Monday, February 15, 2010

Metablogging: Clever post titles

Blogging is the only kind of writing I've done in massive amounts with the intent that other people read it.  People I don't know, I mean; a few near and dear have read the occasional short story.  But some few blog posts have started off as nothing more than clever titles.  The one that remains my favorite is, "Curriculum?  I barely knew 'um!"  I've never been quite sure that the joke works outside my head, but I think it's funny.

And that's a funny thing about this medium.  Some of my favorite blogs are usually nothing more than snappy, witty, sarcastic, or funny headlines with links to other websites.  Sure, occasionally they offer commentary of some kind, but mostly it's the post title.  The whole endeavor seems like an exercise in giving titles.  The masters also use tag lines well, but you can tell you've made it when your title is snappy.

I wonder if journalism is like this, as well.  I'm laboring under the understanding that, once a journalist writes an article, somebody else writes the headline.  (At least in newspapers.)  I find myself wondering who writes the lead-ins to TV news segments--the producers, the anchors, or the journalists doing the segment?  Or is there a special guy just for writing those bombshells they give you just before going to commercial--"And when we come back, how many things in your home can kill your pets?  Stay with us and find out."

One thing I do know, and that's that almost no blogger I read knows how to end a post well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bad wisdom, vol. 2

The teacher is the first among equals in his classroom.

I don't think I've ever heard this statement said out loud.  But sometimes I act like I believe it. 

Because, think about it--the only difference between me and the students are that I'm twice their age, have 4 years' higher education in what they need to learn, a shocking amount of professional training in classroom management, a declaration of professional ethics which carries the force of law, and a detailed knowledge of the content they should be learning.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spam posts

So I've been getting the occasional spam post.

It's flattering in a way.  Some program out there thinks that someone reads this.

Despite that, I've been deleting them.  (There are few enough of them that I only have to delete one or two posts a week.)  And I've been doing it without clicking through the links to see if there was anything worthwhile.

So, if I've deleted one of your posts, which had serious links to things you honestly believe relate to the content of this blog, tell me so.  If your English is not so good (as is the case in the posts I deleted), remember two things: 1.)  I read Spanish, and by extension, a certain amount of the other Romance languages.  If you happen to write in one of those languages better than in English, go crazy.  2.)  Google Translate is NOT your friend.

Now, back to your regularly-scheduled lack of programming.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What teachers make

Somewhere, I posted my hundredth blog post.  That seems like a cause for celebration of come kind.

Also, at the last conference I attended, the latest in the Kathleen Kryza series, Kathleen reminded me of the mind-boggling resource that is TED.  And now they evidently have a "best of the web" feature.  While looking for the video clip that we watched, I came across this.  Hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Education fu, episode 1

PROFE:  Let's go over this again.  The purpose of homework is to...

SEÑOR COSBY:  Allow students to practice skills they already know, Profe.

PROFE:  And the objective of this practice is...

COSBY:  To improve the speed and accuracy of the skill.

PROFE:  So far, so good.  Now: The purpose of assessment.

COSBY:  The purpose of assessment is to determine how well a student has learned the skills and knowledge taught.  This can be used as data-gathering for how well the teacher instructed the lesson.

PROFE:  Is it?  Is that the purpose?  [Waits expectantly.]

COSBY:  Oh!  That's summative assessment.

PROFE:  Okay, not so bad.  What's the other kind of assessment, and what's it for?

COSBY:  Formative assessment, used to inform instruction.

PROFE:  What does that mean, "inform instruction?"

COSBY:  It's like a stepping stone in a learner's learning.  It gives the instructor information about what he needs to do to maximize learning.

PROFE:  It gives the instructor information?

COSBY:  Well, I suppose it lets the learner know how she's doing, too.

PROFE:  You should do more than "suppose," Saltamontes.  It's a vital form of feedback to the student.  Working a system for students to keep track of their progress is a vital component of classroom management, motivation, and self-directed learning.

COSBY:  Yes, Profe.

PROFE:  Now, on to providing feedback.  Tell me your thoughts about it.

COSBY:  It needs to be immediate and contingent.

PROFE:  I think you're thinking of behavior correction.

COSBY:  Hmm.  Well, immediacy is important, I know. 

PROFE:   Yes.  What's immediacy mean?

COSBY:  It means you give feedback right away.  If you give an assignment, correct it and give it back.

PROFE:  Instead of doing what with them?

COSBY:  Letting them sit on your desk until they start to decompose, then throw them out at the end of the term, Profe.

PROFE:  And this is important because...?

COSBY:  If you're going to have a student do the work, you have to recognize the effort.


COSBY:  Uh...

PROFE:  Feedback has nothing to do with effort.  It has everything to do with learning.  The learner shows you what she knows.  You take that and tell the student how to take the next step.  In that way, feedback helps both student learning AND teacher's instructions.

COSBY:  Isn't that...formative assessment!

PROFE:  Good, Saltamontes.  You may just get this through your thick skull yet.  What does formative assessment have to do with grades?

COSBY [promptly]: Nothing.

PROFE:  Nothing?  Do you mean to tell me that you're going to make a student work through a whole lesson, turn in a homework assignment, and it's not going to show up on their grade?

COSBY:  Yes, Profe.  It comes back to what you just said--it's about learning.  I believe it was Sensei Marzano who said that learners must do activities without grades attached, to do learning activities just to learn from them, not for the grades.  Besides, if they're graded on it, lots of students won't do it.

PROFE:  Do you even have to record who's done it and who hasn't, then?  If it doesn't count, then you're not marking it in your grade book, are you?

COSBY:  Respectfully, I disagree, Profe.  If it really is formative assessment, then you need to know how well your learners have done on it, so you know what you need to do to make them better, or whether they're good enough and you can move on.

PROFE:  What about the ones who don't do it?

COSBY:  There's value in knowing who those students are, too.  Maybe they don't know how to do it at all.  Maybe they can do some of it with help.  Maybe they were just absent that day.  The point is, you don't know unless you record the data somewhere.

PROFE [thinks for a moment]:  What is the source of Education Fu?

COSBY:  Profe?  I'm not sure I understand.

PROFE:  Formative assessments.  Summative assessments.  Learning activities.  Instruction.  Where does it all begin?

COSBY:  Umm....Classroom management?

PROFE:  Wrong!  That's just the dojo, that's just where it happens.  Where does it come from?

COSBY [takes a slow breath in through the nose, lets it out through the mouth]: Learning goals.

PROFE:  Hmm.  Your learning seems to be progressing, Saltamontes.  10 more years of hard training, and you might--might, I say--be ready to begin teaching at the professional level.