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Sep 10, 2012

BOATLIFT - An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience

Tuesday is the 11th anniversary of September 11, 2001 and the horrible attacks on The United States. There have been many stories told and many news accounts of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the thwarted highjacking of Flight 93. On the anniversary of the attacks many news organizations choose to relive the morning and discuss what has changed.

"Boatlift" is one story from that day. A short (12 minute) documentary about the evacuation of Lower Manhattan, by boat. It is the story of selflessness and quick response that became the largest evacuation by boat, in history.

With all the news tomorrow focused on recounting the life changing events of eleven years ago, this documentary is a wonderful reminder of how quickly a community can come together in the face of tragic events.


In a classroom, this video could be used to discuss the events of September 11th from a different perspective. It could be used as a writing prompt or, it could be used as a way to simply begin a discussion.

As a classroom teacher on September 11, 2001 I struggled with how to answer questions as I watched events unfold with my students and I struggled with how to approach the topic year after year. This short film is a way to celebrate how ordinary people can become heroes by simply answering a call for help. 

Does your school or classroom take time to remember September 11th each year? How?

May 7, 2012

Born in Slavery

The Library of Congress is doing some interesting things by digitizing collections. The site can be a bit difficult to get around but, if you know where to go, there are primary documents, lesson plans and many, many multimedia resources to choose from. Case in point: Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project.  


The primary resources offered on this site can help students make personal connections to a subject matter that can be difficult to discuss, difficult to understand and, for many students, difficult to fathom. The site can be hard to navigate. Here are the most important links, in my opinion:

Born in Slavery: The main page of the collection.
Subject Index: An index of photos only, organized alphabetically
Classroom Connections: An overview of the collection and different ways to use the collection in the classroom. There are no formal lesson plans but, there is more than enough information to inspire.
Voices and Faces: First person narratives paired with photos. A great place to start a discussion or a project.

There are some accounts that are graphic in their description of the cruelty these individuals faced so, for younger students, previewing the narratives is a must but, if a middle school classroom these photographs and narratives could be used to discuss the historic significance of slavery in this county. In a high school history classroom, the same process could be used and, in an English classroom, when reading a novel like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the narratives could be used to discuss the life of Jim and his interactions with Finn.

What are your thoughts on how a collection like this could be used in the classroom?

Mar 7, 2012

SXSWedu: Sessions of interest


I am at the SXSWedu conference for the next couple of days and decided do some short blog entries about the sessions I am attending. I will continually add to these and may pull some of most interesting sessions out in order to write full entries. 

Moving Beyond Textbooks: OER in Support of K-12ed. Jason Neiffer, the presenter, is from the Montana Digital Academy. His session was a 50,000 foot level discussion of OER (Open Educational Resources): what they are, how to use them and different resources to find and curate the resources. His presentation was very interesting and had a lot of great links associated with it. I'm definitely going to explore OERGlue and see if it's as powerful as Jason had us all believing it is.  

Many people, myself included, believe that OER are the way to the future in K-12 education. Much will have to change to make this a reality but, as Jason stated, it doesn't need to start with a big change. Try this idea for one lesson, one module, one chapter in your classroom. That's a start. 

21 Ways To Use Social Media In Your Classroom: Howie DiBlasi gave a fast paced, energetic presentation of not 21 but 39 ways to use social media in your classroom. With lots of great tips for any level of socail media user the 159 slide presentation has more information than you may ever need to go through. Check out the presentation page of Howie's website to find and download the presentation in full.    

Our students use social media constantly and there is no reason for teachers or schools to fear it. Creating Facebook class pages, Wikis and class blogs can help keep students engaged long after they leave the classroom.

The Power of Open: Creative Commons Licensing and it's Global Impact: CEO of Creative Commons, Catherine Casserly gave an extremely interesting and informative presentation on Creative Commons. An alternative to traditional copyright and public domain labels, it allows the primary creator to get credit while allowing follow up users to modify, remix and reuse the content. It's an amazing site to go to in order to gather resources for your classroom and, once you get to a point where you are ready to start producing and sharing your own content, put it up on the site to share with everyone else.

Creative Commons, OER and social media may be the first steps to crowd sourcing curriculum.  Pulling resources from all over the world (and the internet) that are easy to modify and share will allow more collaboration during curriculum creation. My ideal future would be a classroom where textbooks are seen as supplemental and the presentations I have seen during the SXSWedu conference let me know that it is a realistic possibility.

Feb 14, 2012

Play-based learning

Play-based learning for younger children, project and problem-based learning for older children is not a new concept but, it is becoming more popular again. A pedagogical idea supported by John Dewey's "learning by doing", PBL (play, project or problem) allows students to work through complex problems individually or in teams by moving through multiple steps and using all the strengths of each child.

Irresistible Ideas is an amazing blog with hundreds of ideas for PBL in too many categories to mention here. Mostly focused on early elementary education many of these projects can be altered for older children, used by teachers as display pieces in their classrooms or as a way to connect a field trip back to the classroom.      

The blog is well written, beautifully photographed and contains so many links to other amazing PBL blogs and websites it is easy to get lost in the ideas. I love the dot mad challenge. It could be used to learn about predicting, finding patterns or having a discussing about randomness. It's a simple, inexpensive project that can scaled up or down based on number of students, length of time or age. The dramatic-imaginative section of the blog has a few great ideas about how to create dramatic centers in the classroom. A home center is great for dramatic play and is usually what you see in a pre-school and kindergarten setting but if you are looking for something new or different check out this section and read about the camping and hospital centers.

PBL can take lots of time and preparation to set up but the rewards for the students are huge. Teaching students to share, to work together, to realize their own and other people's strengths, these are just the beginning of a list of skills PBL help teach.

How do you use play-based, problem-based and/or project-based learning in your classroom?

Feb 8, 2012

Apple Education Announcement: A short series


The fourth and final post in this series is going to focus on some of the technical concerns I have about iBooks Author and how those technical issues effect iBooks and, possibly, the future of e-textbooks in general. Apple would have you believe that the company has revolutionized the e-textbook and inviting authors into their ecosystem will allow for major pushes forward in education and open educational resources (OER).

iBooks Author uses a file format based on the epub2 specification. Why Apple choose to use epub2 instead of epub3 (whose specs were public as early as Feb, 2011) is a mystery. Epub3 has many of the same interactive features that iBooks Author has but it also has one very important difference: epub3 supports HTML5. For publishers of math and science textbooks, this is extremely important. MathML (usable under HTML5) is a markup language that makes it easier for math and science content developers to publish on the web -- so complex math and science symbols can be natively rendered in a browser. Epub2 does not support HTML5 therefore, it does not support MathML. Apple is a step behind in the e-textbook market before even starting.

Apple only allows you to export to a text or pdf file (instead of the epub format). Ideally, when creating your content if you use none of the interactive widgets proprietary to Apple, you would be able to export to the epub format. But, Apple is focused only on funneling content to iBooks. It is to their advantage to keep the output in a proprietary format that only iBooks can read. From a business standpoint this is understandable: iBooks Author is free. From a user standpoint, this rigidity is another strike against Apple. E-textbooks and OERs are about flexibility.

The hope of e-textbooks and OERs is to give people the content in whatever format they are most comfortable with: The Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, a laptop, desktop or tablet. This is a leap away from how traditional publishing companies have operated. With it's proprietary format and exclusive licensing agreement, Apple has pushed this movement backwards.

How long will it be before people realize the shortcomings of iBooks Author? This is a tricky question because, regardless of the shortcomings, access to the secret garden may be too good to pass up. Major publishing companies have already made the leap, how long before others follow?

Remember, Vimeo may have better quality content but, everyone uses youtube.

Will you be taking the plunge into iBooks Author?

Apple Education Announcement Series:
- iBooks Author: A game changer?
- E-textbooks and the adoption cycle
- The digital divide: the true cost 
- Technical shortcomings

Jan 26, 2012

Apple Education Announcement: A short series

The digital divide is a growing issue and point of controversy in public education. Apple's iPad is an example of that divide: a $600-$800 piece of equipment that is not a computer, not a phone, not a TV. Let's admit it, the iPad is a really cool, expensive, toy. There are some incredible educational implications for the iPad but it remains a supplemental tool. 

The digital divide is all about money and access. If the digital version of the textbook is not demonstrably better than the print version, why spend the extra money? Let's do a quick math problem with the Geometry and Biology textbooks iBooks and McGraw-Hill are offering by following Texas' adoption schedule.

Texas adopted mathematics textbooks (grades 6-12) in 2006 and is scheduled to adopt again in 2015. Science textbooks were adopted in 2011 and are not scheduled to adopt again until 2020. That's a nine year cycle. We can assume that the state gets books and other equipment at a discounted rate but I do not have access to vendor lists so I am going to use MSRP for everything. Here are the numbers for a 30 student class, assuming a 10% loss (a need to replace hardware or books) each year for nine years.

Geometry Student Edition 2012 CCSS
Digital (iPad) version
Print version
iPad (16GB, Wifi only)
$499.00
Student textbook
$133.08 (amazon)
Digital textbook
$14.99


30 students, year 1
$15,419.70
30 students, year 1
$3992.40
30 students, years 2-9
$15,573.60
30 students, years 2-9
$3193.92
TOTAL:
$30,993.30
TOTAL:
$7186.32

Glencoe Biology
Digital (iPad) version
Print version
iPad (16GB, Wifi only)
$0.00 (already purchased)
Student textbook
$111.96 (amazon)
Digital textbook
$14.99


30 students, year 1
$449.70
30 students, year 1
$3358.80
30 students, years 2-9
$3597.60
30 students, years 2-9
$2687.04
TOTAL:
$4047.30
TOTAL:
$6045.84
Total for both classes:
$35,040.60
Total for both classes:
$13,232.16

My point is simply this: Are the e-textbooks offered by Apple, McGraw-Hill, and now Pearson, two or three times better than the same print textbooks? If they are not, will schools able to pay for the novelty of the iPad do so? Schools not able to pay for the novelty will, effectively be blocking access to this new technology. The digital divide widens and deepens, and the students left behind, in most cases, don't even know what they're missing. School districts can do what they want, that is the beauty of local control but, I do not believe the e-textbooks offered thus far for the iPad are worth the extra cost. A topic I will discuss in my next post.

Just for the sake of argument, what’s the break-even point? If it is reasonable, even schools that need to stretch may do so. While the price of print books is usually $100 or more, the price of the e-textbooks will never exceed $15 per book. 

By averaging the costs of the textbooks, the break-even point is 18 (my work is below). A school would have to purchase 18 textbooks from Apple for each student over the course of a nine year adoption in order to equal the cost of print textbooks. A high school student will use 18 textbooks over the course of their high school career but is this a realistic expectation? I can't answer that. I will say, in the school I worked in, we had such a difficult time getting textbooks back at the end of the year that we stopped allowing them to be taken home. I believe I am being generous with a 10% loss rate for something as tantalizing as an iPad. 

Does using supplemental technology in the classroom (meaning not every student in the state or district will have access to it) widen the digital divide?


Geometry Student Edition 2012 CCSS
Digital (iPad) version
Print version
iPad (16GB, Wifi only)
$499.00
Student textbook
$133.08 (amazon)
TOTAL (for 9 years):
$30,993.30*
TOTAL (for 9 years):
$7186.32
McGraw-Hill (Glencoe) Biology
Digital (iPad) version
Print version
Digital textbook
$14.99
Student textbook
$111.96 (amazon)
TOTAL:
$4047.30
TOTAL:
$6045.84

Pearson (Prentice Hall) Mathematics: ALGEBRA 1: 2011 Common Core

Digital (iPad) version
Print version
Digital textbook
$14.99
Student textbook
$76.68 (amazon)
TOTAL:
$4047.30
TOTAL:
$4140.72

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 2011 (National Edition)

Digital (iPad) version
Print version
Digital textbook
$14.99
Student textbook
$89.56 (amazon)
TOTAL:
$4047.30
TOTAL:
$4836.24

 Glencoe, McGraw-Hill Algebra 1, Student Edition CCSS

Digital (iPad) version
Print version
Digital textbook
$14.99
Student textbook
$89.94 (amazon)
TOTAL:
$4047.30
TOTAL:
$4856.76

Pearson Miller & Levine Biology (National Edition)

Digital (iPad) version
Print version
Digital textbook
$14.99
Student textbook
$108.99 (amazon)
TOTAL:
$4047.30
TOTAL:
$5885.46

(McGraw-Hill) Glencoe Chemistry: Matter and Change

Digital (iPad) version
Print version
Digital textbook
$14.99
Student textbook
$104.16 (amazon)
TOTAL:
$4047.30
TOTAL:
$5624.64

Glencoe (McGraw-Hill) Physics: Principles and Problems

Digital (iPad) version
Print version
Digital textbook
$14.99
Student textbook
$107.00
TOTAL:
$4047.30
TOTAL:
$5778.00
GRAND TOTAL
$59,324.40
GRAND TOTAL
$44,353.98