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Books

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Unearthing Humor

As a parent and educator, you always hope that your children and students find their purpose and passion and then live it. My daughter, Sara Zimmerman, is living her passion better than many people I know. She’s an artist, web designer, musician, climber, mom, wife, daughter, sister, and now author.

Unearthed ComicsCheck out  ”Unearthed Comics” where she just launched her book “Un-earthing the Universe, One Comic at a Time” and I’m a sponsor. What a great idea!

Everyday is exciting for Sara, her husband, Rob, and her 5 year old daughter, Cali. I am learning from them that you can play while you work and work while you play. They have a band where Sara plays her drums and Cali has her own set to follow along. Rob and Sara are a real team with the web designing, their band, and climbing.

Check out ”Unearthed Comics” and get yourself the book and a decal. You can even take the decal with you when you travel and share where in the world you and the Marilyn decal are visiting on her blog. And for anyone wanting some great marketing advice, download her free eBook on Making Smart Marketing Decisions.

Make Smart Marketing Decisions

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Schools Moving from Time to Competency

The book Off the Clock: Moving Education From Time to Competency by Fred Bramante and Rose Colby provides a comprehensive approach to implementing a large-scale competency-based reform initiative that bases student achievement on mastery rather than “seat time.” This is about the journey that New Hampshire started in 2005 when their state Board of Education revised school approval laws. Learn about a system that is grounded in the passion of the student and experience learning opportunities.

This book is about the ideology of moving from the Carnegie unit “seat time” to having students demonstrate mastery. Competency implies that students have the ability to transfer content and skills across content areas. This is just what we need to personalize learning. After we read the book, talk to the authors, we are going to add stories, data, webinars, and encourage discussions that lead to more discussions about competency-based learning. This book is highly recommended before you have any discussions on personalizing learning.

The Authors:

Fred, a former middle school Science teacher, a former candidate for governor, a life long entrepreneur, and a past Chairman and long standing member of the New Hampshire State Board of Education, led a full-scale effort to redesign public education, especially at the high school level, which resulted in a major revamping of New Hampshire’s education regulations and the subsequent development of the New Hampshire vision For High School Redesign. Fred has been the public voice of this movement and has carried the competency-based message around the country.

Rose Colby is currently a Competency-Based Learning and Assessment Specialist assisting high schools throughout the state of New Hampshire in designing high quality competency, assessment, and grading reform systems. Ms. Colby is a motivational speaker and presenter in the areas of competency based learning, digital learners, differentiation, and school leadership. Since 2007, Ms. Colby has been a partner in the Nellie Mae Education Foundation funded project centered on student success though Extended Learning Opportunities in partnership with Q.E.D. Foundation, Plustime, NH, and the NH Department of Education. She is currently part of the planning team for the N.H. Next Generation Learning Project.

Check out their website www.offtheclockeducation.com for more information.

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Making Thinking Visible

How can classrooms become places of intellectual stimulation where learning is viewed not as test scores but in the development of individuals who can think, plan, create, question, and engage independently as learners?

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners offers educators research-based solutions for creating just such cultures of thinking. This innovative book unravels the mysteries of thinking and its connection to understanding and engagement. It then takes readers inside diverse learning environments to show how thinking can be made visible at any grade level and across all subject areas through the use of effective questioning, listening, documentation, and facilitative structures called thinking routines. These routines, designed by researchers at Project Zero at Harvard, scaffold and support one’s thinking. By applying these processes, thinking becomes visible as learners’ ideas are expressed, discussed, and reflected upon.



The authors, Ron Ritchard, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison, ask “As we shared our research and classroom tested ideas about how to make thinking visible, be it in a classroom or with a group of adult learners, people kept asking us where they could read more about them. How could they learn more about how others were using them? How could they ensure that they and their students weren’t just using the thinking routines as activities? To answer those questions we put together this book with help from educators around the world.”

Watch a video from co-author Ron Richard about the Importance of Thinking.

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The Filter Bubble Disguised as Personalization

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser is a book I recommend reading since most of us are online, searching for information probably not aware of what is happening with our data while we click away.

“The primary purpose of an editor [is] to extend the horizon of what people are interested in and what people know. Giving people what they think they want is easy, but it’s also not very satisfying: the same stuff, over and over again. Great editors are like great matchmakers: they introduce people to whole new ways of thinking, and they fall in love.” ~ Eli Pariser


Pariser shares “Your filter bubble is the personal universe of information that you live in online — unique and constructed just for you by the array of personalized filters that now power the web. Facebook contributes things to read and friends’ status updates, Google personally tailors your search queries, and Yahoo News and Google News tailor your news.”

The filter bubble is populated by the things that most compel you to click. Think about what you are looking for when you search and click around the Internet. You may be looking for medical information, want to know about a celebrity, or just want to shop. These may be highly personal to you but they may not be the same things you need to know or want to learn.

Google declares that search is personalized for everyone, and tailors its search results on an individual basis. When you search a topic, your results will be different than someone else’s search results. The reason companies like Google and Facebook use algorithms is that, once you’ve got them going, they cost much less than hiring humans to edit the news feed or find relevant information for you. Unfortunately, you may get results based on past searches, text in email messages, chats, and just clicking on different pages while trying to find what you are looking for. Each click is captured. Each time you “like” a friend or post, that is captured as “personalized” for you.

I have several gmail accounts so Google keeps all of my email received or sent so it knows who I’m connected to and all of their information. Google knows what I’ve searched for over so many years, and how much time it took me to search for something and how long I took to click a link or stay on a page. Are you aware that there are 57 signals that Google tracks about each user even if you’re not logged in?

This is not personal. It’s business. It is another way to push products, services, people, and other items to you based on their algorithms. I receive ads for coach products because of my company, My eCoach. This has nothing to do with wanting or needing any coach products. It’s just seems relevant to the algorithms.  I also get trends and news sent to me even though I’m not interested in what is sent to me. I learn about different stars breaking up and other not so interesting news. I really don’t need that either.

Why is this happening? Google, Facebook, and many online companies use and sell your data to third parties. They give your information to the government if they are asked for it. This is your information — information about you — that they are manipulating and giving to others without your knowledge. We use products like Google and Facebook, putting up private information about ourselves, because it’s free and seems like the privacy policies will protect you. I recommend reading the terms of use and privacy statements. The double talk and legalese is difficult to understand. Just know that if a program is FREE, they are using your data. Nothing is free. Every time you click on a link or type in an email, your information is being collected.

“Companies like Yahoo have turned over massive amounts of data to the US government without so much as a subpoena.” ~ Eli Pariser

There’s a basic problem with a system where Google makes billions off of the data we give it without giving us much control over how it’s used or even what it is.

Pariser states a profound concern “Personalization is sort of privacy turned inside out: it’s not the problem of controlling what the world knows about you, it’s the problem of what you get to see of the world. We ought to have more control over that — one of the most pernicious things about the filter bubble is that mostly it’s happening invisibly — and we should demand it of the companies we use.”

Go ahead and click the image below to get the book:

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How Personalized Learning is Being Framed

The term “Personalized Learning” is huge and controversial. Technology offers incredible potential for education. The concern I have is how educational technology companies are framing how technology can personalize learning. I attended the keynote of NYU professor Diane Ravitch on March 16, 2012 at the Computer-Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs, California who started with “for a century, educators have dreamed about student-centered learning, and now technology has the potential to make it real.” Ravitch explains this in more detail in her latest book: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

“Educational technology helps students rise to a level of engagement and learning “far beyond” what a textbook can offer,” Ravitch said, “adding that textbooks often avoid sensitive or difficult topics from the past because publishers and those with a stake in adoption want the textbooks to be approved for student use. Textbooks have been plagued by a regime of silence and censorship, and for years, educators have wondered how to expose students to true versions of the events they read about in their textbooks. So what do you do?”

“ The answer is technology,” Ravitch said. “For instance, educators can show videos depicting historical events or portraying scientific phenomena without editing. Technology is too big, too various, too wide open, and far too much for them to monitor,” she said. “It’s free, and they can’t make you edit out the controversial stuff—they can try, but I think it might be too hard.”

Ed tech has, in fact, helped spur new kinds of freedom. Teachers aren’t the only ones who see technology’s potential in the classroom—entrepreneurs see it as a way to make money, and policy makers see it as a way to cut costs and, in some cases, eliminate teachers.

“Some advocates of online instruction say it will make possible reductions of 30 percent of today’s teaching staff,” Ravitch said. “The bottom line for some is profits, not students.”

Technology adapts curriculum, analyzes data, stores content, allows anonymity, and produces vast amounts of information. In many of these cases, companies frame what they do with technology as personalized learning.

Ravitch added “no machine can judge nuance, or irony, or tone, or some amazing bursts of creativity. I fear the use of these programs will inevitably reduce student work. … I fear a loss of thoughtfulness” as students write papers to satisfy a computer. This is the thinking of a world too flat for me. … Don’t let them flatten you,” Ravitch said. “Don’t let them give you a number—we are not cattle; we should not be branded. Let us dare to use technology as it should be used—to dream, create, explore, and learn without boundaries. Let us use the power of technology to say ‘No’ to those who want to standardize our minds and the minds of our students.”

Diane RavitchDiane Ravitch is an historian of education at New York University. Her best-selling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has made her one of the nation’s most sought after speakers on current issues. She is a graduate of Houston public schools, Wellesley College, and holds a PhD from Columbia University. She has received nine honorary doctorates and many awards for her scholarship.  She served as Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement in the administration of President George H.W. Bush and was appointed to two terms on the National Assessment Governing Board by the Clinton administration.  She lives in New York City.

 

Educational companies are framing personalized learning to adapt what you learn. Their software adapts to your learning so learners sit in front of a computer half a day.  It is also being framed as a way to make learning cost-effective and guarantees increasing scores. They are promoting that computers can take over the work of a teacher. This is what I say: “A computer cannot personalize learning like a teacher and a student can.” It is all about the learner not the software, the textbook, or the tools. Personalized learning starts with the learner.

For more information on Personalized Learning, go to Personalize Learning.

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Inquiry Circles in Action

Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action
by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels

Comprehension and Collaboration is a guide for teachers who want to realize the benefits of well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels lay the foundation for inquiry circles:

  • explain 10 fundamental classroom conditions needed for active, small group learning;
  • profile 19 small-group inquiry circles that bring strategies and principles to life;
  • provide 27 practical lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry;
  • offer how-to instruction for four types of inquiry circles – mini inquiries, cross curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries; and
  • address characteristic management concerns.

 

The authors Harvey and Daniels stress the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding.

“Comprehension is about understanding…Reading is about thinking.” (p. 27)

Inquiry is a process of learning that encourages kids to ask questions, to work together to solve problems, to discover knowledge, and to construct their own meaning, with guidance, rather than lectures, from teachers. The inquiry approach has three key strands (p. 56-57):

  1. “framing school study around questions developed and shaped by kids” which means allowing students’ genuine curiosity about curriculum topics to form the center of teaching;
  2. “handing the brainwork of learning back to the kids” meaning that instead of sitting quietly and receiving the information presented by a teacher, students actively work to construct their own learning experiences and take responsibility for the outcomes; and ultimately,
  3. “focusing on the development of kids’ thinking, first, foremost, and always.”

 

“The Gradual Release of Responsibility” has different stages (p.112):

  • Teacher Modeling: Teacher explains and models a new strategy, thinking aloud in order to demonstrate their thought-process behind the strategy use.
  • Guided Practice: Teacher and students practice the strategy together in shared contexts, constructing meaning through interchange; students gradually take more responsibility for task engagement and completion.
  • Collaborative Practice: Students share thinking process with one another or work in small groups and pairs and reason through text together; the teacher moves between groups, checking in on how things are going.
  • Independent Practice: Students practice using the strategy independently of teacher and other students; students receive regular feedback on their progress.
  • Application of Strategy: Students use the strategy in authentic situations, across a variety of settings, contexts, and disciplines.

“Kids’ questions really matter.” (p. 228)

I recommend this book as prompts for discussions about bringing inquiry-based learning into your classroom and as part of your professional learning communities.

The authors also created DVDs that support their work:

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The Information Diet

All of us have used the term “Information Overload”, but is it really that? This book, The Information Diet by Clay Johnson, has a different take on how we use information.

The Information Diet

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

The author shares that humans spend upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 hours in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear. Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets. As part of the technological revolution, many of us are addicted. We wake up and have to check our social media to see who did what when and comment on this here and there.

We’re all battling a storm of distractions, hit with notifications and tempted by tasty tidbits of information. This is just like  too much junk food can lead to obesity, too much junk information can lead to cluelessness according to the author. We are taking multitasking to extreme limits. So here is a book that opened my eyes. The Information Diet shows you how to thrive in this information glut—what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective. In the process, author Clay Johnson explains the role information has played throughout history, and why following his prescribed diet is essential for everyone who strives to be smart, productive, and sane.

In The Information Diet, you will:

  • Discover why eminent scholars are worried about our state of attention and general intelligence
  • Examine how today’s media—Big Info—give us exactly what we want: content that confirms our beliefs
  • Learn to take steps to develop data literacy, attention fitness, and a healthy sense of humor
  • Become engaged in the economics of information by learning how to reward good information providers
  • Just like a normal, healthy food diet, The Information Diet is not about consuming less—it’s about finding a healthy balance that works for you