Friday, June 24, 2011

Too bad my study of AZ History prevents this in the classroom

This is a really interesting info graphic from Our Amazing Plant. I just wish that I was able to teach about the ocean, instead of the desert! I might sneak it in because of the really, really, really, cool way it shows the Grand Canyon.

Our Amazing Planet explores Earth from its peaks to it mysterious depths.
Source, Exploring the wonder and beauty of planet Earth through exclusive news, features and images.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

3 year-old Technology

I haven't posted in a while, and for good reason. I left my wonderful home in Phoenix to visit my family in Colorado and then go down to my older sister to watch my 3-year old niece and 1 year old nephew. I'm going to call the three-year-old Blue Eyes.

Upon arriving at my sister's house I observed an interesting phenomenon. Blue Eyes wanted technology. Before her mommy left she asked if she could play "ehpod" (Ipod). My sister handed her an Ipod touch and Blue Eyes confidently unlocked it, scrolled though 3 pages of apps and clicked on a coloring game. After delightedly coloring (switching from one color to another using a pop-up palette) she competently exited the game and went to a shapes game. She sat on my lap and listened as the game asked her to find a "Hexagon".

Did Blue Eyes mix it up? No! I saw her finger move to point at the square (without clicking) shake her head, move to the triangle, and repeated it till the only shape left was the Hexagon. Confident in her choice she clicked and moved on to the next question. It wasn't until "crescent" that the struggled to identify the correct shape.

I was amazed and told my sister so. "She plays it all the time," was her response. My thought- Blue Eyes is going to go into Kindergarten knowing so much more than her peers because her Mommy wasn't afraid to let her use technology to teach herself (though Blue Eyes only thought she was playing a game.)

Later Blue Eyes asked me if she could "play ABCs". I was intrigued and my sister explained that she'd been sharing Starfall with Blue Eyes. I said yes, because I love Starfall. My sister cut me off slightly saying, "She can't play it alone, the mouse gives her troubles." I couldn't play with Blue Eyes right then so I set the matter aside till my sister was gone later that afternoon.

When Blue Eyes asked me again "Play Abcs?" I said yes and after struggling with their slow computer managed to get the website up. I decided to test Blue Eyes on how well she did with the mouse. After showing her how to hold the mouse (thumb on one side, index finger on first button, middle finger on second, ring and piny on other side) and getting rid of the mouse pad* I let her loose saying "Click on the sparkly things!"

Here are the results:
First Time: Blue Eyes struggled a bit at first slowing her movements down enough to click on the right place. I stood and helped a few times after she said, "Aunt Jamie, doe'n't work, help!" Usually all that had happened is the mouse had disappeared into the side of the screen and just needed to be brought back out.
Second Time: Blue Eyes barely asked for help this time. The only time she did was when her movmements had caused the mouse to almost fall off of the desk. The mouse doesn't work if nothing is under it!
Third Time: Blue Eyes had it down now. Occasionally she would say, "Help!" and I'd reposition her hand correctly so she clicked on the first mouse button, not the second.
Fourth and all subsequent times: Blue Eyes Had it. She became completely self directed and even began repeating back at the computer the letters and the sounds they made. She even had the Click-and-drag games down!!

I'm amazed at the power of Technology. My sister won't have to teach her daughter the ABCs by rote, nor the sounds that each letter makes. Blue Eyes is learning them all by herself.

I'm so proud of her - I actually had to set a limit on how long Blue Eyes could be on "Abc's" because she would have stayed at it all day if I'd let her! What a gift she has been given.

*- Her fine motor skills aren't quite advanced enough to stay on the pad. Her father (My bother-in-law) tried to have her use it, but I quietly got rid of it after he left. It was just causing her frustration when the mouse went over the edge and the mouse stopped working for a moment. The top of the desk worked just fine.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Majors and Money

I saw this wonderful info Graphic on Joanne Jacobs about Majors. I remember back in high school taking the Monster Job inventory tests and then looking at all the carriers and deciding I wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer because they made the most money. I wonder why so many people tend towards some of the lower paying majors? Is it because they love them? I know that's what happened with me- love for kids and job security (which no longer exists of course) over weighed my want for riches.

I was never good at math anyways - College Algebra was a struggle for me.

Degree value : Degrees by salary
Courtesy of:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A tip of the hat to the New York Times

There are a lot of blogs about the politics of schools. I even "follow" a few. However, it takes a good headline to catch my attention and keep it long enough to slog through the rather long articles. Today one of my favorites, Schools Matter reposted an article from the New York Times by Michael Winerip called Helping Teachers Help Themselves. (Click on the title for the full text of the article)

What held my attention is the details of what Winerip talks about. Best practice states that trust, and community are important in schools. Having teachers be a part of the decision making process lets schools run more effectively. In ROCKVILLE, Md Rockville, Maryland the school has set up a committee to help their teachers. They are involved in helping teachers set goals, mentoring and if the teacher really is resistant to changing and becoming better then they are fired.

Some people may think this would cause distrust among the faculty and among those who are on the committee - but if there is a great deal of trust that the committee is acting for the good of the school most of us who are in it for the kids will be alright. A good teacher is willing to change bad ways to become better even if they're told to do so by their peers. I know I wish that there was more mentoring available for me at the school. It would be great to have more observations of my practice to help me become a better teacher. I teach better when someone else is in the room.

Now... Race to the Top. I have issues with this school district not getting any of the money Maryland was awarded because they don't include student scores on standardized tests into the equation for teachers. Before anyone starts harping let me ask- Is there another profession where your evaluation is based off of work that someone else does? The answer is no. Teacher work should be evaluated off of teacher work. Many and varied observations are required including scheduled and unscheduled. A student's standardized test score is a single snapshot in time. If most teachers are like I am then the stress during the state standardized testing is enough to put the best tester off of their feed for the two months before let alone on the day or week of the testing.

I wish more school districts (like mine!) had a system like this.

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