in her shoulder. We counted how many times in a class period her shoulder twitched. She was more interested that we learn “introductory adverbial phrases.”

My American history teacher hated doodling. Believe me, doodling is a hard habit to break. She yelled if she caught someone doodling. I got yelled at a lot.

The Advanced Math teacher used a gavel to start class everyday. He would pound it on his desk as an indication that it was time to start class. Oh yeah, we hid it several times. We had to.

After I started teaching, many more characters emerged. There was the Star Trek aficionado who taught physics, the Spanish teacher who cooked beans and rice on a hibachi in the carpeted hall, the science teachers who got into such a fight that the principal had to break them up, and the history teacher who dressed like Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, depending on which war was being studied.

It is amazing what we remember about our teachers. I often wonder what quirky habits I displayed by which my students remember me. In the end, I’ve decided I really don’t want to know. And yet these teachers are the ones I remember best. These are the characters that make education interesting, fun, and memorable. And yes, we even learn from them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Today is World Food Day

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization was founded on October 16, 1945, and in 1979, this date became World Food Day. This worldwide event is dedicated to increasing awareness of hunger and to increasing understanding, information, support, advocacy, networking, and year-round action to alleviate hunger.

This year, the focus is on the food crisis in Ethiopia, which has been worsened by the global economic crisis, rising food prices, and drought. The government of Ethiopia estimates that 75,000 children under the age of five are suffering severe malnutrition and that 25% to 50% of those children will die without proper treatment.

Even with advances in technology, an estimated 1.02 billion people in the world are malnourished. That is one-sixth of the world's population.

This year's theme is "achieving food security in times of crisis." Many activities have been planned including a World Summit on Food Security that will be held in Rome November 16-18.

In the United States, World Food Day is sponsored by 450 national, private voluntary organizations. Planning is done at the community level with special events such as seminars, research projects, fund raisers, and press releases to the media. One organization, Faces of Hunger, is having a film competition to raise awareness of hunger in the U.S. The competition is open to anyone 25 years of age or younger. Palms for Life Fund will offer the top three winners cash prizes of $5,000, $3,500 and $1,500, and give them exposure to a vast audience in a full-length compilation of the prize-winning works. The deadline for submission of films has been extended to October 30, 2009. For more information, see .

Wouldn't it be great if we could end hunger in our lifetime? If every community worked with national and international sponsors, ideas could be shared that would involve schools, businesses, churches, governments, service groups, and the media. With increased awareness comes increased action and increased action can alleviate world hunger.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Key to Doing an Assignment Well

During my first year of high school, I had to take a speech class. One of the speeches we were required to give was the reading of a poem. I chose "The Owl Critic" by James T. Fields. I was shy and didn't want to do the assignment, but it is such a great poem, it made the assignment easy. It is still one of my favorite poems. Many times, the key to doing an assignment well, is finding the right poem, topic, or project for you.

The Owl Critic
James T. Fields

"Who stuffed that white owl?" No one spoke in the shop,
The barber was busy, and he couldn't stop;
The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading
The "Daily," the "Herald," the "Post," little heeding
The young man who blurted out such a blunt question;
Not one raised a head, or even made a suggestion;
And the barber kept on shaving.

"Don't you see, Mr. Brown," cried the youth, with a frown,
"How wrong the whole thing is, how preposterous each wing is,
How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is --
In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck 't is!
I make no apology; I've learned owl-eology.

I've passed days and nights in a hundred collections,
And cannot be blinded to any deflections
Arising from unskilful fingers that fail
To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail.
Mister Brown! Mr. Brown! Do take that bird down,
Or you'll soon be the laughingstock all over town!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

studied owls, and other night-fowls,
And I tell you what I know to be true;
An owl cannot roost with his limbs so unloosed;
No owl in this world ever had his claws curled,
Ever had his legs slanted, ever had his bill canted,
Ever had his neck screwed into that attitude.
He cant
do it, because 'tis against all bird-laws.

Anatomy teaches, ornithology preaches,
An owl has a toe that
can't turn out so!
I've made the white owl my study for years,
And to see such a job almost moves me to tears!
Mr. Brown, I'm amazed you should be so gone crazed
As to put up a bird in that posture absurd!
look at that owl really brings on a dizziness;
The man who
stuffed him don't half know his business!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

"Examine those eyes; I'm filled with surprise
Taxidermists should pass off on you such poor glass;
So unnatural they seem they'd make Audubon scream,
And John Burroughs laugh to encounter such chaff.
Do take that bird down; have him stuffed again, Brown!"
And the barber kept on shaving!

"With some sawdust and bark I could stuff in the dark
An owl better than that. I could make an old hat
Look more like an owl than that horrid fowl,
Stuck up there so stiff, like a side of coarse leather.
In fact, about
him there's not one natural feather."

Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch,
The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch,
Walked around, and regarded his fault-finding critic
(Who thought he was stuffed) with a glance analytic,
And then fairly hooted, as if he should say:
"Your learning's at fault
this time, anyway:
Don't waste it again on a live bird, I pray.
I'm an owl; you're another. Sir Critic, good day!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

40 Predictions on the Future of Education

The following are predictions I think could come true or that I would like to see come true. They are random thoughts and are in no particular order. They involve students, teachers, parents, schools, and education in general. I am in favor of some and not in favor of others. Some are good, some aren’t. Some will never happen. Some may already be taking place.

  1. Teachers will earn higher salaries. They will have to. No one will enter the profession for the low pay rate currently offered. If highly qualified teachers are wanted, school districts will have to pay for them.
  2. Administrators will have to take cuts in pay in order to provide salaries for highly qualified teachers.
  3. Schools will accept corporate sponsorship in order to get needed supplies, equipment, textbooks, technology, and other items.
  4. Teachers will learn how to use all the technology that their students have used for the last ten years. And they will include it in their lesson plans.
  5. By 2014, all students will be proficient (that’s the law).
  6. By 2014, many schools will have had their teaching staffs replaced because they have not met their achievement goals.
  7. By 2014, many public schools will become charter schools as result of No Child Left Behind.
  8. Teachers will be required to take performing arts courses in college. This will include public speaking, singing, playing a musical instrument, drama, and dance. A teacher with these abilities will be much more entertaining to the children.
  9. Students now attend school about 7 hours a day for 5 days a week. This will eventually become 9 hours a day for 4 days a week. It will save school districts money for heating and cooling costs, electricity, and some salaries.
  10. Students now attend school about 180 days a year. This will increase to 200 days a year, thereby negating any savings earned from the 4-day week.
  11. More and more classes will be taught online. Eventually, they may all be taught that way.
  12. Every student will have an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Only students in special education have had these, but parents of other children will demand that their children have one, also.
  13. Health and physical education classes will be required in every school every day as part of future health care reform bills.
  14. There will be holographic teachers.
  15. Students will rediscover flash cards and actually memorize their multiplication facts. (Hopefully, they’re doing this now.)
  16. Students will choose their future careers in elementary school. All courses they take from then on will be geared toward that career.
  17. Students who don’t succeed in school will be given apprenticeships. This is actually an old idea becoming new again.
  18. High school students who are sick and miss school will not work in the local grocery that evening where they can be seen by their teachers.
  19. It will be cool to be smart. Smart kids will replace “jocks” in popularity.
  20. There will be robotic teachers.
  21. Children will rediscover physical activity. So will their teachers and parents.
  22. Every student will have a laptop they carry from class to class. Assignments and notes will automatically be downloaded via wireless internet.
  23. There will be a drinking fountain and bathroom in every classroom.
  24. All teachers will be filmed during classroom instruction. The videos will then be placed on SchoolTube for students who missed class or for those who need to hear the material again.
  25. A pneumatic tube system will be installed that links all classrooms with the office. It will be used for sending and receiving physical objects. This will minimize hall traffic and keep schools safer.
  26. Teachers will actually be given time to collaborate with each other and with teachers from other school districts during in-services.
  27. There will be a GPS locater on every student. It will be used to find missing children or those who wander off campus. If a student pulls a fire alarm or writes a bomb threat on the bathroom wall, GPS can be used to trace students’ movements to see who was there. (Big Brother is watching.)
  28. School clinics will be downsized. Each child’s vital functions will be monitored electronically and that information will be fed into a national database. As soon as there is a problem, an alarm will sound and give the child and teacher a complete list of instructions as to what actions they should take.
  29. No parent will do their child’s homework. All parents will understand that the child must do his or her own work to be successful.
  30. Medical causes of most learning disabilities will be discovered. Children will be treated medically and cured.
  31. Parents will supervise what their children wear to school and not allow them to wear anything inappropriate.
  32. Schools cannot be segregated by race or gender. They may, however, eventually be segregated by political party.
  33. No child will be bullied. All children will understand how damaging this is.
  34. Every child will start school with all the supplies they need, the time they need, the sleep they need, the nutrition they need, and the desire to do well.
  35. Every child will start kindergarten ready to learn.
  36. Every parent will provide an atmosphere at home where the child is loved, supported, and nurtured so there is no need for gangs, drugs, violence, or other self-destructive behaviors.
  37. Every teacher will have a secretary to schedule appointments, answer emails, make phone calls, and file.
  38. Every teacher will have an assistant to check papers.
  39. As university costs soar, more and more college courses will be offered in high school. Many students will graduate from high school with one or two years of college under their belts.
  40. Nano-computers with wireless internet access will be inserted into each human’s brain and will be linked to the brain’s neurons so that humans can access any information they want. There will be no need for teachers, schools, or education. Children will be able to access information with just a thought and it will be fed to their eyes and ears and stored in their memory centers. Information will be restricted so as to be age-appropriate. (Science and technology already have humans operating machines with their minds.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Teachers Really Want

All teachers would love to have well-behaved, motivated students with parents who care. They would like to have higher salaries and less paperwork. But what do they really want?

I think they would love to see the end product of their efforts.

I have been writing this blog for about two months now. It has been time-consuming and nerve-wracking at times, but I love it. The reason I love it is because as soon as I click the “Publish” button, I can see the results of my labor. I can tell immediately if it looks right, if it says the right things, if I’ve made my point. It is immediately gratifying.

The same is true of most jobs. A construction worker gets to see the finished building. A nurse gets to see her patient get well (hopefully). A lawyer gets to hear the verdict of the jury. A designer gets to see his fashions on the runway. A salesman gets to make that final sale and shake hands with the customer.

But teaching is not like any of those things. Teachers plan their lessons, write tests, check papers, lecture, manage projects, guide students, send reports. But when it’s all said and done, they rarely, if ever, get to see the fruits of their labor.

Only once in a while does a former student return so that the teacher can see what he or she has become, and know that whatever the student has become is due in some small part to their efforts. The problem is, students rarely return. In all the years of teaching math, I can probably name them on one hand…a lab technician, a wall street broker, a teacher, a real estate agent, a nurse, and maybe a few more.

I really would love to know where my former students are, what they’re doing, and did my teaching them help them in any way. Did something I say or teach inspire them to become a doctor or pharmacist or meteorologist or NASA scientist or author or musician or soldier?

Next time you run into one of your former teachers, let him or her know what you've been up to. If you have teachers who influenced your life, even in the slightest, let them know. It will make their day. They really do want to know how you turned out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Real Truth About Columbus

Today is Columbus Day. How will your school celebrate? If celebrated in the traditional way, you will probably learn how Christopher Columbus discovered America on October 12, 1492. He was looking for an alternative route to the Indies (all of southern and eastern Asia) and thought that by going west, he could circumnavigate the world, establish a trade route, and avoid the problems of traveling through Arabia. He made four trips to America using the trade winds to travel west and the prevailing winds to travel east back to Europe. He did find islands and named the people there "Indios."

If your school celebrates in a non-traditional manner, you'll learn a little more about Columbus, depending on your age. Not all of Columbus' life story is appropriate for younger children. You might learn that:

1. Columbus miscalculated the circumference of the earth. He thought it much smaller than it actually is.

2. Columbus asked for ships and funding from Portugal, Italy, Spain, and England several times before Spain finally decided to give him the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.

3. Columbus never knew that he hadn't reached the Indies. He thought he had reached outlying islands that had not been visited before.

4. Columbus and his crew brought smallpox to the people of the islands and took syphilis back to Europe.

5. Columbus was a tyrant over the people of the islands. He expected them to bring him all of their gold. When they didn't, because there wasn't any, he had their hands cut off. If they fled, he ordered them killed.

6. Columbus was arrested when he returned to Europe after his third voyage for his tyrannical rule as governor of Hispaniola.

7. Columbus was not the "discoverer" of America. The native population was already there and the Norse had found it several hundred years before Columbus. Columbus did, however, make the land known to all of Europe which started the migration of European peoples to America.

8. Columbus was intent on converting the native populations to Christianity. He was nominated for sainthood in the Catholic church in 1866.

9. Columbus kidnapped many of the native people to take back to Europe to be used as slaves. Many died on the voyage.

10. Columbus refused to baptize the native people. Enslavement of Christians was banned by Catholic laws and he wanted to use the natives as slaves.

So... today is Columbus Day. It was made a federal holiday in 1934 and depending on where you live, you may be celebrating Columbus' virtues or his vices. For some, it will be a day out of school. For others, Columbus Day will be remembered with classroom songs, puzzles, map study, story telling, poems, or skits. Some of the skits may focus on his memorable "discovery" of America. Others students may reenact his arrest and trial with a verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty."

It is truly a day of controversy. Many landmarks, cities, and locations have been named for Columbus, even the nation's capitol. On the other hand, the native American population is less than enthusiastic for the holiday. In South Dakota, it is not even called Columbus Day. Instead, they call it "Native American Day."

However you plan to celebrate, I guess we should all remember that Columbus was only human and that his good and bad qualities made him who he was. As Felipe Fernandez-Armesto wrote, "Every hero is somebody else's villain."


Sunday, October 11, 2009

The End of First Quarter Approaches

In some school districts, the first quarter will be ending soon. Students should touch base with each teacher as soon as possible.

1. Ask about your grade.

2. Ask if you have any missing assignments. Find out which ones can still be turned in and when they are due.

3. Ask if you have any tests or quizzes to make up. Find out when those must be done.

4. If the teacher gives you a date as to when missing or make-up work must be turned in, try to get it all done a few days before that date. This will give the teacher time to check it and for you to see your updated grade a few days before the end of the quarter. That way, if your grade is not satisfactory, you still may have time to do something about it.

5. Don’t wait until the last possible day to turn work in. If the teacher has 150 students and each student turns in just 4 missing assignments, the teacher will have 600 papers to check in a very short time. He or she will not be very happy. Believe me, nothing makes a teacher grumpier than having to check a bunch of make-up work when they need to finish calculating grades. Remember, the teacher has deadlines, too.

6. If you’ve turned in all your work, but your grade is still not where you’d like it to be, ask the teacher if there is anything else you can do to raise your grade. If teachers see that you are sincere, they will usually do what they can. They may have extra worksheets you can do. They may let you make corrections on some of your papers. They may let you retake a test. Don’t expect to take the same test, however. It will probably be similar, testing the same concepts, but have different questions.

7. If you’ve kept up with your work, doing all your assignments and turning them in when due, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about when it comes to your grade.

8. If you haven’t kept up with your work, make a resolution right now to not get behind again. It’s no fun trying to catch up all the time. It shows poor study skills and can leave a bad impression of you. Your work ethic is something that will follow you into college, into a job, and throughout your life. It needs to be a good one.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Contest - Young Voices of America Speak Their Muse 2009

There are many types of contests and competitions for students. This is the last one I'll mention here, for a while anyway.

Young Voices of America Speak Their Muse 2009 is a poetry contest. The poem can be "Haiku, Quatrain, Cinquain, Sonnet, Limeric, Ode, Couplet, Tanka," or one of many other types. It must be original and previously unpublished. It should “speak your muse.” It can make people laugh, make them think, or inspire them.

Prizes will be awarded in three categories:
Kindergarten – Grade 2
Grade 3 – 6
Grade 7 – 12

Entries must be received by midnight November 27, 2009 and will be judged by noted poet Richard Peabody.


Contest guidelines:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Contest - I Am What I Learn

The "I Am What I Learn" contest is designed to allow students to express how their education will help them fulfill their dreams.

A video (PSA, blog, animation, documentary, or other), not longer than 2 minutes, must be submitted by November 2, 2009. It will be judged on creativity, content, and the ability to inspire. The three winning finalists will be announced the week of December 1 and each will receive a $1000 award.

Entrants must be active students age 13 or older by October 8, 2009. The contest website is and contest rules are at

The following is a video from that website that further explains the contest:

Good luck to all who enter.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Contest - Pest World For Kids

For the next few days, I will be announcing some contests that I believe have merit and provide opportunities for students, their teachers, and their schools. The first is from a press release from the National Pest Management Association.


August 19 (Fairfax, VA) —, an educational children’s Web site developed by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), today announced a national competition for students (grades 4 through 8) to win $3,000 for one lucky school’s science department. The contest challenges teachers and their students to create educational Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that highlight the health and property risks posed by household pests such as rodents, ants, termites, cockroaches, stinging insects and ticks.

“Insects are incredibly interesting and fun to learn about in the classroom,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA. “It’s when they come indoors – into our homes and schools – that they become pests. We are excited to offer students the chance to learn about pests, while at the same time using their creativity to explore an important educational topic.”

Using the Pest PSA lesson plan available on, teachers can assign students the task of creating :30 or :60 second television PSAs. Entries must be submitted by teachers between September 8, 2009 and December 23, 2009, and can be entered online or sent via U.S. postal mail.

Five finalists will win “bragging rights” as a top performing school in the Pest PSA Contest, and will have their entries publicly posted to One school will be recognized as the grand prize winner and will receive a $3,000 award for their school’s science department. is a free, entertaining and educational Web site developed for students and teachers in grades K through 8. The site features a pest glossary, a comprehensive pest guide, downloadable fact sheets and project PDFs, a report writing center, science fair projects and teacher lesson plans and games – all designed to teach children about the common insects and rodents in their natural habitats, and the health and property risks posed by pests once they find their way into the home.

For full contest rules and details, as well as examples of PSAs, visit .

The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 6,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Using YouTube in School - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the advantages of being able to use YouTube at school. Unfortunately, many schools block YouTube because of the inappropriate content that can be found there. In yesterday's post, I included a video that shows an easy way to use YouTube videos despite your school's firewall. Let me go into a little more detail as to that process. The following directions come from the video at .

First, find the video on YouTube that you would like to use in your classroom (you'll probably have to do this from home) and copy the URL associated with that video. (You don't need the http:// part.) For instance, let's say I want to include "Lattice Multiplication" in a presentation. I would find an appropriate video that explains this and I would copy its URL; in this case it's , which I shorten to .

Next, go to the website . This site is free with no sign up required if your file is less than 100MB. In Step 1, click "URL." The http:// will come up on its own. Then paste in the URL for the video you want to convert. Step 2 will give you a selection as to which type of file you would like. For instance, "mov" will convert your video to a file that can be used with Quicktime, while "wmv" will convert it to a Windows Media Video. In Step 3, type in the address where you would like the file emailed after it's converted. In Step 4, click "convert." The process may take a little while.

While you're waiting you can read the Terms of Service. Remember that many of the videos on YouTube may be copyrighted. You will need to give credit to the creator of the video or you may need to get permission to use it. If you're just presenting it to a group of students as part of a lesson, there is probably no problem, but you'll want to check.

Once you receive a notice on the Zamzar website that your file has been converted and uploaded, check your email; you should have received a message from Zamzar Conversions. Open that email and download the file.

Now that the file is downloaded, it's ready to be used. You can just show it to students using the appropriate player or you can put it into PowerPoint or other presentation software such as ActivStudio.

I might mention there are other sites that allow for easy use of YouTube's content. Some will sell you software that enables you to safely and securely use the videos. Others provide their own media content for a subscription fee. The nice thing about Zamzar is that it's easy to use and free for smaller files. TeacherTube also provides content similar to YouTube's, but may not be blocked by your school's firewall. Find it at .

Thanks to Jan Geronimo for the suggestion to include these directions.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Using YouTube in School

I remember putting a story problem on the board a couple of years ago. It was one of those complicated Algebra problems dealing with manufacturing a product. You know the kind...linear programming! I had used an example on the board dealing with glass blowing. A glass blower could make one kind of vase in 15 minutes and a second kind of vase in 20 minutes, but he could only make a certain number of both kinds of vases in one day. He sold the first type of vase for $12 each and the second kind for $18 each. The problem asks you to find the number of vases he should make of each type each day in order to maximize his profit.

I went through the whole problem with the class. We used the information in the problem to write a system of inequalities. We graphed them and looked for points of intersection. We analyzed the points of intersection to find maximum profit. The students were feverishly taking notes and making an effort to understand it all.

When I finished the example, I asked, "Are there any questions?" One student in the middle of the room quietly raised his hand. I was expecting a question about defining the variables or writing the system of inequalities or graphing the system or writing the function that represents the profit. Yes, he quietly raised his hand and asked, "What's a glass blower?"

I realized he had no idea what I had been talking about for the past hour. And I had no idea how many students were in the same boat. Of course, right then, the bell rang and class was over.

The next day, we were going to go through another example, but I wanted to show them what a glass blower was. We gathered around the one computer in my room, I typed in and ... nothing! YouTube was blocked in my school. I had never tried to access it from school before and after several tries, finally had to tell the students to search for it on their own computers when they got home. I briefly explained what a glass blower was and we went on to the next example.

This is one time when YouTube could have been quite valuable in the classroom. In other subject areas, YouTube could be amazing. I do understand why it was blocked. There are so many, many videos that are inappropriate, but there are also those that have redeeming value for the classroom. That redeeming value could be used by teachers and students. Teachers can include videos that relate to classroom topics. These videos can be put into presentation software or embedded into blogs. Students can be given assignments to create their own videos to post on YouTube or into their own blogs. The ideas are endless.

Below is a YouTube information video. It gives directions for using videos from YouTube when your school blocks the website. I wish I had known about this a couple of years ago. I might mention that there is another website called TeacherTube that includes video, photos, documents, and audio. (

Monday, October 5, 2009

Using Facebook in School

Let me start by saying that teachers and students must be careful about using Facebook. They must decide if they really want to be friends with each other and how much they're going to allow the other person to know about their personal lives. One suggestion by Jesse Dwyer is to not be friends with students until they graduate. That's a great idea unless you want to do some type of class project. In this case, the same author suggests putting all students into a list and using privacy settings to block the people in that list from seeing personal information. That sounds like a much better idea.

Another way for teachers to keep things private is to create three profiles as suggested in the document at . One profile is for your real self with your real friends. The second is the one you use with your current students. The third is the one you use with your former students. Students also create a limited profile for you to see. Again, use lists for your classes so you can message them all at once. Groups can also come in handy here. As students join your group, you can post copies of their work or class photos. The authors here suggest you get parent permission before tagging any students in photos.

Status updates can be used as friendly reminders to students. They can also be used to give homework help and hints. Direct messages can be send to students who are absent from class or need that extra dose of encouragement. These status updates are very similar to tweets used in Twitter.

Applications in Facebook can also be used as classroom tools. A site that list 25 Facebook Apps that can be used in education is:

I am not yet familiar with a lot of the applications in Facebook. However, there is one called Farm Town where I see a lot of potential for use in the classroom. You have to save up coins in order to buy things. Once you've bought seeds, for instance, you can plant them, but it costs to plow, plant, and harvest. Fortunately, you make more selling your crops than you spend, if you're a wise consumer. This could lead to lessons in budgeting, consumer mathematics, and even topics in agriculture.

After you've played for a while, you are able to purchase a wider variety of seeds. I, myself, was wondering which crop would give me the better profit. I thought, "What a wonderful math problem for students." Which of these would yield the greater profit:
1. Purchase sunflowers for 115 coins that can be harvested in 3 days and sold for 277 coins.
2. Purchase wheat for 80 coins that can be harvested in 2 days and sold for 180 coins
3. Purchase strawberries for 30 coins that can be harvested in 1 day and sold for 85 coins.

I'm sure this and many of the other applications offer further opportunities for classroom assignments and projects.

All in all, I see Facebook having great potential in the education. However, it must be done with care and concern for the privacy of students and teachers.

Extra Resources:
Have Fun Teaching is a Facebook fan site where teachers can have discussions and get resources.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Using Twitter in School

Let me start by saying that I do not advocate students using Twitter to send messages during class. My goodness ... what a disaster that would be. There would be all kinds of tweets, including, I'm sure, answers to test questions, harassing or bullying remarks about classmates, and insults about the teacher. I'm afraid there would be very little learning taking place. So that is not what today's message is about.

Instead, I've been thinking about how Twitter could be used in education. First, there would have to be some training for those involved. Whether teachers or students or parents, everyone would have to set up an account, learn how to tweet, learn about RT and @ and hashtags, and learn the proper etiquette. After that, anything is possible. Use it for posting assignments, giving helpful hints, communicating with the teacher next door, or just getting the latest news from around the world.

One of the first ideas I thought of was having a sort of "homework hotline," similar to what we used to do over the telephone twenty-five years ago. Today, if a group of teachers would be willing to use Twitter for a couple of hours each night (taking turns during the week), students could post messages using an agreed upon hashtag or twibe. Teachers could search those hashtags and reply to the messages @username. That hashtag could also help others on Twitter find their responses. Because the tweets have to be short, a teacher could only guide the student; the student would then have to solve the problem or answer the question for themselves. And that's the way it should be. Too often, I believe, teachers and parents, do too much for students. Twitter would put a definite limit on that.

I also researched online what other teachers were doing and found an amazing number of activities and tons of information. Some teachers are using Twitter to have students write stories ("twittories") where each student uses their 140 characters to contribute a part of the whole story. One has the students read a story, assume the role of one of the characters, and write tweets as that character. One teacher tweets a problem of the day. Another has students research current events or historical figures. Still another has used it for foreign language practice. This is an excellent idea because there are people using Twitter from all over the world and many of them tweet in their own languages.

I believe there are as many uses for Twitter in school as there are teachers and students. A few links to websites with more information are listed below. Most of these contain additional links to additional information. Have fun tweeting!