Education works best when all the parts are working together.

This is a recreation from memory of a poster that I saw when I was in grade school. It was posted just outside my first grade classroom. I often wonder if its creator had intended it to be humorous.
Education works best when all the parts are working together.

Addendum: This picture was amazingly easy to put together using Inkscape, which I downloaded from

Published in: on 2009.06.29 at 05:19  Leave a Comment  
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EERE project

The EERE publishes Energy Savers, a site with tips to save energy. After working in an uncomfortable school with stupid air circulation issues, I thought of a cool project for students: improve your school. Investigate the financial incentives available. Learn to conduct an energy audit by reaching out to local auditors. Perform cost-benefit analyses. Present the results to the school board and school administrators.

Forget high-stakes testing when we can increase student stakes in education.

Published in: on 2009.06.28 at 17:02  Leave a Comment  
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Wind for Schools

The Kansas branch of Wind for Schools is run by KSU. This is a project-based learning opportunity with all kinds of potential. Unfortunately, to be approved, your school has to have decent wind potential. Contact them for more information and to see if your school qualifies. Because this is interdisciplinary with a fair amount of researched curriculum already developed for it, it helps to have some buy-in from colleagues before writing the grant application. The best part? This project will generate money for your district. I dare any administrator to turn that down.

For more ideas, you might check out KidWind or NEED or NREL (or NREL here ).

Published in: on 2009.06.28 at 16:44  Leave a Comment  
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I am continually impressed by projects from students on the Scratch platform. If you haven’t seen Scratch, check it out. It can be used in English classes as a backdrop to tell stories. I can be used in math classes by using its programming constructs. It can be used in any class for interactive presentations. Check out the galleries for ideas.

Published in: on 2009.06.28 at 16:29  Leave a Comment  
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Guido van Robot

An homage to Guido van Rossum, Guido van Robot uses a simplified syntax and helper functions to teach students procedural and/or systematic thinking.

Published in: on 2009.06.28 at 16:25  Leave a Comment  
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Kirby Urner

O’Reilly features one of my math pedagogy heroes, Kirby Urner, in an article “Teaching Math with Python“. Yeah, the article is way old and the links out of date, but you can see what Kirby is up to at Oregon Curriculum Network (OCN), his own project.

Published in: on 2009.06.28 at 16:19  Leave a Comment  
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Language and Meaning

I ran across this site while trying to remember what the HTML entity code was for an “em dash”—I incorrectly tried “&emdash;” when it was actually “—”.  In the same search, I first came across this site.  It looks like Penn State’s Teaching and Learning with Technology group has put together a very nice resource on developing non-English websites.  To summarize:

Collectively, they reminded me that not all students come from English-speaking backgrounds and that a good way to model valuing diversity is by featuring it when the chance arises.  In mathematics, I like to borrow funny variables from other cultures or mention the etymology of certain symbols, like \mathbb{Z} for the German word “zahlen” or “Zahl”.

When we talk about notation, I can mention that there are multiple ways to denote something.  In English we don’t know if a sentence is a question until the end, do we?  ¿However, in Spanish did you know that they have a different method?  A lot of math is just finding a good notation for thinking about the world.

And now I am brought back to the idea of stories.  Stories have always been and continue to be—witness digital storytelling—an important part of being human.  Any way that we can inject narrative into learning benefits students.  The desire to know the end of the story crops up in the success of Project Based Learning as well, and in it we ask students to learn and retell stories.  The difference from regular didacticism is that our normal stories are short, boring, and artificial.  Try telling a kindergarten class the story of the “Little Red Hen” by telling them that one day she got up and realized the value of cooperation and a system of punishment whereby noncooperation could be disincentivized.  Follow that up by expecting them to practice cooperating at passing a stick around in a circle, and you have some idea why the theory+practice cycle must die.

Published in: on 2009.06.17 at 16:43  Leave a Comment  
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