Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rigor Redefined...

The blogosphere has been abuzz responding to Tony Wagner's article in ASCD's October Issue. The title of the Wagner's research is, "Rigor Redefined." Two of the best blog responses I encountered came from Vicki Davis (on her CoolCatTeacher Blog) and VYonkers (as a response to Vicki's post).

Wow! Incredible articulation on impeccable research. In his article, Wagner compares the "education students need" v. "the education that students get." Through Wagner's research he realizes that these two are in conflict with one another. What students need to "build successful careers" and "become good citizens" currently do not match the education they actually receive in school.

According to industry leaders, what students need to learn are attributes that include Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Collaboration and Leadership, Agility and Adaptability, Initiative and Entrepreneurialism, Effective Oral and Written Communication, Accessing and Analyzing Information, and Curiosity and Imagination.

So what are students learning? In short, test prep for standardized tests. Tony Wagner concludes:
Across the United States, I see schools that are succeeding at making adequate early progress but failing our students. Increasingly, there is only one curriculum: test prep. Of the hundreds of classes that I've observed in recent years, fewer than 1 in 20 were engaged in instruction designed to teach students to think instead of merely drilling for the test.

What? You've got to be kidding me? What's it going to take to stem the tide? I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I believe that it's time for those in charge of our educational system here in the U.S. to pull their heads out of the sand and listen to what our industry leaders are telling us. Scoring high on an AP exam, an SAT, or any standardized state test (like the TAKS here in Texas) is no indicator of success in college and career.

When hiring for a position, managers are looking for creative self-starters. People who take ownership in their positions and are avid team players, leaders, and critical thinkers...risk takers who tackle issues and look for creative solutions to problems and challenges.

I frequently have students get frustrated with me because I require them to work in teams, make them accountable for assignments, and look for creative solutions to challenges. I admit that I rarely cover as much 'content' as some of my colleagues, but I am passionate about teaching and about preparing my students for what lies ahead of them. I can do more, but by requiring them to team play, take some risks, and problem-solve to find creative solutions, I think I'm on my way to doing my part...I look forward to the day when the "fewer than 1 in 20 engaged classrooms" becomes "20 in 20 engaged classrooms."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Mobile 'Twitterventure'

This past summer I took the plunge and upgraded my mobile phone...I purchased a Blackberry Curve. I love this phone. I can manage both my work and home email accounts, store a plethora of contact information, browse Facebook... ... ... the list goes on... ... ...

What I want is a Twitter application for my Blackberry. You'd think this would be a simple request, right? I know that I can pull up Twitter via my mobile browser, but, well, I'm spoiled. I want an application, darn it!

The Twitter Fan Wiki has a page devoted to Mobile Apps. There's a laundry list there of mobile apps. So far I've tried Quakk, Twitter2Go, Shozu (boy that was a disaster), and Blackbird. The only one that works at all (on my phone) is Blackbird. It's a nice interface, but it doesn't show me updates automatically. With Facebook, I get notices when there are updates, but not with the Blackbird. I guess I shouldn't complain, maybe there isn't a mobile application out there to do what I want it to do.

Ummm...if you know of one, would you let me know? Thanks!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Creative Collaboration and Web2.0

Since the beginning of the school year my Sports & Entertainment Marketing class has been learning about the 7-key functions of marketing, the marketing mix, target marketing, segmenting, and positioning (whew!). My approach has been to incorporate activities with all of the concepts to facilitate understanding of them. For example, when we studied the key function of Marketing Information Management (i.e. research), I had the students participate in taste test of colas and then complete a questionnaire. My student teacher, Kim Clayton aggregated the results for us and we discussed the possible implications. The students loved it...frankly, I had fun, too.

So...this week my class began a comprehensive project--It's called, "Rock On!". The goal of this project is for them to synthesize the concepts they've learned thus far and plan a 20-city U.S. tour for a musical group (sounds like fun, huh?).

Now, I wish I could take total credit for creating this project, but I cannot. I found the original project from a "Best Practices" ebook put together by Jeff McCauley of The Marketing Teacher. However, the original project involved lots of printing and creating of 'static' artifacts--I want to incorporate Web2.0 into the project to make a more rigorous and relevant project for my students. I created a Wiki for my classes this year. So far though (thanks to the hurricane 'vacation'), I really haven't had time to implement the use of it--until now.

I have placed the Project Parameters on the Wiki and created a BlogRoll page for the Sports Marketing students with links to their Team Pages. They will placing their artifacts on their Team Pages, discussing their progress in Discussions, etc. We should finish the project in a couple of weeks.

I would LOVE to have some feedback from both educators and marketing gurus on the Project. Do you like it the way I have it set up? What can I do to make the project 'better?' And the BIGGIE: would you be willing to 'judge' the results? What are your thoughts on the artifacts the students produce?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Wonders of Nature

This weekend while cleaning the house, I came across an incredible phenomenon--a beautiful spiral attached to the outside of one of the upstairs windows. They appear to be some type of egg. What is truly remarkable is the the oval part you see here is elevated from the window--attached to the window only by the 'thread' attached to them. My husband did a little research on the Internet; says he thinks these are the eggs of a 'black fly.' I'm not sure though--I know that there are awesome science teachers out there than will know what these are...

Please leave me a comment or two if you know...I'd like to know. Better yet, snag these pics and post them around, if you don't know. Just be sure to send the knowledge base here so that I can learn!

The more I look at these pictures, the more I am awestruck by the beauty and wonder of nature...the symmetry, the cycles, the ebbs and flows-they are all marvelous and beautiful to me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I Want Candy!!

I saw Chris Brogan's twit about The Candy Lab...I just couldn't resist...guess I am bored for a Saturday afternoon! Here's the link to my creation...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Make Your Voice Heard and Our Students Win!

Right now in the great state of Texas there is a debate over recommendations for a uniform GPA calculation. Dr. Paredes, Commissioner of Higher Education, has made some rather disparaging statements with regard to CTE courses and the uniform GPA. You and I know that CTE courses are designed to challenge students and prepare them for both college and career. Moreover, students that participate successfully in CTE courses are better prepared to compete in today's global marketplace.

Below is the text of a letter sent by Robin Painovich, who is the Executive Director of the Career & Technology Association of Texas. I would request that you contact Dr. Paredes and voice your concern...we cannot allow our CTE courses to be relegated to the proverbial 'back seat.' Our students deserve better!

Text of letter begins here:
Commissioner Paredes,

This note is to respectfully request that all career and technical education (CTE) courses be included in the uniform GPA calculation and increased weight be provided for CTE courses offered for dual or articulated credit.

In our meeting last week, you suggested the discussion be framed in the context of college readiness, acknowledging that career and college readiness are one in the same. Yet when discussing CTE, you stated that CTE courses are “largely irrelevant” to studies in a four year university. In fact, just the opposite is true. Additionally, there are a host of CTE courses that count for credit at two year community and technical colleges and transfer up to degree programs in four year universities.

By not including CTE courses, even our brightest students will have no incentive to enroll in challenging college level courses like Engineering, Accounting, Drafting for Architecture, Medical Terminology and will instead enroll in courses that will contribute to a higher GPA for the purposes of college admission. Incidentally,
Engineering courses in the Project Lead the Way program are CTE courses that
articulate for credit at Texas State University, Texas Tech and University of Texas at Tyler from 32 Texas school districts. Several CTE courses in the Hospitality and Tourism cluster articulate directly to the University of Houston’s world-renowned hotel and restaurant management degree program. Through local articulation agreements between colleges and districts, there may be even more CTE courses accepted for credit at two and four year institutions that we are unaware of at the state level.

As you may be aware, districts incorporate college level coursework into CTE courses to help students prepare for studies in higher education and earn college credit through dual or articulated credit. If four year universities were more familiar with CTE course offerings, content and curriculum, additional articulation agreements would manifest.

You also stated that the arts should be included in the calculation, allowing some enrichment courses to be included to the exclusion of others for the purposes of
predicting success in pursuing a baccalaureate degree. CTE courses in clusters such as Manufacturing, Information Technology, Business Management, Finance and many more are considered enrichment courses that fulfill required credits in the Recommended High School Plan, just like enrichment courses in Fine Art.

CTE courses are rigorous, include academics and provide relevance for academic studies. The State Board of Education is currently revising K-12 CTE TEKS and incorporating college readiness standards into CTE courses.

Including CTE courses and dual and articulated CTE courses for increased weight would provide an incentive for students to pursue college level coursework in high
school. Including CTE in the calculation would support the state’s effort to prepare students to enter college and the workforce. Including CTE would more fully advance the goals of Closing the Gaps.

Again, I ask that all career and technical education (CTE) courses be included in the
uniform GPA calculation and that additional weight be provided for CTE courses offered for dual or articulated credit.

Kind regards,

Robin Painovich

A special hearing regarding this issue is scheduled for October 22 at Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The public comment period ends October 22. All comments should be submitted to Natalie Coffey, Senior Program Director, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, P.O. Box 12788, Austin, TX 78711.

Please make your voice heard...our students deserve the best we can offer them and CTE courses are part of that rigor.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Opinions Anyone?

This past summer I was introduced to the world of Web2.0 via online PD sponsored by my district. The experience has unleashed the veracious reader in me (which had been hibernating for some time now). I don't believe that I blog as often as I should, but read others blogs, articles, etc. for several hours a day (it's invigorating!).

This morning while perusing my Google Reader, I came across a post on Teacher Lingo. The poster wants to know how teachers 'feel' about conveying their personal beliefs/opinions to their students...

I don't...I've seen too many teachers make life miserable for students that don't share that teacher's convictions with regard to...well..whatever--politics, religion, social name it. I believe that it's more important to get students researching and forming their own opinions based on their own convictions.

What about you? What's your take on this topic?